Gawain laid low for most of Adele and Jason’s visit, only returning from his wandering in warm weather when Jason mentioned leaving us so we could do ‘Vampire things’.
Before Gawain had Jason’s attention to perform his glamour, Linda made a plea to glamour Jason to cooperate with the farce. I wouldn’t have risked it, glamouring him with such a delicate program that could easily unravel over the next year… but Gawain didn’t even debate with Linda for the fun of riling her. Gawain had his faults, but if he wasn’t sure his glamour would hold, he wouldn’t have attempted it.
Once Adele and Jason left, Pam told Sookie to go into the house… She wasn’t exactly gentle, but Sookie still complied, kissing Linda’s cheek and telling her to have Pam teach her how to ‘pull’ Sookie if she needed anything… Gawain followed her.
Linda scowled at his back… and once the door closed behind them, the door was punished with her stare.
Pam started, “I’ve made an executive decision.”
Linda continued to focus on the house.
I chuckled, “What would that be?”
Pam smiled. “I’m replacing Bobby.”
“When are you holding interviews?”
“No need. I want Sookie. I think Sookie should be our live-in.”
“Tell me you’ve finally managed to conceal that you’re joking.”
She shook her head.
I groaned, “Make your case.”
“You mean other than the fact that she can be trusted with our resting place, she can convince you to do something as drastic as bringing over her aunt, and she’s clever enough to solve the problem of feeding a finicky Vampire?”
Fuck… good points, all of them.
Pam shrugged. “If she replaces Bobby and lives in, Linda won’t have a problem being lonely during the day and we’ll have someone who can run our errands and tend to things during the day who we don’t have to lie to. I love it. I’m brilliant.”
I chuckled, “And what makes you think she’d want to be hired as our live in?”
She looked at Linda and cooed, “Because you give great head.”
I should have known she wasn’t going to let that go so soon… But Linda had. She didn’t seem to notice.
Pam reached over to pluck Linda’s ear. “You aren’t going to hear anything, Lin. They’re telepaths. I’ve hated them for three nights… They’re fine together.”
Linda snorted, “He’s been so creepy.”
“It’s his sense of humor. As old as he is, he doesn’t have any boundaries. He’s fine. Erik’s the one who wore her like a necklace. Calm down.”
Thank you, Pam.
Linda squeezed her eyes shut and growled, “What were we talking about?”
“I was just telling Erik that I want to hire Sookie as a live-in to replace Bobby. I’m bored with having Human day-guys we have to lie to. You’ll have an excuse to have her with you and we’ll have a very clever little assistant. It’ll be wonderful to tell her to do the car shuffle without having to lie about why.”
I nodded. “We have several houses in the Area. Safe-houses. There is a car at each one. Every few weeks, Bobby takes the vehicle from one garage and drives it to the next house, and then takes that car to the next, and so on… If he doesn’t, the vehicles’ engines seize.”
She nodded. “I wouldn’t have thought of that… I’m not sure if I want Sookie here. Once I’m used to feeding from people, I could hurt her.”
“Not if she escapes into sunlight. You seem to be recognizing your hunger easily enough to warn her. I doubt you’ll have much time alone with her before summer. By then you’ll have that much more control of your impulses.”
She sighed, “That’s all I had… Maybe it’s because she’s been holding my hand for the better part of two years, maybe she’ll just be a piece of home, but I’d love to have her here with me.”
I should have argued with Pam before she caught Linda’s attention… but it probably would have helped if I hadn’t dismissed her only reason for hesitation.
Pam beamed, “See. I’m brilliant.”
I sighed, “We’ve never had a live-in, Pam. Maids yes, but not a live-in assistant.”
“But we’ve never been able to trust someone either. Just admit I’m brilliant.”
“Does Sookie not have a job?”
“Not for long. Her boss is a Shifter. If he had his way, Sookie would have had his puppies by now. That’s a nightmare waiting to happen… What a colossal fucking waste. I mean, nevermind that there are much better applications for telepathy, but she’s too fucking bright to sling beer to those drunken buffoons.”
“You went to her place of employment?”
Pam nodded. “Gawain, asshole that he is, stopped there ‘to use the little boys room’ when we went to Linda’s house… Sookie had made the mistake of pointing it out when we passed. Gawain wasn’t exactly amused by what Merlotte thought about Sookie’s friends. You know his peeves. Merlotte’s lucky to be alive.”
Linda’s eyes widened. “Peeves? What peeves? What happened?”
There was a very short list of things Gawain didn’t take lightly: Choice.
That was it. Gawain’s personal crusade… Sex, blood or labor… unless the party was willing, he was impossible until the situation was rectified.
Pam sighed, “Merlotte’s reaction to seeing Sookie with Vampires was less than friendly. He fantasized a violent claiming, chiding himself for not pursuing her more aggressively… Gawain’s already suggested Sookie find an alternative source of income because Sookie’s likely to smell like Vampires because of you. Since Sookie said it’s unlike Merlotte to be so hostile, Gawain is sure Vampires triggered his mood change.”
Linda hissed, “I’m going to kill that motherfucker… After all she’s been through, she doesn’t deserve that.”
“What’s she been through?”
Linda rocked back in her chair and sighed, “Imagine how horrible it must be to be molested by a family member… then try to imagine how much worse it would be to hear and see what’s in the mind of your molester… It went on for years before Momma put a stop to it. My uncle was going after Sookie and my Hadley… Sookie’s mother was sure Sookie just wanted attention and the poor girl was afraid to tell her daddy because Corbett would have gone to jail for killing him. We didn’t push Sookie for details because she wanted to die when it finally came out… What’s the fastest way to kill a Shifter?”
I snorted, “Kill him like you killed your uncle. They fight harder than a Human, but there isn’t a trick to doing it.”
She raised an eyebrow and a slow smirk pulled at the corner of her mouth. She was feeling so vengeful, I might have tasted blood.
“What is that? That smirk.”
It was beautiful and frightening…
“Trying to decide how… I’m pretty sure I can get ‘em with the same bullet.”
“Your uncle’s still alive?”
Linda nodded, shaking off her revenge fantasy. “The best thing to do was pretend it didn’t happen… Momma called the Sheriff and told him what happened, warned him that we weren’t pressing charges for the girls’ sake, but if Bartlett ever showed his face at our houses again, he’d need a body bag.”
Pam took a deep breath and repeated, “I’m brilliant. Say it.”
I chuckled, “I’m brilliant. There. I said it…”
She stuck her tongue out at me while Linda laughed.
“I’ll offer the job to Sookie.”
If she wasn’t suited for the position, she’d be replaced with notice. Nepotism aside, the girl was clever enough to think of a makeshift way to cool blood for Linda…
Pam might have been bored with lying to Humans, but I was bored with paying imbeciles who couldn’t think their way out of wet paper bags.
Pam offered her victorious smile and said, “Good. Now that we’ve settled that, Lin… focus on Sookie. Think of her like a chess piece and visualize moving her towards you.”
I asked, “What is that?”
“Sookie’s ability… and fuck Gawain… You know how he’s always had perfect timing… Like when we lived in Brussels together and he’d say he knew one of us was thinking about him… Telepaths can’t hear Vampires’ thoughts, but those assholes can feel it when we’re focused on them… and if you get the sensation to look behind you , that’s a telepath trying to get your attention. We have to be in their range… The good news is that it’s hard to lose them in the mall.”
“It’s fabulous that you found a practical application for the ability.”
Pam snorted, “Isn’t it?” just as Sookie joined us on the deck.
She grinned and waved as though she hadn’t just left our company a few minutes earlier. “Cool huh?” She’d taken the fastest shower humanly possible.
Linda beamed, “Absolutely… what were you up to?”
“I was making a list. I have a couple of errands to run. I want to grab some more groceries and stuff. I was giving Bobby lists he couldn’t mess up.”
Linda narrowed her eyes and scoffed, “Liar.”
Sookie shook her head. “Not lying, maybe omitting, but not lying. You don’t need to know everything.”
“Can Erik know?”
“Fine. Whisper it to him.”
Sookie rolled her eyes and leaned over to put her mouth to my ear to breath, “I’m not falling for that, you sneaky cow. Love you though.”
While Pam and I chuckled, Linda argued, “You want to go out at this hour in an unfamiliar town? Insert Law & Order theme music and ‘based on actual events’ here. You aren’t going out alone.”
Sookie huffed, “I’m going to Super Wal-Mart. It’s just six miles.”
Pam groaned, “Oh for the love of Dior… Erik, go with Sookie as a bodyguard against the evils of Hell-Mart. I’d volunteer, but cheap crap gives me hives…”
Of course it does. If that were only true it would explain so much.
As I stood, Pam added in French, “And you can discuss the sexual harassment article to her new contract.”
Sookie gasped, “Not fair. Sneaky use of foreign language.”
Pam stared at her for a long moment before she sucked her teeth and teased, “Awww, if I were only telepathic, no one else would hear me tell you to embrasse mon cul.”
Sookie high-fived Pam and laughed, “Touché… The important part is that you’re not bitter. Want anything from Wal-Mart? Slipper-socks? Thermal underwear? As-Seen-On-TV hair thingamajig?”
Pam cooed, “A thingamajig sounds divine.”
My curiosity held out until I turned onto the street from my driveway.
“What was the errand you didn’t want to tell Linda about?”
“Notifying the loved ones. I want to tell Jack in person so I can warn Aunt Linda about his reaction… She already mentioned calling him, but Gawain thought it would be a good idea for me to get a bead on what Aunt Linda should expect… Do you know a quick way to get to Paramount Acres off of Downey? I only ever go from I-20.”
I nodded. “It’s not far from here. Ten minutes in traffic… Did Gawain not gage the Wolf’s reaction already?”
“He doesn’t get much from Weres unless they’re thinking about him. Until Jack and Alcide started coming around to ask about Aunt Linda, I was pretty much the same… And that turd totally glamoured Jack to forget Gawain ever talked to him. He was just testing Aunt Linda when he said he left Jack thinking you kidnapped her. Poor Jack’s been calling me at work. He has no idea you followed through with meeting her.”
“What are the tests?”
“Mostly making sure she has a handle on her temper, watching her reactions. Gawain would deny he’s curious as all hell because she’s part Fae too. He said he’s a ‘baby-Vamp welcome wagon’… Said he was around when you first brought over Pam and when a few other friends brought over children. He compared it to single people who have friends with kids just to remind them why they like being single.”
I chuckled, “He’s an asshole.”
Sookie giggled, “Nawww. He’s actually a sweetheart under all that shit he talks. He might be one of the biggest fakers I’ve ever met.”
“Since I have absolutely no response to that, I’m changing the subject… We need to have a talk.”
She cut her eyes at me and shook her head. “I think I could go the rest of my life without ever hearing that phrase again. Thanks anyway.”
“Are you a coward?”
She snickered and clucked like a chicken.
“Your car’s too small for the chicken dance.”
“Then can we talk about my confusion between bases?”
She gasped and swatted my arm, “NO! Wait… I thought that’s what you wanted to talk about. What did you want to talk about?”
“You rejected the topic… I want to talk about cum now.”
Her face was almost the same shade red as my car.
“That’s the subject I was trying to avoid. My bad. What did we need to talk about?”
“How I found a new vacation spot earlier.”
“Oh my God!”
I chuckled, “Is that what you were saying? I could hardly hear with your thighs clamped around my head like a vice.”
“Is that what this is? Is that what you wanted to talk about and we’re talking about it anyway?”
“It seems like I’m the only one talking about it…”
“What the hell am I supposed to say?”
“It would be nice if you said we should finish what you started.”
“What I started!? You were the one who decided we needed to mess with them to get them to stop bickering.”
“You’re the one who suggested bases to someone with almost no baseball knowledge.”
“You’ve known him longer.”
“Yes, but Linda has been your aunt for 100% of your life, while I’ve only known Gawain for 90% of mine.”
She hissed, “Shit… I can’t win, can I?”
No, but she made the debate so much fun.
I reached over to run my fingers from her knee to her thigh. “There’s a consolation prize.”
“A scarlet letter? Thanks anyway.”
“Your aunt is under the impression that you’re quite single.”
“If I didn’t know how to keep a secret, someone would’ve killed me by now. My situation is quite complicated.”
“Care to elaborate? You invited me to go down on you while you have a boyfriend. It seems like you’ve already earned your letter.”
“I did not invite you to go down on me. I was willing to go along with some groping to play a prank. Considering the nature of the break my boyfriend and I are taking, that wouldn’t have crossed any lines.”
“Yeah… I didn’t think it was fair to monopolize him when I was too busy with Aunt Linda to ever see him.”
“So you are single.”
“Tell me about your technically broken boyfriend then.”
As I turned into Paramount Acres, Sookie scoffed, “No. Take the first left, then go all the way down to the end and take a right on Jubilee.”
“Then I have to assume you’re making up an imaginary boyfriend in a pathetic attempt to reject my advances.”
She laughed, “Really? You accuse me of making him up and I’m supposed to blab as much information as I can to prove I’m not lying, right? Lame.”
At least I tried.
“How does your boyfriend feel about you waiting tables for a Shifter?”
“He’s not a fan, but he’s smart enough to know Sam’s crush on me is the only reason I haven’t had to look for a new job every few weeks. Now that Aunt Linda doesn’t need me anymore, he might be able to talk me into moving to Shreveport with him.”
“You’re serious enough to consider moving in together, but you take a break?”
She sang, “It’s complicated.”
“I hear that often enough to know that it’s not usually very complicated at all.”
She giggled, “I’m not dumb enough to fall for that either. Poor you.”
“Does the boyfriend know you’ve been staying with a Vampire for the past few nights?”
“Not yet… and don’t make it sound torrid. You were six feet under and with my mostly-naked aunt.”
“When do you plan to tell your aunt you sacrificed your personal life to tend to her?”
“Never… She’d feel horrible and if you tell her just because you want details of my private soap opera, I’ll Super Glue your dick to your happy trail while you’re dead for the day, you jerk.”
I chuckled at her threat. “Secret errands, secret boyfriends… I think lies would hurt her much more than your altruistic deeds.”
“Flattery and guilt in the same turn, huh?”
“Is it working?”
She groaned, “Are you willing to keep a secret that I’m eventually planning to tell her anyway?”
“Why would you go to the trouble if you’re going to confess?”
“I’ll go as far as promising not to interfere unless there’s cause for concern. A dire need to expose the secret.”
She took a deep breath and held it for a moment before explaining, “He’s a Were and his father wouldn’t ever approve if he doesn’t add to the pack… I’m not sure I could be okay with him being with other girls while we’re officially together anyway. Too Human, I guess.”
“So you and your boyfriend designated a specific timeframe for him to prowl, yes?”
“If you want to put it like that, yeah. It was my idea though. He hates the practice, never wanted to breed. I’m not a naïve little twit who fell for an ‘open relationship’ line.”
“Of course not… After your boyfriend impregnates another Were, you’ll be able to announce your relationship without risking any raised eyebrows with your family about timing, yes? You don’t want your relatively Human family to concentrate on fidelity and think less of either of you.”
“Yeah. There’s other weirdness too, but that’s the biggest reason for us to be secret squirrel.”
“You need to realize that your imaginary boyfriend isn’t going to keep me from trying to…”
She interrupted, “I had a feeling you were going to say that… Do you want to go back to the original ‘we need to have a talk’?”
Since we were half-way down a dead-end street, there didn’t seem much time left to play… Why not?
“Pam wants to hire you to replace Bobby. She wants to invite you to live in so you can stay with your aunt. Linda supported the idea before she heard about a recent incident with your Shifter employer.”
“What about me? Pam and Linda will be your employers. If I hire you, I’d be guilty of sexual harassment before the ink dries on your contract.”
She giggled, “Of course you would… So I’m supposed to move in with a bunch of horny Vampires and run their errands, huh? Do I get any days off?”
“It’s rare for Bobby to work more than a couple of days per week. You’d have most nights off as well, and you’ll have a cell phone so we can contact you. You’ll be on-call.”
“Lots of free time, living in a place with a pool and lake access, running errands in exchange for an allowance.”
“In essence, yes.”
“I’ll talk to Aunt Linda about it so I can feel her out for any qualms…”
“She mentioned worrying that she could be a threat to you once she becomes accustomed to feeding from live donors. That’s the only con she could think of. The idea of having you so close made her quite happy.”
She nodded thoughtfully, “I’ll keep that in mind…”
I recognized the Herveaux & Son logo on the doors of two trucks before Sookie pointed to the ‘suburban castle’ style home.
As I pulled my car to a stop, she sighed, “If you don’t mind, I think I should probably… I’m ditching you, if at all possible. I know Jack came to you, but Weres are skittish when they’re intimidated… Don’t worry. Gawain will keep you company.”
I turned to look, but there wasn’t anyone behind my car or along the street.
Sookie giggled as she pushed open her door, “He was planning to be my chaperone until Pam volunteered you. She wanted to get Aunt Linda alone for a while. He’ll be here any minute.”
Sookie walked along the driveway, past the truck Jack had driven the night he introduced himself, to the front porch…
But instead of ringing the doorbell, she pushed herself onto the railing and then reached into a thick growth of honeysuckle to begin using the trellis to scale the side of the fucking house like a spider.
Sookie had just gained a footing on the roof without much effort, when Pam’s BMW pulled up behind my car.
I stepped out, planning to use ‘listening for concerns’ as my excuse, and Gawain joined me to lean against the side of my car.
While we watched Sookie climb the roof, moving towards a large dormer window, he chuckled, “Your Seer is impressive, but… that one… maybe it’s because I’ve seen Sookie work for a few nights, but she’s just… she’s astounding.”
“My children have convinced me to hire her to replace Bobby. She’s going to be a live-in.”
“Sheriff Northman, I’m checking into your Area.”
Sookie seemed to be bracing herself, pausing just outside of the window and taking deep breaths.
“No. You’re not checking in. If you’re here, you’re here as my guest who is just passing through. As terrified of me as Sophie-Anne is, she’d assume I’m amassing an army.”
He mumbled, “Even better,” as Sookie tapped on the window.
Within a second, a light turned on in the room behind the window… the blinds were yanked up to expose, fully expose, a hulk of a Were.
He shoved the window up with a stoned grin on his face and Sookie squeaked, “Alcide!” when she was yanked into the room.
The extra ‘weirdness’ she mentioned… Her boyfriend was her aunt’s former lover’s son.
Note to self: The next time Sookie says something is complicated, believe her.