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Chapter 17: Fluffy Pillows


I paced back and forth in Bill’s old-fashioned living room as Bill and Eric spoke to each other in the foyer in soft, muted whispers, meant only for vampires to hear. The reason I wasn’t part of the conversation was that from the moment Eric arrived, which was only ten minutes after Bill brought me inside, to this moment, I wasn’t ALLOWED to be part of the conversation.


When Bill first brought me in his house I asked him what was happening, and he told me to wait until Eric arrived. Then he offered me some sweet tea. He said he always kept some made just in case I came to visit. I thought that was odd so I refused.


Fifteen minutes later Eric arrived. I started to run to his arms, in some fit of romantic flare, happy to see him, anxious for some answers, but he stopped me at arm’s length, turned to Bill, asked him if he had called Sam yet. Then, when I asked what was going on, he had the nerve to put his finger to his mouth to hush me.


HE HUSHED ME!


So now, I was pacing back and forth in the other room, still clueless, and I kept looking toward them, anger seeping out of every pore. Every once in a while Bill would point toward me, shake his head, and make some point about something or other, only to have Eric point toward me, and then shake his head back.


“Hey! Didn’t your mamas ever teach you it’s impolite to talk about people and to point at them, to boot?” I yelled.


“I’m sorry, Sweetheart,” Bill said, turning to face me.


“Don’t apologize to her. She’s being just as rude as we are,” Eric maintained. He walked into the living room and asked provocatively, “Is it too much to ask that you give us a few minutes alone? I promise we will explain everything to you in a moment.”


I wanted to bitch-slap Eric Northman so badly that my hand itched. He smiled, walked up to me and said, “I wouldn’t do it if I were you. I might hit back right now, with the mood I’m in.” Sometimes I hated it when he could sense my moods!


“Why are you in a bad mood?” I inhaled.


He took his right hand and pushed on my chest, gently, to force me to sit on the couch. He turned to Bill and demanded, “Go get the shifter. I need to find out what he learned from Alcide.”


“If the Weres have decided to side against you Eric, then you know that means you’ll fail, don’t you?” Bill reproached, “And you put Sookie in even greater danger than she’s been in before.”


I waved my hand and said testily, “Sookie’s right here and it’s just as rude to talk about me aloud, as it was to talk quietly about me, you know.”


Bill sighed and walked out his door, looking back toward me once. When Eric and I were finally alone, he sat next to me on the couch, but before I could ask any questions, he raised a hand and insisted, “Hush.”


“I will not be hushed by you again, Mr. Northman!” I seethed. I started to say something else, a bit more colorful, but he placed his hand on my mouth, grabbed me around the waist with his other hand, and stood up so suddenly that I was dizzy. My back was against his chest, his arm around my waist, and somehow, we were up against the wall, near the front windows.


“Shhh,” he hushed in my ear. “We’re not alone. That’s why I wanted you to be quiet, lover. I meant no disrespect. I need to listen, to see how many of them are out there, and to make sure that Bill got through safely.”


I looked over my shoulder at him, my eyes searching his, but he was looking out the window. He finally looked back down at me, but then he smiled, a half smile, an impish smile, and he kissed my mouth quickly. “Are you afraid, lover?” he asked.


“Should I be?”


He merely shook his head no. “I’m not afraid, so there’s no reason for you to be. You believe me, don’t you?” Then he gave me a real smile, a dazzling smile, and he finally affirmed, “I would protect you all the days of my life.”


“Why do I need protecting, Eric?”


“Because once again, there are those who want to take you from me,” he replied enigmatically. He turned me in his arms and his arms went around my waist, holding me so tightly against his body that his arms wrapped around me until his fingertips skimmed the sides of my breasts, and I had to stand on tiptoes to reach him. He kissed me hard and passionately. When he stopped kissing me I was almost out of breath. He said, “And there are those who apparently want to take me from you, too. Alcide and his cronies are planning to kidnap me; at least, that’s what your friend, the dog, told me today on the phone when he called me.”


I pushed away from him and he offered no resistance. I began to breathe hard. That’s what Sam was worried about when I honed in on his thoughts. He knew if they hurt Eric, or took him away from me, that I might not recover from the pain. I turned to look out the window, but it was futile; I couldn’t see a thing in the pitch-dark night. I turned back to Eric and said, “Why would Alcide want to kidnap you?”


“It seems I have a bounty on my head, isn’t that quaint?” he snorted. “I’ve angered our esteem king by going over his head, to barter a deal with the kings of some powerful, Northern states. I want freedom for our state, and I want out from under the sovereignty of Nevada. I’ve already angered him when you and I became bound, and now that he knows that you are part fae, he’s even angrier.” He looked out the window once more and said grimly, “They’re still out there, but we’re safe enough,” and he pulled me back to the couch.


“How does he know that I have fairy blood?”


“Larkin Talkington told him, but of course,” he replied drolly, as if I should have already deduced that.


I swallowed hard, “Do you want to be King of Louisiana? That’s what I overheard today.”


“I swear, I have no such want,” he said. I believed him until he added, “I merely do not want to be at the beck and call of swine like de Castro. Scum like him should show me fealty, not the other way around. Who is he to tell me what to do in my own state?”


I wasn’t sure that answered my question, because it seemed as if maybe he did want to be king. I looked back out the window. “Who’s out there?”


“Vampires and some Weres. I suspect your dear cousin is out there as well. It seems our temporary peace has ended. I didn’t think it would last long, seeing that I was blackmailing him and all,” Eric said lazily.


I grasped his hand and said, “Please, try for one moment to tell me the truth. Tell me everything.”


He smiled, caressing my cheek, “No.”


I hit him as hard as I could on the chest. He hardly flinched. “You make me so mad!”

“The word is angry,” he parried. “Mad denotes insanity, and you are anything but insane.”


“Fine, Eric, now I’m really ANGRY, because I hate it when you treat me like an ignorant hick!” I tried to stand up, but he grabbed my hand.


“I really am sorry,” he said, snaring my gaze. I could tell, both from his expression and through our bond that he was, too. I sat back down and beseeched him with my eyes to talk to me, tell me the truth, tell me anything! “I can’t tell you everything, my love. Someday, I will, but we don’t have time right now.”


“At least tell me why Alcide told me to talk to Bill about money,” I pleaded.


“Your grandfather left you a very sizable trust fund, Sookie,” he finally said.


“How sizable?” I asked, almost afraid to do so.


“Very. Compton is the trustee, unfortunately. Your great-grandfather must have thought that would be best. He didn’t think that love and money should mix, so he named Bill as trustee, instead of me,” Eric explained. “It makes no never mind. I don’t need your money, and for all his faults, Compton will do what is best for you, and he would never cheat you.”


“Why do I need a trustee? Why can’t I administer my own inheritance?”


He shrugged, “It’s the way of the fae. They are traditional. He wouldn’t think that an unmarried woman could handle her own money. Besides, Niall’s money is still tied up in businesses and factories that cater to supernatural beings, so he probably thought it was best if a supernatural being was in charge of it. Your cousin, the bastard, for that’s what he really is, made himself known to us right after your grandfather crossed over. He thought he should inherit as well, or in the very least, be named your trustee.”


“Did he know Niall? Did Niall know him?” I knew I asked the same thing twice, only slightly different.


“I’m sure they were acquainted, but because of your cousin’s strange makeup, part fae, part vampire, part human, your grandfather would not have wanted to have anything to do with him,” Eric reasoned. “Larkin contacted Bill right after the trusteeship was named. It was a mere days after the Fairy War, and you were still recovering. Larkin claims he fought on our side, but he was not on our side as far as we knew. He wanted to contact you immediately, but Bill and I kept him away.”


“So you were more afraid of him taking my money then of him hurting me, because I was a competitor in his little vampire-daylight saving blood elixir?”


Eric looked amused, “Is that what you’ve decided to call it? That’s a very complicated name.”


“Hell, I don’t know what to call it,” I rolled my eyes.


He stroked his finger down my face. “I was indeed afraid he would hurt you out of jealousy, anger, and because you threatened his main means of making a living, which was selling his own blood to wealth vampires, one of which is our dear King Felipe. He was also jealous that you inherited what he felt was his birthright.”


“He can have all of Niall’s money, I just want everyone to leave me alone,” I cried desperately. I hugged my knees, resting my cheek on my thigh. “I know it’s a pipedream, but I really, really want to be left alone.”


He rubbed his hand up and down my back, stopping only long enough to lean over me, nuzzling, “I hope that doesn’t include me.” He kissed the top of my head. “You don’t want me to leave you alone, do you?”


I didn’t know how to answer that, because while I didn’t want Eric ever to leave me, I could do without all the drama. I turned my head back toward him.


“I love you, Eric.”


I guessed that answered his question. I hope it did. It was the best I could say under the circumstances.


Suddenly he jumped off the couch and went to the door. I sat up, apprehensive and afraid. Eric opened the door, and Bill entered with Sam. I couldn’t help myself … I ran to Sam’s arms. He was welcoming and familiar.


“What’s happening, Sam?” I asked, fear clutching my throat.


Sam shook his head, but looked at Eric when he reported, “It’s all happening just as I told you it would. The Weres are siding with de Castro. I told you that they would. That part fairy-part vampire dude contacted me, because he knew that I was close to Sookie, and he wanted me to side with them as well. He claims that he’ll never hand Sookie over to de Castro, but I don’t believe him. You had better get a hold of your northern friends, but quick, Eric. They’re coming for you tonight. You might have been able to hold them off if you hadn’t made that Larkin character so angry!”


“NO!” I shouted. I grabbed Eric’s hands. “No, really, no! Please!”


“No one is going to hurt me, Sookie,” he assured calmly. “And no one will ever hurt you again. My friends are already on their way, and we have certain advantages of which the others are not yet aware.” He was no longer smiling, however, so I wasn’t convinced.


Sam rubbed his hand up and down my arm. His voice was kind and gentle, “Cher, we have friends, too. There are others who’ll be happy to get rid of the Nevada vamps, and they’ve already been contacted that the time has arrived to act.”


“Who’s on our side?” I croaked. No one answered. Bill walked to the living room, and looked out at the dark night beyond the window. Sam smiled at me, and touched my cheek with his index finger, before he went to sit on the couch, his hands clasped tightly between his legs, his left leg jiggling up and down nervously.


That left Eric. “Who’s on our side?” I persisted. This time, I framed Eric’s face with my hands. “Eric?”


He removed my hands from his face by grabbing my wrists. He moved me toward the stairs, and soon we were traveling up them. It seemed as if I was moving effortlessly. I probably wasn’t moving at all. He was moving for us both. I felt like my insides were wound up tighter than a drum. Somehow, I don’t remember how, we ended up in Bill’s bedroom.


Eric closed the bedroom door and grabbed my hands. He said, “Your hands are cold.”

“How would you know?” I countered. His hands were always cold, so how could he tell if mine were cold as well?


He pulled me to sit on the side of Bill’s bed, and then he sat right beside me. I looked all around. Everything was so familiar here. He began to look around as well. “Did you like this room, Sookie?”


I narrowed my gaze at him, perplexed. “What are you asking me, Eric? I won’t talk about my past sex life with Bill, not at time like this!”


“Get your thoughts out of the gutter,” he said, with another grin. “I meant did you like coming here, to Bill’s house?”


“Yes, I guess,” I responded.


“Does it seem strange to you that you’ve never been to my house?” he asked intensely.


I looked at his large hand as it covered both of mine. “I think it’s sort of strange,” I finally answered.


“Why haven’t you ever been to my house, Sookie?” he asked.


I look over at the other wall, to avoid his stare. “You’ve never invited me.” That sounded feeble, even to me.

“Where do I even live?” His voice was silky. I looked at him. “You don’t know, do you? Did you ever come to Bill’s house without being invited?”


“Yeah, sure,” I shrugged a shoulder. I suddenly felt corrosive with guilt, and I wasn’t entirely certain why. “Eric, let’s take care of one of our problems at a time, okay? If we get out of this unscathed, I’ll come to visit you, and I’ll even bring you a house warming present, like a nice bundt cake or something, or maybe a fern.”


“Do you think you would ever be happy with me, just me and you together, at my house, or yours, just being together?” he asked, his blue eyes watchful. Suddenly, all bravado was gone. He was just Eric. Just Eric.


He reminded me of the Eric that I first fell in love with, the one that I found wandering barefoot during the middle of the night, in the middle of January, after that witch cursed him. The Eric who had forgotten who he was. It was easier to love that Eric. Did that mean that I loved a fake Eric? Was I in love with the thought of a man who wasn’t even real? This Eric was complicated. This Eric had so many complications in his life that I felt merely like one more.


I started to cry. “I do love you.” Again, it didn’t answer his question, exactly, but it was the truth, and it was the way I felt. He pulled me over to his lap, and rocked me back and forth, giving me comfort and reassurance. “I don’t know what else to say, Eric. I would love to be able to have a normal life with you. I realize I might never get everything that I’ve always dreamt of, a little ranch style house, green shutters, a red door. Pink rosebushes in front, a little blond baby, who looks just like you, playing in the yard, a dog, a cat, a floral couch with fluffy pillows, but I’m not sure that matters anymore.”


“Don’t forget the minivan,” he added.


I laughed, even as I cried. “Right, no minivan, but Eric, I really mean this from the bottom of my heart, I love you, and I’ll support you the best I can, but you have to start being honest with me. You have to start trusting me, and you have to make me a promise that maybe someday, we might have somewhat of a normal life, if we are going to have a life together.”


He seemed circumspect, the way he dropped my hand and stood. “You’ll never have a normal life with me, but I’m selfish, and I won’t give you up no matter what, even if it means no ranch house, no rosebushes, no little blond baby, who looks just like you not me, no cat, no flowery sofa with puffy pillows…”


“Fluffy pillows,” I corrected.


“Fluffy pillows, and no minivan, but dammit, Sookie, what I do promise you is a life full of living, a life full of love, a life with me, forever, if you want, or at least, as long as we both shall live.” I stood up and threw my arms around him. He whispered in my ear, “When this is over, will you come to my house for a conventional date? I’m asking, will you accept?”


“Oh, Eric,” I said frantically, pain suffusing my face. Then I answered the only way I knew how, with the same response I had given him all night. “I love you.”


While we were locked in our embrace, Bill appeared at the bedroom door and opened it quickly. “Eric, the time has come. They’re here.”

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