The First Taste
By the time Pam and I reached the first floor Sookie was close to hysterics.
I found her in an area in the back, sitting along a bank of pedicure chairs that made her look as small as a child… her long cream sweater and red corduroy pants had been replaced by a purple dressing gown.
She didn’t seem to be at all bothered by the attendants caring for her feet and hands or the fact that Willis was holding color samples up to her hair, nagging about whether she wanted subtle highlights or if she wanted something ‘show stopping’. Her eyes appeared to be closed in relaxation…
I was the only one who could tell that she was absolutely miserable.
I slapped Willis’s hand away so that he would leave Sookie alone. He should know better than to touch a Vampire’s pet and the only thing keeping me from saying something to Pam about his poor training was the guilt I was feeling for being so harsh with her.
When I touched the back of her hand, she jumped and opened her eyes.
“What is bothering you?”
She gnawed her lip, refusing to answer as her eyes began to swell again. I couldn’t help but be proud of her for trying to deny me… if it hadn’t been for the fact that she needed to learn to assert herself with servants, I would have let her win.
“If something they’re doing isn’t to your liking, tell them.”
She cringed and whispered, “It’s not… It’s just being touched…” Having seen the videos of her bathing rituals, I should have known better than to suggest the spa. Trying to keep from becoming angry all over again didn’t work well enough to keep from adding to her tension.
I could already feel her begin to relax as I helped her out of the spa chair. I leaned over, putting my mouth to her ear to whisper, “Can you think of any services the spa offers that won’t make you unhappy?” It seemed as though Willis was starting to realize there was more to Sookie’s ‘introversion’ than being an over-trained pet.
She studied my chest and gripped my hand as though she was afraid to let go of it. “I’m not… I don’t know.”
“Willis, what does the spa offer that wouldn’t require Sookie to be pawed?”
He tilted his head, more concerned than cheerful. “Well, tanning and mud baths… maybe she could, I mean, does hair count?” Yes, hair counted, but there wasn’t any way for him to realize that it was because she had been primped, preened and dressed like a living doll.
I lifted her chin so I could look at her. “Are you the slightest bit interested in any of that?”
She bit her lip and sniffled. “What’s… what’s wrong with me? I should like this. Most people do…”
“Most people haven’t been through what you have. Give it some time… Go dress. I’ll wait for you in the lounge.”
“I know I’m pale… I don’t want you to be mad at Pam. She didn’t mean anything… I’m just too… I’m just touchy.” Unbelievable.
“You aren’t touchy, my dear. You’re raw. Not to worry though. I’m not angry with her.”
She sniffled and nodded. “K… I’d hate it if I made things worse between y’all.”
When I grinned, not knowing how to react to being in awe, Sookie smiled back. Brief as it was, I basked in it. “Pam very much regrets that her joke hurt you. Would you like something to drink? Something to calm your nerves?”
She shook her head slightly and whimpered, “Maybe later. I’m sorry… I… I don’t mean to be so… clingy… I…” She must have actually been of the belief that I was bothered that she didn’t want her nails done.
“Don’t apologize, Sookie. I’m proud of you for trying.” When I kissed her forehead that time, she didn’t just let me… she leaned into it, meeting me halfway.
I made myself comfortable on the sofa next to Pam in the candle lit lounge and we were quickly served True Bloods without being asked.
“Pamela, are we mainstreaming?”
She snorted and shook her head. “Hell no. These are just scenery… How is Sookie?” My concern was likely the only reason she had bothered to remember Sookie’s name at all.
“She’ll be joining us shortly. She couldn’t tolerate being groped.”
“Tell me about her. Do you know anything other than what she went through?”
“The Sookie you met isn’t anything like her actual self. It’s all part of the longer explanation that I’ll give you privately. She’s intelligent. Articulate. Fearless. Tenacious. Gravitational…”
Pam sighed, “The question is, is there any of it under the debris? I doubt she’s described everything…”
“She didn’t need to describe it. The laptop was Gwen’s. They filmed 3-hour sessions with her. I can’t imagine anything they wouldn’t have recorded that she could have survived. The only reason she isn’t covered in scars is because she was healed topically with blood from various Vampires so they could keep her strong enough to exploit her ability. From what I can tell, most of the skin on her back and legs is new.”
“You watched the videos?”
“Scanned them and only muted. I can’t bring myself to watch them in whole.” It wasn’t as though I was squeamish… my aversion was specific to seeing Sookie suffer and nothing more.
“How did she survive?”
“Barely… did you notice how weak she is?”
She nodded. “Fragile. Gaunt. I almost didn’t recognize the pictures of her in the articles I found.”
“She had my blood three times last night.”
“Good God!” That was a fitting response even if it did cause every head in the lounge (and part of the lobby) to turn.
“She was much more comfortable before we came downstairs. Now she’s surrounded by strangers.”
“Of course, of course… did she seem frightened of Willis?”
“Timid, but she was mostly overwhelmed by his… loquacious nature.” Considering how quickly he spoke, I could only imagine what his mind was like.
She rolled her eyes and sat back against her seat. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told him to dial it back. He’s what they call a ‘people person’. Overtly outgoing. At least she wasn’t startled by him. Maybe once I tell him that she isn’t just shy he’ll back off.” That was curious…
“Pam… why would you go to the trouble of explaining to Willis?”
Her mouth was open… not because she was about to answer, but because she didn’t know how to… more importantly, she didn’t want to answer.
Pam didn’t have to stall though…
We were interrupted.
“King Benelux! How interesting to see you here.” The dozen or so meandering Vampires in the vicinity dropped to the floor like they did when I walked through. The difference was that Bartlett Crowe enjoyed every bit of it as he led his entourage of 8 through the lounge.
Pam stood up to bow and greet him. “Your Majesty, what a pleasant surprise.” Liar. She wanted an excuse to stall, but Bartlett Crowe was the last Vampire she wanted to deal with.
I didn’t bother rising or genuflecting, even if proper etiquette required for me to show respect in his territory. “King Indiana, I’m not sure why it’s so interesting to find out that I’m visiting my child.”
“The simple fact that you haven’t set foot in the States for decades isn’t enough?”
“I’ve been to the States, you just haven’t heard about it because I don’t require a parade to forge my path like some monarchs.”
He rolled his eyes as though he was annoyed with a child. “You might have a comfortable seat in the Old World, but you’re just another member of the population here, Northman. Show some respect.”
“I would if I could see a Vampire worth respecting. Other than Pamela, I’m at a loss for finding a Vampire who has wielded a sword on their own behalf since before Indiana was a territory, you pompous fuck.”
“Pompous? Me? You’re in my state!”
“And I checked in with the Sheriff of the Area in which I’m staying on the very night I arrived and used my real identity for my reservations. You have no complaint other than the fact that an older Vampire with a much larger kingdom won’t cow to you. Shut the fuck up and employ some diplomacy.”
“You aren’t doing your child any favors by being disagreeable.”
“You aren’t doing yourself any favors by forgetting that my child always has a place at my side and that I am simply loaning my Lord Chancellor to you. Now that we’ve settled that, would you like proof that even my cock is bigger than yours?”
“Is that how you pulled off the coup of the century? You assassinated one of the most powerful Kings in the old world by measuring dicks?”
“As a matter of fact, it is.” Pam chewed the gloss from her lip to keep from laughing.
He showed his fangs. “Why are you in my state?” Willis put his arm out instead of grabbing Sookie to stop her when they entered the lounge. He cringed for a moment as though he was trying to decide how to proceed, but I relieved him by motioning for them to join Pam and me. Company be damned.
“You drove for three hours to ask me that? Did you forget about the invention of this thing called a telephone?”
“I thought it would be a good idea to know what I’m up against.” While Willis chose to stand behind Pam, Sookie tried to follow him until I patted the cushion next to me. The room was full of Vampires before Crowe arrived with his entourage and the mood in the room wasn’t exactly light.
Once Sookie seemed as comfortable as possible tucked under my arm, I turned my attention back to the moron. “How very wise… You’ve truly just interrupted my visit with my child. Why the fuck would I have designs on Indiana, of all places?” I didn’t want the kingdom I had.
“How should I know? No one knew you were moving on Benelux until it was over!”
“That was a seizure of necessity.”
“I’m supposed to believe that you didn’t want Benelux?”
“Not at all, but it was clear I wasn’t going to be allowed to enjoy retirement.”
“If you can’t beat them, join them, right?”
“More along the lines of two can play that game.”
“I doubt Halfdan would be so flippant.” Actually, flippant was exactly what he was… and ‘oops’ was probably the last thing to go through his mind.
“Darling, if I cared for your opinion, I would give it to you. I have 19 Lords, most of them appointed by Halfdan himself, who don’t seem to mind the change in management.”
“Do you think they aren’t planning retribution for their King? It’s not as though they’d say anything against someone who ended the longest ruling King in the Old World with his bare hands… Halfdan made some of them.”
“It’s hilarious that you believe the rumor mill so completely. One. Halfdan was Maker to only one of them. You clearly have no clue what you’re speaking about. Stop embarrassing yourself.”
“You’ve gotten cocky now that you’re a King.” Pam actually snickered that time.
“I’ve always been cocky, Bart. My status only changed that I’m not required to bite my tongue any longer.”
“If you’re honestly here just to visit your child as you say, why isn’t there a record of you entering the country?”
“I chartered a flight, fool. Do you think I’d really fly 7,000 kilometers on a commercial plane?”
“This is just a visit?” Idiot.
“It’s simply been too long since I’ve enjoyed Pamela’s company… I care nothing for your State. If I wanted it, it would be mine already.”
He lifted his chin, making it terribly obvious that if he were capable, he’d be blushing. “Sheriff Ravenscroft, I need a word with you.”
Pam bowed and began following him. “Nothing serious, I hope.”
He huffed, “Just… local business.”
Once the entourage was waiting for their King in the lobby, Sookie glanced over to give me an inquisitive look.
“Would you care for that drink now? You’re very anxious…”
Willis blurted, “Me too. I need a scotch. What can I get for you, Sookie?”
“Ummmm. Something light, I guess. Maybe… white wine?”
He barely gave her the chance to finish her answer before he sped out of the lounge towards the restaurant… she shook her head as she watched him leave.
“That man is incredibly friendly, but… is it just me or does he need to be tranquilized?”
“Why would you think it’s just you?”
“Sometimes people aren’t nearly as active as their thoughts… Then there are the people who look like they’re about to rattle apart, but mentally they might as well be asleep.”
“It’s not just you. He’s hyper if he’s anything. Do you think Pam would mind if I glamour him to stare at a wall?”
“Probably. They’re lovers… So… where is Benelux? Is that a country that splintered away from another one? I can’t for the life of me remember hearing anything about it.”
“Benelux isn’t a country. It’s an economic union between three countries. Belgium, Nederland and Luxembourg. Crowe was being… catty. I think it makes him feel better to play down my territory.”
“Because he… you have three whole countries and he only has one state?”
“Because I have four and a substantial portion of a fifth… Because an American Vampire King is the equivalent of a mafia boss who simply claimed an Area as his own. His dominion only extends as far as his subjects allow it… Because the European Monarchs have been considering taking the States out of their hands for more than two centuries to end the constant fuckery.”
Her eyes widened and she shifted, pulling her legs up under her and turning enough to face me. If I had to put a finger on her mood, I’d guess that she was excited. “What are your other countries then?”
“Denmark and the northern third of Germany. Politically speaking, it’s the North Sea Empire. Generally, it’s referred to as the ‘Low Countries’. Low refers to the elevation rather than its reputation.”
She raised her eyebrow. “Who was that Halfdan guy?”
“The King I retired.”
“Halfdan… Halbdaniz… from Beowulf?” My my… her intellect hadn’t suffered. There were Vampires who didn’t make that connection.
I nodded. “He was proud enough of his Human descendants to commission the poem, but it was highly fictionalized.”
“Wow… and you have 19 Lords?”
I nodded. “They appoint Earls as needed. Some districts don’t need any, but some cities need several.”
“It… sounds like… kinda feudal.”
“It is. Earls answer to Lords. Lords answer to Kings. All of us employ Knights for various reasons. The American power structure is different because, like Humans sent to the New World, they had little respect for the traditions. I have a Lord High Steward and an Earl Marshal. My Lord Constable is the most bored of all of us because there’s rarely a case where he’s needed. You’ll meet them all soon.”
“We aren’t staying here for a while so you can visit Pam?”
“We both have responsibilities and it seems like Bartlett isn’t fond of having me in his State.”
“Then… then I should go upstairs. I should let y’all visit since you don’t have much time.”
“You should stay. You won’t keep us from catching up and I know you don’t want to be alone. If anything, your presence will help us avoid the traps of discussing politics.”
She cringed. “Are you sure? I don’t want to be in the way.”
“You won’t be… Now before Willis returns, what do you know? Pam was hesitant to tell me something regarding him.”
“He loves her. They’ve been together for a few years. They’re both afraid you won’t approve.”
“I’m not sure why. She’s definitely old enough to have a private life. Is she considering bringing him over?”
“He hasn’t thought about being turned around me, but he has caught a lot of flak from his family. His mother is still trying to find a ‘suitable wife’ for him.”
“Mommy doesn’t approve of her son being with a Vampire?”
“Mommy, brothers, sister… They’re worried that it’s bad for business. He hopes Pam doesn’t have to deal with the same thing from you.”
“Willis either truly loves Pam or he’s rebellious.”
“He really loves her… and he’s not too rebellious to be pretending to be a servant until Pam says otherwise. He’s terrified of screwing up.”
“Fair point… Is that the reason for his hyperactivity, nervous energy?”
She shrugged. “I couldn’t tell you for sure, but he was bouncing off the walls in the spa too.”
“This is good… I could have some fun with this.”
She pouted her bottom lip and looked at me through doe eyes… it was a gesture that I would have sworn I was immune to. “You aren’t going to be mean, are you?”
“Not if you’re going to look at me like that.”
She snickered and hid her face with her hair again… Willis’s grin wasn’t the one I wanted to see so I was less than amused by the timing of his return.
He joined us with a bravado that wasn’t at all shocking given what we had already seen of him. He happily delivered Sookie’s wine and apologized for taking so long. His delay was in the kitchen because he was ordering ‘nibbles’ for Sookie.
For a full hour after the chef personally delivered Sookie’s snacks, Willis waited ‘patiently’ for Pam to return from discussing the important politics of Indiana. He sipped from his scotch (and then a second) while pacing slowly enough to call it meandering. He only showed a mild irritation as Pam’s actual business as Sheriff began to back up…
One Vampire was there to get a reference and check out of the Area. One was there to check in. The third was there to officially claim a pet.
When it rained, it poured. Willis huffed that Pam didn’t usually have nearly as much business to tend to… normally, Pam was lucky to get that much business in a week. It wasn’t as though any of the chores were taxing, but he muttered about how annoyed Pam would be with the timing of the ‘rush’ being during my visit.
All the while, Sookie sat next to me quietly without showing much affect, for her of course. She wasn’t nearly as relaxed as she had been before we left our room, but the slight anxiety she was feeling was tolerable given her circumstances.
I had been monitoring her mood closely so when she suddenly became more focused, serious, perhaps even determined, my interest was piqued.
She was momentarily frustrated before she asked Willis for something to write with…
Sookie pulled her knees up to use them as her desk, keeping her scribbling secret from everyone but me.
Female, Texas?- What’s she doing here? She’s supposed to be laying low. Bryant’s gonna kill her if she fucks everything up. Greedy. Stupid. And who the fuck is the new VIP?
Male, no accent- Wish I had their hearing. What’s Elisha thinking? Silly bitch is gonna bring us all down. Calling Bryant first chance.
Female, southern- If they keep eyeballing me, they’re gonna fuck everything up. They better not blow it. Too much invested. 2 years. Rose was here last night. Why weren’t we told about the Big Shot?
Male again- No way to dip out and call anyone. Captain needs to jump Elisha’s shit for this. How are we supposed to catch these fangers fucking up if she exposes us?
Elisha is the pet Vincent plans to register.
-State Cops. Pretending to be donors and pets. Goal- systematically catch Vampires breaking any law so they can get them out of circulation. Jail/scare tactic- doesn’t matter to them. Actual cops/unsanctioned investigation. They don’t care that Pam cooperates with local law enforcement.
Bryant is their Cpt.
Elisha- brunette in long sweater.
Daniels- M, short hair, green tie.
Lynn- charm bracelet.
Xtras/not here- Edwin f/l? brown eyes, freckles, hairy. Rose Carlton- martini tattoo on her shoulder.
Check-In: no change in mood during the wait. Think she’s in downtime.
Check-out: problem. Uptight. Worse every minute.
Completely fascinated. As I watched the thoughts of the Humans in the lounge materialize on Sookie’s borrowed note pad, I was impressed to an unfamiliar extent.
I leaned over to whisper, “Sookie, as amazing as it is to see you in action, I don’t expect this. I told you that you’re free.”
She shook her head. “I don’t like this. Not at all. I…” She stopped to scrawl, “Pam needs to get rid of the cops before she deals with the check-out.”
“You think he’s up to something.”
She nodded and wrote, “He’s trying too hard to seem casual. Would it affect his check out if he was just annoyed with the delay?”
I shook my head and watched for her next note.
“And he looks well fed. I don’t think he’s just moving. On the run?” And trying to leave the Area so Pam can clean up whatever mess he left behind.
She began scribbling again while I looked him over.
Daniels wants to know who you are/wants to question me.
Check-out mood changing. If I had to guess I’d say he’s thinking abt bailing.
I motioned for Willis to join us and borrowed the note pad to ask what Willis knew about the Vampire in question.
As puzzled as he was, he made his notes and handed them back.
Lowell Waters. Ego problem. 70ish. Drifter- hasn’t been here long.
Lovely. At least I wasn’t bored.
In the interest of moving things along, I had Willis fetch the Vampire who was checking in first. It was almost adorable that she was only four centuries old and seeking some form of peace and quiet. She had bought a house in the barely inhabited town of Alton to enjoy her retirement. While I warned her that the isolation of the countryside was a safety hazard (she was simply too far from help if something happened) Willis waited his turn to explain that there was a Fellowship camp just across the Ohio River from Alton and wholeheartedly suggested she take extreme measures to keep her resting place a secret. Bradenburg, Kentucky was home to more fundamentalists than Evansville was to Vampires. Kentucky’s Area 4 didn’t have any known Vampires residing in it.
Once she was excused with the understanding that Sheriff Ravenscroft would contact her if there were any problems with her references, I had Willis bring Lowell Waters to me.
He’d been listening carefully while the other Vampire was checking in and as he approached, Sookie scribbled that he seemed relieved to get things moving along. The youngster showed no respect. No nod. No bow. He sat without an invitation on the fuzzy lavender stool across from Sookie and me while Willis took his post behind my shoulder after handing Lowell’s documents over.
While I scanned his information he asked, “Who are you?” A car a decade old. A job he hadn’t given notice to. A broken lease on his one bedroom apartment. A preference for A positive blood and several complaints from donors about how rough he was.
“Where’s the Sheriff?”
“She’s detained by other matters at the moment. Bartlett Crowe paid her a visit. I’m her Maker. Would you care to wait for her instead?”
“Uh. No. Crowe is here? Now?”
Sookie scribbled, “Flipping out.”
“He’s with the Sheriff in her office… Why are you leaving Area 2?”
He shrugged. “I just don’t like it here. Five years is as long as I’m willing to give it a shot.”
Sookie wrote, “Lie.”
“It appears that Chicago wasn’t to your liking either… Tallahassee, Flagstaff, Sacramento. Why did you leave the myriad of other Areas?”
He shrugged again. “Couldn’t get settled, I guess.” That registered as a lie for Sookie as well.
“Where are you off to next?”
“What made you choose Kittery? There isn’t anything there but a shipyard.” He showed a reaction to the question. He hadn’t been banking on the fact that I would know the Area. Go figure. A thousand year old Vampire had heard about the shipyard that’s been in operation for over two centuries.
“I dunno. I tried the west coast and didn’t have any luck… the Southwest, the South, then the Midwest…” Sookie left a little check mark on her notes. He’d finally said something truthful.
“You’re blaming wanderlust.”
“Uh… yeah. Who are you again?”
“Um… This is the longest checkout interview I’ve ever had…” Sookie left another check.
“And you’ve had plenty from the looks of it. A dozen Areas… no more than six years in any place. If you’re worried about my level of experience, don’t. I was a Sheriff once. I know what I’m doing.”
“Where were you Sheriff?”
“Louisiana, Area 5. If you’d like my references, feel free to contact King Halfdan.”
“Halfdan? I heard he was deeeeee…” Hello. Someone caught up and slid from his seat to drop to his knee.
“He is… Now would you care to explain what sort of mess you’ve made that you feel you shouldn’t have to clean up on your own?”
He continued to stare at his knee. “I just don’t like it here.”
Sookie scribbled ‘lie’ in the margin of her notes, but she continued to write, “Those cops are flipping out about who you are now that LW is bowing. Daniels is thinking about following me to the bathroom to ??? me.”
I tightened my arm over her shoulder, silently assuring her that I wouldn’t let her be cornered and continued trying to get to the bottom of Lowell’s deceit. “Are you involved in organized crime?”
“No.” Sookie confirmed with another check.
“Are you a mercenary?” I could usually spot my own, but I wanted to confirm my instincts that were screaming that he wasn’t the type.
“No.” Another truthful answer. We were on a quite a roll.
“Have you been approached by the Church? Threatened?”
“No.” That was a lie. So much for the roll.
“What were you told?”
“Boy, I’m not in the mood for your games. What did they tell you?”
“Where is the mess?”
“I’m not… I…”
“I’m filling in the blanks and my imagination isn’t making you look like a saint.”
“I’m assuming you left messes in the other Areas you’ve vacated. Murders, I assume.”
Sookie wrote, “LIE,” again. She was becoming more annoyed as the conversation pressed on.
“You revealed yourself, yes? You killed them rather than glamoured them. Am I right?”
Another sloppy, “LIE,” was penned.
“This time, you were approached by a Church member. Was it self defense?”
“Yes!” At least he’d taken the chance to try to redeem himself, but he was full of shit.
“It wasn’t… No… You were approached by a Church member, but they didn’t try to harm you. What did they do? Did they try to minister to you? Turn you into a renouncer?”
“No.”Sookie wouldn’t have needed to tell me he was lying again.
“In how many of the Areas you’ve resided have you left a crime scene?”
“I… It wasn’t… I…”
Sookie tensed suddenly and wrote, “Some were feeding accidents.” Uh oh. The only way for her to know that would be if she heard him think about it. That was a problem. Judging how much more anxious she was, she knew it.
“Did your Maker not teach you to feed properly?”
His eyes widened as he jerked his head up to glare at me. “How did you…?”
“One doesn’t get where I am without having a few tricks up one’s sleeve…” Technically, the trick was hiding in my armpit and warming my side, but who was he to nitpick my wording? “Does your Maker know about the trouble you’ve caused?”
“Yes.” Surprisingly, Sookie drew a check mark.
“And how have you been punished?”
“I… He starved me the first few times, but he gave up and put me out. Disowned me.” That would explain why his Maker was nearly 700, but his child was destitute enough to be working as manual labor. Even though Pam and I had our falling out before we parted ways, she wasn’t left without the means to establish herself.
“Where is the body?”
“I… In the dumpster behind the Wesselman’s on Fulton Avenue. I…”
“Shut up. Where did you kill the Human?”
“In… I was on my way to work. I let her get into my car then drained her.”
I let him rattle from his place on the floor while I tried to think of the best way to deal with Lowell Waters that wouldn’t step on Pam’s toes. I was partially relieved by the next note Sookie made…
“Willis is thinking that Pam would turn Lowell in. She considers crimes against Humans to be Human problems. He thinks it’s funny that she would contact LWs Maker and fine him for releasing LW b4 he was ready and let all the prev Sheriffs know to be expecting tributes.”
How very helpful… And if Willis was right about Pam’s procedures, I couldn’t help but be proud of her. There was a time when ‘impetuous’ would have been in bold face on Pam’s resume.
I took the pad from Sookie to make my own notes before sending Willis over to have ‘Daniels’ and ‘Lynn’ join our party. I left Elisha out of the meeting without knowing if she had a valid reason for investigating the Vampire who intended to claim her.
Daniels and Lynn offered nods in spite of how confused they were by the invitation.
“I’m Eric Northman. I’m assisting Sheriff Ravenscroft while she sees to other matters. You are…?”
The man offered, “David Daniels and Lynn Reynolds.” Just hearing the woman coincidently shared a surname with Sookie’s lost friend, made her feel ill.
I nodded. “We seem to have a problem. Mr. Waters has come to see the Sheriff in the hopes of checking out of the Area before his crime was discovered.”
The woman suddenly became interested by the drapes along the wall, but Daniels’s eyes lit up. He tried to cover his excitement though. “I’m sorry. What does that have to do with us?”
“Lowell Waters drained a Human in his Grand Am and dumped her body in a grocery store’s dumpster. Is there a reason why the police shouldn’t be notified?”
Daniels eyed me for long enough for Sookie to scribble, “Trying to figure out how long y’all have known. Wondering why they weren’t busted already. Why you’d let them mix.” No doubt.
He finally cleared his throat and asked, “So you’re just turning him in for murder?”
“No. I’m exposing you as an officer of the law. Your cover is blown. I suggest you send Bryant to discuss working in collusion with the Sheriff in future endeavors because she would have cooperated all along. It’s not for nothing though. You aren’t being given a Vampire who killed just a Church member. I’m giving you a Vampire who has left a trail of bodies as he moved from Area to Area. It’s just come to our attention that Mr. Waters has exhausted even his Maker’s patience.”
I held the slip of paper out that I’d used to notate when and where Waters had been since he’d first left his Maker. “You should be able to figure that out. Just look for unsolved broken necks and exsanguinations that correlate with his exit from an Area. He’s sloppy enough to have not taken any care for disposal.” He took the page carefully.
“Just like that?”
“You expected what exactly?”
“Um… I don’t know. I didn’t think you’d be thrilled to have undercover cops on the donor list.”
“Who says I’m thrilled? It may surprise you to hear this, but Vampires tend to save their monstrous behavior for each other. If for no better reason, Humans are our food source and we can’t have our own kind shitting where they eat.”
He took a moment to scan what I had written and let his eyes bulge when he reached the bottom of the note where I mentioned knowing about Edwin, Rose and Elisha. “How did you know about us?”
“If I told you that, you would change your practices and try interloping dishonestly again. Tell Bryant to contact the Sheriff. She plays well with others and having law enforcement she can turn to will help her with stains like Waters… Go. Call who you need to call. I’ll make sure Waters doesn’t go anywhere.”
Willis informed Vincent that he’d have to return another night to register his pet that would disappear if she knew what was good for her and then interrupted Pam’s meeting with Crowe to explain what happened…
For the half hour we were in a holding pattern, the only note Sookie wrote was to tell me that Lowell had calmed down once he realized he was ‘busted’.
When Daniels finally returned with silver handcuffs and Pam emerged from her office, I took Sookie to our room so that I could enjoy a much more relaxed well of emotions from her.
As the elevator climbed to our floor, I felt her tension all but melt away.
I waited until the door to our room was closed to say anything to answer her underlying curiosity.
“I’m not sure that I know how to put this, but I’m… impressed, wowed really. That was spectacular.”
She nodded humbly and went to the dresser. “If it’s okay with you, I think I’ll take a bath.”
“Certainly. Is there anything else you want? After what you just achieved, you deserve to be spoiled.”
“Pam sent some really comfy looking pajamas. Is she going to come up here later? I don’t want to embarrass you by looking like a bum…”
“Wear whatever you want. I’m sure Pam will be joining us, but you should be comfortable. You’ve earned the right.”
She nodded again, still refusing to acknowledge how helpful she’d been, and removed a small bundle of light gray clothing from the drawer. On her way to the bathroom, she stopped in front of me to hold up two small bottles of bath oil. “Do you have a preference?” They could smell like raw sewage, but I wouldn’t tell her.
I raised an eyebrow. “I prefer whichever one you do… Your bath is your dominion, Sookie.”
She nodded without looking up, feeling disappointed. I could only guess that she was either worried that I’d disapprove or that I was apathetic.
I took the bottles from her… She watched intently as I put a drop of one oil on the inside of her left wrist, then repeated with the other on her right…
After rubbing the oils into her skin with my thumbs, and enjoying that she wasn’t uncomfortable like she had been in the spa, I lifted each of her wrists to her nose then mine to sample…
“The trick is finding one that works with your chemistry… Which one do you prefer in the bottle?”
“The Mandarin & Mint…”
“On your skin?”
She smirked. “The Coconut & Rose.”
I pulled her wrists closer to my nose out of pure greed, not wasting much time with her right wrist because the mint in that oil almost killed her natural scent. “The oranges smell bitter with your chemistry… but… the coconut compliments your natural sweetness. You can smell that, yes?”
“Yeah… that’s… I’ve never realized there was a difference before. You know, bottle or skin.”
I held my hands up, inviting her to test the difference.
She pulled my hand closer and breathed, letting her lip curl. “Not that it’s bad… but… that’s weird. Orange and mint smells… flowery on you.”
“And anything with berry notes makes me smell like I bathed in wine.”
She gave me the same grin and the excitement she’d felt during our conversation earlier. Vampire politics and bath oil as small talk registered as nap-worthy… it seemed like Sookie was excited to just be learning something, included, instead of being kept in the dark.
She closed her eyes as she breathed in the scent of my other hand, letting a little hum before saying, “Yeah. Much better… definitely more masculine. Is it weird that it seems like… warm? Like… sweet and woody…”
“Um… yeah. I dunno… safe… maybe it’s like a scent-memory thing? I mean, your hands feel the same temperature…” Curious.
I stepped closer to lean over and didn’t have to say what I meant for her to do… she sniffed, then leaned closer to take more of my scent.
Neither of us moved when she was done… not a muscle other than the ones she used to whisper, “That’s it… it’s you… you smell like that.”
“I smell ‘safe’?”
Why not? Why wouldn’t my scent register in her mind as safety? Even though she was sleeping when she skipped, the first thing that would have come to her was scent since she was still breathing… She was in a bed ‘I’ shared with ‘her’. The bed, the room, the whole house including the study she was reading in when I arrived… I took her to a house that version of Us used as a ‘love nest’ and shared the bed with her there… she had her face buried against my back as we flew to the hotel to confront her abusers… she slept on my lap on the plane… she slept with me last night and didn’t leave my side more than she had to throughout the day…
“Stupid?” Not stupid.
“No… I can tell you like my scent. I don’t really care what word you attach to it.”
She began snickering, blowing warm air over my neck, before she stepped back. “You might mind if I called it ‘poo’ or something like that. What do I smell like?”
I knew. I’d memorized it before I left my room with the other Sookie. Every layer. Every note. I committed it to memory… but I still took her invitation and leaned over. Organically sweet… a melding of the best scents nature had to offer. Pure life… Spirit… Energy… “Promise.”
“You call my scent ‘safe’ because it’s warm and comfortable… Your scent makes me feel like anything is possible. Promise.”
“I… I don’t know what to say to that… I was kind of expecting you to tell me I smell like poo as a joke.”
I still hadn’t taken my face away… I kissed the side of her neck and watched the goosebumps spread as I stepped away. “No. No jokes. Perfection doesn’t get mocked. Ever.”
She was close to crying. “Do I even want to ask what I taste like?”
“It’s not a specific flavor… It’s a feeling… It’s the feast after a starvation. One mouthful made me feel gorged and hollow… Your blood is an urge, a craving.”
“That kind of translates for me… I mean… As soon as I got real food again, I felt like I could eat forever.”