Light Of Day
As I rose, the only change I noticed right away was that the television was on.
Sookie was still curled up against me, sleeping like she was when I died at dawn.
Same nightgown. She didn’t smell like she’d been anywhere else or bathed.
When I reached for the hand Sookie had draped over my stomach, I found the remote… she stirred when I put it on the bed, giving me a sleepy smile.
“I told you that you didn’t have to stay here all day.”
She shrugged slightly. “The bed is so comfy I didn’t even want to go to the bathroom… I ate some leftovers and wanted to get back in bed the whole time. Lazy day.”
“You could have called for room service.”
“I didn’t even think about it. I woke up wanting the rest of my pasta.” She probably didn’t want to know what I ‘woke up’ wanting.
“And what about your dinner? I can arrange for you to have dinner in bed if you want.”
She gave me a very serious look. “Don’t tempt me. As much as I would enjoy that, I need to stretch my legs a little.” No. she needed to lie in bed for a few weeks and let me fatten her up.
“There’s a restaurant downstairs, but you could call the desk and ask…”
“Downstairs is fine.”
“Pam named it Pasture because it’s where ‘the cattle’ feed.” She had been joking about it for decades before we went our separate ways and when I researched the hotel’s opening and found out about the restaurant… I may or may not have had several head of actual cattle delivered.
She snorted. “Hot food. Plates. I couldn’t care less about atmosphere.”
“Fair enough. Are you ready to get out of bed yet?”
She whimpered. “Not really. I think I’d be fine to stay here for about a year.”
“Then we’ll order your dinner for the room and stay in so you can finish your ‘lazy day’.” It was the first thing she’d come close to asking for. I wasn’t going to deny her.
“What about your visit with Pam? That would be rude. Hasn’t it been a while since you’ve seen her?”
“Pam can join us in here or I can visit her downstairs for a while…”
Sookie was already shaking her head when we were interrupted by a knock on the door.
One of Pam’s charming little minions was waiting in a teal suit and a plastic grin when I opened the door.
He bowed, making me roll my eyes. I probably wouldn’t ever get used to it. “King Northman, I’m Willis Laurant. The Sheriff sends me with gifts.” He held out an obscenely large basket and a garment bag. He was practically bursting at his eager little seams to have me take them.
Once they were in my hands I thought he might squeal like a teenage girl. “Is there a message?”
He nodded and waved for someone to join him. As a pair of women made their way down the hall, he boasted, “The Sheriff sends her apologies for how unprepared she was for your arrival. Most of the donors had left for the night. These ladies are both AB negative…”
“Is there anything else?”
“The Sheriff wanted me to speak to your guest in regards to her needs. We have a full service spa downstairs. Damn Yankees is playing at the Aiken Theater…”
“Hold on.” He looked like he wanted to cry because I hadn’t let him finish his list.
When I turned the corner, Sookie was still exactly where I left her, except a pillow had replaced me. I set the basket and garment bag on the foot of the bed and other than glancing at them, she wasn’t interested. “Pam sent a minion. He wants to talk to you about spas and Broadway shows.”
She gave me a confused look. “What’s that about?”
“I’m not sure. Pam should know better than to think kissing my ass would be a good thing… I know they aren’t peace offerings. She’s too stubborn…”
“Maybe she’s feeling you out.”
“Perhaps… She sent donors, the basket is big enough for me to carry you and I might be afraid to open the garment bag.”
“What could possibly be in the garment bag?”
“There’s no telling with Pam, but it’s heavier than both of the bags we brought with us.”
“And… the minion is here to…?”
“Give you entertainment options.” Actually he was there to give me a way to get rid of Sookie because Pam wanted to speak with me alone. It was blatant. It was petty. And I was beginning to think that stopping in Evansville hadn’t been a good idea.
She whimpered, “I’m going to have to get out of bed to go talk to him, aren’t I?”
I went over and adjusted the pillows and blankets. “No. You don’t. I’ll bring him to you and then I’ll deal with my donors…”
She giggled and it was amazing… “You want me to sit in bed to…”
“I want you to enjoy yourself…” I put the bulky basket next to her. “See what the Easter Bunny left.”
Once Willis was introduced to Sookie, I returned to the living room area…
AB negative or not, being eye-fucked by sycophantic starlets was tiring… And they were wasted on me. Pam might as well have sent a pack of True Bloods. AB negative wasn’t even worth a mention… one taste of Sookie and I’d developed a sweet tooth.
Confused about being barely touched but generously tipped, I practically pushed them through the door so that I could return to Sookie.
She was staring at Willis and biting her lip…
“Sookie, is there a problem?” If anything, she felt like she was dizzy.
“Ummm… no… I’m just not sure…”
“If you’re a bit overwhelmed by possibilities, then perhaps you could see what the spa has to offer after your dinner. You can sleep on the rest of your options.”
“Umm…” She started to nod and looked over to me. “Ok. That sounds… That sounds nice. I can…”
Willis blurted, “She can get a mani-pedi, hair, facial, massage, tan, waxing… it’s full service. I could take you shopping after we get you shined up. Being the Sheriff’s day guy, I know a few boutiques that stay open with just a phone call.”
It was no wonder Sookie felt dizzy… the only mystery left was how the fuck Pam managed to put up with him.
I sat next to Sookie’s feet, trying to become a sort of buffer. “Is there a brochure of the services that are available? A website?”
The hyper little lackey reached into his breast pocket and thrust a pamphlet at Sookie suddenly enough that she jumped. By the time she’d held her hand out for it, he was taking a deep breath to fuel his next run-on…
I didn’t give him the chance. “Sookie, are there any snacks you can think of that you’d like to keep in the room? Drinks? To spare you from having to leave the bed for too long?”
Willis rambled, “Oh the basket has stuff like that in it. Smoked salmon, Beluga, bonbons, wine, cheese…” When he took another breath, I put my hand over his mouth.
“I asked Sookie… Sookie, sweet tea, ice cream? Something you haven’t had in a while?”
She shook her head. “No. Thanks though. I might bring some leftovers up from the restaurant.”
I nodded. “There you have it, Willis. Let the spa know to expect Sookie in a couple of hours. We don’t require anything else. Thank you.”
He pouted and opened his mouth, but closed it again as he bowed and trudged towards the door.
Sookie waited for the door to close before she explained, “I think he recommended everything that could possibly be done in Evansville… Pam noticed that we were traveling light, so she had him do some shopping for us. The basket has a bunch of swanky food I’ve never tried and stuff like bathing suits and makeup and whatnot.”
“Any hints as to what Pam’s up to?”
She shook her head. “Sorry. He was preoccupied with making you happy. Pam told him to make sure you’re happy.”
“She’s most likely feeling me out as you said…” I stood and went to the garment bag, thinking it was best to get it over with… Hoping Pam’s sense of humor only went as far as the male donor covered in hickies.
As I pulled each item out of the bag, I wondered whether the choices had been Pam’s or Willis’s…
There were two ensembles for each of us, but the curious thing was that we each had a black and purple outfit… and a cream and red option. Willis had gone as far as shoes and undergarments.
I stood back staring at the clothing (and shoes, mustn’t forget them) and Sookie crawled out from under the covers to join me at the end of the bed.
She ran her hands over the textiles and looked everything over before saying, “They’re all gorgeous.”
I nodded. “No argument.”
“You’re wondering who made the choices?”
“Willis was disappointed that he didn’t get to show us everything. From that, I have to assume that he was given some license. What are you analyzing?”
“The composition… the clothing was clearly meant for us to match.”
“Pam must’ve mentioned that we matched last night.”
“Black shirts and jeans don’t necessarily make us a matched set. It’s a safe assumption that it’s the last thing she saw me wearing.”
“Sure but… we grabbed identical duffle bags too. Maybe she did it to see if… to see if you did it on purpose?”
“Possibly.” It would be hilarious.
“Why would she care though?”
“She’s always been nosey… So, what are we wearing to dinner, my dear?”
“You want to match?” It was peculiar when adult twins did it of their own volition and absurdly macabre when couples did it…
“If that was her intent, it’ll be fun to see her wheels turning… Try your things on and let me know. I’m going to shower away those donors.”
“They smelled bad?”
I stepped closer, leaning over. “You’ve had enough of my blood you should be able to notice the traces. Can you tell which designer imposter rubbed off?”
She snickered but I couldn’t see it. “Only because I’ve worn them.”
By the time I was done in the bathroom, Sookie had taken care of everything.
The contents of the basket had been sorted into their respective homes… her ‘goodies’ had been put in the mini-bar area, the incidentals had been left on the dresser for me to peruse, and our black and purple clothing options had been hung in the closet.
She preferred the cream and red to begin with, but everything about the other outfit had been too big for her. Swimming.
It gave me a sudden urgency to take her downstairs for dinner so that she could work to remedy the problem of her missing curves.
While Sookie dressed, I had emailed my Lords to check on affairs. As she ate, email after email reported that everything was as boring as it was normally and no one even noticed that I was missing. Of all the ways to end up as a King, the way I’d been stuck with the ‘chore’ had been the simplest of options.
Sookie had been anxious since we stepped into the elevator… It wasn’t that she was alarmed by anything in particular, just more of an underlying hesitance… I assumed the mass of unfamiliar Vampires being gathered downstairs had been her reason. It made sense. And Sookie wasn’t too troubled to quietly moo as we entered the restaurant. The walls were painted murals of farmland and the cushions of the booths were cow print…
The reasons for Sookie’s tension only became clear once I asked her about the sightseeing options Willis offered… she reverted to more fearful behavior for a moment. She apologized for nothing, promised that she wasn’t trying to seem ungrateful and asked what I thought she should do… She was terrified to go anywhere… I earned a slight grin when I promised to put an end to Willis’s demands.
I couldn’t be sure about the reasons, but Pam had been watching. I’d felt her close to the entrance of the restaurant behind me, observant, curious, confused…
Pam waited until Sookie asked for containers for her leftovers before she made her official appearance and she did so with Willis.
Willis began conversation with, “You two look outstanding.” I had to assume that Pam had an actual ‘day guy’ and Willis was just her personal shopper.
Pam rolled her eyes at his deficient etiquette. He should’ve known to wait to be addressed. “Was everything to your liking, Your Majesty?” Fuck. Because I needed a new reason to hate the title… the way Pam felt so disconnected as she said it…
“You’re still giving the fashion industry a reason to exist. You look fabulous as ever.”
She took a moment to look down at her dress and appreciate the (easily) $4000 ensemble. “Thank you… did you enjoy your dinner more than your guest did?” Not nearly, but Sookie’s collection of seemingly barely touched plates had given the waitress the wrong impression as well.
“She very much enjoyed it… enough to be disappointed that she couldn’t finish. Would you like to join us or do you plan to hover?”
“I wouldn’t want to intrude.”
“Nonsense. As long as Willis agrees to adhere to a word limit, there won’t be an intrusion.”
She cut her eyes in his direction. “His limits?”
“He gets one sentence per turn with a 10-word ceiling.”
“Fair enough.” She pointed to the chair next to Sookie as she took the seat next to me.
“Pam, you haven’t been formally introduced to my pet. This is Sookie Stackhouse.”
Sookie gave a respectful nod in Pam’s direction while she was being studied. The longer Pam looked her over, the more anxious she became until she folded her arms in front of her and shrank down onto the seat as much as she could without falling on the floor.
Pam finally said, “She’s mousy.”
“She’s absolutely perfect. Watch yourself… The hotel is impressive. You’ve done well.”
She was confused by being corrected and waited to reply until the waitress delivered Sookie’s to-go boxes. “It made sense. Knowing that it was only a matter of time before we came out, I thought Salome had the right idea with her Seven Veils. When this hotel became available just across from a casino, I hung my shingle.”
I nodded. “She’s always catered to Vampires so there was no change to operations for her… and you saved yourself the headache of running your own betting house.”
“Perhaps Miss Stackhouse would like to try her hand at poker or blackjack since we’re so close to the Casino Aztar.” Even though she knew I was going to take care of it, Sookie still felt petrified.
“Sookie won’t be doing any sightseeing or shopping while we’re here.” Sookie, relief. Pam, annoyed. I was batting .500.
Willis whined, “Awww, come on. It’ll be fun. I can take you…”
“10… you broke the sentence limit. The next time you’ll be reduced to one word answers.” He closed his mouth and sighed through his nose. Sookie actually snickered.
Pam inquired, “Is she unwell?”
Pam was stumped for long enough that Willis jumped on the opening. “So Sookie, are you ready to hit the spa?” When he was done he seemed to silently count his words to make sure he hadn’t exceeded his maximum.
She sighed and nodded, feeling more tense again as she closed the last of her containers and added it to the stack. “I think so… I just need to take these to our room.”
I offered, “I’ll take them. I need to drop off the laptop too… Go ahead.”
She gave me a pensive look. “Are you sure? I could take the laptop when I…”
“Positive. I’ll be waiting for you in the lounge.”
She nodded, but she didn’t stand up until I did… even then, only once I offered my hand.
It wasn’t the bed. It wasn’t the hotel… she was afraid to leave my side in any way.
I led her out of the restaurant, to the other side of the lobby to the spa entrance… every part of her was trembling except for the hand I was holding. I was about to suggest that I go with her when Pam ran out of patience.
“You should run along. They close at midnight and you need as much time in the tanning bed as you can get. When was the last time you saw the light of day?”
Pam thought she was being jokingly insistent… the pain in Sookie’s chest was instant and tears rushed to her eyes so quickly that mine burned along with hers. She hung her head, hiding her pain behind her hair.
“Sookie, I won’t let that happen again.”
She whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“Do you want to just go back to our room?”
She studied the floor for a moment before she finally shook her head and apologized again while she wiped her tears away.
I kissed the top of her head and let Sookie take a deep breath. “Sookie, don’t hide your face. You’ve done nothing to be ashamed of…” She breathed another quiet apology that only made me furious. “Try to enjoy the spa.”
She nodded slowly, still not lifting her head enough as she cleared her throat. “Willis? You ready?”
Pam’s mouth was open to say something as the elevator doors closed.
“Not. A. Fucking. Word. Nothing.”
By the time I opened the door to my room, a Human could have choked on the tension wafting from Pam.
I slammed the door shut behind us and only gave her the chance to turn and face me before I yelled, “She’s timid and pale… If you had another foot to put in your fucking mouth, you could’ve mentioned her eating habits too!”
“I’m NOT fucking done! You send gifts and practically loan her your day guy in an attempt to feel me out and you don’t have the sense to talk to me before insulting her!”
“I fucking warned you to watch yourself, did I not!?”
“I love you. I have missed you since we had our falling out. But so help me, Pamela, if you aren’t kind to her, we will leave and missing you won’t be a burden any longer.” She had already been on the verge of tears, threatening to disown her pushed her past her limits.
“I… I would’ve apologized. I still will… I don’t understand what I did. Explain. I don’t… I didn’t mean to offend you… I’m sorry.”
“Did you mean to embarrass me?”
“THEN WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR HEAD!?”
Her chin puckered. “I just wanted some time with you… I’ve missed you so much… She didn’t seem like she was going to… It was innocent. I was joking.”
“Lovely to see you again, Pam. We’ll check out at first dark…”
“Don’t do that. Please… If I’m wrong, correct me. We haven’t seen one another in more than twenty years. I don’t want it to be like this.”
“This is NOT what I had in mind when I decided to come here.”
“This isn’t what I had in mind when I saw you last night. Just tell me how to make it right… I… Does this have something to do with her being ‘presumed dead’?”
She cringed, huffing as she reached into the gargantuan purse hanging from her arm to pull out a collection of neatly folded papers. “She disappeared months ago and a friend of hers caused a huge stink in the media apparently…”
I took the papers…
Article after article printed from Shreveport news websites. Sam Merlotte, Lafayette Reynolds and Arlene Fowler had all been quoted… It was a plea for help. When Sookie disappeared from the hospital after the fire, she was listed as missing, but that hadn’t been enough. They reported Bill Compton to the authorities, but he couldn’t be reached for questioning. All the while he was hiding behind the aprons of Ball and Roth. Merlotte had been the most vocal, openly accusing Bill Compton of having something to do with Sookie’s disappearance and the deaths of her family. He also wallpapered everything he could with posters… Missing flyers for Sookie, ‘Wanted For Questioning’ posters for Compton.
It took me longer than it should have to read the articles… each time one of Sookie’s loved ones was mentioned, I remembered the videos of their deaths. Their deaths had been damage control. It was only a collateral bonus that Sookie could be tormented by them too.
Her friends had been holding a candle-light vigil for her on the 17th of every month, the anniversary of her disappearance… the news coverage may very well have been what prompted her ritual torture.
That poor girl.
The last fucking person I’d felt so sorry for was myself and that was just after I’d died… when I was told I’d never see my family again.
“She might as well be a Vampire.”
I didn’t realize I’d said it aloud until Pam asked, “Sookie?”
I nodded, swallowing back the unusual lump in my throat.
“It’s not like you to keep pets and I’ve never seen you hold a hand… so I typed ‘Sookie’ into Google since that’s all you gave me to go on. I was wondering what was so special about her.”
“Everything.” The same thing that made the other Sookie stare into my eyes and tell me to chill my tits while my fangs were down was the exact thing that had kept My Sookie alive in hell.
“If… Eric, when Willis told me that Sookie could barely get out her name, that she acted terrified until you were in the room, I thought… I’m sorry, but since it’s been so long since I’ve seen you, I thought you’d done it.”
“Killed all of her friends and abducted her?”
“They’re… her friends are dead? I didn’t… Willis and I found what you’re holding in a matter of minutes just before I went to rest. No. I meant trained her… or at least, maybe, had been given her… Willis said that there had been reports of screaming last night and then… the donors said you barely bit them. I figured Sookie might be AB negative too.”
I shook my head, still scanning the articles. “She’s O negative.”
“Eric… what… please tell me what’s going on.”
“She… For the last four months, Sookie has been held captive and tortured by Bill Compton, Lorena Ball and Gwen Roth. She was caged like an animal unless she was being used to cheat at business and or molested and raped so sadistically a Vampire would have broken.”
She looked like she was going to be ill. “What did she do? Was it just an infatuation or did she cross one and they went overboard?”
“She’s a telepath. That by itself was enough for them to want to covet her, but since she tastes of Fae, all three of those gluttons fed from her every night. Her Human kin were slaughtered as well the friends who were leading the crusade to find her. Videos were made and she was shown one when she tried to escape or get help.”
“A telepath?” A telepath whose ability only caused her more pain once she was rescued… My anger robbed her of being relieved.
I nodded again. “No one else in her family was affected that she knows of. She’s quite gifted, but she can’t hear Vampires’ thoughts.”
Pam huffed, “Does she have any spirit left?”
“Somehow waterboarding her and raping her didn’t kill it… She had the mettle to put the stake in Compton herself.”
“How did you find her? I’m assuming you’re the reason she’s free.”
“She came to me.”
“She… how is that possible?”
“It’s a long explanation and I promise you’ll get it, but yesterday morning, just as you were dying for the day, I was rising… she was in bed with me.”
“In… Were you already in Louisiana?”
“I was in Amsterdam…” Her expression was no less confused and shocked than I expected it to be. “You’ll get your explanation… Right now, I want to check on Sookie. She’s not comfortable.”
She walked by me to take the leftovers and store them in the mini-fridge. “I’ll leave orders for the kitchen staff that they’re to knock and leave room service carts in the hallway so that she isn’t too frightened to order fresh meals…”
“Humans don’t startle her as much because she can read their minds. She’s been indecisive about ordering because she was only given fast food garbage when she was lucky enough to be given anything prepared at all. She was given sweets more often than not. She doesn’t want to waste the leftovers.”
Pam shook her head as we left the room. “Was there something in particular she was being exploited for?”
“In excess of $100,000,000 just since September when she was taken.”
“You’d think they’d have the sense to treat something so valuable with more care.”
She nodded. “Of course. I’m sorry… Tell her that I am, please. If I had known… I don’t want to bring it up again.”
“I shouldn’t have yelled. You couldn’t have known what she’d been through.”
“Are you going to keep her or are you just helping her leave Louisiana?”
“I’m going to keep her as long as she stays with me. I’m all she has.”
“That was enough to keep me with you for 3 centuries.” One could hope.
“She needs me more than you ever did… You could have left me before you were 40.”
“I knew what side my bread was buttered on. I was lucky to have a Maker I could love and respect.”
“I’m not her Maker. It would be much easier if I could just teach her to be a Vampire… I’m going to have to help her to be Human again first.”