Disclaimer—Sookie, Eric, and the other characters in this story are not owned by yours truly.

To those who have me on Author Alert-I apologize if the listing was confusing. The site is pretty glitched right now, and the only way I could upload a new story was to place it under the incorrect fandom. After that I should be able to place it in the correct category. Also, I'm unsure if my story alerts are even being received.

Chapter 1

A Debt Owed

Damn. That was the only word that came to mind as I eyed his bare chest. Double damn, I thought, as I followed the line of his happy trail. I wanted to kiss my way down it, but there was no time. I had an early shift at Merlotte's. I sighed and pried myself away, earning a mid-REM growl in response. Most people talk in their sleep, but Alcide's a werewolf so the rules are a little different for him.

The last six months had been the best sex of my life, compliments of the werewolf. He was truly an animal in bed, ha, ha. But he was a workaholic - he and his father owned a construction business - so we didn't have a chance to spend as much time together as I would've liked.

Our clothes were scattered across the room, a bra here, a pair of boxers there. Smiling at the X-rated memories from the night before, I gathered them up, snickering at my shredded g-string. But when I slung Alcide's jeans over my shoulder something fell out of the front pocket, and the snicker froze in my throat.

It made a metal clank as it hit the hardwood. At first I figured it was a dime or a quarter…but dimes and quarters aren't gold. It was one of those moments where my eyes and mind were at odds.

That's a wedding ring!, my eyes shouted.

That's no wedding ring!, my mind yelled back. Alcide's a good man. He wouldn't do that to me.

They continued to argue as the object rolled under the bed, vanishing from sight.

I fell to hands and knees and peered under the bed. There it was, glinting beside a dust bunny - a gold wedding band. My eyes and mind decided to stop bickering then; it was pretty hard to stay in denial with the proof right in front of me. I'm not sure how long I was frozen like that, on all fours with my rump poking out from under the bed, until the mattress above me shifted.

"What are you doing under there, Sook?" Alcide asked. A big hand pawed my rear end, the fingers as warm as an electric blanket. Since he's a werewolf his body temperature is higher than the average bear. Usually I find his heat a turn-on, but I couldn't stand his touch now that I was nose to nose with his wedding ring. I snatched it up and backed out from under the bed.

His playful smile disappeared the second he caught sight of the ring. "Shit," he said. "Why were you rifling through my pockets?"

"I don't rifle through people's pockets, Alcide." That was true. Gran taught me better then that. "It fell out of your pocket. Were you planning to tell me you're married? Or were you just going to fuck me until you got tired of me?" Gran also taught me better than to say the F-word, but I was more furious than I'd ever been in my life. So furious my whole body was shaking like a Chihuahua.

I might have been many things (a telepath, a barmaid, a mystery novel enthusiast) but one thing I refused to be was a mistress. He had lied to me every single day for the last six months - and I was still so in shock I hadn't quite absorbed the full impact of that yet - but even worse than his deception was the fact that he might have kids. There was no way I would ever forgive myself if I was a home wrecker, even if the home wrecking was inadvertent.

He sighed and ran a hand through his tousled hair. "Debbie and I are separated."

The name blared in my head. Debbie. The ring had confirmed he was married, but hearing his wife's name made it all the more real. I snarled and threw the ring at him. He caught it, curling a fist around it with predatory grace.

"Get out of my house! Take your shit and get out of my house!" I began chucking his clothes at him. First his jeans, then his shirt, then his boxers and socks. By the time I threw his shoes, I was a wild woman. Strangely, he didn't move a muscle throughout; he didn't even blink as a shoe ricocheted off his forehead. He took his licks with surprising equanimity.

"Sookie, I'm filing for divorce."

"Sure you are. Like I'll believe a word you say." My voice cracked, and a spiky knot formed in my throat. Any moment I'd start crying, and I didn't want the bastard to witness the event. "Get out!"

"Fine," he said, and he sounded angry. After what he'd done, he had the nerve to be pissed with me?

I averted my eyes as he rose, tall and built to high heaven and as naked as the day he was born. He collected his things and left, his gait stiff. Maybe he would put on his clothes in the living room. Hell, maybe he would drive home bare-assed. I didn't care as long as he was gone.

The dam broke when I heard his truck leaving my driveway. It was one of those ugly cries, the kind where the eyes swell and snot flows and sobs rake through you. And like a masochist, I replayed all the most hurtful scenes in full Technicolor. Our lovemaking. The times we joked and laughed and discussed a future together. All of it was a lie.

He had no intention of leaving Debbie. The fact that he kept the ring in his pocket was proof of that. How many times had he slipped on the damn thing after stepping out of my house? How many times had he claimed he was working when he was actually with his wife?

Weres are difficult to read with my telepathy unless they're purposely shoving thoughts in my direction. That sad fact was why I didn't know Alcide was married. I'd trusted him enough not to dig deeper into his head, and he had made a fool out of me.

Dating is hard for a girl with a freaky talent. Humans broadcast the loudest, which makes dating them practically impossible. I can hear their every thought, and I always end up hearing things I don't want to hear. So when I met Alcide and realized how much more difficult it was to eavesdrop on his mind, I was smitten. He was my first boyfriend, my first lover. Just thinking about him deflowering me, knowing all along he had a wife at home…

No more, I told myself finally. I wanted to roll up into the fetal position and sleep for about forty-eight hours, but I wasn't one to hide from reality. So I showered, dressed, and put on a bit of make-up before driving to Merlotte's.

My boss, Sam, took one look at me and a crater formed between his eyes. Hopefully his concern would outweigh his annoyance that I was late for my shift. It did.

"What's wrong?" he asked. His auburn hair was mussed, as if he'd been running his fingers through it, and there was a stack of paperwork on the desk in front of him.

More than once I'd imagined us together, but he was my boss and that was one line I wasn't going to cross. You've already crossed the worst line of all, my masochistic side said. You slept with a married man for months.

"I can't talk about it now," I said, hearing the hitch in my voice. "I just need to distract myself with work."

"Okay. But if you wanna talk…"

Sam really was a good man. I managed a smile, remembering something Gran used to say. It takes more muscles to frown. She died from a stroke a year ago, and during times like these, when I felt hurt and confused, I missed her more than ever. Her wise counsel had pointed me in the right direction my entire life. Now I was flying solo and doing a terrible job of it.

"Thanks," I said, though I had no intention of taking him up on his offer.

He nodded and returned his attention to the paperwork, but I sensed him watching me as I left the office. Since he's a true shapeshifter, I can read his thoughts about as well as I can a Were's, but I didn't need my telepathy to know he had feelings for me. Why couldn't I fall for a man like him instead of a duplicitous bastard like Alcide?

By sundown the worst had past. I was still hurt, but I wasn't brooding over it every second like I was before. Working helped. Merlotte's was slammed, and I dashed back and forth, delivering drinks and food to table after table for several hours. Eventually the rush petered out, and I took a break to rest my throbbing arches.

"Trouble with your werewolf?" Lafayette asked, and dropped into a chair beside me. Tonight he wore a sparkly, golden scarf around his head, and his lashes were coated with mascara. Why did guys always have the long, perfect lashes women would kill for?

Lafayette is gay, but he's definitely not one to trifle with. I've seen him stomp redneck butt several times - sparkly scarf and long lashes and all. Every now and then a very foolish person will call Lafayette "faggot" or some other disparagement, only to learn the hard way that homosexual does not equal sissy.

I was on the verge of spilling my guts when Lafayette clucked his tongue. "Yum. That's an ass I'd love to sink my teeth into."

"Huh? Who?" I asked. Sometimes we checked out guys together, so I wasn't taken aback by his explicit phrasing.

"That tall drink of water that just walked in."

That was when I saw a man that was so gorgeous I blinked to make sure he was really there. He stood by the door, his eyes scanning the bar until landing directly on me. Typically I would have played coy and glanced away, but I stared dumbly, my mouth agape. Distantly I was aware I was probably flashing my tonsils at him.

I absorbed every inch of him in a haze, a haze which broke into a million pieces as he approached. I began to panic. He was too gorgeous - why would he want to talk to me, the town freak? He was the kind of man who could have any woman he wanted. Every lady in the bar was practically melting in their seats as he past them.

Instinctively, my mind reached out to his, and I found…nothing. His mind was a big, quiet blank. The gorgeous blonde was a vampire.

I don't have much contact with the vamp community. Vampires aren't exactly a dime a dozen in my little town, and I've heard enough bad rumors about them to keep my distance. Horror stories about human slaves and blood orgies and devil worship, things like that.

In fact, I'd only ever met one vampire, Bill Compton. He's my neighbor, but he keeps to himself. Occasionally he comes into Merlotte's with his girlfriend, a real estate agent named Selah Pumphrey. I knew how vampire minds "felt" due to my limited interactions with him.

I snapped my jaw closed as the blonde vamp stopped at my table. He towered above me; I had to raise my head up and up to find his face, and what a face it was. Perfectly sculpted, with those incredible blue eyes as a focal point. My heart started beating the hell out of my chest, and not because I was afraid of him.

"Sookie Stackhouse?" The sound of his deep voice pronouncing my name sent prickles dancing all over me.


"May I join you for a moment? Privately?" He glanced in Lafayette's direction.

Lafayette took the hint. "Ta-ta," he said, and wiggled his rear as he sashayed toward the kitchen. I couldn't help but grin at that wiggling rear of his. It took a lot of courage for Lafayette to be openly gay in a town like Bon Temps.

"Uh, sure," I said to the vampire, and gestured for him to have a seat. Unlike Alcide, the vamp radiated cold. It wasn't an unpleasant cold, though. "What can I do for you, Mr…?"

"Eric Northman." He didn't move to shake, so I kept my hands planted on my lap. "I'm the proprietor of a bar in Shreveport. Fangtasia."

I knew about Fangtasia, since fang-bangers flocked there in droves. I was curious about the place, but I'd never gone, mostly because I was afraid I'd be drained dry by some random vampire. Vamps are predators, after all, specially designed to feast on humans. I'd rather stay curious than be dead.

"I have a matter you can help me with," he said, and leaned forward, so close the prickles on the back of my neck swept down my arms. "I'll pay you handsomely for your services, of course."

"Services?" I asked, my mouth suddenly as dry as sandpaper.

An eyebrow went up. "You are a mind reader, correct?"

My telepathy is no secret. People know what I'm capable of, but most either write me off as crazy or ignore it altogether. No one had ever asked me point blank about my talent, not even Alcide. I glanced around nervously. Sam was behind the bar, scowling at the blonde vamp. Lafayette was shamelessly eye-fucking Eric. So was Arlene and the other waitresses…in fact, everyone in the bar was honed in on us - or more correctly, on Eric. I'm sure he noticed the gawking, but he didn't seem to care. Perhaps he was used to it.

"Have I offended in you in some way?" he asked, once the silence between us had prolonged.

I shifted uncomfortably. "Not exactly. It's not something I talk about very much."

He looked me up and down for a moment, and his gaze lingered on my breasts. I was used to the titty gazing - I work in a bar, after all - and usually it annoys me. It's not like my uniform shirt is low cut, so I figure I'm not inviting the stares. But when he stared, some shallow part of me was flattered a man as handsome as Eric was appreciating the goods.

He's not a man, I quickly reminded myself. He's something else entirely. Something you should be frightened of.

But as hard as I tried, I couldn't find it in me to be frightened of him. He seemed calm and together and completely in control, and the silence coming from his head was relaxing. After years of hearing blah, blah, blah from all the minds around me, it was so nice to hear absolutely nothing at all. Even with Alcide I had to put up a faint shield. Too bad I hadn't probed his mind all the way to the core. If I had, I wouldn't have cried my eyes out earlier.

"You act as if your gift is something to be ashamed of," Eric said. It wasn't a question, but it was clear he wanted an explanation. Since he sounded genuinely curious, I answered him.

"I do my best to stay out of their thoughts, but I make people uncomfortable anyhow. They think I'm a freak."

"Then they're fools," he said, and so matter-of-factly I believed him.

"How did you find out about me?"

"One of my waitresses has disappeared," he said, ignoring my question. "I need you to listen to the thoughts of my human staff to determine what they know. I'll pay you ten thousand dollars."

Ten grand just to poke around in some minds? I gulped. "Do you think she was kidnapped? Or murdered?"

"I am not sure if she is alive or dead."

"If I help you find the woman, what will happen to the person who took her? You'll call the cops, right?"

He looked vaguely annoyed I had deigned to question how he conducted his affairs, probably because I was a mere human. "I will handle the situation the way I see fit."

I had no idea what the vamp meant to do to the villain once I identified him. I guessed Eric would punish this person severely, and I didn't want to be a party to that. I did feel guilty since I could help find the woman, but surely he had others he could turn to for assistance. Such as the police. I was just a barmaid; my area of expertise was not tracking down missing waitresses. "It was nice to meet you, Mr. Northman, but I must politely decline."

"You're refusing my offer?" He seemed surprised, as if people rarely refused him, and maybe they didn't. He was gorgeous and powerful and charismatic. Humans, especially females, probably kowtowed to him on a daily basis.

That only made me want to resist him all the more. He might be the boss in his universe, but he wasn't the boss in mine. "If you excuse me, I have to get back to work." I took off with an angry stride - his arrogance chapped my ass, and I didn't have the patience for it after what happened with Alcide - when a hand clamped around my arm. I felt the potential power in that hand and knew Eric could tear me limb from limb if he wanted. Now I was properly scared, which was exactly what he'd been going for.

"I offered to pay you out of courtesy, Miss Stackhouse. I can force you."

There was no way I could pry his fingers off me, but I struggled against him nonetheless. "Let go."

"You will come with me." His eyes flashed so brightly a blue light could have been shining out of them.

I hmphed when I saw what he was doing. "Are you trying to glamour me? Didn't your mother teach you any manners?"

I'd never seen a glamour in action before, but Alcide explained it. Most humans are putty in a vamp's hands after a glamour, but apparently, I was impervious to it. This was a good thing to know, but it could be a dangerous thing, too. Eric would have to resort to other means to force me to do his bidding. I doubted he would give up so easily.

His eyes stopped flashing and his grip on me relaxed. I jerked my arm from him, noticing the puzzled expression on his face. My immunity must have thrown him for a loop.

"Is there a problem?" Sam asked. I'd been so involved in my tangle with Eric I didn't notice him arrive.

"There's no problem," I said, aimed a go-to-Hell look at the manipulative vamp, and stomped off. After about sixty seconds, I glanced at the spot where Eric was sitting, and he was gone.

My shift was over an hour later, and as I crossed the parking lot to my car I was still fuming. The day had royally sucked. First I found out Alcide was married, then a vampire tried to brainwash me. I can force you, Eric said. The parking lot was dark, and hearing that voice of his, even in memory, sent chills up my spine.

More chills went up my spine when I sensed I wasn't alone. The mind I detected was snarly and a little staticky, which meant it belonged to a Were. I twirled round, going for the mace I kept in my purse, and spotted her. I couldn't see her well, but the rage flaming in her mind was loud and clear.

"Whore," she hissed. She slunk closer, until her face was partially illuminated. I saw dark eyes, glinting with a silver cast, and a pair of bony cheekbones, but that was all.

At first I was confused as to why a stranger had called me a whore, until I had an A-ha moment. This must be Alcide's wife, Debbie. Why else would a female Were I'd never met call me such a derogatory term? How she found out about Alcide and me, I didn't know, but her intentions were obvious. Things were about to get ugly.

I had the mace in my hands, but I knew it wouldn't help much. The Were could crush every bone in my body without even breaking a sweat. The bar was about twenty feet away, but the gulf between me and it seemed a mile wide. I was about to run for it anyhow, screaming my head off for Sam, who was inside closing shop, but I didn't have a chance to take so much as a step.

She pounced with alarming speed. One moment I was upright, the next I hit the pavement. The back of my skull slammed against the concrete, and my brain bounced around in my skull. I heard a loud, terrified scream and realized it was me, then a snap and the mace rolled out of my hand. Pain shot through my arm - had she broken my wrist? I fought, but she might as well have been grappling with a toddler for all the strength I had in comparison to her.

My body became one big, throbbing nerve; I had never suffered such agony in my life. It made me want to pass out, but I struggled against it. What was she doing to me? I thought my body was being ripped and torn, but I wasn't sure. Something inside had short-circuited, sparing me from the macabre details.

There was a strangled mewl, and then the weight atop me vanished. I blinked, battling to make my eyes focus, but everything was a blur. Hands grabbed me. I cringed, but these hands didn't bring the pain I'd expected. I heard a shout: was it Sam? I slipped into nothingness before finding out.

The sheets were sticky with blood. So was I, for that matter. Dried blood covered my body - my half nude body. My Merlotte's uniform had been replaced by a giant t-shirt with the word FANGTASIA printed across the front.

There was a chair nearby, and a vamp was perched in it. Her attire was prim and proper and very Republican, string of pearls and all. Her eyes were cold and flat as she stared at me.

I racked my memory for some clue as to how I'd ended up on the bed, but the last thing I remembered was being attacked. "Where am I? What happened?"

The blood indicated I hadn't imagined the Were mauling me, but why wasn't I in any pain? I felt rejuvenated, virile, damn near indestructible.

The lady vamp flipped open a cell phone and pushed a button, oblivious to my personal drama. "The human's awake," she said, and snapped the phone closed again. She twirled it between nimble fingers and stared at me some more. "This is the shifter's trailer. The one beside his bar."

No wonder I didn't recognize where I was. I had visited Sam at home before, but I'd never been in his bedroom. "I'm Sookie," I said, knowing I sounded like a complete idiot. Any moment, and I'd be babbling.

"I know who you are," she said, and not in a way that invited further conversation.

The door opened, and Eric stepped across the threshold wearing a Fangtasia shirt that matched my own. His blonde hair was pulled back from his face, and those blue eyes of his were blazing. My first thought was: He's magnificent. My second thought was: What the hell is going on? Where is Sam?

Eric gestured like the lord in the manor, and the lady vamp slipped out of the room, quietly shutting the door behind her. He wrapped his arms across his chest and stared at me in the same flat way she had. "Who was the she-Were?"

"I don't know for sure."

"She certainly knew you. She disemboweled you."

I wasn't about to raise up the shirt to check my abdomen (especially since I was going commando) but I figured I would've noticed if my viscera was waving hello. Besides, that curious virility was pulsing through me.

"Why aren't I injured?" As I spoke an explanation bubbled to the surface, but it fizzled out before I could catch it and take a peek.

"I asked you a question. Who was the she-Were?"

The last thing I wanted to do was rehash the Alcide fiasco, but if I was candid with the vamp he might return the favor. "I've been dating a Were for a few months. I found out he was married and broke up with him. I think the Were was his wife, Debbie."

Eric smirked. "I see."

My anger flared at that smirk. How was the situation humorous? I had almost been killed. "Are you going to explain what happened or are you going to stand there and laugh at me?"

His eyes narrowed into slits. "No one talks to me in that tone of voice, Miss Stackhouse."

His tone was lethal, downright terrifying. It reminded me not to forget what he was or what he was capable of. Yet I recalled hands cradling me, and I suspected those hands were his. The memories were slippery, but I was certain Eric had shown me great kindness while I was half dead. That kindness was a far cry from how he was behaving now, but surely I could give him a break after what he had done for me.

"You're right," I said, swallowing back my anger. "You saved my life, and I'm being disrespectful."

Up went that eyebrow again. I was beginning to suspect he did that when something surprised him. Perhaps he hadn't expected me to cave so easily. "Who is the Were you were dating?"

"Alcide Herveaux." A recollection came to me…the sound of the strangled mewl. "Did you hurt Debbie? You were the one that pulled her off me, right?"

"The she-Were is unharmed. Your shifter boss interrupted before I could punish her." He seemed disappointed he didn't have a chance to "punish her." What would his punishment entail exactly? I decided I didn't want to know.

The explanation I'd chased earlier bubbled into my awareness again, and this time I captured it before it could slide back into the abyss. My stomach rolled. "You gave me blood didn't you?" I asked, unable to conceal my disgust.

Vampire blood has magical healing properties. This was yet another thing I'd learned from Alcide. He might have treated me badly, but at least he taught me enough about the supe world to navigate through it and not be totally lost.

"You should feel honored. I don't donate my blood often," Eric said, clearly affronted by my attitude on the matter.

Bile coated the back of my throat. I had consumed blood - and vampire blood at that - but it had saved my life, so I couldn't very well be too disgusted. "Thank you, then," I said. "But was it necessary to undress me?"

"Yes." That smirk returned. I suddenly had a horrible image of me, utterly unconscious, naked and covered in blood. Eric could have done anything he wanted to me, and I wouldn't have known. And even worse, he thought it was humorous.

You'll catch more flies with honey than vinegar, a voice advised. The voice sounded suspiciously like Gran, so I again swallowed back my anger. For some reason, Eric could rile me up faster than anyone I had ever met. "I'd like my clothes back please."

"Your clothes were destroyed. Pam fetched you something to wear." He gestured to the edge of the desk, where there was a carefully folded pile of clothing - a very thin pile of clothing, all of it black. "Pam will escort you to the shower, and then we'll discuss what you're going to do for me."

It was my turn to narrow my eyes. "Excuse me?"

"I saved your life. That means you owe me."

Of course he would expect something in return. The night's events had certainly worked out in his favor. I sighed. "You want me to find the waitress."

He nodded, radiating smugness. He thought he had me over a barrel, but I meant to show him otherwise. I squared my shoulders. "If you refuse to turn the bad guy over to the police I'm not going to help you."

"You are a frustrating woman," he said, although he didn't seem entirely displeased. "What if I agreed to turn him over to your police? You would cooperate then?"


"Then it's settled."

I wasn't stupid enough to believe I could trust him one hundred percent, but I sensed he was the type who stuck to his word. I would help him, though I worried I would end up regretting it.

"Where's Sam?"

"He's on the phone with Debbie's packmaster giving an account of what occurred."

So Sam was squealing on Debbie. Good.

The door opened again, and there was the lady vamp from before. This was probably the Pam Eric mentioned. She must have been eavesdropping to have entered at the perfect moment.

"Make that a hot shower," Eric said, and ogled my breasts. "You look cold."

I had been feeling cold; chilly air must have wafted under the tent-like shirt. A quick glance downward showed me a pair of erect nipples, perfectly outlined under the fabric. I wondered if I should react with embarrassment, ire, or simply ignore him. I decided to ignore him. If I let him know how much he got under my skin, I would be giving him power over me.

"So I am," I said as nonchalantly as I could, and followed Pam into the bathroom. I wasn't sure why I needed an escort, but I was too eager for a bath to complain.

I must admit, I procrastinated. By the time I grudgingly left the shower, the water was about the temperature of an ice cube. I wrapped myself in a towel and examined the clothing I was supposed to wear. The dress was made of a thin, body-hugging material that would show off my every flaw. Not to mention how much cleavage and legs I'd flaunt in the thing. The g-string still had a tag on it and bore the Fangtasia logo; it was probably an item from the gift shop. There was no bra in sight.

"Great," I grumbled. "Well, at least the panties are brand new."

A knock startled me. "Hurry, Human," Pam said through the door. Apparently my lollygagging was testing her patience.

I quickly dried off and squeezed into the tiny dress. It was so short, if I bent over I'd moon the world. I felt naked without a bra, but the dress cinched my waist so tightly my cleavage was forced toward the heavens. It looked like a small butt had sprouted on my chest.

As I left the bathroom, Pam shoved a pair of stilettos in my arms. "Here."

I leaned against the wall for leverage and stabbed my feet into the pumps, glad there were no straps or buckles to deal with. Otherwise I would've had to bend down to put them on, and I didn't want to have to bend down in the short dress, especially with Eric around.

Pam and I went to Sam's living room. Eric was looming near the window, which overlooked the Merlotte's parking lot. I didn't peer through the glass, afraid I would see a pool of my own blood on the macadam.

Sam was in his recliner, but he was so tense I knew he'd be able to leap to his feet in a second if the situation called for it. "Sook," he said, and the relief in his voice was obvious. "Are you okay?"

"Physically I think I'm fine. What did the packmaster say?"

"Based on the description I gave, he said your attacker sounded like Debbie Pelt. Alcide's wife." He nearly growled at the mention of Alcide. "I didn't know he was married. If I did I would have told you right off."

I had wondered if any of my friends were aware Alcide was married. But Alcide lived in Shreveport, so it was doubtful any of them realized. "I know," I said. I didn't particularly care to talk about it further. I looked at Eric, who had been closely watching the exchange. "Let's get this over with."

"Get what over with?" asked Sam. He was at my side in a flash, as if to protect me from another attack.

"One of waitresses at Fangtasia is missing. Eric's paying me to help find her."

"Sookie…" Sam warned. "I don't think that's the best idea."

I didn't think it was either. "He saved my life - I owe him." And if I could rescue the waitress, at least my freaky power would be used for good. Besides, I needed the extra money. My driveway desperately needed to be re-graveled.

"Miss Stackhouse will be safe with us," said Eric. He didn't seem pleased Sam was interfering. "She is an asset."

"She's not an asset. She's a woman," said Sam.

Eric took me in, grinning rather devilishly as he did so. "Yes, she is."

I rolled my eyes at his deliberate attempt to rile up Sam. "The matter is settled. I already agreed to help."

"Then I'm coming with you." Sam's face was bent with determination. I recognized the look; it meant he would refuse to take no for an answer.

"The shifter is unwelcome," Pam said, and bared her fangs at him.

"Tell them Sookie. You need someone watching your back." He glared at Pam, refusing to back down despite her threatening behavior.

"Alright," I said. I didn't want Sam involved in case there was trouble, but he was too stubborn to talk him out of it. "I would prefer it if Sam accompanied me."

Eric peered at Sam - and it wasn't a very nice sort of peering - but finally agreed. "Meet us at Fangtasia. As soon as possible." He pulled open the door and stepped out into the night…only to rise into the air and fly off.

I blinked, thinking I must have been hallucinating, and hurried outside. I gaped at the sky, but there was no sign of the blonde vamp. "He can fly? Like Superman?"

"He can do many things," said Pam. I jumped, since I didn't realize she was behind me. So close in fact, a cool breath caressed the nape of my neck. "And he is highly skilled at all of them." She gave me a wink and strode over to a dark Mercedes. Determining exactly what color it was proved difficult in the dimness.

As Pam backed out of her parking space, Sam said he would drive. That was acceptable, seeing as how my car had been on its last leg for the last several years. We climbed into his truck, and I fidgeted with the dress, trying to pull it down. The fabric stretched, then snapped back into place like a rubber band.

"Wish I had time to change," I griped. Not that I'm a prude, but I usually don't wear clothing that was so revealing.

"There's time. Want me to drive you to your house?"

The notion was tempting, but I shook my head. "I don't want to keep Eric waiting. I am sort of his employee now."

Sam fired the engine. "Don't let yourself be lured in," he said, with alarming grimness. "Vampires can't be trusted. Believe me."