Sookie ignored the way in which Eric had phrased his question and stared up at her home from the SUV. She lowered her window and studied the house. “There’s no one in there,” she observed. “Vampire or otherwise.”
Eric did the same and subtly sniffed the air. “There is nothing with a heartbeat that matches yours,” he agreed, though the scent of Were was unmistakable.
“Is it my imagination, or can I see better?”
Eric cocked his eyebrow, though Sookie was not looking at him. “See, smell, feel,” he said. “Everything has been sharpened. It is the effect of my blood.”
“Your body is still human,” he reminded her, exiting the vehicle and appearing outside her door.
She nodded and let him help her from the car. “For the record,” she said, keeping a step behind him as they approached the porch, “no, I never leave my front door open.”
The porchlight automatically went on as they climbed the steps, and Sookie gasped at her mangled front door. “No one is here,” Eric repeated blandly, examining the splintered wood.
“My grandfather built that door,” she said sadly, shaking her head.
“He did a fine job,” Eric admitted. “The wood was unfortunately not a match for Weres.”
“You can tell?”
“Yes.” The pair entered the living room, and Eric felt Sookie poke him in the arm. She gestured to the light switch and he nodded.
“Jesus,” Sookie murmured, taking in the sight. The room had been literally turned upside down, and she winced as her eyes moved from object to object. Her breath hitched as she fought the tears welling up in her eyes at what had been done to her late grandmother’s home.
“Come,” Eric commanded. “We will look through the rooms and determine what is missing.”
The kitchen and remaining rooms looked like the living room, and Sookie and Eric paused in the smallest bedroom, her hand flying to her chest. “Everything you sent me!” she exclaimed. “I’m so sorry, Eric!” The plastic and metal remnants of her new office equipment littered the floor, and she stepped tentatively further into the room. “I didn’t even get to use any of it!”
He waved off her apology and surveyed the room. “Replaceable,” he said quietly. “Do you see your computer?”
She eventually spotted her laptop, and the new one Eric had bought for her, heaped together in one of the corners. “Yeah.” They’d both been ripped in half and obviously stomped on. “They’re both here.”
That surprised him. “They are intact?”
“Well,” Sookie speculated, shifting the pieces with her foot. “They’re ruined.” She sighed and rubbed her eyes. “There’s nothing on them, if that’s what you mean. I never sent you anything from them.” As best she could remember, there was nothing in her home that linked her to Eric. “We should check upstairs.”
The destruction halted at the steps to the upper level of the house, and Sookie was both surprised and confused to see her bedroom intact, as well as the other rooms.
“No one has been up here,” Eric confirmed, deep in thought. “I wish to look outside,” he said suddenly, dragging her with him.
Sookie fought to keep up with his long strides and huffed in annoyance. “Eric,” she complained.
“What is this?” he demanded, pointing to a small shuttered door on the foundation of the house. There had been one like it on three of sides of the home. “Is there a basement?”
“Uh uh,” she replied. “There’s a crawl space between the first floor and the foundation. Why?”
He pointed to the flowers that had been trampled and the marks left in the dirt beneath the door. “They were looking under your home.”
Sookie frowned. “For what?”
“For me.” He stared at her, expecting her anger in what had been brought into her life and was surprised to not sense any.
“Then they’re even more stupid than I thought,” she murmured. “So they must have been here today…during the day.”
Eric agreed. The scents were strongest on the objects of her home, as opposed to the air. “You know Weres?”
She shrugged and headed back toward the front porch. “Some,” she replied vaguely. “None that would do this.”
“Which ones do you know?”
“Probably the same ones you do, Eric,” she replied distractedly, shaking her head as she again examined the living room. “You’re getting off track. They took nothing,” she started, ticking her points off on her fingers as she spoke. “They busted through the door, so they obviously weren’t going for stealth. They left us a huge message,” she emphasized, her eyes widening. “Maybe they figured they couldn’t snatch you outside Fangtasia, so they sent in the big guns to nab you while you slept.” Sookie paused and examined the large vampire in her living room. “Can you hire a vampire to kill another one?”
Eric gave her question serious consideration. “I would not use the term ‘hire.'”
“Okay. Can you force one?”
“Of course. What is your point?” he asked.
“This fits,” she said, gesturing to the mess. “But it doesn’t. So far, someone’s picking off your employees, trying to get to you. But you’re saying, the Weres were here for you, not me.”
“I did not say that,” Eric argued.
“Fine. You believe they were looking for you?” she asked, and he nodded. “Well they’ve really shown their hand, and I have to ask, why? I mean, now there’s no doubt someone’s after you.” The whole thing reminded her of a mafia movie, that somehow, ‘war’ had been declared.
“You believe it is a vampire.”
“I have no idea, but even Weres aren’t this stupid.” The ones Sookie knew, were smart enough to cover their tracks, if they were serious about something. They also rarely bothered with anyone outside their own circles, though she’d heard of ‘rogue’ ones hired for a specific purpose. “Have you pissed of the Shreveport pack?” she asked honestly.
“How do you know about packs?”
Sookie rolled her eyes in frustration. “This wasn’t a pack! That’s my point! Good Lord, how many different supernaturals have to be hired before you admit someone else is behind it?” Something rolled through him before he could hide it, and she looked at him sharply. “What are you hiding, Eric?”
A lifetime of probing the thoughts of others had left her particularly adept at examining him through their bond, and Eric flinched at the intrusion. “Stop,” he said quietly.
“This is how it’s going to be for the next two months?” she asked sarcastically. “What was the point of sharing, if you’re just gonna try to hide?” She felt his anger flare at her rudeness, and she quickly backtracked. “I shouldn’t have said that, sorry.” Sookie knew what had happened weighed heavily on Eric. She could feel it. “I guess I should call the police. I don’t think I can collect on my homeowner’s insurance without a report-“
“I will replace the contents of your home,” he said quickly, interrupting her. It would be a meager sum, he assumed, judging the condition of her worn surroundings. “We cannot afford the time or interest it would take to call in the authorities. I suggest you pack your belongings as if you did not expect to return.”
Sookie stared incredulously at Eric, but kept her mouth shut. She was quickly learning it was best not to argue with him in time of duress. She nodded and hustled up to her bedroom, and Eric followed her there, smiling as she mumbled under her breath.
“I do not intentionally try to be ‘bossy,'” he lied, smirking in the doorway. “I am…expedient.”
“Mm hmm,” she grunted, pulling her only suitcase from her closet. “Right.”
“It is only the rooms downstairs,” he reasoned. “Someone will come tomorrow to replace your door.”
“Alright,” she said simply, emptying the contents of her drawers into the open luggage.
“We can purchase anything you might need.”
“Sounds like a plan.” She slammed the lid and sat on it, fumbling with the latches.
Her head shot up and she glared at him. “What? I’m doing what you said!” she snapped, finally clicking things into place. “I’m not fighting you, am I?”
“No,” Eric said cautiously.
“I’m sure you’ve had to up and leave plenty of times in your life, right?” she asked, trying to heave the overstuffed suitcase toward the door.
He gently brushed her hand aside and picked up the bag. “I have,” he agreed, taking her other hand in his. Eric realized what was bothering her, and he pulled her closer to kiss the top of her head. “Nothing will happen to you.”
“What if I’d been here?” she asked shakily.
“You were not. You were safe with me.”
Eric looked into her blue, watery eyes and smiled. “No harm will come to you.”
“What about you?” she asked, surprising him. “How mad does someone have to be, to take out a whole family? I’m worried for all of us, not just you.”
“Pam is safe,” he said reassuringly, ignoring her question. It was a subject that had come up before, from both Sookie and his Child. “We will discuss this more later.” It was not the time to voice his concerns about his Maker, or why someone was striking out at those around him.
Downstairs, Sookie grabbed some of the photos from the wall and a set of keys from the kitchen. She found Eric at the front door, dragging and wedging it into place. “It is uneven enough to stay in this position, I believe, until it can be replaced. Does your brother have any reason to enter your home?” Eric asked, brushing his hands off on his pants.
Would he, Sookie wondered? “He’s got keys, but they won’t work on the new door, right?” She pursed her lips and shook her head. “If my car’s not here, I doubt he’d try to come in.” Jason knew she had taken a new job in Shreveport, she had texted him herself, so it was unlikely that it’d register with him, if she weren’t home. They didn’t see each other much, after their Gran had passed.
“I would like for you to concentrate,” Eric explained as they buckled themselves into the SUV. “We will drive longer than necessary, and I would like to know that we are not being followed.”
“Sure,” Sookie said amiably and settled into her seat. At first, she assumed they were headed back to Shreveport, but then they traveled back the way they had come, and she suspected they were maybe staying in Monroe. After another couple of hours or so of harebrained driving, Sookie wasn’t sure they were even in Louisiana anymore.
“I think it’s safe to say no one followed us,” she remarked drily, getting out and stretching her arms upward. It was too dark to see properly, but she made out a cluster of small cabins, and she thought she could hear running water nearby. “We’re deep somewhere, aren’t we?”
“Indeed.” Eric handed her a large refrigerated bag and pulled her suitcase from the trunk. “Wait there, I will return momentarily,” he instructed, pointing to one of the cabins before peeling off in the SUV.
Sookie gave up on struggling with her luggage and stood in front of the small structure. “Is that the Mississippi I hear?” she asked jokingly, sensing him zoom up behind her.
“A stream that it feeds, yes,” he confirmed. “We are near Natchez.”
“Wow.” They had driven clear across the state, which confused her. “What are you going to do about Fangtasia?” she asked.
Eric led her to the rear of the cabin and guided her inside. He closed the door behind them, and it was several seconds before she could see. Sookie blinked at the sudden light and peeked around the room. There was one main room, with a bed and couch on one side, and a small kitchen area on the other. There were no windows, despite how it had appeared on the outside, and she realized, the bunker-like structure was as good as it was going to get.
“Fangtasia is closed for repairs for a few days,” Eric said, dropping their bags near the bed and taking out his phone. He’d asked her to turn hers off before they left Bon Temps, and she wondered what he was doing with his. “Water damage,” he explained, waggling his eyebrows. He laid his phone on the small table near the bed and began removing his boots.
“Really?” Sookie asked, surprised.
“No,” he replied, smirking. “But it relieves me of any obligation to my Queen for the next few days. Pam will remain in the Area, should anything come up.” Eric gestured to a door beside the refrigerator. “The bathroom is through there.”
Sookie pulled the few toiletries she had from her bag, along with her pajamas, and checked out the bathroom. Much to her surprise, there was running water, and she found clean linens in one of the cupboards. The toilet hadn’t been used in a while, but it worked, to her relief.
“It’s not so bad,” she said, entering the living area and stuffing her things back into her bag. “How long will we have to stay?” Sookie ignored that Eric had stretched himself across the bed in nothing but his underwear and unzipped the large nylon bag he’d left on the small kitchen counter. “You brought me food?” she asked in disbelief.
“Pam left it in the car for you.”
“Where is she?” Sookie asked, distracted by the wrapped sandwiches and various small containers of fruit and vegetables. “Chocolate!” she exclaimed, holding several candy bars above her head, and Eric laughed.
“She is safe.”
Sookie shoved what she could into the small refrigerator and cracked open a bottle of water. “Do you actually know?” she asked, trying, and failing, not to notice his long muscular frame.
“Her exact location does not matter. I know she is alive, and if I need her, she will come to me,” he said simply. He shifted on the bed, observing the way Sookie’s eyebrows rose as his hips did.
“I thought we weren’t using our phones.”
“I am her Maker, Sookie. If I mentally summon her, she will come.” Eric crooked his finger, beckoning Sookie toward him. “She has no choice,” he went on softly, his smile widening as Sookie moved tentatively to the bed. “It is convenient, in times such as these.”
“Unless she were being followed,” Sookie reasoned, sitting primly on the edge farthest from him.
“Then I would sense her distress,” Eric countered. “And I would absolve her from my call.” He slowly raised his arm in invitation, waiting patiently for Sookie to come closer. “I would not lead her where she would not, or could not go, if not necessary.”
Eric’s contentment rumbled through his chest as Sookie laid against him, settling herself into his side. “Alright, you made your point,” she grumbled, throwing her leg over his and yanking the cover over them. They were silent for a few minutes, until she yawned. “You can’t do that to me, can you? Summon me?”
“Would you like me to?” Eric countered.
Sookie shrugged and gripped him tighter, seconds away from falling asleep in her strange employer’s arms. “I don’t think I’ll ever get that far away, will I?” she asked softly, drifting off.
Eric hoped not.