It was nearly sunrise when Eric’s phone went off, startling all of them since it was such a rarity for others to call so close to dawn. When Eric saw the caller’s name, he answered it quickly.
“News?” Eric asked apprehensively.
“He received a phone call around midnight… Afterwards, he was completely irate! I know the bastard’s temperamental, but this went beyond anything I’ve witnessed here.”
“Any idea about the caller?” Eric asked.
“Blocked. I do know it wasn’t a vampire. If it were, he would have taken his anger out on the caller, or contacted Sophie-Anne if it were another Regent. Instead he remained completely restrained until after the call ended. He contacted Compton afterwards and BAM!… I did hear something about you, though. I heard him say, “the Viking got there first”, that’s how he put it.”
“You’ve found out what he was after?”
“I found it months ago and did not realize I had it right away… I had my suspicions, though. Especially as of late…” Eric growled.
“What is it?”
“I cannot say… Did he give any hints as to what he was looking for? Did it sound like he knew what it was?” Eric asked slowly and the pause his “ear” gave, made him suspicious. “Tell me,” he ordered.
“It sounds like they were looking for a person…”
Eric sighed. “All right, keep your ears open and let me know if you learn of anything else. Pay especially close attention for the next few days. I need to know in what capacity he wanted to use them for.”
“Yes, Sir.” The phone clicked, signaling the end of the conversation.
“Master?” Pam eyed Eric curiously. She, of course, had heard both sides of the conversation, but she was curious if her assumptions were the same as his.
“I believe that we have received as close of a confirmation as we will get about what it is André is after.” Eric was not taking his eyes off of Sookie. “By the sounds of it Niall, Fintan, or both of them are responsible for André’s interest in you, Sookie.” Eric stooped down to take Sookie’s hands in his. “I think we should all operate under the assumptions that there is something even more special about you than we first thought.”
“Wh-what do you mean?” Sookie asked tentatively.
“Telepathy is a good reason for André to want you, but not a good enough reason for him to keep you secret from his Queen and Maker. Niall or Fintan must know something special about you that we are still unaware of; something they were using as a bargaining chip for finding you. Something that would be especially appealing to André.” Eric released her hands to begin pacing and he became contemplative.
“Well, if she is related to Niall, then that means she is royalty. Even if she cannot succeed the throne, she could still become a governing force in Elfyria.” Pam was thinking aloud.
Eric made a small, dissatisfied noise. “Sookie could, but it would mean nothing to a vampire. It cannot benefit André at all if he had Sookie and she were a political figure in Elfyria.”
“What if she is eligible to succeed the throne?” Pam pressed.
“That would only be beneficial if André were a…” Eric frowned. “King.”
“Which would be a good reason for André to keep his actions from Sophie-Anne.” Pam’s eyebrows were raised to her hairline. “Did we just stumble upon a royal assassination plot?” She gasped.
“And not just any plot… André would not just be trying to take over a domain. He would be plotting the assassination of his Maker as well.” Eric was completely flabbergasted.
“But Sophie-Anne has always had complete loyalty from her Children.” Pam looked stunned.
“He is her oldest Child.” Eric crossed his arms over his chest. “Even so, this is highly irregular, though not unheard of.”
“What do we do?” Pam asked quietly.
“André will not attempt making a move against Sophie-Anne if he cannot have Sookie. However, my survival might be put at risk if André wishes to try and take her regardless. He may wish to finish what he started, even at the risk of his own, continued existence.”
“Eric!” Sookie wailed.
“Hush, Lover, that brat cannot accomplish such a thing, especially with me no longer being vulnerable during the day. Pam, I wish for you to take extra precautions in case he tries to go after you to get to me. Right now my girls are the best way to go after me, and I must keep you safe,” he told Pam and Sookie. “André is older than Pam, and can quite easily subdue her, especially if he uses his subordinates.”
Pam sneered. “I will never fall prey to that weasel.”
Eric smirked, “Now, then, since we have discussed our current situation and reached a few conclusions; I suggest we get on with Sookie’s lessons for the day, and continue our counter measures after we have all had time to consider the options. Pam, I would like for you to call up a domestic service and see about acquiring a cook and maid for the household… Also, start checking the real estate. Despite our newly developed immunities, it is beginning to look suspicious that I have yet to relocate after the attempt on my existence. Sookie really enjoyed swimming while we were at Godric’s, so look into houses with a pool, or property large enough to sustain one. See about hiring me a new day man since we cannot risk being seen in public during the daytime still. You know most of my specifications, but make sure that Sookie’s personal maid is a female since she will be the one interacting with her the most.”
“Yes, Master.” Pam nodded before leaving to follow her Makers orders.
“Sookie, go collect your text books and meet me in the study,” Eric told her.
“Could we study out on the back patio instead? It’s really pretty out today,” Sookie requested.
Eric grinned at the very idea. “A marvelous idea, my Lover.” Eric leaned in and kissed her lips. “Go grab your materials, and I will set up a work station for you.”
Sookie bounced off to collect her books and papers as Eric began moving materials of his own outside. He had invested in a whiteboard when he had first started teaching Sookie, and now was dragging it out of his study and onto the back patio. It had become a necessity, since it provided a distance between them. When Eric had first started teaching Sookie, he had merely sat beside her, showing her equations and explaining historical events right next to her. However, the close proximity lead to distractions, and though Eric prided himself for his self-control, even he was a slave to Sookie’s carnal wiles. However, he would not change that for the world.
When his pupil stepped outside there was a small table and chair set up in front of the whiteboard, and a glass of iced sweet tea sweating in the sunlight.
Eric began their lessons with mathematics, as always, and Sookie knew he did this because it was her hardest subject. They were just beginning long division, and Sookie was still stumbling around her times tables. It was a thorn in her side, to say the least, because it was the only subject she had failed to expand in at an accelerated pace.
Next was history, something Sookie quite enjoyed. Mostly because it was like story time. Eric’s lectures were actually real accountings of how he experienced an era, or things he had seen and done during those times.
English, Sookie’s favorite subject, was midday, and while Pam was usually the one who taught those lessons; Eric was now covering all of her classes since he did not have to leave for Sheriff’s duties in the middle of the day.
Lastly, Science was on their agenda, and Sookie had mixed feelings about this particular subject. On one hand, she found it fascinating. On the other hand, it seemed to limit her perception on reality. For someone who knew first hand that not everything could be explained by science, Sookie did not know how much stock to put in it.
It was around eleven when Pam interrupted their English class. “Eric, I have contacted a couple of agencies and they have all responded with a few applicants that could be available for interviews. I have scheduled three for today, and another five for tomorrow,” Pam told him. “The first one is at 1:30, and she will be interviewing for the housekeeping position, as well as another at 2:45. The third for today is to be interviewing for the day man position at four.”
“Very good, Pam. Sookie, I would like you to sit in on the interviews.”
“Okay… Can I ask why?” Sookie gave him a curious glance.
“I want to make sure that you like your maid. Also, I want you to read through their minds and judge their potential loyalties as well as competence,” Eric explained.
“I guess I could manage that a lot easier now that we can communicate telepathically.” Sookie laughed.
“Pamela, help Sookie dress for the meeting. I want her to exude the aura of “lady of the house.” Try and make her appear a bit older, though. I do not want the help misinterpreting Sookie’s role in this household,” Eric told her.
“I have just the outfit.” Pam grinned.
Eric nodded with a wave of his hand, a signal for her to take Sookie and get her prepared for the interviews. While the women were gone, Eric got the patio cleaned back up and Sookie’s textbooks back in their bedroom. Now that he thought about it, the safe room was rather obsolete, although he planned to stow Sookie away in such a place when she had her power surges and was rendered incapacitated. However, he thought about lying in bed with her, sunlight filtering in through a window as he touched her skin and ran his lips over the curves of her body… Yes, he needed to build, not buy a home. A call to his architect would need to be made.
“Now, let me see…” Pam leered at Sookie appreciatively. “Hmm, light blue is definitely your color… and a white pencil skirt… Yes, that will be perfect… Oh! And some white pumps.” The vampire tore apart her own closet to find the items Sookie needed, and the girl was shocked when her clothes were being pulled from her body. She was soon dressed in what Pam had just described. A powder blue blouse was buttoned up and tucked loosely into the white pencil skirt, and Sookie had no idea how Pam had managed to get her feet into the high heeled pumps in which she was now wobbling. “Don’t worry, you will be sitting the entire time, but those shoes will make you look smart and intimidating,” Pam assured her. “Now, keep your face relaxed during the interviews and remain a silent observer. If you need to tell Eric something, have questions, or need to direct his line of questioning; do it telepathically. Only speak if he makes a motion for you to, or prompts you to telepathically. Got it?”
Sookie nodded weakly. “Umm, is there a certain way I should sit? There was this movie Eric and I were watchin’ and they were sayin’ that real ladies don’t sit with their legs crossed.”
“Yes, just cross your legs at your ankles, don’t cross them at the knees. Then just let them lean either to the right or the left, whichever is more comfortable for you.” Pam nodded as Sookie mimicked the instructions by sitting on the bed. “Just like that, yes. All right! You can take those shoes off until the interview, but we will be practicing on making you walk in heels. Confident, self-assured women wear heels!”
“Really?” Sookie was surprised. “I thought business women were suppose to wear like… Suits and stuff.”
Pam sneered. “A real woman owns the fact that she is a woman. It takes a brain to run a business, not a penis. Women shouldn’t have to hide behind a three piece suit to be taken seriously in business or politics.”
Sookie nodded in understanding as she slipped off the heels and stood up to go back downstairs. “We can practice downstairs until we have to do the interviews.”
“Very good, Little Sookie.” Pam laughed that special way that only Pam could; mirthful, but always at someone else’s expense. When they arrived in Eric’s study, where the interviews would be held, Sookie put her shoes back on and began teetering around the room coltishly. “Move your hips from side to side as you walk,” Pam instructed as she made a show of swaying her hips.
Sookie tried to mimic the action, but only accomplished looking like a fool.
“Roll your hips. Roollllll them,” Pam stressed, doing another strut and giving a secondary visual aid of a slow saunter.
Eric was leaning in the doorway, watching with amusement as Sookie tried to copy his Child’s movements. When Sookie saw him watching her, she steeled up her resolve and forced her legs and hips into compliance. Eric could see her determination as she, once again, attempted to strut across the length of the study. He could see her getting better, slowly, but surely.
“How about you sway those hips this way?” Eric leered at her, beckoning Sookie with a flick of his fingertips. Putting on her best, sexy leer, Sookie sauntered over as fluidly as she could and placed her hands on Eric’s chest. “You should be careful, Little One, or you will be hostessing this interview looking more than a little ruffled.” Eric growled into her ear as her nails raked over his nipple.
“Well, it would probably be good for the help to realize that explicit situations will arise frequently in this household,” Sookie purred at him. “Perhaps we should make a show for them so they realize what they’re gettin’ into?”
Pam chortled behind them. “Ooh, Master, you really do know how to pick them.” Leaning against Eric’s desk, Pam tilted her head to the side. “Imagine what an insatiable minx she could be if she came over?”
Sookie grinned mischievously. “I don’t know that he could keep up if I did.” She gave Eric a wink. “But do you think you’d all stay daywalkers if I were turned?”
Eric pondered this. “An eternity of darkness would be more than bearable if you were at my side. After all, I have already survived a millennia of it.” He tucked her chin between his thumb and index finger, pulling her lips up for a kiss. Sookie could feel the truth and love rolling through the Bond at her, and it made her knees weak. So many years of darkness and exclusion had plagued her, and yet Eric managed to wipe away most of her nightmares in a mere couple of months.
“You are going to make her melt, Master.” Pam was still smirking at the display in front of her. Glancing at her watch, she frowned. “Your first interviewer will be arriving shortly. How would you like me to proceed?”
“Answer the door and bring them to the study. Introduce yourself as my sister, since there are high probabilities of you being around. I do not need gossip amongst my staff as to your role in this household.” Eric looked annoyed at the thought. Sookie knew that with all the intrigue and reconnaissance that came along with being a vampire Sheriff, the last thing Eric wanted was murmuring and gossip around his own home. “When the interview is over, glamour them on the way out so that they cannot recall ever actually meeting me.”
“Yes, Master.” Pam nodded and turned out of the study.
“Sookie, take a seat here.” Eric maneuvered a plush, white, wingback chair to angle off of the corner, in front of his desk. The new vantage point would give Sookie and Eric a united front during the interview, while showing Eric as the dominant- though distant- employer. “I would like for you to conduct the actual interview, Lover.”
“But… I thought I was just suppose to sit here and look nice.” Sookie looked terrified.
“This maid will be primarily working under you as the lady of the household,” Eric explained to her. “I wish for her to see you as a governing force here, so that the appropriate respect will be demonstrated. Unfortunately, in this area, I fear that I may not receive the expected level of service and professionalism. Therefore, I want it seen upon first sight, what is expected from the position and in which manner they are to operate. If they are unable to recognize those expectations during this meeting then they are certainly not up to performing to my standards,” Eric told her.
Sookie felt a bit weak, but nodded. “Okay.”
“I will guide you along telepathically so that you do not error.” Eric nodded at her comfortingly. “Ah, she is here.”
Sookie tensed when he said this, and all too soon she heard the doorbell ring followed the soft thunking of Pam’s heels between the carpets on the hardwood.
“Good afternoon, my name is Mrs. Darlene Greer.” The older woman held out her hand to greet Pam.
“Good afternoon, I am Pam. Mr. Northman’s sister.” Pam nodded at the woman, ignoring her hand. “My brother is in his study. I will show you to him.”
Darlene followed cautiously behind Pam, and the vampire could not help but scowl to herself. She already had a strong dislike for this woman, and she hoped Sookie had reason not to like her either. From the pitch of her annoying voice, to the obscenely big hair she sported, Pam was unimpressed.
“Mrs. Darlene Greer is here for her interview,” Pam said dryly as she opened the study door and presented the woman to be interviewed. The female vampire smirked at the face Sookie was making. Though the little telepath was getting better at keeping her face straight when she heard others’ thoughts, she still slipped up from time to time.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Greer.” Sookie nodded, standing up to shake the woman’s hand and gesture for her to sit. “Please, have a seat. My name is Sookie Stackhouse, and this is Eric Northman.” Sookie sat back down and crossed her legs at her ankles.
“That will be all, Pamela,” Eric said quietly.
“If that’s how he talks to his sister, I can’t imagine how he’ll treat me,” Darlene thought apprehensively.
“Now, Mrs. Greer-”
“Please, call me Darlene.” She tried to give Sookie her warmest smile, and Eric was repressing a growl. Instead of interrupting her interviewer, Darlene should have waited until Sookie’s statement was made and then opened her response with how she preferred to be addressed.
“Darlene,” Sookie nodded curtly, “how long have you worked as a housekeeper?”
“Well-” And Darlene began to talk on, and on, and on.
“Eric, how do I shut her up?” Sookie asked him, mentally, after nearly fifteen minutes of the woman’s endless talking. “Besides her voice, her brain is a chatterbox too!”
Eric smirked. “That will be all, Mrs. Greer. Ms. Stackhouse and I have heard all we need to from you. You may leave now.” Darlene looked put out, but gathered herself up quickly to leave. Pam opened the study door and escorted the woman back out while glamouring her on the way to the front door.
“Ugh!” Sookie groaned. “That was really annoyin’.”
“I am surprised to have received such an applicant.” Eric frowned. “Normally the agencies I go through have a better understanding of what I am looking for in an employee. Well, I suppose there are always poor applicants to weed through.” Leaning back in his chair, Eric opened his arms. “However, since that interview ended quite early, we have time for this.”
Sookie immediately dove into her lover’s offered embrace, and her lips smashed heatedly against his. Eric pulled her into his lap, one hand grasping her hip while the other clasped her nape. Arching his hips, Eric pushed his growing erection against her bottom, earning a mewl.
“Do we have enough time?” Sookie panted against his lips, feeling her heart aching for his touches.
“I will make time, if need be.” Eric growled, standing up to deposit Sookie upon his desk. “Lie back, Lover. I want to watch you writhe on my desk.”
Pam was tapping her foot impatiently as she held the most recent candidate at bay from beginning her interview. Sookie had asked her, telepathically, to delay the next interviewer while she and Eric composed themselves.
“We’re ready now,”Sookie’s voice chimed in Pam’s head, and the vampiress could not help but smirk at the timidness that resounded in her head.
“Mr. Northman is ready to begin your interview now.” Pam turned on her toe sharply, making the woman jump. As she opened the office door, the powerful smell of sex made Pam’s nostrils flare and fangs pop into place. “Mrs. Penelope Hallaway,” she said toothily before managing to retract her fangs and leave the room.
Rising, Sookie held out her hand. “Mrs. Hallaway, I am Ms. Stackhouse, and this is Mr. Northman.”
“Good afternoon, Ms. Stackhouse. You can just call me Penelope.” Sookie gestured for the potential employee to sit, and she did the same.
This interview went far better than the one with Darlene, but by the end of it, the telepath decided that she wanted to see many more potential employees before making a decision. Her gut was telling her that Penelope was just right for the job, though.
The third interview that day, for Eric’s new dayman, had left Sookie in a fowl mood. That individual had been the only human male she had encountered for an extended period of time, other than her brother, since she had gone to the police station. Of course, at the station, the officers had been too shocked by the fact that she was alive to spend their time giving her a physical appraisal. Her brother had, thankfully, not gazed at her hungrily as this man did now.
“If this Northman guy is looking for a day man, he must work a lot of nights… Since the girl’s the one conducting the interviews, I must be working directly with her… Mmm, she looks young. I wonder if she’s fucking the boss? If she is, then all I need is to get myself a bit more power than her. Then I’m sure she’ll let me have a few rounds with that ass-“
“Get out,” Sookie ground out when she could no longer take any more of his scheming. “You are all wrong for every position.”
“What? You haven’t even-” The interviewer frowned at the abrupt change in the meeting’s atmosphere.
“I said. Get. Out.” Sookie stood up sharply, going to the office door and opening it. “This interview is over.” The young man rose, glancing curiously at Northman, and then at the irritated girl before shuffling out of the office.
“What was that about then, Dear One?” Eric asked, as Sookie slammed the door and returned to the desk. The vampire held his arms open for her when Sookie bi-passed her chair and came to him. Gracelessly, she flopped into his lap.
“From the second the interview started, all he was thinkin’ about was ways to get me to sleep with him,” she snarled, letting the feel of Eric’s arms temper her irritation.
“Though I understand your reaction, I must tell you that the way you conducted yourself was highly unprofessional,” he told her firmly. “You cannot respond like that with people, Sookie. Even if they are thinking unsavory things.”
She frowned, pushing her face more firmly against Eric’s chest. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t help it… I… I haven’t really had to hear thoughts like that about myself since I ran away, and… I don’t know… Knowin’ you were with me gave me the strength to just do what I’d always wanted to.”
Eric paused for a moment. He had never truly considered how Sookie would react in a situation like that. It was only fair that after years of oppression and having to see and hear the thoughts of her Uncle, that she would snap easily in those types of situations. “I understand, My Lover. But you have a new strength now. You have me. You need not conduct yourself in such a manner. If you are ever in a situation like this again, you need only inform me subtly, and I will handle it if you are uncertain that you can remain poised.”
Sookie nodded against his chest, still pouting. She had disappointed Eric. Her greatest sadness.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered quietly.
“There is nothing to be sorry about, Lover,” he assured.
She shook her head jerkily. “No, I was actin’ like a child. You’ve taught me better than to be so impulsive,” her voice was still hushed, ashamed.
Eric smiled at her. “Yes, but part of learning is making mistakes, and I genuinely feel that you needed this mistake. You needed to feel the power of standing up to one of your childhood monsters. Even if it was only a surrogate. I will always regret, slightly, not allowing you the opportunity to confront your demon, but I will always revel in the joy I found killing him myself.”
“I wouldn’t have been able to kill him,” she admitted, sighing appreciatively as Eric began petting her head and twirling her long hair in his fingertips. “As much as I hated him, and as much as I wanted him dead, I couldn’t have done it.”
Eric kissed her crown and breathed in the smell of her hair. “You would be surprised at what you are capable of, Lover.”
“Capable and willin’ are two different things. I am capable of killin’. I’ve killed for you. I would kill for you again. But it was a kill or be killed moment. Bartlett… I would have wanted him to rot away in a cell or center, shunned for bein’ the monster he was. Unloved. Forced to live in the shadows of society and thought the worst of like I was.” Eric blinked several times at the darkness that swam through Sookie. It was not common for her to dip into this level of blight, but he had to admit that seeing her like this, feeling her like this, was the deepest reassurance that she could survive in his world. This ounce of darkness was what gave her the edge she needed to be taken seriously as his Mate. Yet, that darkness was only a drop in the bucket of light, the speck of yin to her yang. Her anger was tempered by her morals, and, in Eric’s opinion, her morals were just where they needed to be.
“I love you, Sookie,” Eric told her.
Sookie beamed up at her vampire, the most beautiful grin he had ever seen upon any face. What he felt coming from her through the Bond made every lonely day of the past millennia worth the experience of that moment.