Disclaimer: I do not own anything related to the Southern Vampire Novels. Sookie Stackhouse and the universe she kicks ass in were created by Charlaine Harris and consequently belong to her. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Note: This story can be read as a sequel to Home Is Where Your Heart Is.
In The Dead of The Night
Ready. Steady. Go.
Merlotte's was so crowded that I didn't notice Pam until she was standing right in front of me at the bar. Someone shouted and a roar of laughter erupted in a corner.
"Your order is coming right up," I called loudly, smiling like a maniac into the crowd. Pam didn't smile. In fact, she didn't do anything a human customer would do and, even though she didn't order anything, nobody rivaled her the place she occupied. She was wearing a pale blue costume, that looked very soft and very fifties, with a white silk blouse underneath. Her hair was neatly arranged in a bun at the back of her head. She looked like a primary school teacher. Nobody around her seemed eager to write lines.
Sam shot me an irritated look, which I decided to dodge. I quickly made my way to the table with the loudest customers – five members of the local high school football team, who had just lost the most anticipated game of the season. Fantastic. My face literally hurt from smiling.
"Not the best time for a chat," I told Pam as I carried empty glasses back to the bar.
She looked very much unmoved. "This isn't a social visit." Who'd have thought? At least I was pretty damn sure she didn't want to talk about Eric this time, which was definitely a plus.
"Can I get you something while you're waiting?" I asked her, only a teensy bit exasperated.
"TrueBlood O positive." The guy next to her brought a little more distance between them, although he was thinking what it would feel like to…ugh. Good thing Pam couldn't read minds. On the other hand, I would lead a very untroubled life if she could. I put a bottle and a wine glass in front of her and went off again. Arlene had a few survival instincts intact and refrained from throwing dark looks in Pam's direction. She threw them at me instead. I found that my patience with her was wearing thin.
At the end of my shift I was uncharacteristically exhausted. Merlotte's was usually well frequented but dealing with a bunch of frustrated and increasingly drunk football fans was no walk in the park. There were only a handful of regulars left when Pam cleared her throat.
"All right, all right," I muttered and went over to her. I sat down on the bar stool beside her.
"What do you want this time?" Pam appreciates bluntness. Her smile could have cut diamonds.
"Fangtasia has received a few anonymous threatening letters."
For a moment I was stunned. Who in their right mind threatened a vampire bar?
"No saliva, no fingerprints," Pam went on, her eyes gleaming. "They all demand the same thing: for us to shut down Fangtasia or else watch it being burnt down."
I resisted the urge to turn around and look for Arlene. Only one organization was fanatical and foolhardy enough to pass a threat like that and Arlene was a member of their church. Although I knew from experience that they didn't make it a habit to warn the vampires before torching the place they inhabited.
"Eric thought of the Fellowship, of course," Pam said, continuing my train of thought as if she had heard me, and I nearly winced.
"Um," I started eloquently, "you tightened security, right?"
Pam nodded grimly. "Naturally. But whoever is doing this, well, they are clever. There was a minor fire in the lady's room the night before yesterday and one of our day guards found a can of kerosene in a storage room today. A note to Eric was attached to it. Right now, we don't know how they got in, if they're staff or not, if they're human or vamp, if it's personal or business or whether they operate during the day or at night. Eric is livid."
I could imagine. Eric hated not being in control.
"What do you want me to do?" I asked her.
Pam smiled her most winning smile. "We would like you to spend the next few nights in the bar and listen in."
"If it's a vamp I won't hear a thing," I reminded her.
"True but it's worth a shot," Pam replied, shrugging. Wearily, I propped my elbow on the bar.
"You're forgetting something," I said after a short pause. Pam looked at me expectantly. "You're forgetting that I have a job. I can't spend my days working for Sam and my nights working for you. And I hate to burst your bubble but if it is indeed a vampire pulling the strings he will know about me, the way you paraded me around at the summit."
"None of the vampires who have sworn fealty to Eric would do this. They profit from his success and the prosperity of the bar. Most vampires who were in Sophie-Anne's entourage are dead by now, for good this time. That leaves Eric, Bill and me," Pam countered.
"Well, yeah, and a few vampires of the new regime," I said. I couldn't imagine Bill boycotting Eric in such a manner. And Pam would probably rather gnaw off a hand before she betrayed Eric. But Victor Madden knew about my disability and the new king was in the know as well.
"True," Pam admitted. But then she gave me a sly smile. "But nobody will be surprised to see you at Fangtasia, so we're requesting your help all the same."
Requesting, my ass. There was something about it that irked me considerably and that something had to do with the fact that, no, people wouldn't be surprised to see me with him. "Why didn't he come himself?"
Pam grinned. "I was wondering when you'd ask. Truth is, this was my idea. Eric knows that I'm here, of course, but he's so angry that he wants to do this the old-fashioned way." Uh-oh. The old-fashioned way implied more than the twisting of arms. "And the sheriff knows that your cooperation usually entails the physical inviolability of the humans in question."
Pam obviously enjoyed telling me all this since she was positively chatty today. Was it a sign of the apocalypse that the only person I could really talk to about my, er, whatever he was now, was a vampire whose brain was a negative presence on my telepathic vision? I so needed a social life. A social life that evolved around people with a pulse, that is. Unfortunately, a tiny part of me was dying to ask how Eric was but I told that part to kindly shut up. Only two weeks ago Eric and I had recreated the best shower in the history of showers and I now had two memories competing for the pole position. Eric's skilled hands (and other parts) had relaxed me a little too much and I had told him the three words that I knew would change our relationship decisively. We had a mind-blowing date and even better sex three nights later and that's when I kind of panicked and stopped returning his calls. No, I'm not proud of my reaction but I'm only human – unlike Eric. To be honest, I had expected him to turn up the very next night, blue eyes blazing with anger, demanding an explanation for my behavior. He hadn't come and now it was me who was feeling dejected. Eric was always good for a surprise, I admitted grudgingly to myself. But at least now I knew that he had probably stayed away because his headquarters was under attack and not because he had lost interest.
"I need to check with Sam," I told Pam gruffly and slid off the stool.
"Yes, do that." She smiled winningly in what I found to be Arlene's direction. Her fangs showed a little. Funny, that Pam.
Sam wasn't happy, no surprise there. But the good thing about my boss is that he's a shifter and familiar with the world of vamps, fairies and weres. He knew that I didn't have much of a choice and that I never exactly volunteer for these kind of jobs. Sam agreed to give me three days off. What Sam didn't know was that my relationship with Eric had taken a new though not wholly unexpected turn, but he wasn't happy about the blood tie thing as it was. Neither was I. There was enough of the supernatural in my life and I didn't particularly enjoy that my feelings for Eric weren't wholly my own. On the other hand, I could no longer deny that it had its advantages… I shivered as I recalled the sex. Then I reminded myself to focus. Yeah, right. Luckily, being a telepath had taught me early on to control my face and so I managed a grateful smile before I scampered off to my car.
Knowing that I had the next day off, I drove home in a good mood. Sure, I was tired but the thought of being able to sleep in did wonders. Yay. I parked the car, scanned the area and found myself relieved that no nighttime visitors were creeping around the house. The light in the kitchen was on and I was surprised to find my housemate awake. That is my younger housemate, Amelia.
"Hey, what are you still doing up?" I asked her. Amelia leaned against the fridge and held a glass of milk in both hands.
"I kind of miss Bob. I've been having trouble sleeping," she confessed in a small voice.
"Oh," I said. Too bad, huh?
"He always purred and pawed when I went to bed and something's missing now," she went on, looking a bit pouty.
"But deep down you're happy that he's back in his true form, right? Because turning people into cats and keeping them for convenience is wrong," I reminded her with a grin. She stuck out her tongue.
"How about getting a proper cat?" I suggested.
"I thought of it but I wasn't sure if you'd be happy about it." She took a sip of milk and watched my face.
I snorted. "Really, Amelia. I didn't mind Bob and he probably took a peek whenever one of us was in the shower. I won't mind having a real cat. I used to have one myself."
"Oh yeah? What happened?"
"Um, she was murdered," I said uncomfortably. This was so not my favorite story to tell. Rene, that bastard.
"Oh, wow!" Amelia had a way of making it sound super without coming across as heartless or retarded. A gift, no doubt.
I shook myself a bit to clear my head and yawned. "I'm going to bed. I'll be working for Eric for the next few days, so don't worry if I'm not home at the usual time."
Amelia looked surprised. "Oh, what's up this time?"
"Secret vampire stuff. I'm not really in the know either." I had developed a simple rule in regard to my human friends. The less they knew of the intrigues of the supernatural world the safer they were and the longer they tended to live. I saw her shrug and turn back to her milk and her thoughts of Bob.
Tired as I was, I opted for a quick wash, dressed in an old cotton nightgown and crawled into bed. I had barely managed to let down my hair and put the ponytail holder on the night stand before I drifted off to sleep.
I woke up shortly after nine, feeling rested and ready for the day. After having breakfast and doing the laundry, I prepared for my favorite pastime: sunbathing. With a happy sigh, I settled outside, determined to enjoy the sun and read a mystery novel I had been dying to read. Yes, one day this may be the death of me but everyone has a vice; sunbathing is mine. I drank some iced tea and enjoyed the quiet and warmth, feeling a little like a lizard on a rock. When I'd had enough, I went inside to take a shower and then headed out to do some grocery shopping.
In town, I saw my brother and his wife coming up the road in Jason's truck but I chose to ignore them. The day had been too good to have an awkward conversation with Jason. Our relationship was strained ever since he had forced me to smash Calvin Norris' hand with a brick in his stead. I stashed the grocery bags in my car and drove home without a second glance. All too soon it was time to get ready for my new part time job.
The first very difficult decision of the day was picking out something to wear. Considering our recent issues, I decided I should definitely not dress up for Eric but I couldn't show up in rags at Fangtasia, either. I had to blend in. Hell, who was I kidding? I would have to dye my hair and dress in black net lace to fit in, and nobody would be fooled by that since too many fang bangers and vampires knew me by sight. I mulled this over while I was going through my wardrobe.
The choice of underwear was comparatively easy. I opted for a pale pink bra and a slip I had bought only two weeks ago. It went real nice with my fresh tan. Jeans were a no-go tonight but all the classy outfits I had bought for the summit had burnt with the hotel and numerous vampires and humans. My eyes were drawn to the bargain purchase I had made last week. Not that this had been in the back of my mind all along. Tara had called me to let me know about this dress being on sale and I hadn't disappointed her and bought it on the spot. It was carmine red, had tiny sleeves that were draped just below the shoulders, and a spectacular cut that emphasized my rather ample curves in all the right ways. It fell softly down to my knees and the cloth felt like a second skin. I'm not going to lie, I felt real good wearing it. I did, however, not waste a lot of time on my hair. This wasn't a date after all, as I kept reminding myself. So I brushed it out so it fell down around my shoulders and, after one last look in the mirror, I grabbed my purse and headed for the door.
Ready. Steady. Go.
I arrived at Fangtasia an hour after nightfall but there was already a line. I had to give it to them, this was some serious dedication. If I had a choice, I would stay far away from vampire bars, especially this one. Since I knew what it meant to stand there, waiting to be allowed in, I headed straight for the door. Unsurprisingly, Pam was on door duty. As soon as she spotted me, she waved me through impatiently.
"I expected you earlier," she said without a hello.
I shrugged. "You didn't say." How about 'thanks for rearranging your life to help us out, Sookie'?
"I assume it took a while to get into that dress," Pam said with a hint of smile. Her fangs were half-way extended – her way of paying me a backhanded compliment. Okay.
""Next time I won't change out of my pajamas," I grumbled as she all but pushed me in.
The bar was crowded, no surprise there. If there was anything the vampires at Fangtasia knew how to do, it was marketing. I made my way through ridiculously over-dressed fang bangers and scared-looking tourists, trying to maneuver around the real deal. Most of the vampires in Area 5 know me or about me but this is no reason to get all chummy with them. Speaking of staying frosty, I usually don't mind the crowd at Fangtasia but this time was different. From the moment I set foot in the bar, I felt tense and I knew only too well that this wasn't me having sudden mood swings. The reason for my anxiety sat in the middle of the room and from the look on his face, he was not a happy camper. Oh goodie, what a lovely sentiment to bathe in for the rest of the night. I was prepared to be grumpy but, as soon as Eric spotted me, he gave me a winning smile and warmth flooded me from head to toe. Okay, someone was happy to see me. I couldn't help but smile back.
Smoothly, Eric unfolded himself out of the chair he had been lounging on. I held my breath as he rose to his full height. You can say whatever you want about Eric but he is outrageously gorgeous. He bent down to kiss me hello. And what a nice and thorough hello it was! I was a little out of breath when we broke apart.
"What a pretty dress. You look bitable," he complimented me. I realized that I had once more fooled myself. Of course I had bought this dress with Eric in mind. He loved red. And being in close proximity of his wide blue eyes and irresistible smile, I really wanted him to see the lingerie I wore underneath. Ugh, I could have kicked myself. Maybe I should join a self-help group for humans who are blood-tied to unnervingly striking Viking vampires.
"Please," Eric motioned to the other chair at the table. Uh-huh, brilliant. Sitting with Eric would definitely draw everyone's attention to my presence. How was I supposed to do my job?
"Isn't that a little in-your-face?" I asked.
"Only if you're being difficult about it," Eric replied, grinning. I tried very hard not to roll my eyes and sat down opposite him. Naturally, I felt safe and loved, despite the threats to the bar and the fact that no human should ever feel safe because of a vampire. Immediately, a waitress appeared and put my usual drink, a ginger ale, in front of me. Eric must have instructed them about my new status and my likings. I nodded my thanks and turned back to the source of quite a few sleepless hours.
"Eric, what --" I started but he gave me a look that shut me up immediately.
"I'm glad you found the time to come by," he said casually. Okay, small talk it is.
"Sure, it's not as if I had anything else to do." Like working for my real boss.
Eric ignored the sarcasm. Eric is generally good at ignoring things he doesn't want to hear. Words like no for instance.
"You didn't return my call," he said out of the blue. I was tempted to blame Amelia because it wouldn't have been the first time she forgot to tell me about a call from Eric, but I figured that this was too cowardly to consider in earnest. After all, I had chickened out and I had been expecting, had been waiting for Eric to bring it up.
"I was busy," I said dismissively.
He gave me one of his skeptical looks. "Sookie, you do know that I feel when you're bullshitting me, right? Right now, you're feeling vaguely guilty about it, too." Eric leaned forward, his eyes so blue and earnest it unnerved me.
"You're scared, my lover. Do you remember when we drove home from Jackson? I asked you if you walking away from your romantic attachments was a pattern you followed. I think I found the answer."
I must have gaped at him like a fish, temporarily stunned into silence. "Do we have to talk about this here of all places?" My voice was a little too high-pitched for my taste but he had only himself to blame if I lost my composure.
"No," he said abruptly and got up. "Follow me." Yes, master. I was fuming as I trailed behind him. The only good thing was that I didn't have to squeeze my way through the crowd. Everyone stepped aside for Eric. Surprisingly, he held the door to his office open for me. My grandmother would have thrown me a very stern glance if she had seen me walk past him without so much as a nod of thanks. I heard the door close and turned around, ready to say some very unpleasant things to him. But before I could so much as open my mouth, his big hands cupped my face and his lips were on mine. Huh? I was tempted to just give in and kiss him back for all I was worth but his words had really irked me. I tore myself away.
"Eric, what is this?" I asked wearily.
"This is me kissing you, lover," he said in a very dark and very seductive voice. Damn vampires. His fingers trailed down my neck. I shook my head.
"No, you can't just…just throw stuff like that at me and then expect me to forget it."
He looked amused, which irked me even more. "Sookie, I needed a reason to get you into my office without making whoever is threatening Fangtasia suspicious. A lovers' spat seemed the easiest way to accomplish just that."
"You orchestrated this," I said, taken aback by his audacity. I shouldn't have been surprised though. This was Eric Northman I was speaking to, after all.
"I apologize," he said, looking mighty unapologetic. I took a deep breath and swallowed whatever was on the tip my tongue.
"Okay, why did you want to get me into your office? What is the secret vampire stuff not even your minions are supposed to hear?" I asked, trying for nonchalance. He cocked a blond eyebrow and leaned slightly away. I fought off the trace of disappointment successfully and I'm almost ashamed to say that this feeling was all mine. Talking about ambiguous feelings…
"Two things," Eric said through his halfway-extended fangs. "Firstly, I intend to brief you and show you the letters we received. It might help your search for the culprit's thought pattern. And second, I want to peel that dress off you, kiss every inch of your skin and fuck you on my desk," he finished, licking his lips. Heat surged through me at the smoldering look he gave me and I had to look away. Oh boy, was I in trouble.
...to be continued
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