Eric tossed Lillian onto the bed and backed up against the door, taking in the glorious vision of her. She gazed back at him in astonishment, her bewitching hazel eyes playful and sultry. Golden brown tendrils of her long hair pooled around her shoulders and arms. Eric’s senses were overwhelmed with lust and hunger and a riot of other unnameable desires. A shadow of a thought passed across Lillian’s eyes, and she knit her brow. Then her eyes grew wide.
Vampire emotions were so mercurial, the speed at which they morphed was dizzying. In 0 to 60 Eric had gone from philosophical, quietly passionate, to powerfully dominant, swept away in his own excitement. All in the blink of an eye. In private, away from other humans, everything about him moved either too quickly or too slowly. He didn’t suppress his real nature. Earlier, the reverent way he spoke of his maker and the distant, almost sad look in his eyes had disarmed her, drew her in without her even realizing it. She wasn’t expecting him to grab her so abruptly and kiss her, almost desperate for her affection. After being more terrified than she’d ever been in her life, the sudden proximity and tenderness he had shown her was profoundly comforting. But now, the tall man leaned against the door, unmoving, unbreathing. He stared at her unblinking under heavy lidded eyes, his body tensed, ready to strike. He was watching her, the pupils of his ice-chip eyes had dilated into black pools, the better to track her every move. Like prey. His nostrils flared, testing her scent, and his fangs had slid completely down.
Eric wasn’t just a man. This man was vampire. And she’d let herself forget that. In fact, she hadn’t even had time to really consider it. In all the adrenaline and fear and relief during the previous night, she’d let herself, without even thinking, give in to her own attraction to Eric – which was of course really an attraction to Eric as she thought him human. She’d protected him. She’d licked his fucking fangs for crying out loud. And then tonight. All her idiotic questions about their culture, when she should have been seriously questioning what Eric and Pam’s intentions were for her. She’d let her curiosity over the puzzle of Longshadow’s motivations ally her to their cause because of the shadow of a possibility that this had anything remotely to do with her. She hadn’t pressed Eric further on the whole feeding on human blood and memory wiping issue. Alone now, she saw him more clearly for what he was. This wasn’t a game. He was a predator, and there was nothing sexy or alluring about the prospect of being hurt. Her heart started pounding out a horrible rhythm as she began to panic.
“Eric…” He responded in a low, guttural growl. “Eric, you’re scaring me!” She backed up to the edge of the bed, pulling the shredded cream comforter with her. There was only one way out of the room and his massive frame was blocking it.
He blinked slowly, steadying himself. His demeanor uncoiled and he held his hands up, as if to show her he was unarmed. Then he sat on the bed, turning his back to her. He was quiet for a moment. “I got carried away. You…excite me. I forget myself around you. You don’t act like a human should, knowing what you know now.”
“Yeah, well I’m just realizing that too.”
“Everything has happened too quickly. You haven’t had time to digest it all.” He hung his head down and ran a hand through his hair. He wasn’t sure if he was saying this to her or to himself. He might as well admit that Pam wasn’t entirely wrong. He did need to work through the potential consequences of what was happening. He wasn’t even confident that he knew what was happening just now. Lillian was enticing in so many ways, and he found himself wanting to please her, be near her. He’d never had any intention of revealing his true nature to her, but that had flown right out the window. Reflecting on it now, he was shocked at how easily she had disarmed him into being, well, himself around her. He wasn’t just showing her his vampire speed, not bothering to feign breathing or the sluggish movements and ticks of mortals. No, it was even worse. He was also being casual with her. She was right to be frightened. He never behaved this way around anyone but his closest vampire confidantes.
Even more disturbing were the wayward thoughts that crossed his mind when he was with her – blood bonds of all things! Had he gone mad? When he was speaking earlier of avoiding attachments, he had been careful not to elaborate that this included humans as well. Why had he equivocated, sidestepping this hard truth? Did he do that for her sake or his own? While he’d had a great many human friends in his lifetime, he kept them at arm’s length and kept his emotions out of the relationships. People came and went. You enjoyed them while you could and accepted it when they or you had to move on. The last time he’d become fond of someone…well, the sharp-tongued harpy was just outside the door getting ready to slide into the light-tight room under the entryway coat closet. Even Pam had not known his secret until he’d already decided her fate.
But his current indiscretions didn’t stop there. No, they were twofold. He could not take human lovers without glamouring them into oblivion, as it was nearly impossible to hide his body temperature and he virtually always fed on them. No pleasure was greater. Keeping any one person around for very long, however, was unfair to the human and insipidly dull for him; repeated glamour damaged their minds and subsequently, their personalities. Exposing his true self was not an option. To do so was to court chaos and invite final death, Godric had made that resoundingly clear. Had Eric not witnessed with his own eyes the deaths of more than a few of his kind for precisely such foolishness? And what had he done when Pam had erred in a similar fashion? He could never forget the harsh words he’d hissed at her when he rescued her from nearly being staked by a farm girl: “Blood of my blood, play with your life and I shall take it back from you!” He dealt her the greatest humiliation a maker could inflict. He’d drained his beloved child within an inch of her life for almost abandoning him to his eternity. It was a double punishment: she had been weakened for over a year and worse, had to suffer seeing Eric bear the burden of a child whose frailty endangered him. It was a lesson she would never forget.
But alas, here he was. Was he not already treating Lillian as a friend, unknowingly allowing his closely guarded affections to unfurl? Did he not intend to take her as a lover? What the hell was he just about to do? Fuck and feast on a friend who knew him for what he was?! No wonder he’d terrified her. He must have looked monstrous. He came to, realizing he must have been in downtime for more than an hour trying to process his thoughts.
“Gods, Lila!” He stood in horror, refusing to look at her. “I have acted selfishly.” This was as close to actually asking for forgiveness as Eric Northman came. “I too have been caught up in things to fully absorb the…effect…you have upon me. I should have considered in turn how that affects you as well. If it’s any consolation, your influence on me…has me rather worried.”
“You’re worried!” She hoisted herself up from the wall she’d been crouching against. “I wasn’t sure what you were going to do to me,” she spat angrily.
Dawn was closing in on him. They didn’t have time for this argument. Screw it. Honesty seemed to work with her better than anything else.
“I know. I wanted to fuck you and bite you.”
“And you said I’m safe with you! You’re a liar. Fuck you and your supposed self-control.”
“Lover, please. Calm down.”
“Don’t you ‘lover’ me!”
“Stop calling me Lee-lah,” she mocked the pronunciation of his nickname for her.
“Damn you, woman!” he began to pace between the bed and door. “You bewitch me! With your laugh, your wit, your beauty. Your company…it feels so natural that I let my guard down. But it isn’t natural, it goes against everything I know! You make me break every rule I hold myself to. I hadn’t even realized it myself until I frightened you.”
“Oh I make you act like a murderous beast?”
“Lila, never! I would never hurt you.”
“Oh no? That wouldn’t by any chance be in the same high holy moral code you blame me for making you hastily abandon the second you get a boner?”
“I tell you I want to have passionate sex with you and you accuse me of wanting to kill you?! You don’t know what you’re saying. To drink from you would be ecstasy.”
“I’m sure! FOR YOU!”
Eric bit his cheek hard to restrain himself. Blood streamed over his tongue. Under any other circumstance, with any other creature, he’d retort with a suggestive comment and probably feel her up. He’d never really had to put much thought into convincing someone to melt in his hands. But seduction was not the right tactic now.
“Not just for me, Lillian. For you too. It doesn’t have to hurt. It most certainly would not hurt.”
“Yeah right. I must be crazy. I should have run at the first chance I had, in fact – “
He cut her off immediately “But you didn’t, did you.” Better to trip her on her own logic. Don’t leave, he willed at her.
She hesitated. “No, I didn’t. I…”
“Now why is that, do you think?”
“I…I don’t know why…I didn’t have time to think! It happened so fast!”
He thanked the gods. He was regaining control of the conversation. “Oh, I think you did have time. All day you sat up, you forced yourself to stay awake. You watched me sleep, you combed my hair.”
Shit. He knew she had done that.
“No, Lila,” he purred. “I think you thought about me all day long. You want me. You are attracted to me even more so now because you do see me for what I am. So you can’t tell the difference between me being driven wild by the desire to pleasure you in every way I know how and some out of control newborn vampire in full bloodlust? That is only a matter of education. Tell me, would you rather I had glamoured you into surrendering yourself, taking your will from you, making you blind to me and what sets me apart as vampire? Would you want to forget the entire experience?”
Lillian felt faint. Her thoughts were a jumbled mess.
“Hm?” he pressed. “I thought you begged me not to make you forget?”
“I know what you’re doing.”
“What am I doing?” he said innocently.
“Trying to manipulate me into let my guard down. It’s not going to work.”
“No, lover. I’m not trying to convince you to not be wary. You are far too intelligent for that. I’m trying to convince you that what you lack is a modicum of trust. That’s all I am asking of you.”
She guffawed. “Trust?! How could you even speak of trust to me?!”
“I say it because ‘trust no one’ might as well be a motto tattooed across my undead heart. And yet…you’ve earned a bit of mine.” He sat on the bed and beckoned her to join him. She stayed pinned against the wall. “You wrung it from me against my will, really. I’d never have given it knowingly. But there it is, all the same, the moment I realized what you had done. I had fully expected you to not come back for me in the club, to steal my car and save yourself, but you returned. As I fought the sun to stay awake, you feared my hunger knowing how my lifeblood poured out of me, sapping my strength. But did you run when you had the chance? No. You tried to find me suitable food. Again and again, you had the chance to escape, but you stayed. When you stared at me in my day death, a monstrous unmoving corpse, you knew that the very same horror was what was after us, so you armed yourself as best you could and protected us both, fearlessly. And though I am the most feared and loathed creature of the night, you saw me covered in my own blood and you worried over the dignity of my preternatural flesh. So what did you do, Lila? You did your best to clean me up.”
Lillian went and sat on the edge of the bed next to him, stunned. “I thought you compelled me,” she said in a small voice. “I couldn’t figure out why else I didn’t leave.” Eric and gently turned her chin to meet his face. He needed her to look at him. To know.
“I did not.” He rasped sharply. He paused to let it sink in. “Even if I had wanted to, I didn’t have the strength once the sun came up.”
“So you wished you had.” It wasn’t a question.
“Lillian, I told you I am concerned about your effect on me.” What was he about to do? Admit weakness? Never. This was simply…the truth. “What concerns me is that I didn’t even consider it.”
Eric could feel the heavy pull of the rising sun in his chest. There was simply no more time, unless he wanted a repeat of the previous evening. He pulled a set of keys out of his jeans pocket and clasped her hand to them.
“The sun is nearly up and I must sleep. These are to the Escalade in the garage and the house. It is your choice whether you want to stay. Lila, I will never compel you against your will, jag svär [I swear]. Know that I cannot protect you if you leave. I’m not convinced Longshadow meant to shut you in with me or even that he knew he had when he did, but it is up to you to decide what you wish to do.”
He stood up and solemnly kissed the top of her head, praying to the old gods that he would find her there come sundown. He had intended on sleeping in the bedroom closet crawl space, but he needed to give Lillian room. He went out into the living area, found the hidden keypad in the entryway closet, and entered the code to slide open the secret panel in the floor. Pam was already asleep, and there was just enough space for his long frame to crawl in. His child knew him so well. He was certain it was going to be decades before she let him live down the fact that she had been right all along. He wrapped his arms around his child and buried his face in her golden hair, letting the sun take him into oblivion.
Pam woke with a start, realizing she wasn’t alone. Eric’s heady scent filled the tiny room, along with her own. Her maker was curled protectively around her, something that hadn’t happened for many, many years. A heavy arm pulled her closer into his chest, and he inhaled the distinctive perfume of her hair. He had been awake for some time, being so much older than she.
He grunted. So much for answers.
“Are you okay?”
“Am I not allowed to snuggle with my one and only progeny?” Pam giggled, something she only ever did in front of her maker. She leaned back into his chest. His proximity soothed her. She could not remember a time when she had been more worried for him.
“We can discuss it later.”
“And here I thought you were in a mood for sharing.” He was quiet for a moment, and caressed his child’s face in the dark. She was his fierce lioness. Clever, conniving, beautiful, and loyal to him beyond measure.
“Actually, I am in the mood for sharing.”
Pam went rigid. “Please don’t tell me you want to try fucking again,” she said, exasperated. They had briefly attempted being lovers in the early days after her turning, but Pam’s tastes simply lay elsewhere.
He chuckled hoarsely. “Thank you for your vote of confidence. You hold the distinction of being the only woman whom I ever caused to yawn while straddled atop my perfect cock. And, Pam?”
“Vampires don’t yawn.”
She smiled in the dark. Then, thinking about the character of the scent wafting around her, she realized he had not had Lillian. “Did your pet deny you too? Is that why you’re jammed down here?”
“I said we can discuss it later.”
“Then did you come here because you missed your little Pammy wammy poodle?”
“Don’t ever let me hear you calling yourself that again.”
“You don’t miss me even a widdle piddle?”
“Pam. Shall I command you?” She was trying to cheer him up. She hated when Eric pulled these stunts. The torrent of emotions that pealed through his end of their bond was beyond taxing to her. It was like being dragged on a rollercoaster blindfolded and told the ride may never end. In moments like this, she was forced to wait out the storm. He only ever broke out the big guns these days – the threat of a maker’s command – when he was in a foul mood. It was all the more obnoxious because they both knew damn well he was bluffing.
“What did you want to tell me then?”
“Pamela, you are nearly two centuries old.”
“I am,” she said, surprised he would comment on her age. She had no idea where he was going with this, but she could feel him pulling her to him in the bond.
“Do you remember your first hundredth birthday?”
Now that was a turn she really hadn’t seen coming. “Of course, master,” she gasped, reverting to the submissive term he demanded she use in her youth. “I shall never forget it.” It was an auspicious occasion, a supremely important landmark for her, since a significant number of vampires did not make it beyond what would have been a human lifespan. If you could break through this barrier in time, then generally eternity was yours to lose. Immortality did not come without its ups and downs, this was for sure.
“You did so well in those early years. I was – I am – so proud of you. Do you remember how we celebrated?” She remembered. Vampires do not forget. It was a rite within their family that Godric had passed on. Eric was simply easing her into what he wanted, although she was unsure exactly why.
“My master, blood of my blood.” She spoke the most formal words a child could utter to her maker. It nearly made her mist up. It was an expression of the deepest reverence and love. Eric was pulling harder on the bond, beckoning him to her. To her it felt like the pain of heartbreak, a hollow throbbing line pulling herself out of herself. Only him. Only he could piece her back together again. She managed to turn onto her back in order to see him. The space was awkward and she thunked her head against the floorboards above them. She gazed into his eyes, and he ran his hand over her cheek in chaste affection. They could see each other perfectly well even in the inky blackness of their shelter. “There is no greater honor than what you have already given me, Eric.” It was an extreme supplication, the only formal speech worthy of answering what he was offering her.
“I know that this comes early, but I am unsure of what lies ahead of us.” Pam was still unclear why he wanted this now. She thought what was about to happen was only done every century in their bloodline.
“In times like these, Pamela, my maker always drew me to him to protect me, to ensure I was strong enough to survive the fight to come.” The pull in her chest was becoming unbearable. If she could crawl inside Eric to escape it, she would. It was the siren song of her maker’s blood. He was calling to her with his entire force. “You were right to challenge me about Lillian. I am drawn to her like a moth to a flame, so fascinated that I risk burning up in my desire for her light. I have not been thinking clearly. I endangered us. And this business with Longshadow feels entirely wrong. None of it makes sense, and my only instinct tells me that if the evidence we have before us is so illogical, the puzzle pieces must be larger. There is something far more dangerous happening. What, I do not yet know.” Pam couldn’t stand the strength of his influence any more, she had to stop it, but only his consent would release her. She was now pressed against his chest, her face buried in his neck, breathing in ragged gasps of his scent. She felt she would shatter at any moment if he did not give her permission to do what had to be done. He wanted to bless her with a ‘little making,” a renewal of her transformation so long ago.
“You are my only child, as I am the only child of Godric. Our line is old and strong, and it goes undiluted. Drink from me once more, my dearest child, and let us both grow stronger so that we may always walk the nights together.” He placed a hand on the back of her head, an arm around her waist.
Pam sunk her teeth into his neck. The cord snapped, and she was flooded not just with relief, but the very essence of life itself. She drew hard pulls on him, and he gasped and braced himself with one hand against the wall. Pam’s mind was set ablaze with Eric’s memories, images and thoughts soared through her. She saw everything in him. She felt his deep need for Lillian, he craved her in every way possible, and the desire was tangled in a snarl of emotions. She moved past it, swimming through his happiest recollections, his darkest days. She drank deeply, working her fangs around to keep his bloodline open to her. Connect, connect, only connect. He was still urging her on. She was gorging herself, and there wasn’t much more she could take. Eric was so much larger than her. She started to feel grotesquely full, and began to swoon as she choked back what she drank. Eric turned her head roughly to the side and bit, relieving her now of the pressure and taking from her what he had given long ago, what he was giving her now. Recirculating their blood as it aged, Godric had explained, accelerated the development of their powers and often compounded the inheritance of multiple rare gifts far more rapidly than time alone could. In times of peril, this secret rite was an extremely dangerous weapon in their family’s arsenal. Eric knew of no other bloodline so old and shared between so few.
Opening the full blood bond between maker and child was an ineffable, mystical thing. One might mistakenly think that, because of the intimacy, it would be akin to lovemaking. It is nothing of the sort. It is more like the love and connection of an unborn child warm and safe within its mother, only in this case, parent, child, and every other ancestor meet and merge in a cosmic plane existing only within them, a womb enveloping them all in the red mist of their magic blood. Only they were no longer themselves. They were One blood. It was the dissolution of being into total and complete knowledge of Self, and this Self was everyone who lived in their bloodline. Their lineage was a single unending life force full of time and vision, swelling with emotion and connection, and above all, awareness spreading out in every direction. At the dark crimson edges was Godric. His thoughts rustled around them, although these were less distinct. But he was contented feeling his children, and he sent his joy singing around them, holding them in, binding them all. Beyond him still was a darkness, and though it did not stir, something lay there silently.
Eric and Pam stayed that way for a while, entirely still save for a few movements necessary to keep the connection. It was a perfect circuit, without beginning or end, and it was for all time.