She wasn’t there.
As my eyes opened, I was overwhelmed with the fact that she wasn’t in the room with me. Even though it had only occurred the once, I found myself disappointed that it wasn’t becoming a habit. For the best perhaps, since she would be leaving my house eventually. The idea of her leaving bothered me, annoyed me more than I care to accept.
Perhaps I was becoming a brat.
I reached for my phone to find that it had been put on its charger again.
I might have been pouting as I checked my messages and then went to bathe.
Sookie came in, wearing that robe just as I was toweling off.
She was slightly out of breath with a laundry basket resting on her hip. “Crap. I meant to be here when you woke up, but Tina did not want to get into her carrier.”
I smiled and gave her a kiss. “Did you win?”
“Barely… Do you need help with anything? You didn’t get to pack this morning.”
I pointed to the basket. “What’s this?”
“Your laundry… well, most of it. I gave the dry clean stuff to Bobby.” Thoughtful, to say the least.
I took the basket from her and set it on the bed so that I could put my arms around her. “Thank you.”
“So how much time do we have?”
“Not long. Pam will be here shortly and we have something to discuss.”
“Uh oh. Are we going to need Gran?”
I chuckled at her. “I doubt it.”
She winced, bracing herself. “Okay. Hit me.”
“I want you to have my blood.” She asked for it.
She growled loudly. “Oh! You’d better have a really good reason! I’m supposed to have some diversity in my diet!” I felt something between amusement and sympathy for her.
“There are a few reasons. All of them have to do with who we are visiting and how neither of us trusts her.”
She whimpered, stomping her foot. “Ech. Alright, start talking.”
“It would be expected. They may not believe that we are together if you arrive smelling like Bill and Long Shadow. If Bill still wants to contend that you are his, the queen would question why I hadn’t given you my blood.”
“I smell like them!?”
“Slightly. It would wear off like the other side effects… I believe that my being able to sense your feelings could be a very helpful tool.”
She snorted. “Like I’m a tough egg to crack.” Harder than she realized.
“Since you’ve only heard my thoughts once and you can’t exactly whisper a warning to me in a room full of vampire if you hear something or feel threatened, if we were to get separated, I could sense your mood or where you are.”
“Shit!” I waited, but that seemed to cover it. ‘Shit’ was all she had to offer on the subject.
I sat on the bed, pulling her into my lap as she seemed to be waiting for more explanation. “To be honest, I would have wanted for you to have my blood regardless. I would have waited to suggest it until the side effects of the other sharing had lapsed though… Sookie, I don’t have any intentions of using the effects to control you. I’m not even sure that I could since you can’t be glamoured.”
She was cringing, biting her lip. “If we’re right though and she’s up to something to get to my telepathy, you’re thinking that it might come in handy to kinda have a lowjack on me.”
I might have laughed if her mood wasn’t so down. “You don’t have to.”
“HA!” Not quite the reaction I expected.
“Yeah. HA! I ‘don’t have to’… Like I don’t need a seat belt… Like I don’t need health insurance… HA!”
I took her face in my hands. “Sookie, I’m not doing this for my benefit.”
She snarled and whined. “I know… but I don’t have to be happy about it. If I keep having vampire blood, I’m gonna start getting sunburns.”
I almost called her childish until I reminded myself that she’d had a week to adjust to the bullshit dealings of vampire. Instead, I chuckled and gave her a kiss. “I’m too selfish to give up the way you smell when you’ve been in the sun. I won’t let that happen.”
She finally smiled. “I thought of something today. Would it be possible for you to keep a hand on me or something?”
“You’re inviting me to grope you?” I wiggled my eyebrows at her, trying to amuse her- even slightly.
At least she giggled. “Last night… your backrub was how I was able to go through the bar and listen to one brain at a time. It was like contact didn’t just make it easier to block them out, it was like it was easier to focus.” Interesting. That would explain why she was so quiet.
“I can try, but it would need to seem more possessive, protective. I couldn’t sit with the Queen and her Second and massage you.”
She lit up. “Really? That’s better than nothing! Thanks.”
I smiled at her. “Are you done stalling now?”
Her eyebrows came together and she pouted. “Yeah. I think that’s all I had.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s not so bad.” She was without a doubt more anxious about having vampire blood than she’d been about sex even though she’d had blood twice already.
“Stop talking. What… Uh… How do we do this?”
“Are you sure?”
Sookie bit her lip and slapped my arm. “I’m gonna lose my nerve!”
“I’m going to bite into my wrist and you’re going to suck from the wound. It’ll close quickly so you can’t hesitate. Are you ready?”
She shook her head, then nodded, and I started laughing again when she repeated the process. Finally, I kept a careful eye on her as I put my wrist to my mouth. Sookie watched warily as I bit a small hole, not wanting for her to get too much. She cringed, but didn’t waver, taking my wrist in her hand and holding it to her mouth…
It wasn’t the first time I’d gone through the process of feeding a human. It was however the first time it elicited such a response from either party. As Sookie drew from the wound, I felt everything instantly. From her angst about the trip to her trust in me… It was all there and it was overwhelming. I had never felt such a wash of emotion and as Sookie pulled her pouty lips away from my arm, she seemed far from herself.
Her pupils were dilated as she leaned over to kiss me, lacing her fingers into my hair. The bigger surprise came when she reached between us, wrapping her hand around my cock and moaning into my mouth as she stroked me. As I laid us back on the bed she only took her lips from mine to complain that her panties were in the way…
She shuddered and sighed, writhing with me in what became a desperate attempt to burn into one another.
We cared nothing for the world continuing around us, nothing more than us existed. It was insane and lucid and I didn’t fucking care.
Moreover, the sensation didn’t end when we came. The mood took much longer to dissolve than just a meager fuck does.
Sookie stared up at me, dazed. “You didn’t expect that to happen?” She seemed high.
“No.” I was still waiting for my own body to relax.
“Was it too much? Like too much blood… too soon?”
“I wish I knew.” If I thought it was safe, I’d do it again… now.
Her legs were still clenched around mine. Her arms were still leashed around me. And I could feel her heart hammering against my chest.
I couldn’t find any reason to move until Pam ‘cleared her throat’ from the doorway.
Sookie blushed, but never took her eyes from mine.
I never looked back. “Give me a really good fucking reason to not end you.”
I felt her realize what a mistake it was to come into my room without knocking. “I wouldn’t have… The car was here when I arrived… an hour ago.” Fuck. An hour?
“Get out…” Once the door closed behind Pam, I waited to make sure she was smart enough to go upstairs instead of eavesdrop. “…I’m afraid we’re going to have to continue this later.”
Sookie pouted, seemingly as disappointed as I was. If our plans included anyone but Sophie-Ann, our trip would have been postponed.
Pam sat next to Adele in the limo, staring at me apologetically. It was grating as fuck and the more annoyed I became, the more obscene her stare became whether I was looking or not.
Sookie, thankfully was noticing. She got my attention (and Pam’s) by patting my knee. “Is it okay for us to venture out during the day?”
“What do you have in mind?”
“We’ll be keeping vampire hours for the most part, but if we wanted to stretch our legs for a walk in the early evening or maybe do something silly like Madame Trousseaus…”
“I don’t think that Rene will be a factor in New Orleans, but we should gage things. I’ll see about an escort for you during the day.”
She seemed deflated, unhappy that a reunion would be so joyless thanks to intrigue. She forced a smile. “Never mind. I’d rather you took us anyway.”
“I’ll make sure we have the time. Maybe Hadley will want to act as tour guide.” The prospect didn’t improve her mood at all. She limply rested her head against my shoulder for the rest of the drive. A ‘small town girl’ like Sookie should have been able to be excited to visit a town like New Orleans and because of the possibility of her appeal to the queen she had no more to look forward to than if she stayed in northern Louisiana. Even if my house in the Quarter was a change of scenery, it was no more than a commuted sentence. Understanding as much discouraged her… by extension, me.
Pam continued to stare.
I was hit with a mass of tension as the car headed up the tarmac and approached the plane, made only more noticeable by Sookie’s physical stiffness. “We could still drive.”
She grimaced. “No, no. I’ll suck it up. I was just… I didn’t know the plane was going to be… a wind-up toy.”
I laughed and kissed her forehead. “It’s not that small.”
“Does it have booze?”
She snorted as she started to slide out. “Good. I’ll have a drink and then sleep until we land… wait… do you mind if…”
I smiled at her, surprised that she’d ask. “Sookie, if you need a drink to calm your nerves, have a drink. Whatever you need.” Touched, again, since the thought wouldn’t, hadn’t occurred to many.
Pam was staring at me… still. It was the kind of ‘we need to talk’ glare that you might imagine seeing between a couple who didn’t want to argue in public and if she continued, she was going to find herself riding in the luggage hold.
While the driver loaded our bags Adele quickly made herself at home in the kitchenette, mixing drinks for Sookie and herself and warming a true blood for Pam without asking… or offering one to me. I was too curious as to why. Was it because she’d never seen me with one or if she knew that Sookie was filling the void. That curiosity was going to nag at me more than Pam’s.
Adele happily settled into one of the reclining seats with her drink and Wuthering Heights and leaned back with a relaxed smile on her face. “You are going to be solely responsible for my prideful trip to hell with all the spoiling you do.”
I laughed at her. “We’ll have to make sure to send your dear friend Maxine a post card or two from New Orleans. Maybe we’ll be able to find a suitable souvenir for her.”
Her grin became sinister. “I’m not sure that’ll be necessary.”
“Necessary no, but certainly fun… Adele, if you’re going to credit me with your descent to hell, then rest assured I’ll make sure you get there with bragging rights.” I gave her a wink.
She gave a laugh and then turned to her book while Sookie snuggled up to me on the sofa.
It only took about half an hour for the hum of the plane and their drinks to lull Sookie and Adele to sleep, leaving Pam with her expectant stare. She was only safe from getting my foot up her ass because Sookie was using me as a pillow.
“Tread lightly. Sookie isn’t a heavy sleeper and your leering has worn my last nerve.”
“She’s had your blood.”
“Brilliant. Is there anything else?”
“…Not since you. I’m quite fucking aware. Again, is there anything else?”
“You’re being an asshole.”
“Didn’t I tell you to tread lightly?”
“You’re treating me like I’m a stranger. You aren’t telling me anything. You never keep me in the dark. What the hell is going on?”
“What do you feel like I’m not telling you?”
“I don’t know. You’ve suddenly made friends with an old woman and now have a telepathic growth…”
“Growth? You seriously need to stop. Since, in your long history you have never known me to share blood or claim a human as mine, one could rationally assume that I have my reasons and not try to provoke me.”
“I don’t… Eric… I… I get that her ability makes her valuable. I’m not daft. I’m just trying to understand the rest.”
“Her ability isn’t what makes her valuable; it’s what makes her fragile.”
I’d clearly confused her. “Now I’m completely lost. Thanks.”
“She’s not just a pet, Pam. It’s that simple.”
She started staring again. Her mind was running through her myriad of conversational options, most of them would piss me off. “Bullshit. Not with you. Nothing is that simple. You’ve had assets before that you didn’t share your resting place with, share blood with, protect, claim. What the fuck?”
She hadn’t choosen wisely. “Pamela, we’re done.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Do you love her?”
“I just told you that we’re done.”
“Eric. You might be, but I’m not. I’ve known you too long and even that imbecile Bubba seems to have more insight than you’ve given me. I want answers. I deserve them. Do you love her?”
“I don’t know.” Fuck. She’s going to pay for this. Maybe I’ll arrange to have her garage catch fire. Bye-bye Dior, Hermes, Coco, Dooney & Bourke.
She gasped theatrically. “You DO!”
“Pamela, I just told you that I don’t know. That is the closest to an answer that you’re getting for now. Not another word. I meant it. Shut up, now.”
She opened her mouth as though she was going to foolishly push me further and thought better of it in favor of watching Sookie make herself more comfortable.
She wriggled down, turning her back to Pam to use my leg as her pillow. She started to mutter in her sleep at a barely audible volume. “Y’all fight like me and Jason… ‘cept you’re both smart and stubborn as hell…”
She was accurate enough that we both smiled at her.
“…Eric, you’ve known her long enough to know she isn’t gonna shut up… Pam you’ve known him long enough to know he won’t admit it. Now y’all hush. I’m trying to miss the flight.”
I was right about one thing. They’re both fucking brats.
Pam stared at Sookie with a raised eyebrow for a while before speaking yet again. “Is she back to sleep?”
“You’d run your fucking mouth anyway, but I don’t think her brain completely shuts down.”
“Another topic then?” Fucking please.
I gave Pam a cautioning nod.
“You mentioned a guard, but you said that the killer wasn’t an issue.”
“The triplets found the grave. Compton was going to secure her by turning her. Sophie-Ann may only be using Hadley’s ‘homesickness’ as a con. I want to stay vigilant.”
She gave me a very cooperative nod. “What do we do about Compton?”
“If Sophie-Ann isn’t already punishing him, he’s mine.”
“Do you think Hadley’s part of a plot?”
“I’m unsure. She never seemed terribly advanced in the intellectual arena. What most likely happened was that Hadley was pining over her family and mentioned Sookie’s ability in passing.”
“Or she was being punished and shared to ‘get out of jail free’.”
I nodded. “Another option. We can’t be sure. I think the best indicator will be Compton’s presence at court.”
“He gave up too easily that the queen sent him. I’d barely laid a hand on him. If I were her, sending that prick to secure an asset, his plan A would be to hire her. Plan B would be to turn her if she was uncooperative and plan C would be to throw out the genealogical connection as a diversion to lure her to New Orleans so Sophie-Ann could do it herself as a contingency plan.”
Pam smiled at me. “But we both know that she isn’t as smart as you.”
“Smart and devious aren’t the same thing. We’re on an even playing field in that aspect. Being smarter just gives me a slight advantage since it’s more than likely escaped her that I’ve sifted through her possible maneuvers.”
“Knowing that Sookie is yours though…”
“If I were in her position, I’d accept that a loyal sheriff had acquired an asset he’s willing to share, but she is greedy. I fucking hate variables.”
“You’d be willing…”
“To let her work for the queen? As her escort and handler? Yes. It’s favorable to being assassinated and letting Sookie be turned as a slave.”
“You could just gift wrap her. Hand her over. You know how the Queen loves to have her derrière polished.”
“Not an option.”
Pam made the mistake of mumbling mischievously, “Because you love her.”
The closest thing I could reach that wasn’t bolted down was Sookie’s glass, but when I reached for it Sookie grabbed my wrist quickly enough that it surprised me. Her eyes were still closed. My blood.
She still seemed asleep but slightly stern as she spoke. “Stop fighting. Don’t you think we have enough to deal with?”
As much as I hated to do it in front of Pam, I agreed with her and set the glass back in its holder.
“Whether he loves me, likes me or is just faking benevolence for the exploitation of my unique ability, I have saved your bar thousands this week at no cost to you. Have the decency to not make me the butt of your bitchy jokes… Please. I can get that in spades from the uneducated rednecks in Bon Temps.”
Pam tilted her head in surprise. “Of course, Sookie.”
“Thank you.” Sookie punctuated the end of her statement by wrapping her arm around my thigh and snuggling in. I waited, monitoring her. Her heartbeat, breathing, body temperature never altered… Sookie had been ‘sleeping’ through her exchange with Pam…
I raised an eyebrow at Pam. “Anything else that you’d like to discuss?”
Pam licked her smirking lips. “Have I mentioned how much I like her?”
Fucking brat. She was lucky that my arms weren’t longer.
“She works for a shifter.”
Pam was surprised by my sudden mention. Her lip curled. “Really? Out in the sticks?”
I nodded. “He seems to be a typical hermit. He tried posturing with me.”
She snorted out a sudden chortle. “That’s rich… Bon Temps… That’s near Hotshot?”
“It is. Sookie didn’t know other than Merlotte’s brain is just ‘different’. I spoiled his secret. Rubbed his nose in it, as it were.”
“It isn’t fair. You keep all the fun for yourself.”
“What’s the saying? Oh yes… bite me.”
She snorted and decided to be curious. “So how is he different?”
“Apparently, humans are a hodgepodge. A complicated mess of images and inner monologues…”
Her eyebrows went up, snobbishly. “No shock there.”
I agreed with a nod. “Vampire are what she describes as a chasm. A simple void. She found my resting place because she could feel my brain, like a bubble.”
“She can’t read our thoughts?”
“No. She believes that perhaps, since we are dead we have no brain waves. Since she’s the only telepath, I suppose we’ll have to take her word on the matter.”
“You’ve tested her, I assume.”
“Of course.” There just some things that a sweet little country girl like Sookie wouldn’t be able escape a reaction to. Certain, more public deeds for instance.
“What about the shifter? Fae? Can she identify the other breeds?”
“Unless we have the opportunity to test her in New Orleans, I’m going to call Flood and ask him to loan me some ‘extra security’ for an evening. Just to see if there is a difference between Were and Shifter… I’m sure the other breeds will rear their ugly heads eventually. She described her Shifter’s brain as pulsing and snarled.”
Pam’s lip turned up. “Instead of having them stink up the bar, couldn’t you just take her to make out in the parking lot of that Were bar across town?”
“Don’t pretend as though you don’t enjoy walking the occasional dog, brat.” Or that she knows for a fact how dimly lit that parking lot is…
“Ok… no more Sookie talk, what about the old woman?”
“Would you show some breeding? You are obscene.”
“What about the elderly lady then?”
“Twat. She’s interesting, accepting, and tolerant to a degree we do NOT see. The night that I was introduced to her, Sookie gave her no warning that I am a vampire, yet the woman shook my hand and knew instantly. Rather than recoil from my colder than usual hand, she offered a true blood with a smile and welcomed me into her house. No fear…”
“Wait, why was your hand colder…?”
“I had the air conditioning on for Sookie… Sookie ‘warned’ me that Adele would be curious about the times I’ve seen come and go. It seems that she treated Compton with the same innocent curiosity. I’ve grown very fond of her.”
“Bubba raved about Mizz Uh’day-ell. He said that she was the friendliest human he’d ever met.”
I chuckled at the poor fool’s appreciation. “She might be the friendliest human I’ve ever met.”
“What about this Jason?”
“He’s a walking hard on with no social graces or gage on propriety. Sookie came to Fangtasia because this killer has ended two of his bedmates so he looked like the culprit to the local cops… The killer found his victims because Jason was so gallant as to mention that they had markings to his coworkers. He’s very beautiful, but genetics failed him for acumen. I assume that it came from the mother’s side of the family… considering.”
I noticed a smile start to form on Adele’s lips as she lifted her hands to rub her eyes. “Don’t be mean. He’s still my grandbaby.”
I snorted at her. “Would you prefer I call him ‘brain damaged’?”
She chuckled. “Oops. That was me, wasn’t it?”
I gave her a smile. “I believe it was.”
“He’s lazy. He doesn’t read because TV is faster. He romances every girl he can because there isn’t any work involved in just sleeping with them…” She cleared her throat and raised a critical eyebrow in my direction causing me to laugh. “…He works on the road crew because he can see what he’s accomplished right away. He’s impatient… and his father was the same way, God love him. Their momma was just selfish. She didn’t treat Sookie any different from the rest of the fools in town that were scared of her.”
Pam narrowed her eyes at Adele, probing further. “She’s only a telepath. Why would they be fearful?”
“You know those starlets on the covers of the tabloids, the ones that ‘hate’ the paparazzi, the ones that say they live in fear that every mistake will end up on the front page of a fire starter? They’re ‘scared’ of the paparazzi because it’s easier to complain about the photographer than to wear panties and not trip over themselves drunk… There’s the folks in town who aren’t ‘spooked’, but they’re decent people. Like the stars who simply roll their eyes with a cringe because they can’t take their kids to school or eat a lunch with out unwanted attention. The ones that behave and just want some damn privacy.” I forgot to mention ‘leveling’ in her list of attibutes. The woman could explain nearly anything in recognizable terms.
“So all of Bon Temps knows about her gift?”
“That’s complicated. Most everyone has heard something. They all believe what they want. Very few understand.”
“She might as well be a vampire, all things considered.”
Adele chuckled. “If what I’ve heard about your physical enhancements is accurate, that would probably not make her very happy. She could rise and have no peace because she could finally hear vampire thoughts.” Shit.
Pam’s eyes grew, sensing my irritation at the suggestion. She knew better than to say anything though. “Is everyone quite sure that she can’t hear vampires? She could be scared to be honest on the matter. Understandably, but still…”
I nodded. “Not only have I tested her, but she’s been to Fangtasia during the ‘dinner rush’ three times now. If she could hear us, she’d have gotten sick from the barrage. She would have seen a feeding frenzied orgy mentally.”
Pam nodded, but didn’t have the chance to reply as Sookie awoke…
“Am I missing all the fun?”
I smiled and kissed her forehead as she sat up. “No. We were briefing Pam on you.”
“Oh. You were being boring then. How long have I been out?” She stretched her arms over her head.
“Most of the flight, except for the two times we woke you.”
“You woke me up? Oh God. Was I talking in my sleep?” I didn’t detect even a degree of deceit. She truly didn’t remember.
“You mumbled at us that you were trying to sleep.” Not a complete truth, yet avoiding a lie… and a subject that could get Pam staked.
She blushed. “I’m soooo sorry!”
Pam raised an eyebrow at her. “Forgiven. It’s a fact that easily escapes us. Noise isn’t a factor in regards to our ‘rest’… You seem to have succeeded though. We’re landing soon.”
Sookie grinned and turned to peer out of a portal. She was awash with excitement for only a moment before she seemed to extinguish the sensation and gloom became more prevalent. I didn’t fucking like it one bit that she would get little to no enjoyment out of this outing.
“Sookie, you and Adele will need to brainstorm so that Pam and I can make sure you don’t get bored waiting for Hadley to be available.”
Sookie grinned weakly, but since Adele wasn’t aware of the underlying risk she brightened in an instant. “Would it be cliché to get a vampire to take us on a haunted trail?”
I laughed. “Yes, but not as laughable as dragging him to a damned renaissance fair. If you ladies want to go ghost hunting, we’ll go ghost hunting.”