Sookie squeezed her eyes closed and giggled, rolling to her side once I released her hands, but every time she calmed down, her laughter would flare up again.
Pam was too proud of herself.
She shrugged. “What? You don’t have to be a mind reader to know she’s picturing a huge pair of purple stones peeking out from under something lacy.”
Sookie nodded, hissing about a G-string.
“See. She’ll get over it… So other than the missed fang-porn opportunity, what did I miss today, Telepathia?”
The question should have distracted Sookie, but she laughed harder and sputtered to thank God Vampires don’t pee.
I didn’t have to feel her mood to be entertained… I actually sat on the corner of the bed and enjoyed watching her shake hysterically.
When Sookie finally sat up, she’d ruined the curls in her hair and covered her face with bloody tears… she was still giggling in random spurts.
“That image is going to stick with me for a long time, Pam.”
“Glad I could help. So what did I miss that got you going again?”
Sookie giggled again, “It isn’t really that funny… Eric, when was the last time you went into your den?”
“When I’m home, I’m either here or in my study. The last time I used my den was when Pam brought a movie over… a couple of weeks, I imagine.”
Sookie forced the smile from the corners of her mouth and probed, “And I’m going to guess that you don’t pay attention to your cable bill, you just pay it, huh?”
“I don’t even do that. It comes out of my account automatically. Why?”
“Because…” Another giggling fit. “Because when Pam’s mean to Bobby…” More giggling. “He like… you know how some people get upset and eat like a whole cake or crawl into a bottle of booze?”
I was almost sure I didn’t want to know more. “Yes.”
“Bobby uses your den and your cable… Vampire porn Pay Per View.”
Apparently, it was Pam’s turn to cackle. “HE WAS THINKING ABOUT ERIC, WASN’T HE!?”
I’m glad she thought it was funny.
“On my sofa? In my den?”
Pam’s reaction, the thrashing about on the bed and the maniacal screeching, didn’t help, but Sookie still tried to keep from laughing. She fanned her eyes while she nodded. “Do you want details?”
Pam shouted, “I do!”
“How sad for you! You wouldn’t be nearly as entertained if you found out he’s been cumming on your furniture…”
I was almost sure the stasis was responsible for why I couldn’t smell it… but it wasn’t as though I could trust a maid to dust. Not when I couldn’t trust my day-man to refrain from jerking off.
It was one thing to fantasize… it was one thing for Pam to tease me about the ‘crush’ he had on me… It was another thing entirely for Bobby to be masturbating in my house while I was dead. Part of me wanted to congratulate him for managing to give someone like me a sense of what ‘the creeps’ were.
Sookie offered, “He isn’t… not on the furniture. On himself… then he uses one of the upstairs showers…”
“No details… FUCK. I really need to find a replacement for him. If I see him again, I’ll castrate him.”
“You thinking about Paulette? Your Witch in New Orleans, right?”
“Now that you’re a Vampire of Louisiana, you’ll more than likely be summoned to work in New Orleans on occasion… I still need her to be there. Knowing you can perform solid wards with coaching, she’ll gladly tutor you.”
Sookie nodded and studied my hands for a moment before blurting, “James!”
She nodded and fidgeted excitedly. “Yeah. James Arkady. He’s in one of the versions I read last night… He was a concierge. You hired Him to replace Bobby years ago and He stayed on after the Revelation…” Her eyes rolled up while she tried to remember details and offered, “That version of James… You called Him invaluable and ingenious. You share Him with Pam, but Gran adopted Him. He jumps in without being asked all the time. He doesn’t have the magical perks the Witch does, but…”
“But neither does Bobby…” I left the mattress to go to my desk. “I should call him as soon as possible. He can’t start soon enough.” Sookie was going to need help settling into the Area again.
“I’m sorry, but…”
Pam shook her head. “Don’t apologize. If Bobby was wanking at my house, Eric would have hurt himself laughing…” Not the point. “My nails look fabulous, but what the hell have you done to my head, darling? Am I going to have a fuck-helmet like you?”
Sookie gasped and put her hands to her hair. “Goddamnit!”
As I typed, running a standard search for James Arkady, I offered, “You’ll want to pull your hair back later. You won’t want Bill bits tangled in your curls. I don’t foresee killing anyone tomorrow night though.”
She whined, “Eric.”
“And the shower you need now would have ruined the curls anyway. I’m sure you don’t want to-”
Sookie smirked. “Is it wrong that I don’t really care what he smells on me?”
“Not ‘wrong’. Maybe tackier than I thought you were capable of…”
Her lip curled as she immediately left the mattress. “Ew. Good point… I’ll make it quick so you can get one too.”
I chuckled, “I showered last night.”
I’d had every intention of greeting Bill Compton wearing Sookie’s scent even if I’d needed to transfer it with her towel or pillowcase…
The way Sookie giggled as she entered the bathroom was absolutely wicked.
By the time I was finished locating James Arkady at the Roosevelt Arms Hotel in Bossier City (and dressed while I spoke to him), Sookie had dressed (jeans and a simple black blouse), French braided her hair, and applied light makeup…
Meanwhile, Pam was still toying with her bouncy curls at the bathroom mirror.
Since James responded to my ‘as soon as possible’ request to meet by asking if half an hour was soon enough, Sookie and I left Pam to play with her reflection.
Pam only needed one donor… Sookie and I needed no less than six and we had an interview to conduct. Narcissism didn’t fit into our limited schedule.
James Arkady was already waiting next to the back door of Fangtasia when Sookie and I arrived.
His hands were clasped in front of him professionally. His suit wasn’t designer, but it was tailored and well pressed… And if he was anxious about an appointment of ambiguous reasons at a Vampire bar, he wasn’t showing any signs of it. He looked like I would expect he would if he was in a hotel lobby… perfectly comfortable.
I waited once I parked, giving him an extra moment to react.
As Sookie unfastened her seatbelt, she offered, “He’s excited… A Vampire stayed at the hotel recently and complained about the chemical smell of the linens… Eric, he thinks you called him here to tell him how to cater to Vampires.”
She shook her head and giggled, “I think we learned what You saw in Him to keep Him for nearly eight years.”
That much was fairly evident.
While we made brief introductions, Bobby arrived… wrinkled, off the rack suit, fumbling with boxes and bags.
Sookie held my hand as I led the way to my office and closed the door… inviting the men to sit as I led Sookie to sit on my lap behind my desk.
James Arkady looked pleasantly eager for the lesson he assumed he was about to receive. Bobby looked like he was on the verge of a massive coronary.
“James Arkady, this is my day-man, Bobby Burnham. His job entails running errands, shopping and being an occasional messenger. His generous salary includes health insurance and vacation time. I’ve heard you’re diligent, amiable, efficient, and discreet. I’m offering Bobby’s position to you.”
James’s eyes bulged and he tried to offer a sympathetic look to Bobby (whose chin was trembling).
I shook my head. “Don’t feel sorry for Bobby. I can count the number of weeks he’s worked for more than 40 hours on one hand. Bobby’s been embezzling money from my personal account and behaving inappropriately. Whether you accept the position or not, he’s unemployed as of now.”
Bobby began blubbering quiet apologies.
James winced, pulling his cheeks to show all of his teeth, and breathed, “Ouch.” He turned his attention to me. “Mr. Northman, I’d be a fool to ignore the offer, but I’m concerned by the way you said Mr. Burnham behaved inappropriately.”
“Don’t be. Unless you have designs to order Pay Per View pornography and masturbate in my home while I’m at rest, I’m sure we’ll get on just fine.”
Bobby didn’t bother covering his swollen, snotty, tear-streaked face. He sputtered and simpered like a scolded child.
Meanwhile, James only chuckled, “Yeah, that’s not even a ‘gray-area offense’…”
James nodded. “In my position as a concierge, I’ve discovered a few ways to offend people accidentally. Such as… carnations are practically a death threat in some cultures, but completely benign to most Americans.”
I nodded. “Gray-area is fitting…” I leaned forward, trapping Sookie between me and my desk while I edited Bobby’s old contract for James’s employment. “You’ll be catering to me and my children, Pamela and Sookie. Pam was limited to ten hours of Bobby’s time each week because without the restrictions, he’d sleep in a van parked at the mall. Sookie doesn’t have any limitations. She’s recently arrived in Shreveport and will most likely require help settling in. Pam’s cats see a vet every few months. Usually you’ll be used for deliveries and messages…”
He clarified, “So my responsibilities would be similar to my position as a concierge, but I’ll only have three clients.”
Bobby blubbered, “How many funerals have you had to arrange?”
When James’s face fell, I explained, “Sookie lost her brother recently and wasn’t in the area to make arrangements herself. Bobby called a friend of Sookie’s family, purchased a cemetery plot, casket, and headstone.”
He had to do it all twice though… Bobby acted as though he was spending his own money and treated Jason with less respect than Pam shows her cats.
Once the contract had been edited and printed, I slid it across my desk to James…
Bobby stood to leave before James reached for it.
Sookie whistled to get his attention and ordered, “Sit. You haven’t been dismissed…” Bobby crashed to the chair so quickly, Sookie might as well have shoved him. “There’s the matter of Eric’s credit cards and keys… and the cell phone he pays for… and the day-planner full of contacts and standing instructions… did you find everything Pam and I told you to get last night?”
Bobby whimpered and pulled his day-planner and cell phone from his breast pocket to place them on my desk. “All of the list items are in the bags, yes.”
“Did you feed Armani and Versace, or did you leave the food on the counter for the cats to rip into and make a mess with?”
He whimpered again and reached for his wallet after tossing a keychain onto the desk.
Sookie snorted, “Turd… Do you have anything else that belongs to Eric or Pam?”
He shook his head, flinging tears in the process.
Sookie turned to me and sighed, “He has extra keys to your houses and businesses.”
“Do you have any practice glamouring?”
She nibbled her lip and nodded. “I glamoured the ladies at Walgreens to stop freaking out. They acted like I was robbing them at gunpoint for body-wash.”
James shook his head and grumbled, “Just ridiculous,” to himself.
I snorted, “You’ve been unsupervised for months and you’ve been glamouring people to be nice.”
Why didn’t that surprise me?
“One of them hid on the floor behind the counter. It was insane. The only reason they knew was because I told them. A couple of them wanted to introduce me to their sons.”
Of course they did. Sookie could have given them beautiful grandchildren… once.
“Would you like to glamour Bobby to forget what his spare keys unlock?”
Her eyes lit up, but she offered, “Because it would be wrong to glamour him to eat the keys and then ride the giant magnet at the junkyard, right?”
Even James chuckled.
I pushed my chair back to let her leave my lap, telling her to keep the glamour simple, enjoying the excited spring in her step as she walked towards Bobby.
He was too frightened of Sookie to avoid making eye contact with her.
“You know that stockpile of keys you have that go to all the places Eric owns?”
He nodded, completely trapped… at her age, it should have been more of a struggle to keep his attention.
“When you leave here, you’re going to take them to the river and toss them in… because you don’t want to be tempted to mess with anything that belongs to Eric, do you?”
He shook his head. “Of course not, Miss Stackhouse.”
“It doesn’t matter anyway. You forgot what those keys went to anyway, didn’t you? You can’t remember what neighborhoods Eric’s houses are in… or his businesses either. It’s all very confusing.”
Bobby nodded absently.
“And all the contacts you made working for Eric Northman, they’re just all jumbled in your mind. A nameless, faceless crowd, huh?”
“Good. When you’re done tossing all those crazy keys in the river, you’re gonna go home and get a good night’s rest because you need to find a job in the morning.”
He nodded again. “Jobs aren’t easy to find.”
Sookie snorted and released her hold on him. “Especially when you screwed up any chance of getting a good reference from your previous employer, butthead.”
When Bobby darted for the door, Sookie turned her attention to the bags of items he’d left on the floor… taking them to the sofa to begin going through the contents…
While James looked over his contract, I watched Sookie fold and organize the contents of the bags, standing at the sofa, building neat little piles of items according to who they were meant for.
When she reached into a large paper bag, she quickly withdrew her hand and snarled with her hand clasped between her knees.
I chuckled, “Another kiss?”
She grunted, “My fault. This is what I get for being evil.” She shook her hand and opened the bag much more carefully, rolling her eyes and mumbling, “Nevermind.”
James watched as Sookie walked to my desk and carefully dumped the contents onto my desk… The silver hat-pins she’d asked for were all loose in the unmarked bag.
James furrowed his brow and shook his head. “It’s a shame he can only be fired once… they should have at least been wrapped in tissue paper.”
James left, eager to begin tying up the loose ends of his employment at the Roosevelt… After seeing the items Sookie loaded into the ‘Bill-kit’, including Pam’s new cordless reciprocating saw, I was surprised James was willing to return.
As I led Sookie from my office, she explained James was imagining something of a college prank… specifically, a scene from a movie where someone’s car was disassembled and relocated to someone’s office.
Better that way. Definitely better that way.
When we stepped onto the stage, we had more attention than the night before. The crowd in the club wasn’t usually so heavy until eleven o’clock, but the fangbangers had apparently spread the word… and so had the Vampires. There was nearly three times as many as usual. I’m sure the gossip-whores who’d been in the bar last night (and returned again even though they weren’t scheduled to appear) knew Sookie had received a feeding lesson. It was much better for them to assume I was her Maker… especially if she became a fixture at Fangtasia. Once her name began to circulate, the gossip that I’d brought her over would protect her more than news that I was fostering Compton’s orphan would.
In a matter of seconds every eye in the bar was watching us.
Sookie breathed, “No pressure.”
I wrapped my arm around her waist and whispered, “No pressure at all. Most of them want one or both of us to bite them. And I’m sure the Vampires are curious about my new child.”
No sooner than I spoke, the curious Vampires in question offered a nod and looked away.
She sighed, “What about… some of the donors from last night are here again.”
“Did you enjoy their type?”
“Um… they were okay, I guess. As and Os.”
“Unless you enjoyed one of them for a particular reason, I don’t suggest feeding from them again so soon. You took a substantial amount of their blood.”
She nodded, turning her head to whisper, “There’s a… two women by the bathrooms… Five again?”
I pointed to the women to bring them forward. “Did you feed from any of the bagged blood earlier?”
She nodded. “Just two bags.”
“Five should do. You slowed down after four last night.”
“K… The guy with strawberry blonde hair has AB-negative. I don’t see the big deal, but…”
Shopping for me?
I chuckled as I summoned him forward. “Thank you. Next.”
After a moment, she pointed to a small man in leather pants, whispering that she was curious about B-positive.
She waved and saluted to another officer, and finally chose a pair of fang-curious co-eds.
The only event to be a marked difference between feedings was that Sookie released her first donor on her own. She couldn’t have possibly known what an impressive stride that was for her to make.
She still needed two donors before she could bring herself to prepare one at all. She was still aroused by seeing me prepare her donors for her. She still reached her fill while feeding from the fifth donor.
She’d saved the B-positive donor for last, wanting to be able to take note of the flavor… I chuckled at her for having the same distaste for the B group as me.
She watched, marveling at the way I fed from the donor she’d chosen for me. She breathed, “God, you don’t even have to try.”
When I was finished, I pricked my finger and healed the man’s neck. “Heal your donors… What would you say if I told you I wasn’t as well-behaved before I tasted your blood. Nothing compares now.”
She stopped and looked over her shoulder. “I’d say you’re full of crap.”
I chuckled, “Give yourself time. You’re doing remarkably well.”
She turned back to her donors, thanking them quietly while she padded her blood onto their markings… and then opened the door for them.
If there was a prize for ‘sweetest Vampire’ Sookie would certainly be a candidate.
She closed the door and raised an eyebrow at me. “Do you really think I tasted that good?”
“Good isn’t fitting. Spectacular is more appropriate. You tasted sweet…”
I nodded. “Another reason to end Compton, but that one is selfish and superfluous. I wanted you before I tasted you.”
She snickered, “And what would you say if I told you… Sookie told me something very interesting during the skip.”
“It still kinda sucks that I probably won’t like the taste of your blood anymore, but at least Bill didn’t find out I still tasted like candy. He probably still would have been doing me. That totally would’ve screwed with my head.”
“You… you don’t smell like your Maker and you still taste of Fae?”
She shrugged. “Apparently. Maybe it’s the mechanics of Fae being brought over. I dunno. It’s not like there’s enough of us for a case study. Mostly just Sookies comparing notes between skips… and Hadleys and Jasons.”
When I curled my finger, she giggled impishly, walking towards me slowly, knowing what I wanted…
She leaned against me, lifting her chin with her head tilted to the side… Sookie Stackhouse, inviting me to bite her.
The knock on the door couldn’t have been timed worse.
“Who is it?”
The deep voice answered, “Alcide Herveaux.”
Sookie sucked air past her teeth anxiously, but she moved to answer the door quickly enough to show she was excited to see the Wolf.
As soon as the door was opened, Herveaux stepped into my office and closed the door behind himself.
I’m not sure he even noticed I was in the room with her before he wrapped his arms around her.
It was a very good thing Sookie had just fed.
Her legs dangled while he offered, “That fucking peckerhead… Merlotte called me. Said you’re a ruined monster like he isn’t a Supe too. What the fuck happened to you?”
Sookie sighed, “Officially, Eric’s my Maker.”
He set her down and raised an eyebrow at her. “How about unofficially, since I know he was looking for you too.”
“Bill brought me over and took me to Washington. He flipped out that I smelled like Eric and because I was really starting to like him. He blamed the ass-whoopin’ I got when we came back from Jackson. Said I died and bringing me over was the only way… Do I have to review all the BS I fell for right now?”
He chuckled and hugged her again, but without lifting her. “No. You’re good. Is Bill dead?”
Sookie snorted, “Not yet. We’re taking care of that in just a little bit. I’ve got a can of whoop-ass just for him. Sonofabitch lied to the wrong girl.”
I nodded, knowing what she had in her ‘Bill-kit’ and how she planned to use it. “His plane’s due to land soon. We’re meeting him.”
“Shit. I guess I came at a bad time, but… well, as soon as I checked my voicemail… I don’t guess y’all need any help.”
Sookie shook her head. “Nope… You don’t want to get mixed up in Maker/child grudges anyway.”
“But I would. For you I would… You’re gonna call me, right? Once you’re settled in. Can’t grab lunch, but we can go shoot pool and catch up or something.”
She nodded. “I’m gonna call you in a couple of nights, as soon as I’m settled in. I’m crashing with Eric right now and living out of shopping bags… We actually have a lot we need to talk about, but not here, so check your messages.”
He narrowed his eyes at her, then glanced in my direction.
After a moment, Sookie nodded again and stretched up to kiss his cheek. “At least you aren’t clueless. I’ll see ya soon.”
He nodded and offered a wave in my direction before he turned to leave.
Sookie was smiling when she turned to face me. “You were right about him… He isn’t pissed or scared. He’s just happy I’m alive.”
“Your Shifter seems to be the type who can’t see the forest for the trees. Herveaux is rational enough to see a bigger picture. He thought something to you though. That’s very rude.”
“You would’ve too… When I told him we need to talk, he assumed it was so I could let him down and tell him I’m yours now or that I’m not into Weres or whatever, but… he thought it would be a good chance to feel me out because he’s been having dreams.”
“Dreams where he wakes up in bed with Me and gets told all kinds of weirdness and then he wakes up in his bed and everything is fine.”
“He’s been skipping?”
“He doesn’t know what it is. He thinks they’re just really vivid dreams, but it’s happened a handful of times.”
“Did he meet Mrs. Sookie Herveaux?”
“I don’t know if We were married, but he held Our kids.”
“Then it isn’t Vampires and Faeries. You only met him in December. There hasn’t been time for him to father Your children.”
She shrugged. “It could be. I’m not the only Sookie with fangs though. There could be one that bonded with Alcide… Maybe one that isn’t in the journals yet.”
“Fuck… Sookie, there could be a version of Alcide who’s been brought over and bonded with you… Jackson could have ended unfortunately for him as well. We know of at least one Alcide and Sookie have known each other for seven years. He could be bonded with a Pam…”
She put her hands to her head and squeezed her eyes closed for a moment. “Overload. I can’t… That’s too crazy. I… Change the subject before my head explodes.”
I chuckled, “If we’re going to change the subject, take your clothes off.”
Instead of arguing or showing any kind of offense, she looked at the clock on the wall and snorted, “Tease.”
“Excuse me? That’s rich coming from you.”
“No it’s not. You never once flirted with me at a good time.”
“When did I see you, Sookie? It was always a bad time.”
“You could have stopped by my house with a movie to watch, or asked me to go on an actual date. You knew where I lived.”
Unfortunately, she made a fair point.
“Yes. Just next door to the Vampire claiming you.”
Sookie tossed herself onto the sofa and huffed, “Like proximity mattered to you when you offered to bathe me in Dallas…” On her stomach, arms folded under her head, peaking at me over her shoulder. “Or when you splayed me out on the hood of your car…”
I joined her, wedging myself between her tiny body and the back of the sofa. She rolled almost automatically, sliding her leg up to rest between mine.
“I’m not sure I see your point.”
I really didn’t, but the way Sookie looked up at me made me feel like I should apologize for something.
Big round eyes, completely innocent…
“Do you kick yourself in the ass for anything? I know I do.”
I nodded. “The journal rubbed my nose in several things. I’m not sure it’s worth a re-read. Definitely not one of my favorites.”
She snickered, “Tell me about it. I’m going the other route though. It might be the only thing I ever read again. ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,’ and all that.”
“But the one thing you wouldn’t want to repeat will be impossible after tonight… Speaking of which, are you certain you want to be part of ending Bill?”
She slid her arm over my side and tucked herself under my chin. “I think the only thing to keep me from it is if I can’t block it all… I’m ready. I have a plan. My list is in my pocket…”
“You have a list?”
“I don’t want to forget anything. He’s going to hear it all. Even if I didn’t have the awakening on my own, I want him to know that he didn’t win. Life was hard enough for me before he showed up like a wrecking ball. I’ve spent months blaming myself for stuff that was all him, blaming you for stuff that was all me, blaming the Queen for stuff that was all Hadley…”
“Are you going to punish him for things He did to other Sookies?”
She giggled, “I might… Maybe it’s because I’m a Vampire now, maybe it’s because I’m really bitter about what he pulled… but right now, I’m dying to hear him scream.”
“Maybe it’s because he deserves to scream…”
Before I had the chance to make some suggestions for Sookie’s list, Pam shoved the door to my office open and stared at us.
“What the hell is this? A pre-game snuggle?”
Sookie took her hand from my back and showed Pam her middle finger. “First come, first served.”
Pam scoffed, “I don’t want a snuggle. I want to violate your Maker. Pajama party’s over. Let’s go. Get your rage-face on. This is not a drill!”
Sookie sighed, “Are you jealous because we didn’t invite you to the pre-game snuggle?”
“Because it sounds like you want a hug.”
“I don’t need a hug.”
“Eric made Bobby cry without you too.”
Pam gasped, “How!?”
“He fired him in front of James… and totally aired his dirty laundry too.”
“I wanted to see that!”
Sookie sang, “It was beautiful.”
“You’re just teasing me to stall! You’re dragging out your snugglefest!”
“Get up. We have torturing to do.”
“Blame Eric. He’s a very good snuggler.”
“He’s good at a lot of things, but you’re not likely to find that out snuggling.”
“It still sounds like you just want a snuggle.”
“I don’t want a snuggle.”
“Then stop talking about it.”
I watched Pam open and close her mouth, struggling to find something to say until she looked like a goldfish.
“Eric, do something with her.”
“Other than snuggle?” I don’t know how I managed to ask with a straight face.
“We still have time. Twelve minutes.”
“You’re going to snuggle for the next twelve minutes? Bill turned Sookie and kidnapped her. He’s coming back to the Area. It’s time to kill that cankerous twat. But you’re snuggling. I’m sure he’ll wait to be tortured because you two are busy snuggling!”
“You’re talking about it again.”