Chapter 23: A Change In Me
I woke some time the next day as I often did these days, with a full bladder and an aching back. I couldn’t wait for this pregnancy to be over. Eric’s cool body was still wrapped around mine from underneath me, our legs in a tangled mess. I carefully unwrapped one of Eric’s arms from around my side and made to quickly sit up so I could find the bathroom. I’d barely moved a few scant inches from Eric before my head jerked painfully back towards his hard chest.
Rubbing my chin from where it connected with Eric’s ribs, I ran my other hand through my hair to find that Eric’s other hand had been twisted underneath me and tangled in my curls. Silently cursing myself for my need to get to the bathroom, I worked to unlock Eric’s grip, debating all the while if it wasn’t worth the loss of a little hair to get to find my needed relief.
Finally, I was able to unlock Eric’s death grip on my hair and stumble into his bathroom. Luckily, although this was a vampire bedroom, it was equipped with a fully functioning bathroom that I was able to stumble into in the dark.
After taking care of that needed bit of business, I made my way through the double set of doors in Eric’s bedroom out to the main part of the suite. I was evidently getting on vampire time more and more, because it was late afternoon, and sunset was only a few hours away. No wonder my tiny bladder had been screaming at me.
Part of me seriously considered whether or not I could make a quick trip to New Orleans and back to do some reconnaissance, but I knew both of my vampires would blow a gasket. Besides, I needed to get some food in me.
After I had eaten some room service food, I decided that I was still pretty exhausted from using so much magic the night before, and decided to lie down and take a nap. The drapes were wide open, leaving one of the couches sitting in a delicious looking pool of sunlight, so I stretched lazily in the warm beam and drifted off to sleep.
I woke to strange feelings. Confusion, apprehension and fear coursed through me. Groggily, I sat up as I began to realize that those feelings weren’t mine. I had just gotten to my feet as I took in the orange sky, surprised that Eric was awake so much before sunset. My feet had just begun to carry me towards Eric’s room when I heard the double doors being flung open as Eric’s voice called out roughly, “Sookie!”
My steps hastened as I pushed Eric’s naked form from the doorway. He wasn’t in direct sunlight, but the residual sunlight in the room was causing steam to begin rising from his bare skin. His strong arms enveloped me, even as I heard both sets of doors close behind us as he spun us into his room.
“What the hell were you thinking?” I hissed into his bare chest.
“I woke and you were gone again,” he hissed in return to the top of my head as his arms tightened even more around me.
I pushed slightly away and looked up into his narrowed eyes, his arms loosening to allow me. “I was just taking a nap out in the main room after I ate. You could have reached out through the bond and realized I wasn’t very far away,” I replied.
Eric’s jaw ground together as his eyes narrowed even more, nearly forming slits. “It has been five months since last I felt you through the bond. Forgive me if in my haste to find you, I forgot that you have once again allowed me to feel you!”
I pushed further away, but Eric held onto my wrists holding them between us and stopping my retreat. “Don’t you dare blame all of this on me,” I snapped.
“You are the one who is always running,” he growled as he tugged on my wrists, bringing me closer. “I am not allowing you to run anymore, even if I must keep you bound and gagged to prevent it.”
I could feel my indignation rise. “How dare you!” I growled back, even though I knew he was partly correct. “Maybe I ran, but you pushed me away too! You didn’t want me around or even care that I took off. I know, because I listened and looked for any kind of sign that you were looking for me, but you never did. You didn’t care where I was.”
“Just because I did not look for you does not mean I did not yearn for you every day,” he growled, his head dipping lower so that our noses nearly touched. I held my ground. Anyone in their right mind would have been terrified of him, but I guess they didn’t call me “Crazy Sookie” for nothing. “I thought you would be better off with your children having their father, so I let you go instead of looking for you. How could you leave knowing I was their father?” he continued, giving me a slight shake.
“Because I’m sick of everyone around me getting hurt and killed! I couldn’t bear it if something happened to you. As long as I stayed away from you, you were safe,” I growled back, trying in vain to pull my hands away from his grip.
“When will you show me the respect I deserve? I am over one thousand years old, I am more than capable of protecting myself and you,” he growled in my face again.
“Respect? This has nothing to do with respect, you ass!” I yelled, pushing towards him on the wrists he still gripped. I evidently surprised him because he took a step backwards at my shove. “It’s hard to have respect for someone if they’re finally dead!”
Surprisingly, Eric didn’t snap back at me. His eyes searched mine before he asked, “This is why you left? Because you feared me meeting my final death?” I nodded. “Why?” he asked simply as he released my hands at last.
I shoved at his chest. “‘Why?’ Because I love you, damn it! Hell if I can figure out why!”
He wrapped his arms around me, pulling me close and reminding me that he was still very naked. With a sigh he said, “I thought I understood that you have this unfathomable desire to protect those around you, no matter the cost, but maybe I never really came to accept it. For once, you stubborn woman, let me help protect you, instead of trying to protect everyone around you. Don’t let this drive us apart. I know you cannot change your nature, but I am trying to understand it. Please try to understand that it is my nature to want to protect you.”
I sighed into his cool chest, my fingers toying with the blond hairs on his sternum. What he said made sense. How many times when I had been hurt and beaten up had they been because I was trying to help or protect someone else? Even when I logically knew that I should stay out of a situation, I couldn’t bring myself to if a friend or loved one was in danger. What kind of coward would that make me? But Eric was right about more than just that. He was protective, and I did need to be more accepting of that. They were two very similar but very contradictory natures, and they had put us at odds before and they likely would again. I wasn’t sure how to reconcile them. Maybe it was like any ten step program and the first step was admitting you had a problem.
“I know it’s in your nature to want to protect me, but we’ve got to learn to work together on this. I could never live with myself if I just walked or turned away when I could have done something to help or protect someone. And that includes you. I hated leaving you, but if it kept you safe, I was willing to do it,” I whispered, not looking up from his chest.
“It was your devotion and loyalty to others that first made me realize how deeply I had come to care for you. I realized it wasn’t just infatuation or lust when you bade me kill Lorena for you. When I asked you why, I was sure it would be for vengeance or some such notion, hell at that point I was shocked you would even consider going after Compton knowing that he had intended to leave you, but you were so devoted to bringing him back regardless and killing Lorena for hurting him. I knew then when I saw that devotion burning in your eyes that I would do anything to see such devotion burning for me.” He tilted my chin up to look down into my eyes. “How blind I was not to recognize that look I’ve been seeing burning in your eyes all along.”
I closed my eyes tightly at his intense gaze, afraid of what those eyes might see. I knew all too well that there was very little Eric missed. “But you’re still afraid of me, are you not?” he asked, disappointment coloring his voice.
My eyes opened slowly to take his sad gaze in. “It’s not you I’m afraid of. It nearly killed me when Bill betrayed me like he did, but I got over it and moved on. But I think—I know—my heart would never recover from a blow like that from you. That’s what scares me. It terrifies me,” I answered, knowing I was showing him more honesty than I had ever done before.
“You are not the only one who is terrified,” he answered bluntly, his accent sounding thicker. “‘The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live,'” he quoted. I knew I had heard it before, but I could not place it. “The greater the risk, the greater the reward,” he added as his head lowered and his mouth slanted over mine.
I reacted almost instantly, my heartbeat zooming out of control as my hands spread across his back and downwards. I was reminded once again that he was still naked when his arousal began to press into my belly. My protruding belly should have gotten in the way, but Eric merely curled his body around me as he bowed lower towards me. As my lungs began to scream for air, Eric’s mouth left mine to caress my jaw, neck and anywhere else he could reach. I gasped for air as his hands and mouth devoured my skin and his hands clawed at my top, pulling it upward. My brain seemed to recover from the lack of oxygen and I began to wonder if this was really the right time and place.
As the thought ran through my mind, I also began to register the sound of an odd ringtone playing in the background. Strange, foreign sounding flute music played as I pushed back from Eric, “Your phone,” I whispered.
Eric cursed in another language. “I’m sorry, my lover. I need to answer that.” He tipped his head to the side, and added, “Your Grecian seems to be waiting for us as well.”
I gave him a reproachful look, but only said, “You should put some clothes on.”
He laughed as he picked up his phone, saying, “Of course, lover.” He answered his phone and began to speak in what I was sure was the language of his human life. I wondered if it was Pam calling, but figured he’d tell me when he was ready.
I made my way out of the room to change and pack my things for the trip to New Orleans.
We flew from Dallas into Baton Rouge, and then drove the hour and a half into New Orleans. It was a pretty quiet trip, both Robert and Eric spent most of it in silence and I spent it snaking and napping. I was surprised when Eric let Robert drive into New Orleans, opting instead to sit in the back of the car with me so I could recline sideways on the seat against him.
Before we left Dallas, Eric had called Stan to inform him that we believed Barry was in New Orleans. From what I could gather about the conversation, Stan wanted to go with us or send men with us into The Big Easy, but Eric talked him out of it since it could start a war with Felipe if found out. Robert left his men behind for the same reason. We decided a small party for a snatch and grab would be best. Hopefully Victor wouldn’t be tipped off to our presence.
I knew Pam was going to meet us in New Orleans, but I also knew Robert and Eric had some sort of back-up plan for if Victor did find out. All they would say was that some of “their” men and Stan’s men would be waiting for us just outside of Louisiana. I knew I would have to be prepared too in case something went wrong. It seemed that the time had finally come to set my own plans in motion and as they say, see where the chips would fall.
Our plan was to replicate my previous endeavor at the Dallas FBI office. We parked several blocks from The Big Easy’s FBI office, and walked the rest of the way.
It took me longer in the New Orleans office to find someone who knew agent Lattesta, and even longer to find someone who could give me any useful information. Luckily, the New Orleans office seemed to be a little busier, even at night, than the Dallas office was. By the time I got back outside to Eric and Robert, I was exhausted and confused, but my mood immediately brightened when I saw Pam standing beside Eric.
I threw my arms around Pam and hugged her, despite her surprised face. “Mistress,” she said in surprise at my action.
“I’m so glad you’re back, Pam,” I whispered as she hesitantly returned my hug. And I really was. I knew, no matter what, Pam would be at Eric’s back and protect him.
“Good lord, Sookie, you look like you’re incubating a dozen children, not two and that brown bob is really not a good choice for your skin tone and facial structure,” she finally said fingering my wig from my disguise.
I rolled my eyes as I pulled away. “Glad to see you’re still snippy,” I replied with a smirk.
“Of course,” she replied. “Now, explain what you found out and how it is you snatched up a vampire that actually knows how to dress,” she said, gesturing to Robert.
I couldn’t hold back a laugh at the sight of Robert visibly preening and Eric scowling at both Robert and his child. Robert was as usual, dressed in an exquisite suit of dark blue, while Eric was wearing his normal jeans and t-shirt Fangtasia wear. Pam was dressed in a beautiful cream and lilac colored twinset that was her normal nonworking apparel.
Robert lifted Pam’s hand to his mouth and lightly kissed it, “Who knew the Norseman—” he threw a smirk at me, “Eric—would have such magnificent taste in women. Enchanté,” he whispered to Pam, making me think Pam must have just arrived.
Eric pointedly ignored Robert and Pam, wrapping an arm around my shoulders as he asked, “What have you discovered?”
Pam and Robert turned towards me to listen. “It took me a bit, but I found out that they’re keeping Barry in the convention center and hotel near the Garden District. So far he’s been denying that he’s anything but a normal human, but they’re parading all sorts of people around him, trying to get him to break. They’re getting really desperate now and have been bringing mentally unstable patients and even murderers and sticking them with him, trying to get him to admit that he can hear them,” I explained.
The three vampires nodded in understanding. “Could you contact Barry, telepathically?” Eric asked as he rubbed my shoulders in consolation.
“I tried when we were coming into the city, but I think I was probably just too far away. Let’s try getting closer, and I can try again. At least that way he’ll know to hang in there and that someone is looking for him,” I responded.
Eric swept me up and took to the skies as Robert and Pam followed on foot. I kept calling out silently as we got closer, and finally was able to connect with Barry and get his attention.
Sookie! I that you? Barry thought to me. I could feel the relief in his “voice.”
“Stop here,” I told Eric, and he set me down on a rooftop. I was surprised to see Pam and Robert scaling the walls to join us on the roof. Their clothes didn’t even seem the slightest bit ruffled or dirty. I’m here Barry. Are you all right? I asked him as I focused on the images in his mind.
I’m trying to hang in there, but I don’t know how much more of this I can take. That FBI agent you warned me about has been bringing in murderers and serial killers now. I can’t stand hearing their thoughts, but they won’t let me sleep and I can’t block them out any longer, Barry said desperately, easily letting me into his mind.
You’ve got to hang on a little longer, Barry. I’ve got some help with me, but it’s going to take some time to figure out how best to get you out of there. Stay strong and keep listening for me. I’ll be back, and when I do come back, you’ll have to be ready to do whatever I tell you to. Okay? I asked him.
Okay, he responded, tiredly. Just don’t take too long.
I won’t, I assured him. Turning to my vampires, I said, “I could see in his mind from the images he showed me that he was in the basement of the convention center. It looks like there’s always at least four agents with him as they rotate people through.”
Robert nodded and spoke to Eric, “Why don’t Pamela and I check out the area and the hotel. You can take Sookie across the city to the hotel where we’re staying and get some rest.”
I wanted to protest, but knew I was too tired to do so. Eric swept me off my feet, and said something to Pam in his old language before we were once again airborne.
I fell asleep, barely even waking when Eric checked in to the hotel and took me to our room. He gently set me down on the bed in one of the rooms and came back with several bottles of blood. I drank them quickly and without comment. Eric knelt on the floor in front of me. “How do you feel?” he quietly asked once I had finished the three bottles of blood.
“Better,” I sighed. “At least now we know where Barry is. But I don’t get it. Why would Lattesta keep Barry at a hotel? I would have figured he’d keep him in an abandoned warehouse or something,” I said.
“It is quite brilliant thinking actually. A hotel has lots of civilian traffic to offer some protection from anyone looking for Barry. It would seem more odd to see many people coming and going from a warehouse for example, but no one would think twice about seeing large numbers of people coming and going from a hotel,” Eric explained.
“So what’s our plan?” I asked.
“It will depend on what Pam and Robert report of their findings, but I would rather make a quick grab at the telepath and get out of this city,” Eric replied, brushing my now loose hair from my face. I’d taken my wig off as soon as we got into the room.
“You think Victor is involved in this, don’t you?” I whispered, as if giving voice to my thought would make it true.
Eric sighed and dropped his hand to my shoulder. “I think it is too much of a coincidence that this FBI agent would choose to bring Barry back to New Orleans, yes. Perhaps we shall be lucky and get in and out of the city without Madden knowing of our presence, but we should be prepared for anything.”
My eyes dropped as I considered Eric’s words. He was right; we should be prepared for anything. In the pit of my stomach, I could feel that something was coming. Something inside me knew that everything I had been preparing for was going to come to pass. The real question was: what risks was I willing to take?
I thought I had prepared myself to take any risk, but Eric’s words from earlier this even came back to me. The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing, he’d said. Was I really ready for nothing? That’s what I’d been living with in Monterey. I could lie to myself and say that I was preparing for the things that were to come and trying to keep Eric safe, but really, I was trying to keep myself safe. Afraid to really risk it all by giving everything that I was to Eric. It was safer to wall myself away in Monterey and say it was to keep everyone safe, but it was a hollow existence. It wasn’t really living.
I looked back up to see Eric studying me, his brows drawn together in confusion. I reached out and smoothed them away with my fingertips. “What are you willing to risk?” my voice choked out.
Eric pushed himself between my knees, my flowered maternity dress from my disguise drawing up around my thighs as he placed his hand on my back and pressed as close to my body as my belly would allow. His other hand clasped behind my neck, drawing my head towards his. “Everything,” he whispered in my ear as he gently sucked on the shell. I knew then that he was right. I was nothing if I didn’t take this risk, and only Eric could make me feel like something. Like I was alive.
I carefully scooted back on the bed, drawing Eric with me. His eyes searched mine for any sign of protest as he carefully knelt over me and slid the dress up my body and over my head. My hands trembled as they reached out and gathered his t-shirt and pulled it over his head. He sat back for a moment and quickly shucked his boots and jeans before sliding back over my body.
My hands grabbed his as he moved to remove my bra. There was still one thing I needed to know. “It—it doesn’t matter, but I need to know. Have you—have there been others?” I asked, my voice quavering. I couldn’t meet his eyes, my gaze focused downward on my belly instead as I braced myself.
Eric resettled his knees on either side of my thighs; my belly thankfully obscured much of any view. I didn’t need that kind of distraction right now. His hand gently brought my gaze back up to his face. He wore a sad, but determined look. I internally braced myself for whatever he would say, knowing that even if Eric didn’t always tell me everything, he always told me the truth. “I wish I could lie and say I have not even tried to be unfaithful. But I have tried to. I have taken blood from many women since you’ve been gone, and many times, I have tried to find pleasure in their bodies, but never could I stand the feel of their touch. And though I have tried, no woman has truly brought me pleasure since I last felt your touch. I think you have ruined me for all others,” he said with a sad smile. “I am sorry,” he added softly.
I knew it wasn’t a full answer, but I knew that I meant what I said. I pulled his head towards me, leaning up slightly to meet his lips. “It doesn’t matter,” I breathed against his mouth. A slight shudder went through him as his hands slid down again and removed my bra. I didn’t stop him when they wandered further and slid my panties down as well.
Eric leaned back on his knees again, looking down at my naked form. I could feel the heat in my face as I tried to draw the comforter of the bed across me in my embarrassment. I knew I looked nothing like I did the last time Eric and I were in this position. Eric reached out and pushed my hand away as I tried to cover myself. The action caused me to look up into his eyes.
His eyes shone with pink unshed tears as he whispered, “So beautiful. So full of life.” He spoke so sincerely, and his eyes were so bare with honesty, that my hand fell away from the comforter, believing every word he said. He leaned forward to place gentle kisses over my throat and breastbone before moving down and showed equal attention to my breasts, grazing his fangs across each one in turn. As he lightly sucked and nipped at one, he would roll the other between his fingers and gently pull on it.
I was soon writhing beneath him, my only coherent thoughts coming out in moans of pleasure and groans of “more.” He placed several gentle kisses on my belly before venturing further south. It was awkward because I could hardly see him for my belly, but it was somehow erotic to not be able to see and anticipate his movements.
My head was thrown back in ecstasy as my hands latched on to his shoulders, tugging his body back up towards mine. “Now. I can’t wait any longer,” I growled, surprising myself with the ferociousness of my voice.
I expected to see that trademark smirk on Eric’s face when he reappeared over me, but his face was tight and drawn with barely contained emotions. His eyes were almost black with lust and I could tell that he was barely controlling himself.
My heels pushed on his thighs even as my hands slid down to his hips to pull him towards me. His head fell backwards as he closed his eyes and hissed. His own voice came out in a growl, “Wait, you are not prepared enough.”
“Can’t wait,” I moaned. It had been too long already. I waited too many months for this. “Need you,” I breathed as my fingers tightened and dug into his hips and butt.
He moved closer, his mouth finding and devouring mine, but we could both feel that this position put too much pressure on my belly. Without releasing my lips, Eric’s hands slid down to my hips and guided me to my side as he slid with me. My hands wrapped around his back, seeking an anchor, even as more than his tongue slid into me. His back arched to keep pressure from my belly as he slowly slid into me. I could feel one hand slid to my breast as the other angled my hips to receive him. My head jerked back with a gasp when he finally slid all the way in, giving me that delicious sensation of complete fullness.
His mouth moved to my shoulder as he began to slowly move, my own hips gently jerking in time. “Tell me if it’s too much. Tell me if you need me to stop,” he said, his voice coming out low and tight.
“Don’t stop,” I exhaled. My head dropped back down to his shoulder, and my teeth dug lightly into his flesh as he angled my hips, finding the perfect position to reach me completely. I didn’t draw blood, but it spurred him on, somehow causing him to bend his body so that he was suckling my breast as he thrust. One of my hands wrapped around his shoulder and the other cradled his head to my breast as I groaned, “please,” and pressed him closer. He groaned in answer, but only hesitated a moment before sinking his fangs into my full breast and drawing a mouthful of blood. It set off my orgasm, and I toppled over the edge, my body jerking in pleasure.
Eric’s thrusts sped up even more, but his hand always stayed on my hip to ensure he didn’t hurt me. I was still clenching around him when he used his other hand to pull my lips to his neck, growling, “please,” in return. I didn’t hesitate as my blunt teeth dug into Eric’s flesh, tearing at the skin until blood oozed into my mouth. His hands pressed tighter into my hip and neck as I drew all of him into me. The taste of his rich thick blood set off another tidal wave of pleasure in me, before my fist had even subsided and this time, Eric’s head jerked backwards as he came with a shout. I didn’t understand the words he was groaning as his hips gave their last forceful jerks, but as he stopped, his head dropped forward to capture my lips, the taste of our blood mingling in our mouths.
His arms tightened around my back as his gaze blazed into mine. “This is best. This is right,” he growled.
“It’s worth any risk,” I whispered in return as I kissed the spot over his silent heart.
A/N: 10 points to everyone who correctly guessed that the chapter titles are all song titles with the word change in them. Not every song is a great match to their respective chapter, but some of them fit pretty well.
For those of you out there who guessed correctly, if the Viking hasn’t stopped by to ravage you in your dreams yet, just hang in there. He has a long list of houses to stop by. 😉
Big thanks to tvgirl.nicole who chose A Change Is Gonna Come as one of her inaugural reviews for her new section of Under the Radar Fanfic recs on her blog The Sookieverse. Check her blog out if you haven’t already. I was flattered and honored to have been chosen.
Sorry this was a little while coming out, I’ve been bogged down with interviews and trying to get articles written by deadline. I haven’t even had a chance to watch the new True Blood yet. 😦 Oh well, I’ve been pretty disappointed by a lot of both this season and last season. At least it’s got some beautiful men, you can say that for the show.
Thanks to everyone for reading and reviewing, they drive me on, even when work and deadlines catch up with me!