Like A Rock
When I left Sookie’s house to find something more suitable for swimming than jeans, she was arranging chess pieces on the tiny black and white tiles around her pool, and nibbling from something called a Muffaletta. Her brother was leaving to meet his date already, and oddly, didn’t seem leery about leaving his sister alone with a Vampire.
When I returned, landing in the back yard, the boys were beating on a set of French doors that didn’t lead to the den, yelling for Sookie to hurry. They’d easily had time to change into their swimsuits while I flew to Barksdale’s Exchange to buy one… Cort actually had a bikini in his hand, shouting that he’d taken it from the laundry room, but it could have been mistaken for a friendship bracelet.
After tossing my extra clothing onto a chaise, I joined their fun and rattled the door until her options were to open the door or go mad from the noise.
Sookie was growling when she opened the door to her bedroom… Not only was she wearing a one-piece bathing suit, but she was wearing a pair of shorts too.
Before I could make a joke about her modesty, Hunter scoffed, “Ya gotta hunnerd suits. Ya picked tha’one?”
He wasn’t exaggerating. When I pounced on the opportunity to see Sookie in a bathing suit, I wasn’t exactly imagining the racer-back suit I could have seen at a high school swim-meet.
I took the string attached to two tiny triangles of metallic blue fabric from Cort’s hand and held it up to my chest. “If I’d known you had spares, I would have borrowed one.”
She was embarrassed for long enough to snatch it from me, but then she bent in half to laugh as the mental image developed.
Cort shook his head. “No grape-smugglers. No skinny-dippin’. Them’s tha rules. If you wore one’a Mommy’s suits, you’d be breakin’ a’least one.”
“What are grape-smugglers?”
Hunter offered, “Yer askin’ f’yer junk to fall out and ya might’s well skinny-dip…”
Sookie sighed, “Which is why we have a ‘no skinny-dipping’ rule.”
“Are there any other rules I should know about?”
Sookie warned, “Unsportsmanlike behavior forfeits a round… Everyone claims a board, then we zig-zag back and forth… In the event of a tie, there’s a sudden death round…”
As Hunter walked towards the pool, he added, “An’ don’t let us win to impress Mommy. Won’t work.”
“I don’t have any intention of letting you win. I want to pick the bedtime story.”
Hunter snorted, “Not likely.”
As I turned towards the pool, Sookie caught my arm and quietly warned, “You behave.”
“I haven’t looked at your… well, now you’ve done it. I’ve broken eye contact.”
She snickered, “You know what I mean.”
When the boys jumped into the pool, I whispered, “I’ll leave if you want me to, but I’m enjoying myself even though your clothes are still on…”
She nibbled her lip, looking unsure about something.
I offered, “I had children. I respect that Cort and Hunter are your priority. I’ll behave. Perverts and children don’t mix.”
She whispered, “Thank you,” just in time for the boys to begin splashing us for making them wait.
Four players. Five ‘boards’ to keep us from ‘being’ a certain color each time we reached a particular board.
Playing in Round Robin fashion actually proved to be more challenging than I would have thought… with three other players moving the pieces in turn, there was no way to strategize. It was every man for himself… And swimming up to a ‘board’ in check was just as crushing as it was when it happened in one-on-one games. I was tempted to invite friends for a visit to test if it was a different experience with seasoned players. Cort warned me that I was lucky ‘Uncle Brandon’ and his daughter, Julie, were at a birthday party because they were formidable. Of course, when Cort said it, it sounded more like abominable.
While the boys played with the utmost seriousness, I learned the chess board was a fortunate fluke. Sookie and her grandmother had chosen the checkerboard pattern to match simple black wicker lawn furniture with white cushions.
When Sookie mentioned her family practically lived in their backyard from spring to fall, Cort added the detail that Sookie’s Aunt had even died there… She awoke early on a Sunday morning, prepared breakfast in spite of her many ailments, and taken her Complete Works of Shakespeare to the patio. She spent most of the day, lounging in the fresh air, visiting with her family as they cooked out… While Sookie and Adele tucked the children into bed that evening, her nephews discovered she’d passed when they offered to help her to her room. Cort and Hunter respectfully quoted her last words in chorus, “Good-night, sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” The woman quoted Hamlet when she kissed them goodnight as she’d done since they were infants.
I honestly couldn’t think of a better death, and I’d heard of plenty.
It was impressive enough that I didn’t begin playing guessing games with myself when Hunter mentioned Sookie’s tattoo. Not right away.
Sookie’s grandmother made her entrance while I was facing the house (just after Sookie took the first of the Kings), walking out of the house with a bright smile on her face in spite of her claim of being road weary. Upon learning that I was a Vampire (because Cort made changing light bulbs sound like a Supernatural ability), Adele Stackhouse asked… where I was during the 19th century. Her family laughed at her for pouting when my answer was Russia. They didn’t explain the inside joke, that ‘her favorite flavor of history is the Civil War’, until she excused herself to retire for the night.
After an hour the game ended in an epic disappointment… Cort and Hunter had each taken two kings.
I hadn’t taken it easy on anyone and I was almost sure there wasn’t a way to sabotage a board without cutting one’s own throat.
While Hunter and Cort set up their ‘sudden death match’, Sookie left the pool, slipping into her room for just a moment to return with an armful of towels.
She nibbled what Cort had left of her funnel cake while we watched the boys play a normal game of chess strategically enough to answer any questions I had about their understanding of the game… Sookie explained that there were several reasons for Round Robin, but the most important (in her ‘humble’ opinion) was that they needed to learn how to deal with chaos because no matter how perfect things look at the beginning, you can’t plan for everything. ‘Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances.’ Apparently, Herodotus had been part of Sookie’s classic jag.
Cort and Hunter moved their pieces at a steady pace for several minutes, but as Hunter reached for a knight, he balked… and growled.
I had to stand up to have a better angle, but Cort had him. In two moves, Cort would have Hunter’s King and the game would be over.
A game between a five-year old and a three-year old shouldn’t have been so remarkable, but more so, I was shocked that Hunter could predict more than one movement.
The boys glared at each other until Sookie cleared her throat and warned, “Play it out. Shake hands. Hit the showers. No one likes cry-babies or braggarts. Done.”
Hunter continued to glare and Cort seemed to be trying to keep his smile from getting out of hand.
Once they played out the last few moves, they shook hands ‘like gentlemen’ and walked away, going through Sookie’s room to enter the house.
All I could really think of to say was, “They’re fun. Not what I expected when I first saw them in the showroom, but fun.”
“What did you expect?”
“Wild little nose-pickers… Keep in mind, I’m not in the company of children often. Last week, a tiny asshole showed me his middle finger from the safety of a glass elevator in the mall.”
She snorted, “Tell me you scared the crap out of that turd… and his mother.”
“He filled his pants in record time when I was waiting as the elevator doors opened.”
She laughed, “Good for you… I saw a little girl in the grocery store a couple of weeks ago, couldn’t have been much older than Cort, she called her mother a bitch for vetoing a soda. The mom caved and gave it to her. When the mom wasn’t looking, I bumped the little snot so she’d drop the soda. She called me a ‘fat-ass’, but she did it soaked with Grape Nehi.”
“My child keeps a pack of Tic-Tacs in her handbag. They seem harmless until they’ve been spit by a Vampire. Candy bullets… She uses pushpins for annoying adults.”
Sookie gave me an impish grin. “I need to learn how to do that. You have no idea how many kids I’ve seen screaming from the floor because their mother’s don’t care that they’re tired or hungry, or just bored because she’s had them out for hours. The worst ones are the moms slowly looking through racks of clothes while a baby screams from a stroller. Cort will actually say something.”
I chuckled, not doubting that for an instant. “What does he say?”
“It varies. Last weekend we stopped for lunch and there was a table full of rowdy kids next to us. Knocking over drinks and bickering. He took off his little belt and offered it to the mom, at the top of his lungs.”
Of course he did.
“Pshhhh. Like I’ve ever raised a hand to that boy…” Never? “It shut up the hellions to see another kid suggest they get a whoopin’, but Cort’s just always been a good boy, a thinker. My boys get mouthy, but that’s about all. Precocious and feisty, I can handle.”
I nodded. “Like your debate on mushrooms… it’s a sign they’re thinking. It’s charming… I’ve never seen a feral tantrum in public and cared why the child was carrying on. I just wanted it to stop.”
“Amen… So the bathroom in the book-nook is set up for guests. I’m going to rinse the chlorine off and get changed.”
“Any hints about what Cort will have you read?”
She stood and as she walked towards her room, she giggled, “They get a chapter. If Hunter had won, I’d be reading a chapter from The Lost World. Right now, Cort’s on a dystopian jag. Fahrenheit 451 is the story du jour. We’re in the middle, so I hope you’ve read it.”
“Your five-year old is on a dystopian jag?”
“Yeah. The Time Machine started it… He loves the talking points they have to offer. Fahrenheit 451 is his running bedtime story, but Lord of the Flies commentary was the dinner-table topic for the week he read that.”
“I don’t doubt that… I’m surprised a child can grasp the themes…”
Yet alone define the word. When I’d taken classes to dodge the draft, there were some adults who didn’t know what dystopian meant.
She peeked over her shoulder and grinned. “See why I said ‘no innuendo’? They aren’t geniuses or anything. They don’t get it all… They just have incredible comprehension skills. Part of that is because they have adults in their lives who explain things to them instead of telling them to stop asking questions. I got a lot of ‘shut up’ from my mother and a lot of ‘I don’t know’ from my father… Gran told me ‘let’s look that up’… See ya in a few.”
Sookie needed to write a parenting manual… Pam could hand them out at malls, and possibly, drop them into trick or treaters’ bags.
I spent more time showering than usual… even Sookie’s bathroom was amusing.
The tub area had been retiled since Sookie bought the house… basic ivory tiles, but every other one had a different Shakespearian quote painted on it…
Hundreds… and I took the time to read each one.
The simple muslin shower curtain had been embroidered with ‘How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world,’ and small paintings of Shakespearian scenes hung on the walls.
I’d showered in a bathroom with gold faucets and hadn’t been impressed…
Even though I’d taken my time, I was still dressed early enough to search out Sookie.
I was delayed again in the hallway leading to the bedrooms. Framed photos of Sookie and her family lined the walls…
I’d only just sat on the edge of Sookie’s bed, when she opened her bathroom door wrapped in a towel. Her aunt’s Complete Works was resting on her pillow.
She gasped as she took a step back, “Forward!”
“But not libertine. I’m behaving for now… I want to know where you found the tiles in the book-nook’s bathroom.”
She eyed me carefully as she stepped out of her bathroom and in to her closet. “We made them… The house was a superficial nightmare when I bought it, shag carpet and linoleum tiles, so I got it for a great price. The grout was gross in all the bathrooms. We went to Home Depot and bought blank tiles. Aunt Linda painted the quotes on them and we found someone in the paper with a kiln so we could glaze them.”
“I was afraid you’d say that.”
“Why? As limited as our resources are, we managed. She was really cocky too, so she’d eat it up that you liked it enough to ask about it.”
“My child’s birthday is next week. After more than 300 years, it isn’t easy to surprise her or keep from repeating things. I was wondering if Disney quote tiles could be ordered and installed in time.”
“Oh yeah, you could do that. It wouldn’t take long… a day or two painting and a day being glazed…”
“I’d have to keep her from her house while they’re installed too. And I’m not sure I could archive enough quotes. I could have done the Shakespeare quotes, but I lack the interest in Disney films.”
She stopped in the doorway of her closet, wearing a little floral nightgown with spaghetti straps, and stared at me for a moment before walking back into her bathroom.
She was brushing her hair when she finally offered, “I bet if you had help though… I still know the lady with the kiln. She and Aunt Linda were fast-friends. You could be done by Friday.”
“Her birthday is Friday.”
“So… ideally, you’d like to have the tiles done and installed when she wakes up Friday night?”
“Ideally… but I could save it for Christmas.”
She shook her head. “Maybe it’s because I love a challenge, but I think you can do it. Here’s an idea… paint and glaze the tiles and wrap them. Have the installer show up at sunset to install them with a big bow on the box.”
That would work.
“The only problem would be finding someone who would be willing to work overnight in a Vampire’s house, with the understanding they’d be glamoured to forget the location of her resting place.”
She shook her head. “My brother would do it. In a heartbeat. That’s his favorite kind of job too. He did a kitchen not too long ago. The woman had started a little catering company in her house and her husband surprised her with a remodel. Jason did the work while they were out of town for Christmas. And he did a custom closet for a newly disabled paraplegic. The guy’s buddies took a collection while he was still in the hospital.”
“And he wouldn’t mind being in a Vampire’s house? Did you see the look on his face when Cort towed me through the kitchen?”
She snickered, “It wasn’t that you’re a Vampire. He has a Vampire friend…”
“A Vampire friend?”
“Yeah… Jason’s funny. He was always ‘the popular guy’ with ‘unsavory’ friends. He’s just friendly and gets drawn to folks who need friends the most… That look on his face when you came in was just because he wasn’t expecting company. He was shocked about the flying thing. Did you not see the goony look on his face while you were at the ceiling? If you’re serious, I’ll ask him at Sunday supper tomorrow night.”
“Alright… and you’ll help with a list of quotes, yes?”
“Absolutely. Are there any Disney movies she hates? Just animated or live-action too? Can the quotes be from the songs in the soundtracks?”
“She hates Walt Disney for Bambi… she prefers the animated movies… and I can’t think of a reason to exclude lyrics. She hums the songs often enough.” Specifically, A Spoon Full Of Sugar was usually part of any punishment she delivered.
“Cool. I’m gonna make Jason take a picture for me when he’s all done…”
Cort walked into his mother’s room and asked, “All done with what?”
“Eric really liked the Shakespeare quotes in the book-bathroom. His child’s birthday is next week and she likes Disney movies so he wanted to surprise her with new tiles in her bathroom.”
His eyes lit up. “Cool! Can we help?”
I needed all the help I could get.
I nodded. “She has a very large tub. I’ll need a lot of quotes.”
“Cool. How old’s your kid?”
Sookie snickered, “She’s an adult, baby. When a Vampire makes another Vampire, they’re Maker and child.”
“Oh… okay. I guess tha’ makes sense…” That was an easier explanation than I anticipated.
I offered, “If we can meet the deadline, the tiles will make up for her other gifts.”
“What else is she getting?”
“She loves clothing and shoes… I bought a small safe box, the kind with a combination lock, for every year she’s been alive and filled them with shoes, jewelry, clothing by her favorite designers…”
“How’d ya keep track of the comb’nations?”
He cackled, “OHMIGAWD! Tha’s awesome!”
I chuckled, “I spent hours wrapping her gifts last year, and she unwrapped them all in under a minute. She’ll be able to hear the locks’ tumblers click into place, but she’ll have to show some patience.”
“Best. Prank. Gift. Ever! You gonna take pictures?”
I nodded. “I put the safes back into their boxes and wrapped them, then stacked them in my office. There will be footage from the security camera.”
“So awesome. And I’m not tellin’ Hunt… He’s draggin’ things out by playin’ in the tub. Poor sport. I think he wants me to fart in his pillows.”
When I laughed, Sookie shook her head. “It’s only funny until he farts in your pillow… Get your book, Cort. We’ll start without him.”
When Cort turned to leave, we followed…
We passed the first door along the hallway and Sookie opened the second long enough to stick her head in and say, “I start reading in three minutes whether you’re finished sulking or not, sour-puss. Nice first impression to give Eric. And get that wet bathing suit off of the carpet. You might like mildew, but I have a serious aversion.”
Sookie’s vocabulary certainly helped explain the boys’ comprehension. She didn’t dumb her speech down for them… just her customers.
I took a moment to glance into Hunter’s room, wondering if he’d surprise me by being a little slob, but his room was just as tidy as the rest of the house… except for his wet bathing suit. There were several green toy boxes and a bookshelf full of books and dinosaur figures… his bed was dressed with a green quilt that looked like scales and his pillow cases were quilted dragon’s eyes…
Cort’s room wasn’t a surprise either. His toy boxes were neatly arranged. His bookshelf was in order. His walls were scattered with drawings of catapults, battering rams, and suits of armor. His bedding was quilted in red, white and blue… and a shadowbox containing a flag was hanging over the head of his bed… I hadn’t spent any time thinking about it, because I’d been enjoying myself, but I finally connected the death of Cort’s father to the ‘little warmonger’s interest in warfare and dystopian struggles.
Sookie had barely stepped into his room before he rushed towards us with a pillow and a book. He blurted, “Get in position ‘cuz I’ll be right back,” and ran past us.
She shrugged and backed out of the room, taking just a few steps down the hallway before dropping the pillow and sitting down.
“So both of them can hear me.”
I shrugged and sat next to her… and then stretched out to lay with my head on her thigh.
“I’m not complaining.”
She stared down at me, darting her eyes down to make sure my hands were still resting on my stomach, and finally leaned back against the wall.
I fluttered my eyelids and gave her my most innocent expression. “For now.”
“Pervus Maximus is dying to get out of the cage, isn’t he?”
“As much as he wants to play with you, the cage is stronger than he is.”
She blushed and covered her face to try hiding it…
When Cort turned the corner with a notebook in his hand, he stopped in his tracks. “Mommy’s blushin’?”
She made a whimper so I offered, “I know I’m new here, but maybe you should try telling her how intelligent and beautiful she is more often. She doesn’t respond well to compliments.”
I was quite proud of myself for managing to sugarcoat so well.
He nodded thoughtfully and said, “K. Thought maybe she farted…” Sookie started laughing into her hands. “I’m ready. Jus’ needed somethin’ ta write on. Quotes. Mommy, we need a list’a Disney movies.”
She uncovered her face and took a deep breath. “I’ll print it out so we can have it while we make breakfast.”
He smiled as he darted into his room. “You are really smart an’ pretty. Start readin’!”
While Sookie read Fahrenheit 451, I listened to Hunter leave his bath and climb into his bed, grumbling about ‘stupid Way Badberry’…
Every few minutes, Cort scribbled in his notebook…
Adele Stackhouse snored quietly in her room just down the hall…
Sookie was only two pages into the evening’s installment, when she began absently toying with my hair.
At first, she played with just a small lock, but when she released it to turn a page, she began running her fingers through my hair…
For the next eighteen pages, Sookie read eloquently and pet me…
It was hypnotic.
But not so hypnotic that I failed to notice the boys had fallen to sleep… Granted, it was difficult to hear Hunter’s restful breathing over Cort’s ferocious snoring, but I still heard it…
My eyes had been closed while Sookie read, so I rolled over to face her, pretending to be asleep to test how much she knew about Vampires…
Her reading balked when I wrapped my arms around her hips… she even held her breath and stopped toying with my hair until I faked a sleepy grunt and ‘fumbled’ for her hand to replace it on my head.
She snickered quietly and continued to read, “The door opened and shut. Montag was in the dark street again, looking at the world. You could feel the war getting ready in the sky that night. The way the clouds moved aside and came back, and the way the stars looked, a million of them swimming between the clouds, like the enemy discs, and the feeling that the sky might fall upon the city and turn it to chalk dust, and the moon go up in red fire; that was how the night felt… and He drinks a Whiskey drink, he drinks a Vodka drink. He drinks a Lager drink, he drinks a Cider drink. He sings the songs that remind him of the good times. He sings the songs that remind him of the best times…”
She was testing me.
I could control myself enough to keep from laughing, but smiling at the clever little brat happened too quickly. “Ray Bradbury was ahead of his time… Go on… My favorite part is when they piss the night away and sing Danny Boy.”
She whispered, “You seem comfortable.”
I nuzzled her thigh and groaned, “The floor is too hard. Take me to bed.”
She shoved my shoulder and giggled, “You let him out of the cage without warning me.”
“Not quite… he’s reaching through the bars though… Now that the reasons for the cage are asleep… your heat, your scent…”
“You’re so bad.”
“If I were so bad, I would have started looking for your tattoo already.”
She whispered, “As old as you are, you haven’t seen enough tattoos yet?”
“I think I’ve seen a million tramp stamps over the past year alone… they aren’t even funny anymore… But I can’t help but be curious about what someone like you would have tattooed.”
“Someone like me?”
I nodded and tightened my arms around her. “You’re bold enough to stand up to a Vampire. Your children are energetic, brilliant, respectful and charming. You’re dedicated to your family in spite of being part of the most selfish generation in an already rapidly declining society… Yes, I’m curious about what you’d find meaningful enough to have it permanently etched into your skin.”
“It could just be a big ole pot leaf.”
“Then I think I’d still like to hear how that came to happen, but I could just be fishing to see more of your skin.”
She giggled, “For the record, I almost got one, a pot leaf. I was laying on a kitchen counter during a party. I actually have a little dot where the guy started… but the cops broke up the party. I was 15 and it was a dare. I was watching someone get a tattoo on their shoulder and one of my friends told me I couldn’t take the pain of being tattooed.”
“Were you wild?”
“Not wild… I was really introverted when I was little. When I finally came out of my shell, I wanted to do everything there was to be done. Once my school work was out of the way, I was with friends. Gran gave me a pretty long leash just because she was happy that I finally had friends. My poor brother nearly got arrested for being a legal adult at parties where kids were drinking, but he was watching out for me… Jas is the one who called the cops to spare me from getting a pot leaf. Funny, but not really interesting if I ended up with the tattoo.”
“I’m still interested enough… Tell me about the tattoo you actually do have.”
She took a deep breath and still didn’t say anything.
When I opened my eyes to try to get some sort of hint about her hesitation, she put her hand over them. “Don’t look at me. I’m trying to think of the fastest way to tell the story without getting choked up… It’s pretty personal and you’re lucky I’m even thinking about telling you.”
I chuckled, “Yes ma’am… Keep in mind, you just complained about eye contact.”
She took another deep breath and offered, “JB died when Cort was just a couple of months old. I wallowed. His mother flipped her lid at his funeral and blamed me for why he was over there and I really didn’t need to hear that out loud because I was already thinking it… For the next couple of months, I was on autopilot. I did what Cort needed, but as soon as he went to bed for the night, I’d reach for my bong. I’ve never been a drinker and getting stoned was the only way to ignore that everyone in town felt sorry for me. I mean, I got bigger tips the more I screwed up service. I was still living with Gran at the time and Aunt Linda came over one night just as I got a delivery from my friendly neighborhood pot dealer. She went off the deep end… She told Gran to watch the baby and snatched me to her car. She was strong for an old broad… All the way to Bossier from Bon Temps she read me the riot act. My grace period was over. ‘JB was on his way to being a good man, and he died trying to see to your wellbeing. He’d be beside himself if he saw what you’re doing to yourself. Cort needs you to keep your shit together. Fuck you for taking your family for granted because Stackhouses take care of one another. Don’t you dare think you’re allowed to wallow in this family. Momma set the bar too high. She buried her baby boy and still saw to you and Jason. If you think losing a guy you knew for two years hurts, try losing a child. Get your head out of your ass…’ So on and so on. When we got to the tattoo parlor, she actually yanked a guy out of a chair to shove me into it. She yanked my shirt off and grabbed a Sharpie to write my options directly on me…” She giggled, “The tattoo guy was actually afraid of her. I had my choice between having ‘woe is me’ tattooed on the front of my shoulder, so I’d see it every time I changed… and my other option was ‘though she be but little, she is fierce’ on my side. Of course, I opted for being fierce instead of feeling sorry for myself… I ruined the shirt I wore to my interview at the dealership because my tattoo was still healing.”
It sounded like fierceness was a family characteristic.
“A wakeup call.”
Sookie corrected, “A much needed wakeup call. God only knows how long I would have gone on without it. And it was probably the only reason Aunt Linda let me bring her to Bossier when she started chemo. She turned me down at first, but one day she woke up from a nap with the same options scribbled on her. She called me and told me to come help her pack.”
“You’re lucky to have had such a profound relationship with her. It’s difficult to find anyone who cares about anyone but themselves anymore. I’m even seeing the effects in Vampires. I have a few newborns in my Area and even though their Makers have successful and formidable older children, it shows that the younger ones have come from shallow stock.”
“You don’t have to tell me that. When Aunt Linda got sick, Hadley hit the road. Her own daughter couldn’t bring herself to lift a finger for her mom… I’m going to kill the bitch when I see her again. If my brothers don’t get to her first… I mean, Brandon didn’t even meet her until we were teenagers and he still wants to rip her head off and shit down her neck.”
“Understandable. Why didn’t Brandon meet her?”
“I guess you could say my Daddy had a wild oat. Brandon knew about me and Jason, but not vice versa. He spotted me in the stands at a football game while I was pregnant with Cort. Finally decided to introduce himself…”
Before I could hear the rest of that story, the doorbell rang…
While she squirmed out of my arms, I tried to decide why I was so annoyed to be interrupted… we were just talking…
Sadly, it was probably (at least, in part) because Sookie’s short life had been more interesting than my last couple of centuries.
As she walked away, she complained, “Damn it, Alcide. Use the back door when the lights aren’t on.”
Friendly neighborhood pot dealer?
As soon as she opened the door, there was the sound of a kiss and a long hug, but then a gruff voice complained, “You reek of Vampire.”
Oh lovely. A Were.
“You smell like cheap sluts. How’s Debbie?”
Ooooh, that was bitter. An ex-boyfriend?
He chuckled, “Nice try. I haven’t hooked up with her in… a while. Janice is in town.”
“Really!? It’s been ages! Is she booked for the weekend?”
“She’s tired enough after the Revel that she could probably be talked into brunch before she heads home. I figured bringing you a Muffaletta would be a great excuse to get the invite.”
“Bet. Your. Ass… Tell her we’re already cooking so she can’t back out. We’ll have a ton of stuff for Janice’s freezer and cookie jar by the time y’all get here. Eleven-ish?”
“You’re not coming in. I have company…” After a pause there was another kiss and finally she offered, “See ya in the morning. Tell Jack I send my love.”
“Grumpy prick doesn’t deserve it.”
She argued, “Yes he does,” and closed the door.
I listened to Sookie’s bare feet pad over the hardwood floors until the refrigerator door opened…
I was standing behind it when she closed it again.
She actually yelped when she jumped… and then she slapped my chest. “You scared the crap out of me!”
I took a step towards her and she took a step back.
I made a show of sampling the air. “You smell like Were.”
I took another step towards her. She stepped back again.
She nodded and started, “This widower, he starts dating this great lady who lives out in the country. Well, they’re keeping their relationship quiet because his kids miss their mom and she’s got a really nosey family. He fends off his kids by telling them she’s just a hook-up and she keeps her family at bay by explaining that he lost his wife and is worried about how they’d react to him dating, so in the spirit of fairness, her family didn’t get to meet him until he was ready to tell his kids. Then his lady-friend gets diagnosed with cancer and moves. It took a while, but the family gangs up on her so she’d let him see her. She didn’t want him to watch someone else die that way. Once she lets him back in, he spends most of his time with her. Well, his son is not happy. He hasn’t told his son anything about his girlfriend. All the son knows is that his father comes home upset and covered with blonde hair. He follows his father one night and then has a cop-friend look up the license plates and address. So he confronts the owner of the house at work. Tells her, ‘I don’t know what the fuck you’re doing with my father, but it’s killing him. Find someone your own age to mind-fuck. My father’s been through enough. Back off,’… Poor Alcide thought the blonde hairs were mine…”
I’d been gradually inching her back, and when she reached the counter, I lifted her, wedging myself between her knees…
She continued, starting with a shaky voice, “He didn’t want to believe me when I explained his dad’s girlfriend had been diagnosed and was in the middle of a round of chemo… I brought him to the house to meet Aunt Linda and the first thing she said when I introduced them was an apology because she tried to cut Jack loose so he wouldn’t have another season pass for cancer… Alcide and Janice have been like cousins ever since. Jack doesn’t come around as much now that Linda’s gone, but it’s because I look and sound like her, but he comes by and kidnaps the boys while I’m at work and does stuff with them. He’s the only grandfather type they have and he’s awesome at the job.”
I shook my head slowly. “I’m sorry. You should have told that story earlier… All I could do just now was imagine better uses for your mouth.”
“My mouth? I’m thinking about yours.”
I ran my hands over her thighs to her ass and pulled her towards me. “If I just wanted something to bite and fuck, I’d be at Fangtasia already. I enjoy your company.”
“And how many single moms have you used this line on?”
“None. Why would you assume that?”
“Because Vampires keep pets. I’ve sold dozens of cars to a handful of day-guys for their Masters’ pets. Last week, I sold two. Same day-guy, different women.”
“It wasn’t my day-guy. I don’t keep pets… I’ll send Bobby back to the showroom so you can ask him before he’s replaced.”
“You don’t keep pets… Does that mean you fake your way through one-sided relationships?”
I actually managed to chuckle. “No.”
“You were awfully good with the kids to only be exposed to screaming-mimis at malls.”
“I told you, your children are delightfully well behaved… I don’t think you really believe I’m part of the status quo anyway.”
“Oh really? Why not?”
“Because you’re a good mother who wouldn’t expose her children to someone she believed thought of her as a target. If you really thought I was trying to add a pet to a possible menagerie, or fake my way into your good graces, you would have taken the chance to have me leave when I offered.”
She sighed, “Fair enough. You can’t blame me for asking though.”
“No. Not at all. Pam actually does keep several pets, and there are numerous Vampires in the Area who enjoy the façade of a relationship… but just so you know, they tend to stick to singles without children because it’s easier.”
“Kids are a complication?”
“Child-care is a complication… Are we finished talking yet?”
She whimpered, “No?”
She bit her lip and answered, “Yeah.”
“Top or bottom?”
She breathed, “Oh God.”
I repeated, “Top or bottom?”
She closed her eyes and blurted, “I’m rusty, but I used to be pretty flexible. You?”
“I’m torn between pinning you, and watching you ride me… Why are you rusty?”
“Because the last guy I dated didn’t come back after I broke his ribs. He thought Cort was already too much to compete with and when I got Hunter, he suggested I put him in foster care.”
“You should have pushed his nose into his brain and watched him twitch… Do you moan or whine?”
She took another deep breath and stammered, “I… I… I’m just pretty vocal in general. Your turn.”
I leaned over and whispered into her ear, “I tend to growl…” Her entire body shook when she shivered. “Have you ever done anything that could be considered exhibitionism?”
She started, “Well,” but I couldn’t resist the temptation of being so close.
Her scent was incredible, but her skin was even sweeter.
I nibbled the side of her neck and urged, “Keep talking.”
She released a ragged breath and whispered, “Back to the ‘generally vocal’ thing. I’ve done it outside, like in the woods or in the back of a car, for privacy. I don’t think that really counts though.”
“Not really. I’m willing to volunteer if you’re interested though… Are you a true blonde or just a summer blonde?”
Her hands finally left the counter to curl around my arms. “True blonde. I really do shave though. Bikinis.”
“Will I get to see a bikini tomorrow night when I return for my list of quotes.”
She shivered again and snickered, “Probably.”
I tightened my grip and pulled her closer. “Do you have an oral fixa-?”
Before I could finish asking, she tilted her head and ran her tongue over the side of my neck…
Nibbling, chewing, sucking, the little noises she made while I tried to resist ripping her gown…
Gentle whimpers that went straight through me…
The way her breaths chilled the trail her mouth had left…
Slowly moving from the base of my neck to my ear before dragging her teeth over my lobe and leaning back.
She panted, “Does that answer your question?”
I nodded and growled, “Is it my turn?”
She tensed, tightening her knees against my side and shaking her head. “No. Not tonight. I like you. I want to get to know you before jumping into bed with you. Can you handle that? Can he handle the cage?”
I shook my head. “The cage is a very cold place.”
I may or may not have been whining.
She pouted her lip. “I’ll tell the boys we’re dating so he can reach through the bars, but I gave you my list of standards up front.”
I growled, “Proof I can be an idiot… I actually respect your fucking standards.”
“Does it make you feel better to know it’s a huge turn on that you do, which makes it much harder for me to behave too?”
Fuck. No. It softened the blow, but it did nothing to discourage me from testing how far I could push her.
I growled and took her from the counter…
Her legs squeezed my sides as she asked what I was doing…
I carried her to her room and laid her in the middle of her bed… On my knees over her…
What the fuck was I thinking?
“I’m leaving before I forget your standards or my manners.”
She laughed, putting her hands on my shoulders. “Okay. Are you gonna kiss me before you leave?”
I shouldn’t have… I knew that before I leaned over.
Nibbling my lip, lacing her fingers into my hair…
It began escalating as soon as our lips met.
When she finally needed to breathe I had to resist the way she lifted her chin to bare her neck.
Her heart was racing… and her scent was becoming too much.
I growled, “Rescind my invitation. Otherwise, I’ll just come back.”
She was panting, but she managed to giggle, “I will.”
I forced myself to back away from the bed.
“Tell the boys to be prepared for a rematch… I’ll be here as early as I can.”
There was only so long the cage would survive… especially considering the way she was looking at me from her bed.