Chapter 08: The Beginning
Sookie's expression changed suddenly.
She closed her eyes. "I can hear you again," she whispered.
I was glad to see that she didn't seem afraid this time.
"What is it like?" I asked.
"At first, I thought it was like a snake pit—where every thought and impulse you had was slithering around."
I chuckled. "Doesn't sound very flattering.
She shrugged, though her eyes stayed closed. "Sorry. But it is like lots of writhing tubes of light. And there's a weight to your thoughts. There are so many things going through your head! How do you keep them all straight?"
"Practice," I said simply. "Can you pick up any specific thoughts?"
She bit her lip and closed her eyes even tighter. "One is the same as earlier—the same as last night."
"Last night, too?"
"Yeah," she admitted. "I've heard you three times." Her eyes popped open. "But now your thoughts are gone again! It lasts only a few seconds."
"What was the thought?"
"That you wanted me—to possess me. To keep me."
I chuckled. "Quite true."
"But you are holding yourself back," she whispered.
"Not really," I said. "I am simply choosing which of the snakes in my head has the best plan for getting you."
"And which snake is that?" she asked.
"The one that tells me that we should get to know each other," I said self-assuredly. "I think that my like for you will grow, and I am confident that you will enjoy me more and more with time, too."
She laughed. "Oh—you are confident. Huh?"
I nodded. "Yes. And patient. You need time to adjust to the new realities which have been presented to you tonight. You need time to realize that Bill is not indicative of all men or vampires—or vampire men," I winked. "You need time, and I have plenty of it."
"Speaking of which," she asked as she put a few pictures into her suitcase, cushioning them with clothing, "when will I see you again?"
"Already anxious?" I smirked.
"Yes. I already like you, Eric. Bill said things against you, but I know not to believe them now, and—from everything I've seen about you—I want to get to know you. At the very least, I could learn a good deal about history from you."
I laughed. "Well, there is that! Desmond lives in New Orleans. And I'm supposed to attend a conference there with the other Louisiana sheriffs next week."
"Will the queen be there?" she asked with a frown.
"The conference is being held in an out-building on her estate, but she is bored by the actual running of her kingdom. I wouldn't expect her to drop by."
"Will you get into trouble for any of this?" she asked, motioning between us.
I shook my head. "Two words: plausible deniability. Sophie-Anne was attempting to poach in Area 5 by sending Compton. I had no idea that you were coveted by her because she didn't tell me about you."
"Shouldn't you have reported me?" Sookie asked astutely.
I grinned and nodded. "Of course. But Sophie-Anne has made it clear that she doesn't want to deal with matters of the state except for once a month. Thus, new assets are logged in monthly Sheriffs' reports. The end of the month is next week. I will most certainly include a report of meeting you at Fangtasia, becoming aware of your potential gift during the raid, confirming the efficacy of said gift at Fangtasia last night, and then securing guards to look after you. I will even report that I came here tonight—to explain the guard situation. Sadly," I intoned, "the demon, Desmond Cataliades, was already here when I arrived. That is when he made clear that the guards wouldn't be needed, for you were being claimed as his ward. Given the fact that I—unfortunately—arrived after your blood tie with Compton had been severed, I couldn't act to keep you from the demon. By luck, however, the man who'd been killing women who associated with vampires showed up while I was here, and I made sure he was taken care of. But—sadly—you left Area 5 with your guardian. Indeed, I will make a thorough report of our dealings, Miss Stackhouse—just as I am required."
"But we met last month," she reminded. "Was I in your report then?"
I grinned. "That is the best part! I did mention that Bill Compton had checked into Area 5 and that he'd introduced me to his claimed human, who might prove of use. I reported that I intended to test your value when an opportunity arose."
"You're good at covering your ass—and at telling lies," she said with a frown.
"I only lie to people I don't respect or like," I returned. "And—even then—only when it benefits me—and I cannot get caught," I added with a smirk.
She took in what I was saying.
"Sookie, I am wise enough to know that lying to you wouldn't be of benefit to me."
She nodded in acceptance.
Thank the gods.
"Why do you think that you're the only vampire I've ever heard?" she asked.
"I have my theories," I smirked.
"What are they?"
"Well—I'm the oldest that you have ever met. Maybe my thoughts are just 'stronger.'"
She nodded. "Okay. That seems reasonable. What's another possibility?"
"Maybe you just want to hear me," I said taking a step toward her.
"Another?" she asked, licking her lips.
I focused on those lips. I couldn't help myself.
"Maybe I want you to hear me," I responded as I moved so that I was standing right in front of her.
"You never told me why you are being so nice in all of this—why you are helping me?" she asked even as she focused on my lips.
I leaned down and gave her the gentlest of kisses.
"Possibility," I whispered.
Just then, we both looked toward the window. I'd heard an automobile rattling its way loudly down the battered driveway. That was on my list of things to fix as "caretaker" of Sookie's home. She'd just have to be mad afterwards at my highhanded ways.
With her, I figured that—at times—asking for forgiveness would be expedient to asking for permission.
Sookie had obviously heard thoughts entering her range.
"Wow! It's like they're buzzing!" she exclaimed.
"Demons," I confirmed when they were within my range of scent.
"Three," she said.
I nodded. "Likely Desmond and the flowers."
"His nieces Gladiola and Diantha. You'll like them," I smiled.
She looked a little unsure, but latched her suitcase. I carried it downstairs as she grabbed her purse.
She opened the door as soon as there was a knock.
"Hi, Mr. Cataliades," she said tentatively, taking in Desmond's rotund figure and shaking his hand.
"Call me Desmond," he smiled warmly. "Are you ready, dear?"
She looked around. "Can I take a minute to say goodbye to the house?"
The demon nodded, and he and I stood in the entryway as Sookie walked into a room that must have been her Gran's bedroom.
"May I call upon you next week?" I asked the demon. "The yearly Sheriffs' meeting is then, but I will have some free time."
Desmond's eyes twinkled as he looked up at me. "I think you like my goddaughter, Eric."
I chuckled. "I do."
"Your actions will be honorable toward her, or I will destroy you with fireballs," he said bluntly.
"Added incentive," I chuckled again.
He smiled. "Excellent! Niall will disapprove of your courtship of Sookie, of course, but I know you won't let that stop you."
"No," I confirmed with a smirk.
"Anyway," he offered, "that's why Fin made sure that I would be her legal guardian."
"Why didn't you come for her sooner? Her life hasn't been easy—you know," I commented quietly.
Desmond nodded. "Fin wanted for his offspring to be shielded and kept secret if possible for as long as the fairy war brewed. But that's not possible now."
"I told Sookie of the danger from Niall's enemies," I reported.
"I'm already arranging for a Britlingen to be her full-time guard after she leaves my immediate care."
"Fintan must have left a great deal of money," I commented.
"Yes!" Desmond grinned. "And most is in investments and still growing larger. Sookie has no idea how wealthy she could be."
"Best to ease her into that."
He chuckled. "Of course, some of the fortune must be set aside for the other decedent who has shown a spark."
"Yes," the demon reported. "Hadley had a child. In truth, I've known that Hadley was with the queen for a while, but the association seemed good for her, and I had no idea that she was using information about her cousin to garner favor. She dumped her son onto his father when he was born. And she has made very few attempts to contact him during the years. But—given her loose lips about Sookie—I think it is wise to act on the child's behalf now," he sighed.
I smiled to myself. "Sookie will be glad to have more family. By the way, do you have bottled water in your vehicle?" I asked suddenly.
He nodded. "Sure. And on the plane. Why?"
"Good. Sookie should drink more water before she rests to help to offset the severing spell."
He slapped me on the back affectionately.
"You are welcome next week, Northman! In fact, I insist that you stay at my estate—and extend your visit a few days extra! After all, we have a lot of legal matters to discuss. And I want to discuss some," he paused, "investment opportunities with you," he added with a wink.
"Are you playing matchmaker?" I smirked.
"Just offering you opportunity. Of course, if Sookie doesn't want to spend time with you, my estate is large. It will be her choice."
I nodded in acknowledgment.
Sookie stepped out of her Gran's room with an afghan.
"Can I—uh—take this?" she asked tentatively.
"You can take anything you wish, dear," Desmond smiled.
"Thanks." She looked up at me. "What about Sam? He'll expect me at work tomorrow."
"Oh—Sam Merlotte will no longer be an issue," Desmond said darkly. "I financed his business venture in return for his service, and tomorrow morning, he will be receiving legal paperwork kicking him out of my establishment. And he will be leaving this area too—tomorrow," the demon added, his eyes darkening until they were almost black. "He still owes me, and I have an assignment in Uruguay that should suit him very well."
"You won't hurt him—will you?" Sookie asked.
"I should, but I anticipated that you wouldn't want that, so I am simply giving him a shit assignment," Desmond said with a cruel smile.
"Uh—okay," Sookie responded. "But what about Merlotte's. A lot of people count on it for jobs."
Desmond looked at me. "Northman—do you know of someone who can step in as manager of the place?"
"Human, Were, or vampire?" I asked.
He chuckled. "Were. I'm not sure Bon Temps is ready for a vampire."
"What time will the shifter receive his news?" I asked.
"Ten. If your recommendation can be there by then, I'll have papers for him or her to sign taking over the running of the place."
I nodded. I knew of a few worthy Weres in Area 5 who would appreciate the consistent work. Plus, I'm sure that Colonel Flood knew of others. And—unlike Merlotte—they would be good watchdogs over the town!
"Sam's got other properties too," Sookie frowned.
Desmond shook his head. "No—he manages other investments of mine."
I chuckled. "I'll have two Weres waiting at ten. If Sam gives your courier any trouble, they can help. And they can share in whatever management opportunities you have—if that is acceptable."
"Ohtheshifterwillnotbeaproblem," Diantha said with a scowl. She'd moved so that she was behind her uncle.
Sookie frowned, trying to decipher Diantha's quick sentence. It was difficult for me to understand her at times too!
"Sookie, this is my niece, Diantha. Gladiola is still in the car," Desmond said.
"Nice to meet you," Sookie said.
"Youtoo. Wearegonnahavelotsoffun!" Diantha said.
Again, it took Sookie a moment before the confusion left her face.
"Di is taking care of Merlotte's walking papers," Desmond smirked.
I chuckled. Diantha could kill as fast as she could talk.
"So," Sookie sighed, looking up at me. "I guess this is goodbye for now." She bit her bottom lip worriedly.
I touched her cheek and she leaned into my palm. We both sighed at the contact.
"Possibility," she whispered.
I nodded in agreement. "Worry about nothing," I told her. "Your brother will be guarded by sunrise. Compton will be informed of your change in status tomorrow night. I'll place a guard on this house and see to its upkeep while you are gone."
Desmond passed Sookie a piece of paper.
"Sign this," the demon instructed.
"What is it?" Sookie asked.
"Power of attorney to let Eric pay your bills and such, and he is required to keep a careful accounting of all he does," the demon added with a chuckle.
Sookie opened the short document and quickly read it. "Okay—uh—looks good," Sookie stammered, though obviously torn about accepting help.
"Remember, it is only an advance," I reminded, handing her a pen.
She nodded and signed the document before handing it back to Desmond.
"I'll fax you a copy tomorrow night," Desmond told me before taking Sookie's suitcase from me. "See you in the car," he added knowingly. Diantha followed him.
Sookie and I stepped out onto the porch and I waited for her to lock up the house.
"It's been a long night," she said, looking up at me.
"Not all bad though?" I asked.
"Not all bad," she agreed, standing on her tiptoes to initiate a kiss.
This time, I didn't settle for just a peck, and she didn't either.
Once she was breathless, I let her go.
"This is only the beginning," I whispered, before taking her hand and walking her to the car.
A/N: I hope that you all enjoyed this short! One more thank you to Gwynwyvar for the inspiration! And, as always, I wanna thank Seph for the art and Kleannhouse for the quick beta work!
I am considering a longer sequel; however, it will be a while before I get to it.