Bored To Death

Chapter 10

Bigger Fish To Fry

"Majesty, thank you for returning my call."

"Northman. You have a problem?" She sounded positively bored stiff.

"It seems as though Bill Compton has seen fit to interfere with my dealings. I've had no choice but to order him from the area."

"I beg your pardon? How has he interfered with you?"

"He has challenged me publically for what's mine."

"Specifically?"

"Sookie Stackhouse. In spite of multiple warnings from Sookie and me that she is indeed mine, he is insisting that I have stolen her from him."

"I see. Why is it that you didn't end him?"

"I didn't feel as though it would be a prudent act. He confronted me with more than a hundred human witnesses."

"Your pet was there?"

"Yes. He mentioned that he was sent by you."

"He did, did he?"

"Yes. It was just moments ago. 10 minutes, maybe."

"Tell me, how does the Stackhouse clan feel about vampire?" What the fuck does that have to do with anything?

"Jason Stackhouse is typically fearful. Sookie and her grandmother are far more accepting."

"So you've met the family? What of Linda?"

"Linda?"

"Yes. Linda would be Sookie's Aunt." No kidding.

I looked over to Sookie and she seemed alarmed at how much the queen knew about her family. "Majesty, Linda was taken by cancer a few years ago."

The silence on the other end of the line started to worry me. "Northman, be assured that Compton will be taken care of when he reports back to me."

"Thank you, Majesty. Is there something going on that I should be made aware of?"

"What are your intentions with your pet?" I fucking hate getting questions instead of answers.

"My intentions, even before the dispute with Compton, were to announce her as mine formally as well as my protection of her family."

"Would they be willing to take a bit of a vacation to come visit my Area?"

"Majesty, I can't help but wonder why."

"I can't help but remind you that you have no business questioning your queen, but you're lucky that I'm in an amiable mood and was planning to explain anyway... I have a pet, a child who has recently become melancholy. She misses her family. I sent Compton to gage how they might react to her new condition of being."

I risked a look over to Sookie and she was on the verge of tears.

"Majesty, I should explain the situation to them before I make travel arrangements. I don't believe that blindsiding them with this information would make their reaction to your pet…"

"My child, Hadley. You've met her." Oh shit.

"Yes ma'am. If they react badly to the shock, it could only make matters worse."

"Of course. You'll be in touch soon."

"Of course."

The moment my phone closed, Sookie slapped her hands over her mouth and began crying quietly.

Adele was concerned from having heard only my side of the conversation. "Eric? What's going on? How did the queen know about my little girl?"

Thankfully, Sookie reached into the backseat and took Adele's hand. "Adele, the queen sent Bill to Bon Temps because she wanted to see how you and your family feel about vampires… It seems that her new child has become homesick."

I saw the woman's eyes fill with tears and she whispered 'Hadley' into her hand.

Sookie unbuckled her safety belt and carefully climbed into the back seat to comfort the woman who just found out that she'd outlived another family member.

They remained huddled together in silence until we returned to the house.

Once I had helped Adele out of the back, she surprised me by wrapping her arms around my waist.

"Eric, I've been scared for years that she overdosed. That she died alone. That she was being abused or was too ashamed to come home after she left that rehab. I was afraid that she was a Jane Doe somewhere."

I pet the woman's head. "I met her when she was still alive and the queen was taking very good care of her even then. She's quite beautiful."

"You met her?"

"I've seen her on several occasions."

"Can we see her? Is that allowed?"

I gave her a gentle squeeze. "The queen invited me to bring you to visit. We can go as soon as I make travel arrangements if you want. How do you think Jason would feel about the situation?"

She let go, wiping her eyes with a half smile. "I'm not sure. You know what a dunder-head he is. I guess I should call him and let him know she's ok though."

'Ok'?

I gave Adele the privacy of the study and went on a search for Sookie. I found her in the den, staring blankly at the unlit fireplace and took a seat next to her.

"Sookie, are you alright?"

"I don't know."

I reached over, taking one of her feet and pulling it out from under her. Her eyes rolled back the instant I started to massage. "Adele seems to be taking the news that her granddaughter is dead pretty well."

Sookie laid her head back against the couch, her eyes closed. "Hadley isn't dead. She's better." Ok and better. The whole damn family is insane by societal constraints.

"Better than what?"

"The last time we saw her, she was strung out and stole Gran's checkbook so that she could forge a check for drug money. Gran caught her and talked her into going to rehab. Gran started doing laundry and I picked up extra shifts to help Aunt Linda pay for it, but she took off after a few days. That was… damn, I guess it's almost 5 years now."

"Are you angry with her?"

"I guess. It's not about the money though. Aunt Linda died not knowing. Hadley should have been there with her. To help her. To take care of her. But as always, Hadley was too wrapped up in Hadley to call home… Do you think Sophie-Ann will tell her that Aunt Linda is gone or let us do it?"

"I'll ask her when I let her know about our visit."

"Oh, hell! Pam is going to hate you forever!"

"That's not likely. I'll take her along and let her shop. I'd be more worried that Sam will urinate on your tires and porch…"

She giggled and used her free foot to nudge my leg as she told me to 'knock it off'. "Where will we stay? Is there a hotel there with light tight rooms?"

"I have a house down there. I'll have the maid ready it for us."

Adele joined us after a few minutes, her hands on her hips as she huffed a frustrated breath. "Well… I've decided that Jason must be brain damaged..."

Sookie and I both enjoyed her 'sudden' revelation.

"…He lost his ever lovin' mind when I told him, but he was disappointed when I told him we were going for a visit. He wants to see her, but he's afraid to take any time off since he's been pulled away from a site 3 times because of all this Rene nonsense."

"Then we are a caravan of four."

Sookie gave a nod. "What do we do about Tina?"

"You can take her with us, we can have Bobby tend to her here or take her back to Bon Temps for Jason to tend to. You ladies decide, but speaking of Tina reminds me… We need to discuss your babysitter."

Adele laughed. "Why would the cat remind you of my babysitter?"

"He is… 'special'. We'll need to secure the cat until he leaves. He's… different?"

"A vampire that's allergic?"

"No. A vampire that prefers cat blood."

They both gasped.

I chuckled at them. "He'll behave because I'll tell him to, but I didn't think you'd be able to resist. He's young by vampire standards; only about 30. When a human dies, there is a small window for them to be turned after the fact. The further into the window the process is started, the more varied the results. Bubba's window may have been closed before he was turned. It doesn't help that he died of an overdose. He's very simple, but takes orders well and he's corrupted enough that he prefers feline to human. It isn't often that he remembers who he used to be fondly though."

Sookie moved to put her other foot in my lap, wiggling it as my 'hint' to shift my attentions. "Who did he used to be then? Like a Kennedy?"

I smiled at her. "He likes talking about growing up in Tupelo, Mississippi, but…"

Adele gasped, catching on right away. "NO!"

"I thought you'd enjoy it."

"That would explain the sightings!"

"Bubba is a very closely guarded secret. Most of the sightings are red herrings organized so that he is safe in another area."

"My babysitter is…"

"Yes ma'am."

"Sakes alive!"

"If you still don't want a bodyguard…"

"You hush!"

Sookie and I shared a look and laughed at how giddy Adele was.

Adele left us to change and tend to Tina before closing her into her bathroom and Sookie pulled her feet away so that she could crawl over to me.

I reclined, stretching my legs out so that she was lying on top of me.

"Is that how it normally goes? A pet becomes a child?"

I was surprised that she'd waited so long to ask. "No. Normally a vampire keeps a pet for feeding and fucking and doesn't think enough of them to want them around for long. It isn't a courtship. If the queen turned your cousin, she must be very fond of her."

"Is that what it was like when you turned Pam?"

"No."

"Does a child have to obey his maker?"

"Yes. Unquestioningly. Makers have a certain power over their children. They are responsible for their children's actions. That is why I told Bill that his maker would be fined too. She can punish him far more harshly than I could. She could end him for that matter and no one could interfere."

"You could kill Pam and no one could say boo?"

"Not that I would, but yes."

"Do you want to turn me?"

"Do you want to marry me?"

"What? We just met!"

I smiled at her. "Exactly. I don't consider you mine because I want a willing donor at my beck and call. I enjoy you, your company. You being mine means something entirely different to me than most vampire."

"Pam sounded surprised that you weren't going to share me with her."

"Pam keeps several pets. She has no attachment to any of them. I suppose you can call them 'booty calls'. She does. I don't keep pets as a rule."

"Never?"

"I've had a few for various reasons. Necessity mostly. Not because I particularly enjoyed them. If I were fucking Bobby instead of paying him, he'd be considered a pet."

She was quiet for a moment. "Eric, are you still suspicious of the queen?"

"It's in my nature to be. Yes."

"Hadley knows. I told you I've always had it. She could have told the queen about her crazy cousin who can read minds."

"I assumed as much."

"What's next then?"

"Since you are mine, there's nothing she can do. Vampire tradition states that you are my property, so if Sophie-Ann wants your services, she'd have to go through me to negotiate your compensation. It would make me your manager of sorts, but I can't imagine her need for your services often. She might want you to screen her employees once in a while. That's only if she knows of your ability though."

She grunted, laying her head down on my chest. "Vampires are a pain in the ass."

I laughed. "I'm very aware of that. I'm not fond of many myself."

"I'm being serious, Eric."

I gave her a squeeze, knowing too well what a nightmare the underbelly of vampire society can be. "I won't let anything happen to you."

"I'll be less tempting because I can't read vampire minds, right?"

"More than likely, yes. We can glamour most information from humans."

"But you have to ask the right questions, right? Like tonight, if you asked 'have you ever stolen from me?' they'd answer yes or no. But if I ask, their answer would be no, but I could hear that so-and-so steals tips, that they stole from other jobs. If it's yes, I'd know right away that they're stealing drinks or didn't pay for a t-shirt once… that kind of thing."

"I told you that you are valuable."

"Pam didn't believe you when you told her."

"You are rare and valuable… so is your ability."

"That makes for one hell of a bargaining chip, huh?"

"Sookie, I'm not…"

"Not you. The jackass who tried to 'win' me back."

"What are you getting at?"

"He's known for about a week now. If the queen sent you to scout me… then you would have already told her that I'm a mind reader, right?"

I nodded. "In theory."

"Unless you were told that you were keeping an eye on a normal family. Then you'd think you have a goldmine, or maybe a political springboard in your hands."

"Sookie, you know that I didn't…"

"Eric, I already agreed to work for you and you're as high up the ladder as you can get unless you want to be king and you don't need me for that."

"You think that he was putting up such a fight because he wanted to exploit you?"

"He threatened to go over your head and when you called his bluff he backed down. He tried to frighten me. He tried to repulse me. He accused you of things you could be jailed for in front of law enforcement. He wanted to 'see' me last night. He wanted a 'moment alone' with me tonight. I wonder how quickly he could he could have drained me and gotten us into the ground... Basically I trust him about as far as I can throw him. I'd be willing to bet that he didn't have car trouble. I bet he got dirtier than he thought he would, digging." 5 minutes. 5 minutes alone and he could have drained her and covered them if the hole was ready. If he knocked her unconscious, I might have assumed she was fine with being alone with him long enough…

I caught myself staring. "That's what you were concentrating on, when I came in?"

She nodded.

"How did you get to the conclusion you did?"

She shrugged. "Things weren't adding up. I kissed him once. We're even-steven on the saving each other's asses thing. We'd only talked a few times and he was standoffish and weird. He called me naïve and stupid to my face. God only knows what he was thinking. He acted like he was humoring a kid and then forgot about me that night at Fangtasia. And then, like someone flipped a switch, I'm his and he's not letting it go… blah blah blah. It just didn't sit right."

"Well, that is one hell of a plot dissection for a naïve infant."

She grinned. "We're busy tonight… Can you call the disco triplets out in Monroe and have them look for a hole… or would that be wrong?"

I smiled, trying not to laugh. She really was much more than I bargained for. "Why them?"

"They know where Bill lives, they know his scent. It's close for them. If the three of them fan out they could cover the ground between Bill's and the Community House in about an hour. And they might have some gossip they'd be willing to share since your pet saved them from sino-virus."

"You what?"

She giggled into my chest and looked up at me with doe eyes. "When they were at Bill's, they had a couple of fangbangers with them. Meals on Wheels, I guess. Anyway, Bill was about to feed from one, but I heard him thinking about having it. None of them knew. I'm sure Jerry has since had an accident of some kind, but… well, it might be worth a mention since I'm kinda not a secret anymore."

I pulled her up to my level and gave her a kiss. "You're full of surprises."

She smiled. "The only reason you're getting away with that is because I want another kiss."

"Just one?"

She shook her head, stretching to kiss me at first then adjusting her legs to straddle me.

In only a few minutes, we'd tangled ourselves together on the couch and I decided that the 45 minutes we had was enough time to have some fun.

I pulled my hands out of Sookie's hair, sitting up with her and no sooner than I did, she pulled away from me and shot to the other end of the couch.

My dick ached, my fangs ached and she was gone. I was cold again and it was all I could think about.

I stared at her as she tugged her skirt to cover as much of her as possible. She nodded, seemingly trying to bring my attention to…

I turned to look at the doorway.

Bubba.

"Wonderful timing, Bubba. What did I tell you about knocking?"

"Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt your dinner, Mr. Eric." Mother fucker had all the timing of a death bed lottery ticket.

"This isn't my 'dinner'. Bubba, this is my very good friend, Sookie. Sookie, meet Bubba."

Sookie smiled as she stood up. "Very nice to meet you, Bubba… Eric, do you need me to dress a certain way?"

"What? You're leaving?" No, no, no… Fuck.

She rolled her eyes, kissing my cheek before walking away.

"Fine. That robe would be nice."

She giggled as she disappeared around the corner. "Nice try. I'll let Gran know her bodyguard is here."

"There is a cat in the house, but it is a pet not a snack. Your dinner will be waiting behind Fangtasia later. Understand?"

He smiled at me. His lights were on, but only children were at home. "Sure! Thanks!"

"Alright, tonight you'll be keeping an eye on things while Sookie and I attend to some business. Adele Stackhouse will be here. They are staying with me because there is a human threat. She's a very nice woman. I think you'll enjoy her company as much as I do."

"She won't be scared none to be here with me? Should I stay in the yard?"

"No. She's anxious to meet you. She was raised in the country during the depression too."

His eyes lit up. "Really?"

I nodded. "And she loves to talk about the past. The two of you can sit and reminisce all evening."

"So you don't expect trouble?"

"No. To the best of my knowledge, the threat doesn't know where to find them. This is…"

"Just in case." He seemed very proud of himself that he'd caught on.

'Miss Adele' and Bubba got along famously from the minute she took his hand to shake it and then towed him to the study with her.

They barely acknowledged us when Sookie and I said our goodbyes.

Sookie laughed about it most of the way to Fangtasia.

It was barely after 1 o'clock when we arrived (thanks to being interrupted). As I opened Sookie's door for her I whispered, "30 seconds. We'll be in my office for 30 seconds before Pam barges in. Being out of the loop is eating at her core."

She smiled sheepishly. "Do you want me to make myself scarce so you can fill her in?"

"No. You're the loop… and you're not allowed out of my sight in those shorts."

She looked worried. "What's wrong with them?"

I ran my hands over her ass, pulling us together. "Absolutely nothing. They're perfect."

26 seconds.

The door flung open and slammed shut and Sookie started laughing hysterically.

Pam scowled at us both, once I started laughing too. "What's so damn funny?"

"Pamela, you've just proven how predictable you are."

"Asshole."

"I missed you too."

"Now will you please tell me why you needed Bubba?"

I smiled at her, sitting on the couch next to Sookie. "That would be the most recent installment in a long story. Do you want to hear it out of order?"

"You're filling me in now!?" She plopped herself into a chair across from me, folding her arms. "Good, go."

"Sookie managed to identify the killer when I was at Merlotte's. That is why we came here that night. The 'customer' we pulled into the office that night was an undercover cop. I had Sookie pose as Dian and tell the detectives that some vampire are telepathic. Shreveport PD took the cases from Bon Temps based on what 'Dian' told them and have put together a case. At the moment we are waiting for an arrest to be made so that they can return to their home safely."

"You've had them at your house?"

"Yes."

"That makes 5." Leave it to her to take from all the information she'd just been given that now 5 individuals know where I live.

I tilted my head, annoyed with her. "You're not focusing."

"You're not done?"

"No. In the meantime, Bill Compton has proven himself to be an enormous pain in the ass. We discovered tonight that the queen sent him to 'keep an eye on' Sookie and her family. The claim is that he wasn't told about her telepathy, just that she might not be completely human. We believe that after he discovered her ability he decided to try to monopolize on it, possibly turn her so that he has control of her. I'm waiting to hear back from the 'disco triplets'. They're on a search for evidence as we speak."

"Disco triplets? Malcolm, Liam and Dian?"

I nodded, Sookie giggled that I'd used her nickname for them.

When Pam was done laughing, she tried to get back to business. "So she's interested in the Stackhouses, why?"

"As it turns out, Sookie is Hadley's cousin, Adele being their grandmother."

"NO FUCKING WAY!"

Sookie raised an eyebrow at Pam. "I know, right! It's freaking crazy."

"Does your grandma know?" I might have been enjoying their ease with each other too much.

"We call her Gran. Yeah. You have no idea how relieved she was. We've been worried about Hadley for years."

"Relieved?"

"Well, yeah. We were worried she was turning tricks for drug money or in jail or dead, well… you know what I mean…"

Pam switched her focus to me. "This is a joke? You're playing a joke!"

I shook my head. "No. No joke... Since we're still waiting for the police to take care of the arrest, Bubba is currently keeping Adele company since she was too tired to join us. She had a very busy day. For now, we need to make travel plans. The Stackhouses are invited to New Orleans for a reunion."

"You're leaving town?"

I rolled my eyes at her. "Not without you, brat."

She lit up instantly and Sookie giggled.

"What? I suppose I'm being predictable again?"

Sookie and I both nodded. "Since you know how Sophie-Ann is, I need you to contact your boutique pets. Have them shop… basically a complete wardrobe for Sookie and Adele since there isn't any way to predict what the queen will require of us…"

Pam was staring.

"…Like you don't already have everything you need!"

"With everything going on, I won't have much time to pack… accessorize…" She was whimpering like a neglected child.

"You are fucking impossible! Fine… you can arrange new formals and semi formals. You'll pack your casuals. Sookie and Adele weren't prepared though and will need a full range."

She smiled on her way back to work, proving what a brat she is.

"Is that what she's usually like? She was all kinds of fierce the first time I saw her."

"That's Pam. She can scare the rust out of a junkyard, but for the most part she's my spoiled brat."

She smiled and shifted to straddle my legs. "Speaking of spoiled… We don't need a full wardrobe. You're going a little overboard."

"If you want to be a brat about things too, then we'll have the maid return anything you didn't need when we leave. But the queen is very particular about proper attire."

She smiled, proving what a brat she could be. "Ok then. I can go along with that… What still needs to be done?"

"I need to call the queen and the maid needs to be given warning."

"Were you serious about not letting me out of your sight?" Yes.

"Why?"

"Because I was thinking that while you make your phone calls I could go sit at the bar and start poking."

I ran my hands over her ass again, rubbing her against me. "No."

She leaned against my chest, nuzzling into the side of my neck. She whispered between nibbles, "If I can catch something while they're trying to figure out why they're being held late, then we'll get home early."

"No."

"I can tell you right now that Bruce didn't do it and doesn't know who did."

"How?"

"He's sitting in his car just a few feet away, sobbing. He fought with his wife about coming out so late. He's sure you'll blame him and that the 'last' thing he said to her was angry. 'If I could prove who took their money, I'd turn them in'."

"You're still not going anywhere."

She giggled against me. "You have the balls to call me and Pam brats… Fine…" She backed away from me, taking my phone from my desk and handing it to me. She turned the chair around and put her ass between my legs, leaning over the back. "You'll rub and call, I'll poke brains. I want to hurry home and see what else is on that list."

I ignored my phone and pulled her back as I sat up. "Who says my office isn't on the list?"

"I'm using my right to veto if it is. Since this is where you bring your relief, it would equate to doing it in a porta-john for me." Oh.

"It bothers you?"

"That you take sex and blood when it's thrown at you like Mardi Gras beads? No. It would bother me to feel like them." What bothered me was that she was speaking of them in the present tense and I couldn't put my finger on why.

"Point taken."

"You're irritated."

"Not at your opinion."

"You want to talk about it or make your calls to avoid it?"

Fucking brat.

By the time I was done with giving the maid her to-do list and speaking to Sophie-Ann, Sookie seemed like she was nearly asleep.

She hadn't made a single noise and had been perfectly still for more than 20 minutes. She hadn't even shown that she had an opinion when Sophie-Ann explained that she would tell Hadley about Linda's death so that Hadley wouldn't be expecting to see her mother.

I tossed my phone onto the couch. "We're all set. A car will be waiting at sunset to take us to the airport."

No answer.

"Sookie?"

She gradually lifted her head, and slowly started her way out of the office. I followed her as far as the threshold to the bar floor and watched her sit at the bar.

Pam came to stand by me where I was watching in the doorway. "What's happening?"

"I'm not sure. I made some calls while I was giving her a massage. I thought she was asleep, but when I tried to get her attention she just… wandered away."

"Is she retarded?"

"Shut up. Give her a minute."

We watched as Sookie seemingly waited for service.

She thwarted the advances of 3 drunks by telling them that she was a man, and then a fourth by explaining that she was really a woman.

Long Shadow gave her a fangy grin that he almost didn't survive. "Nice to have you back, Blondie. What can I get you?"

She cut her eyes and giggled. She was flirting with him. That shit needed to stop. "It's nice to be back. Can I get a cherry coke and an application?"

She watched him, returning his looks, pissing me off… Pam thought it was hilarious. When he returned with her drink, he held an application out. "You can save yourself the trouble and just audition."

Sookie blushed as she took the piece of paper. "I'm not sure how well I'd do. I think I'd need some on the job training."

The mother fucker licked his lips as he slid a pen to her. "Make sure I can read that phone number."

Sookie filled the form out slowly, waiting for Long Shadow to be distracted before she took her drink. She walked towards us with a raised eyebrow and we followed her back to the office and closed the door.

"Y'all can send everybody home. It's not the staff."

"Who could have taken the money then?"

Sookie took a sip of her coke as she sat on the couch. "Your partner."

"Long Shadow?"

She nodded. "I got a bead on all of the employees. The general consensus is that they couldn't figure out what the meeting was for unless you were laying people off for a re-staffing. None of them were nervous. Belinda was the only one who wasn't curious. She was just hoping that if the meeting ran late enough that Long Shadow and Ginger wouldn't keep her up all night like they usually do. When I tried to read Ginger… Dude, I'm surprised she can tie her shoes."

Pam snorted. "We all are."

"She's not stupid though. Half her brain is gone. She's been glamoured a lot. A LOT, a lot. Y'all were too busy watching me to see the hairy eyeball Ginger was giving us. When she saw him flirting with me, she had a thought about mentioning something to one of you… When Long Shadow gives her the bank bag to make the deposit, she gets an envelope to deposit for him. Meow. Saucer of milk, party of one. Anyway… He probably glamours her routinely, but hasn't had a chance to do it tonight."

"You're positive?" I knew my Pam… 'you're positive' was cover for humoring me.

Sookie smirked at Pam. "According to Ginger, I'm not your type because you're going through a 'brunettes with athletic builds phase'… Mia Hamm, Gabrielle Reece. And Eric prefers 'bics'… you know, disposables. So Long Shadow would be free to kick her to the curb and replace her with the new blond."

"Shut up!"

I started laughing at the way Pam's mouth was hanging open as she looked back and forth between us. "I know I play the occasional joke… but I was pretty clear. Telepath."

Sookie smiled, unphased by Pam's disbelief. "You should catch her before he has the chance. She still remembers some of it."

Pam finally snapped out of it and walked out to retrieve the embittered bimbo.

Sookie sat on the couch and quietly sipped her coke while Pam and I interrogated Ginger. Sure enough, Long Shadow had been fucking with the numbers. This week he'd had Ginger deposit 5 grand into his personal account.

Pam escorted Ginger through the back door so that she wouldn't be threatened by Long Shadow and I called him into the office.

"Bruce called me this morning."

He hadn't bothered sitting down. "What'd he want?"

"To tell me that someone is stealing from Fangtasia."

"Do you think it was Pam?"

"No. I'm sure it wasn't Pam."

"Well? I'm not a fucking mind reader! Spit it out!"

I chuckled. "You're not, but Sookie is. You robbed me of $5,000 this week alone." Sookie crunched a piece of ice and gave him a little wave.

"You believe her over me?"

I nodded. "According to Bruce you've been able to pilfer over $60, 000."

"Bullshit! You're trying to get me to confess to something I didn't do!"

Sookie set her now empty glass on the side of the couch. "The bank bag is dark grey with a yellow stripe across it. Your handwriting is really small and squished, but your numbers are easy to read. Ginger thinks your zeros look like peaches. When she mentioned it, you told her that it was peaches that looked like your zeros."

He must've remembered the conversation well. Without warning, he lunged at Sookie and I smelled her blood instantly.

In the second it took for me to grab the stake from my drawer and get over my desk to shove it into him, he'd managed to rip into her arm.

Pam rushed into the office as I helped Sookie out from under the heap of rot. She seemed like she was in shock, standing slowly as pieces of Long Shadow slid out of her lap.

Sookie's knees tried to buckle when she noticed the large gouge in her arm. "I don't know where my blood ends and his begins, Eric." I was hard, my fangs were down and standing still was the only way for me to not jump on her.

"Sookie, did you swallow any?"

"Some…" Her eyes finally made it to mine. "…What does that mean?"

"It should be interesting. He was much older than Bill. The side effects…" I trailed off, hoping that she wasn't worried about further heightened senses.

She locked into a worried look. Her eyebrows drawn together as she held up her arm to examine it. Her blood was running from the wound as she held it out to me. "Do you, I mean…"

I took her uninjured hand, leading her to the locker room. "We need to clean him off of you... Pam, she needs something to wear."

I untied her shoes while the shower warmed, doing my best to be gentle when I lifted her feet. I reached up and unbuttoned her shorts, helping her to step out of them. "Eric? I'm sorry."

"Don't be. He attacked you." My dick twitched with every pulse of blood from her wound.

"Did I do something? Is it the blood?"

"It's the blood." Just saying it caused a twinge in my fangs as I stood to help her remove her shirt.

She nearly shoved her arm in my face. "Then help me out, will ya!? I'm getting blood everywhere and it hurts."

More than surprised by her offer, I was fighting guilt, blood lust, worry, bloodlust…

Sookie's arm had already started to bruise. She winced the first time I touched the wound, and the second. She pinched her eyes shut as I began, backing into the impossibly small shower stall while keeping her arm out for me to tend to.

The gash had slowly started to close and the water in the shower had finally started to run clear. Sookie seemed to be in a much less shaken state when she stepped out of the shower.

She smiled as I held a towel out for her. "Thank you."

"How are you feeling?"

She stretched up to kiss me. "Naked. Can we finish up so we can go home?"

10 minutes. It felt like forever, but in reality it only took 10 minutes to thank Bruce for his 'attention to detail' and explain to Pam to put a 'closed until further notice' sign on the door and to be at my house as soon as she rose tonight. I would have reminded her to make the call about the clothing if she hadn't done it the moment she stepped out of my office the first time.

We'd been in the car for only a few minutes when my phone started to ring. Even though I was expecting the call, it pissed me off to no fucking end that I had to let go of Sookie's hand to answer it. Until of course, her little hand found a home on my thigh.

Liam, petrified of me and for good cause, spent less than a minute telling me that the search party found a 'hole for two' just south of the halfway point between the Community House and Compton's house. Bill's bathtub was streaked with mud as were his floors and it already seemed like Bill had left town. He assured me that pictures were on the way and thanked me for thinking of them when I needed a favor. Ass kiss.

Sookie thought it was worth a laugh though. He was much more cordial with me than he had been when she met him… She declared that she didn't want to know why.

I only let her out of my sight so that she could get into her clothing instead of explaining to Adele why she came home barefoot in a Fangtasia T-shirt.

When I walked into the study, Bubba looked up from a book with a huge retarded grin on his face. He was reading Chicken Soup since Adele had dosed off.

I carefully lifted her, taking her to deposit her in bed and tuck her in.

When I got back to Bubba, he was still wearing his grin. "You was right about Miss Adele! I like her plenty."

I grinned at the simpleton. "She's a very kind woman."

"She invited me to visit her house, long as I promised to never mind her cat. Said she's got an extra room for when I'm passing through. We got on like fishing buddies. It's weird."

"I'm still getting used to it myself."

"Why they alright with us? She's no kind of scared 'a me. Your Sookie, she like that too?"

I nodded. "She is."

He snorted as he got up. "Don't see that much… I had fun though. I'll bodyguard 'em whenever."

I patted his shoulder as he walked by. "Thank you, Bubba. Pam assures me that your supper is waiting."

He smiled and darted for the door, leaving without another word.

I was standing in my house and it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks that I might miss Sookie. Ridiculous. She'd been with me nearly every waking minute for 4 days. I should be uninterested in her by now.

Yet, somehow, when her arms went around me from behind I found myself identifying 'happiness'. Another feeling that I'd lost sense of over the years.

I put my arms over hers. "How are you feeling? Better?"

She hummed against my back. "Clean. So yeah. Much better."

"If I had known he'd go after you…"

She snorted. "You'd have had me wait in the other room… If I'd known, I wouldn't have provoked him. Hindsight. Thank you for keeping me safe."

"I hardly kept you 'safe'. He could have killed you."

"But he didn't… Eric? What was up with you… you know, right after?" If anything would scare her off, this would…

"It's called bloodlust. I was doing my best to…" How the hell do I finish?

"Not fuck me to death?"

"That's one way to put it."

I felt something close to panic when her arms pulled away from me. When I turned, planning to catch her, explain, apologize… I wasn't given the chance.

Her hand was waiting to take hold of my head and pull me down.

When she pulled herself away, seemingly only for air she smiled. "Humans don't get that though."

I growled a 'no' into her neck as I lifted her, finding that she hadn't bothered with wearing anything under her robe.

She circled my hips with her legs. "Then explain why I was wishing that shower was bigger."

With her hands working between us, my belt and pants were open by the time we reached my room.

"Uh oh."

I almost asked what was wrong when I noticed that her eyes were locked on mine. She was already feeling the effects of Long Shadow's blood. "Well, now we know. Yes?"

She giggled against my neck. "I guess so."

"At least you can see what I'm up to now."

She whispered into my ear, "It doesn't matter. I trust you."

There's no way to explain what that simple statement did to me. It wasn't like I'd ever heard it before, in any tongue.

Shaking off the strange sensation it left behind proved to be harder than I thought.

Her innocence was still very much noticeable, but perhaps it was the bolus of vampire blood that changed her energy. It made me look forward to giving her mine.

Her legs seemed to hold her better as she experimented. She seemed to learn quickly that she really enjoyed grinding back and forth, much to my delight…

She enjoyed it enough that I had the claw marks on my chest to prove it for a while.

More than anything, I loved the way her tight little body felt around me. Her eagerness to learn aside, the way it felt to slide into her…

Hot, slick, firm and feeling her breath on me, gasping for more or begging for 'a minute'.

Learning her cues instead of 'just finishing'.

I couldn't remember another time that I'd bothered.

It really had been a great deal of long years.

I couldn't imagine getting bored with her. I tried.

Just as she had yesterday, she snuggled into my side with her leg hooked over mine. If it had been a clingy gesture, I'd have moved. She just seemed to like being close to me.

Her breath fell over my arm as she let a wide yawn. "Master, huh?"

"Sorry?"

"I give you 'mine' and you jump to 'master'. I see how it is."

"It was only…"

"Shut up. I know it was you being official… But I might start calling you my 'boyfriend' to humans if it gets out of hand."

"Boyfriend?"

She yawned again. "Sweetie pie."

"I don't think so."

"Snookums."

"Hell no."

"Honey bunch." She could not be serious.

"Sookie."

She giggled sleepily into my side. "No… that's my name."

Sookie's breathing was slow and even, her heart was beating a hypnotic tempo… And it was ruined by my phone.

"What now, brat?"

"Are you with her?"

"Yes. Why?"

"We need to talk."

"She's sleeping."

"Then go to your room."

"Not that I need a mother, but I'm already in my room."

"You… She's in your resting place?" Nosey.

"What do we need to talk about, Pam?"

"Hot Rain."

"Why do we need to talk about him? His child was stealing from me. End of story."

"He won't be happy that you killed his child in defense of a human."

"Not only is she my human, she's valuable. I would have killed him for the theft regardless. How have you managed? Did you get everything done?"

"Yes. You aren't going to talk to me about it."

"Not at the moment. I don't want to wake her."

"You know you could move away from her." And leave her warmth?

"No. I'll see you tonight."

As I started Bobby's email, Sookie stirred.

Not hardly awake, she tightened her grip and barely muttered. "Mmm. She's worried that you're keeping things from her. She'll blame me. Just tell her you like me."

I kissed her forehead, trying to dismiss the suggestion. "What makes you think I like you?"

She snorted, half smiling with her eyes still closed. "Mmm. Sorry. What was I thinking? I almost forgot I was falling for an asshole."

Falling for? As though I hadn't been speechless enough when she asked me about bloodlust… I stared at the top of her head unsure of what to say, if there was anything I could say.

It didn't take long, only a minute, maybe two, for Sookie to seem fully asleep again. As I ruminated over her sleepy confession she shifted little by little. I'd wanted to question the veracity of her 'cool side of the pillow' comment, but as her trust for me and the idea of her falling for me stirred thoughts unknown to me, her head moved a few inches, leaving a warmth behind to start a new one.

I was lost in her…

And almost waited until too late to finish Bobby's list.

Bobby,

Your list for the day.

Canterbury Tales is still on your list. Now I'm adding that I want a first edition of each of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books.

I'll be traveling with the Stackhouse ladies tonight. They'll need appropriate traveling apparel as well as luggage. They will be received by vampire of station. Don't be a fucking idiot. If they look like shit, I look like shit and I will beat you as though I'm waiting for candy to fall out.

Contact the mortgage and utility companies that service the Stackhouse residence. Make sure that all of the bills are up to date and paid for the rest of the year. Sookie's leave of absence has become longer than expected. Make sure that there will be no bill collectors contacting them when they return.

Bananas. Plush, scented candles, recipe books, etc. Anything banana themed. I want to start a stockpile. In addition I want you to search the internet for banana gifs, jpgs, mov files... Start by arranging for immediate delivery of a pallet of real bananas to Bill Compton c/o the LeClerq Royal Suites, New Orleans.

Not that you've earned it, but since I'll be in New Orleans for the next few days, you should have some time to relax. You'll have no chores except to complete the tasks I'm still waiting for. Pam's bracelet, books, pool repairs, bananas, tending to the Stackhouse homestead. Have the file on Bartlett Hale waiting in my safe when I return.

One final note: I'm not sure what you did to make such an impression on Maxine Fortenberry, but as she sang your praises, she mentioned that you could 'be the May to her December anytime', whatever that means. Humans are strange. I gave her your contact information. Good luck with that.