Close to Dead

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Chapter 14: Plain and Simple

It was so late that I felt as if I were the walking dead, only not literally, because then I would be a vampire. The point was that I was tired. I fulfilled Eric’s wishes: I smiled, laughed, flirted, and in general played a part for Eric and his new little friends all night long. It was apparent that these new associates were important people, so I did him proud, and now I was tired, hungry, had a slight headache and I just wanted to go home. The bar was closing, and his guests were leaving, and I snuck off to his office to try to find my purse, which I must have left when I was in there with Larkin earlier.

I only hoped that my cousin wasn’t still there. I opened the door slowly, and the room was empty, save for my purse, which was on the sofa. I walked over to retrieve it, and the sofa looked so soft and inviting that I plopped right down on it, slipped off my pumps, and turned to my side, brought my legs up off the floor, and I went to shut my eyes, for just a minute or two.

I felt his lips on my forehead, and his hand brushed a strand of hair away from my face before I even opened my eyes. He sat beside my hip, his hand on my arm, and he leaned down again and kissed my shoulder. I opened my eyes, but his curtain of long hair blocked out the din of light from the desk lamp. He leaned down once more as I turned to my back. He framed my face with his large hands, kissing me softly on the lips, and crooned, “You made me so proud tonight, beloved. Thank you.”

“I’m not going to ask you what all of that was about tonight, but not because I’m not curious,” I said.

He brushed back another strand of hair, his smile a crooked grin, and said, “Of course not. You’re always curious.”

“That I am. I’m just not going to ask because I’m going to trust you for a change, even though I can’t believe that sentence is coming from my mouth,” I explained. I reached up and cupped his cheek.

“It’s about time you yielded to my power and influence,” he murmured through a smile.

“You can’t even say that with a straight face, can you?” I snorted with a small smile. I sat up, but left my legs on the couch.

“Truthfully, if you want to know what’s going on, it’s too bad, because I can’t tell you anyway,” he teased just to irritate me. “But I do have our best interest at heart. I really am securing our future. I have to get us out from under the thumb of Nevada, my love, and that’s all I can say at this time.”

“What do you have over Larkin?”

“Ah, well, that’s another story I can’t tell you at this time,” he replied. Sometimes I’m convinced he’s lived over a thousand years just to irritate me.

“On that note,” I said, pushing him away and planting my feet on the floor, “I have to leave. I’m tired, I’m tired, and I’m tired.”

“And you didn’t accomplish what you came to accomplish tonight, did you?” he asked, sitting back on the couch. I stood up, and he reached out and grabbed the skirt of my dress. His back against the sofa cushions, his legs far apart on the floor, he pulled me back by his tenuous hold on my dress, so that I was forced to stand between his legs. His hand ran up my leg. “Why did you come tonight, my love? Was it to forgive me? Was it to tell me that you figured out that you can’t live another day without me?”

“It was to tell you that you’re as full of shit as you’ve ever been, Eric,” I said with a smile. I sat down on his knee, leaned forward, as his hand ran up my back, and I kissed his cheek. “I came tonight to tell you that I loved you, plain and simple.”

“Oh, is love plain and simple, Sookie dear?” His fingernails ran down my back and sent tingles up my spine.

“No, nothing is plain and simple, Eric, especially love. It’s not easy for me to admit I love someone, especially when I’m not sure how that person feels for me, and especially how everyone I’ve ever loved has either disappointed me, hurt me, or died on me, but I still wanted you to know. That’s why I came tonight.”

I stood from his lap. He reached for my dress again, but somehow I was faster, although I knew if he really wanted to, he would have caught me. I picked up my purse from the floor and opened his office door. I turned once more and said, “Well, goodnight, Eric, and I truly hope everything this evening went the way you wanted it to, I do.”

“Sookie?” Something in the softness of his voice stopped me as I was leaving the office. I turned back to face him. “Do you really not know how I feel about you?”

I sighed. It was too late to get into ‘this’ conversation, but I answered honestly. “Sometimes I don’t know how you feel, Eric. I don’t doubt that you love me in your own way, or in the best way that you can.”

“What a completely stupid answer,” he sighed. I waited to see if he was going to elaborate, but he didn’t. He stood up and stretched, before adding, “You are much too tired to drive home by yourself. I shall drive you.”

“You don’t have to,” I protested.

“Of course I don’t.” Well, that rather said it all, didn’t it? He wrapped his arm around my neck and we went out the office. He flipped off the light and shut the door. He told Pam and the rest of the staff goodbye, and then we walked out to my car. He opened the door for me, forever the gentleman, and then he climbed in the other side, all legs and arms.

“I wish you would let me buy you a better car,” he shook his head. He always said things like that.

“Speaking of money,” I said, although he wasn’t really speaking of money, “I have to get back to work. I’m getting low on funds again, I called Sam, and he said I could come back anytime I wanted, and I think I feel strong enough physically and emotionally. I’m only telling you this because I didn’t know if you were still having me watched or not, but while I’m at work, I won’t need security, okay?”

He kept his eyes on the road, sped up faster, and he growled. I swear, he growled, which meant something I had just said upset him. I wasn’t sure if I cared enough to discover what it was, but I finally said, “I have to work, Eric. I’ve been off long enough, and I have bills to pay, and I only have about $800 dollars left in the bank.”

“Where did all your money go?” he asked, giving me a sideways glance.

“I’ve had a lot of hospital bills,” I reminded him. I didn’t have insurance. Hospitals are expensive. I glared right back, folded my arms, and then turned to look out the side window. “I don’t just spend my money frivolously you know.”

“I know. That’s part of the problem,” he acknowledged gruffly.

What the hell did that mean? I wasn’t going to ask him that, because I knew he was old fashioned, and had archaic notions about money and women. He felt he should take care of me, and that I should let him. I couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t. I wasn’t even sure why.

“I would give you any amount of money that you needed, Sookie. Money is something I have amassed a lot of in my many years on the face of this Earth,” he confided. I bet he had.

I placed my hand on his thigh, to placate him, and said, “Eric, honey, I know you would, and I appreciate it, but I can’t just take your money.”

“If we were married as two humans, my money would be yours,” he said plainly.

“That’s true, but we aren’t,” I reminded him.

“For all intents and purposes, in my mind, and in the minds of other vampires, you are mine, in more than just the sense that you are my human. You are my mate, my wife, my beloved. I hate that I have to remind you of that.” He shifted gears when he entered the highway, and picked up speed again. I could tell he was angry. He turned to look at me slightly and said, “Someday, vampires and humans will be permitted by human law to marry.”

“I don’t doubt that,” I said.

He left it at that. I was glad; because I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go down that avenue this late at night.

I lay my head back on the headrest and closed my eyes. I felt him reach for my hand. He squeezed it and placed it back on his thigh. Again, I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew, I was being carried into my house. I didn’t wake up until Eric kicked the front door shut with his foot.

“Are you staying?” I asked. He carried me to my room.

“Are you inviting?” he asked silkily.

“I might be,” I said cryptically. He placed me on my feet. He wrapped his arms around me and kissed my cheek, over to my lips, and then back to my jaw.

“I might be tempted to stay, then,” he finally answered. He let go of me, and peeled off his jacket and draped it over the chair in the corner of the room. I kicked off my shoes, threw my purse on the dresser, and walked into the bathroom. I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and got into a pretty, pale green nightgown. Eric stood behind me, peeled off his clothes, saw to his needs, and stepped into my shower.

We did all of this silently, as if it was a choreographed dance, and the whole scene thrilled me to no end. I could get used to such mundane acts as getting ready for bed with my lover.

I walked into the bedroom and lay down to wait for him to finish his shower. I turned to my side under the covers, and played with a string that had unraveled from my old quilt. I turned it around and around my finger. I looked up as I heard the shower turn off, and then I watched as Eric stepped out of the bathroom, with nothing but a towel wrapped low around his slim hips.

He smiled down at me, one knee on the bed. I reached up for him.

I could get used to this, too.

He turned off the light that was on the bedside table. His body pressed against the side of the mattress, causing my body to roll slightly toward him. He whipped off the towel, and pushed down the quilt, all before I could say, ‘boo’. His lips danced across my jaw and neck and he smelled like my soap, so fresh and clean. There was something satisfying in that. “I do love you, Eric,” I said softly, not because I had to say it, but because I wanted to say it.

He placed a hand on my stomach, lifted his head, and stared at me for a long time, his bright eyes brilliant even in the darkness. He stared at me for an insurmountable amount of time, before he smiled, kissed me slowly and languidly, lifted his head again, and then said, “I love you more than I ever thought it was possible to love another human being, Sookie. I love you more than I have ever loved anything, and more than I ever will love anything. You are my day and my night, my right and my wrong, you are everything to me, never doubt that.”

There was nothing plain and simple about that statement. It was so sweet it almost made me cry. I decided to commit it to memory, even as his hands and lips were committing every inch of my body to memory. Soon, I was as naked as he was, and his tongue seemed to delve into every nook and cranny it found, before it came back up to skim along the line of my lips, to enter my mouth.

“I want you completely, lover.” His voice was low and thick with need.

“I’m yours,” I soothed guilelessly. In my mind, that sounded romantic. When I said it aloud, it sounded a bit hokey, but he smiled anyway, so that was all that mattered. I whispered his name as his mouth closed around one of my nipples and he began to suck. I felt his fangs. He drew some blood, but that made it even better.

Wonderful, primitive sensations started in the pit of my belly and spread like wild fire all throughout my body, and out my toes and fingers. I thought I had felt loved before, and I thought I had been fulfilled before, but Eric was almost devouring me with his lovemaking, and it was pure bliss.

His hips pressed against mine, to open my legs, I felt the friction of his thigh between me, and then he entered me just at the right time. Sometimes, I think in bed, I’m a pure wanton, a wicked, wicked woman, thanks to my experiences with my vampires, because nothing ever compared to the way they made me feel when I was coming all around them, with them deep inside me.

I wanted his heart, but I wanted to give him mine as well. I wanted his body, and I wanted him to have mine. I wanted him to heal all the wounds that I had left opened, festering, weeping, for so long. I did belong to this man, this vampire, and I knew it, even as he came, saying the word, “MINE!”

I clung to him tightly, almost out of control, as he bit into my neck. I spiraled downward, feeling as if I might pass out any second. Before I knew it, he had opened his wrist a bit, with a small bite, and he urged me to take a drink. I did. It was the perfect completion. Shared love, shared sex, shared blood.

He rolled off me, and pulled me to his side. I was like a quivering mass of cherry jello. (Cherry is my favorite.) I clung to him, and I know I was whimpering, not crying, not moaning, actually whimpering, because I was still thrumming from the fantastic sex.

He turned to his side, and kissed me again, another long, meaningful kiss. “Are you mine, Sookie?” He gave me such a mischievous smile I almost felt like slapping him. I also think that at that moment I would almost agree to anything.

“Yeah, sure, whatever,” I said breathlessly.

He let me go, to which I whimpered again, but he said, “I’m coming back, do not worry.” Ha! ‘Do not worry’. He’s so funny. I love the way he talks sometimes … forgetting contractions, old-fashioned sayings and things. He stood up, in all his beautiful, Nordic glory, walked over to his jacket, and got out a small velvet pouch. He threw it to me before he plopped back onto the bed.

He turned the light back on, and sat beside me. I propped myself up on my elbow and examined the small velvet pouch. I said, “The last time you gave me something in a black velvet pouch, I ended up married to you, in the vampire sense. I’m almost afraid to see what this is.”

“Just open it, lover,” he prodded. He leaned down to mirror my body, his head on his elbow. I was going too slow for him, because he reached over and pulled on the drawstring and then held out my hand, and emptied the bag contents on it.

Out popped a beautiful diamond ring.

I stared at it, my mouth open. I was afraid to look at him. Was this what I thought it was? He said, “Someday, when it is legal for me to do so, I will ask you to marry me, and you will already have the ring. That is all this is. As you said, it’s just plain and simple.”

I looked up at him, back at the ring, back at him and said, “Sure it is.”

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