Sookie paced erratically, stomping through her house with her arms folded until she found something constructive to do. I distracted myself from imagining how I’d kill Jason without hurting Pam by watching her use her kitchen to cook a sandwich without seeming lost. She stopped on her way towards the sofa with her plate and turned to look at the kitchen, and was wearing a bittersweet grin when she turned around again.
She sat next to me, offering idea after idea while she nibbled her food…
“I’m a telepath. I’d know if my brother was stepping out on my best friend, wouldn’t I?”
In theory, but Jason had managed to keep leaping to himself.
“Besides, we’re friends, right? We’re close enough you’d be willing to kill a Witch for me. I’d tell you even if I couldn’t break it to her, right?”
One could hope, but… blood is thicker than water.
“We’re jumping to conclusions. He could have bought it for anyone. It’s tiny. It could be for a pet. Does anyone have any pets?”
For a moment, there was a splinter of hope… until I remembered Pam mentioning her hairless cat, Oleg Cassini, had died and she wasn’t sure if she’d replace him.
“If we’re all so close why would Jason order a necklace for some ho from the jeweler who knows my family enough to ask how Minerva is?”
The worst of all the concepts… that the family knew and they kept it from Pam… that Pam only thought she was a member of the family.
For every rational argument Sookie offered, I thought of a way to discredit it… but somehow, I managed to maintain the hope I was wrong.
Sookie finally set her empty plate on the table and turned sideways to look at me.
“Is this what cynical feels like in your head?”
“Soup. Rage, distrust, and aegis. It’s soup… If he hurts her…”
She rubbed my shoulder and sighed, “It’s possible she’s been considering a new name without advertising it to everyone…”
“Let’s go with that then.”
“Really? Fuck. I changed my mind. I want to be stupid too.”
As soon as I was finished speaking, I realized how offensive I sounded. If Sookie’s faculties returned and she knew Jason was betraying Pam, she’d pay, but I didn’t intend to insult her now.
Sookie frowned and shook her head as though she could sense I regretted my choice of words. “It’s the best option either of us thought of… Help me out… Oprah, Ophelia, Octavia, Olivia, Ouida, Olympia, Olga, Oona… Any of those sound like something Pam would go with?”
“Perhaps… Octavia or Olivia? She knows I’d tease her until she changed it again if she chose Oprah.”
“K… so, it’s possible she’s thinking of changing her name… and, there’s always the third party. But even that, I mean, he’s throwing a black-tie surprise birthday party for her. He bought her childhood home for a summer house. Is it completely naïve to think that doesn’t sound like a guy who’s bored?”
I shook my head. “No. Not completely, but it could be a Kansas City Shuffle. He could be distracting her from what he’s doing while she’s sidetracked by the show he wants her to see.”
“And that would make it all worse. That those weren’t acts of love, but part of a betrayal… Could he be afraid to break up with her? Could he feel stuck?”
I shrugged and shook my head. “If he does, he’s a remarkable actor. They’re so ridiculously fond of one another it ricochets into the bond I have with Pam.”
“K… so we have name changes and swinging… how about a mistake? ‘P’ doesn’t sound like ‘O’, but they’re neighbors in the alphabet and on a keyboard. Oh! And just because Mr. Stackhouse ordered it doesn’t mean anything. My dad…”
“You call him Daddy.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Wow. At my age? Okay… My daddy is a third Mr. Stackhouse… Daddy, Brandon and Jason. That’s three different variable trees.”
I nodded. “Name changes, swinging, and clerical errors.” I don’t know how she did it, but I was actually thinking more about possibilities than killing Jason.
“And symbolism. That ‘O’ could mean anything. You said she’s thinking about being Jason’s Maker, right? Omega means the end, right? It could be that he’s sure… or since omega stands for 800, it could be a milestone of some kind since we don’t know who it’s for.”
Name changes. Swinging. Clerical errors. Symbolism.
As the list grew, I felt myself relaxing.
“Can you think of anything else to consider?”
She nibbled her lip and studied the ceiling for a moment before cringing, “Could it be like a private joke or a pet-name only they know about? Something sappy… or…”
While she pondered options, I remembered the strangeness of my last visit, the chaos caused by the doppelgangers. Jason mentioned considering a tattoo after their leap in Eijsden, but jewelry would have to suffice for marking Pam. It would make sense if they chose a trinket she wouldn’t normally wear.
“HEY! What blood type am I? Can you tell the difference?”
I nodded. “You’re O-negative.”
“Jason could be too then. It could be an inside joke about his blood type.”
And since Pam wasn’t interested in other sources, that seemed like a feasible scenario.
I nodded. “What you’re saying is there are too many variables to calculate.”
“I hate variables.”
“I can see why… Thanks to that necklace, you don’t know if Jason’s a sweetheart or a fuck-stain. I shouldn’t have opened it… but right now, all we know for sure is the necklace exists. Anything else is a longshot, like predicting tornados.”
“That was the most Sookie-esque thing you’ve said all night.”
It was completely off topic, but I couldn’t help it after seeing her spontaneously make her own dinner.
“From fuck-stain to tornados, especially ‘longshot’ because your vocabulary is peppered with gambling terminology.”
“Do you think the spell could be like… wearing off?”
“Perhaps… You made your own dinner. Nothing about your own house seems familiar to you, but you instinctively knew where the ingredients and cookware are.”
She nodded. “Weird huh? You’re a lot calmer now.”
“Thinking about alternatives to Pam being hurt in any way helped. Thank you.”
She smiled and offered, “You’re very welcome… Are you going to flair back up again?”
“Not without a reason.”
“Are you going to be able to stay calm until we find out something about the necklace, even seeing Jason at the party?”
I thought about that for a moment before nodding. “I think so. Unless we discover new information about your brother’s involvement with Miss ‘O’, Sullivan is currently at the top of my list.”
“Good. Because I’m really going to need your help keeping things straight so I don’t screw anything up.”
“Keeping your head in the game?”
She nodded. “Trying to… So… do you know what kind of TV I watch, by chance?”
“I don’t remember hearing of any shows you enjoy… If I had to guess, you have the television for sports. You and your family enjoy baseball and American football… The bookshelf in your bedroom is your preferred method of entertainment.”
She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “Am I going to find my brother’s collection of porn?”
“I didn’t see any last time I was here.”
She studied me as she left the sofa, and as she walked slowly towards her room…
After a few minutes, she offered, “Well, other than Arabian Nights, this stuff’s pretty innocent. Nothin’ but classics… Want a book or do you want to watch TV?”
I left my seat and joined her, stopping just behind her and asking, “How do you know the themes of all of those books?”
She wasn’t startled that time.
She turned around and nibbled her lip. “It doesn’t make any damn sense… Even if I read each of them a hundred times, why do I know which cabinet…” She paused to sniffle as she began crying. “Why do I know where the bread is and which books are G-rated when I don’t know anything about my own family?”
“You ruined it. I was going to ask you to read Arabian Nights to me.”
She snorted out a laugh in spite of her tears… and her head crashed into my chest and she slapped my sides…
“You’re an asshole.”
“I told you that.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t suggest I try having sex with you to see if that comes back to me like cooking did.”
I blindly grabbed a book and left the room, disappointed I hadn’t thought of it.
I was forty pages into Anna Karenina, Sookie was lounging at the other end of the sofa with, ironically enough, The Crucible when she closed her book and sat up.
She stared at me for a moment before she crawled towards me and took the book from my hand, tossing it to the floor.
She paused for just a moment before closing her eyes and kissing me.
Her lips, her tongue, her warmth…
It seemed like she ran out of air faster than usual, but everything else about that kiss was the same… The same Sookie I’d been with last night.
I’d already pulled her to straddle my lap when she backed away to catch her breath.
No nibbling my chin. No panting against my neck. No grabbing or groping.
I watched her chest rise and fall as she shook her head. “Do I… Is that like normal for me?”
“No. You stopped.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Normally I’m a rapist?”
Somehow I managed to chuckle. “You spoiled that too. There’s no way for me to turn that around.”
She snickered, “Sorry… Well?”
“I can’t be sure. Try again?”
When I leaned towards her, she put her hand to my throat and pushed back. “Ah-ah-ahhhhhh… I want a serious answer.”
As I moved, slowly leaning to pin her to the sofa, I explained, “If you want answers, playing rough with me isn’t the way to get them…”
She squeaked, “Eric?” when her back touched the cushion. I was completely prepared to blame testing her amnesia for my greed… and enjoy that she was accidentally being flirtatious while it lasted…
“Was that how you normally kiss? Yes and no… You rolled your tongue against mine, whimpered, wrapped your arms around my neck the same way. You’re wet. I’m hard… So in essence, yes, you’ve retained your style… but since nothing’s been ripped or thrown across the room… since nothing’s been broken or stress-tested… since neither one of us are begging or edging… you could say no, the kiss wasn’t normal for us…”
When her thumb twitched, I moved quickly, grabbing her wrists and pinning them over her head.
Hovering over her…
The worst thing she could have done was look up at me the way she did, like she wanted a full demonstration… but she couldn’t have known that.
Just as she whimpered, “God, help me,” my phone began ringing…
Her eyes lit up and she shouted at the ceiling, “God, make me taller!” She looked from side to side as though she was actually waiting to become taller before she snorted, “I guess it’s one per customer. Answer your phone.”
I growled as I shifted, holding both of her wrists with one hand and reaching for my phone… She stuck her tongue out at me when she realized she wasn’t getting away from me because of a phone call.
It was Alcide’s phone.
“Hey Eric…” Jason. “Alcide said you and Sook might be hangin’ out. She around?”
“She is… Why are you calling from Alcide’s cell?”
“Because mine’s in an envelope with the concierge in Baltimore. I couldn’t risk Pam getting’ curious and using the GPS to make sure I’m behaving.”
For a split second I was proud of him for thinking of the measure… then it occurred to me he could have been using the tactic as a diversion all along.
I released Sookie and handed the phone to her… my mood had been successfully dampened.
She frowned at me and sat up slowly as she answered. “Hello?”
“Hey Sook. Why ain’t you here?”
“I had errands to run. What’s up?”
“I need you. How soon can you get to the hotel?”
“You need me?”
“Fuck yeah, I need you. Jude and Bran are tied up and me and Alcide almost got in a fistfight after I clocked a waiter for bringin’ the wrong sundae. I need ya. I need your calm. I’m flippin’ out.”
She pushed herself from the sofa and huffed. “What do you want? How do you want to do this so Pam doesn’t suspect anything? I mean, no matter how I get to the hotel, I’ll still smell like Eric so running into her is a bad idea.”
“Fuck… you jumped right back into bed with him as soon as he was in town?”
While Sookie’s face puckered, I offered, “What can I say? She’s head over heels in fuck with me.”
He snorted, “You are a beautiful motherfucker… So Sook, you coming?”
She cringed and sighed, “Yeah. It’ll be about half an hour though. Don’t hit anyone else.”
“I’ll try. Love you.”
“Oh, when I got my jewelry, they gave me a box for Mr. Stackhouse. Is that for you? Should I bring it?”
“A pendant? An ‘O’?”
Sookie bit her lip. “Uhhhhhh, I guess. I’d have to look at it.”
He breathed, “I love that sonofabitch… Desai works fast… Yeah, should be for Olivia… Bring it. Thanks sis.”
She was smiling when she offered my phone to me. “You caught that, right? He was completely casual about the necklace and whoever Olivia is, knowing you could hear.”
I nodded, but unfortunately, “That only means you could know his whore and you didn’t tell me.”
She left the sofa, taking her garment bag from the counter to her room.
She closed the door most of the way and offered, “Fine, but you can’t take this as a negative because your cynicism cancels out my hope. Okay? We’re back to where we were before. Too many variables to let it sour the mood.”
I wasn’t going to make the mistake of saying it again, not aloud, but I really wanted to be stupid. It seemed like ignorance truly was bliss.
And the new information called into question how wise it was to trust Sookie. To be fair, she had her loyalties, just as I had mine… but it didn’t mean I should be pleased that trusting Sookie to have Pam’s best interest at heart had backfired.
The possibility of being burned by Sookie only compounded Pam’s potential heartache.
I growled the entire time I dressed and it didn’t have anything to do with the fact that Sookie needed help with her corset, or the chiding I received for ‘rubbing’ her hair…
And the drive back to the hotel was silent.
I’d barely had the chance to remove the key from the ignition before Sookie left the car.
She joined me on my side of the car and held my hand as she briskly walked into the service entrance of the hotel. Not only was she having no difficulty with her sky-high heels, but she wasn’t lost in the corridors.
Without prompting, Sookie pressed the button on the service elevator for the third floor… and subsequently lead me past the doors to the first ballroom, three conference rooms, and a ‘party suite’… all the way to the end of the corridor to the second Ballroom.
When Sookie shoved open the doors, Jason was standing with his arms crossed and his jaw clenched as he watched a woman remove baby’s breath from a large topiary… The tension in the room felt like being pelted by hail. Sookie actually had a chill.
She didn’t balk. She charged directly to Jason and threw her arms around his shoulders.
He sighed, “Fuck… You’re a sight for sore eyes. You look great, but…”
She cut him off, “Stop worrying, Jas. She’s going to love it. She’s already in an awesome mood because Eric’s gift was a hit.”
He groaned, “How good? I can’t ease up. She’ll know I’m here.”
“He topped the closet surprise…”
He smiled at me… as though it was a surprise I’d given Pam a gift she adored after centuries together. I was the one with the right to be surprised by his successful gifts.
But… How the fuck did Sookie know the über-closet was a surprise?
“Is everyone on task?”
He released her and nodded. “The guys are takin’ care of the clusterfuck upstairs. Jude went home to help Hadley get ready… I’m stuck here tryin’ not to kill a bartender…”
As he stepped away from Sookie, I noticed hair on his shirt… Long blonde hair… And Sookie’s hair was tightly secured in a crown braid…
While I stepped closer, he continued to rant, “And that stupid cunt over there thought ‘NO baby’s breath’ meant ‘add a fuck-ton just to see if he knows the difference’… I swear…”
Sookie grabbed his chin and gave him a very level stare. “Chill… Deep breaths… She didn’t even put the arrangements together. She just delivered them. If you keep it up, you’re going to scare her off and then you’re stuck getting rid of the ‘pissweed’ yourself. Then what are you going to smell like?”
Pissweed. Pam had called baby’s breath ‘pissweed’ since she was alive. She hated it, compared its scent to urine…
How the fuck did Sookie know that?
Unless something had suddenly happened to Sullivan, something wasn’t right. If her memory was coming back in fragments, there could have been a variable to the spell I hadn’t considered…
But I couldn’t stop staring at the platinum blonde strands on Jason’s shoulder… Pam’s hair was golden. Unless she dyed it, that hair wasn’t just there because they shared a closet.
He took a deep breath and nodded. “You’re right… see, that’s why I needed you.”
She grinned at him.
“Other than the baby’s breath thing, what else is going on?”
“That’s the last of it. The bartender should be back any minute. Assholes thought it would be a great idea to bring blenders and shit for tropical drinks. Blenders Sook. All that noise? Really?”
She nodded. “Go to the gym. Take a shower. Put your pretties on. Don’t forget to breathe… I’ll take over here.”
When he passed me, pausing long enough to pat my shoulder and thank me for coming and promising to ‘cool his jets’ soon, I couldn’t help myself…
I stole one of the incriminatory strands of hair and held it up to show Sookie.
She sighed and caught my hand before I could confirm anything by scent.
“This is my fault.”
“You put his cock in someone?”
She shook her head. “No… The necklace. I thought it was something else…”
“I’m still not sure how your incorrect assumption is responsible for your brother’s penchant for blondes.”
She sighed and took the hair from me and dropped it. “He isn’t cheating on Pam.”
“Then who is he buying jewelry for and why is he covered in someone else’s hair?”
“Can’t it be a surprise? I think it’ll be a nice surprise after all the worrying you’ve done.”
“Olivia is part of the surprise, yes?”
“How can I be sure he didn’t ask you to cover or lie for him?”
She lifted her chin and offered, “I’m willing to go as far as taking enough of your blood for you to be able to sense if I’m lying to you. I don’t want you to doubt him.”
That was reassuring… and it wasn’t as though the effects of giving her a few drops of my blood would irritate me once I was in my Kingdom again.
Before I could answer her, she sighed, “I figured that’s what it would take… You don’t have any reason to believe it, but if he was cheating on her, I would have been the bitch and tattled. I’d probably give him a night to come clean, but she wouldn’t be left to look like a dupe.”
I was torn… between believing a Sookie who didn’t have much more than her basest instincts to function, and the ingenious professional gambler I knew her to be.
She continued, “I want to come clean about something though.”
“I thought the necklace was another necklace Jason ordered for Pam. It’s an infinity symbol and he had it engraved to say ‘When I find you I’ll be home’ on the back…” She cringed and whined, “I was going to make you squirm through explaining their leaps.”
“Leaping? You know about… You’ve been faking your memory loss!?”
She nodded, still cringing. “Yeah. It would have been epic if I hadn’t screwed up and opened the wrong box.”
“How long were you going to let me believe you’d been cursed?”
“Maybe another hour. I wouldn’t have been able to get through the party.”
“After hours of…” I growled, “Successfully convincing me you had no memories, you’re confessing so I don’t doubt your brother.”
She nodded. “I thought I pulled you out of being upset, but hearing him mention Olivia just made you think I’d cover for him and then the blonde hair… your mind jumped into ‘killing spree’ mode. The prank would have been awesome, but not worth it…”
At least she knew when to walk away from a losing hand.
“At least you have priorities.”
Her lip curled, “Fuckin’ pissed about it too. Do you know how hard it was to keep my shit together?”
“When I thought certain memories were coming back to you, you were slipping, weren’t you?”
She shook her head. “I thought I was busted at the salon, but when you chalked it up to language memory or whatever, I started pushing it. I did slip with Jess… Everything else was an effort. I almost lost it when I mentioned having a sore throat…. the look on your face.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or pull something apart. I’d bought it, been her puppet for hours.
“Take it apart.”
She cleared her throat and tried to wipe the impish smirk from her face before starting, “I almost lost it when you mentioned a Kansas City Shuffle. We wanted to distract you from everything going on until the party so you wouldn’t be bored enough to offer to help.”
“Which made you my babysitter… Why not just come to my room and take your clothes off?”
“That wouldn’t have offered any guarantees. If you needed to run any errands, I would have been screwed. Being responsible for making sure my errands were run allowed for you to run any of your own.”
“Sullivan is completely innocent, yes?”
She shook her head. “Sullivan’s hands are dirty, but just because of the prank. He’s not the least bit attracted to me… neither is his lover, Roland.”
“Were you hazed for fucking me?”
“Oh, gawd yeah. They rode my ass for weeks.”
“What lies were told?”
“Other than the Sully obsession thing? Ummmmmm…” Her eyes rolled up and she nibbled her lip while she thought. “Those spells were bullshit. Sully kicked ass with the wards, but the rest of them were made up.”
“You fucking cried.”
Her nose wrinkled when she giggled, “I can’t believe you fell for that…” She stepped closer and adjusted my tie. “You were really sweet to me given the circumstances.”
“I was not…”
“You made a guy piss his pants.”
“That was fun for me… I thought your choice of books was ironic because of the ‘Witch hunt’…”
She snickered, “Instead it was ironic because witchcraft was blamed to cover fuckery… You wanted to kill Sully. He didn’t do anything to actually hurt me.”
“You were behaving prudishly. That certainly interfered with my plans for this visit… Who were the players?”
“Just Sully and Alcide. Jason, Bran, Jude and Pam didn’t have a clue.”
“If Jason didn’t know, how was his call so perfectly timed?”
“Coincidence… I was fishing for a blow job lesson.”
I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing.
“You’re going to pay for that.”
“I’ve already placed a down payment in your room. There’s a baggie of sunshine in your dresser.”
Somehow, it was suddenly all worth it.
“Buying my forgiveness with sunshine?”
She snickered, “Don’t pretend I can’t tell you’re fine with that.”
That wasn’t the point.
“Nondisclosure. No one finds out I fell for it. No one finds out you made a mistake that cost you the reveal.”
“You can glamour Sully… What are you going to do with Alcide?”
“Tell him I knew before he left my room, but I was going along to see how far I could push you.”
She winced and whined, “My punishment, huh? Erasing how solid my prank was at first.”
I nodded. “Just part of the punishment.”
She sighed, “I deserve it… But I’m gonna get you next time.”
I leaned over and ran my fangs out, letting them slice my lip. “That might be difficult once you’ve had my blood.”
She smirked just before she scraped her teeth over the beads of blood, sucking my bottom lip until my eyes rolled back… and giggling into my mouth when I reopened the wounds.
By the time Sookie pulled away to breathe, I’d backed her into the wall (at the other side of the ballroom) without realizing we were moving.
She panted, resting her forehead on my chest. “How long does it take to get a feel of things?”
I growled, “Tell me a lie.”
“Right… You repulse me. I can’t stand to be near you.”
It was working sooner than I thought it would, but that telltale inkling was there.
“Now tell me the truth.”
“Jason Stackhouse would die before he hurt your child, by extension you. He loves her more than anything.”
There wasn’t a single deceptive thing about what she’d said.
“And this Olivia?”
“A welcome player. Not a table crasher… Are we good?”
When I nodded, she put her hands over mine, loosening my grip on her dress.
“While I was stupid, you said you liked me.”
I wasn’t sure, but it was possible I liked her more knowing she managed to con me.
I spent a moment trying to remember when I’d become a masochist.
“I lied. You’re insufferable.”
She snorted when she laughed and shook against me. “I like you too.”