Like A Rock
Unfortunately, the children weren’t bothered by being placed on the roof of the house. Instead of complaining, they demanded I fly with them to race the jets leaving Barksdale for night maneuvers. They didn’t seem to care that they wouldn’t be able to breathe at high altitudes and speeds. I’d finally found a subject that eluded the boys. Biology. Not that it was my forte, but it was somehow settling to see they still retained a certain amount of naiveté. Perhaps I was just entertained by their arguments… Julie promised not to squirm, suggesting I was afraid to drop them. Hunter challenged me to prove the health risks by using a neighbor’s ‘yippy-dog’ as a test subject. And Cort suggested I was being selfish, because taking them for ‘Vampire rides’ would take away from my ‘kissy-face time’ with Sookie.
What finally ended the debate were the doors to Sookie’s room opening… Jason and Brandon had been having too much fun watching me chase midgets on the roof to help me.
Sookie was holding the mesh bag full of chess pieces and already wearing her bikini… red with black polka-dots, and a halter top, but it still didn’t have much more to it than the blue floss Cort found the night before.
No complaints. I couldn’t even begrudge her for choosing a bikini without strings. I would have just been tempted to untie them.
And the placement of her tattoo… broken into two lines on the flat of her waist… Whether it was intended or not, the placement made the quote look like a warning label.
Just to repay Cort for stealing my wallet, I raced past him in the hallway and locked myself into his room to change into my swimsuit, and made it a point to toss my clothing and shoes everywhere. He scowled at me when he saw the mess I’d left in his otherwise clean room…
The best part of my fuckery? My reward. When Cort joined everyone outside… He raised his eyebrow and offered, “Took care’a yer clothes for ya,” before diving into the pool.
His tone was icy and meant to scare me, but I couldn’t help but think how well he played the situation. It didn’t matter if he put my clothes in his toilet and personally hosed them down. The fact that he didn’t just tattle on me, that was… in his words, ‘just awesome’.
Seven-player Round Robin…
The stakes weren’t any different. The prize was decided as side-bets per household. Sookie, the boys and I were playing to win our choice of bedtime story. It was the standing bet.
Brandon and Julie’s stakes varied, which is how he found himself at a salon for a ‘spa party’ the night before. Tonight, if Julie won, she’d be allowed to choose the dinner menu for the week. If Brandon won, Julie would assume laundry duty.
Since Jason lived alone, Jason stood to win nothing. When they all played Round Robin on Sunday nights, Jason’s roll in the game was ‘Murphy’s Law’. He circulated in turn, sabotaging boards. He’d reset pieces to their home. He’d promote pieces, and ‘demote’ them. He fucked with one piece on each board for each turn…
The good news: With seven players per board, I probably wouldn’t notice how much havoc Jason caused.
The bad news: I wasn’t allowed to kill him… In all seriousness, “If we can’t kill him, you can’t either.” Jason was the only member of the family who hadn’t joined in to warn me.
We hadn’t made our first complete lap around the pool when music began playing in the den.
Adele had turned on a Dave Matthews CD and opened the doors before taking a seat on a chaise.
She made her apologies for being detained by a phone call and explained that an old friend was probing her for information about her trip to Vicksburg…
Sookie snickered and winked in my direction, but I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be noticing until Adele asked, “So Eric, were you born and raised in Louisiana?” with a cheeky grin on her face.
Of course, she knew better… and the wink Sookie had given me was a hint that Adele was leading in to my interrogation.
Cooperating only seemed fair. I knew much more about Sookie than she knew about me. Even if she wasn’t the one to ask the questions, she was part of the audience.
“Sweden actually. I’m roughly a thousand years old and I didn’t move to America until the 1920s.”
She looked like the boys had while I changed the light bulbs.
“You were in Russia until then though?”
“I was there from the early 1850s until the turn of the century.”
“What did you do? Were you a farmer or…”
“I served as an enforcer. I was contracted to help minimize the fuckery of emancipation reform.”
Everyone turned to watch Adele’s reaction.
She gasped, “You worked for Alexander II’s administration?”
“I met him several times, but I was a member of Emperor Dmitri’s staff. There have always been layers of sovereignty. For instance, while England’s Humans have been ruled by various Human Kings for a few years at a time, King Tyson has reigned over Brittan since the House of Normandy. Vampires pull strings for economic reasons, but by and large, Vampires don’t usually interfere in Human affairs. Dmitri knew Emancipation reform was going to be a clusterfuck from his first meeting with Alexander II. Humans know nothing about patience and he wanted everything to happen overnight.”
“It’s a shame Vampires didn’t intervene while Hitler was in power.”
“There were radicals on both sides, but the American Vampire population boomed between 1910 and 1945. The Kulturekampf left a bad taste in our collective mouth. A Vampire’s longevity depends on the security of his resting place. Ransacking and carpet bombing destroyed shelters and going to ground wasn’t even guaranteed to be safe.”
“So you went from Russia to California?”
“After a few decades in St. Petersburg we had a touch of cabin fever. My child went to Italy and Spain and made a valiant effort to cause a worldwide fashion shortage. I wandered for a while, appraising old properties, deciding what to keep and what to sell, and visiting old friends. When we came to America, we stayed in New York for a few months and moved to Los Angeles.”
“So you’ve been all over the place.”
“Europe mostly. I was in China for what felt like forever.”
She laughed, “I bet you didn’t stand out at all.”
Being fourteen cun taller than the average Beijinger and fair-skinned?
“I was known as Gweilo in smaller villages. Ghost. I made a fortune changing light bulbs though.”
She chuckled with the boys and asked, “How’d you end up in Shreveport as a Sheriff?”
“That’s a funny story. You see, I’m relatively well known as an enforcer… When I moved to New Orleans, the Queen was paranoid about why. She thought I was trying to take over her territory…”
“Why would she think that?”
Because she’s a stupid cunt.
“Because while I served Vampire Kings in Europe, she was gift-wrapped and loaded onto a boat destined for the colony of Georgia.”
“When it was a penal colony?”
I nodded. “She’d worn out her welcome by accruing debt in epic proportions. She was given a ‘fresh start’. She moved west until she came to an unclaimed territory and planted her flag as soon as she crossed the Mississippi River without any idea how large the territory was. Since the 18th century she’s lost everything except the current state of Louisiana to what she calls ‘Land Boomers’.”
Brandon chuckled at the look on Adele’s face. “The History Channel is good enough for some people, not our Gran. She interviews Vampires.”
Jason agreed, “No kiddin’, but can ya blame her? Eric’s sexier than any docu-scholar I ever seen.”
Sookie giggled, “It’s a shame he already broke her heart by missing the colonization and Civil War.”
Adele rolled her eyes and chided, “Y’all hush. I can’t lift a book that has as much history as Eric has in his head.”
Perhaps it was just because I’d been asked the most ridiculous questions about being a Vampire in recent months, but I didn’t mind Adele’s line of questioning. At least she hadn’t asked me to transform into a bat.
I defended her.
“And books are written by students of history rather than those who experienced the eras first hand… I don’t mind educated questions. I mind being asked if babies taste different from adults.”
Jason teased, “Even if she doesn’t really care about 995 years of your life.”
The woman scoffed and pushed herself from the chaise. “If y’all are just gonna make fun of me…”
Her grandchildren tried to call her back, but she stopped as soon as I said, “Adele?” Once she turned around, I suggested, “Perhaps they assumed I was only humoring you… It occurred to me last night that I might know of a Vampire with a bounty of information about your particular interest. A former slave who fought for the Confederacy and was part of the Underground Railroad efforts…” She swayed before practically running back to her seat.
The children giggled, “Got ‘er.”
Yes. I. Did.
I continued, “I’ve met a Confederate Veteran, but it seemed like the only improvement he’d made on himself since he was brought over was his hygiene.”
She had to close her mouth to begin, “Why would he help the Underground Railroad and still fight for the south? Isn’t that a little contradictory?”
“Willem fought to defend his land and livelihood, not for Human rights or political agendas. He aided the Underground Railroad as a war profiteer.”
She gasped, “He didn’t!”
“His plantation, vineyards and shipping company were in North Carolina. His identity was that of a ‘house boy’, but he was actually the Master of the property while the family who benefited from living there was Were. They had quite the symbiotic relationship for generations. As per the standard of the time, slaves owned by Vampires had notably better living and working conditions because they were fed from. As word made its way through the grapevine, more and more of his neighbors’ slaves asked him for help escaping their unfair situations. But how? He lived far enough north to know the northern states were flooded with starving unemployed immigrants. According to what he’d heard, conditions for slaves weren’t better further south.”
Adele breathed, “What did he do?”
“I think it was brilliant… He escorted them to the Caribbean. He bought land from the King and left the refugees to sharecrop. Every fall after the first, he’d escort a group of slaves south, and bring back a ship full of commodities… In the summers, he’d go to ground near encampments, and he’d patrol at night. He’d ambush Union troops and take their supplies to the Confederates.”
Adele was completely gobsmacked, so everyone stopped playing chess to stare at her…
After a moment, the back of my shoulder was punched and Julie chided, “YOU BROKE MY GRAN!”
I chuckled, “I’m sorry?”
Sookie slipped her arm around mine to pull herself close enough to kiss my cheek. “Don’t be sorry. She probably wants to jump on the phone with her DGD friends like a teenage girl with fresh gossip.”
“If she’s already calling her friends, she could get their input on a list of interview questions. I’m sure I could convince Willem to answer a few.” He’d owed me two favors for long enough I could spare one.
When Adele breathed, “Don’t tease an old woman,” Sookie’s arm tightened around mine.
“If you feel like researching, Tyrrell County in North Carolina would be a good starting point.”
She gasped, “That’s where he lived?”
“His name is Willem Tyrrell.”
Adele shoved herself from the chaise and race-walked into the house.
Sookie kissed my cheek again and giggled, “I still can’t sell you the demo.”
“Fuck. You can’t blame me for trying.”
Jason blurted, “That’s three! He said fuck in front of Gran, and with kids around, and she didn’t even blink! My ears’d still be ringin’!”
He was counting?
Julie rolled her eyes and scoffed as she swam back to her board. “Right, ‘cuz Gran’s gonna fuss at an elder…”
The more impressive aspect was that Adele (and Julie, for that matter) grasped the concept I was an elder when so many Humans were retarded by appearance.
Cort added, “An elder blabberin’ about hist’ry.”
Hunter finished, “Duuu’uhhhh… An’ Uncle Jason, ya mess up my cass’lin one more time… I’ma Crazy Glue yer nose shut.”
Jason argued, “You do that again, and I’ma draw lil’spiders in all yer favorite books so you get the heebie-jeebies.”
Again? How did that happen the first time?
Hunter volleyed, “I’ll call when yer with girlfrens and cry ‘bout child s’port…” He sniffled, “I’m jus’so hungry, daddy.”
Perfectly played and utterly evil… Sookie and Brandon were already covering their mouths, leaving me to laugh while Jason tried to think of a rebuttal.
Hunter victoriously swam back to his board and snorted, “Tha’s what I thought. Back off my rooks, bu’head.”
We were in the 7th lap when Hunter and I took the first kings of the night at the same time, and Brandon won a king on his next turn.
Three down, four to go.
The 8th lap was the last one, and all of the excitement happened in three turns.
Hunter was first, giving him the lead… and Cort took his first king during that turn…
Five down, two to go.
On the next turn, I tied for the lead with Hunter…
Six down, one to go.
And on the very next board, I took the last of the kings.
Cort growled at himself for leaving the king exposed to a bishop, but ultimately, Murphy’s Law was to blame for bringing the bishops back from the graveyard. After Hunter complained about Jason’s ‘un-castling’, Jason decided to reactivate Hunter’s least favorite piece. Every time he swam up to a board shy a bishop or two, he brought one back.
While Hunter analyzed his ‘mistakes’, Cort cheerfully reassured his brother that I wouldn’t pick a stupid book… and when that didn’t work, he tried to tell his brother that if I never won, I’d pout.
What finally ended Hunter’s sulking was the book. When Sookie returned from the kitchen with pie and milk, she brought Eragon with her. The cover art had his attention right away…
Once Jason left for another date, and Brandon took Julie home so she could run a load of laundry, Sookie, the boys and I ‘went our separate ways’ to shower…
Meaning… I waited for the boys to go to their rooms before I crept into Sookie’s.
I’d managed to control my reaction to seeing Sookie in her bikini… Perhaps the cage was just easier to tolerate when the boys were present, but as soon as I stepped into Sookie’s tub with her, I second guessed myself.
I meant to teasingly reach through the bars, testing her modesty, maybe selling her privacy back to her for a kiss.
Her back was arched as she pushed shampoo through her hair… the bubbles… the cage suddenly felt much smaller.
I actually made the decision to turn back, but she turned around.
She yelped and lurched back, slipping, forcing me to catch her.
She slapped my shoulder and yelled a whisper, “What are you doing?”
My original ‘excuse’… “I already read the other bathroom. I wanted to read this one.”
I had one arm across her back from having caught her, and the other was itching to touch her, but I behaved. I was trying to stick to the original plan. Steal a kiss and leave before we were interrupted by the children. But with nothing between us but my bathing suit…
The way she giggled and whispered, “You’re so bad,” didn’t help. “Go take your own shower.”
If she’d been horrified/mortified/infuriated by my invasion, I probably could have convinced my legs to move. She was only half-heartedly covering her breasts with her arms.
I let my fangs down and offered, “I don’t mind sharing.”
She giggled again, but when the door to her bathroom opened, it might as well have been a magical Kennedy bullet… all hope was lost in an instant.
It was just Adele.
Sookie sagged against me and mouthed, “Thank God.”
Adele continued, “I was talking to Gus. We’re making a list, but… It’s so sweet of Eric to offer to talk to his friend, I don’t want to overstep… Do you think it’s too much if I ask him for some… guidelines? I think that’s the best way to put it.”
It might not have been as unsettling as being barged in on by the boys, but at least the ‘fuck me’ look had left Sookie’s face.
I kissed her forehead and stepped out of the tub, chuckling at the startled look on Adele’s face as I leaned against the counter.
“What do you mean by guidelines?”
Her chin bounced while she gawked at me and the sheet of paper in her hand shook as though a stiff breeze was moving it.
I joked, “You barged in on Sookie too. I’m allowed… What questions do you have?”
Sookie snorted from behind the curtain, “Geez Gran, he’s still in his bathing suit. It’s not like we were fooling around.”
Adele shook off her shock and cleared her throat. “Well, you might have noticed that I’d be content to hear his life story. And we want to ask good questions instead of vague ones, but we don’t really know if there’s certain topics to avoid.”
“As a rule of thumb, most Vampires don’t enjoy speaking about their Human life…”
She nodded and looked at her page, taking a pen from behind her ear to scratch off several lines. “That saves us a lot of embarrassment. Thank you.”
“Which ones have been excluded?”
“What sort of owner/overseer he had, if he was sold between plantations, or…”
I chuckled, “You’re thinking quite small… He wasn’t an American slave.”
She cringed. “How ridiculous. I’m sorry. I’m just so used to…”
“Don’t be sorry… Because Human lives can be a touchy subject for some Vampires, I suggest one blanket question pertaining to his experiences as a slave. If he refuses to answer, then you’ve lost nothing.”
She nodded and made a note on her list. “In the vaguest of terms, just to settle my curiosity, why don’t you guys like to talk about being Human?”
“For most of us, it’s because we were stolen from our lives and loved ones. In my case, I was taken from my small children. I’m sure my parents or siblings took them in, but I’ll never know… What else were you pondering?”
“I asked in a vague sense. I wasn’t fishing for…”
“I know. I chose to volunteer that information… See how that works? An ambiguously worded question gives him the option to avoid certain topics. I was free to have told you that some of us miss certain things we’ll never be able to experience again. I know Vampires who had tragic lives and were happy to escape them. I know Vampires who were despondent and asked to be ended.”
She gave me a nervous smile and took a deep breath. “Would it be out of line to ask him about the family he used as his cover?”
“Not at all. You won’t find Willem in census records because slaves weren’t named. The family will be your only way to substantiate his existence.”
“Would Willem be willing to offer any character information if he met anyone notable?”
“Yes, but be careful what you ask. You could find yourself a bit dashed… A complete prick can be glorified in an eternity of history books thanks to one heroic moment. I laughed my way though many a university history requirement.”
She chuckled, “Noted…”
Before she could ask her next question, Sookie turned off the water and held her hand out of the curtain. “Towel please.”
“We’ll close our eyes. There aren’t any out here.”
Adele laughed and took the towel from the counter and put it in Sookie’s hand.
I snorted, “That’s it. No more history for you.”
She blushed and looked at her page again… and just as Sookie stepped out of the tub, Cort pushed the bathroom door open.
“Why are y’all in here?”
I explained, “We were brainstorming…” I squeezed past Sookie and stepped into the tub to finally take my shower. “We’re working on the list of questions I’m going to give Willem. Can you think of anything?”
“Ya talk ta people while you’re in tha shower?”
“We were just talking in the pool. Why does the addition of shampoo require a locked door?”
“Uh, ‘cuz ya took yer trunks off?” Only just then.
“Hence the curtain… Can you think of anything?”
“Uh… Movies… I always wanna know if movies are doin’ it right. Not just tha war stuff. Tha clothes too.”
“Good question… We all do that, see a movie and criticize it because the clothing or speech is inaccurate for the period. Speaking of clothing, Cort.”
He cackled and ran out of the room.
Not a good sign.
Instead of wondering what he’d done, I tried to get back to the topic. “I’m not sure what your group prefers to focus on, but you should probably discuss the interview as a group so no stone is left unturned. Willem wasn’t enlisted. He worked for the Confederacy as a rogue. He’ll be able to offer a different perspective. I’ve heard rumors about raids on POW camps…”
She began scribbling. “Oooooh. I didn’t think of that.”
“The general temperament at rallies. Supply shortages for civilians. I’d ask what became of his slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation. What he witnessed as a standard for slave-owners…”
She snickered, “Slow down. I can’t keep up…”
“You might want to compile a list of relevant conspiracy theories as well. Most of what I’ve seen on that type of program has a Supernatural explanation.”
She chuckled, “Like missing Confederate gold, and if Booth actually escaped… Wait. Which ones do you know about?”
“At my age, I’ve lost count. What comes to mind?”
“That’s a good one… I’ll answer you in exchange for a towel.”
A cabinet opened and slammed shut and a towel suddenly appeared over the bar.
I wrapped the towel around my waist and stepped out of the tub. “The King of the Caribbean enjoyed his solitude… European explorers ruined it. The Triangle is what happened while Santiago’s Witches worked the kinks out of protection spells. He’d left with a few friends to escape the politics of Europe, but as America was settled, the Caribbean’s population increased as well… He was going mad and wanted to ward an entire sea. I consider myself lucky to have a Witch who can ward my houses during the day. Even then, she has to recharge the wards every few months.”
Her eyes looked like they might roll onto the floor.
She breathed, “Witches?”
I gasped, “Vampires!”
She closed her eyes and mumbled, “Point taken… Where is that boy with your clothes?”
Hunter shouted from the hallway, “I’m comin’. Cort’s gonna die.”
That really didn’t bode well.
Hunter entered Sookie’s room carrying a neat stack of my folded clothing with my boots sitting on top.
Nothing obvious was wrong.
I accepted the stack when Hunter offered it and thanked him.
“Don’t kill the messenger.”
Adele snatched one of my boots and shoved her hand into it, then repeated the process with the other.
She dropped my boots to grab my shirt and as she unfolded that, I held up my jeans for inspection…
While Adele shouted Cort’s full name, I bit the inside of my mouth to keep from laughing.
He’d said, ‘Took care’a yer clothes for ya.’
Apparently, that translated to, ‘I covered your jeans and T-shirt with a kaleidoscope of butterfly iron-ons.’
Absolutely fucking hilarious.
He had actively engaged in warfare whether he realized it or not, but at least his first battle had been a victory.
I pulled my jeans on and tossed my towel aside, then took my shirt from Adele… As I dressed, Hunter’s laugher grew from a giggle to a cackle until he crashed against the side of the bed while I pulled on my socks and boots.
Even though I winked at Adele to let her know I wasn’t angry, she stormed out in search of the little prankster.
Just before Sookie left her closet, she giggled, “I hope you’re happy. I’m afraid now,” and as soon as she spotted me stretched out on her bed, covered with butterflies, she stopped in her tracks.
Her jeans and tank top were butterfly-free.
She shrieked, “OhmiGod! Eric, I’m so sorry!”
I curled my finger and waited for her to join me, sitting at my side… I whispered, “I’m not angry.”
“This is hilarious. He covered a Vampire with butterflies.”
She sighed, “How am I supposed to let him get into a prank war without setting him straight? He could have burned himself with the iron. The patches cost money, and so did your clothes. I’m not seeing any room for rules.”
“Are you asking me for input or putting an end to the pranking?”
She took a deep breath and sighed, “Let me hear your input before I have a party-pooper reaction.”
“Does he have cash? A piggy bank?”
“Then maybe a rule regarding financial responsibility would be called for.”
“If you can’t buy it, don’t break it… Okay… That seems fair. What about the iron?”
“That’s not my place to say. If you already had a rule in place regarding the iron, then he was out of line by using it.”
She growled, “Nothing official. I’ll be adding that.”
“We need to establish a few gentleman’s rules too…”
“Gentleman’s rules for a prank war that embraces butterflied Vampires?”
“Yes. Boundaries to keep the pranks fun instead allowing it become a grudge match.”
“K… as long as there are limits, I guess I can… wait and see.”
“I have to ask… Is there any reason I should take this as posturing instead of just a prank?”
“He had access to my clothing because I left it in his room… He could feel as though I’m invading.”
She shook her head. “No. He likes you. This wasn’t him being territorial or acting out. I’d tell you.”
With that taken care of, all there was left to do was wait for Adele to finish admonishing Cort for ruining my clothing… and try to figure out when I became likable.
When she finally brought the boy to Sookie’s room, I sat up.
His contrite expression barely lasted until his hands were over his face. He giggled, “I’m sorry.”
Sookie couldn’t look at him. Every time she tried, she had to bite her lip.
“You don’t sound sorry.”
“I know. I’m sorry… But… you need pigtails.”
“Maybe some makeup.”
Adele batted the back of his head. “Boy. It would serve you right if I ironed butterflies to all of your clothes.”
He snickered into his hands, “Ya can’t. Princess Eric’s wearin’em all.”
When I finally chuckled, Sookie gave up her battle to keep a straight face.
Cort finally uncovered his face and laughed, “Yer not mad. Ya play jokes with yer child.”
I shook my head. “I’m impressed, but we need to discuss a few things.”
“Your mother is concerned that you could have burned yourself with the iron…”
Sookie offered, “No more irons. I know we’ve never had a reason for the rule, but there’s one now. Got it?”
He nodded. “Yes ma’am.”
I added, “For future reference, I’d rather you enlisted the help of accomplices than risked your own safety. I’m a ‘big boy’. I won’t begrudge you for having adult help.”
“Also, you need to be conscious of the value of things. I’m sure the iron-ons were inexpensive, and I have so many jeans and T-shirts that this was of no consequence, but your home is full of irreplaceable heirlooms and keepsakes. The handmade quilts I’ve noticed on every bed, the crewelwork and embroidery on pillows and tablecloths, the paintings, your father’s flag… Nothing can replace those items if something were to ruin them. We’re going to respect that.”
He gave a very serious nod. “Got it.”
“And I’ll never play a joke that leads you to believe one of your loved ones has been harmed or is in danger. It’s a line I won’t cross and I expect reciprocity. If you call me and say someone is trying to break into your house, I’d believe you. I’d already be planning where to hide the intruder’s body by the time I arrived and if I were met with confetti and a ‘gotcha’, I’d be livid.”
He cringed. “Yeah. Me too. Got it. What else?”
I offered my hand to shake. “May the best man win.”
His eyebrows pulled up to points as he took my hand. “I’m juss’a kid and yer covered in butterflies.”
I looked down at my new embellishments and sighed, “The good news is that I can carry nearly any handbag and still match…” He started to laugh. “But I’m suddenly in the mood to take a long bubble bath and paint my nails.”
He grabbed my wrist and yanked me, trying to pull me towards the door. “Oh no you don’t! We got no time for that! Bedtime story! Up! Let’s go!”
Eragon and a pillow were already waiting in the hallway for us.
Before Sookie could sit, I did. I stretched my legs out, and patted my thighs.
She raised an eyebrow and whispered, “Me on your lap, not a good idea.”
“It’s a fabulous idea, in many varied positions, but I’m not even reaching through the bars. Strictly PG.”
She gave me a suspicious look as she lowered, placing herself on my lap cautiously.
“Are you afraid of sitting on my lap?”
She leaned back against my chest and whimpered, “Because you’re an asshole… My ‘cage’ could go over if someone blows out birthday candles at this point.”
“Maybe that’s because you aren’t reaching through your bars at all. You have to feed the beast something.”
She reached down and swatted my thigh. “And stop using that pillowtalk voice.”
Hunter barked from his bedroom, “Stop flirtin’! Start weedin’!”
Sookie giggled and opened the book, leafing through to the prologue… “Shadow of Fear…”
From the prologue to the section titled Fate’s Gift, Sookie read to a captivated audience. Nearly sixty pages, when the standard was closer to twenty, but the boys still wanted her to continue…
Once she reminded them that Cort needed to rest because he had school in the morning, she kissed the boys goodnight (and I was given high-fives for my choice of books) and told them to behave for Adele while she took me to see Trey.
Other than being a mechanic, he was enough of a family friend that the boys sent messages… While Sookie waited for Adele to package a pie for Trey, I made a brief visit to my house to change.
Sookie was still backing out of her driveway when she explained that she was confronted by a wife who’d been told her husband was flirting with her. Trey’s wife had stormed into the dealership, while ‘enormously’ pregnant to accuse Sookie of being a home-wrecker. Once Sookie explained she didn’t know who the wife’s husband was, and the wife was finished sobbing and screaming, they realized the source of the rumor was across the street at Furnan Motor Sport. The woman’s brother (Brandon’s employer) had seen Sookie and Trey discussing the crew cabs of Silverados because he needed a back seat for the child he was expecting. Virginia Dawson stopped talking to her brother until the baby was born and Trey eventually bought a Silverado. The Dawsons had been family friends ever since. Adele babysat for them during full moons.
Were magnets. It was almost funny. Knowing that Weres tended to insulate themselves and stick to their own kind, I jokingly asked if her grandfather had been a Were.
Her aunt had a Were lover. Her brother worked for a Were. Sookie preferred the company of the Weres who worked in the garage at Shreveport GM… and as it turned out had ‘almost dated’ a Shifter she used to work for.
There wasn’t anything light about her tone. She very seriously said, “No. My grandfather wasn’t a Were,” and then effectively changed the subject by calling Trey to let him know to expect us.
I’d finally found a subject she wasn’t willing to elaborate on.
There hadn’t been anything along the road for a few miles when we reached Dawson’s Auto… Just four gas pumps in front of a six-bay garage and small convenience store…
Sookie turned into the lot, but continued driving past the gas station… past a large fenced compound with several cars being stored, along the path that crossed a fallow field towards the tree line in the distance.
There was a house tucked away from the industrial portion of the property… and the Were was standing in the driveway, leaning against my car.
Sookie parked behind his Silverado and as soon as I stepped out of BITE ME, the Were started, “If you treated her right, she wouldn’t have needed me.”
Sookie laughed, “Stop.”
He crooned, “I was all over her and she loved it…”
“I did things to her… What we had was special. You might own her, but… when you’re riding her, she’ll be thinking of me.”
He was the Were version of Gawain.
Sookie giggled, “Are you calling BLD SKR a whore-vette?”
He narrowed his eyes and growled, “You watch your mouth. Don’t talk about her like that.”
Sookie walked towards him with her hand out. “Alright, hand over the key so he can run the strip.”
His chin trembled and he bit his lip as he looked at the key in his hand. I was starting to worry he was serious until he let Sookie take the key.
He finally stepped away from my car and cleared his throat. “Yeah. New keys, but there’s four copies in your console. New exhaust, air filter, shocks and tires. I took her out to the airfield and opened her up on the blacktop. I bet you’ve never done that with her.”
“Not at an airfield, but we’ve gotten to New Orleans in less than three hours. How long is the strip of road?”
“About seven miles. Straight shot. This is just a cut through for the parish roads on either end. Be gentle.”
I chuckled, “Silly dog, she likes it rough… Sookie distract him with the pie Adele sent.”
When I returned from taking several laps with the speedometer pegged in my perfectly tuned car, Sookie and a pregnant woman were leaning against the back of BITE ME.
As I stepped out of my car, finally happy with ‘her’, Trey offered, “If she was a little cold, give her time. She’ll forget me… eventually.”
Sookie shook her head and giggled, “He’s really bad. He steals BITE ME and changes her oil… every other month. His first car was a Vette, but a girlfriend…”
Trey and the pregnant woman joined Sookie in chorus, “May that bitch rot in hell.”
“Wrecked it. He was too bereft to replace her… Sheriff Northman, this is Trey’s other ride,” The woman elbowed Sookie while they giggled. “Virginia Dawson, and the bulge is Natalie. Lillian and Marjorie are sleeping inside.”
“I imagine the litter is why you don’t have a Corvette of your own now, yes?”
“It’s not a hardship, brother. I’ve got my priorities straight.”
“I wasn’t suggesting otherwise… I have a black 2000 C5 convertible. It’s sitting in a warehouse completely locked up because I only drove it once.”
“Why did you get it?”
“I didn’t buy it. Occasionally, Vampires die before they can add new cars to their wills. I have four other cars with the same problem. You can have the C5 in exchange for getting the other cars ready for sale. Nothing special, just fluids, filters and tires.”
After a moment of watching him blink, his wife snickered, “Breathe baby. Breathe.”
Sookie giggled, “Jesus, Eric. You broke him too.”
Virginia asked, “Who else did he break?”
“Gran. He knows a Confederate Vampire. She just about peed her pants.”
“Yeah. That’ll do it…” She kissed Sookie’s cheek and began pushing her retarded husband towards the house. “I’m gonna put him in bed before he falls over. He’ll be in touch about that C5. He’s probably making a mental list of mods he already wants to do… Y’all take care. Nice to meet you, Sheriff.”
Sookie ran after them with his payment (because he’d forgotten) and what was left of their pie… she giggled all the way to the house, and all the way back to me.
She fisted her hands into my shirt and stretched up to kiss my cheek. “Happy with your mods?”
I nodded. “Quite. I only wish I knew sooner.”
“You still want the ’04?”
I shook my head. “No. I’m quite content with what I have.”
“Can I say ‘told ya so’?”
“Will it make you feel better?”
She grinned impishly and nodded.
I groaned, “Go ahead then.”
She curled her finger, I assumed so I’d bend over so she could say it directly into my ear, but… then I felt her tongue on my neck.
Smooth, warm, deliberate little strokes…
I growled, “Sookie…”
She breathed, “Not done yet.”
It was probably the most painful ‘told you so’ I’d ever been at the receiving end of…
And then she opened her mouth to make the O… rubbing her tongue in big circles… keeping me frozen until she dragged her teeth away.
“Cruel.” It was the only word that came to mind… every other thought I had involved shredded clothing and dented hoods.
She smirked at me, licking her lips and purring, “How about… a race.”
“I’d rather take my time.”
She giggled, “We race back to my place. The winner gets ten minutes.”
“Ten minutes to do what?”
“Whatever they want… You’re the one who said I should reach through the bars.”
“That was me, wasn’t it?”
She nodded and kissed the side of my neck before backing away. “Drive safe.”
We idled to the edge of the street, using the highway line as our starting line… she even revved her engine as she rolled her window down and counted down…
“On your mark.”
She hardly made the G sound in ‘go’ before we were both peeling rubber to leave the service station… and our speedometers were pegged by the time we turned onto the parish road…
I turned just behind her, letting her set the pace since she seemed to know the roads in the area…
Until we reached the ramp for I-20… and then I shot past her before she could leave the acceleration lane.
The light Sunday night traffic made the race a fun little game. We’d manage to break away from a cluster of speed-limit abiding drivers, and cruise along for a mile or two before we’d reach another batch and have to slow down enough to weave between them.
Over our engines and through closed windows, I could hear Sookie’s road-rage and every time she caught me looking at her, she smiled and blew a kiss.
When my phone began ringing, I planned to ignore it. The only reason I answered was because it was Fangtasia. It was Long Shadow’s turn to be the bug-light and I couldn’t begin to guess why he’d be calling.
“Master?” Oh goody. Ginger, the waitressing balloon animal.
“What do you want?”
“There’s someone here asking for you.”
“There usually is, but I’m off for the night. Long Shadow is in charge for the evening.”
“Uhhhhhh, Master… It’s detectives. Long Shadow is keeping ‘em busy.”
“What do they want?” I wasn’t in the mood to play games.
“I don’t know… They don’t want to talk to Long Shadow or the Mistress either. Just you.”
Of all the fucking times for there to be Area business…
“Tell them I’m on my way.”
I was willing to bet the detectives needed to speak to me because one of the Vampires in my Area was in custody and they didn’t know what the fuck to do with them or they wanted help finding a suspect. Meeting with the detective and listening to the long-winded legalities was going to be that much more annoying than usual because it wasted time I could spend with Sookie.
I flashed my high beams at Sookie. I tried slowing down. I tried pulling up alongside her… She thought we were racing and continued to speed along the interstate, looking back at me with her rearview with wrinkles in the corners of her eyes.
Whichever asshole fucked up and ruined our fun wasn’t going to live long enough to stand trial in a Human court.
Once we exited I-20, I was lucky enough that Sookie opted to obey traffic laws on surface roads.
When she stopped at a red light, I pulled up next to her and put my car in neutral. I was sure that if I didn’t leave my car, she’d assume I was trying to distract her.
She was already laughing when she rolled her window down. “Flying the rest of the way is a cheat.”
“I have to forfeit. I made the mistake of answering my phone. I have business.”
She made an angry face and blew a raspberry. “Somebody needs a beat-down. I was having fun.”
I nodded. “I was looking forward to my ten minutes. I shouldn’t be long. When the police call me, it’s usually to ask about my thralls as though I’m their nanny.”
“Should I just follow you then?”
“No… You’ll be my excuse to leave. If I’m not already back, call me in an hour…”
She smiled and handed her phone to me so I could store the number for her. “And say what?”
While I entered my number, I offered, “That you’re a very dirty girl and you need a tongue bath.”
She giggled and snatched her phone from me. “And if you’re with a Vampire or Were at the time, you’ll be the new punch-line in every pussy-whipped joke they can think of… I’ll improvise.”
I leaned into her window to steal a kiss in spite of the impatient fuck who’d just pulled up behind her and honked his horn.
“Hurry up. If I get too comfy, I’ll crash and you’ll never wake me up.”
That sealed the fate of whoever changed my plans for me.
When I pulled up behind Fangtasia, Long Shadow was standing at the back door with a pair of men in cheap suits and the standard ‘unmarked’ Crown Victoria detectives drive.
As soon as I closed my car door behind me, Long Shadow left, knowing better than to mistake his interest in the bar for Area business.
“I understand you have something to discuss with me.”
One of the detectives had short dark hair, brown eyes, and mole large enough to have its own pulse next to his nose. His brown suit made him look like a colostomy bag… the other was a young Were in his late twenties. He was substantially taller and had the athletic build typical to Weres… Dark hair and icy eyes.
The brown detective offered, “Detective Allana Jones…” As soon as ‘she’ spoke I reflexively cringed. Allana. The frightening part was that ‘she’ was wearing a wedding ring… and had hairy knuckles. ‘She’ continued, “And this is Junior Detective Nate Kendall.”
Junior Detective? Like Nancy Drew? Cute.
“I’m Sheriff Eric Northman. What is this in regards to?”
Colonel Mustard huffed, “We’d like for you to cooperate in the investigation of the murder of Samantha Rohan.”
“I assume you suspect a Vampire was involved. What evidence do you have?”
“This morning, Miss Rohan’s body was found by her sister. She’d been strangled and had fresh feeding wounds. Preliminary report places her death between four and six AM.”
“I need more than bite marks. Do you at least have a description of a Vampire she might have had contact with?”
She nodded. “Sheriff Northman, she was a customer in your bar last night and her companions identified you as having fed from her.”