Ethereal Redemption Chapter 23

SOOKIE’S POV
You think I’m pretty without any makeup on, you think I’m funny when I tell the punchline wrong
I know you get me so I let my walls come down, down
Before you met me I was alright but things were kinda heavy, you brought me to life,
Now every February you’ll be my Valentine, Valentine
Let’s go all the way tonight no regrets, just love, we can dance, until we die, you and I, will be young forever
~ Teenage Dream, Katy Perry

I would never tire of hearing my Viking tell me that he loved me. There was something about knowing such an old and powerful creature adored me that made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. “I’m going for a shower, min älskling,” Eric informed me, disappearing into our bathroom.

I padded over to the wardrobe, half expecting to have to pick out one of the many sundresses I had brought with me. However, I caught sight of a little black dress hung up in plain sight, a pair of 4” high, black satin peep-toe shoes sat on the floor nearby. In the middle of the small dresser off to the left sat a medium sized black box and a there was a black clutch bag next to it. A scrap of paper sat on top of the box: Tentatively I moved towards it, still admiring the dress that had been placed in my wardrobe.

How on earth had she managed to get in here without me noticing? With a shaky breath, I turned back to the black dress and found myself scared to look at the label. There were no clues as to the make but from the fabric and the cut, it had to have been costly. I would never accept something like this as a gift but I was only borrowing it, and although I struggled with my conscience I remembered Ata’s earlier words. I suppose this was the first step in being more accepting of gifts – accepting borrows. The halter neck of the dress would hold the girls in place and meant there was no need for a bra, the bodice was fitted to the waist and then skimmed over the hips downwards in wisps of silk and lace, and the lace had been crossed over the top of the bodice to create an intricate pattern.

Looking down to the shoes beside it I was greeted with the name staring at me. Manolo Blahnik. I’d never owned a pair but I’d heard of them, and I was well aware of the fact that they were Pam’s favourite shoe brand. Maybe I could go shopping with Ata and buy Pam a pair with the hope of winning her affections. Anything emotionally meaningful would be wasted on Pam; sometimes I forgot that she even had emotions, as she did very well at hiding them. The shoes were sling-back and open-toed. The band of material that crossed over the foot was made of satin and matched the dress perfectly. A beautiful ring of pearls and gemstones sat in pride of place in the centre of the fabric. I was afraid I’d ruin them and for a moment contemplated wearing a pair of my own heels. I paused in thought, however; my $15 Wal-Mart shoes wouldn’t match the expensive dress.

Sighing in resignation I moved to the clutch bag. Once again, I refused to look at the name of the brand; however, I admired the beauty of the piece. It would be big enough for my phone, lip-gloss, driver’s license and credit card. The material was soft to the touch and furry, and I found myself stroking it repeatedly. The clasp spooked me a little as I observed the golden skull but upon closer inspection, I noted the large ruby coloured eyes, there was no way they were fake stones either. Setting the clutch down carefully, I steadied myself for a moment. This outfit must have cost a fortune and once again Ata was letting me borrow it like it was nothing. Gran would be rolling in her grave if she knew I was being given the use of such luxuries and not working for them!

Moving to the box on the dresser I carefully removed the lid and I stood staring down at the jewellery inside for a moment, my lower jaw a little slack. Inside lay a beautiful heart tag necklace and the matching bracelet, both made of white gold and wonderfully shiny. ‘Tiffany & Co., New York’ sat proudly in the centre of the heart tags and I had to exhale a breath to calm myself. This was far too much. I couldn’t wear all of this! I would just wear some of the jewellery I’d brought with me from home. I was about to follow through with my plan when a niggling voice in the back of my head told me to stop being silly and to just wear them, they were only being borrowed after all….

Grabbing a clean pair of lacy black boy shorts, I stripped out of my day clothes and pulled on my panties before moving to the dress and shoes. Going back to the dresser, I fastened the jewellery on and brushed out my hair which naturally curled a little, and applied a light dusting of make-up: Eric had told me he preferred me without it. Moving to the floor length mirror I gasped at my reflection. Never in my life would I have worn, let alone bought, such an expensive ensemble, yet everything looked perfect together.

Smiling happily, I transferred some of my things from my small day purse to the furry clutch. Taking one last look at myself in the mirror I stepped out into our bedroom and was greeted with the sight of Eric’s back. He stood looking over Vegas in a perfectly tailored black suit that did wonders for showcasing his muscular physique. I couldn’t help but admire his beautiful butt from that angle. His deep rumble of laughter broke the silence. “I haven’t even turned to look at you yet and I can feel your lust” he turned to face me and had a huge grin on his face. The moment his eyes hit me I held my breath and his grin disappeared, instead, his lower jaw dropped just like mine had earlier. I caught a peak of fang from between his lips and his beautiful cerulean orbs had dilated a little. “Lover, you look incredible,” he whispered, eyes travelling up from my shoes, over my legs, to my waist, to my chest where he lingered for a moment, noting the necklace I had on until eventually, our eyes met. “I say we forget dinner, because when you look like that I just want to fuck you and bite you and rub myself all over you.” He took a step closer, his intent perfectly clear.

Holding a hand up I shook my head. “You ain’t gonna distract me by talking nasty! We’re going for dinner, well I am, and you can have dinner later,” I offered with my own eyebrow waggle, attempting to copy my vampire. His booming laughter and smirk told me I was rubbish at mimicking him, but he enjoyed the attempt anyway.

“Shall we, my fair maiden?” He offered his arm out to me and without a second thought I took it.

We took the elevator down to the ground floor and emerged into the marble palace. As we crossed to the main door my heels clicked against the shiny floor and I was hyper-aware of the looks we were receiving. Pulling my shields up and locking them firmly into place I tried to ignore everyone but that was easier said than done. I couldn’t blame them, though; they were clearly gawking at Eric and who wouldn’t? My vampire was beautiful. “Seems I am not the only one who thinks of you as beautiful, min älskling. All of the men are staring at you like you are a rare flower. Which of course, you are,” he whispered in my ear, and I couldn’t help but shiver at the feel of his cool breath.

“Don’t be silly, they’re all looking at you,” I protested quietly.

“No, Sookie, they are looking at you. You truly do not see how exquisite you are.” My vampire shook his head just as we exited the building. Thankfully the high buildings and a vast number of cars kept the Strip relatively warm and I had no need for a jacket. A tall man approached us as a sleek limousine pulled up in front of us. “Mr. Northman, Miss Stackhouse,” He greeted us respectfully. “Miss Caesar wishes for you to use her car this evening, the chauffeur will take you straight to the restaurant and pick you up when you are finished for the evening,” he informed us as he opened the door, gesturing for us to enter.

I’d only ever travelled in a limo twice, once when I was in Dallas searching for Godric, and again last night when we’d arrived in Vegas. Excitement bubbled up inside me, and I slipped into the vehicle, sliding over to make room for Eric. He joined me moments later and the door was shut behind us. “I feel so spoilt!” I blurted out as Eric took my hand. He raised it to his lips and brushed a kiss across my knuckles as the car pulled away.

“Good. You deserve to be spoilt minn sváss,” he told me. “Where did you get such a beautiful outfit?”

“I found it in my wardrobe, Ata has leant it to me,” I explained, and already I could feel an underlying tinge of irritation seeping from my vampire.

“You will accept her gifts and yet you do not accept mine?” He asked, and although he kept a calm façade I could feel his annoyance with the situation.“It’s only a borrow, so I don’t feel so bad. Besides, she told me I need to start accepting a few small gifts every now and then,” I hinted, knowing my big, bad vampire wanted to buy me things and this was my way of letting him know that I would no longer throw everything back at him. Of course, I wouldn’t accept everything but at least this would be a start.

“It’s only a borrow, so I don’t feel so bad. Besides, she told me I need to start accepting a few small gifts every now and then,” I hinted, knowing my big, bad vampire wanted to buy me things and this was my way of letting him know that I would no longer throw everything back at him. Of course, I wouldn’t accept everything but at least this would be a start.

Eric’s eyes twinkled at my declaration and his excitement bounced through our bond. “You’ll let me buy you things?” he asked, seeking reassurance.

“Small things, Eric. Nothing expensive,” I placed down the ground rules and my vampire gave a nod of his head, a gleeful expression making itself known. I couldn’t recall a time I had ever seen him this excited, apart from the time he had been playing in the lake in the sunshine during his amnesia. A momentary sadness crept over me as I remembered the time we had spent together then, but just as quickly as the sadness overtook me I batted it away, not wanting to worry my Viking. His light frown informed me that he had felt my sadness, yet he soon schooled his features. All too quickly the limousine came to a stop and a smartly dressed doorman opened the door for us. Eric exited first before holding out his hand for me to take. Taking his hand, I managed to exit the vehicle without showing the world my panties.We’d stopped in front of a version of the Eiffel Tower and I couldn’t contain my gasp. I’d never been to Paris so I had never witnessed the real deal but I had seen it in enough movies and photographs to know that it was breathtakingly beautiful. While this version of the famed tower was located on the other side of the Atlantic from the original, I couldn’t help but admire it. “The restaurant is located on the 11th floor. I do hope you enjoy your evening Sir, Madam,” the doorman addressed us formally with a small bow.

We’d stopped in front of a version of the Eiffel Tower and I couldn’t contain my gasp. I’d never been to Paris so I had never witnessed the real deal but I had seen it in enough movies and photographs to know that it was breathtakingly beautiful. While this version of the famed tower was located on the other side of the Atlantic from the original, I couldn’t help but admire it. “The restaurant is located on the 11th floor. I do hope you enjoy your evening Sir, Madam,” the doorman addressed us formally with a small bow.

Holding hands we made our way to the entrance of the tower where another smartly dressed man stood waiting for us. He was around 5’9”, of average build with jet-black hair and bright green eyes. He gave us a warm smile as we approached. “Good evening, welcome to the Eiffel Tower Las Vegas. May I see your booking reference please?”

“We are the family of Miss Caesar: She assured us we would be able to dine here this evening,” Eric replied smoothly, taking charge of the situation as usual. Letting go of his hand, I instead placed it in the crook of his arm.

A slow smile spread across the man’s lips at the revelation. “Ah, any family of Miss Caesar’s is welcome here. Please, follow me; I shall escort you to your table,” he offered.

He turned to lead us into the building. We came to a stop before an elevator and the man pushed a button to call it, “The restaurant is located on the 11th floor and is only accessible by this glass lift,” he explained as the doors slid open. The three of us entered the glass box and my eyes were drawn to the view. I didn’t know where to look first. The Las Vegas strip was illuminated with thousands, probably millions, of lights and the streets were bustling with people and vehicles. I felt a pair of cool arms slide around my middle and Eric rested his chin on the top of my head. “Isn’t it beautiful?” I grinned, admiring my surroundings. I was trying my hardest to push aside my fear of heights by focusing instead on the beautiful surroundings.

“It pales next to you, though, min älskling,” his husky voice sounded in my ear. His lust came sweeping through our bond. The elevator came to a stop at that exact moment and the doors slid open. The man escorting us stepped out before motioning us into the room. The moment I left the confines of the elevator my breath caught in my throat. The panoramic windows gave way to the Strip, allowing diners to see everything. The lighting was dim and the restaurant had a cosy and intimate feel to it, and the metal framework of the tower structure broke through the restaurant walls, giving a modern art deco vibe. The carpet beneath my feet was plush and red of colour and wooden tables decorated with white linen and surrounded by red high-backed chairs were scattered throughout. On one side of the restaurant sat a bar, complete with numerous barstools, a vast selection of alcohol that far exceeded the ones on offer back at Merlotte’s and a mixologist, who was currently shaking up a cocktail for a man in a grey tuxedo.

The man who had met us at the front door led us through the restaurant and finally stopped at a corner table, which overlooked a large pool and a curved hotel, I could even see Caesar’s Palace on the right. The man pulled out my chair for me and I slid onto the seat. Swiftly he pushed me in, leaving me enough room to breathe. Eric took the seat opposite and automatically stretched his hand out over the table for my hand and I took it without hesitation. “Your server will be with you shortly, enjoy your evening,” he bowed, placing our menus down on the table before disappearing.

The moment he was gone I glanced out the window before looking back to my handsome vampire, who sat with an indulgent smile on his beautiful lips. “You suit places such as this so well, min älskling.” He complimented and I gave him a shy smile, dropping my head a little in embarrassment. “Perhaps I will have to bring you out for dinner more often if only to see you dress up specially,” he continued.

Looking up at him I shook my head, “I don’t need expensive dinners, Eric,” I told him gently.

“You might not need them, but it gives me pleasure to give them to you. I like to see you happy,” he responded, and I could feel the sincerity of his words through our shared bond.

“I have you, that’s enough to make me happy,” I told him softly, rubbing my thumb across the back of his hand.

My vampire broke out into a beautiful smile and rubbed his own thumb over the back of my hand in return. “Is that another line from one of those cheesy romance novels you read, lover? I remember sitting up one night reading one while you were asleep during the time I was staying with you. I believe it was called Gone with the Wind and, judging by the creases in the pages, it is your favourite novel.”

I couldn’t hold back my smile; the thought of my Eric reading Gone with the Wind was just too funny. “While I love romance novels, it isn’t a line from one, Eric. I mean it.” I told him truthfully, pushing the love I held for him through our bond. His eyes closed as he savoured the feel. Letting go of his hand I picked up my menu and decided what I wanted to eat. There were no prices and that made me a little uncomfortable. However, after a few moments, I selected the boneless organic rabbit, braised carrot confit, and mustard jus. My mouth was watering. By now Eric had opened his eyes once more and was watching me curiously. “Your decisiveness is a wonderful feeling,” he told me as he picked up his own menu, glancing across the pages before making his own selection.

A woman approached our table, dressed in a pair of smart black slacks and a black blouse; in her hands, she held a gold notepad and golden pen. As she drew to a stop, she spoke. “Good evening, my name is Harriet and I will be your server for the evening. Are you ready to order?” She inquired. I knew what I wanted to eat but I had no idea what somewhere like this would serve drink wise, and I was sure my usual gin and tonic would be the least creative drink the mixologist would make all night.

Giving her my meal choice first I went to open my mouth to ask for a gin and tonic: However, my vampire beat me to it. “Also, your best bottle of Champagne for my beloved and a Royalty Blend for myself, please,” he asked as the server scribbled down our order. With a small bow, she left us alone.

“Where did the manners come from Mr. Northman?” I teased.

“I do not know. You bring out the best in me, Miss Stackhouse,” he replied in slight shock as if he hadn’t realised his manners until that very moment.

“As I said a few nights ago, Eric, there is good in you,” I reminded him gently, replaying that night in my mind. The sight of my Viking burning on a pyre had been the most painful thing I had ever witnessed. Of course, I had cared for Bill, but after his deceit, I figured he deserved to suffer some. How very unchristian of me.

“I’m glad you have faith in me,” he told me softly as the server returned with our drinks. She placed a crystal glass of bubbly champagne before me and waited for me to sample it. I’d never known what to do in situations like this; it wasn’t like I could tell her I hated it. I didn’t hate it, but that was beside the point. The liquid was sweet and bubbly and I loved it instantly. After a sip, I placed my flute down and nodded in the server’s direction. With a large smile, she left us alone. Eric had taken a sip of his own drink, which too had been served in a crystal flute; however, the crystal was dark, thus hiding the content. He was now watching me intently.

“Min älskling, I do not wish to ruin our evening but I believe we have much to discuss,” he gently reminded me. Sighing quietly, I nodded; knowing that sooner or later this conversation would have arisen.

“What happened today?” He fired the first question.

“I woke up around 11:00 and went out to the kitchen where I found Ata having breakfast, I met her housekeeper and cook Felicia and we ate together. We went down to the pool for a while after that where I worked on my tan, at about 2:00 we went back to the penthouse and changed. Ata showed me her training room upstairs and we started working on my gifts,” I explained.

“And which gift did you work with first?” He inquired patiently.

“The dream infiltration,” I mumbled, suddenly feeling a little nervous and frightened. Eric must have picked up on this because he leant back over the table to take my hand in his own.

“Do not worry, lover. I am not angry about it. I was more shocked than anything earlier and unfortunately let my emotions get the better of me. In all honesty, I prefer the fact that you chose to use me for your experiment. It’s important that you learn about all your gifts and how to use them. I don’t mind being a guinea pig if you need me to be. However, I am curious as to how it works, since we all know vampires cannot dream,” he mused, stroking my knuckles once more. His words soothed me a little so I continued.

“The gift allows us to force you to dream. We have to come up with something we want to know about the vampire, or what we want them to know. You have to turn it into a question. For example, I asked what it was you wanted from Russell’s mansion that caused you to lash out in the way you did,” I explained further and felt regret and guilt coming through our bond. “None of that, Mister!” I reprimanded him, not wanting him to feel bad about it. Of course, at the time I had been insecure and confused about his actions, but now I understood why he had acted like he had and what he’d been after. It was easy to forgive him. All he wanted was his father’s crown; there was nothing wrong with that, as it was rightfully his.

“Ata took my hands and told me to open my mind to her so she could monitor what was going on to see if I was doing it right. She told me to locate your mind and push against it, to try and gain access. I’ve never pushed against a vampire mind before, figured there was no point as all I can sense are voids. In the end, I pushed enough that I was able to hear your resting mind. It sounds like cicadas, by the way,” Eric frowned, displeased with the information. “Ata told me to push the question to you and for a while, I felt nothing in return, but then there was this stirring sensation and the dream played out starting from the moment you picked up your father’s crown in Russell’s mansion…” I trailed off, not needing to expand. Instead, I took a sip of my champagne to quell any awkwardness.

Eric was silent for a moment and I felt the anger in him start to bubble up like my champagne but he was quick to put a lid on it. “I’m sorry you had to witness that, it obviously wasn’t pleasant for you. I would’ve told you if you’d asked, you know that,” he told me gently and I nodded. “Did Ata see it?” he asked and I felt his annoyance spike a little in the bond.

For a moment, I contemplated lying but decided against it as Eric quirked an eyebrow, obviously feeling my conflict through the bond. “Yes, she did. She held me afterwards when I was upset for you,” I answered quietly.

Eric’s expression became stoic yet I could feel his anger rising. “She wasn’t expecting that either and she’s practically your step-mom,” I argued for her weakly, not wanting him to blame her either. She’d been helping me; she didn’t know what was going to happen.

“She is not my step-mother,” he responded coldly.

“Eric Northman! I heard you refer to Godric as your father on the roof of the Hotel Carmilla, and he’s obviously back together with Ata now and nothing is going to break them apart, so that makes her, in some sense, your step-mom,” I argued, feeling my own temper rising at his lack of compassion for my cousin. She had welcomed us into her home, paid for everything so far and had offered to train me so I would be able to defend myself better.

“And what makes you think she would like the idea of being my step-mother, Sookie?” Eric asked in a chilly tone. Anyone would get the impression he hated the thought of her being a mother-like figure to him. I understood that she would never replace his human mother, but she was the next best thing.

I knew I was going to have to come clean about the chat I’d had with Ata earlier in the day. “We were talking about the fact that neither of us was ever going to have children and I pointed out that you refer to Godric as your father, Ata said that the thought of you calling her mom was comical but heart-warming,” I confessed. Eric’s shock bounced through the bond and it took all my strength to not be literally bowled over by it. Clearly, he wasn’t expecting that reaction.

Unsure what to do, I took a sip of my champagne before I continued with the main topic. “I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting to witness what I did and I’m sorry again for doing so,” I apologised.

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Eric batted my apology aside. “I think it’s time I started to share my past with you anyway, it’s only fair. I can’t ask you to get knee-deep in the vampire shit that surrounds me and not know anything at all. All I ask for in return though is that you share your past with me.”

His request stunned me for a moment. Why on earth would he want to know about my life? It wasn’t half as interesting as his no doubt was. “Okay, that’s a deal.” I agreed slowly, not sure why he was suddenly taking such an interest in my past.

“After the dream incident, what did you do next?” Eric continued with his questions just as my meal was brought to the table. The dish was set down before me and Harriet refilled my champagne glass, bowing once more before disappearing. Looking down to my meal I couldn’t help but lick my lips, it looked wonderful!

“Eat up, lover. We’ll continue our chat after,” my vampire declared with a light chuckle, effectively dismissing our conversation for the time being.

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