At least she was with me…
Anchored to my side with her head on my shoulder…
She’d been too many places and done too many things to distinguish any particular scents other than her tears…
I’d have had a clue as to why if she weren’t sleeping. I had a basic idea. I’m sure she’d been crying because she’d heard about Bartlett’s death, but without her consciousness to depend on I’d get no hints as to how upset she was. No gage.
Thinking about the situation though, helped me realize that she most likely didn’t hate me for killing him (at least, not yet). She might have a stake in her hand otherwise… For that matter, she most likely wouldn’t have been attached to me.
I waited, running my fingers through her hair while she slept…
After all of the emails and calls I’d gotten since she became ‘public’, she’d have needed her rest regardless of the death in the family.
We could be late… Rather, since it’s my fucking bar and she’s my telepath, ‘on time’ is whenever the fuck I say it is.
She didn’t stir for more than an hour and when she finally did, her head, arm and leg slid slightly to find a ‘cool spot’… a fact that still amused me…
The same simple amusement I felt from her when she caught me enjoying her scent. We really were a strange ‘couple’.
I let her awaken, waiting for her emotions to come back to her…
When her eyes met mine her chin began to tremble, but she didn’t move away.
In fact, she stared. Her leg and arm still draped over me while she seemingly made a mental map of my face and betrayed nothing of how she was feeling… as though she’d found some sort of light switch for our bond.
Without a ‘cheat sheet’ as Pam had come to call it, I became anxious… “Are you angry?”
“It was you.”
Her eyes welled. “How?”
“Do you not want to know why?”
The corner of her mouth turned down. “I don’t know if I can handle that right now… Did you, I don’t know, like… throw him?”
“I glamoured him to walk into traffic.”
“Why not just toss him to gators? Or cause a ‘gas leak’…? There had to be easier ways.” Thousands… and most of them started with a snapped neck and ended with ‘creative’ disposal…
“Are you sure that you want to know why?”
She thought for a moment, breathing deeply and nodded.
“I stood at the side of the road with him… told him that he wasn’t getting away with anything… I explained what would happen and how and he watched the truck that finally ended him approach from the distance… I glamoured him to step into traffic so that he could know that what was going to happen to him wasn’t something he was going to have any control over. It wasn’t something he was going to avoid… I decided to handle it that way so that he would ‘see it coming’.”
Her tears had finally spilled. “You killed him for me?”
“No. I killed him for me with you as my reason. He hurt you.”
“That was a long time ago.”
I had just realized that I was still absently toying with her hair… and that she was letting me. “What he did may have been a ‘long time ago’, but it still hurts you.”
“Bartlett being dead doesn’t make that go away though.”
“Of course it doesn’t, but it makes me feel better that he didn’t die thinking that he wasn’t culpable.”
“He could have been turned in.”
“Even if making your suffering public would have gotten him convicted, he’d have served out the rest of his years wearing one of those absurd locators on his ankle. I like my way better.”
“You like killing him better?”
“Semantically speaking, what I did was more of an assisted suicide… but yes, there was a pleasant amount of turnabout to how he begged to be left alone.”
She buried her face in my chest to cry quietly… and I finally felt something from her… vindication and veneration…
“Sookie, how is Adele?”
She sniffled. “She’s upset that… we were at the house looking around when the phone rang. His nurse… Gran doesn’t know any details… the way the nurse put it, it sounded like he’d been in an accident. When we got back to the house, she went to lay down and so did I… Alcide’s still here. He didn’t say it, but he was too worried about Gran to leave.” She’d found a good one.
“I know this is off topic, but how is the house coming along?”
“It’s beautiful… Gran said that it hasn’t looked so nice since Daddy was alive. He’d just painted it before he died. That was the last time.”
She nodded and leaned away to wipe her tears. “Bobby was there with the contractors so we met them. We have two days to get furniture. If we have it all at the house they’ll put the bigger stuff in the rooms for us so we don’t have to figure out how to get a mattress down a spiral staircase… did you know that the rooms are like building blocks?… big boxes that they drop in and connect and then put the ‘lid’ on… it’s neat.” Neat.
That conversation had been easier than I imagined. Yes, I murdered your uncle… We’ll go shopping for furniture tomorrow night.
I sent Sookie to shower so that I could go check on Adele and texted to Pam that we were behind schedule, but I’d explain later.
When I entered the kitchen, Alcide was sitting at the island with a drink watching Adele toil restlessly.
The moment she noticed me, I was charged. She stood with her arms around me while she cried without a word and I found myself trying to remember the last time I regretted anything.
Even through Sookie’s upset, I hadn’t regretted it. I killed her abuser. The fact that I’d have done it again (and again) until I saw Adele’s distress, made me feel conflicted… uniquely so.
The blue of her eyes glowed from the center of her red, swollen eyes when she finally settled enough to look up at me.
“He got away with it, Eric.” I felt a sudden relief.
I pet her head, ignoring the confused look on Alcide’s face. “Is that what we’re so upset about?”
She nodded slowly. “He… never had to answer for anything.”
I smiled at her, trying to make my voice seem calming. “He did last night, Adele.”
“It’s not fair though… Scot free. He got off scot free…” She wasn’t catching on…
I gave her a level stare. “No, Adele, he didn’t.”
She searched my face as things came together for her and just as she started to smile, she laid her head on my chest to hug me again. “I’m going to hell.”
I chuckled at her. “Yes, but for being prideful, not for your lack of compassion for him.”
She snickered and reached up to kiss my cheek. “As long as I’m not his neighbor, I can live with that.”
“I’m sure that won’t be the case…” I was interrupted by the doorbell ringing.
I watched Alcide spring to his feet to answer the door while Adele called after him that it was probably ‘just Jason’.
He walked into the kitchen and tossed his keys on the counter and proceeded to fold his arms on the counter and hide his face. He looked like a child on ‘time out’.
“Alright, I’m done. I dealt with the detectives. They don’t know why he was there, but he just… he walked out into traffic. The nurse said that he was starting to ‘slip’ but it wasn’t anything more than forgetting appointments. The driver said he was standing on the side of the road and the next…”
Adele left me to go to Jason and rub her hand across his shoulders. “It doesn’t really make any difference… He was 85, Jason. He might have had a stroke and gotten confused… hell, with the way he always smoked and ate, how he’s made it through the last three decades is a medical marvel.”
“I know, Gran… I called Mr. Spencer and set it up for him to tend to things, but I have no idea what to do. How do you plan a funeral?” In this case? Champagne and dancers.
“Did the police mention if there were any friends?”
“I asked… The nurse said he never saw nobody but doctors.”
“Then it’ll be just us. That’ll make things easier. Maybe we should have him cremated and we can scatter his ashes on your pond.”
“You don’t wanna put him with the rest of the family?” Since he wasn’t looking, he was spared the ‘over my dead body’ expression Adele had.
“We don’t know what his wishes were. He might not have wanted it.”
“I know y’all had your differences and all, but… I wouldn’t want to cremate him if he didn’t want that either.” He called it ‘differences’? He’s protective of Sookie enough to give her grief over bikinis, but calls her molestation a ‘difference’… he didn’t know… He couldn’t have…
I had to say something. “Perhaps a will… it could state what his interment plans were.”
Jason nodded without lifting his head. “The nurse, Robin, she found it. That’s how she knew to call Gran. He left what he had to Gran, but there wasn’t anything about burial or anything in there… He probably didn’t care.”
Adele gave a nod. “We’ll figure it out.”
Jason finally sat up… and suddenly. “Anybody call Hadley? She needs to know.”
Adele raised an eyebrow in my direction.
I smiled, understanding that she didn’t want Jason to do it so I used ‘vampire formality’ as my reason to be the one to call her.
I had Alcide follow me to the den for privacy, leaving Adele to help Jason plan Bartlett’s services.
“You killed a little old man?” Cute.
“An abusive criminal.”
“What kind of abuse?”
“The sickening kind… How did the day progress.”
He took a moment to make his assumptions and it seemed as though a light turned on. His posture relaxed. “The uh… Our first stop was lunch.” Oh shit.
He nodded. “That Shifter is a prick. He’ll be a problem if he gets the chance. Sookie went to his office with him… I know, I know… I shouldn’t have let her, but even Mrs. Stackhouse told me it’d be alright… He wasn’t an asshole until afterward.”
“From what I can tell, he’s none too pleased about Sookie being with you, but he wasn’t catching on that I’m her guard because Sookie introduced me as her ‘friend’… being with a fang is one thing, but being with one of his kind…”
“How bad was he?”
“Standard posturing. Growling. Animal jokes…” Like Sam’s leisure pursuit didn’t include getting his muzzle stuck in a peanut butter jar. “…Sookie threw a salt shaker at him. She left a mark. I had to take the napkin dispenser away from her.”
I started laughing. “Maybe I shouldn’t have told her that Weres heal quickly.”
He shook his head. “Ya think?… Some friend of Jason’s was there. Hoyt… he nearly got himself killed trying to get Sam outside to walk it off… Merlotte was pissed enough that he looked like he was fighting a change… One of the waitresses sat at the table long enough to check out Sookie’s ring and fly into hysterics… Some old bitch started in on Mrs. Stackhouse about postcards and complimented the ‘advances in cubic zirconia’ while she was fingering the rock around her neck… The bat looked like she was swallowing her face when Jason told her that the diamond was just as real as the Lexus you bought for Sookie. She found a reason to say ‘hi’ to another customer really fast… All in all… it was a fiasco.”
“The weepy waitress would have been Arlene. Her boyfriend was just arrested for killing fangbangers. The bitch was Maxine. She’s one of those women who thinks every new dress is a competition. Adele hasn’t ever played along, but it’s probably the only reason I’m not given any grief about spoiling her.”
“Sookie gave me some back story while we were waiting at the bank. She flicked my nose when I told her I wouldn’t take her back to Merlotte’s.”
“Maybe I should have warned you that she’s a bully.”
“It would have been nice.”
“I’m not a bully…” Sookie walked into the den, looking much better than she had when I left her and in the dress and heels that had been intended for dinner and dancing. “…Is Alcide tattling on me?”
“Yes. What did Sam need the privacy of his office to tell you?”
“You mean other than trying to kiss me?” Fanfuckingtastic… another body to get rid of.
“Goddammit Sookie! That’s the kind of shit you’re guard is for! How the fuck am I supposed to keep you safe during the day…” She slapped her hand over his mouth, surprising him and entertaining me.
“Gee, I can’t imagine why I didn’t mention it earlier so you and my damn brother could go all Robo-Cop protective of me over a situation that I’d already taken care of… He was in a crappy mood after that because he didn’t realize how much stronger I am now until I slapped him and shoved him into the floor.”
I waited for her to take her hand away from Alcide’s mouth. “You hit him? What else happened?”
“He told me that you got the job as sheriff by being a mercenary and cleaner. He said that it doesn’t matter what Hadley used to be like because she’s a monster. He called me an idiot when I told him I love you. He said than Gran not talking any sense into me was proof she’s going senile and the cherry on top was when he called me ‘just another gold digging whore’ because I didn’t notice any of those things because I was blinded by what you were buying me… Basically, he said what he wanted to say the other night, but kept to himself because you were there.”
“As though my blood could make you strong enough to protect yourself from a full Shifter! You didn’t overpower him. You knocked him off of his center of gravity. Your senses are heightened as are your reflexes, but make no mistake, Weres are second only to vampires in strength. If he wanted to hurt you, he could have.” Alcide agreed with me as though I needed endorsement.
She growled quietly. “Fine. I get the point.”
“Thank you. What did you say to him?”
“I went off… I went down his list of bullshit. I called him a numb-nuts for messing with the pet of a vampire mercenary. I called him an obtuse asshole for not being able to see that we were just grateful that Hadley lived long enough to straighten out. When he called me an idiot for loving you, I told him that even if I wasn’t with you I still wouldn’t date him because chicken shit isn’t a turn on. He’s wanted to ask me out for years and hasn’t… that hurt him. I told him that even if Gran is senile, she’s proof that ignorance is bliss.” She left out her reply to the gold digging comment.
“You didn’t hit him for trying to kiss you, did you?”
She folded her arms and looked at her shoes, trying to hide the grin she was wearing. “No… it was for calling me a gold-digger. I told him that he should consider himself lucky now that he’s seen my ‘true colors’.”
“Good. That means I get to hit him for it.”
She scowled. “So you can accidentally give him the keyboard treatment?” I’d have no problem shoving my finger through his skull.
“Sounds interesting, but I was thinking that it’d be more fun to knock him out so I can shave his head and glue the clippings to the bottom of his feet…”
“You have a thing for crazy glue and Pam has a thing for thumb tacks?”
I nodded. “We’ve been known to collaborate.”
Her eyes widened. “You and Pam aren’t allowed into Office Max are you?”
I smiled and shook my head. “Not since 98… You should see what Pam can accomplish with a surge protector and a…” She slapped her hand over my mouth this time.
“That’s going on the list of stories I don’t want to hear.”
I took her wrist to calmly move her hand, but she didn’t resist. “Can I tell you what can be accomplished with gold leafing and glue?”
Her look, her posture, her mood… all of it changed in an instant. There was no doubt that she wanted to hear that story.
The wolf interrupted by clearing his throat. “Nothing happened at the bank. The three of them did what they needed to do. We took Jason to his house to drop him off and his truck was already there. He wanted to drive it so he followed us over to the other house… Bobby was there. You have no idea how happy the construction guys were that he was turning the project over to Sookie. Jason mentioned that he’d go through the room that Hunter will use and clear it out so that y’all can get a bed… I think that’s it up until the call about Mrs. Stackhouse’s brother.”
Sookie nodded, agreeing with his run through. “Sounds about right… Paulette called to say hi because she misses us and told me to ask you if you have an inventory of your library so that she can do some shopping down there while she can….”
“That guy called.”
Sookie looked at Alcide, confused for a moment. “Oh, JB? Yeah… He was just calling to see how I was because he knows I found Dawn and he hasn’t seen me around to ask after me… I sent flowers to Arlene… I feel bad that I can’t do anything for her… Did Alcide tell you about Maxine being at Merlotte’s? She actually told Gran that it was nice to see that at least one of her grandchildren had some sense and found someone respectable to settle down with… Oh, and Flood called to bitch out Alcide for working for you.”
“Flood has an opinion about your working for me?”
Alcide nodded. “I forgot to ask what all was public and whatnot. He basically thinks that you have some shit going on that makes you a target. You know how shit works. If that were the case, then shit would roll downhill and his Weres end up dying… I told him I’d call him after I talked to you.”
“I’ll call him.”
“So… what’s top secret?”
“Nothing. Sookie is mine. She is under contract with the queen and has formal protection as does the rest of her family… ‘Top secret’ only encompasses what you’re party to when she reads minds for hire.”
Sookie added, “And Hunter… His ability is hush-hush until he’s old enough to decide how to use it. K?”
He nodded. “Alright. Simple enough.”
Sookie giggled at him. “You should probably tell Debbie how good my hearing is though.”
Alcide actually blushed.
Intriguing. “What’s this? An embarrassed Were?”
Sookie scowled at me. “That’s none of your business, or mine for that matter, which is why I mentioned it.”
He cleared his throat and turned to walk out. “I’m leaving now… Call me if anything comes up. My old man’s fine with whatever time I need off and y’all will need to do some furniture shopping this weekend.”
While Sookie checked on Adele and Jason, I finally showered and dressed so that we could leave.
Sookie calmly lowered into her seat, seemingly careful to keep her dress from wrinkling and unintentionally teasing me by straightening her skirt over her legs and adjusting the halter.
She leered at me. “Like those leather pants are going to make my night any easier.”
“Which panties are you wearing?”
“Who says I’m wearing any?”
I growled trying to resist, but I reached over and slid my hand under her skirt. She was wearing some. “Tease.”
She giggled. “Black lace boy shorts.”
I was already getting hard and if I had thought to bring the SUV, we could stop along the way. I rested my hand on her thigh… “Who is this JB character?”
“An ex-boyfriend of sorts. He’s terribly sweet, but I couldn’t get past how simple he is. We’re still friends. He lives in the unit next to Dawn’s and heard me scream when I found her. He stayed with me.”
“The friend zone?”
She giggled. “Yes. The friend zone.”
“You seem to be getting along very well with your guard.”
“Oh yeah. I like him a lot. He’s really nice, made fun of Jason for liking the Marlins because he’s a Braves fan, sweet to Gran… He suggested that we make a list of stuff about Hunter to get someone to find out for us.”
“Like ‘bed wetting’?”
“That and… I was, you know, a bed wetter… I had a hard time separating my dreams from everyone else’s. They usually mixed together and became nightmares. I don’t expect much different for Hunter. It got better when I moved in with Gran though. I was upstairs alone instead of between my parents’ and Jason’s rooms…” She shifted, clearing her throat uncomfortably. “Anyway, Alcide mentioned things like a bed rail and phobias because of Tommy. His nephew is scared to death of sharks so they stick to zoos instead of aquariums… and we should discuss the ‘dad’ situation and make a plan.”
“The ‘dad’ situation?”
“Well, we’re all so preoccupied with Hunter and his ability that we hadn’t given much thought to his dad… It got me to thinking. I don’t think I want him to be glamoured to forget Hunter… Hunter more than likely couldn’t be glamoured to forget his dad and it’d hurt for him to think that he wasn’t loved… If Andre just glamours him that it’s for the best, then Hunter could still get phone calls and we could let Hunter see him once in a while when we’re in New Orleans. Like let them visit over dinner out or something. What do you think?”
“How would the adoption factor into that scenario?”
“I could still adopt him formally, but… You can’t lie to a telepath, ok, well you could but he’d know. He’s too young to understand that the lies are to protect him and still trust us to do what’s best for him. It’s better to bring him in on the plan than to try to keep it from him… besides… I thought of something else.”
She nodded. “My telepathy is stronger now that I’ve had your blood.”
“Unless Hunter is seriously injured though…”
“Eric, the timeline.”
“What about it?”
“Hadley didn’t know she was pregnant until she left her husband… then bonded to Sophie-Ann… she was turned because of the delivery… they’re ‘closely bonded’. Hadley was sharing blood with Sophie-Ann while she was carrying Hunter. We could have a whole new ballgame to deal with.”
“I’ve heard you twice now.”
“If he can hear you, vampires, we’d have to insulate him that much more.” Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck…
“I could look into having him bound or… Sookie, there isn’t anyone I trust that I’d be willing to talk to about our options.”
“My blood, even as old as I am, has only really made your ability stronger though. You had heard me when you’d only had Bill’s. Perhaps we’re just too clouded.”
“Eric, what language do you usually think in?… wait, that wouldn’t hold water or I might have heard Pam… Shit. It would be better if I hadn’t heard you. It’s not like I got anything important. I wouldn’t be worrying about it.”
“When I talk to Sophie-Ann, I’ll ask her to look into it so that we don’t agonize over not knowing. It’ll be better for us to be prepared.”
“Oh, God… Wybert better picture himself in a tutu on a pony with a lollipop! He’s only 3!”
I chuckled, picturing it myself, but even if that giant dolt could picture something so whimsical, he’d fuck it up by imagining a severed head in his fist. “We should wait then. I’m sure Pam and I can sugarcoat our thoughts long enough to test him. But the language idea… I know several and could easily mask my thoughts that way.”
Her head fell back as she wallowed in frustration… “Hadley is the only one I can think of that couldn’t… She failed French in high school and she was sleeping with her teacher… I’d have to send Bobby out for mumus and… what are those things Muslim women wear?”
“Berkas? Why the fuck would you need those?”
“Because you have a dirty mind. Thinking in Slavic isn’t going to do any good when you’re picturing how to get me undressed.”
“Do you think covering your whole body would make me imagine it less?”
She growled. “I. Don’t. Know… I haven’t even met the boy yet and I feel sorry for what Gran went through. It must’ve been impossible to shelter me from so much.”
I laughed at her. “Sookie, stop panicking. You’ll figure it out. He’s already better off because he’ll have you. You made it through childhood without the aid of another telepath or home schooling or someone who knows exactly how hard the ability is to survive with. Could you imagine what vampires would be like if we didn’t have a maker? No guide to help us understand our abilities. No one to explain the pitfalls. No one to keep us from doing something completely moronic. We’d all be like the knob.”
She giggled. “He has a maker though.”
“Not a proper one and her maker was such a lunatic he was staked by another vampire before he was 100.”
“Bad parents make bad kids?… I guess you’re right, if my parents had lived… I probably would have killed myself or ended up in an asylum… Gran was the one who got it through my head that I wasn’t crazy.”
“And you’ll save Hunter from the same fate. As unusual as it seems given his circumstances, he’ll have a relatively normal life. He’ll have an adoptive mother he can relate to, a grandmother to cook for him and tell him stories, an uncle to entertain him and I’m sure ‘Auntie Pam’ will lure him to the mall with toys so that she can dress him like a doll.”
She giggled. “And a stepfather type who’d rip apart anyone who thought about hurting him.”