The oddest feeling…
Sookie was close. My ring gave away that she was less than 30 feet from me… the sofa in the commons would’ve been my guess if it weren’t for the sounds of life coming from just next to me.
A resting heartbeat and gentle, sleeplike breaths…
The room around me smelled of her strongly enough that the heaviness only confused me more…
I was starting to wonder if the charm on my ring would fade over time, if I’d damaged it, if I’d washed some of its magic away by bathing while wearing it… I wouldn’t know, but I should’ve thought to ask.
When I came into myself fully, my answer was staring me in the face…
Not literally, of course. He was sleeping.
Hunter was curled up on the other side of my bed under a small black blanket decorated with a glow-in-the-dark dinosaur ‘x-ray’ and a copy of The Children’s World Atlas tucked under his chin.
That explained a few things. I’d thought that Sookie smelled like Hunter from spending the day with him, but it was the other way around. I had no idea why the fuck he’d be on my bed instead of his own or why Sookie would’ve allowed it, but at least my ring wasn’t ‘broken’.
Oh, how bizarre my ‘life’ had become.
I stared at him for a moment, remembering that the other Hunter we’d encountered had already made a habit of sleeping just outside ‘my’ bedroom door. The proximity to ‘my’ mind made it easier for him to sleep dreamlessly. The recollection was only solidified by the peaceful grin on his face.
I chuckled at my train of thought when it occurred to me how comfortable Hunter was in the company of Vampires and that Sookie might have some fondness for her own childhood if she’d had us all along. ‘Hey Steve, when you talk to God, tell him I said thanks for sending me someone I can trust. I’m suddenly blessed with marvelous company.’ It was no wonder at all why Sookie was so easily accepted… Sookie had scathingly delivered a heated defense of ‘the enemy’ to her kind in mixed company… Her indignation for Ferrell, while heartfelt, had accidently been a blatant display of loyalty. The problem would be making sure her clients understood that her scales weighed fairness against injustice rather than Vampires against Humans.
Reaching across our bond for Sookie answered my other questions. She was sleeping just as soundly as Hunter. Another long day, perhaps, but I hoped that the naps were an attempt to shift his schedule all the more.
Enjoying the rare, and probably too fleeting, moment of complete tranquility, I checked my phone for messages of the readable variety in an effort to let them both rest.
I had several things waiting, but none of them were of much concern. They were just a list of confirmations and a progress report of the arrangements for the Dallas Clinic… with a few bonuses.
Instead of being from Isabel or even the hotel’s staff, they were all from Alcide…
- 8:12am: ‘I’ll never remember all of this shit if I don’t give it to you as it happens. If it makes you feel better, I dragged Quinn’s ass out of bed and made him follow me.’
- 8:31am: ‘Of 3 rooms, the biggest is coded for 300 and has 2 green rooms adjoining it. I figure 1 for Sookie to do business and 1 to start the collection of mfs.’ I assumed ‘mfs’ meant the Mother Fuckers that we were going to use as an ice breaker to get Newlin to talk.
- 8:35am: ‘I have Quinn setting up chairs in the reception hall so that everyone can file in and then be seen in order unless Jason or Sookie have a reason to do otherwise.’
- 9:08am: ‘Quinn just got done rotating 270 chairs 180 degrees. Because I felt like it.’ I laughed through my nose so that I wouldn’t disturb anyone… he’d sent a picture of Quinn unstacking chairs and snarling at him.
- 9:17am: ‘Green room is set up for clinic. Collection room is stripped of everything. Interior room- no cell signal. Each have a bathroom.’
- 9:41am: ‘Catering taken care of. I know you don’t give a shit abt the menu. It’s done though. Meow Mix wasn’t an option. I asked. Poor Quinn.’
- 10:19am: ‘Called Animal Services and reported a tiger loose in the hotel. Said I was John Quinn. DAS is not amused. He was ticketed for the false alarm. His court date is next month.’ Another snapshot, that one of Quinn being ticketed by 3 very straight faced men in uniforms.
- 10:53am: ‘I’m not liking the set-up. No easy exit. All interior rooms. Fastest escape: you either take Sookie through 4 walls or the ceiling. Don’t like it.’
- 11:12am: ‘Quinn is turning chairs around again. Fuck privacy. They’ll all know why they’re here. Doing the clinic in the open solves exit probs. 3 escape rts if shit hits the fan. Thru kitchen to service exit. Thru bar to terrace. Thru lobby to street. Keeping green room set up 4 if you veto and breaks.’
- 11:50am: ‘Side note. You need to think of a way for Sookie to be tipped. I’m having the flower arrangements set in the meeting room. 20+ so far. The gifts are being collected in the hotel’s safe.’
- 12:02pm: ‘Carol returned my call. She’s ok with holding onto the monkey for you. Bonus: She’s going to start calling it Pam. Its name was Genevieve. Thought Pam would like that too much.’ When I chuckled at Alcide’s brilliant idea, Hunter stirred.
- 1:19pm: ‘Someone went and cleaned up all the chairs Quinn worked so hard to set up. Poor guy doesn’t get to go to lunch w/Barry. 😥 I’ll think of a way to make it up to him.’
The last text…
- 4:50pm: ‘Last order of business: Arranged for Barry to be the only human employee allowed in the clinic. Sookie trusts him. He can play gofer as a cover to training unless you say otherwise.’ If Sookie trusted him enough to have Barry in attendance for a clinic, I could only assume that their lunch had gone well enough.
There were several other emails; one from Mr. Cataliades to let me know to expect him tonight, but the rest were from vampires in my Area asking about Sookie’s next clinic… I was explaining in bulk that they’d be notified when we returned, when Hunter finally woke.
“Watcha doin’?” He sat up, keeping his atlas on his folded legs and rubbing his eyes.
“I’m emailing the vampire population of northern Louisiana to let them know when they can have their pets read again. How was your day?”
“It was fuck-hot.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “I’m not sure Sookie would approve if she heard you say ‘fuck’. It seems there are words that I’m forbidden from saying.”
“That’s what Alcide called it. Why is he allowed?”
“You’ll have to ask Sookie. She’s the one with the rules.”
He shrugged. “OK. Daddy says ‘hotter than the hinges in hell’ when it’s like that. Is that OK?”
“OK. It was hotter than the hinges in hell. We went to a pretty café, but it was just too yucky to eat outside so we ate inside.”
“Did Barry behave himself?”
“Eh. He sucks.”
“Yeah. He needs a lot a’practice. Sookie thought that I’m better.”
“He’s been resisting his ability. One can’t improve without working for it.”
“If you say so. Lunch was cool though. They had good cookies. We went to a mall after.”
“A little. We went so Barry could practice. He got a headache real fast. Not like me. He’s upset that I do better.”
“He’s duly jealous. That should be short lived.”
He giggled, “He wishes he was raised by a vampire like me. He thought I’m lucky.” There were so many bizarre things about that statement that I didn’t know where to start. He wasn’t being raised by a vampire, only in the care of one. The situation of having a deranged mother who wanted to rid the world of telepaths including her own son wasn’t what I would call lucky, anything but. And the way Hunter had said it, as though it was the last thing on his mind to contradict Barry… He truly felt lucky in spite of the seriousness of his situation.
“We could buy a leash for him and give him to Pam as a pet.”
He cackled and I felt Sookie wake immediately. “You can’t do that! What if he doesn’t get along with Jason and the monkey?”
“You heard about that?”
“I was with Alcide when some lady called.” He smiled and ‘zipped’ his lips.
“Good man. We don’t want to spoil the surprise. It’s a birthday gift.”
He nodded. “That’s cool. I’m excited. I don’t get surprised. Sookie promised to surprise me though, you know, for Christmas.” It was only a second, maybe two before Sookie entered the room, but it was long enough for it to occur to me how sad it was that the boy hadn’t ever looked at a gift and not already known what was inside. Then again, I also had time to realize that the first gift Sookie needed to open was the ring on her finger.
She smiled as she positioned herself on the middle of the bed, kissing his forehead and then my cheek. “Who knew Santa is a vampire, right? How did you end up in here?”
He giggled again. “When you fell asleep you started dreaming so I finished my nap in here. It worked. No dreams.”
She grinned, rolling her eyes. “Well, excuse me. I didn’t mean to fall asleep.”
He shrugged. “I know. When are you going to give him his present?”
“Later. In private.”
“Why? It’s not like…”
She interrupted, “Hey! Hush. You don’t need to know why, nosey.” He stuck his tongue out as she snickered and motioned towards his atlas. “Did you take care of that yet?”
“Nope. We were just talking about our day… Why can’t I say ‘fuck-hot’?”
Her mouth fell open and she took a sharp breath. “Where did you hear that!?”
“Alcide. It was hotter than the hinges in hell today, but he said ‘fuck-hot’. Eric said you wouldn’t be…” I was already laughing at the look on her face.
“Eric’s right! You aren’t allowed to say…”
“Because it’s… it’s… it’s not a nice word.”
“Alcide wasn’t being mean when he said it.”
“It’s a… a grown up word.”
“Then why are there words Eric can’t say? He’s like… the grownuppest.”
She shot a dirty look in my direction when I chuckled at the way she was floundering. “Because there are mean, hateful, nasty words that no one should ever, ever, ever say. And then there are words that kids shouldn’t say.”
“OK. Like what?”
Sookie bit her lip and hid her face in her hands, growling instead of answering his innocent request for clarification.
“Honestly Sookie, if you don’t tell him what you don’t want him to repeat then how is he supposed to know?”
“What do you suggest then?”
Her hands left her face so that she could scowl and shriek, “Eric!”
I grabbed her, pulling her down to the bed to force her face into a pillow before she could make a simple conversation a protracted affair. “Shit, piss, cunt, fuck, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits…”
Somehow she managed to twist her arm around to get her hand over my mouth, but I was already done. While Hunter laughed hard enough to hold his sides, Sookie screamed into the pillow, “I can’t believe you just said that!”
I chuckled, not bothering to remove her hand. “How else is he going to know? He’s bound to have heard them all already. If you’re going to restrict his speech, then he needs a list.”
Hunter tried to be more serious, but he was still giggling, “What’s a cunt?”
Sookie grumbled into the pillow. “Hunter, I need to talk to Eric alone for a minute.”
I swatted her ass and let go of her, waiting for the angry look that I knew she’d have for me when she sat up. “He’s not going anywhere. We’re in the middle of a discussion… Cunt is a vulgar word used to describe female anatomy and can be used as an insult like ‘bitch’.”
“Oh. OK. I know all the other ones.”
“That isn’t all of them. You should be selective about how you refer to body parts and if you aren’t sure, ask me since Sookie is obviously uncomfortable with the topic…” He seemed to be ingraining the words into his memory. “…And if Pam says it, and you don’t know what it is, it’s probably going to be on the list. She’s been collecting vulgarities from all over the world and now, the internet.”
He nodded. “OK. Why wasn’t ‘bitch’ on the list?”
“I didn’t make the list. Someone else did. It’s a list of words you won’t hear on TV. Bitch is said on television, but I’m sure it’s on the list of words you aren’t allowed to say.” The aggravated grunt from Sookie solidified that theory.
“OK. Who made the list?”
“A man named George Carlin. He’s a comedian.”
“The list isn’t funny though.”
“It is when he says it. I think I’ve upset Sookie too much to explain more… What needs to be done with your atlas?”
He grabbed the book and scooted closer, ignoring Sookie’s frustration. The atlas was as wide as his chest, but he managed to shove it towards me. “Sweden, right?”
I took the book and watched him pull a pen from his pocket so that he could hold it out just as eagerly. “Of course.”
“You’re going to be the first one. Then Pam.”
“What an honor… Have you decided on a format?”
He very excitedly nodded. “There’s blank pages in the back. The maps could get crowded with names so put a number where you’re from and then log it in the back.”
“You’ve put a lot of thought into this…” He inched closer to watch, maybe supervise, over my shoulder while I leafed through the pages to the page for Sweden between Spain and Switzerland in the chapter for Europe. “What number should I use? Should I use ‘1’ because I’m the first or would you like to see how many vampires are willing to give you their birth year?”
“Ooooooh! Birth year! Birth year!”
I nodded, resisting the urge to chuckle so that he wouldn’t think I wasn’t taking him seriously. He fixated on my hand as I added 1 0 4 6 in small print to the area of Sweden just north of Uppsala, what was now Älvkarleby. “Uppland.”
“Is it still called that?”
“Generally, yes. Formally, it’s Uppsala.”
“Wow. That’s cool. Do you think New Orleans’s name will change?”
“It already has. It was nothing more than a fort along a trade route originally. Fort St. Jean…”
“Then it was New Orleans.”
“No. Then a larger fort was built over it. That was called San Juan del Bayou. It means the same thing, but when the Spanish moved to the area, they translated the name. The city was built up around it and the ruins are still there.”
“Did you see it? When it was just a fort?”
“No. It was an actual city before I saw it. The Berts would remember it though. They’ve been here long enough. Their maker is the only one to ever rule the vampires of Louisiana.”
“He must be really…”
“She; Sophie-Ann is their maker.”
“Like my mother?”
“A maker is like a parent, right?”
“Of sorts. I suppose you could say that.”
“So… That would make them, the Berts… like my uncles?” It was nearly impossible to not laugh when ‘Uncle Andre’ came to mind.
I nodded. “Actually, I think that would translate.” Sookie refused to show how amused she was.
He gave a serious nod before he shot off of the bed, making it half way to the door before he remembered the atlas and dashed back for it. “I gotta go get my bath…”
Sookie frowned as she watched him, but didn’t correct him… since she was still pretending to be angry, she also didn’t volunteer the information.
“What excited him so suddenly?”
She shook her head as though she was disappointed. “He’s excited to have vampires in the ‘family’.”
“His mother doesn’t count?”
“No, not at all. He thinks of her as his mother or by name, but he wrote her off. He’s actually grateful that she wants to kill him because he likes the setup he’s got.”
“Yeah, I am! Except for the Godfather themes, I’m jealous as hell.”
“You’ll get to be surprised for Christmas this year though.”
The corner of her mouth betrayed her; a hint of a smile. When she realized that I’d caught her, she swatted my leg. “I’m mad at you.”
“No. You’re not.”
She started trying to leave the bed again, but I grabbed her and put her face in the pillow like I had before. She fought, laughed, clawed for the covers to try to get away. “Stop it! I am too!”
All it really took to hold her still was putting my weight on top of her and holding her arms. I whispered into her ear, “You’re not mad.”
“Am too… you…”
“You want to thank me for helping you.”
“Great! Not only is the bond broken, but you’re high!”
“Uh oh. Are you sure it’s broken? We should test it.”
She grunted, still squirming. “Oh yeah? Alright… ummm… you feel like wearing pink tonight, maybe even full drag.” She waited to giggle until she felt how amused I was.
“And you… you feel like wearing a collar and leash tonight. Am I right?”
“It’s definitely broken… Who do we call? Is there a repairman?”
“I think we can calibrate it ourselves, but you need to admit that you aren’t angry first.”
“Fine… I’m not angry. I’m glad you… That was… awkward.”
“Ummm… could you let me go while we talk?” After the way she’d abused me that morning while I’d been tied up by a phone call…
“No. I think I like this. How was it awkward?”
“Because there’s a list of no-nos a mile long and I didn’t know where to start… not to mention it’s so not my job to explain things like that. That was a parent’s job.”
“As his guardian, you should try to get used to it. I might not be as helpful with everything. You’re lucky I’ve been a George Carlin fan since the 70s.”
“I guess so. It kind of helps that you have more experience than I do.”
“Not really. I still can’t curtail Pam’s verbiage.”
“You handled it like a pro though. Maybe you’ll rub off on me.” Stellar choice of words…
“I could do that now…” She started giggling and fighting again when I pried her legs apart with my knees and rubbed against her ass…
“Oh no you don’t! We still have the bond to fix…”
“I’ll wear full drag if it means seeing you on a leash.”
“I’ll tell you what… if it means NOT seeing you in drag, I’ll wear a damn collar…” She stopped to bury her face in the pillow again and groan ‘shit’ when she realized that she’d fucked up.
“I think that can be arranged.”
“That’s it! I’m going to die trying to kick your ass! You led me right into that!”
“I did no such thing. How was I supposed to know that you’d be so troubled by the idea of seeing me in drag? I have to say, I’m a little hurt.”
“Would you like to get back to the topic of the bond before you agree to sitting at my feet?”
She groaned again. “Yeah. How do you propose to fix it, Mr. Pretty In Pink?”
“We should run a diagnostic… When you were angry, I tried to calm you down, yes?”
“And when you were distraught, I tried to sooth you, yes?”
“Since you could feel it both times, we could test you…”
“Oh God. What are you…?”
Before she could finish asking, I pushed… driving as much lust, desire, want, craving to her as I could… Her back arched as she started squirming, whimpering into the bed… “Well?”
She panted, “Well what?”
“Can you identify that?”
“Mmmm hmmm… You’re in a cruel mood.”
“Cruel? You should concentrate harder…” As I continued to tease her, her shoulders started to bead with sweat…
Her breathing started to shake… “Depraved…”
Her hips rolled under me… “Sadistic…”
She craned her neck to look at me… “Hungry…”
As she let lust fill her, take control, it felt as though she was pushing back… returning the mood… “Merciless…”
Curling her body in rhythm to every rub I gave… “Selfish…”
The friction and heat was too much to bear… “How am I selfish, Sookie?”
When she moved her arm, I let go… She reached back, slowly wedging her hand between us… grabbing my cock… “You don’t have any intentions of sharing that until later, do you?” Not when I’d first started, but plans had changed, responsibilities be damned.
My fangs ran out, nicking my lip… I couldn’t bring myself to say anything as she tightened her hand… pumping so slow that it hurt… twisting around, lifting to lick the trickle of blood from my chin and giggling when she didn’t kiss me…
“You goon. I can’t believe you haven’t learned your lesson.”
“That you are a tease?”
She hummed her laugh. “Oh no. Not me this time. You’re the one trying to make me horny… but since I’m being falsely accused again, I can always make things worse.”
“How could you possibly make it worse?”
She raised her eyebrow at me, but didn’t say anything as she wriggled out from under me.
I crashed to the bed, pissed at every church-going human in existence for creating the need for Sookie’s services, closing my eyes and soothing myself with thoughts of pulling Newlin’s arm from his body and beating him to death with it…
But my lesson wasn’t over…
I barely recognized her wicked giggle before I felt her hair and breath whisper over the skin of my side…
Her tongue and teeth raked a vicious trail…
My hands grabbed her hair, pushing it away from her face so that I could at least enjoy the evil sparkle in her eyes…
She pulled my pants out of her way, wrapping her lips around my cock and shoving down…
Fast, hard, as deep as she could go, biting just right at my hilt… and just as quickly… she pulled away, releasing the waistband of my pants and letting the elastic snap against me.
She giggled when I growled at her. “Any more questions?” No. anything else I said would’ve provoked her.
“You’re going to pay for that.”
She wandered into the bathroom feeling too proud of herself. “You started it.”
The infuriating part of the whole scenario… I’d just taught her how easily she could torture me, using our bond as her weapon.
‘…You feel like wearing pink tonight…’
I should’ve known.
Seeing the light pink dress shirt encased in plastic on the bathroom counter would’ve made me laugh if it weren’t for how excruciatingly hard I still was. I probably would dress in drag if it came with Sookie’s enticing scent. I couldn’t bring myself to care that she had picked what I’d be wearing… including my dark gray suit that was hanging in the bathroom.
As it stood, I was actually afraid of the dress Sookie had shown me the night before.
Easy access was not going to make getting through the evening painless.
She was applying her makeup when I emerged from the bathroom no more improved from when I entered.
That fucking dress was scandalously short… her heels were the same shade as my shirt… knowing that she’d dressed us to match, advertising that she was mine… She might as well have been wearing a lead and it was going to fuck with me all night.
I slithered up behind her, sliding my hand into the split at the front of the dress, getting purred at as my hand groped, pulling her closer.
“You’re just going to spin us up.”
“I think this could be the most amazing dress I’ve ever seen.”
She giggled. “Then you’ll have to be gentle so that it has some shelf life.”
“I’ll just rip your panties off instead.”
She smirked at my reflection. “I might as well not wear any around you.”
I wasn’t going to give her the chance to try recanting…
She groaned as soon as she realized what I was doing, but by then her panties were crossing her knees.
She glared while I put them in a presidential fold and then she snatched them out of my hand when I tried to put them in my handkerchief pocket. “Oh no you don’t!”
“I’m the only one who’ll know.”
She scowled and shoved it back into my hand. “I really am going to kick your ass one day.”
“Promise to make it ‘one night’ and we’ve got a date.”
She growled. “Why can’t I stay mad at you?”
“Because all I have to do is look at you and you’re wet?”
As much as she tried to resist, she smiled. “Oh yeah. That’s it…” She shook her head and gave my shoulder a push. “…go check on your little buddy while I finish my face. Mr. C is in the elevator.”
“How do you know it’s him? There could be another daemon here.”
“When I felt his static, I read the clerk’s mind. It’s him.”
“From 9 floors away?”
“I’m surprising myself… now scoot. I gotta get ready.”
Mr. Cataliades broke a sweat crossing Paulette’s ward, even with his invitation.
Knowing that everyone would be joining us in our room soon enough, I propped the door open for the rest of our party only to turn around to see the lawyer nodding respectfully, but deeper than his usual greeting.
“Sheriff Northman, a pleasure as always.”
“Likewise. I’m sorry you needed to travel to tend to a simple registration. If it weren’t for pending business, we’d have come to New Orleans.”
“No. I understand the urgency… I have to admit, I’m quite curious to see Miss Stackhouse work, if you’d permit it.”
“I’m sure that’s fine…”
Hunter ran into the room, stopping dead in his tracks to stare at our company. “WHAT ARE YOU!?”
The daemon gave a gentile nod. “Master Hunter, I presume?”
He nodded. “What are you? Your brain is cool. Fuzzy even.”
Hunter tilted his head to the side as he focused. “You… you’re in a good mood, but… I can’t hear you. That’s cool.”
Mr. Cataliades smiled, clearly amused. “I’m glad you approve.” He turned to me. “Andre questions the wisdom of allowing the boy’s ability to be known.”
“All due respect, I couldn’t care less for Andre’s opinion on the matter. The situation is being enflamed enough by his inability to bridle Hadley’s behavior. Keeping Hunter a secret could make keeping him safe difficult if I can’t explain to allies why he’s to be guarded.”
He nodded (practically bowed) again. “My apologies. I didn’t mean to offend you.” I was getting more confused by the second.
I shrugged. “You haven’t. Andre second guessing me as gossip does. I wouldn’t ask him how to protect a telepath any more than I’d ask for his advice on how to discipline a young vampire.”
“The unique situation of Hunter’s age put me in a bit of a spot. Instead of the usual term of ownership being either 1 year or perpetual, I drew registrations to continue until his 18th, 21st and 25th birthdays as well. Which would you prefer?” I didn’t have any clue as to how to answer. Sookie’s was a persistent declaration, but I wasn’t sure when she’d consider Hunter to be grown.
“Sookie, thoughts?” I felt an automatic warmth through our bond as she made her way into the commons to join us.
She smiled at me as Hunter climbed onto my lap. “I know I’d feel better if it were perpetual.”
“As opposed to something more short term?”
“Well… you can give him as much leash as you see fit, even dissolve the contract mutually down the road, but I can’t see how having you in his corner is a bad thing.”
“Are you sure?”
She nodded and took a Red Bull from the kitchenette. “Positively. Besides, if there isn’t a predetermined expiration date on his registration, I think it could discourage a few greedy cats from thinking they can just bide their time for X amount of years, right?”
She shrugged and sat at in the chair across from us. “I defer to you. I want him to be under your wing as long as you see fit.”
Gobsmacked. I stared long enough for her to start questioning her answer.
“Should we talk without Hunter in the room?”
I shook my head, more to gather myself than as an answer. “No. Perpetual, it is.”
Mr. Cataliades nodded and handed the registration papers to me. “The matter of Remy Savoy… I’ve prepared a 1 year order of protection for him as well as Jason Stackhouse, but as you know, they need to consent to the protection.”
“Remy’s safety isn’t as much of a concern as Hunter’s. We’ll have to make arrangements for Remy to meet with you at a later time, but Jason’s protection can be seen to now…”
Hunter pushed himself from my lap and ran for the door, calling back that he was ‘on it’. He thundered down the corridor and pounded on the door to Pam and Jason’s room, putting a halt to what they’d been up to since she rose. Pam was so annoyed that I could hear her growl that they’d only be a few minutes. I made sure that she knew how unsympathetic I was.
While we waited, we greeted the Berts and Alcide and I made short work of signing the papers for Jason and Hunter… the lawyer seemed to become more anxious as his duties were crossed off his list…
I’d have been more concerned if Sookie hadn’t noticed too, but she’d have alerted me if she felt as though he was up to something worth worrying about. He was visibly anxious. No more. No less.
Alcide and the Berts stood silently near the door… until the Berts both, BOTH started laughing.
I turned to see Alcide beaming. “What’s funny?”
Alcide shrugged and tossed his phone to me. I almost didn’t want to look…
I started laughing immediately. There was a picture of a hotel bathtub… full of cat litter. “He’s going to fight back.”
I pressed the cursor to see a can of sardines resting on a pillow like a mint would be. I started laughing again…
A pyramid of yarn balls on the dresser…
Toy mice in the drawers…
Cat nip between the sheets…
A saucer of milk on the table…
The last picture, the proverbial cherry… the plaque on the wall for room #103… no door, just a barricade of canned cat food.
I was still laughing when Alcide cleared his throat. “Quinn’s going to be late for work.”
“A personal crisis?”
He nodded. “Someone must’ve broken into his room while he was lining up chairs.” Between Sookie and Alcide, I’d never have to go to the trouble of practical jokes of my own again. I could just sit back and enjoy their imaginations.
Sookie asked to see and giggled into her hand the whole time she looked through the pictures. She finally gasped, “Alcide… feeder mice.”
“On it. Got three of them. Set them loose in his room. Once we settle in for the night, I have the concierge calling Quinn and reciting 3 Blind Mice. He thinks it’s secret code for something.” Impressive.
“You’re using it all up in one trip.”
“Nah. I got more. If he ends up in Shreveport, I’ve got a line on some feral cats down in Keachie… And I’m stealing his phone and erasing all of his ringtones. I’m thinking Here Kitty Kitty by the 69 Boys. Know it?” I did. I started chuckling.
Sookie giggled, “Cats In the Cradle…”
In spite of his tension, Cataliades added, “Eye of the Tiger?”
Jason and Pam finally joined us. Jason’s face looked normally confused. “Cat songs?”
Alcide nodded. “For our friend Quinn.”
Jason gave an impressed nod. “The Presidents did one… Kitty, I think… Fuck you, kitty, you’re gonna spend the night… outside!”
Alcide’s head dropped back. “We have a bingo, folks!”
In the amount of time it took Pam to find the song online, I was done explaining what my protection was and the ink of Jason’s signature was already dry.
Mr. Cataliades still looked anxious as he slid my copies to me.
It was beginning to approach the realm of maddening since he’d never behaved like that before…
And then he handed another contract to me.
A much thicker contract.
“What is this?”
He cringed. The fucking daemon actually cringed. “Your contract.”
“My contract for what?”
“Your rewritten contract as Sheriff of Area 5 and… Lieutenant of Louisiana.” Funny.
I handed it back to him, laughing. “No thanks.” I couldn’t believe why the other me would’ve accepted, I certainly wasn’t going to make the mistake of adding more responsibility to my already complicated existence.
“Um…” That was a lovely sign; a fucking Daemon, legal representation to the Vampire Queen was stammering. “The thing is, Sheriff, the Queen… in light of her pending nuptials, her current Lieutenant is ascending… because of your travels with Sookie, she believes that you’ll find the position will… grease the wheels? She’s sure that as Lieutenant, your authority would be more highly regarded…”
Alcide mumbled, “Bullshit.” Judging by the look on his face, he hadn’t meant to. “Sorry… I just… She’s got barbarians at the fucking gate, alright? She knows damn good and well that no one with any sense is going to go after her ass if her Lieu has a pocket full of telepaths. That other shit is just a perk on your end, but she’s no idiot. She’s positioning herself behind a wall of bad-ass. No one can get to her unless they take y’all out first and if they take her out, they’ve got you to contend with. And since y’all are ping ponging all over, y’all can’t be tracked for long enough to make a move. She’s setting it up so that her state is basically an oligarchy.” Rather than contradict him, the Berts nodded.
“Like that matters. The timing of this is rank at best. If something does go wrong, if something does happen to her in the next few months because of the torrent of political and ‘religious’ power plays going on, just after I’m named her second, every Louisiana vampire will suspect me.”
Wybert didn’t wait a heartbeat. “Not when Sophie-Ann children support you.” What the fuck!?
“We’ll talk about your sudden strides in English later… You knew she was going to do this?”
Both Berts gave a nod. “We trust you. Trust Sookie. We know better.”
“I know this is your maker we’re talking about, but…”
“Wybert. Has it occurred to her that her possible alignment would make her look too powerful?” Then it would be a contest to see who could take us all out of the way just for the sake of bragging rights.
“She still wants to name me as her second? Why not Salome? She’s been with the Queen longer.”
“You ist ideal…”
Cataliades interrupted, “She did offer an alternative.”
He held out another contract, this time with a shaking hand. “She…” Before he could finish explaining what the alternative was, I spotted the title… Judging by the boiling chill and sudden feeling that I’d been hit in the gut with a battering ram, Sookie saw it too.
Big. Bold. Typeface.
That. Was. Not. Going. To. Fucking. Happen.