Paint It Red
Jason came back to my bedroom door again, but by then, Sookie already knew that we had company.
Plenty of it, actually…
She’d felt 6 vampires arrive in 2 cars…
Her brother grunted through the door when Sookie asked ‘what now?’ before he had the chance to knock.
“Hadley’s here. Do you have an answer for her?”
Sookie huffed, slowly removing herself from my lap to straighten her dress and quietly curse at a few small wrinkles… “Yeah, Jason. I do.”
She rolled her eyes and stomped over to swing the door open. “Why don’t you just let me answer her?”
“That’s it. I’m telling her that you don’t wanna go. I’m not going out with you if you’re going to be a…” He glanced over her shoulder in my direction before he finished cautiously. “…Grump.”
“I wouldn’t be grumpy if you hadn’t been lurking around in your room thinking about whether I should go at all…”
“Damn it, Sook! You gotta stop doing that shit!”
“No I don’t.”
“That ain’t fair. I don’t even ask you what you’re thinking and you just barge into my head.”
She snorted, shoving by him. “I don’t see what you’re complaining about. There’s room in there to host the World Cup.”
When I laughed, he gave me an insulted look. “Hey, how come I gotta be nice if she can talk to me like that?”
“I told you that I wouldn’t tolerate it if you hurt her. Bickering isn’t the same as making her feel like an amoral slut.”
“I didn’t… Oh shit! I didn’t mean… Fuck.” One of the great minds of the 21st century.
“You might not have meant it, but that’s exactly what you did. Be more careful.”
“Yeah… Yeah. Shit… alright.”
“Why don’t you think she should go?”
He took a couple steps, and lowered his tone as though Sookie didn’t already know. “Hadley’s still really freaked out about the mind reading… She’s worried that Sookie can get her into trouble by hearing her thoughts.”
“Someone has told her that Sookie can’t hear vampires, haven’t they?”
“She doesn’t believe it and she thinks Sookie’s gonna be a buzzkill since she’s kinda uptight.”
“How’s that funny?”
“Because she’s taking two 800 year old bodyguards with little grasp of the English language out to a bar the night after a vampire hate bombing… She hasn’t seen uptight yet.”
Jason looked like he actually understood the irony when Sookie stuck her head back into the room on her way to the stairs with her purse in hand. “Hey, Eric. Mind if I invite Hadley in? Jason left her waiting on the stoop.”
“If she has any manners at all, she won’t enter until I invite her. It’s a courtesy.”
She grinned with a nod. “I like that since y’all don’t need to be invited and all… I’m ready when you are then.”
Hadley didn’t have any manners.
She was waiting in the foyer even though Wybert had the courtesy to remain outside.
She watched Sookie come down the stairs, fixated on the sight of Sookie holding my hand for some reason.
I offered a reasonable greeting and invitation to enter even if Wybert’s presence was baffling.
“I understand that you have plans tonight?”
“Yeah.” Lovely. ‘Yes, Sheriff’… ‘Yes, sir’… even ‘Yes, Eric’ would have been more proper, her ill-tempered pitch was another matter altogether.
“Could you elaborate? I can’t read your mind.”
“At least someone can’t… I wanted to introduce them to some of my friends. Do a little dancing.”
“Who are the friends? Any bar in particular?”
“What are you, my father?” Wybert’s eyebrows rose with his surprise and Pam muttered ‘oh no she didn’t’ from where she was eavesdropping in the kitchen.
She rolled her eyes. Young as she was, infantile even, she had to know better. “My friend Jake is a Were. He’s with triple E. They met him already. My neighbor is a witch. Amelia.”
“Just me and the Berts.”
“Six vampires just arrived. Who are the other four?”
Another petulant eye roll. “Sophie-Ann, Andre, Siegbert and Rasul.” Rasul would explain why Sookie was feeling a ‘small’ bubble since he’d barely seen a century.
“When did you plan on leaving? Sookie and I are expected to…”
She waved her hand dismissively, forgetting that even if her maker was a queen, she was nothing. “Yeah, yeah, yeah… Sookie needs to see Sophie-Ann… I know. That’s why they’re here. They’re paranoid about being in one place for too long.”
Sookie smiled, but didn’t mean it. “A mobile conference room, huh? Smart… They’re waiting in the car or…?”
“Yeah. I’m supposed to sit here like a luggage check while y’all talk. Then we can go out.”
Feeling excluded from the ‘grown up talk’ wasn’t an excuse. “Wybert, you’re watching over her?”
“Brodder’s lucky day.”
The indignant look on Hadley’s face while the rest of us chuckled was almost worth suffering her attitude.
We weren’t given the chance to settle.
The queen was gazing through the window almost like she wasn’t there. Andre started in immediately without introducing Sophie-Ann to Sookie. “You’ll need to contact the other sheriffs. They’re interested in booking your pet like a traveling circus.”
“Cirque de Sookie should tour before we return to my area?”
“Salome mentioned that she’d pay any price. With more than 600 employees at her casino alone, she desires some assurances. She suggested that I was lying when I told her how quickly Miss Stackhouse found our problems. How have you seen to your assets?”
“I have Weres blending in with the protesters at Fangtasia as a safeguard. Contingency witnesses and nothing more. They’re to track anyone who attacks so that I can identify which faction they’re with before they’re disposed of.”
“Were witnesses, witch housekeepers, faerie pets… you certainly are an equal opportunity employer.”
Andre tilted his head slightly. “You aren’t surprised to hear that she’s Fae.”
“Why would I be?”
“Because if she’s anything like her cousin, the taste is so faint that it’s difficult to place. Do you know something about her heritage?”
“No. Her taste led me to the assumption. There aren’t but so many options… Is it safe to say that you’d be interested in news if I learn anything?”
Sophie-Ann finally joined the conversation. “Yes, please. Curiosity is getting the best of us when it comes to their genealogy. Specifically, we wonder why Sookie has such a strong talent while her cousin and brother aren’t as affected baffles us. At the moment, our working theory is that she might be a natural witch.”
I nodded, unsure of how to take how much thought she’d put into Sookie as a subject matter. “We’ve been told that telepathy is rumored to be a witch characteristic. My working theory is that since birth records haven’t shed any light that there must’ve been an adoption or affair that escaped public records and bible entries.”
“That seems like a reasonable theory… Now, Miss Stackhouse. I was told that you had a strong reaction to reading your contract, but you signed it anyway.”
“Yes, ma’am… It had been a long day and the clause about injury coverage took me by surprise. My nerves were just shot. I’m sorry.” Outstanding. Completely unrehearsed, but still the perfect answer… If she had blamed the money aspect, she’d have been undermining her value and honesty wasn’t an option. And Sookie had the manners to address the queen with respect instead of ‘uh-huh’, not that I was surprised…
“No need to apologize. We were all on edge.”
Sookie nodded humbly. “Yes, ma’am. Thank you for understanding.”
“You’re welcome. So now that I fully understand why Arkansas isn’t a fitting spouse in any sense of the word, is there anything else I should know?”
Sookie gnawed at her lip while she thought about her answer. “Ummm, not that I can think of… except, Waldo is jealous enough of Hadley that he’s willing to hurt her.”
“Yes, Andre informed me of that… How did you come by that information?”
“Two of the donors… They were spies of Arkansas. Waldo didn’t know they were spies as far as I can tell, but he did approach them to have Hadley drained… got them into the donor pool and planned out her kidnapping… The fact that they were working for Threadgill just made their jobs easier.”
“How were they going to kidnap her?”
“Waldo told them that she’s really young and weak… That she likes to go out clubbing… They were waiting for her to mention where she was going to be partying and show up to take her.”
“He warned them about her vulnerabilities?”
“And to do it closer to dawn so that no one could get to her in time.”
“What are you apologizing for?”
Sookie shrugged. “I don’t know… Mostly because I know how much it sucks to get stabbed in the back by someone I trust.”
“Bill Compton.” Her tone was accusatory and defensive at the same time.
Sookie shook her head. “He didn’t invent lying. Hell, I can’t think of anyone that hasn’t ever lied. I would know.”
“Indeed you would. That is actually why I still wanted to meet with you tonight… Now that we’ve informed our subjects that Arkansas is responsible for yesterday’s unfortunate event, we’ll need you to stay on here in New Orleans while we plan our volley, of course. Your gift has already proven to give us an upper hand.”
Sookie nodded in agreement. “I understand, but if you don’t mind…” Sookie waited with raised eyebrows to be invited to share her thoughts. “…Now, I’m only saying anything because I know how humans think. While I was in the crowd yesterday trying to get something useful, I heard that the general consensus is that vampires are really good for tourism here and there were a lot of humans that aren’t usually pro-vampire who were at least becoming anti-church. I’m sure you’ve already thought about it, but I think that your retaliation for yesterday should get blamed on the Fellowship.”
Andre hissed, “That’s the same cowardly maneuver that Threadgill is guilty of. That isn’t…”
Sookie raised her hand from her lap a few inches… It wasn’t as though she was trying to dismiss what he was saying though. The gesture seemed to say ‘calm down’ more than anything. “I understand that, but it was smart. If I hadn’t been there, y’all might not know that it was Arkansas instead of those activist loons. You guys might’ve gone after the church in one way or another… I don’t think it was gutless as much as brilliant. I think he was banking on your assumptions. That would’ve led to a butt-load of negative PR for y’all. If you ask me, that was the smartest move he could’ve made.”
Sophie-Ann seemed too amused given the topic and her smile was pissing off Andre. “Then please, explain his stroke of genius.”
“He doesn’t know about me, or at least he couldn’t have before… His little ‘army of darkness’ bombs you, then leaks to the press about it being the church, the church doesn’t want to seem scared or unorganized so they don’t deny it, afterwards y’all start quietly retaliating because it’s humans you’re dealing with, maybe even going after church leaders. It would have lost you guys a lot local support, cutting your own throats in the process… With everything in the toilet, you might’ve been able to be convinced to marry him… Freaking party time for him, right? You’re put in the middle of a press fallout and then when he kills you, the church gets blamed again and this time, he gets sympathy as a grieving widower who just inherited the ‘Fang Capitol of the U.S.’ to go with a steady cash flow. I’m gonna guess that with certain loyalties, him taking over would go over much smoother if he gets your state ‘honestly’ rather than as a spoil of war, right?”
“Yes. How is it that you think you know the reasons for why I was considering the wedding?”
“I was trying to get a handle on everything. I didn’t understand the reasons for the marriage. Eric told me that it was more of a political treaty than a marriage. I filled in the blanks on my own… Am I completely off base?”
“No. Please continue.”
“K… The human aspect of things… If y’all let the ‘church’ take the blame for your payback, then when Arkansas starts getting thinned out you can cash in on the ‘happily ever after’ he was wanting without getting your hands dirty publicly, even getting some ‘poor vampire’ press of your own. Ya know?”
“You understand that plans have been set into motion on many fronts already, yes?”
“Yes’m, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to convince everyone to play dumb, maybe even fake some semblance of grief and indignity. Word spreads pretty fast. I have another suggestion.”
“That would be…?”
“The church spies that I found at your place, are there any… Are there any left?”
Andre rolled his eyes, answering her begrudgingly. “Barely alive in some cases, but yes.”
“Thennnnn… Maybe y’all could throw out a red herring… Eric mentioned that Little Rock has a vampire owned mall. The Neo Classic. Y’all have a bunch of fallguys. It might take a night or two to line up, but if you get a couple of vans like the ones that the guys here used… Register them to a couple of the nut-jobs y’all have and put ’em in the parking garage with dud bombs in them…”
Andre actually smiled (albeit minuscule enough that Sookie didn’t notice) as he interrupted. “…It would go that much further to put the church in the guillotine for our counterattack.” That worried me… Andre did NOT impress easily. The queen would play fairly as long as she got what she wanted, but Andre was the only one who could sway her feelings on such matters… If Andre felt like they needed more than what they already had of Sookie, then Sophie-Ann could be persuaded. Fuck.
“Since this Threadgill cat isn’t in-the-know about how you could have a supply of disposable bible-bangers, he’d think that they were convenient to his plans… And it’ll give you a way to get rid of the rest of them without any attention.”
“If you were to find a house out in the boonies up there and then stage a bomb building accident, the church here can’t exactly call you out on it. What are they going to do? Go on the news and say, ‘They weren’t building bombs in Bryant. We know because they were spying on the Queen in New Orleans so we could start strapping them to crosses at dawn.’ No. They suck it up. Take the loss.”
They both stared at Sookie for a moment before Andre started trying to hide how awed with her he was. “3 bombs, 2 vans and an abandoned farmhouse?”
“Maybe more dud bombs if there’s more vampire friendly businesses there. The mall is the only one that came up… If you put them around town, then it’ll look more shameless. Hell, a few duds scattered around your state might help push the point. Salome seems worried enough that she’d play along.”
“Among others… I’ll need to ‘talk’ to the bombers about the particulars…”
“Not really. The guy that did the bomb is Romello McPherson. He used ammonium nitrate bombs. He already has more made. He can tell you how to disarm them so they won’t actually hurt anyone by going off accidentally.”
“You heard that?”
“Yes sir. I listened to the bombers in the crowd while I thought about how to help y’all find them. Romello didn’t know that the bombs are for vampires though. Your bombers told that ‘prince among men’ that they’re for mosques.”
Sophie-Ann almost snickered. “How did you reach the conclusion that stealing their wallets would be a good idea?”
“Following them wasn’t an option once I heard that they were going to walk back, even if getting more separated from Paulette wouldn’t have upset Eric. I was already pushing my luck by leaving the house at all… Since I already had a few wallets in my pockets from looking for people, I figured that would do the job. Y’all would have a way to find them and if all their IDs and funds were tied up for a couple of days while they waited for replacement cards, then they’d be staying put.”
Both of them switched their focus from Sookie to me and stared for too long before Sophie-Ann spoke. “She might have had too much of your blood to be thinking so much like a vampire.” I couldn’t have disagreed more. I’d caught myself dwelling on the idea of giving her as much as possible. Most vampires weren’t capable of being so unruffled considering present company… That wasn’t factoring that she managed to practically plan a clandestine royal reprisal for them.
All I could do was smile. “I was more impressed with how perfect her knowledge of humans is in this case. For us anyway.”
Since Sophie-Ann’s comment had stirred echoes of the concern we’d both had on our way to the Abbey, my reply eased Sookie’s mood. Her grin was sheepish as she joked that she reads ‘too much fiction’… And then she sat quietly, patiently, astutely while I discussed some of the more gruesome details of her scheme with Andre and Sophie-Ann.
She didn’t fidget.
She didn’t speak unless she was spoken to.
She didn’t show how uncomfortable she was during some parts of the discussion even if they did alarm and sicken her.
She behaved like the perfect fucking pet.
The only time she broke form was to answer a question meant for me… On our way out of the limo, Andre asked if her training was my doing or Bill’s. Sookie snorted and told him that it was ‘all’ me.
Sookie took the hint and followed me directly to my room without speaking to anyone on our way.
She barely managed to wait until the door was closed behind us before she broke into an excited whisper. “Did I do ok?” OK? No… Ok wasn’t at all befitting… Setting aside that Pam still didn’t behave as well as Sookie did, and that her cousin had been in the company of royalty for her entire vampire existence and still acted like she wanted to be punched for every word out of her mouth… ‘Ok’ wasn’t applicable when I was nearly choking on how proud of her I was.
“You were perfect. Very well done.”
“Oh thank God! When we’re bonded I’ll be able to tell what you’re feeling, right? I freaking hate not knowing how I’m doing until after the fact!” Hearing her mention bonding to me caused an immediate shift in my concentration.
I nodded, slowly advancing and enjoying every step away she took like I would a hunt. “That might not be a good thing since you seem to want to be so virtuous.”
“What does that have to do with it?”
“You’ve already said that you almost came earlier…”
She corrected me through gritted teeth, “CAVED.”
“One in the same… Once you can feel how much I want you, you won’t be able to tease me for much longer.”
“You might not be doing it deliberately, but it’s still happening. I won’t pretend that this little game of yours isn’t fun though.”
“I’m not playing a game though, I swear.” Her last step put her ass against my dresser.
I lifted her to perch on top of it, wedging myself between her dangling legs but resting my hands flat on the dresser’s top. “What would you call it then? You want to fuck me, yet you resist. You let me get this close to you, knowing I can feel and smell what you ache for, but you still put on that smile trying to fool me. Even now, you want me to rip your panties out of my way… You want me to feel how wet I make you. You want me to finger fuck you, rub your clit, bite your thighs, make you scream and squirm with your legs wrapped around my neck until there’s no difference between pleasure and pain, until you’re a breathless puddle of cum and tears, until you beg for things you’re afraid of. You won’t be able to last, Sookie. You can’t behave long when you’re fantasizing about tasting yourself on my fingers, my mouth while I fuck you, fill you, ride you… You’re picturing it now… How my cock will look in your hand when you guide it to where you need it to be… watching it disappear into your pussy over and over. You can’t close your eyes without seeing everything you want us to do to one another.” She was flushed and having chills by the time I was done and feeling her resolve weaken made my craving that much harder to bear.
She cleared her throat trying to force herself to speak, voice cracking, “If you’re so sure that I want all of that, then why don’t you just do it.” She wasn’t inviting me. She was challenging how sure I was.
“Because the only thing I won’t give you is an excuse to feel helpless.”
The lock her eyes had on mine finally fell away from me and she cleared her throat again. “I should go.”
I didn’t move. “Why?”
“Because everyone is waiting.”
“I’m waiting for you to be mine completely. You’re waiting to be sure that your feelings are your own. Let them wait a few minutes to go to some ridiculous bar. Why do you want to leave me all of a sudden?”
“I just… Can I do something and not have you read anything into it?” How the fuck does anyone answer that question?
“Maybe.” As it left my mouth, it sounded like a question.
She paused, biting her lip before stretching up to put her lips to mine. Her hands drifted along my arms, shoulders, neck, into my hair while she breathed her kiss into me. Assuming that she’d meant that she only wanted a kiss, keeping my hands on the dresser, not pulling her to me, not taking her to the bed became more than a chore. Behaving became a poison. And letting the kiss end could only be compared to drowning. Even though she moved just far enough away to release my lips, I needed her back.
She whispered, “Thank you.”
“I’m pretty sure you’re the first person to give me any choices.”
“I’m not exactly a person.”
She started to grin. “If you’re going to nitpick at my verbiage, you should’ve gone with ‘choices’. ‘Time’ would be more fitting, I guess.”
“Wet panties would fit too.”
She giggled, tugging my hair before she released it. “Alright, pervert. Lemme go get changed so that we can get this outing over with.”
“On one condition.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Let’s hear it.”
“Agree to sleep in here tonight.”
“Do you even own pajama pants?” Why the fuck would I?
She rolled her eyes. “Oooooh, big shocker… Fine, but I’m wearing PJs.” She’d said that as though pajamas acted as a vampire retardant chastity device.
I backed away to let her leave despite myself. “Of course you will, but for how long?”
Changing into jeans and a T-shirt lifted my mood more than usual since the way it felt when Sookie wrapped herself around my bare arms was one of my favorite things about her company… so far.
She was just coming out of her room wearing an amused smile when I emerged. The best part of her black tank top, very short jean skirt and high heels was that she was showing so much of her skin… like her outfit was an invitation. A promise. Proof that she enjoyed contact as much as I did. “I’m gonna kill Pam.”
“What has she done now?”
“She left a dress, if you can call it that, on my bed for me to wear tonight.”
“Backless and see through?”
She laughed, “rubber.” Pam wasn’t just fucking with Sookie’s modesty… She knew how much I detested the glossy emo fangbanger garb… rubber, vinyl, latex, electrical tape… it turned my stomach more than the ‘inspired by Bram Stoker’ look…
“There’s a stake in my office.”
She grabbed my hand, still amused and started for the stairs… “Are you gonna dance with me tonight?”
“Is dance another one of your euphemisms?”
“Nope. Standing up, fully clothed, in public, synchronized movement set to music.”
“There’s still some ambiguity in your definition. Your skirt is short enough that I could easily…”
She snickered and raised her empty hand. “I give up.”
“Don’t do that. What will I fill my time with if I’m not making you blush?”
“Get a new hobby? I mean, at the rate you’re going I’m gonna get numb to it sooner than later anyway.”
I ‘moped’, “You’ve robbed me of my fun.”
She rolled her eyes playfully. “Ohhh kayyyy, you win. What could you easily do?” Perfect.
Just before we reached the kitchen door, I grabbed her, lifting her legs to wrap around me… I rubbed her against me while I practically killed myself controlling my fangs to bite along her neck. “Use your imagination, Sookie. Just add music.”
Her legs tightened around me as she breathed, “I see your point.”
She started to move with me, helping add to the friction until resisting my fangs wasn’t an option and I had to leave her neck… Even though they were so close to her ear, she didn’t seem to notice hearing them run out… She only returned the ‘favor’. Her breath served as a warning just before her tongue started to massage its path… Inch by tortuous inch from just under my ear to follow my jaw…
The heat radiating from between her legs…
Moisture building enough to feel it through her panties and my jeans…
Her nipples were hard enough to feel like tiny stones as they passed over my chest…
Her arms strapped behind my neck so tightly that if I had taken my hands away from her ass she’d have stayed exactly as she was…
I was winning. Even without bonding, without pushing, without influence, she wanted me.
Sookie being mine ‘on paper’ wasn’t going to taunt me for much longer…
When her mouth found its way to mine, she accidentally put a small slice into her lip and it took everything I could muster to convince myself to stop before I lost what little bit of control I had.
Pulling back didn’t help. Her body only pressed into mine as she leaned to draw out her kiss by biting my lip…
No. Pulling back only made the situation seem more inescapable.
I had to grab her hair, adding to my strain when she whimpered into my mouth. Soon wasn’t going to happen soon enough.
She still had my lip between her teeth when I made myself drag her face away from mine.
It felt insane to stop.
While her eyes focused, she absently licked a trickle of blood away from her mouth. Her voice trembled, “I hate being rattled.”
“You aren’t the only one.”
“Then why don’t I mind when it comes to you?”
“Maybe because you trust me.”
“I do, ya know? I mean, there are things about you that scare me… I could go crazy trying to figure out why, but I trust you.”
I was nodding, about to tell Sookie that I trusted her in return, but we’d been found.
Pam stomped into the foyer… hands on hips… fangs down… doing her best to push her annoyance to me because she knew better than to say that she could feel what Sookie was doing to me with our company within earshot.
Even if she was ‘behaving’, I could still enjoy her problem instead of dwelling on mine. “Can I help you?”
She widened her eyes, I suppose to underline her unspoken message. “I think your company is getting impatient to leave.”
When we reached the kitchen, Jason was sitting on the counter watching Pam as though he’d been glamoured into place.
Since I hadn’t had many chores for Paulette, Pam had taken advantage of the maid’s unused time. A semi-annual treasure hunt for vintage couture. Paulette’s ‘impeccable taste’ and knowledge of the area’s consignment shops always made Pam utterly, comically and horrifyingly cheerful. This ‘hunt’ produced more ‘pretties’ than usual. Nearly every surface in the kitchen was draped or stacked with what Pam’s figurative dreams were made of… And since she had unabashedly turned the kitchen into her fitting room, ‘fashion’ was most likely going to be fueling some of Jason’s dreams as well.
The fucking idiot was drooling.
I sent the Stackhouses out to the car so that I could deliver an envelope given to me by Andre. I’d received 4 envelopes. Two were addressed to Sookie, another for me and the fourth was for Paulette. No doubt, they were checks for services rendered.
She folded the parcel and put it in her purse while she quickly rattled away the list of chores and errands she’d completed… My real reason for sending everyone to the car ahead of me was to thank Paulette in person for insisting on staying with Sookie rather than let her go to the palace alone…
The moment I sat next to Sookie in the car, Hadley began to ooze contempt.
She hadn’t needed to say that she wasn’t pleased to have me along, her body language was enough… Her foot shook at the end of her crossed leg, her arms were strapped across her chest and the tone she used when making introductions as the car picked up her friends was provoking at best.
And every few moments, while Sookie was trying to make polite conversation, Hadley rolled her eyes.
The little bitch even made it a point to exaggerate her laughter and volume, becoming louder than reason would allow when I answered a call from Flood. Essentially, the call was to tell me that Sookie had been right.
Fangtasia had been ‘attacked’. The Weres stationed at the bar had been mingling with the throngs of quiet protesters when a truck full of ‘yahoos’ (I could only imagine what that word implied) sped through the parking lot and riddled the bar with Molotov cocktails. Four of the ‘peaceful’ protesters were injured, but the only property damage was to the bar’s sign and the Weres had managed to follow the truck back to a house in Bossier. The other cars in the driveway had ‘church’ parking passes, but he had a list of license plate numbers and an address so that I could be sure. Instead of being prideful about being right, Sookie was concerned about the injured. So Hadley made fun of Sookie for still being a ‘softie’.
I seemed to be the only one to pay any attention to Hadley’s behavior for most of the ride. Something told me that since everyone else knew her more personally, they weren’t surprised. I was only happy that Pam hadn’t wanted to join the ‘party’… If it hadn’t been for the lure of shopping for accessories, she’d be irritated enough to do something embarrassing or indefensible.
After about 20 minutes, Sookie’s mood started to darken… not that it showed. Outwardly she continued to seem just as cheerful and outgoing as she was before her cousin became unbearable company… I was the only one who would know otherwise.
The bar Hadley chose was hideously trendy. The bright colors of the purposely mismatched furniture and the fluorescent clad servers gave the bar the air of being the bastard son of a preschool and a whore house. I almost laughed at the blackboard menu written in glow in the dark chalk.
Hadley walked through the cavernous bar to a large corner booth and made herself comfortable while her entourage filled in around her, but when Sookie moved to sit, I held her back.
Sookie didn’t resist or seem to question me in the least. She set her purse on the bench next to her brother and put her hands over where mine held her waist…
“Where are we going?”
I started guiding her to the other side of the bar. “Somewhere more private.”
Hadley blurted, “To. Do. What?”
“Since Sookie is mine, that isn’t any of your concern.”
Sookie continued to stroll in the direction I’d aimed her hips so Jason asked the wrong individual about ‘that mine business’.
Hadley snapped, “It basically gives him the right to do whatever he wants to her… Wherever he feels like doing it.”
I had to grab Sookie, wrap my arm around her and take her feet from the floor, to keep her from lashing out at her annoying kin. Not that she made it easy to do without hurting her. She was stronger than I gave her credit for.
Wybert was within arm’s reach of her without hesitation. “Problem?”
I didn’t have the opportunity to make an excuse before Sookie stopped struggling and answered him quietly. “That mood she’s in… Me and Eric were going to find a quiet spot so I can listen for threats and she’s trying to get my brother thinking that Eric’s draining me in the alley or something. ”
Without dispute, the gargoyle turned his attention from Sookie with nothing more than a grunt in reply and glared at Hadley. “Not allowed.”
She seethed without comeback while her friends gawked at her… Wybert’s nod, as though he was swayed to Sookie’s argument made me wonder.
Since the office was locked and the room used as the employees’ break area was teeming with bored servers, we found ourselves in the ladies’ room…
Sookie’s comfort level notwithstanding, the smell was far more favorable than the men’s restroom.
Sookie was shaking her head as she slid the stall’s lock into place. “I’m so tempted to just call it a night. She’s being awful. I know she would’ve owned me in a fight, but it might’ve been worth it to slap that nasty mouth of hers.” I couldn’t argue with her.
“Any clue as to why she’s so hostile?”
“I’d have thought about it some if she hasn’t always been moody.”
“She seemed happy to see you last night though.”
“She was probably still thinking that she was happy her maker didn’t burn to death in the sun because of how it would’ve affected her. Whatever is going through her cranial cavity is probably selfishness inspired.” Lovely.
“Enough said… The friends?”
“Not a threat.”
“Just ‘not a threat’? Did you have difficulty reading them?”
“I wish… Amelia might as well be screaming everything she thinks. And Jake is wishing he’d known we were coming so that he could stay home.”
“His problem is with my presence?”
“Both of us… He’s just scared of you, but he’s terrified of doing or saying something wrong around me after last night. I’m ‘too important’.”
“And the witch?”
Sookie rolled her eyes. “She remembered a long chat she had with Hadley about me… And doesn’t see what the big deal is… I’m ‘not that bad’.”
“You used the word ‘screaming’ though.”
“Not like aggression… Her thoughts are just too clear.”
“Is that because she’s a witch?”
“Not that I know of… Some normal humans are like that too. The clue that she’s a witch is that her thoughts are a little tinted… I’m not sure why yet, but Paulette is more of a heavy haze. Amelia’s is barely noticeable.”
“Strength, talent maybe?”
She shrugged and held her hands up, waiting for mine. “I’ll figure it out eventually… Time to poll the audience.”
“I’ll be bored.”
She giggled, “Bring a book next time.”
“Why bring a book when I have a toy?”
“You are not allowed to ‘toy’ with me…”
“Yes I am.”
“When I’m looking for ecstasy dealers and stolen credit cards at Fangtasia, fine… Not when I’m looking for someone who could hurt us.”
“Deal.” I hadn’t been able to utter the word without smiling over my little victory… even if I didn’t need her accidental consent to play.
She gasped with a frustrated look on her face and turned around to fold her arms in front of her…
She didn’t say anything, but I could feel her concentration… She was pretending to pout while she worked.
“Isn’t that less demanding when you’re making contact with me?”
“Did you just hush me?”
“Shhhh.” She drew it out that time.
I stepped closer to run a finger down her spine and whisper into her ear. “Since I’m here, I could help.”
“Trying to focus.”
“Trying to get something positive out of this outing.”
“By groping me in a bathroom stall? Be careful. I could swoon.”
“That wasn’t groping.”
“Sorry, but can we decide on a grammatical standard when I’m not busy?”
“How long do you think you’ll be?”
“Just a few more minutes.”
“Then we can define ‘grope’?”
“Then we can define ‘dance’, butthead.”
As we came from the hall that housed the bathrooms, I watched for Hadley’s reaction…
The moment we were in sight, she ever so delightfully rolled her eyes again, but more noticeable was the way the Berts were standing against the wall next to the bar. They were staring at Sookie like they were waiting for something.
She was explaining to them that the only ‘problem’ was that one of the customers was hoping to start a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s date when a song that Sookie liked started playing.
She turned to me wearing a smirk that I considered promising and nodded towards the empty dance floor…
I could think of much better ways to be that close to Sookie than dancing … So I decided to play.
When my hands slid down to cup her ass, pulling her closer, she reached back to move them to rest in the arch of her back and giggled ‘grope’…
When I moved them once more to turn her around and take hold of her breasts, again, she giggled ‘grope’ as she adjusted them to her waist…
But when I used her back being turned as an excuse to reel her in, putting her ass against my dick while she did more dancing than I did, she did nothing to discourage me.
She overlapped our hands to lace our fingers together and slowed down to lay her head back against my chest.
Turning around so that our backs would be to her family, I took one of her hands, leading it to my cock and squeezed her hand over it.
“Yeah, that’s a grope too.” There was no giggle that time.
She suddenly cared as little about dancing as I did.
When I hunched over to put my mouth next to her ear and run my fangs out, her breathing hitched. I watched her skin prickle… starting at the corner of her shoulder, dragging my fangs along the contours of her neck… “What would that be called?”
She released a ragged breath. “A tease.” Tease? My dick twitched under her hot little hand.
“Not exactly. I’m willing.”
“Given where we are though… torment?”
“If it means that much to you, call it a promise.”
Sookie slid onto the bench wearing a friendly smile, most likely hoping that no one would mention that most of her blood volume was in her face. “Hey y’all, what’d I miss?”
The four of them shared a round of looks before Jason cleared his throat to answer. “Uh, Hadley was just telling me about what a pain it was to light proof her apartment. She had to have walls built.” Considering that she’d risen to the need of surrendering her child, I was appalled that construction would have been noticed at all… but I was starting to understand the selfishness Sookie had mentioned.
Sookie nodded. “I bet that was a pain… I guess Hadley’s lucky to have a landlord who’d allow the renovation.”
The witch looked fawned. “Oh, it was no big deal. They just had to add a wall and a door. It’s not like they walled up any windows… What about you Eric? Hadley said that you’ve got one of those big places in the Garden District. How’d you make that light tight and keep the historians happy?” The better question would be how I would get away with killing the child of the queen for sharing the location of my resting place…
“Carefully.” The answer to both questions.
“You have any famous neighbors? I had a friend buy a place over there and the real estate agent told her about 3 or 4 actors that live on her block.”
“I bought the house before New Orleans was considered a trendy place to live. I don’t spend enough time here to know my neighbors.”
Sensing my annoyance, not that I was hiding it, Sookie added, “His maid mentioned that Anne Rice is close by.” Only in the sense that she owned a house in the same District… Judging by the wrought feeling from Sookie, she was lying intentionally…
Thankfully, Anne Rice’s mention changed the direction of the conversation as Sookie planned. Unfortunately, Amelia had a very strong opinion of the author’s writing and was still prattling on about the inaccuracies in the Mayfair books while the server took orders, including my order for a bottle of champagne.
Hadley took the opportunity to heckle when the waitress delivered everyone’s drinks, “Special occasion?” I was honestly shocked that her self-centered nature didn’t lead her to the mistaken conclusion that their reunion had been my reason.
“I owe Sookie a celebration. She’s preformed beautifully… the perfect pet.” Sookie turned to give me flattered smile while I filled her glass.
Her ill-tempered cousin hissed, “In the bathroom and on the dance floor? I’m sure Gran would be proud.”
I was expecting for Sookie to feel as she did when her brother made his suggestive remarks, but the way her anger came to her could only be described as a detonation. So sudden, so intense that my fangs threatened to surface. After taking a long sip of her drink while she tried to calm herself, Sookie leaned towards Hadley, making the Were between them stiffen enough to look frozen. “Since you’ve always been a double-talking, back-stabbing, narcissistic bitch, I’m not all that surprised, but since you’re too damn brainless to not run your mouth to people whose minds I can read, why don’t you just come out and say what you mean instead of implying that Eric would pay me for sex with a drink. Even if you’re confused because that’s all it ever took to get you on your back, I didn’t get my reputation as a goody-two-shoes by being rude enough to grab a quickie in public. You know damn good and well what we were doing in the bathroom… I was looking out for you, just like I did when I let your maker know to watch your back… Gran would be rolling in her grave to see what you’ve become.”
Hadley smiled at her mockingly. “Oooooh here it comes. The Fangbanger is going to tell me that my Grandmother wouldn’t approve of my life.”
“Gran would’ve been beside herself to see you again. She’d have hugged you like a life raft until she could get herself together enough to fuss at you for how long you were gone and you know it. I’m talking about how shitty you’ve been since I got here. Like being in the same city as me is an imposition. You can claim all you want that our problem is because you’re a vampire now, but what it comes down to is you’re that same cold, nasty child I grew up with. The same one that’s been clubbing and riding in limos and wearing designer clothes once before throwing them out while your mother wasted away in a state hospital and your grandmother died on a worn linoleum floor. Call her ‘YOUR’ grandmother again and see what happens. I’ll knock your fucking fangs out of your head.” I didn’t realize that I’d rested my hand on the back of Sookie’s neck right away. While I took in how much higher her temperature was than usual, I realized that I wasn’t trying to keep her under control, just trying to sooth her… If I’d been interested in taking my hand away, I might have applauded. Meanwhile, the Berts let Sookie’s threat pass without reacting.
Hadley snorted, trying to maintain her arrogance despite her blood rimmed eyes. “Careful, pet. Sheriff’s tugging your leash.”
“You’re the one who needs to be careful…”
“How do you figure… cow?” Fangs. She called Sookie a ‘cow’ and that’s all it took… and I didn’t hesitate to show them either.
“You really want to go there? I guess you’re forgetting that until you were turned, you weren’t anything but a delicacy worth an allowance… At least I try to earn my keep.” She didn’t ‘try’ anything… She was worth more than she’d ever realize.
Hadley interrupted by making a show of running out her fangs “What the fuck do you know?”
Instead of letting Sookie share information that would lead some to believe that she can read vampire minds and put herself in danger, I took over. “Let’s start with what the fuck I know, shall we?”
Hadley furrowed her brow, annoyed that I interrupted. “Oh, sure. Please. Let’s hear what The Vampire God knows.”
“First of all, you shame your maker by showing such horrible manners…”
She flapped her hand and offered nothing more than a ‘pshhh’, a response that should’ve made her grateful that Sookie and her Were friend were between us.
“Secondly, your behavior towards me and my pet seems like a challenge. Is that what this is? A challenge? Because you might want to reconsider.”
“You wouldn’t dare. I’m the child of…”
“A queen. I know. Not that you act like any more than the glorified, elevated fangbanger that you are. I’m still waiting for an answer about that challenge.”
She leaned over and opened her mouth to deliver more unwarranted venom, but Jason clapped his hand over her mouth. “Knock it off. You’re gonna get yourself hurt or killed… She’s jealous as all hell because Sookie’s been getting so much attention and she’s had a crush on Eric since she was still alive.” She was never anything but a donor and I hadn’t looked at twice, but the chance to remind her of that fact was delayed by the fact that Hadley bit Jason’s hand.
Hadley seemed apologetic as her cousin yanked his hand away from her mouth. “Ohmigod! Jason! I’m sorry… I… You know I always… I must’ve done that to you a hundred times growing up.” It was a sad state of affairs that Jason was better with social cues than she was.
His lip curled as he studied the punctures in his palm. “Yeah… growing up. Growing up. You ain’t a fucking kid anymore, but you’re still acting like one… You’re making a scene and picking a damn fight with a vampire that put another sheriff in the damn floor… over some stupid throwback to how much attention Sookie always got… But here’s the thing, she didn’t want the attention she got when we was kids. She wanted to be normal like us… And now, well now she fucking deserves it. And Sook is the only one of us that really gets to be bitter since she’s the one that was holding Aunt Linda’s hand when she died and she’s the one that had to take care of Gran. She’s the one who Gran worried about you to. She’s the one who cleaned up after what chemo did to your mom. She’s the one who tended to them. You walked away and never looked back while she stayed to bury them both… but she’s still trying to be nice. Go ahead and be petty and pissy… but be a bitch by yourself. Go home.” The retard unexpectedly redeemed himself immeasurably.
“What? Jason, I…”
“Go home. Seriously, Hadley…” He nudged the witch and slid out of the booth to stand at the head of the table so that she could exit.
“Jason, I said I’m sorry.”
“Me too. Go’on, get. Call us when you get your head out of your ass.”
She moved out of the booth quickly enough that it startled Jason, but not faster than I did to put myself between them. All apology was gone from her face. “This is a family matter. Get out of my way.”
“If you make one move on him, you will not get the opportunity to apologize for your behavior. You’ve challenged your better, frightened your friends and further alienated your only family. Since you seem to have won the etiquette trifecta, you should call it a night before you do something irreparable.”
“She already has…” The source of the voice behind me wasn’t unfamiliar, just a surprise. Andre. Hadley retracted her fangs, taking a panicked step back. “…Northman, the queen sends her apologies for Hadley’s behavior.”
“It’s barely worth mentioning.”
“She was instructed to take lessons on decorum from her cousin. It seems as though she’s a slow learner… Hadley. Car.”
She balked. “I was… Sookie provoked me.”
“We know better than that. Go or you’ll be taken…” She gave Andre and me a wide berth when she stomped away mumbling indignant obscenities. Andre rolled his eyes as he asked if we could speak privately.
I wasn’t surprised when Sookie was expected to join us, but the shock came when Andre had the Berts follow us to secure the hallway rather than accompany Hadley.
The ladies’ room again.
Andre made sure that the stalls were empty before jumping right in, as per his usual. “The queen wishes for Sookie to be in Baton Rouge. It seems that Salome isn’t just paranoid. She’s been having isolated problems that seem to be escalating.”
“Understandable. My plan was to contact her when we return for the night to let her know that the queen…”
“Not eventually. Immediately. The queen is confident that Miss Stackhouse would be more helpful there. You’re to contact Salome about particulars tonight so that you can leave at sunset tomorrow.”
“Since you haven’t had the opportunity to hire proper security, the queen is offering the Berts for your visit to Baton Rouge and Salome is offering supplementary security.”
“That doesn’t bode well. What exactly is it that’s escalating?”
“She’s found anti-vampire propaganda throughout the casino and hotel. Several light tight rooms were reserved with stolen credit cards and vandalized. Picketing. Some of her employees were coerced to resign… Since last night, 6 vampires have been reported missing.”
“That would explain the urgency.”
“It would. We understand that Quinn’s manners aren’t perfect, but we can arrange to hire him as an interim guard for Sookie’s daytime needs.” As ‘renowned’ as he was, I’d sacrifice a limb before I left Sookie alone with that prick.
“I’ll let you know about that once our arrangements have been made.”
“Don’t be such a spoil sport. You know it would be fun to kill him for being improper.”
“That isn’t the point. We’ll make our own arrangements for her daytime security.”
“Suit yourself. Will your child be joining you or returning to Area 5?”
“I’ll need to think about that. I may need her to go back to manage affairs in my stead. Is there anything else we should prepare ourselves for?”
“Other than the fact that your pet is going to be responsible for thwarting a hostile takeover and shattering the public perception of the Fellowship?” Flippant prick.
Even though her feelings were suddenly the emotional equivalent of stage fright, Sookie had the sense to ‘suffer’ quietly for the time being.
Sookie sat completely silent for our entire ride back to the house. Not that the other passengers breathed a word while the limo returned them to their cars, but it was Sookie’s silence that concerned me since she was such a pandemonium of emotions. Fear, anger, anxiety, disappointment… there wasn’t any way for me to know if it was because of Hadley’s display or her ‘orders’.
Pam was waiting on the landing at the top of the stairs when we entered the house. “Do I want to know what the fuck had you so close to a killing spree?”
Jason snorted, answering as though the question wasn’t directed at me. “Hadley’s such a dumbass, she made me look smart. Bitch pushed and ragged until even her friends were ready to slap some sense into her. Eric was keeping her from going after me when ‘big brother’ showed up to take her home and put her instigating ass in time out.” That pretty well covered things.
Pam stared for a moment, waiting for Jason to get corrected in some way, but it wasn’t going to happen. “Well… I enjoyed shopping.”
I rolled my eyes at her. “Good. I’d have lost sleep…”
Jason tilted his head. “Wait. I thought y’all didn’t… ohhhhh… I see what you did there… you’re a funny mother fucker.” Then the dolt slapped my shoulder and went to the kitchen… When Sookie started laughing, I worried for a split second that she’d cracked under pressure. I ended up wondering why she’d ever bother reading his mind though… It seemed like every thought he had, he had out loud.
She was still snickering at her idiot brother while we walked into the kitchen… and she practically disappeared into the refrigerator while Pam joined us. “Eric, you should call Flood first, right? Because of the time. It’s almost midnight as it is.” Shit.
“You expect he’ll be more cooperative now than he would be later? What would make him want to send a guard at all, let alone the right one?”
Sookie emerged with a container of food and set it on the counter in front of Jason, going as far as to open a beer for him. She was distracting him with food. “Ummmm. So, we’ve already established that I’m not completely on board with what those ‘advisors’ told us, but… Flood is still Flood, right?”
I nodded. “In theory.”
“So since he sent those guys to help ‘you’ hire new staff, I think he might’ve sent the same guys to watch things at Fangtasia.”
“You think that Flood would’ve pulled from the same pool for either task?”
She shrugged. “Maybe… It’s the same kind of job. Keeping their eyes open, being alert. If you call him and ask for the guys that tailed the yahoos… Being leery of a strange ‘Colonel’ might be enough since he knows now that there are real issues… if it doesn’t work and he sends some random guy, it’s still better than Quinn. I don’t plan on leaving the room anyway, so all he’d be doing is letting in room service.”
“But if he sends the right one, then the interview process is already done.”
Sookie was already nodding in agreement, when Pam became tired of trying to fit together our pieces of conversation. Sookie volunteered to give Pam her update while I called Flood… she was adamant that I not wait any later…
I might as well have snuck up behind Pam and shouted ‘boo’ considering how shocked she was that I let Sookie take care of bringing her up to speed… It might have surprised me that I trusted Sookie that much… but she’d already proven that she paid close attention to what we’d learned.
Honestly, I was hoping that the chatty nature of both of them might save me from more than a few ‘then what?’ conversations…
I’d gone to my office for some peace and by the time I was finished with my call to Flood, Pam and Sookie were nearly done… I’d listened periodically to take note if Sookie seemed to miss anything… She managed to cover all of the bases in addition to their occasional break to laugh about an anecdote or blatantly insult someone, namely Hadley.
I let them have their fun while I retyped Sookie’s contract with Sophie-Ann for Salome with adjusted rates and then made a couple brief calls about arrangements…
They were laughing at the idea having me call Sookie’s Shifter to have him serve as her guard while I crossed the foyer, but as soon as I re-entered the kitchen, all conversation stopped.
Sookie offered a wide-eyed ‘well?’ and popped a grape into her mouth from her seat on the counter.
“Well, Flood more than understood why I’d want to see to your safety and is sending a ‘guy’ named Maria something or other…”
“Not that Alcide guy?”
“In addition to… He suggested that you might feel more comfortable with a female. Paulette will be joining us as well. She’ll be busy tomorrow morning gathering helpful supplies, so don’t expect her until later.”
“Sweet! Anything else?”
“I haven’t spoken to Salome yet. You should be with me so that you can help her structure your visit… Pam, you’ll be leaving for Shreveport instead of joining us right away in Baton Rouge.”
Her lip curled as she whined, “Why? I’ll be so bored.”
“By the time you arrive, Bobby will have delivered the research materials to my office at the bar so that you can see to the ‘yahoos’… Don’t outsource. Don’t rest in your house; too many of your pets know where it is. When you rise go to Fangtasia. Empty the safe. Get the hard drive from my computer. Then join us in Baton Rouge.”
“Do you think there will be a problem?”
“I know there will be… Fangtasia is going to get bombed while we’re at the casino.”