How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?
While I was on my pretense of a trip out to Bon Temps, I took plenty of enjoyment from feeling Sookie’s excitement and mischief… And Pam’s complete horror that could only have been her reaction to whatever Lafayette had reported…
For fun, I decided to stop at Merlotte’s… I actually went in despite how disgusting even the parking lot smelled.
A waitress approached me; knobby knees and padded tits under a head full of red hair that doesn’t occur anywhere in nature. “Sookie’s not here tonight either, mister. Sorry.” It hadn’t occurred to me that ‘I’ might’ve already been to Merlotte’s.
“I’m actually here to see Lafayette tonight.”
“Oh… alright. He’s in the kitchen.”
“Tell me, is there a way to buy a Merlotte’s shirt as a souvenir?”
I almost laughed at the face she made. She was clearly puzzled as to why anyone would want one. “Yeah, what size do ya need?”
“A small. It’s a gift for a friend.”
“Alright… I’ll go dig one out for ya.”
I thanked her (best behavior and all) as she dove behind the bar to find a shirt and went over to the pass to look for Sookie’s accomplice. “Lafayette?” There were two men visible through the window to the kitchen. One was heavily scared and smelled of sweat and antidepressants; the other was wearing a tiger print leotard and smelled of Chanel No 5 and ecstasy.
“Even if I wasn’t, I would be for you, pretty boy. How you doin?” The leotard won with ‘pretty boy’.
“I was wondering what you and Sookie cooked up. Whatever it was has worked well.” Pam was panicking more than she ever had and she was still trying to call me every few minutes.
He started laughing. “I said that there was some vampire in the bar saying Sookie was his. That he offered everyone a thousand dollars to track Sookie down and bring her to you after you upended the pool table and threw the cash register through the front window. Half the folks were out trying to find Sookie, the other half was making stakes. The guy on the phone didn’t seem to care all that much. You sure it worked?”
“He wouldn’t… It was who would be listening that it’s working on. Well done.”
“Who are we playing the joke on?”
“My partner. She used Sookie to play a trick on me earlier. This is her comeuppance.”
“Is she going to be coming out here?”
“She’s already on the way. She’ll be here in about half an hour to ‘talk some sense into me’.”
“What do we do when she gets here?”
“If you have a pen and paper, you could just deliver a message.”
“She a vampire too? Am I gonna be safe?”
He nodded, not seeming too concerned with what my answer had been and exited through the rear of the kitchen…
By the time Lafayette had made his way back to me, the waitress had found an adult medium and a child’s large… Even if I had to question Merlotte’s logic behind his overconfident marketing, I opted for the child’s large… it was more likely to ‘ruin’ Pam’s hair when she put it on.
Lafayette laughed over my shoulder while I wrote the message out to Pam.
Enjoy your new uniform.
It’s either wear the shirt tonight or go barefoot for a month.
See you back at Fangtasia.
Lafayette snorted, “I’d rather go barefoot… And I work here.”
“You wouldn’t rather go barefoot if you knew me better.”
“Aw… how bad would you do her?”
“You’d be surprised how many foot fetishists there are in Shreveport and how easily I could get them to congregate on Pam’s lawn.”
By the time I returned to Shreveport, Pam was practically in Bon Temps… I’d have nearly an hour to enjoy her mood before she started snarling at me… Since that was about how long she’d let me think Sookie had left, it was perfect.
Sookie was wearing a pleased smile while she filled glasses behind the bar and seemed to be getting friendly with Long Shadow’s replacement…
I snuck up behind her and pulled her against me to speak into her ear. “You promised that you wouldn’t waitress.”
“This isn’t waitressing. This is bartending. Ask Chow. I haven’t delivered a single drink… I’m practicing.”
“Explain how this is practicing.”
“I’m just keeping my eyes on the crowd and when I see someone looking for their waitress, I focus on their thoughts. For the most part, I’ve just been telling Chow what to make before the waitress even takes the order.” Chow offered a nod to verify her claim.
“And how are you holding up?”
“Pretty good actually… The first night I came in here, I had a headache by the time we all left. I’m not even tired from keeping my shields up.”
“Excellent. You’ve heard that you’ll most likely be tested from the moment we’re off the plane, yes?”
She nodded, but became quiet for a moment as she rested her hands over where mine held her hips. She basically felt asleep; calm, almost meditative… She finally sighed, “That’s just awesome.”
She turned just enough to face me, but never broke contact. “I can almost… it’s like I can use your mind, concentrating on it, to funnel specific thoughts… like I can turn the rest of them down and only listen to the one I want to.”
“Can you turn them all ‘off’?”
I waited, but another smile gave her away… with her eyes closed as they were she looked like a blissfully dreaming child. “Is it you? Did they know? Did he mention it?”
“Unfortunately, I was given the Reader’s Digest version. I could have Bill brought out. You could test…”
“No. I don’t want to see him again.” While hearing that was fairly liberating for some reason…
‘’Are you sure? It will most likely be your last chance.”
“I’m not sure what you got told, but… he took so much from me that I think I’d regret seeing him again more. I’m done.”
“What are you drinking then?”
“You aren’t going to argue with me about it?”
“Why would I?”
She shrugged and broke away to start filling a glass with ice. “I don’t know… I’m just used to everyone acting like they know what’s best for me.”
“Ah, well, in addition to the fact that I have been informed of Compton’s list of betrayals, I’m smart enough to not encourage you to share what could become a sympathetic moment with someone I’m not going to lose any figurative sleep over since he was grotesquely in my way.”
“But you’d let me see him if I wanted to, even if it wasn’t in your best interest?”
“Something tells me that battles should be carefully chosen with you… If you wanted to see him, you’d see him. He’d most likely be dressed like Pricilla, Queen of the Desert though.”
She giggled and as soon as her glass was filled, she snaked her arm around mine. “Now I’m half tempted. Seeing him in feathers could be therapeutic.”
Sliding into the booth was no different. As soon as she decided that I was settled, her arm went back around mine.
“Is this ok? I mean… around people?”
“My area. My rules. Are you really able to block out everyone this way?”
She laughed through her nose. “Yeah. You might have a hard time getting rid of me now that I know. This is freakin’ amazing.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle in spite of feeling her sincerity. “So you don’t remember a time when you weren’t a telepath.”
“Nope. Gran told me that I was about 2 when they started suspecting I was different.”
“It might be better that way. Since you don’t have any concept of quiet, you can’t miss it.”
“I guess you’re right about that… So… Before Pam gets back…”
“How did that go? She was more deranged than when she was a new vampire.”
“When I came in, she headed me off. Her fangs were out and everything. Why wasn’t I answering my phone and the rest of the interrogation I expected… I told her that I forget it all the time because no one ever calls me. I let her pace and snarl and try to call you again and while she was letting the phone ring, I flipped my lid about being turned. Ginger was ‘helping me’ through hyperventilating when Lafayette called to report Hurricane Eric. She took off like a shot after she told me not to leave and put Chow in charge of me. She was cussing about you putting a bounty on my head…”
There was no point in fighting the smile I was wearing. “She really hates me right now.”
“I bet…The best part… we waited a few minutes. Once I explained to Chow what was going on, he called her and said that I’d gotten away. I ‘bit him’ to break free and he wasn’t sure how to subdue me and not make you angrier.”
I enjoyed my first hearty laugh in years. “I like being right. Sookie, this is more fun with your help.”
She tried to groan even though she was snickering. “Yeah, well, I guess it’s a good thing I’m about to sign a contract with the queen. She can’t get but so carried away getting back at me.”
“I’ll just order her to leave you alone.”
She gasped, “Don’t you dare! There’s no fun or fairness in that! No. I’m a lot of things, but chicken isn’t on the list. I made my bed. I’ll lay in it.” Admirable. She’d probably regret it, but still admirable that she wouldn’t take an easy way out.
“Let me know if you change your mind… Are you practicing or socializing?”
“I was doing plenty of practicing until this vampire started pawing at me…”
She tugged at my arm when I acted as though I was going to get up to find her ‘molester’. “You!”
“I wasn’t ‘pawing’.”
“I don’t paw.”
“What would you call it?”
“I’m not sure. It wasn’t pawing…”
“Oh, I certainly didn’t grope you. You’d know if I groped you.”
She stared at me, our rapid exchange suddenly halted and I loved every bit of her frustration.
She rolled her eyes and began scanning the crowd. “I’m just gonna practice.”
“You gave up?”
“I didn’t… Yeah. I gave up.”
Conversation may have stopped, but my fun wasn’t over… She was getting more and more flustered, so I waited.
“I can’t think of anymore synonyms for paw that … Hell, you managed to make a snowsuit dirty!” Fondle, pet, stroke, caress, handle, rub, squeeze, toy… demonstrating them all would make for one hell of an evening.
“If you find yourself in possession of a snowsuit, I can help you get it dirty, but you’re the one that was describing one so suggestively to a naked vampire while he was still in bed.”
She scoffed as she shook her head. “That right there is what I was talking about.”
“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
“Yes you do. You were the one asking me what I was wearing…”
“If I remember correctly, you asked me as well. At least I gave you an honest answer instead of lying about an enticing little fur-lined parcel with a sweet Sookie filling. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“You’re the one advertising that you were naked.”
I leaned over to her ear, “What were you really wearing, Sookie?”
Her cheeks flushed so quickly that I could feel their heat before I felt her embarrassment.
“Were you… naked?”
“No.” Her eyes were clasped shut.
“Then what exactly has you so agitated since you were neither nude, nor wearing an alluring little snowsuit?”
She cleared her throat and let go of my arm to straighten her dress restlessly. “I’d gotten as far as my underwear before I started getting pissed about my clothes.”
Suddenly how strangely light my arm felt from being released wasn’t nagging me. The thought of her stomping around in her tiny house in nothing more than ‘pale pink with black ribbons’ was all there was for a moment… fuck. “So… when I called, you were pacing in your bra and panties?”
She cringed slightly and elbowed me. “I put my robe on when I thought that you could see me though.”
I chuckled at her modesty. “How very humble of you considering I’ve already seen you topless.”
The way her mouth fell open was comical. She had no idea of how to respond.
I leaned over to her ear again. “The vest ‘you’ were wearing last night only had 2 buttons…” She started leaning away slightly so I put my hand on her knee. “…I only felt the panties ‘you’ were wearing though…” She held her breath as my hand slid up her smooth, hot thigh. “…But the style made it easy to push them aside…” I stretched my thumb over the top, over her leg, under the hem of her dress to kneed into her, enjoying the way her held breath finally fell over my neck. “…Tell me, are you wearing a g-string again, Sookie?”
Her trembling hand rested on mine. She wasn’t at all scared though… “Yes… Eric stop.” Fuck.
I lifted my face to look at her. “Because you need to practice?”
“No… Because I’m getting tested.”
The idea that the queen might have thought so far ahead had nothing to do with how much I still wanted to slide my thumb under Sookie’s panties. “How so?”
“Three ‘fangbangers’ just came in. One of them has a really clear picture of a tall young blond guy telling them ‘under no circumstances are you to say anything about who you are, where you’re from or who sent you. Your task is to observe only. We want to hear rumors about Sookie and the sheriff. If someone approaches you, tell them that you’re lost’. They all answered ‘yes, Andre’… Eric, it was a glamour. I can feel it.”
“You can tell they were sent under glamour?”
She was biting her lip as she nodded. “I couldn’t get that from Ginger before. I could tell that she’d been Glamoured, but not what was underneath it.” That was a valuable gem to have in one’s arsenal… but not something that should be public…
“Interesting development, yes?”
“What do we do? Wait… the ‘flowers’ are on the way too… they stopped for tamales at a truck-stop near Alexandria. They shouldn’t be far behind.”
“Don’t worry about them. They are completely benign as far as you’re concerned.”
“Do I say something to the lab rats?”
I began to pull away from her but she held my hand in place. “What are they thinking?”
She closed her eyes to concentrate and since she seemed content for my hand to stay where it was, I pulled her closer to me. “Uh… one of them just spotted you. She’s… wow, that’s all kinds of weird.”
“Well, not only am I seeing us from over there because she’s watching… she’s thinking about joining us. Joining us, joining us. Ew.”
I turned around to see the urchin standing near the bar. “Don’t even think about it, slag.”
When I turned back to Sookie, the corner of her mouth turned up. “That didn’t help… Now she’s just picturing me out of the scenario… switching to another one…”
I watched every feature of her face while she ‘listened’, thankful that her eyes were closed so that she wouldn’t feel self-conscious… I was still too curious about her ability. Even knowing that she wasn’t just human didn’t change the fact that I’d never come across anyone like her… ‘Unique’ was a word I could define and translate a dozen different ways, but I hadn’t used it without sarcasm in roughly 900 years… But there I was, with my hand on the supple thigh of the most ‘unique’ being I’d ever encountered, waiting for her to share someone else’s thoughts.
“…The guy… he’s hoping to meet someone too… He was supposed to see Waldo tonight… Do you know a Waldo?”
“He’s one of the queen’s children.”
“Well, Waldo’s what Lafayette would call a ‘bottom’ with guys, but not with women… he makes them cry because he likes their tears.”
“He’s one of the most demented vampires I’ve ever come across. He’s the one they mentioned last night. The one who’s jealous of your cousin.”
Her face contorted in disgust. “Ok… Is the fact that he keeps large dogs for sex parties good enough that I can get out of this guy’s head? I’m going to have nightmares. That guy is actually upset that he’s missing out.”
“Do you know what breed?”
“A detail that neither of us would know.”
She shuddered. “I want to say Mastiff. Big, like a Saint Bernard with short hair. Blonde with a black face.”
“That should be more than enough.”
She mumbled ‘thank God’ and gave my hand a squeeze as she seemingly moved on to the third test subject. She gave a relieved smile as she started. “The other girl, not slag…”
“They’re all slag.”
“The one you didn’t call slag… she’s looking for Pam. She remembers her from a visit y’all made. Early February, I guess. Still pretty chilly. I guess her head isn’t all that helpful… except Andre fed from her before they left. The back of her hip… and then he told her to change her nail polish because purple was too good for her.”
“That was certainly Andre.” Vainglorious prick.
“She painted them pink during the drive though. So I guess that’s something…” She opened her eyes, surprised that she had such a captivated audience. “…I tried the other one again, but she’s still thinking about you… Were you watching me the whole time?”
“You watched me fly.”
“That was different… Ok, never mind. I guess it is the same thing… so, what to do?”
“I think that we should go back to my office and continue our conversation about your panties.”
She closed her eyes and laughed through her nose as she rested her forehead on my shoulder. “You’re horrible. I was talking about my test and you know it.”
“I think that since Gladiola and Diantha will be here shortly we should wait for them to arrive because they will most likely be a continuation of your screening… We’ll call Andre when they leave.”
“We? What do you need me for?”
“He isn’t testing me, Sookie. In the meantime, you might want to consider randomly searching through minds. They might not be the only ones he sent.”
“Just in case, or… you’d have sent more.”
“I’d have sent no less than 2 more. Singles.”
“Because they’d be easier to lose in a crowd…”
“And I’d be willing to bet that they’ll be the ones who know what you look like so that they can report back about whether you were even here.”
“Assuming Hadley had any pictures of me… We don’t look anything alike.”
“I think you’re forgetting that Bill has had access to you and your home for a while now.”
She huffed, “That asshole. He ‘tidied up’ my house for me while I was in the hospital.”
“You know, I never uninvited you. Did you go to my house and sniff around while you were in the area?”
“No. I wanted to come back to do my sniffing.” I quickly buried my face in the side of her neck and while she laughed that I was tickling her, I gave myself a minute to get lost in her scent.
She really did smell like sunshine… Not her soaps… Her. Under the smell of orange blossoms from Pam’s closets, under the small amount of her lemongrass body wash, under the ambient scent of the bar… she smelled as though she had absorbed the day’s sunlight…
She was overpowering.
When I sat away from her, I gave her a simple wink. Anything else would’ve exposed that my fangs were down and my mood had shifted.
Thankfully, Sookie took my sudden silence as a signal to start her search… The last time she’d seen me with my fangs down, she practically ran from the building. Now that she was so close, reliving that wasn’t on my agenda.
As she wrapped her arm around mine again, she moved my hand to rest more innocently on her knee and she was quite proud of herself for finding not two, but four other test subjects over the next half hour.
The first of them was a thin boy from the palace donor pool that she nicknamed Ichabod even though she’d taken that his name was Joel. He’d been given the same orders as the threesome, but Hadley had been the one to give them and she’d been wearing a green dress and gold hoop earrings when she did so.
The next earned a genuine gag and a shudder. A squat, bushy man with a pinky ring… Walt. His marching orders had come from Waldo… He was a dog breeder… Mastiffs.
The third and fourth were Frieda and Tim. I’d recognized Frieda as being Sophie-Ann’s chamber maid, but I opted to let things play out… Sookie discerned that Frieda and her husband were excited to be on the errand since they hadn’t expected to be able to attend her nieces wedding… Sophie-Ann had offered to give her the time off with pay in exchange for stopping at Fangtasia and having a few drinks. Sookie recovered from Walt’s depraved thoughts with a giggle over the fact that Frieda was hoping that Hadley wouldn’t trash the queen’s chambers while she wasn’t there to keep up with things.
The only thing to break the rightfully proud smile from Sookie’s lips was that Pam returned to Fangtasia in a blur, sitting directly across from us so suddenly that she’d startled Sookie.
Sookie hid her face behind my shoulder, giggling against it as Pam glared at me, wearing the obscenely tight Merlotte’s souvenir. “I hate you.”
“What is that smell? Is that… grease? What happened to your hair? It was so nice earlier…”
“I hate you a lot.”
“I’m not sure why. You chose the game.”
“I hate you a whole lot.”
“You’ll get over it.”
“I thought you’d really come unhinged!”
I finally started laughing. “I know. That’s what makes it so funny.”
Her foot darted into my shin under the table. I hadn’t expected any different, but Sookie shrieked as though she’d been kicked.
Pam reached across the table. “Oh my lord! Sookie, I’m sorry! I meant to get him!”
It took a fraction of a second before I realized what Sookie was up to… The glare I gave Pam was an excuse to watch for her reaction.
Sookie finally stopped rubbing her ‘injury’ and looked up. “You did.” She’d barely finished saying it before she was jokingly using my arm as a shield and laughing hysterically along with me.
“I hate you both.”
Sookie shook her head. “No you don’t. You’re having fun… even though you need a bath.”
Pam conceded by rolling her eyes. She wasn’t even going to try to lie. “How the hell do you work there? It’s wretched.”
“It’ll be interesting now that I notice… Y’all should’ve told me how bad it was. I might have suspected Bill earlier.”
“You’re still…? But the other you said that you started working here. That I call it the Telepathy Clinic.”
Sookie shrugged. “Things were different for them. There’s no guarantee that my contract will work out the same way or things will be like it was for them when they got back from New Orleans. I might not need to. There wouldn’t be any point in me sitting here night after night…” Other than giving me a distinct reason to not loathe the sight of the building…
Sookie quickly lifted her face to make eye contact with me, feeling worried… and something I wasn’t sure I could label… She’d heard me again.
Thankfully, Pam continued without noticing. “I didn’t see your shifter while I was there. Have you spoken to him about time off for traveling?”
“No. I was putting that off. He’s not going to be happy. I’m going to stop by on my way home.”
“How long have you been out of work?”
“Five days now… It wouldn’t be the time off though… It would be the reason… and how it is that I’m feeling up to traveling.”
Pam ran her fangs out and pouted her lip. “D’awwww, does hims not wike us?”
Sookie snickered, “I don’t think he wikes other shifters. He’s got plenty of vampire grudge though.”
“Well, if he has any sense of smell at all, he’ll be fit to be tied to smell both of us on you later.”
Sookie shrugged and offered a sigh. “I don’t think it’ll make much difference. When he stopped by yesterday he made a remark about me having the sense to heal on my own.”
I wasn’t particularly fond of the idea that she’d be visiting him when she knew he’d be an asshole… “Perhaps you should call him instead. Let him believe that you’re simply feeling ‘better’ and tending to family business.”
“I got beat up by a serial killer this week. I think I can manage telling an old friend to let me live my life.”
She’d been nearly raped and murdered by a serial killer and discovered that someone she trusted was using her in epic proportions… why not argue with an ‘old friend’?
I was at a loss as to how to persuade against adding to her already complicated week, when we received company.
Diantha and Gladiola stood out in Fangtasia almost as much as Sookie had when I first laid eyes on her crisp white sundress…
It seemed as though they shared the goal of wearing every color in the rainbow while simultaneously representing all of the patterns… Pam had anonymously registered them for design school as well as clown college in recent years…
They both offered creepy grins. “Howyadoin, sheriff?”
“We’re doing well. Did you enjoy your tamales?”
They looked at each other while Sookie giggled.
“Ladies, this is Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie, Diantha is the fashion criminal in green. Gladiola is in orange.”
“It’s ‘dangerine’. How’dya know’bout the tamales?”
“Sookie picked it out of the minds of those three over there. They saw you when they stopped for gas.”
They turned to look at the ‘lab rats’ before grinning and speaking to Sookie in unison. “Canya hearus?”
Sookie stared at them for a moment, then tilted her head in concentration… Finally, “No… It’s like white noise… I can tell you’re kinda hyper, maybe excited… What are you?”
Diantha led, “He’ll explain. Cool power… Sheriff, gottajobtado.”
I gave a nod in Pam’s direction so that she could lead the little executioners to Bill. I was going to try to get some kind of confirmation about what their orders had been when Diantha asked for Bill’s maker’s name…
Sookie was more curious than suspicious as I had her follow me back to my office… but by the time the door was closed behind us, she was getting there.
“Are you sure that you don’t have anything to say to Bill?”
She gasped, covering her mouth as she realized that Bill was done. “They aren’t even going to take him to New Orleans?”
“No. It’s not something I could’ve known for sure. It’s not a subject that would be discussed over the phone.”
“I don’t… Eric I don’t want to see him, but I don’t want him dead. Not on my account.”
“This isn’t on your account, no more than a hammer gets credit for a well built house. He used you to betray the queen.”
“Is that what I’m supposed to tell myself?”
“He didn’t just fail to complete an errand for the queen. Sophie-Ann is very close to her children and his little play to control your power and lord it over her cost Hadley.”
“Not just your grandmother. Possibly your brother as well. While you don’t seem to hold a grudge against vampires because you were wronged by one, your brother is blaming you and your association with us for her murder. What could’ve been a ‘happy reunion’ for her will most likely not remedy the melancholy that caused Sophie-Ann to send Bill in the first place.”
“Do you really believe that she’s homesick, Eric? Really? You didn’t know her before. It’s nice that she’s not on drugs anymore and all, but…”
“Your telepathy is why Bill was sent back, but it’s deeper than that. Sophie-Ann had the hopes that your family would be more accepting of her new state of being because of it. Staying in contact with family isn’t something that has ever been possible for vampires. Couple that with her concerns for Hunter…”
“Who is Hunter? Sookie didn’t say anything about him. We didn’t get to it.” Fanfuckingtastic!
“Hunter is… Hadley had a child.”
“He’s currently being raised by his father, but he’s beginning to show signs that he’s a telepath as well. Sophie-Ann was hoping that Hadley’s mother would be willing to raise the child since she’d have experience with your gift. The father is seemingly clueless.”
She shook her head violently. “Vampires don’t have babies!”
“She was still alive at the time. From what I understand, she was turned because of complications that she wouldn’t have survived.”
“Hadley’s a mother.”
I gave a nod, waiting for the idea to be absorbed.
“Hadley wanted her dead mother to raise her telepathic kid because she’d be better at it since I’m the same kind of freak.”
“In a manner of speaking.” I sure as hell wasn’t going agree that she was a ‘freak’.
“So… what? The Gran that’s alive… the other Gran is raising Hunter?”
“No… you are.”
“When Hadley learned that her mother was dead, she decided to ask Sookie because of your grandmother’s age.”
“So she dumped her kid that she didn’t want to deal with on Sookie!”
“She can’t hear you.”
“I KNOW THAT!” I managed to fight the urge to laugh until it dawned on her that she was directing her frustrations at the wrong individual by offering a bashful apology…
“Like you said, things went differently for them. They might not ask the same of you and regardless, you can refuse just as she could have.”
She paced for a moment before tossing herself on the couch and letting her arm fall over her face like ‘she’ had last night. “Isn’t this just ducky.”
“What is ‘ducky’? Is that anything like peachy? I never understood that one either.”
She managed to giggle. “Yes, as a matter of fact it’s the same thing as peachy… I don’t think I’ve ever said it and not been sarcastic though.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used any other way…” I slid my hands under her legs to sit down and then rested them over my own. “…’Kiss and tell’ jokes aside, perhaps the three of us should discuss all of what we’ve learned… during the flight tomorrow?”
“Why? Did Hadley have triplets?”
“I’m surprised that the information about Hunter wasn’t shared.”
She blew out a deep breath. “I’m not. I wasn’t exactly Miss Congeniality last night. Pam probably got more out of what Sookie was saying than I did… Hey, is it weird that she was so, I don’t know, on board last night… she seemed to be less thrown than either of us.”
“It’s entirely unlike Pam to appear accommodating… ever.”
She uncovered her face to slap my arm as she laughed. “So what do you think was going on with her?”
“I’m going to assume that she was just less awed by the situation because she wasn’t looking at herself… What puzzles me is the way she took orders from her, but… we aren’t finished discussing Bill…”
She growled, covering her face again. “Why not?”
“You’ve had a substantial amount of his blood… granted, it was more than two weeks ago, but there is a possibility that his end could affect you.”
She suddenly sat up and slid herself to the other end of the couch. “NUH-UH!”
I nodded. “It’s possible. I’m hoping that since you weren’t bonded that it’ll be less noticeable for you.”
“What are we talking about here? Like physical pain?”
“I’ve seen a pet collapse, but he’d been bonded to the vampire.”
“Oh, COME ON!”
“Distance could help. Would you like to be taken home?”
“No! I want him to stop shitting in my punch bowl!”
“I hope you’re proud of yourself. You’ve just disgusted and confused me with the same statement.”
She leaned forward to bat at my chest, biting her lip in an effort to not laugh. “This isn’t even close to a laughing matter.”
“You could be unaffected, but I didn’t want for you to be unprepared for it. What would you like to do?”
She stared at me for a moment. The only way to describe her expression would be to say she was grimacing… her feeling: dismal. “There’s not really anything to do… nothing but wait, huh?”
“It shouldn’t be long. Care for a game of strip poker?”
She giggled and kicked my leg. “No. Not really. Pervert.”
After 20 minutes of awkward start and stop conversation including an explanation of Daemons, I suggested that we establish an email account for her since we’d both been told how much correspondence had come in about particulars of her gift.
“I don’t think so!” She laughed as she mashed my hands into the keyboard.
“Sookie, I don’t see a problem. What’s wrong with ‘ericssexslave’ as an address?”
“The same thing that was wrong with ‘sookieatyourservice’, ‘petofthedamned’ and ‘fuckablyfeistyfaerie’.”
I smirked at her. “The last one’s my favorite.” I went back to typing.
“I’m sure it is…”
“How about something painfully blasé like ‘area5telepath’? It’s available.”
She laughed and pushed the enter button on her own. “I’m not giving you the chance to squeeze anything else into that.”
“Are you accusing me of something?”
“Being sneaky enough to add ‘erics’ to that.”
“I’m the victim of shameless teasing, yet I’m being slandered.”
“I’m not a…” She stopped suddenly. Her smile and color drained from her face and her shoulders lurched, making her back arch so violently that if I hadn’t been looking at her when it happened I might not have noticed in time to catch her.
She winced as I carried her to the couch. “It’s not… it’s kinda like a Charlie horse… Not that bad really. Just sudden.”
“Charlie horse?” The idea that she still had it in her to talk was reassuring.
She leaned forward, rolling her shoulders as though she was working out a kink and rested her head on her knees. “Yeah… you had to have a couple when you were alive, everybody does… that leg cramp that wakes you up… it’s already easing up.”
I sat next to her and found myself rubbing her back… I might have been annoyed at how natural it felt if she hadn’t distracted me by humming. “We get cramps when we don’t feed, but I heard someone compare them to ‘the bends’ from experience, so I doubt it’s the same thing.”
“No… I’ve seen a documentary where someone had the bends… that’s much worse than a Charlie horse. That has to suck.”
“I’ve only had the problem a couple of times. It’s a lesson that’s not hard to remember. It’s the reason for pets… A traveling food source.”
She chuckled into her knees. “Hot Pockets.”
“What is that?”
“It’s a frozen food… a portable food… You make humans sound like Hot Pockets.”
“They tend to be…”
“Except we aren’t just food. Y’all have sex with humans too.”
“Is that an offer?”
She swayed to bump her body against mine. “Ha-ha, I’m not exactly human.”
“I won’t hold that against you.”
She giggled as she sat up. “How very magnanimous of you.”
“I try… feeling better?”
Her eyes rolled around while she seemed to be evaluating herself. “Yeah… all better. Glad I wasn’t driving home when that happened. Thanks.”
“Speaking of driving home… I suppose you should be on your way soon… You have packing to do and a shifter to notify.”
“You don’t want me to, do you?”
“Feel free to spend the rest of the night with me and then traipse around New Orleans in the nude if you like.”
“I meant Sam. You don’t want me to stop and see Sam, do you?”
“Not particularly. I think that given what I know of the other Merlotte’s reaction and what you’ve already been through… I don’t think you should have to burden yourself with the stress of his kneejerk reaction. Speaking to him in person would prove to him that you aren’t ‘smart enough to heal on your own’ and that you’ve started keeping questionable company.”
“Alright?” There had to be a catch.
“Yeah… I’ll call him instead. Be vague… I’ll wait until we’re back to give him the full story.”
“Just because I suggested it?”
She shrugged. “No… Because your reasons make sense. We should go ahead and call this Andre cat, right? Get it over with.”
After letting him know that the ‘flowers’ had arrived safely, I informed him that Sookie wanted to have a few words with him…
She cleared her throat, nervous about her performance… After the tone of the call ‘she’ had made the night before, being timid wouldn’t bode well.
“So… How many got sent?”
“Eric and I have been calling them ‘lab rats’… you sent some folks to test me.”
Sookie rolled her eyes. “I found seven humans… Thanks to ‘the flowers’ I can identify them now, but… I’ll explain them later if that’s ok. I hadn’t come across their kind before… and I’m pretty sure that you sent a couple of Weres that didn’t make it past the bouncers… they’re harder for me to read though.”
“Tell me of the humans.”
“Frieda, Tim, Walt, Joel, Laura, Jill and Brad… Frieda and Tim were here for their niece’s wedding. They bought her a place setting and crystal decanter set. Walt is disgusting and needs to be reported to the ASPCA. ‘Nuff said. Joel didn’t really have the money to drive all the way up here, but didn’t argue with Hadley for asking… And someone really needs to tell her that the shade of green she was wearing makes her look like crap. Since Laura isn’t good enough for purple, she changed her polish in the car ride… Jill spent the whole time drooling over Eric… and I don’t want to talk about Brad anymore than I do Walt… But I would like to hear about a Mastiff attack in New Orleans. Poor dogs.”
“I see. Is there anything else?”
“You look much better in the blue shirt you’re wearing tonight than you did in the red one you wore last night. The color and the fit.”
“Ummm. Thank you?” Hearing Andre ‘stumped’ was worth throwing a party.
“Yes sir. So… I was wondering… are we gonna meet meet tomorrow night or…”
“We’re having the car bring you directly to us. Why?”
“Ok… I was just… I was thinking that we might be able to save some time if you gather your donors in the ‘dining room’… I can look for your spies and whatnot since you’ll be testing me anyway.”
“You’re too cheeky for your own good.”
“No sir, I’m just trying to be practical. You have another state trying to murder your maker and there’s another vampire waiting for the chance to kill my cousin. I don’t like the sound of that.”
“Your loyalty to the queen is impressive. I suppose we have Hadley to thank for that.”
“No sir. All due respect, Hadley turned her back on her family a long time ago. I’m looking forward to seeing her again, but make no mistake about it, Eric’s loyalties are my loyalties.” Oh, wow… ‘he’ was right about how impressive of a show she put on… She didn’t even seem to need time to fabricate her answer… full character.
“Very well then. If that’ll be all.”
“Thank you, Miss Stackhouse.”
As soon as I heard him hang up the phone, I celebrated with an idiotic laugh. I couldn’t help myself. “THAT. WAS. PERFECT!”
“Really? Even the bit about loyalty?”
“Especially that! They’ll consider you attached to me. Being indifferent might have made your location seem indefinite.”
Her head fell back and she let out a deep sigh as she fell back into the chair. “Thank GOD! That was so nerve-wracking!”
“I could tell, but you surprised us both. I’m proud of you.”
“I need a stiff drink.”
“Terribly sorry to hear that. You need to get home safely first… Unless of course you’d like to just…”
She stood up quickly shaking her head and groaning. “Sorry… I forgot my snowsuit.”
“I’ll settle for the pink panties you’ve wanted to show me all evening.”
She gasped. “I have not…!” When she spun around to head for the door, her dress finally gave me a peek.
I couldn’t have planned it better.
Even though I needed to turn off my computer and get my keys, I still managed to catch up to her before she opened her car door.
“I think you’re forgetting something.”
“I don’t think so… I’ve done bonus work tonight… Not only did I get my practicing done, but we messed with Pam, and I passed a test… oh, yeah… and I felt a vampire execution… and I still have a ‘shifter to notify’ after a long drive.”
I stepped closer, almost pinning her against her car. I wanted to, but managed to resist… “I told you before I left for Bon Temps that I’d get the kiss I wanted.”
“And then you took off into the night before I could argue with you.”
“You weren’t going to.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes I do… In fact, I know that you’re looking forward to it.”
“Whatever. Go ahead then.”
As much as I wanted to… Hell, ‘as much as I wanted’ consisted of pushing her back over the hood of her car and tasting every square inch of her fucking body right there in the parking lot… I didn’t take the opportunity… I leaned over and kissed her… lightly, innocently… fucking idiotically… Just being so close to her was making me hard. Playing it safe had never made me feel so fucking stupid.
It was a chore to move away from her… and I waited until I was a few steps away to say anything else. “You know what else I know, Sookie?”
She was flushed, confused… “What?”
“I know how disappointed you are.”
I laughed at her when she growled her way into her car.
She wasn’t the only one… I could’ve gotten so much more than the kiss I took… Disappointed was an understatement.
As I packed my things I could feel how frustrated she was with our encounter and it was only about an hour after we separated that her mood shifted…
Her conversation with the shifter hadn’t gone well if I had to make a guess based on how angry and miserable she became… I wanted to call her, out of curiosity to see if she’d changed her mind and seen him… but I was sure that she’d mistake it as being overbearing…
I probably would have called anyway if ‘I’ hadn’t stressed how much I can trust her.
Packing hadn’t taken nearly as much time as emailing Bobby with his list of Sookie related errands to run, and I was just settling into bed when my phone rang just before dawn.
“Do you miss me already?”
“I’m starting to like you.”
“Good. What are you wearing?”
“Pajamas and yes, I’m in bed… Am I starting to like you because I’ve had your blood?”
“I doubt that.”
“Because I’m irresistible.”
She giggled. “Seriously.”
“I prefer to think that you’re starting to ‘like me’ because you’re not distracted by being told to be scared of me.”
“Do you think it has anything to do with our visitors?”
“Yes… I think it has a lot to do with them.”
She gave a long sigh. “This is really weird.”
“Maybe… But when you start blaming my blood for your possible feelings for me, I want you to think about something.”
“Something made you trust me enough to drink my blood today.”
“What makes you think it’s trust. Maybe I was sick of being sore. Maybe I was afraid of what could happen in New Orleans. Maybe…”
“You trust me. I can feel it.”
“I’m glad you know… I’ll see you tonight.”
“What? You aren’t going to describe what you’re wearing?”
“Does it make a difference?”
“Of course it does. What kind of pajamas do you wear?”
“Normally I wear a nightgown, but… you know what, just picture me naked and call it done.”
“Why don’t you take a picture and send it to me.”
“Doesn’t your phone have a camera?”
“No. It’s just a phone.” Oh, that would have to change.
“Yeah. Poor you. G’night.”
I had just enough time to add to Bobby’s list before dawn.