When my eyes opened, Sookie was staring at me. She was wearing nothing but her underthings, sitting on her knees next to me. She’d already set the new lamp on the desk across the room and plugged it in. It was nice to see that Bobby had gotten something right.
She chirped brightly, “Evening!”
“Good Evening, to you. How was your day?”
She threw herself on my chest, hugging and kissing me wildly. “You are too sweet for words!”
I laughed. “Honestly, Sookie? Between pissing off Pam without trying and getting this reaction out of you… I’m at a loss.”
“You had Bobby go get Tina!!!” The cat’s name is Tina?
“I didn’t want you to worry about her.”
“And Gran is on cloud nine. She’s never had so much fun baking. Mr. Burnham brought an English copy of War and Peace. Gran’s been reading ever since she finished the cookies and Miss Fortenberry called to thank Gran for sending extra help. Do you know anything about that?”
I shook my head. “Must have been a fluke.”
She slapped my chest, laughing. “A fluke named Bobby. You’re too sweet.”
“No, I’m not. I just can’t glamour you.”
“So you figure this knight-in-shining-armor bit will keep me around?”
I smiled, trying not to laugh. “Is it working?”
She grinned from ear to ear. “You bet your sexy ass, it is. Even if you piss me off, Gran won’t break up with you.”
“Then my plan is coming together.”
“Does your plan include telling me how I woke up without any bites?”
“I healed them.”
“How did you manage that?”
“I pricked my finger and rubbed a bit into the punctures. If you prefer I don’t, I won’t do it anymore. I’ll just bite you somewhere more private.”
“Will I have side effects?”
“None. It was hardly a drop.”
She smiled, kissing me again. “Thank God. I was worried that it was Bill’s blood that did it.” His blood couldn’t have done that. Mine could in that quantity though.
“Now, why is it that you aren’t dressed?”
“Because you said last night that I’d smell like you, but right now I smell like me.”
I inhaled her scent, letting her fill my senses. “Mmmm, and sunlight.”
She smiled at me. “You seemed to like it, so after I took my shower I sat in the sun for a bit while I read.” Thoughtful.
“So you figured that you’d come down here and snuggle with me to make sure the job is done.”
She seemed proud of herself as she nodded.
“You realize that you’re going to smell like me and what we did this morning?”
She thought for a moment before she shrugged. “Humans won’t smell it and maybe Bill will finally catch on.” My, my, my…
“Catch on to what?” I raised my eyebrow at her.
“That I’m not his.”
“That you’re mine?”
She narrowed her eyes at me and sucked her teeth. “You know what? Sure, but only because I’d feel really weird calling you a ‘boy’ friend.”
I win. “Really?”
She snorted as she got up and started pulling on her clothes. “Yeah. And you owe Gran another tip. She talked me out of that conniption by lunch.”
I decided against my usual shower, knowing full fucking well that Compton (possibly Merlotte) would be twitching at my scent, and went straight to my closet. “What do you think she’d like?”
“I’m so not answering that… So, how different are you when you’re being ‘vampire Eric’?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I’m positive that Bill wasn’t full of crap about everything. If those tacky Monroe clichés take you seriously, then you aren’t always this sweet.” There should be a prize for epic understatements.
“That would be… accurate.”
“So are you going to be ‘big scary vampire’ whenever we’re out?”
“No. Of course not, but I do have to act a certain way around other vampire.”
“But if there aren’t any other vampire around then things can be, I don’t know, normal? Like the other night at Merlotte’s?” My hands would be all over her, regardless.
“Absolutely. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that you must never, ever challenge me. To vampire, you are nothing but a pet and expected to have no opinion. If I ‘let’ you have one, it could be a serious problem. However, the line isn’t finite. You’ll be able to gage the tenor.”
She stopped moving, frozen with her fingers on one of the buttons to her blouse. She stared at me for long enough that I was starting to worry about having told her too much too soon.
“Sookie, say something.”
“Gran’s tip better be huge. She’s going to need to do a lot of talking this time.”
I chuckled at her. “Sookie, it’s not as daunting as it might seem. My position isn’t too different from any other politician. You would be expected to be cordial and polite in that instance as well. Situations would vary in formality.”
She blew out a deep breath and went back to her buttons. “Politician’s girlfriend, huh? That’s a good start, but stop talking about it before I freak myself out.”
I laughed. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll have an aside with Adele later.”
She stuck her tongue out at me again.
Sookie and Pam may get along too well.
As I readied, I noticed that Sookie had put my phone on its charger long enough ago that it had a full charge and taken my clothes from my hamper, but what touched me (yes, I was starting to identify the feeling) was that the wastebasket had been emptied; the wastebasket that held almost a dozen empty blood bags. She hadn’t pointed it out in any way, it was something I had to notice. She seemed to be as accommodating of the dirty details as she was anything else.
The undeniable truth of the ‘neener neener’ was coming up on Bill Compton at record breaking speed. I’d won her. Not that it seemed like he was much competition in her eyes. He’d thought he was. He’d managed to lose her trust in less than a week because he was unable to keep his pessimistic attitude to himself. I’m sure it would only have been a matter of time before he fucked up another way.
It was sad that I was as sure as the night is long that he was only holding to his agreement to share his war stories in an effort to regain Sookie’s good graces.
Not that I cared one way or the other for Bill’s Confederate woes, but tonight was going to be more fun than I should be allowed to have.
By the time I made my way upstairs, the ladies were patiently waiting in the SUV for me.
Bobby had done well in ladies wear again. Sookie and Adele were wearing stylish, age appropriate pastels and didn’t seem the least bit uncomfortable.
We had gotten more than 30 miles before I realized how quiet they were being. Not a word had been uttered.
“Is there something that I should know about? Has something happened?”
Sookie shifted uncomfortably as Adele urged her from the back seat to explain.
“Uh, Arlene called me. She wanted to know if I’d be there tonight.”
“Arlene? She’s the one that should get her own vampire masseuse? The waitress you work with?”
“Did she say something else?”
“She said she missed me at work the last few days and even Rene has been asking after me.”
“She couldn’t be an accomplice, could she?”
Sookie shook her head. “No. She thinks Dawn had it coming for sleeping with vampires. She thinks it was just asking for trouble, but she wouldn’t help him. She’s afraid that serving Bill a true blood will make her a victim.”
“So we know that this Rene will be in attendance tonight?”
She jerked a nod. “Yeah. And the kids. And I’m… being at your… I’m out of practice.”It took a moment for me to realize that she meant being so secluded for the past few days might have damaged her ability to block the thoughts of others. Shit.
“Is there anything that could help?”
“Even though Bill will be there, would it be ok if I hold your hand? It’ll make focusing on you easier.”
“My quiet will be louder?”
She nodded with childishly expectant eyes.
“It’s fine for you to hold my hand. Are you going to feel up to going to Fangtasia later?”
She grinned at me. “I should be fine. I might need to take each person, one at a time though… if I’m tired.” Understandable.
I nodded. “Adele, did Sookie mention that we are needed at Fangtasia?”
“She did. If you don’t mind, I might just curl up with a book in a quiet corner, if a sleeping old lady wouldn’t embarrass you. That’s a little late for me.”
“Would you rather stay at home instead?”
“Do you think it would be alright?”
I smiled as I pulled out my phone. “I can have someone sit at the house with you.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that! I don’t want you to have to find a babysitter. I’ll just go with y’all.”
I started dialing Pam. “Adele, I think you’d change your mind once you meet that babysitter.”
When Sookie gave me a questioning glance, I winked at her. “I’ll explain later.”
Another reason to be happy for an SUV, I suppose. The parking lot of the community house was so full that there were cars parked on the lawn…
The front door was ‘manned’ by a robust woman with unnaturally orange hair in a dress with a dizzying floral pattern.
Adele never took her hand from its drape on my arm to greet the woman by leaning in for a faux kiss.
“Adele Stackhouse, where have you been keeping yourself? That dress is just too nice!”
“I’ve been busy getting spoiled. Maxine, this is Sookie’s beau, Eric Northman.”
Gratefully my hands were occupied, so I gave the woman a nod. “Mrs. Fortenberry, I’ve heard a lot about you.”
She blushed. “I wish I could say the same.” No wonder. The bulk of what I’d heard about her was that she is an immense gossip; the town crier.
Adele stepped back into the conversation, when she realized her friend was staring at me. I had been tempted to glamour her into publicly kissing Compton and proclaim that she was carrying his love child… while it’d get a laugh, it was only something I would do if I were bored. I would just file it away for later.
“Maxine, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it back in time to set things up. Did everything go smoothly?”
“Oh! That friend of yours set up tables and chairs for me all afternoon like he’d asked Santa for it! He was such a help. Hoyt’s still mad at me for telling him to try half as hard as Mr. Burnham. He didn’t leave until Mr. Compton arrived. I don’t think he fancies vampire much.”
I couldn’t help myself. I started to chuckle. “Who does?”
As Maxine agreed with me, Adele and Sookie both gave me a dirty look and told me to behave. I had a feeling that if their hands weren’t full of cookies, they might have slapped at me for encouraging Maxine.
After the cookie platters were deposited on the refreshment table with strange looking dishes that resembled vomit or plastic (or both) Sookie and Adele mingled a bit.
The shifter was the first to greet Sookie. He walked over and hugged her without preamble and then backed away as though he was touching acid (or someone said ‘vet’). I think the snarl he was wearing was supposed to worry me, but all it accomplished was offending Sookie.
She grabbed his chin with her free hand and jerked his face over to catch his line of sight. “Sam Merlotte, you knock it off, right now. We still need to have us a little chat. Until then… You’re in the doghouse.”
He actually growled at me when Sookie used the word ‘doghouse’. His nostrils flared when I leaned over to his ear. “She could tell you are different. She took it really well. She’s only pissed that you were hiding it when you knew her secret. Now be a good boy and fetch the ladies some drinks.”
Sookie narrowed her eyes at me as he stomped away in a huff. “Did you have to say ‘fetch’?”
My eyebrows went up. “You started it. Doghouse?”
“I said to let him know… Oh, never mind. Be nice.”
“I was nice. I called him a good boy. I’ll even rub his belly…”
She started cackling. “Stop it!”
Adele introduced me to the Mayor who complimented me on being lucky enough to escort the ‘loveliest Bon Temps has to offer’. They both blushed when I sincerely agreed with Mr. Norris.
Adele was also the one to introduce me to Bud Dearborn. Sookie was too busy squeezing my hand so tightly that her knuckles were white. Whatever was going through his thoughts wasn’t pleasant for Sookie. She actually seemed relieved to see her idiot brother.
The first time Adele’s hand left my arm was to hug Jason and it immediately returned as she started to tow the lot of us to the backstage area of the building for privacy.
The first thing out of his mouth when the door closed behind us was ‘what the fuck?’.
My concern was that Sookie still seemed upset from Dearborn’s thoughts. “Is staying in contact not working?”
She held my hand a little tighter. “I wasn’t expecting him to be such a jackass. He caught me off guard. I’ll be fine.”
Jason cleared his throat as though we’d forgotten he was in the room with us. “What the fuck is going on? You tell me to feed the cat… but you didn’t say where you’re going or coming back… and you finally come back with a fang… Cats gone by the way. I went to feed her on the way here and the workers musta spooked her off.” Charming way to break the news of her ‘missing’ cat, moron.
“Workers?” Sookie looked angry, but it was preferable to frightened, I suppose.
I started petting her hair. “I promised that I wouldn’t keep you away from your life for more than a week. And that I would come up with a way to keep you safe if you went home before he was caught. The workers are putting in new doors and windows because the security system I’m having installed required them.”
“Security system! Eric, that… we can’t afford that!”
“Sookie, I made the promise to keep you safe. It’s my expense and I would be pleased to hear that it was a wasted one when he is arrested.”
“Like a plan B?” The pack of Weres that would circle her property every second would be the actual plan B, but that was a bridge we could cross later.
Adele took my free hand, giving it a squeeze as she thanked me and Sookie wrapped herself around my ribs, tucking her head under my chin.
“Ladies, Detective Coughlin’s message from this morning explained that they were having a run of bad luck with judges, but should be able to get a warrant for his DNA in the morning. This should be over soon.”
Adele laughed. “I don’t know how much you want your peace and quiet back, but I’m happy as a queen bee. I still have a couple hundred books to read.”
I started laughing. “I enjoy having you there, but those ghastly pink appliances will have to leave with you. I don’t know what Bobby was thinking.”
Her look became more serious and she stared me down. “Reallllllly… You mean the ghastly pink appliances that just so happen to match my kitchen that he’d never seen. And he bought them just before he drove all the way out here to volunteer his services.”
I smiled at her. “Does your kitchen… have… pink? I don’t recall.”
I leaned over to peck her cheek. “It’s not as though I’ll need them once you go home. Besides, you two are the best company I’ve had in centuries. Let me spoil you a little.”
Adele was still smiling when Jason took a giant step back with irate confusion on his face. “Are you kidding me!? You’re staying with a bloodsucker, Gran? You… He… Is he glamouring you? Is he FEEDING on you?!” Just your sister, asshole.
Sookie tried to let go of me to go after her brother, but I held on to her. Adele seemed to have a handle on the situation when the heel of her hand collided with her grandson’s forehead. “Jason Stackhouse, your sister’s life is in danger. Eric is keeping us safe. We are more than comfortable and you would do well to realize that we all owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his efforts.”
“This guy only wants to kill fangbangers though… Sookie… are you fucking…?”
Sookie tried to wriggle away from me again, but Adele had slapped her hand over Jason’s mouth to save him from making the mistake of finishing his question. “This guy assumed that she was involved with him when he saw her kissing him at Merlotte’s. That’s how they know who he is and how the cops know who they’re looking for. She’s in danger because she was trying to keep your gigolo butt out of hot water. Now shut your mouth. You’re being hateful.”
“You know who he is? Why didn’t y’all say something?”
I took over, aggravated at how distressing his visit had been for them. “She saw the killer fantasize her murder and the reason you weren’t told who he is, lies with the fact that you don’t have the common decency to keep your mouth shut about who you take to bed. You would say something to someone and he would just relocate and start killing somewhere else and you would still look guilty for the two murders in Bon Temps.”
He looked like he was doing long division… with fractions for a while as the squirrels in his brain cavity translated for him. “Shit… Really? I didn’t know all that. Hell… I’m sorry.”
Sookie and Adele both rolled their eyes at him and told him to save seats for the four of us. I added that the seats shouldn’t be near children.
Sookie saved a dirty look for me until he was gone. “You have something against children?” Other than the stench of play dough they’re just as annoying as fully grown humans.
I smiled at her. “You said he’d be with some. If Jason stays away from seating us near children, then your fan shouldn’t be too close either and it doesn’t risk your brother finding out who we’re avoiding.”
She giggled. “Smart and sexy, huh?”
The seats that Jason had secured for us were on the front row and on the other side of the audience as Rene.
“There’s a rugrat about 3 rows away. That ok?”
Sookie smiled at her brother. “That’s fine, Jason. This is great.”
He seemed too proud of himself as we took our seats. I sat on the isle, with Sookie, then Adele next to me. Jason was acting as a bookend… paper weight…
When Maxine entered the auditorium, she called everyone’s attention to let them know that Bill was having car trouble and proceeded with the business portion of the meeting while they all waited. Adele and Sookie turned to me with questioning looks.
I shook my head. “I had nothing to do with his car trouble.”
They stared, Adele with a smirk.
Sookie put her lips to my ear and whispered, “Your day guy has been to Bon Temps twice today and he had nothing to do with Bill’s car trouble?” If Bobby showed that kind of initiative, he’d get a raise.
I pulled my phone from my pocket and handed it to Sookie. “I contacted him once. It was at 5:42 AM.”
Sookie slowly read the email I’d sent and glared at me as she handed the phone back to me.
“See. I’m innocent. I think you both owe me an apology.” I think I did pretty well feigning a ‘hurt’ tone.
Sookie leaned back to my ear. “I’ll apologize if you can tell me with a straight face that you aren’t disappointed that you didn’t think about it.” Ha. That was not a lie I’d bother with.
I kissed her cheek. “Fair enough.”
If vampire could, I’d have been convinced that Compton shit his pants when he saw me. His expression was sour, furious and deflated in chorus. He had to retract his fangs to fake a smile for the waiting crowd. I took no small amount of pleasure from watching his lips curl back. Not only was he scenting Sookie’s blood and sex and sweat, but… her hands were wrapped around mine where she’d pulled it into her lap.
Sookie leaned over again. “Pam was right.” She followed her statement by making a ridiculously apish face.
I started laughing. “You wanted me to be nice. It goes both ways.”
She croaked, “Grape Ape.”
“Sookie?” It was getting harder for me to not laugh.
She playfully rolled her eyes and huffed. “Fine.”
“And I think he looks more like a sock monkey.”
A loud ‘ha’ escaped before Sookie clamped her hand over her mouth. It earned us a very dirty look from Mr. Keynote. For once, Pam’s bizarre attraction to animation proved itself to be useful.
As Bill blandly recited his battlefield memories, the humans in the room sat like awed statues of themselves as though they hadn’t already heard every boring word read by Hal Holbrook on the History channel.
Compton took a few minutes to answer a few more specific questions. One man had stood to ask if Bill had known his ancestor. The only interesting part of Bill’s dialog was the description of the man’s death. Not that there had been anything particularly outstanding about the scenario, more that it was the only time anything Compton said couldn’t be read from a textbook.
It might have been one of the longest half hours of my existence.
The mingling afterwards was far more entertaining. Bill was surrounded by ‘star struck’ locals who wanted to pose for pictures with ‘Vampire Bill’ and ask him annoying questions from ‘the list’. Pam and I are sure now that there is a list of irritating/obtuse questions to ask a vampire. We’re sure it’s on the internet. Pam is still looking for it.
Most every one of Adele’s DGD friends made their way to her to thank her for securing Compton’s testimonial and a few of Sookie’s friends came by to greet her. It felt as though I’d met every inhabitant of the town. The most interesting of which was Hoyt Fortenberry. He seemed simple, but friendly and had no reaction to my cold handshake even though everyone else in the building had been quietly fanning at the humidity. His visit prompted his mother’s. He rolled his eyes behind his ‘Mama’s’ back while she gossiped to Adele as though everyone couldn’t hear her.
All the while Sookie and I tried to ignore the haunting glare of Bill Compton. He’d lost his entertainment value. He was really starting to piss me off.
The three of us made our exit after nearly an hour of friendly conversation. As we cleared the crowd by the front door, Sookie tensed next to me. Rene and Arlene had parked just a few slips away from my SUV and were fastening the children into their seats. Sookie’s stress was only compounded by the fact that Compton followed us out and was, seemingly, looking for a fight.
I used the remote to start the car and its air conditioning for Adele so that she could get off her feet in the cool air. She smiled as she cracked her window so she could eavesdrop.
Sookie’s hand had never left mine for longer than a moment and now, since Rene was less than 20 feet away, she was holding on as though her life depended on it.
Bill advanced until he was foolishly close to us and Sookie tried to ignore him.
He reached past me to grab her arm as she tried to climb into her seat.
“Sookie, I need to speak to you.”
Even though I could have been forgiven much more, I grabbed his wrist and twisted it away from her. “Compton, she told you. She’s mine.”
“She’s less than willing! Anyone can see that!” Bullshit. Less than willing doesn’t hold on with white knuckles.
“No! Sookie is NOT yours!”
“You are walking a fine line. You need to remember your place.”
“You stole her from me!” His tirade was drawing gawkers. Dozens.
Sookie, still holding my hand in an attempt to keep Rene’s thoughts at bay, had reached her breaking point. She climbed back out of her seat and stood inches from Compton’s pissy face. “I am not, was not, never will be YOURS, Bill Compton. I. Am. Eric’s. End of story.”
“No. Do I need to slow it down? Say it with me… Sookie… is… Eric’s.” Most of Bon Temps was watching, including the shifter.
“He’s taken you prisoner! You haven’t been home in days and from what I can tell he’s having your house turned into a fortress. You don’t know what you’re saying. He’ll pass you around.”
“From what you can tell, huh? From what you can tell, Mr. Observant, did you notice that his prisoner has one hell of a tan. Did you notice that Gran is just as willing to leave with him as I am? Did you notice anything other than what you wanted to notice? No. You ignored all the signs that I’m perfectly happy to be with Eric because you feel like you planted your flag first. Sorry, buddy. I’m Eric’s.”
“He can glamour you and the old bat!”
Sookie fumed at him as I gently pulled her back to place her in the car. I closed the door behind her and armed the alarm, advancing on the insubordinate fuck in front of me.
“She told you that she’s mine. I’m telling you that she’s mine. You have no business with her. If you attempt to contact her again, you will be signing your own warrant.”
“I’m not letting this go!”
“You don’t have to. In fact, I dare you to keep on. You know what will happen.”
“You would end a vampire for a human?”
“For that one, yes. In an instant.”
“She’ll hear about this!”
I mocked him with a laugh. “Bill, I’ve already been in contact with her. I intend to make my claim and protection of Sookie public.”
“You liar! Had you been in contact with her, she’d have told one of us to back off!”
As soon as he said it, he knew he was fucked. I grabbed him, crushing him into the hood of my car. “What do you mean, back off? What are you part of?”
“She sent me. She sent me to keep an eye on the Stackhouses.”
“Are you going to tell me why?”
“I don’t know why. You know how she is!”
As quietly as I could, knowing Merlotte might be the only one to hear. “Did you know that she is a telepath?”
“No. I was told that she might not be completely human though.”
I yanked him away from the car, flinging him into the empty space near the playground. He stumbled as he walked backwards keeping a very careful eye on me. “Bill Compton, as Sheriff of Area 5, due to your failure to check in to my area in a timely manner, I am ejecting you from northeastern Louisiana. You are further ordered to return to your superior and explain your failure since as Sookie’s master, I will not allow you to come within a hundred miles of her. You and your maker will be notified of a fine for trespassing and charges of interference against you. Is that understood?”
He scowled at me for a moment, knowing that his choices were comply or be ended. “Yes, sheriff.”
“You’d better start packing if you’re to make it to New Orleans before dawn. If any injury or damage comes to Stackhouse body or property, I will personally consider it an act of spite and I will volley accordingly and because of your display, there are plenty of witnesses to your behavior and my promise.”
Sookie stared blankly as I joined them in the car. “Sookie, I couldn’t let it go and I have to call her.”
She forced a grin as she nodded.
In a matter of minutes, I had given the message that I was in dispute with an underling that could go south quickly and was being assured that my message would be returned immediately.
Sookie watched as I dropped my phone into a cup holder. “That all sounded very official.”
“It’s a drawback to the position. If I weren’t Sheriff, I could have just killed him for touching you.”
“What does it mean that he was sent here?”
“I can’t be sure unless she knows that you are a telepath somehow. If that’s the case, he may have been…” I didn’t even want to think about the measures I would normally take to secure a telepath.
“Sookie, if she knows that you can read minds, she might have sent Bill here to secure your services.”
“What? Why? How would she secure my services?”
“I don’t think we should talk about it.”
“Eric, I want to know.”
“If I wanted to secure your services, I would test you to see if your ability is even strong enough to be considered. Then I would make offer after offer until you accepted. That’s how I would go about it… She’s not as business minded as she is militant.”
“Oh god. She might have been planning on playing dirty.” More than likely.
“It’s possible, but we have no way of knowing until I speak to her.”