For the next hour, Jason, Andy and I moved hundreds of pounds of canned goods and cases of institutional (prison) grade food from the walk-in freezer to the back of Jason’s truck (and three kegs to the front seat)… We were joined by Sheriff Dearborn to fill the squad car and the department’s van with cases of liquor and I was given the open containers to take with me…
When I returned to the Stackhouse home at nearly midnight, Adele and Linda were on the porch swing, Sookie was on the steps and Tina was leaping through the grass in hot pursuit of another insect. The lights were off and the windows were still open… the smell of natural gas had managed to dissipate while I was still at Merlotte’s, but the scent of fruit was still thick on the Stackhouses’ property.
I sat on the top step to face them all and enjoyed a deep breath of Sookie fragrance… She’d bathed and smelled of herself again…
“Have your nerves settled, Mrs. Stackhouse?”
“In a manner of speaking. How did things go?”
“The church now has a ridiculous amount of hamburger patties and chicken fingers. According to what the pastor told the Deputy, his wife would be looking for volunteers at first light to help parcel and distribute as much as they can. He mentioned keeping some of it for fundraising during a fair next month.”
There was a long silence, and Sookie used it to move, sitting next to me in her tiny yellow pajama set and laying her head on my shoulder…
Awkward silence or not, I had an excellent view. I almost didn’t notice that Tina had taken up residence on my legs to watch over the yard.
“They’re freaking out about what you said to Andy. They…”
“Hold on. Explain why you call an officer of the law by first name and you addressed a bar owner formally.”
“Gran used to change Andy’s diapers… and Mr. Merlotte was a stranger.”
“That would make sense if you called me Mr. Nordmann.”
“Stalkers don’t get to be picky. Moving on?”
I chuckled, “Fair enough.”
“You told Andy about an ivory tower of a sandwich shop. By lunch tomorrow, there’s going to be some folks with pipe dreams of getting a job back.”
“It’s not impossible. We didn’t have the chance to discuss it before Adele stormed out of the house armed… Linda, how much was on your loan application aside from the cost of property?”
She shook her head while her chin bounced, searching for words. “I… It’s been a few years… I… $20,000, I think… but that was including estimates for most of the upgrades Merlotte already made.”
“Merlotte left the place intact, including the kitchen. Other than ingredients, dishes and superficial remodeling so it doesn’t seem like the same bar, can you think of any other expenses?”
“Only trivial stuff like menus… but we had the idea to use those big, novelty playing cards as the backing… a card theme on account of…”
“The Earl of Sandwich’s penchant for cards… Inspired… If you think you can manage the incidentals, I’ll buy the property and rent it to you.”
“THAT’S not funny. Don’t toy with poor people.”
“I’m not joking. I own the Claiborne Mall, Moore Medical Tower and Red River Casino along with dozens of small properties with various uses. A small restaurant won’t…”
Sookie shook her head. “Erik, don’t…”
I cut her off by shushing her. “Don’t interfere.”
She leaned away from me with her eyebrows raised. “Excuse you?”
“This is business, not personal. This isn’t a friendly offer. I’m not proposing a partnership or a loan. I’m considering a property to invest in and discussing the matter with a prospective tenant. There will be a lease and your name won’t be on it.” Pride is a fragile thing and I wasn’t setting a precedent with my offer to Linda… of course, it was usually an offer I made to young Vampires trying to establish themselves in my Area. It’s not easy to build credit when you’re dead and using a different identity every decade.
Before Sookie had the chance to respond, Linda chuckled, “Since you put it that way, you’ve got yourself a deal.” Adele’s eyes almost doubled in size.
I grinned and gave the woman a nod. “The ‘friendly’ part of my offer is reminding you of my invitation to pilfer my warehouse for anything you might find useful.”
Linda breathed, “I could definitely scrape together the rest… if Merlotte sells…”
“My cellular doesn’t have a signal here… If I could use your phone, we can find out where he stands.”
Sookie was still glaring at me as her aunt practically ran into the house and returned with a tabletop phone tethered by a long cord.
Sookie continued to glower while I deciphered the Deputy’s atrocious penmanship…
While I waited, listening to the phone ring, I told her, “You can leave while the grownups do business if you’re going to choose now to be one of the few occasions you act like a child.”
She gasped and slapped my ribs before storming into the house and slamming the door behind herself… stomping up the stairs… slamming another door…
Linda whispered, “You’re going to pay for that.”
I shook my head. “She might tally a bill, but she won’t get far.” I had to hang up, check the number and redial.
Adele quietly warned, “You need to watch out for stuff like that… Sookie doesn’t know how to act with someone who isn’t scared of her.”
Scared of her? I didn’t have the chance to ask who the fuck would have been scared of 120 pounds of sass before the phone was finally answered…
A female groaned, “Hello?”
“I’m calling for Sam Merlotte.”
She snapped, “It’s a little late.”
“Is it? I didn’t notice. Put him on anyway.”
“This is his mother, Bernadette Merlotte. I’ll take a message.” Uh oh. Sammy might get grounded for having calls after bedtime. Oops.
“This is Erik Nordmann. Bernadette, you’ll put him on or my associates from Dallas will be dropping by tonight.”
She scoffed and mumbled as she passed the phone, “I told you, didn’t I? Even the boonies of Area 5 is a bad idea… He didn’t even ask if you’re here. That asshole knows everything.”
Merlotte whined, “Thanks, Mom. Big help…” He took a deep breath and huffed, “What do you want?”
“A photo of the look on your face… What do you plan to do with the property now that you’ve evacuated Bon Temps?”
“That’s none of your damn…”
“Let me rephrase. Now that I’ve turned off the gas and power to your bar before a broiler could accidentally cause an explosion, what do you plan to do with the property?”
The silence on his end of the line was magnificent.
Considering the anxious set to Linda and Adele’s faces, I explained, “This could take a while. I think he’s shitting in his pants.” They both snickered into their hands.
He barked, “That’s not funny!”
“Yes, it is. Let me simplify this for you. Take my offer of $35,000 for Merlotte’s Bar and Grille…”
“I paid 47 BEFORE I built the dining room and replaced every damn applian-!” Like I cared…
“It could burn down. Now that your insurance agent has been contacted by the authorities, he’s cancelled your policy. And if I’m not mistaken you’ve set a precedent for trying to set fires from hundreds of miles away.”
“You son of a bitch! It’s not enough that I left?”
“It’s more than enough that you left… available real estate is a bonus. What will it be?”
“Do I have a goddamn choice?”
“This is bullshit, Vampire.”
“Merlotte, your fuckery is boring me. Do you want to accept my offer?”
“No… but I kind of have to, don’t I?”
“Good boy. I’ll have an associate contact you tomorrow night with a cashier’s check. Have the deed on hand.”
As I hung up the phone, Linda grabbed her mother’s hand and urged, “Yeah?”
“You two are going to be very busy opening your new restaurant…”
Before I could say anything else, Linda pushed herself from the swing, dropping to her knees to hug my neck. Fruit and a sweetness slightly stronger than Sookie’s. “You have to hug me back! This IS business! I’d be hugging a loan officer too!”
I chuckled and faked my way through a hug while I decided I needed to know more about Sookie’s family tree.
She leaned back, remaining in a squat and squeezed my cheeks together. “You’re just too good to be true.”
“I would’ve thought I’d lose some fans for bullying him out of his property.”
“I must have missed that while I was trying to decide which sandwich to name after you.” She was completely serious about naming a sandwich after a Vampire.
“A trencher. Are you familiar with those?”
“No. That’s a new one for me.”
“My mother used to make them when I went hunting with my brothers… A flat bread topped with slices of meat and broth. Usually roasted lamb or beef.” It was the closest thing to a sandwich I’d ever eaten… I didn’t have a name for it until I was a few centuries old.
“That actually sounds really good…” She turned enough to look at Adele and for a moment I thought I’d have to fabricate something because the ‘history junkie’ seemed to be thinking more deeply than a sandwich would require. “Momma, an open-faced roast beef with au jus? We’ll call it ‘The Nordmann’. Sound good?”
Adele seemed to shake off whatever she was thinking about and nodded. “It does… hearty… That’ll be popular. Were there any veggies?”
“Carrots from time to time. If anything else was added, I didn’t eat it.”
Linda giggled, “So help me, it’s 85 degrees and I want to go home and fire up the oven to make a roast… Momma, I think we ate dinner too early.”
Adele stood up, shaking her head. “We didn’t eat dinner too early. We’re up too late… It’s midnight, girl. Nothing but Vampires and teenagers up at this hour…” She said that like there was something wrong with that.
Linda looked at her watch and sucked her teeth. “I didn’t realize how late it was. I should git…” She kissed my cheek before standing, then Adele’s. “Keep your fingers crossed I don’t run into any teens on my way home.”
I chuckled, “You think teens are worse than Vampires?”
“Way worse… Vampires are loners. Teenagers swarm in vicious little hoards.” She shuddered as she slid into her car.
I knew she was being facetious, but I still laughed at how ironic it was given her company… Then again, Sookie had been the one to attack someone in Merlotte’s the night before.
As Linda’s car pulled away, Adele offered, “You’re welcome to go and try to calm Sookie down.”
As tempting as the invitation into Sookie’s bedroom was, all it would have taken to expose me would have been an ill-tempered ‘get out’.
“If I go to her, she’ll think I’m delivering an apology.” My answer was designed to leave Adele open to give unsolicited advice… I had plenty of practice hiding that I was a Vampire, but Human etiquette wasn’t something I spent any amount of time practicing. Other than feeding from them and rejecting their attention at the club, I was at a loss. Adele had told me I needed a ‘whoopin’ and I was actually hoping she’d mention it if she thought I’d been too harsh.
She nodded with a smirk. “I’ll send Sookie out to get Tina then.” That told me nothing… and it wasn’t until Adele mentioned the puppy that I realized she was still happily stationed on my lap… protecting the house from the diabolical nature of moths.
When Sookie flung the door open, Tina startled and skittered from the porch.
“Why are you still here? I thought your business meeting was over.”
“I took the night off to visit with you… are you finished reacting badly to being embarrassed?”
“Embarrassed? Who’s embarrassed? I’m pissed. You were an asshole.”
“When exactly was I being an asshole?”
“When you told me to shut up and called me a kid.”
“I told you not to meddle to keep you from leading your aunt to believe my offer was based on a sense of charity I don’t have. And I suggested you leave because your childish pouting was irksome. If you heard ‘shut up and run along, little girl’ that isn’t my fault… however I would like to mention how ironic your reaction has been.”
Her leg twitched, making it clear she considered kicking me. “I was only going to tell you Aunt Linda would have felt like a charity case… like she hadn’t earned it on her own.”
“And by explaining why the matter didn’t concern you, I accomplished that on my own. I don’t begrudge you for not knowing me better than to think I’d offer anyone a hand out. Are we done? I preferred looking down your shirt. Your shorts aren’t offering me a view of anything.”
I think she kicked me just for making her crack a smile.
I reached up to take her hips and pulled her down to straddle my legs…
Sookie didn’t resist until I ran my finger from her neck to the V of her shirt, pushing it down to improve my view.
She giggled as she swatted my hand away. “Rude.”
I shook my head. “You’re free to look in my clothing too.”
“Oh, I bet I am. I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours, huh?” I knew what she meant, but I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity…
“Oh really?” She didn’t have the chance to argue before I pulled my T-shirt over my head. “Your turn.”
Her mouth hung open for a moment before she shook her head. “But… I’m not even, like… wearing a bra.”
“Neither am I.”
“You know what I mean…”
I pulled her further up my legs, enjoying the friction and the way Sookie’s breathing hitched too much. “What you mean is despite the fact that you showcase that delicious body of yours in tight little tank tops and sinfully short skirts and shorts, you are still shy.” Innocent.
She whined, “Don’t say ‘showcase’ like I’m a stripper. The heat index has gotten into three digits everyday for weeks.”
“Don’t say ‘stripper’ when I’m trying to convince you to take off your clothes.”
She laughed, “I’m not taking off my clothes.”
“So you’re limiting me to the fun I can have while you’re still dressed, yes?”
She nodded and said, “Yeah,” a split second before she realized how many loopholes she’d left me.
Her breathing hitched again and goosebumps swept over her skin when I slipped my hand under the hem of her shirt. She showed her surprise when I moved my hand over her stomach, around her side, to her back to pull her to me. She arched her back trying to keep herself as vertical as possible. “I can work with that.”
She whimpered, “This isn’t exactly what I meant.”
Perfect handfuls of her ass… watching her eyelids flutter as I moved her body against mine… “It’s not my fault it didn’t occur to you that I could fuck you with our clothes on… Are you already trying to renege?”
She shook her head. “I’m soooo not having sex with you.”
“I know… you’re being very lazy.”
She snickered and put hands in the center of my chest to push herself away slightly. “You’re bad.”
I growled, “You have no idea.”
She pushed back a little more and sighed, “Erik…”
“Are you about to tell me you’re ‘saving it’ for your wedding night?”
She tilted her head to the side and studied me for a moment. “I was about to say that I like you and all, but we just met. Why would you jump to assuming I’m a virgin?”
“Because of the way people who know you have gawked every time we’ve touched one another. Are you?”
“Why do you care?” Fuck. She was. She was a virgin. There was actually a girl who slipped through the cracks and made it to the legal age of consent (and beyond) in a state where the teen pregnancy rate and the dropout rate were nearly identical. I was tempted to call the news.
“What was wrong with JB?”
She deflated slightly, blushing rather than admitting anything aloud. “I just didn’t like him enough.”
“And how do I measure up on your ‘scale of like’?”
“I can honestly say I haven’t ever liked anyone more.”
“If you’re so clearly ‘in like’ with me, why aren’t we fucking?”
She shrugged. “I just don’t want to rush into anything. We’ve only been out once… Are you mad?” It would be my luck. Instead of all of the annoyingly, uninteresting, vacuous, gold-digging bimbos I could have naked with nothing more than a ‘free drink from the owner’, I’d opted for the unique treat of stimulating conversation and pleasant company… The drawback to my source of entertainment turned out to be virtue. She didn’t say she was waiting until she was ‘in love’. She didn’t give me a single hint that she was playing a game or teasing… I could withstand the temptation of seeing her a few more times before I’d have to hide how much of an asshole waiting would make me… if all I wanted had been available in the pool of desperate sluts at Glamour, Sookie wouldn’t have had my attention to begin with…
Without an answer from me, Sookie began trying to get up. “Nuts, Erik… I’m sorry… I just…”
I held her hips to keep her from leaving. “I’m not ‘mad’… I’m just preparing myself for having a prolonged case of blue balls…” After a thousand years, one could say I was due.
She winced. “Don’t put it like that. Danny was full of crap… that turd gave me a ride home from a football game and I ended up having to fight him off. The only guy I’ve ever done that to was JB and I felt horrible.” The fact that she couldn’t even bring herself to say ‘blue balls’ was one part maddening, one part endearing.
“Did you break up with JB to put him out of his misery… cut him loose because you weren’t ready?”
“No… He’s just… He’s pretty, but the elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top…”
“No superficial relationships for Sookie?”
She shook her head. “No… Not for me.”
I nodded. “That having been said…” I pulled her back to me.
“What are you doing?”
“Hoping to get back on track.”
“You think you’re going to make me change my mind?”
I leaned in, nibbling the side of her neck and whispering, “No… but I’m going to push your resolve… if I’m not going with you, I want you to go to bed thinking about me.” If her blood tasted half as incredible as her skin, I could definitely wait… prolong the torment… push her until she begged me to fuck her…
She whimpered, “But… you’re just…”
As I trailed from her neck to her cleavage, I breathed, “I’m just enjoying myself… until you tell me to stop.”
Breathing felt less phony than it ever had before…
Sliding my hands under her shirt, pushing her breasts out of her top…
She laced her fingers into my hair and halfheartedly tried to pull my head away just as I caught her nipple between my teeth. When she didn’t budge me, she groaned, “Jeeeesusss, Erik…”
“Do you want me to stop, Sookie?”
She squirmed, moving just enough to rub herself against my hard on… the way she shuddered as she said, “No,” was delicious. Corrupting her was going to be the most fun I’d had in centuries….
I pushed, and gnawed, and fought back my fangs until she was shivering and she was so wet my jeans were damp…
She’d broken a sweat and even that smelled and tasted phenomenal…
And it was all ruined by headlights in the driveway.
Sookie whined, “Damn it, Jason.”
I chuckled, if for no better reason than to pretend my cock wasn’t in excruciating pain. “What’s the matter, Sookie? You weren’t having sex with me.”
She scowled for a split second before she swatted my cheek. “Smart ass.”
“Maybe next time, he’ll interrupt while I’m going down on you.”
She blushed and removed herself from my lap. “That’s it… I’m going to bed. That’s the last face I want to see right now.”
“Because you’re going to go to bed thinking of me.”
She staggered to the lawn to lift Tina and stopped to kiss me on her way by. “Like I have a choice after that… When am I going to see you again? I work every night but Tuesday and Thursday.”
“Can you meet me at my warehouse Tuesday night?”
She giggled, “I’m sure that can be arranged…” She left the door open as I watched her go upstairs. “Don’t forget your dolls. G’nite.”
Jason chuckled at me when I opened my trunk to take out the boxes of liquor meant for Adele and Linda.
“What’s so funny?”
“Awww nothin’… Didn’t mean to interrupt, but I didn’t get my cobbler earlier.” Oh, good… There I was, thinking I’d been cock-blocked for something stupid.
“You didn’t interrupt. I was just saying goodnight.”
He snorted and took one of the boxes from my trunk. “Right… last time I had a ‘goodnight’ like ‘at, it turned into breakfast.”
He followed me into the house and since everything was still covered by candles, I led the way back to the sewing room.
He was still on my heels as I went into the kitchen to retrieve the box of tortured little dolls.
Jason reached into the refrigerator and held a dish out. “Want some?”
“No, thank you.”
He shrugged and took a fork from the dish rack… it was like watching an ape in its natural habitat as he shoveled cobbler into his mouth. “So how’d ya meet Sookie?”
“I rented a few storage units last night.”
“Damn… I was pissed. Thought she’d been seeing you and ain’t mentioned it to no one. My bad.”
“Why would you think she’s known me longer?”
“Cuz she wasn’t being all shy like usual.” That was it… That was the last ‘hint’ I was going to take without asking…
“Why does everyone mention that? She was called ‘crazy Sookie’ last night and it’s been suggested people are afraid of her.”
He gave me a look that could only be called squirrelly and continued shoveling food into his mouth. “She’s just… she kinda has a sixth sense about people. Like a crazy sensitive bullshit-meter. She ain’t shy about calling folks on stuff either. Most people can’t get close enough to touch her.” Sookie wasn’t the only one with a bullshit-meter and mine was registering Jason’s answer as a false… false and most likely a stock answer.
“So the constant remarks about her allowing me to touch her were abstract, yes?”
He shrugged. “She’s always been skittish about getting touched… So, d’you get a riot act when you got back about that restaurant thing?” And the transparent subject change confirmed it. I was being smoke-screened. And the more I fucking thought about it, the maddening it was that I couldn’t think of anything ‘wrong’ with Sookie.
“Your aunt attacked me with aggressive hugging and cheek squeezing when I arranged to buy Merlotte’s and lease the property to her, if that’s what you mean.”
He grinned with a cheek full of partially masticated peaches. “No shit!? They’re finally gonna get to do it? Well damn… That’s fuckin’ awesome.”
I nodded and reached for my box, but Jason set his snack on the counter and took a step towards me.
“Ummm… I ain’t gay or nuthin’… but…” He put his arms around my shoulders, slapped my back and stepped back quickly. “Thanks and all… I don’t even want to think about what woulda happened if Gran shoved that screwdriver into the lock… Them women’s all I got and they was too close to that building.” Yes, they were. They were close enough that one spark would have made it difficult to identify their remains.
“It was no trouble.”
He nodded. “You seem like good people and… and I don’t think it even occurred to ‘em they got close to punchin’ their tickets… just didn’t want it going unsaid’s all… thanks.” So says the goober with a chunk of peach stuck to his chin.
I nodded. “Goodnight then… enjoy your cobbler.”
When I started for the door, he followed me again. “Hey, I’ma have a thing at my place Friday night. You know, on account of the beer and all. You wanna come, bring Sookie?”
“She said she’s working every night but Tuesday and Thursday…”
“Yeah, but she’s off at nine. That ain’t too late.” A small scale version of Glamour. How could I resist?
“I’ll talk to her about it…”
“K… If she’s cool with it, bring your swim trunks… We’ll party on the deck and cool off in the pond.” Sookie in a bathing suit? That was definitely tempting.
“And I promise I won’t go huggin’ ya again.” Even better.
As soon as I was on the highway again, I checked my messages…
Thankfully there wasn’t any business to attend to. I needed to be able to go directly to my stash of bagged blood after what I’d used Sookie to do to myself…
My mailbox was full, but every message was from Pam…
I’d been called everything I could think of, in every language she knew… The most recent of them were because after visiting every storage facility in Shreveport and glamouring all of the attendants, she returned to find her house warded so she couldn’t get in…
Apparently, that was ‘low’ even for me, but what was I supposed to do?
Something had to be done to keep her from her clothing and I didn’t want to waste time moving it when something more fun was waiting for me in Bon Temps.