After the way I rose the night before, I took a mental inventory as I came back to myself.
Pam was dead just a few feet away as she should have been.
Lynn was upstairs and somewhat hungry as I expected her to be.
Sookie wasn’t on the property, but she was closing the gap quickly and feeling energetic.
Check, check, and check.
Everything seemed as normal as it could, considering my connections to three very emotional females.
It was only a moment before I formulated a guess as to what was happening in the den… the scratching of pencils to paper had been my first clue, but when Gawain suggested Lynn would have earned more income as an interior designer than an office manager, I had to assume she was planning Maguire’s nursery.
She was still explaining that she’d hated every minute of painting a mural as a side job for a woman in Bon Temps when a phone began ringing.
Gawain asked, “Alcide again?”
Lynn grumbled, “That boy’s determined, I’ll give him that.”
Gawain snorted, “He’s just precious… Hello Alcide. Sookie isn’t available at the moment…”
Alcide snorted, “She’s screening me?”
“No. She left her phone at home accidentally. She’s running errands.”
“She left her phone in your room?”
“She left her phone in the room I share with Lynn, yes. Do you want to leave a message?”
After a pause he offered, “I was just calling to check on her.”
Gawain snorted, “Why ask her? She’d lie and tell you she’s as good as ever… Physically, she’s never been better, but she didn’t sleep well last night. Nightmares about the attack. She made up for her lack of sleep by drinking a pot of coffee while she made a list of ways to keep her mind from the trauma.”
Alcide offered a relieved sigh. “At least her body’s alright… I’ve been calling all day. I was worried there was still something, like a bleed or a fracture that waited to cause problems… Her dreams, did she say anything about them? Like… was she feeling guilty or was it more like replaying the fight to find a win-move?”
“Win-move?” I couldn’t have been happier Gawain asked, especially since Lynn snickered quietly.
Alcide explained, “Yeah… on the rare occasion she loses a game of chess, she’ll stare at the board for a while and replay the game in her head to find where it came apart for her…”
There wasn’t anything wrong with that.
“The latter. She wasn’t nearly as shaken as we expected her to be… perhaps because she isn’t subjected to our imaginations here.”
“Yeah… that’s why I called her instead of tracking her.”
“That was a wise move for several reasons… I’ll tell her you called…” After the phone closed, Gawain snorted, “Win-move? Really? She’s like a little sun-proof version of your Maker.”
Lynn chuckled, “You say that like there’s a problem with learning from one’s mistakes. Besides, if Eric was so bad, you wouldn’t be squatting in Area 5 when you should be ruling over Gawain-lantis.”
When I laughed, Gawain groaned, “He heard that.”
She snickered, “Gawain-lantis, not to be confused with Gawain-landia, Gawainstad or the Gawain Light District where mix-and-match group dates are available at the Royal Cooz-itorium. Of course, in order to speak proper Gawainish, every sentence must contain a subject, a predicate, and either sexual innuendo, hyperbole or cursing…”
The added bonus of having a newborn child… Nightly Gawain roasts.
He might have finally met his match.
He chuckled, “I like the idea of the Gawain Light District.”
Lynn snickered, “You would…”
Lynn stopped teasing him when the front door opened and Sookie asked, “Did y’all behave or did you kill each other?” After a long pause, she laughed, “That’s probably the quietest you’ve been all day, damn yammerin’ Faepires.”
Gawain snorted, “Blame Eric.”
How the fuck was his loquacious nature my fault?
Sookie gasped, “It’s not his fault I could hear you from the yard, you ancient gobshite…”
Lynn whispered, “She’s already fluent in Gawainish.”
Sookie continued, “Blame Debbie. She’s why I needed a damn transfusion…” As she approached the den, she sighed, “I might blame Eric for the fact that I made a waitress cry though.”
Lynn snickered, “You did that before you had his blood… You’re nasty to stupid servers now that you’ve waitressed. What did the burger jockey do?”
“Onion rings instead of fries, unsweet tea instead of sweet, bimbo completely forgot my lemon, burger was well-done instead of medium-rare… and my appetizer was ice cold and brought at the same time as my entrée…”
Lynn hissed, “Hate that… So other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”
Sookie giggled, “I learned ‘new-agers’ should be congratulated for their dedication to procreation in spite of the stench of patchouli…”
At least I wasn’t the only one.
While I left my bed to dress so I could join the conversation, Sookie continued, “Cosmic wasn’t nearly as helpful as her partner in life, Echo… She tried to discourage my bourgeoisie grooming habits in the best interest of freeing my spirit from the shackles of societal norms… Meanwhile, she’s such a stereotypically catty bitch that she was sure I dye my hair and have implants. She wasn’t amused when I called her a hypocrite for wanting my hair to be dread-locked and for me to smell like trucker’s ass like her. I told her she should thank my bourgeoisie grooming habits because if everyone went on a bathing strike, she’d have to think of another way to be unique… Oh, and I ripped her a new one for using partner in life as a label for her relationship. She might be defying the establishment by refusing to sign a marriage license, but there are good people who’d kill to say husband or wife legally. At least gay people don’t shit hate at straight couples.”
She made excellent points.
Lynn laughed, “Is there anyone in Shreveport you didn’t read a riot act to today? Jesus!”
Sookie was still thinking about her answer when I lifted the trap door, so she pointed down at me. “Eric hasn’t gotten a riot act…”
She was sitting in the middle of the pool table. Sookie’s little chambray sundress and espadrilles were probably partly responsible for Cosmic’s opinions… Sookie looked like she’d fit in at a church picnic… very wholesome.
“Cosmic opened the topic for debate. I’m not fond of smelling like a damn jock-strap. Sue me… Anyway, while Echo tried to remember what a girl who shaves feels like, he found the bottles we wanted… and the added bonus of black glass decanters.”
Lynn beat me to ask, “What are you thinking those would be good for?”
“So little people don’t notice the blood in the fridge. They’re opaque and hold two pints, so they’re serving-size instead of snack-size, and they have a wide mouth so you can drink straight from them. Microwaveable, dishwasher safe, and now we have six of them along with caps to keep the blood from tasting like pastrami… They’ll take up less shelf room too because they’re taller and squared…” Brilliant. “How strong is the man-flavor to you?”
Lynn was still beaming at Sookie’s idea when she answered, “Really strong. There’s nothing subtle about it for me. Why?”
“Because, if it’s really strong, maybe the donors can be typed and your man-juice can get diluted with type-matched female blood… It’ll make the blood you prefer go further. You’ll still have Guy-Light between trips to the testosterone buffet.”
Lynn snorted, “Your sugar-free ice cream theory?”
Sookie nodded. I didn’t have any idea what her ice cream theory was, but I was impressed with her idea of mixing blood.
“It’s not the same, but in a pinch, it’s better than no ice cream.”
Lynn shrugged. “It’s worth a try.”
I agreed. “I think so. If you have three men scheduled for tonight, you can feed from one and we can experiment with the other two.”
Sookie smiled and nodded. “And it’s a short term problem anyway… The model search has run dry; we only have two more nights left… I canceled the ad and, as of tomorrow, we’re interviewing for personal trainers. More men in the field. She’s recovering from chemo and needs help regaining her strength…”
Gawain chuckled and kissed Sookie’s neck on his way to the kitchen. “You need to be brought over just so you can eventually be a Maker, Sookie. Brilliant idea.”
For once, he wasn’t exaggerating.
She snorted, “Not bad for a stupid Human, if I do say so myself,” and hopped from the pool table. “I’m going up for a quick shower before the models get here. I reek of incense and rhetoric.”
As Sookie left the room, I asked, “What were the bottles, the original reason for her visit to 1969?”
“I called the funeral parlor and asked if he’d mind separating Hadley’s ashes. Mike offered to put my daughter’s remains into Dixie Cups.”
“How classy. Shouldn’t he know better?”
“I decided to believe he assumed that everyone would be spreading her ashes at the same time, in the same place. I’m probably giving the bonehead too much credit, but I’ve calmed down from wanting to rip his head off. So we made some calls and found an apothecary…”
Gawain returned with a glass of blood in one hand and a shopping bag and a frosted glass bottle in the other.
While Lynn drank, Gawain explained, “Sookie said she made the mock-up while she was in traffic.”
Lynn’s eyes were rimmed with blood before he was finished…
The bottle was only a few inches tall with a squared body, and I had to assume the beaded band suspending a tiny picture frame was the mock-up Sookie meant.
When Lynn finished drinking the last of the stored blood, she traded the empty glass for the bottle to inspect it more closely…
“Hadley used to make these, daisy chains… I taught her how to peyote stitch and brick stitch… we beaded Christmas ornaments and Easter eggs, but this was her favorite. She’d park on the sofa with her little bead tray and watch TV and turn out daisy chains. There’s still a bunch of them in her dresser at home… This is perfect. Tell Sook-”
Gawain interrupted, “She said you’re welcome… and that you need to decide on a picture to use so she can have them printed.”
“Oh, you know we could use one of those glass pens, so we can write-“
Gawain chuckled, “In the bag already. She said ‘we’ better mean you and the mouse in your pocket because you know how horrible her penmanship is.”
Lynn giggled, “Right. Me and Stuart Little…”
I couldn’t help but ask Gawain, “You’ve toyed with your abilities to the point that you can be live conduits?”
He shrugged. “You can have an intercom installed for less than my hourly rate, but yes… It’s not terribly impressive…”
Not impressive, my dead ass.
“We’ve been using Human minds as spies all along… Her range is better than mine though. Last night, she was using me to see the room while I was downstairs, but when she passed along your family history once I was upstairs, I didn’t see anything… She just reminded me to point out that’s why she didn’t leave the bed, because I was seeing the room from a different angle. When she tried to move, she became disoriented…”
“How many layers of conversation can you comprehend?”
“Probably the same as you, four or five, but so can Sookie. Last night Sookie, Brandon and I were conversing as a trio, in addition to my side conversation with her, and we were scanning the minds of the others on a cycle. The little one, Julie, she was maintaining an open line with her father, and scanning her new family members while complimenting Pam’s dress and reminding the other children of their manners.”
Repeat: Not impressive, my dead ass.
Lynn winked at Gawain and offered, “Put Sookie on a desert island and she’d thrive. She’s got ingenuity in spades. At first I thought she might just like being here because she’s getting a huge break from Human minds. I mean, she went from a miserable hospital and a chaotic diner to four sensory vacuums… but I think she’s enjoying the change of scenery too though, maybe just call it better company since none of us treat her like a pariah.”
Gawain chuckled, “Perhaps it helps that she’s using her intelligence… She was only a beer-serving ass to grab at Merlotte’s, and it wasn’t as though she was more than a glorified nanny for you.”
“That too… Now that Sam’s been taken care of, it’s probably better that he flipped his bigoted lid… My head would explode if she tried to go back to pretending to be Human now.”
I snorted, “Is that perspective part of your insistent meddling in regards to Sookie’s relationship with Alcide?”
“No. It has to do with knowing she could do more than wait tables. We already know other Sookies have done more…”
Gawain corrected, “But you forget there is a Sookie who’s perfectly content to be a housewife.”
By process of elimination, the happy housewife was the one who married a Me.
Lynn argued, “Yeah, but she’s with someone who respects and encourages her ability instead of treating her like a freak who should only speak when she’s spoken to… and is it weird that I’m annoyed we didn’t meet another version of us tonight?”
Without pause, Gawain, Sookie (she shouted from her room), and I answered, “Yes,” in unison.
Gawain continued, “I think we could benefit from a night off.”
She snorted, “Kings don’t get a night off.”
Gawain corrected, “Kings set their own schedules. Eric can take off as much time off as he wants, providing he appoints trustworthy Lords…”
I shook my head. “She wasn’t talking about me. If I were to become King, we’d have to leave Louisiana…”
As Sookie descended the stairs, she scoffed, “If y’all keep talking about it, you’re going to jinx it…”
Shutting the fuck up.
She continued as she passed through the foyer towards the kitchen, “What we’ve seen of the braid tells us what we’re capable of in other circumstances. Clearly, it’s possible for Eric to be pushed to the point of taking a throne… I doubt the list of reasons he’d go to the extreme is really long or pleasant, so let’s not tempt fate.”
I pointed towards the kitchen and agreed, “What she said.”
From the sounds in the kitchen, Sookie began washing dishes as she explained, “Hadley said Pam and Eric weren’t happy about the situation or being separated… Gawain, you might just have a blast being Lord Constable for the Northern Empire, but would you really think it’s funny if Eric and Pam were stuck thousands of miles apart?”
His face fell so quickly it was hilarious.
He argued, “That was low, Sookie. You’ve taken the fun out of it.”
And she couldn’t have been more proud of herself.
While Sookie worked in the kitchen, Lynn showed her sketches for Maguire’s nursery to me… Since he was nearly a year old, he was ‘beyond pastels’. She’d chosen a cowboy theme that included murals on every wall and a mattress in a little cabin instead of a crib. Cribs aren’t big enough for snuggling and, if Maguire was anything like other Stackhouses, a crib wouldn’t hold him. Apparently, it wasn’t uncommon to find any of them sleeping elsewhere in the morning.
Annoyed as I was that I hadn’t heard from my lawyer after tasking him with Maguire’s custody, at least Sookie had…
His phone call was responsible for why she’d left her phone in the den while she ran errands. Armed with the results of the DNA swab that proved Sookie’s relationship to Maguire, he petitioned Bowie County for a custody hearing. May 4th. It was entirely possible for Maguire to be released into Sookie’s custody that day. Nine nights.
Lynn was anxious to complete the nursery in time, but she was more worried about Sookie’s to-do list. Sookie had to establish a decoy home and shop for Maguire’s needs.
She didn’t doubt Sookie in the least, but she wasn’t fond of the idea of spreading Sookie so thinly.
But Bobby hadn’t been fired yet… He was finally going to be useful if it killed him.
Better him than Sookie.
Lynn had been patient enough to wait for Sookie and Gawain to mix the blood from an O-positive man and an O-positive woman. Once she tasted the blended results, she fed from the three women so the refrigerator would only have ‘the good stuff’.
Three donors had been enough to fill Lynn for the time being… She’d only had an aversion to warm blood for a couple of nights too… If I had something to compare it to, I’d think Faeries made excellent Vampires, but I had to give some credit to the difference in situations. It was unlikely for Lynn to be traveling through rural areas for months on end. Readily available donors would spoil her. Gawain, Pam and I jokingly shared a few ‘war stories’ about the difficulties of hunting as a newborn to get that point across to Lynn while she fed.
Sookie had been quietly assisting me and Gawain bleed the donors, and paying close attention while we talked, but she still held a bulk of my attention thanks to the outfit she’d donned after her shower.
She’d pulled a pair of tiny shorts and a tank top over a bikini… and she’d placed a towel and a paperback copy of an Oscar Wilde collection on the counter by the back door.
The only thing on the schedule for the evening was feeding the newborns, so Sookie planned to relax in the Jacuzzi with a drink and a book… And I couldn’t think of a better way to spend my evening than joining her until my standing appointment at Glamour.
She was just walking towards the back door when the knock on the front door reminded me that there was a small amount of business coming between me and searching for my bathing suit.
Gawain and Sookie announced him with the same annoyed looks on their faces.
I asked, “What did he do?”
Sookie shook her head. “Not a damn thing.”
“Then what did he think?”
Gawain answered, “The only logical explanation for your company is that Sookie’s too stupid and trashy to realize what a goldmine you are. She’s pretty enough to be a trophy wife.”
Sookie nodded, “Apparently, and he’s prepared to tell you I’m cheating on you with Gawain too… He’s jealous because he’s got a major crush on you… I’ll take my cue…”
When she turned to continue to the Jacuzzi, I caught her arm. “Hold on. I need to talk to both of you.”
She whined and made a show of dragging her feet as I led her to the door, but her posture straightened as soon as I reached for the doorknob.
Bobby sneered at Sookie for a split second before screwing on his usual ass-kissing grin… and Sookie narrowed her eyes at the scene in the driveway… The pair of tow truck drivers unloading Bobby’s deliveries were making enough noise for one of the neighbors to peek over the fence.
Bobby rested his elbow on the stack of boxes next to him and started, “The safest car seats available for a toddler, in duplicate… two brand new Dodge Durangos, one blue and one black… two brand new Ducati 996s, one red and one black… and a new Porsche Carrera cabriolet in Biarritz white.”
Pam’s sudden arrival in the foyer was more than obvious… She moved quickly enough to startle Sookie and breathed, “You didn’t.”
“Would there have been any point in arguing?”
She shook her head and leaned to look past Bobby. She cooed, “You went on a spree.”
“I still didn’t spend as much money as you did in Milan.”
She giggled, “I told you I’d train you. You just don’t try hard enough… Where is my key?”
Bobby handed a collection of keys to me, so I held up the Porsche key and offered, “Limited accessorizing. We use limos for the plethora of functions we attend. You have a new white Porsche and your black Beamer to choose from…”
“Not even a-”
Sookie interrupted by sighing, “Poor Shawn.”
Bobby’s presence limited what could be said, but ‘poor Shawn’ had been enough.
Pam gasped, “You bitch!” while Gawain and I laughed at the look on her face. It was priceless.
Sookie shrugged. “You’re a very lucky girl, Pam.”
“I. Know. That!”
After a protracted staring match, Sookie won when Pam moved to hug me, cracking a few of my ribs in the process.
Meanwhile, Lynn leaned against the archway and watched quietly.
Once Pam released me, I snapped my fingers to pry Bobby’s attention away from Sookie. “Bobby, you remember Miss Stackhouse, yes?”
His eye twitched. “Yes.”
“She has several projects on her schedule and they all have the same deadline. You’re to dedicate yourself to any errands she gives you…”
“I’m being… loaned to Sookie?”
“You can be replaced completely.”
He shook his head and backed up, knocking over the car seats in the process. “No no no. I’m just…”
“Your performance is under review regardless. Pam hired Miss Stackhouse as her own assistant and, after what I’ve heard, I’m considering dismissing you and expanding Miss Stackhouse’s responsibilities to my errands as well.”
“But… but… but…”
“Even if she didn’t aggressively complete her errands and show an impressive amount of initiative, I’m sure she’d win the personal assistant swimsuit competition…”
Sookie covered her face and breathed, “Way to stay professional, boss.”
I continued, “Don’t give her a reason to complain about your performance.”
He shook his head hard enough I thought he’d give himself whiplash. “No sir. I won’t. Whatever she needs… Sookie-”
I corrected, “Miss Stackhouse.”
He winced. “Miss Stackhouse, can you think of any errands now?”
She shook her head. “Not at the moment. I’ll have to reevaluate my list and decide what can be outsourced. Since I’m new to the Area and you know Shreveport pretty well, having your help with finding specialty stores will make my deadline seem less intense.”
He was still gratuitously promising to do everything he could when I dismissed him.
As he walked towards his car, Sookie whispered, “Hearing I’m Pam’s helped, but now he has hopes of being your blushing bride again.”
Gawain added, “The wedding night fantasy is disturbing…”
Lynn added, “When you do fire him, you need to burn his house down. He has a ‘Great Wall of Eric’ covered with notes about errands he’s run and things about you… You have a Little Red Riding Hood fetish?”
I chuckled, “I had him dress up as Red to deliver messages to Matthews and Flood a few times.”
“You don’t want to know what he does in the cape… Have you seen Silence Of The Lambs?”
Sookie made a wretched gagging noise and shook her head. “I think it would be funnier to have him dress like a shepherd and carry a lamb.”
“I might do that before I fire him…” I offered the key for the blue Durango to Sookie and asked, “Is there anything you need to take from your car bef-”
She gasped and slapped the key from my hand. “There’s nothing wrong with my car!”
“Correction: There’s nothing right with your car.”
“Just because it’s ugly…”
“I don’t care if it’s ugly.”
“It’s not much, but I worked my ass off for that thing… It runs…”
“I noticed, but a golf cart would be safer. Your ‘car’ doesn’t have any safety features or cargo room. You might as well try to navigate the highway on a bicycle for all the protection your car offers. You’re very lucky you’ve never been in a collision. We won’t play Russian roulette with Maguire’s safety.”
She slapped my arm and hissed, “You’re right, but you could be less of an asshole about it!”
I thought about it for a moment before trying, “But you and Maguire should have all the comfort and safety features available. Air bags and climate control…”
She slapped my arm again and scoffed, “Asshole was the better way to go. The sugarcoated version is really lame… so fake it sounds like bullshit. You need practice.”
“Good. That settled…” I tossed the key for the black one to Lynn. “How much fight are you prepared to put up after hearing safety concerns? Your car isn’t much better than Sookie’s in that regard. And your sentimental reasons to keep your car are moot now that you’ve been brought over. That car might have outlived you before, but that isn’t the case now. And we know your brother would want you and Maguire to be safer, which is the reason he bought the station wagon to replace your motorcycle.”
She pinched her face together on one side and sighed, “I guess I’m keeping my mouth shut.”
“Because I’m an asshole?”
She shrugged. “That… and because you’re right. Corbett would kick my ass.”
Sookie snorted, “He might try when he finds out you kept the wagon this long.”
She smiled with her whole face and nodded. “He’s welcome to try.”
“That was easy. Catch.” I tossed the key to the black Ducati to her and explained, “You won’t always have the baby with you.”
She nibbled her lip, but it didn’t hide the excitement from her face. “Can… is it okay if I take it out for a spin?”
I nodded. “Don’t have so much fun you hurt yourself.”
She slapped Gawain’s ass as she ran past him and laughed, “Wanna ride bitch?”
He actually looked insulted until I offered my key to him. “Ducati?”
“I had a Monster a few years ago. It was stolen and I don’t spend more time in New Orleans than I’m forced to… One of the many perks to the area’s climate… it’s almost always warm enough to ride.”
“Not like Helsinki.”
When I shook my head, he finally took the key from me. “The closest dealership is in New Orleans?”
“It’s not a problem to send Bobby back. Sookie wants an excuse to not use him.”
She giggled, “It’s not that… I know Aunt Linda. She’s a turd when she’s obsessing about something. He won’t get anything right even if he does. He’ll save me a lot of legwork though. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome… Do you want to test drive your car like everyone else?”
She shook her head and snorted, “Are you kidding? As much as those three yammer… I’m going to bask in the glorious peace and freakin’ quiet with my book.”
Finding my bathing suit had been simple enough… it was neatly folded on the dryer with several other items Sookie couldn’t deliver because she couldn’t lift the pool table.
Sookie was already reading when I stepped into the Jacuzzi…
“I told you to stop doing our laundry. We’re quite capable of doing our own.”
“When did you tell me to stop?”
When she was sleep walking.
“When I found you, sleeping on your feet and changing Lynn’s sheets.”
“Oh… Did I mess something up?”
“Then I don’t mind… No sense in running a bunch of loads when two is enough. It’s probably better for me to do it during the day anyway, instead of trying to squeeze laundry in between showers at night. You need to hand wash your own delicates though.”
“You aren’t a maid. Don’t feel obliged.”
She grinned and looked over the top of her book. “I won’t. It’s just how we always did it. Of course, we were more worried about the power bill, but I’m used to collecting laundry from bathrooms to make full loads.”
“Then thank you.”
“You’re welcome… Which book did you grab?”
“I didn’t. I read Clarissa last night. It’s been a while since I read it. What made you buy that one?”
“It’s been a couple of years since I read it too… While I was waiting for the manager, I read a flyer for an estate auction… Someone’s selling off an impressive library. They had…” She lowered her Oscar Wilde and rolled her eyes back while she tried to remember. “Antiques, lots of them… Clarissa and a few Stendhals and Bunyans were listed as first editions…”
She smirked at me. “Thursday, I think.”
“Tomorrow is Thursday…”
“I don’t have a first edition of Clarissa…”
“You collect first editions, specifically?”
I nodded. “Where is the bookstore?”
“It’s one of the satellite stores around the Wal-Mart we went to… but they’re closed by now.”
“I need you to go to that auction.”
“I don’t know anything about antique books, Eric. Just because the flyer says it’s a first edition…”
“You’re a telepath. You’ll know if they aren’t genuine.”
She giggled, “You’re serious.”
I nodded again. “Completely. I noticed you carry small purses. You can borrow one of Pam’s large bags to carry cash…”
“HA! I’m not lugging around a bag full of cash!”
“I’ll hire a bodyguard for you…”
She laughed, “Oh my God… You want Clarissa that bad?”
“I might be willing to beg, but I’d rather start with bargaining.”
She shook her head, too amused by my interest. “So how long have you been collecting books?”
“Since the early 1600s.”
“Your oldest book?”
“Gutenberg Bible, but I didn’t come to own one until later… Gawain sent a first printing of Le Morte d’Arthur to me as a Feast Of Fools gift. It was the first book I owned and I still have it.”
She raised her eyebrows and breathed, “Holy shit.”
“Name your price.”
“No price. I actually want to see you beg.”
Of course she did… Why the fuck did I offer that as an option?
She cooed, “That’s not begging,” and tossed her paperback onto the patio to make a gimmie gesture with both hands. “You can do better than that.”
I shook my head. “I don’t beg any more than I sugarcoat. I’m not sure I know how.”
“Then this oughta be spectacular.”
If I hadn’t put myself into the position, and I couldn’t feel that she was in a joking mood, I would have just called Bobby.
I pushed myself from the bench to settle on my knees between Sookie’s feet while she giggled, “I suppose there are better places to grovel, but at least it just looks like you’re making a pass.”
“If I could go myself, I would.”
She shook her head slowly. “That’s bordering on a guilt trip. Have you been feeding from a lot of Baptists? I hear you are what you eat.”
“It’s possible. Would that work?”
“Not when I was promised begging.”
I braced myself and crooned, “Sweet, charitable Sookie… the closest I’ve come to finding a complete set of Clarissa was in the 40s. It was only the first two volumes. Then I found an ad for an estate sale in the 80s, but the books were in horrible condition… drawn in by loathsome miniature assholes before the parental pricks described the books as ‘museum pieces’.”
She cooed, “There’s a special place in hell for those turds, but you’re stating your case. Not begging.”
“I’m stating my case while on my knees. That should count for something. It’s certainly not a dignified argument. Give me an example of begging.”
She snorted, “You’ve seen people beg…”
“I’ve been in the presence of beggars, but I didn’t listen to them.”
She rolled her eyes and sighed, and then she put her hands on my shoulders, giving me the most pleadingly desperate look I could remember seeing.
She whimpered, “I’ve been collecting books since Guttenberg was in short-pants, Sookie… This is my white whale, my Holy Grail, my Golden Fleece… I’ve wanted to add Clarissa to my collection for so long, hearing about an intact copy being so close… I can practically taste it… Please take pity on me. Please attend the auction as my proxy… Is there any way you could be convinced to find it in your heart to help me? Please.”
Fuck. Her impersonation of me was barely noticed because of that look.
She giggled, “I’m not the one who wants it… I like cheap paperbacks I can take into the tub.”
“I could say the words, but I’m not sure I could get that piteously desperate look right.”
She giggled and kissed my chin. “I didn’t think you’d even go this far. At least you tried.”
“Will you go to the auction as my proxy then?”
She shook her head. “There isn’t an auction… By appointment only. You’re slotted for 5AM, but I left my name so you wouldn’t look bad if you aren’t interested. I got the vibe the bitch wasn’t happy about her father’s will.”
“You tricked me.”
“You aren’t pissed though… You get to browse the private collection of a retired anthropology professor…”
“She complained that a lot of the books are in other languages, but she only understands French. If the heiress knows anything about what she’s sitting on, it’s just because of her father’s insurance inventory. If you want me to go with you, I’ll be able to tell you what the actual appraisals are.”
“Five o’clock? Thursday?”
She nodded. “Just a few hours. I figured it gave you a couple of hours before dawn. I said ‘on the way to work’… Gawain told me to make the appointment when he found a copy of the flyer between books. It’s walking distance, actually… just about a mile up the road.”
She giggled, “Now you’re being silly… Thank Gawain.”
“He didn’t offer to accompany me to guarantee authenticity.”
“Fine. I’m your hero. Now shush.”
I chuckled, “Shush?”
She nodded and reached for her book. “Yeah. The house is quiet for once. Like a library or something.”
I couldn’t argue with her, but I had to wonder why I wasn’t taking advantage of the excuse to read.
I rested my hands on the bench on either side of her legs and leaned over. “I can think of other things we could be doing…”
“I bet, but I learned my lesson. You’re bitchy when you get shut down and they aren’t going to be gone long.”
“I wasn’t bitchy after we parted ways last night.”
“That’s not what I heard.”
Someone was going to pay.
“What did you hear?”
“That you holed up with a book and told everybody to piss off.”
“You hadn’t fallen to sleep yet when I called Bobby about his shopping list for the day… Then I was holed up with Clarissa for a while before they returned… I didn’t tell anyone to piss off, but I didn’t join them in the pool either.”
“You weren’t antisocial?”
“I was, but blame the book. It didn’t have anything to do with you. I picked on Bobby to recover from the mood you caused.”
“I didn’t cause anything. You drenched your jeans stepping into the tub with me… I tried to-”
I interrupted, “I didn’t complain.”
“So you’re trying to convince me you won’t be a giant butthead when we’re inevitably interrupted, right?”
“I’m expecting to be interrupted, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the privacy for a while.”
She closed her eyes for a moment before asking, “Are you going to pay attention to how close your children are so they don’t sneak up on us? We won’t hear them over the tub jets.”
“Lynn has ventured to the south… and Pam’s enjoying the highway to the north.”
She raised an eyebrow. “And I’m right here.”
I nodded. “Just you, me… and that bikini. It’s been bothering me since I laid eyes on it.”
She snickered, “You’re horrible… Just kiss me and get it over with.”
For a split second I considered asking if the invitation was limited to her lips, but I decided against taking my chances or wasting more time with conversation…
Not that Sookie lacked in that department, but it didn’t seem as though we’d have many chances to be alone.
I behaved… for a while… the turning point was when I realized Sookie had slid to the edge of the bench and leaned back…
I was practically lying on top of her and her legs were wrapped around me.
And she wasn’t showing any signs of hesitation. No signs of wanting to stop. No signs of trying to stall.
Moving to sit on the bench… taking her with me… straddling her legs over mine… untying her top…
And then there was the fact that locating Pam and Lynn only gave me more hope because they were further away than before…
Everything was perfect.
So of course, a wrench was thrown into the gears.
“Aw damn, Sook! Put those things away!”
On the deck and staring down into the Jacuzzi at his topless sister. Who the fuck knew how long he’d been there or how much he’d seen, but Sookie stopped moving her hips and crashed her forehead against my shoulder as soon as she heard his voice.
While I retied the strings of Sookie’s bikini, I groaned, “Good evening, Jason.”
“Maybe for y’all, but…” He started jogging down the stairs. “My night went to shit b’fore I saw my sister’s rack.”
Sookie was still ‘hiding’ from her brother as he dragged a chair closer to the hot tub.
Apparently, we needed a lifeguard.
I offered, “Last night was chaotic and taxing, but tonight was making up for that.”
He snorted, “Yeah. I see that… Where’s e’erbody at? I knocked even though the door’s standing open.”
“Pam is taking her new Porsche for a spin… Lynn and Gawain are road-testing our Ducatis.”
“Damn dude. Me and Brandon was just jokin’.”
“I was already planning to buy bikes for Lynn and me. Preemptively buying Pam’s Porsche only saved her from dropping hints.”
He leaned back in his chair and grinned. “Oh. A’ight then… So Sook, you know I ain’t a T-Rex, right? I can see ya when you’re stayin’ still.”
She growled, “Yeah, but I was hoping you’d think I was dead and go home. What do you want?”
He scoffed, “Nice to see you too, ya brat. I wouldn’a come all this way if you’d just pick up the phone.”
“I’m not even sure if it still has a charge on it… What do you want?”
Since she still hadn’t turned around, he was left to stare at me for a moment before shaking his head.
“I just wanted to ask a question.”
She was rolling her eyes when she leaned back and moved to sit on the bench next to me.
He ran his hands through his hair and then rested his elbows on his knees. “Well… I was wonderin’… Is there any connection between Sam Merlotte bein’ Maguire’s father and him bein’ found dead in his trailer just a few hours ago?”
Sookie shook her head. “Not really… To be honest, I know exactly who and why, but finding out about Maguire just gave ‘the culprit’ another reason to do it.”
Jason frowned and huffed, “Ya only get one dad though. Fucked up or not, it’s what ya get… Would you kill mom even though she was shitty to ya?”
She shrugged. “I think I probably would’ve snapped on her at some point. I don’t think it’d be premeditated.”
“A’ight. Fair’nuff… It wasn’t you, or Aunt Lin, was it?”
No. Sookie only killed one Shifter last night.
She shook her head. “Nope. Our hands are clean.”
“K… That’s all I was worried about… I mean… I gotta assume it was one’a the Vampires then, and if they ain’t learned to be careful at their ages… What’s that award for morons?”
“A Darwin Award?”
He blurted, “That’s it!”
It was like watching a chimp learn sign language.
He sighed, “If you just picked up your phone, I coulda saved myself a drive and… y’all coulda… yeah…” Thanks for the reminder, asshole. “So I got Aunt Lin’s message. We’re goin’ to court next Friday… I already told Catfish I’m taking the day off… What do y’all need? I know Aunt Lin’s plannin’ to deck out his room and whatnot, but she won’t tell me nothin’… It ain’t like she can run to the hardware store during the day.”
If nothing else, it was nice that he’d ask.
Sookie tilted her head back while she considered her answer. “Ummmm… I tell you what… Bring over her sewing machine so she can get to work on his quilt and curtains tomorrow night… She wants to build a playhouse for his room and put a mattress inside, but we’ve got so much to do, there’s no way she’d get the sewing and painting done in time if she’s building furniture too…”
“I can do that! She draw it first?”
Sookie nodded. “The sketch pad’s in her room. Go steal it.”
He snorted, “You just trying to get rid of me?”
Her eyes rolled again. “No… I was going to dry off and show you which room is going to be his so you can measure it.”
He nodded as he stood up and jogged up the stairs. “Hurry up and get your bottoms on before they clog a jet or somethin’.”
I hadn’t gotten to her bottoms yet… Again, thank you for reminding me, asshole.
Sookie waited until he was inside to stand up and announce, “I’ll kill him. You dig.”
I chuckled, perhaps just because it was refreshing to see I wasn’t the only one. “As lovely as that sounds, we’d never get away with it. Lynn would know.”
She whined, “But you promised I could kill somebody tonight.”
“We have time to be cock-blocked again…”
She interrupted me by leaning over for a kiss and sighed, “We knew this would happen though. We can’t be but so frustrated.”
“How much longer before you unlaced my trunks?”
I don’t know why I asked.
As soon as she cringed, I realized I didn’t want an answer…
Pam and Lynn were still miles away…
And there was no doubt Sookie was just as close to pulling something apart as I was.
After a moment she offered, “You still got put off, but you gotta admit it’s still a much better night than last night…”
Much better by far.
“Shhhh. Don’t jinx us. It’s only ten o’clock.”