Eric & Sookie
The relationship between Eric and Sookie is probably the most complex and interesting one in the series so far. In the beginning, she is afraid of him, and she even wishes him dead. But even at that early stage, Eric is intrigued by her. He stakes a centuries-old business associate to save her life, and he sends her flowers and checks on her when she's in the hospital. Sookie connects with Eric in book one in a way that still hasn't been explained: she is able to look inside his mind for a moment, something she can do with no other vampire until the blood bond makes her stronger in book seven.
In the second book, he is focused mainly on flirting with her and trying to seduce her away from Bill. He follows Sookie and Bill to Dallas, telling Sookie that he did so to make sure her first assignment went well. But the reader suspects that his main reason was to make sure nothing happened to her. When she returns from the Fellowship church, he holds her while she cries, and then he works gently to remove the glass from her arm. When Sookie needs him to attend an orgy and pretend to be gay, he is there by her side, fully decked out in pink lycra. He stays by her, holding her and making her feel safe, and he helps her leave when she's had enough.
By the third book, Eric's feelings seem to have deepened slightly. Without denying that he mainly wants to sleep with her, he seems to genuinely care about her. Sookie even thinks at one point that the reason she likes Eric is because he "gets" her. After giving her his blood (and embarrassing both of them with his arousal), he returns later with the car she needs and remarks that he doesn't like having feelings. This is the first real glimpse we get of the fact that there is more to him. When a man insults Sookie, Eric tells him to show more respect to his "future lover." He learns that Sookie needs a new gravel drive, and he buys it for her.
Book four is the turning point in the relationship between Eric and Sookie. Deprived of his memory, Eric seems to be transformed into his "real self," the person he was before being hardened by centuries of living as a vampire. He is gentle and considerate, and he seems to care about nothing more than Sookie. They finally consummate their relationship, and Eric offers to give up everything and come to live with her. Sookie, however, knows that this would be wrong, and she refuses. Eric regains his memory, but he loses the memory of what happened during the days he was cursed, and Sookie tells him nothing.
Eric is very frustrated and confused in book five, but we still see that his feelings are getting stronger. Sookie is happy when she visits Fangtasia and Eric notices that she's wearing new nail polish. He calls her "my Sookie" and dances with her at the bar, again trying to coax her into telling him what happened between them. When she needs a favor later in the book, she finally has to tell him. Eric appears to take it calmly. Eric learns that Hot Rain was trying to kill Sookie in order to hurt Eric, as revenge for Long Shadow's death.
There is a lot of tension between Eric and Sookie in book six. Not only does Sookie have a new boyfriend, Quinn, but she defies Eric for the first time. Angry, he goes to her house, not knowing that she has a date with Quinn. He believes that Sookie should be his, but she furiously tells him otherwise and leaves with Quinn. When Sookie is in the hospital in New Orleans, Eric and Bill visit her. Eric has apparently found out that Bill's original reason for coming to Bon Temps and meeting Sookie was because the Queen sent him, and Eric forces Bill to tell Sookie the truth. Later, Eric is able to use their blood bond to find her after she is kidnapped. He protects her again at the fight between the Arkansas and Louisiana vampires.
In book seven, Eric and Sookie get closer than they ever were before when Eric saves Sookie from exchanging blood with Andre, persuading Andre to let him do it instead. This exchange binds them even more than before, and Sookie feels comforted by Eric's presence. When Sookie is holding a bomb, Eric tries to take it from her himself. And when Sookie discovers that a bomb is going off in their hotel, she runs to save Eric, even though Bill (her former lover) and Quinn (her current lover) are both in the building.
At Sookie's house in book eight, Eric's memories of the days he was cursed finally come back to him. After he remembers those days for himself, he starts to call her "my lover" again. He vows that they will soon talk and come to "an understanding."
We finally learn Eric's history in book 9, when he tells Sookie about his wife, Aude, and his maker, Appius. Eric is quite subdued in this book, undoubtedly because of the months of stress of working with the new regime under Felipe de Castro. To keep Sookie safe and out of de Castro's power, Eric marries her in a sneaky way involving the ceremonial knife and the blood exchange in Rhodes. He and Sookie make love for the first time since book 4 - and for the first time with a mentally "there" Eric. He wants her to come and live with him, and he tells her that she is the first human he's given his blood to since Pam. When the fairies kidnap and torture Sookie, we learn that for some reason Eric couldn't go to her. This will be one of the questions we're dying to have answered in a future book! There is also a cryptic comment from Pam about Eric living on in Sookie.
Some people claim that Eric's feelings for Sookie are mainly (or entirely) sexual. While this is certainly true in the earlier books, it is not true in the later ones. Eric implies so himself in book five, when he compares his and Sookie's relationship to that of Hot Rain and Long Shadow:
- "When Hot Rain was dissatisfied with Long Shadow's death, he sent Charles to exact payment for the debt he felt was owed."
"Why would killing me cancel the debt?"
"Because he decided after listening to gossip and much reconnoitering that you were important to me, and that your death would wound me the way Long Shadow's had him."
"Ah." I could not think of one thing to say. Not one thing.
At last I asked, "So Hot Rain and Long Shadow were doing the deed, once upon a time?"
Eric said, "Yes, but it wasn't the sexual connection, it was the... the affection. That was the valuable part of the bond."
When Eric says that Hot Rain wanted to hurt him the way Long Shadow's death had hurt him, Sookie immediately assumes that Long Shadow and Hot Rain were "doing the deed." Eric tells her that "the valuable part of the bond" was the "affection." Maybe he was hesitating, trying not to say "love"? A more humorous example is in book two:
- "I have always been very fond of you."
He'd always wanted to have sex with me.
"Plus, I want to fuck you."
Sookie takes his first statement to mean that he'd always wanted to have sex with her, but Eric mentions the sex in addition to being "very fond" of her.
In fact, Sookie frequently misinterprets Eric's words, actions, and motives. One good example is from book eight:
- "There is much you don't know about Sookie," Bill said. It was the first time he'd spoken since Madden had entered. "Know this: I will die for her. If you harm her, I'll kill you." Bill turned his dark eyes on Eric. "Can you say the same?"
Eric plainly wouldn't, which put him behind in the "Who Loves Sookie More?" stakes. At the moment, that wasn't so relevant. "You must also know this," Eric said to Victor. "Even more pertinently, if anything happens to her, forces you can't imagine will be set into motion."
Eric knows full well what kind of danger Sookie would be in if he told Victor Madden that he - Sheriff of Area 5 - would die for this human woman. Sookie could be kidnapped or even killed if the Nevada vampires knew that she had this power over Eric. It's also worth noting that Eric doesn't say "no" to Bill's question. He ignores it and speaks to Madden in terms of Sookie's political importance - thereby protecting her. In fact, Bill actually endangers Sookie (and himself) in this scene by threatening Victor Madden.
Eric has already proved more than once that he will guard Sookie with his life. And even though he says one thing in book seven ("No," Eric said simply. "Because it might have hit me in the heart, and I would die. But I would have dived in and tackled you to take you out of the arrow's path if there had been time."), his actions speak louder than his words. When no thought is involved, when he is going on instinct, he consistently, in every situation, protects Sookie with his own body.
Apart from Sam Merlotte, Eric is the only character in the series who is there whenever Sookie needs him. He protects her from a distance, he helps her, and he takes care of her. Even Bill, who genuinely seems to love Sookie, has a tendency to leave her when she needs him. One example is in book two, after the Fellowship attack. Bill runs off to kill some of them, while Eric stays with Sookie - after covering her body with his own.
Eric seems to have a sensitivity that Sookie either doesn't notice or tends to ignore. When he is cursed in book four, Sookie thinks that this kinder, more gentle personality is something Eric doesn't have when he's his usual self. Yet he shows hints of it all through the books, from making her bed to his reassuring whisper, "Sookie, relax. I have you." Sookie is probably the only human he has taken the time to care about in centuries, if ever, and she probably makes him feel some measure of human emotion again.
It is unclear if Charlaine Harris intends for Eric to be Sookie's partner in the end. Strong cases can be made for that person being either Bill or Sam - especially the latter. But she has certainly made the Eric/Sookie relationship the one that evolves and gets deeper with each book.