Author's Note: Thank you all for your fantastic reviews! I am sorry I don't have time to respond to all of you personally as I used to love doing. I figure you appreciate me spending the little time I have on continuing the story so I don't go months between updates again. :) On a separate note, one reviewer chloe caught something that I bungled earlier in the story. I blame it on my long hiatuses (another problem with them) because it was a continuity issue. I had Eric and Sookie referencing their love for each other before I'd made a big deal out of them actually deciding they well, loved each other. I had thought I'd addressed it earlier, but I hadn't. Anyway, I corrected the issue in Chapter 9 and as of right now they have not yet told each other those special three words. :) Maybe soon?
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters of the Sookie Stackhouse series, they belong to Charlaine Harris. I'm just playing with them.
I was suddenly aware of a beeping sound coming from somewhere in the dark. I reluctantly opened my eyes, which was no help whatsoever. Darkness enveloped me, and some very strong arms were doing the same. A grin broke out across my face as I let myself revel in the feeling of it. The beeping grew annoying, but it wasn't bothering my sleeping Viking any. For a little while I tried to ignore it so that I could stay in the moment a little longer. Eventually, even in my joy, I found myself wanting to throw my phone against the wall, so I reached across to turn off my alarm. Eric was completely motionless, and his grip on me made the short reach considerably more difficult.
Once the alarm was shut off I began the process of removing myself from bed. And I do mean it was a process. I started trying to move around by only the light of my cell phone, but stubbed my toe within 30 seconds. Eric and I hadn't talked about sleeping vampire etiquette, so I could only hope that turning on a lamp wouldn't disturb him. With much trepidation (love my Word of the Day calendar), I pushed the button to turn on a table lamp. I stared at Eric for a minute, waiting for him to yell at me to turn it back off, but there was no change. I let out a breath of relief and headed toward my closet.
As much as I'd wanted to save my first experience in the shower for Eric, I took a quick one. This only solidified my strong desire to have him in there with me. I went to my closet to grab something to wear home when I noticed a small section I hadn't seen the night before. There was a pile of neatly folded white t-shirts that stood out to me as being different from everything else lining the walls. I squinted and reached up to pull one down and was shocked by what I saw. It was a stack of my Merlotte's uniform shirts.
"How…" I said turning it over in my hands. Truthfully, I was more confused as to why he would have gotten them as opposed to how. Eric could do most anything he put his mind to, and he had gotten me a supply of work shirts. Before I'd agreed to the current trial living arrangements even. It showed me that while he knew I wasn't ready to completely quit my job anytime soon and wasn't exactly happy about it, he also was willing to respect that. I smiled at this unexpected gesture before getting dressed in it and a pair of black shorts I managed to find. I was glad to have a little extra time to get ready and explore Eric's house before I had to run to work. Speaking of getting to work, didn't I come here in Eric's car?
"Crap," I said quietly re-entering the bedroom. "I hope you thought of how I was getting back to my car, sleeping beauty," I said coming to sit next to him on the bed. I slowly leaned over him to kiss his temple and whispered in his ear, "I'll see you tonight." One of my hands had found his and was resting in it. I was startled when I felt his hand squeeze mine so softly I almost thought I imagined it.
I made my way carefully out through the door to the bedroom after collecting my purse and turning off the light. After closing the one light tight door behind me, I found I was in another light tight space, and fumbled to get the second door open. Through that door was a corridor that still managed to keep most light out. "Shoot," I said, realizing I left my dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, which made me a mighty rude house guest. I turned to reopen to the door, but found that it was locked from the inside. "Of course," I sighed, "Mental note: once you leave, there's no going back."
During my exploration, I found the garage. I was ever so pleased to see that my car was sitting next to Eric's. My stomach grumbled and I managed to make it to the kitchen, which was thankfully stocked with a few human food items. I grabbed an apple off the counter and went in search of a way to leave Eric a note. The second hallway I meandered down held an office and supplies with which to do just that. I took care of some business items first, apologizing for leaving my clothes behind and thanking him for having my car brought here. I briefly thanked him for the clothes, especially the uniform, lending Sam one of his bartenders, and just thanked him in general for everything. Details would wait until the next time I saw him.
After that I got in my car and headed back to Bon Temps and Merlotte's. I thought I'd check and see if Sam had been released from the hospital, so I went over to his trailer first. After a few knocks I heard Sam call out for me to come in. He was propped up on the couch looking much like he did when I saw him last.
"Hey, Sam," I greeted kindly but with some reservation, "How are you feeling?"
He seemed to resist the urge to roll his eyes, "Well, Sook, not that great. I've been shot, someone's targeting shifters, I can't work for at least a week, and above all else, Eric Northman has a favor to hold over my head indefinitely. Couldn't you have offered to let Charles stay with you?," he shook his head to himself. "I'm indebted to a fuckin' vamp. I've had better days."
The shock was plastered all over my face. I hadn't expected Sam to be gleeful, but this was a bit much. "Sam Merlotte, that is quite an outlook you have," I said, putting my hands on my hips. He started to protest, but I wasn't finished, "No, you listen here. You did get shot, and that's a hell of a thing to go through. But you survived. That puts you leagues ahead of Heather and a heck of a lot better than Calvin, too. We both could've been killed! And yet here we are. I see that as quite a blessing." He had the decency to look a little embarrassed. "And as for Eric, yes, you owe him a favor. But guess what? He's doing you one. He certainly didn't have to lend you a bartender, Fangtasia is plenty busy, and he sure didn't need to also put out one of his own to house him. You're welcome, by the way, for driving all the way up there at three in the morning to do that for you and then coming back a just few hours later to open the place up. Which I think I'd better go do about now. Oh and I'm glad that all of that wasn't enough for you and I should have offered to house a vampire I hardly know on top of it." I turned on my heel and walked out before he could so much as squeak in response.
The rest of the day went fairly normal. Sam didn't make any appearances, which I was glad for. Jason did stop by and asked if I'd go with him to visit Calvin, to which I agreed once my shift was over. I did recall, by way of a little flashback at entering the bar, that I had forgotten to ask Eric if he knew Mickey. I filed it away for later. Around the time I was getting ready to head out, Bill came in with Charles. I had arranged for Terry and him to be here at the same time for a couple hours so he could show Charles around. Bill notably pretended as though I wasn't there and left without a word in my direction. Maybe there had been more to Eric's call to him than I'd heard.
After I felt Terry and Charles would be fine without me, I headed for the door. On the way I ran into a man who was just entering. He saw my shirt and evidently assumed I was still working. Not a big stretch, and Arlene was preoccupied in the kitchen, so I got him seated.
"I'm actually on my way out, but Arlene, your server will be right with you," I said politely. I started to turn and walk away, but his next question stopped me.
"Are you Sookie Stackhouse?" he asked. Somewhat slowly, I turned back to face him.
"I am. Why do you ask?" I asked in the friendliest tone I could muster while a small fear was creeping up my spine.
"My name is Jack Leeds. I'm a private investigator," he said, handing me his business card. I took it, waiting for the other shoe to drop. "I've been hired by the Pelt family."
And there it was, the Pelts had hired him and now he was here because he thought I had something to do with her disappearance. Well, he was right. My ability to keep my knee jerk reactions from showing certainly paid off here, "Oh really? Aren't the police handling it?"
He shrugged, "Not so much. She had certain tendencies that led them to think she disappeared on purpose, but the family thinks otherwise."
It was then that his attention was drawn away from me to a different blonde, just now entering the bar. She joined Jack, and from their thoughts and subtle, silent interaction I could tell they were more than partners. "Lily, this here is Sookie Stackhouse. Ms. Stackhouse, this is Lily Bard Leeds," Jack said by way of introduction. I nodded and smiled slightly in acknowledgement.
"I was just out to your house looking for you," she admitted casually. "We have some things we'd like to discuss with you about the night Debbie disappeared."
I took a pause so that my voice would remain calm when I spoke, "As I mentioned to Jack, I'm actually on my way out. My shift's over and I have to go visit a friend of mine who's in the hospital."
Their brains were working a bit over that one. A whole lot of my friends had been hurt over the past year or so and I could tell they knew about a lot of them. Again, I couldn't much say they were stretching, as I'd more than once thought of how that could reflect on my character. Most of those, though, just weren't at all my fault. I could tell Lily was about to comment, but Jack said something first, "Well, would it be possible to speak tomorrow morning? Before you have to be to work?"
I thought about how I'd be headed to Shreveport to spend the night with my vampire lover and had planned to come to work straight from there. I thought about how that excuse wouldn't sound so great to these two. I put on a smile, "Well, I'm not much of a morning person and I have to be to work by eleven. How's ten sound?"
"Fine," they said in unison.
"Okay, well, since you've already been there I take it you'll find me just fine. I really must be going. Have a nice dinner," I gave a little wave and happily exited the bar. I made a bee-line for my car and felt a whole lot better once I was safely inside. Between the shooter and the private investigators, the feeling of someone watching me was overwhelming. I took a few deep breaths before I felt myself calm down enough to start driving.
I have a lot of the next chapter done and hope to get it out in the next week. Sorry I'm not the quickest updater. And I'm currently working a full time job, choreographing two musicals and rehearsing for another show. It's a bit hectic. So I'm doing my best! Thanks for your patience and kind words.