6/21/10 Welcome, newcomers, to my little corner of the SVM Universe. I appreciate you being here. I do have one thing to say to any less than honest visitors: Please do not steal my ideas, concepts, etc. I found it slightly amusing at first, and there is such a thing as coincidence. But, seriously, you wouldn't like it if someone did it to you. If you need some ideas, pm me and offer to pay me. I'll be glad to help you, and I work cheap.


I do not own any of the characters from the Southern Vampire Series. They all belong to Charlaine Harris and I'm just trying to assuage my addiction by amusing myself with them. This story contains spoilers from all eight books plus the first chapter of Dead and Gone, and the short stories. Eric/Sookie, maybe a new guy, will be some smut but nothing too nasty, I just can't see it. Un beta'd. Constructive criticism welcome! Thanks!

Chapter 1

It was near midnight New Year's Day and I'd just finished taking down my Christmas tree when I noticed the light flashing on my answering machine. "Who'd call me on New Year's?" I wondered as I pushed the button.

"Hi, Sookie, it's Alcide," My heart leapt a little bit, Alcide has a very manly voice, even if he is a jerk. "Call me tomorrow when you get a chance. I have a business proposition for you."

Oh, great, I thought. Now I'm gonna get dragged back into some Were shit, just when things were getting calmed down. I couldn't help but be disappointed that the call wasn't from Eric, or Quinn, or even Bill, wishing me a happy New Year. Jackass former lovers, I told myself. Tara had been telling me I needed to change my religion, so to speak, maybe meet someone new. I was beginning to think she may be right.

I had met someone, on Christmas to boot, and what a someone it had been! I found Preston the Were in my woods Christmas Eve and he had entertained me and lessened my loneliness for a short time. Although I enjoyed myself immensely, after he left I felt lonelier than before. "It's a new year, Sookie," I reprimanded myself. "You're not gonna live forever, unlike those damn vampires. Quit letting them push you around."

The next day I got up and called Alcide first thing.

"As you know the weres and shifters are coming out of the closet much like the vampires did several years ago," he launched in. " It's going to be rough and we're gonna need your help with the humans. As Pack Master I'd like to put you on salary. You'd either have to quit your job at the bar, or cut down to a few nights a week, because we're gonna need you during the day. It's full-time, with benefits, $60,000 a year. We'd give you a company car, and you'd have your own office in my office building. On paper, you'd work for Herveaux & Sons. But your real job would be as a public relations telepath for the weres and shifters.

We'd try to keep you nine to five. You could drive to Shreveport some days, work from home on others. We will buy you a laptop for use at your house. We need a public relations type person, and you would be it. The advantage would be that you would know what the humans are thinking, and help us foresee the problems before they come about. We really need you, Sookie.

"But Eric and the new King," I said before Alcide cut me off.

"Haven't offered you a permanent position, only pay you by the job, and then, sometimes you don't even get that," he said sharply. "Sorry, Sookie, but I know how you've had to suffer, and how they jerk you around. Someone with your talent, someone who has saved their asses so many times, and you have to scrape by on waitress tips? If you want to help the vamps in your spare time you can, and if we can spare you from the office, when they have something really important, we will lend you out. But you're getting older, Sookie, you can't waitress forever, no one can. It's hard on your body, being on your feet, it's physical labor, and it's crazy for someone with your talent. Please consider."

"Sam" I said weakly.

"Like I said, you could still work for him some at night and on the weekends if you really wanted, Sookie. But your job now is a dead end and you know it. Those vamps take advantage of you having such a menial position that's so easy to miss work and get someone to cover for you."

I told him I would consider it and hung up the phone. Shit shit shit, I have to make a decision. Sixty grand a year! I thought with a jump. And a company car. And it wouldn't be like I was being put up by a boyfriend. taking charity from Eric, or anything like that. I would have a real job, and it would not just be my telepathy. Alcide had really though this out. College classes, public relations, I know what people think, would it really be that hard to figure out what they wanted to hear? Isn't that what a PR person does? I started getting excited at the thought.

And he was right. Although I technically was bonded to Eric, I had no deal with the new regime, other than I was under their protection. And I could still help them out from time to time, they went months without needing me, so what was the big deal?

"This is bullshit,' I said out loud. "I need to eat. I need to pay my bills. This is a stupendous (yeah, yeah, Word of the Day) opportunity. I could learn some real skills, some that use my special ability, but are not dependent on it. I'd be a fool to pass this up."

I walked over to my closet and opened the door, surveying the sorry contents. I thought about all the times the vamps had to buy me clothes. I looked around the room and thought about how old my house was, all the repairs and upgrades it needed. I looked out the window at my old junker of a car sitting in the driveway. I wondered what was going to happen to me when, as Alcide said, my knees went and my energy level just couldn't keep up at the bar anymore.

Did I have to call Eric and ask him permission to take a new job? Really? Even if are bonded, I told myself, he certainly didn't feel the need to ask my permission to do anything. Why should I consult him? I thought defiantly. "I'm sick and tired of feeling like little Orphan Annie," I said out loud. He makes his money anyway he sees fit. Why couldn't I?

That's it, I decided. I called Alcide back and told him I could come to Shreveport this afternoon to work out the details. He sounded real excited. We made a lunch date for 2:00. at Auntie Loretta's, a Cajun joint near the wharf. I got off the phone and looked in the mirror, jumping up and down in spite of myself. It looked like the New Year was starting off just right!

For the meeting I chose a straight black pencil skirt with a cute little black and pink toile twin sweater set I found at Target, plus a pair of classy black pumps and my grandmother's pearl necklace and earrings. I put my hair in a chignon and I looked pretty damn good if I do say so myself. Alcide had given me directions to the wharf and I found the restaurant pretty easy, boy was it hoppin' even at 2 pm. I loved the smell of the river as I got out of the car, and the restaurant's Creole and Cajun cooking also wafted down the sidewalk.

Alcide greeted me from the door as I came in. "Hi, Sookie, you look beautiful as always," he said with his trademark smile. He looked better than he had recently, being a leader apparently agreed with him. His hair was cut short fashionably, and his dark eyes sparked. I'd always though Alcide to be handsome, and all of a sudden I got nervous about working for him. Would our former attraction get in the way of my job?

As if sensing my thoughts Alcide started in right after we were seated. "I don't want you to worry that I have any ulterior motives, Sookie," he said earnestly as we looked over the menu. "The pack really needs you, and I won't do anything to make you uncomfortable. We will have a purely professional relationship, but I hope we can be friends at the same time."

I nodded, relieved. I looked back down at the menu and chose a fried oyster dish served with a cream corned mach shue. Alcide ordered crawfish gumbo and a fried oyster po-boy.

"I'd like you to start Monday," he said. "We need help with the press releases, interviews, things like that. Also there is a Shreveport Chamber of Commerce cocktail party at the Renaissance Hotel this Friday night and I'd love for you to attend."

"A cocktail party this Friday," I said, "I'll have to talk to Sam…"

"If you'd like I'll talk to Sam for you. As a shifter, he knows how important the PR is going to be in the coming months. I'm sure he'll be willing to work with you."

"Thanks Alcide, but I need to talk to Sam myself," I said firmly.

"So does this mean you'll accept?"

I took a deep breath. "Yes, I think it does," I said.

"That's great," Alcide smiled at me. He took out his briefcase and showed me the contracts. Ninety day probation period, during which either party can back out without consequences, and a six-month full time employee contract,

"I know we're going to need you for at least a couple of years if not more," Alcide explained, "but, in case the vamps get all bent out of shape, I thought we'd sign the first contract just for six months, so they wouldn't be too riled when they see you're only tied in for that long at first. Then, when they get used to the idea, we'll sign longer contracts."

I nodded. That sounded pretty smart to me.

Our food arrived and we just chitchatted through the meal. He told me he had a new girlfriend, and I was somehow relieved and disappointed at the same time. "She's a were," he said, as if that explained everything, "Her name is Bethany and I'll think you'll like her.

"Sookie, I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to give you my Dad's company car for the time being. I could lease you a new one, but I'm afraid you're going to go over the mileage allowance driving from Bon Temps so I'm trying to get a better deal."

"Well, that's fine," I said. "I don't mind. "

It's a 2007 BMW sedan. Like I said, it's not new, but the mileage is less than 30,000K and I'll get you something else real soon. We just use it now and then for running errands, but we don't really need it. I'll add you to our insurance and you can use it for your personal use on your days off, I don't mind. "

"That's fine, Alcide, it'll be fine. The salary and the car and everything – it seems like you're doing too much."

Alcide shook his head and laughed. "Sookie, I wish we could do more. I don't think you realize how much you're worth, but it's a hell of a lot more than 60k a year and a two-year old Beamer. Unfortunately, the Pack has a mountain of work to do and we have to watch the funds. But I'll feel better about you taking the job if you take the college courses and training we're offering, that way I'll know we are at least helping you get some education and earn skills you can use somewhere else in the future, where you will be paid what you are worth."

I grew silent. This was a side of Alcide I had never seen before, and I was touched by his thoughtfulness. I had never, in all my dealings with the vampires, noticed anyone who seemed to be looking to my future before. Unfortunately, life and death situations always seemed to push aside the big picture kind of questions.

"Let's celebrate a little, can I buy you a drink?" Alcide asked, his eyes twinkling with excitement. "The pack will be so happy with me for hiring you, Sookie. What's your poison?"

"It's the middle of the day, Alcide," I hesitated. But what the hell, I'd been so nervous all day, maybe a little drink wouldn't hurt. "How 'bout a champagne cocktail?' Alcide motioned the waitress over and ordered two Veuve Clicquot cocktails.

Just then I felt a pair of eyes boring into me from across the room. I looked up just in time to see Kendall, one of Eric's waitresses at Fangtasia, making her way to the table. Oh no, I groaned inwardly. This can't be good.

"Hi Sookie, haven't seen you in a while," she chirped. Petite, with dark brown hair cut pixie-ish around her face, big brown eyes and a dancer's body, Kendall was by far the prettiest human Fangtasia employed. "Who's your friend?"

"Kendall, this is Alcide. He's the Shreveport Pack Master," I begrudgingly explained. Just then the waitress arrived with our drinks.

"Celebrating something?" Kendall asked as she eyed the champagne flutes, her pencil-thin black eyebrows raised.

Alcide opened his mouth to answer her but I cut in. "Alcide and I haven't seen each other in some time. We're just celebrating renewing our friendship."

As soon as the words left my mouth I realized how stupid they were. I didn't want to Alcide to tell Kendall about me working for him, but what I said could so easily be construed the wrong way. Shit shit shit.

"Oh, really," Kendall said, a smile curving her mouth. "How nice. Hope to see you at Fangtasia soon!" She waved merrily and walked out the door.

"What was that about?' Alcide asked. I shrugged my shoulders and reached for my drink. "I just didn't want her going back to Fangtasia and telling everyone I was working for you just yet."

Alcide looked at me and shook his head. "Eric." He said knowingly.

"Eric." I agreed.

"Well, you're gonna have to tell him sometime," Alcide said with a chuckle. "Go ahead and sign up for those college PR courses as soon as you can., Sookie. You're gonna have to learn how to spin a story quicker than you think."