**A/N: In the last chapter we were able to visit Sookie after a large chunk of time had passed, but that was simply a peep into her life at that moment to show her progression, both good and…on-going. This chapter takes place several months later and is where “current time” in the story begins. Also: Hi Eric! Welcome to the fic!**
Eric and his annoying entourage of ass-kissers and tasty arm candy arrived at the highly touted Cultural Center for some sort of conference.
Being in Yuma fucking Arizona was not his idea – as though he had time to waste on this kind of bullshit.
Actually, he did, but that wasn’t the point.
He had a New Blood empire to run from afar so why the fuck did he have to be here? His time would be much better spent with those redheaded triplets in Croatia but no…between Pam’s whining and Jessica’s pleading, here he was, and he still didn’t know why.
Oh, she’d given him some bullshit about “expanding the business” and some sort of speech someone was supposed to give…or something. He’d stopped listening when she’d switched over to her “oh so logical” wheedling tone.
Pam…who had always excelled at the art of evasion when it came to coughing up information.
Pam…who, since becoming the exulted Queen of Louisiana, had perfected the art of redirection, too.
She was his brat, though, so he usually let her slide since he was confident of her loyalty and intentions despite her fascination with bad jokes and horrible puns, but her insistence that he attend this particular conference so he could “further his business interests” had caused a raised brow.
Boredom, however, had kept him from raising it too far even though there was no new business in America that he needed to bother with and since New Blood had cornered all possible markets years ago, he certainly didn’t need to be in Yuma fucking Arizona trying to “secure contracts” he sure as hell didn’t need.
He had an entire department of overpaid stuffed suits for that shit.
Secretly he suspected that his darling child simply wanted her Maker to be on the same continent as her Royally spoiled self for once, and he felt a brief twinge of something that vaguely resembled guilt.
He hadn’t been ignoring her for the past couple of years, but time spent physically near each other had become increasingly rare. He’d simply felt no need to be on the North American continent for the last…while.
Besides, he’d been busy, well, at least at first. They both had.
After getting the synthetic blood business off the ground and making the rounds and securing all the markets and quite a few markers, he had then simply…eased away.
Too much had happened in too short a time, and he needed a break that didn’t involve asinine sunbathing attempts atop boring snow-coated mountains.
He wanted…needed…something different, something…fresh – fresh blood, fresh faces, fresh accents, fresh pussy, fresh air, fresh…everything.
And so he had gone in active, enjoyable search of whatever it was that it seemed he wanted. He knew it was out there somewhere, waiting on the edge of his senses…knew if he searched for it long enough, hard enough, he’d find it.
He hadn’t found it yet, but he was having a hell of a blast looking!
For the first time in his life, he was entirely free. Nothing was holding him down,nothing was holding him back, nothing was holding him…nothing.
He was living as if in flight, living in the air, circling, soaring, diving,ungrounded, furiously free…
His beloved Maker was dead and while he still had Pam and Willa to consider, the one no longer had any true need of him and the other rightfully refused to have anything to do with him.
Willa’s feelings were understandable, and he knew he deserved it. The situation around her Turning and his later absence were filled with mitigating circumstances that couldn’t be expected to, and wouldn’t, soothe her feelings of abandonment, and he wasn’t sure what he could do that would.
He had made sure she knew that he would welcome her into his life with open arms; the rest was up to her.
That didn’t stop him from wishing that things were different.
But…they weren’t, and they wouldn’t be until or unless she decided otherwise.
So…his time was his own; his fortune was easily assured through the next dozen lifetimes so keeping office hours was in no way necessary. He had to sign papers once in a while and approve only the highest level proposals since he had glamoured people with abbreviations behind their names to handle the day to day and the night to night shit.
Odin knew he paid them well enough to tend to his business.
He had time to play and so play he did.
Eric snorted – hell, he’d still be playing then if Pam hadn’t manipulated-slash-guilted him into attending this stupid “Business in the Vampire World” conference at some trumped-up probably dusty gilded desert lily of a Cultural Center.
Because, what, he needed more business? More “culture“?
Since when did “Cultural Centers” have fancy hyped-up vampire hotels attached?
He rolled his eyes.
Business was what the stuffed suits were for.
He had suits, several closets of them considering how often Pam – shockingly – liked to have them ordered in his exact measurements and sent conveniently to his addresses…but just because he had them didn’t mean he wore them.
Currently clad in his traditional black jeans and black T-shirt with the “NB” logo emblazoned across his hard pec, when he strode to the check-in counter the only evidence of his ‘importance’ in the financial and undead worlds was the crowd of minions dutifully rushing to follow his long strides.
He smirked when the ladies, and a few gentlemen, at the front desk seemed to suddenly recognize him en masse. It wasn’t as though national and international magazines weren’t littered with his picture…oh, wait, they were…
Thankfully some of the publicity seemed to have died down over the last couple of years…well, he’d stopped paying attention to it at any rate. Why anyone was expected to suddenly “settle down” and “stop playing the field” just because they had fame and fortune was beyond him.
With a practiced toss of his long blond hair – grown out despite/because of Pam’s many and fervent objections – he inhaled the heady scents of the assembled staff’s rising arousal and knew dinner was planned for the night…after he shook off the grasping hands of his tag-along feed-and-fucks.
Were they all cursed with giggling problems or was his luck just that bad?
In short order the Supervisor of Guest Services had muscled her way in and had not only checked him in and checked him out but had offered in a throaty voice to tend to his every need.
Business as usual as far as he was concerned, Eric pocketed her proffered card and winked at one of the junior receptionists standing around gaping at him behind their flustered boss’ back.
At least that one didn’t smell like a cum cesspit.
The concierge had already been imperiously summoned to escort him down to the lower level wing that Queen Pamela had reserved for him and his semi-edible troupe, as she called them disdainfully.
As if she hadn’t enthusiastically partaken of the oh-so-willing portable meals in the past after declaring that “Daddy has great taste”…
After exchanging an eye-roll with the concierge en route to the elevator bank, with resignation Eric nodded for the man to hold the door for the giggling heels to catch up to them in the gilded box. The suits gladly followed the ostentatiously consumed bellhops pushing the luggage carts toward other cars.
Once they reached their destination, he had to admit that he wasn’t displeased with either the lay-out or the blandly refined color schemes. The place bragged that they had designed the lower level suites and wings to suit vampire sensibilities…at least they hadn’t gone with the generic red and black “undead” look.
He directed everyone to settle into their own quarters and hoped the food and lodging at this stupid conference were good enough to keep his human luggage from bitching. As he prowled though his own “presidential suite”, he had to agree with Pam that the place seemed to be adequately appointed, but what the hell would he need with three separate unattached bathrooms in one suite? Each bedroom had its own facilities as it was…
Eric cringed briefly – he could almost hear the squeals and shrieks of excitement from Cherri, Sherri, and Merri – or was it Sandi, Mandi, and Candi?
He could never remember, and why did they all have to choose rhyming fake names that ended with an “i”, anyway?
After this was all over, or sooner if they got on his nerves even more than usual, he’d have them delivered back to wherever it was they’d come from – one of his staff kept up with that kind of detail – then he was done with portable meals who couldn’t even remember their own fake names.
Eric checked the security details of his suite of rooms then flopped down on the sofa with the conference info packet in his hand.
He still wasn’t sure why Pam was convinced he needed to be there – hadn’t believed for a second whatever “reasons” she’d coughed up, but she’d been strangely insistent.
Hell, she’d even brought Jessica, promoted to her Second after the Bill-brat had finally ditched the increasingly obsessive Hoyt, on board the “drive Daddy crazy until he does what I want” game.
With a scoff Eric admitted if only to himself that in the end he usually give Pam what she wanted anyway, but it was fine. After the vompire episode she had finally grown up, he was proud to claim. She would always be a little arrogant, a little mouthy, but that’s why he liked her. She was always willing to be spoiled, to, but that was what progeny were for, right?
She was Pam, after all…and come to find out she still had a few surprises for her old Maker left up her Chanel sleeve.
After Bill’s death the vampire political situation in the U.S. had been up in the air for a while, but he hadn’t had a damn left to give about any of it. The few fucks he’d had left were reserved for Pam, Willa, and himself.
For the longest time, his sole focus after his progeny had been on “growing his business” as that one pretentious little shit had repeated so often that he’d gotten sick of both the man and the phrase and had drained the moron in a fit of righteous, and thirsty, irritation.
So he’d been a little easy to irritate after…everything.
Everyone had been on edge, right?
Eventually, however, the vampire powers that tried to be had started in with their attempts to come after him for “revenue”. He could quite easily have uprooted his holdings and permanently left Shreveport – the entire country, but he’d been strangely loathe to take that step.
It had felt too…final.
To his eternal shock, though, within the month Pam – his dear, darling, spoiled-rotten, “apple of her Maker’s eye” Pam, had taken over the state of Louisiana and among quite a few other things had had him permanently declared exempt from any and all authorities and attempted revenue theft while he maintained any sort of residence, either permanent or temporary, within her domain.
She was the fucking queen, she’d later said, therefore she could do whatever the fuck she wanted and her edict was law. The wannabe Authority 2.0 could go violently fuck themselves with all appropriate vim and vigor with sandpaper cocks.
She had done her time as a Princess and now it was time to be Queen.
Queen Pam certainly had a way with words. The Authority 2.0 had quietly disappeared shortly thereafter.
He had no idea how many pies she had her dainty fingers in, didn’t actually want to know, but no one had tried to touch him since. He’d missed having Pam around the office what few times he’d bothered showing up at any of them, but since he had highly-capable minions running the faux bloody empire, it didn’t matter.
Their phone conversations were frequent if usually short since she vastly preferred texting, and she was, as always, welcome at any of his holdings any time she wished to pay him a visit, queenly or otherwise.
Willa was welcome, too, but that didn’t seem likely anytime soon. Oddly, she had a better relationship with Pam than she did with her own Maker, not that she spoke all that often with Pam, either.
That he knew of, anyway.
The last he’d heard about his youngest progeny was that she was casually exploring her way somewhere west of Texas in some of those tasty but dusty states.
His reputation, both as a warrior and as one of the wealthiest vampires on the planet, would protect his Willa whether she realized it or not.
He’d had Pam pass along his current numbers whenever they changed, and knew she’d delivered the message that his door would always be open to her, that if she ever needed anything, all she had to do was say so and it would be hers. He’d set her up several very generous accounts in several banking systems so funds would be available to her no matter which country she found herself in, and she had several safe houses in her name across the globe so she could be as secure as possible come what may.
Maybe sometime before the next millennia she would forgive him…
He stuffed the rising torrent of regrets back into their neat little boxes and went about dialing up a snack whose name didn’t end in a vowel.
Maybe that sweet little brown-haired receptionist…
The next two nights passed in much the same way although he now knew slightly more about how advances in modern technology might affect his future business projects. He now had far more knowledge than he wanted about how badly the Queen of Idaho danced although she tried valiantly and enthusiastically. He knew he was considered the “celebrity” of the fucking conference and endured more pandering than any of the actual Monarchs in attendance…combined.
Of utmost importance and irritation, he also now knew that he had somehow been roped into attending some sort of fucking gala the next night because, thanks be to darling Pamela, he was apparently the guest speaker.
On behalf of the Queen of Louisiana his tight shapely ass…
No wonder she’d had a selection of his suits forwarded to his rooms.
As they were catering a large event that evening, Sookie had taken the current day off until she needed to go to Tasty Morsels’ home base to supervise the night’s routine that evening.
Although Misty was officially in charge of any anything arranged for vampire events, Sookie was more often than not needed behind the scenes in the catering kitchen and “launching” areas. Someone had to be there to help smooth any last minute hiccups, boo-boos, accidents, spats, ruffled egos, and moaning (several years ago) over deflated soufflés – which she had then promptly struck from all future menu options.
Fuck soufflés. Nasty things wouldn’t have traveled well at all anyway.
This routine worked out more or less fine although she begrudged the loss of her cherished “home by dark:thirty” rule on those nights. Her reading time now that she had rediscovered her love for light romances, her “staring at the weather channel but not really watching it” time, and her nail-painting time had suffered a little with the increasing number of vampire functions, but for the most part things were working out well.
Profits were certainly up, and a happy bottom line equaled a happy Sookie.
As she knew from personal experiences she’d rather forget, vampires demanded the best, the shiniest, the most exquisite products and services, and they weren’t shy about paying and paying well to have those expectations met, either.
Misty had raised a curious brow several times over the surprising amount of knowledge Sookie seemed to have about vampires and their practices and quirks, but had never asked any direct questions. She already knew they wouldn’t be answered.
Sookie almost felt badly for her somewhat-friend.
Once in a while a little voice would remind her that not all vampires were lying bloodthirsty pigs, that some of them were capable of deeper thoughts and feelings, but then she would remember Bill and how he had ended his own life in a perfect showcasing of that less-savory vampire stereotype.
He had wanted, and expected, her to use up her power, to waste that part of who she was, on him while giving in to his final arrogant demands.
The asshole had been too damn cowardly to simply step out into the sun. Oh, no, he just had to want her to change the very foundation of who she was on his behalf.
As if he hadn’t already done enough damage in her life.
At least not all vampires were like that, she would sternly remind herself more and more often.
She found it odd that she could think of Godric…and Eric…without that weird sickening fear crawling down her spine and activating Fairy Sookie.
Sookie stretched out a bit as she thought about Godric.
He certainly hadn’t been anywhere near what she’d call normal for a vampire. She suspected the ancient teenager had been a little off his primordially young rocker at the end, but sometimes that’s what happened when someone’s heart was too good, too pure, for the world around them.
The world sometimes became too much and too big and too small and the viable options narrowed down to hiding inside yourself, getting the fuck out, or…worse.
There for a while she hadn’t been sure which one would have been easiest, but she was happy in her life now.
But not…content, considering the increasing number of times thoughts of Eric intruded on her peace.
She hadn’t really thought much at all about him for such a long time. Sure, there’d been the odd thought here and there, but nothing deep, nothing that amounted to anything since the rest of her brain was busy keeping her feet on the ground.
The past year or so, more or less, though…
There weren’t any castles in the clouds in the sky, but she could sometimes remember the other occupant of that former refuge.
He sure as heck wasn’t perfect. His ass and his abs and his eyes might have been, but…
He was sometimes a long way from being perfect, but despite Bill’s best efforts, Eric hadn’t been what she now considered the “typical vampire” either.
Not really, not if she looked close enough.
Yeah, he had his frat-boy tendencies and could be a little high-handed, but he could also be considerate, kind if in an odd manner, and he’d also seemed to “get” her in a way that nobody else ever had.
Hell, nobody else had ever even tried.
But Eric had.
Thoughts of her former haven, her former Big Blond Viking, increasingly left an aching in her chest, too, one that reminded her too much of…back there…but there was a warmth attached to those thoughts and feelings that she missed.
At some point it had eventually dawned on her that maybe he’d cared more than she’d thought he had, but that he hadn’t known exactly how to show that care, at least, not a way that she understood.
It wasn’t as though he’d had a lot of practice in the romance department.
The sex department? He had perfected that.
But romance? Maybe not so much…and since she hadn’t had any real experience in that kind of thing either she was bound to have missed some clues or something along the way.
She knew that her experience with “romance” was skewed and had lost faith in her ability to capably judge a real partner, and figured that was one of many reasons she hadn’t wanted to settle down with any of her past FWBs.
Eric had been different from Bill, though. Bill had spewed pretty little, and not so little, lies in her ears and she had fallen for them like the affection-starved virgin she’d been. Eric…he might have, well, did lie a couple of times, but in retrospect he was either being his frat-boy self or, where that nutjob Russell was concerned, he’d been trying to get them out alive.
“Extenuating circumstances”, she believed it was called. She wished they’d talked more but, except when he’d lost his memory, even that had sometimes been off somehow between them.
Sometimes it felt as though they could read each other’s minds, but sometimes it was as if they’d been speaking two different versions of the same language and only every third word got through right. If she ever met up with him again she planned on asking for an interpreter, a cue-card guy, and a guide book on vampires.
Didn’t matter, though…he was gone…
The chiming of her alarm reminded Sookie to flip over so she could broil her front side under the sun’s still warm rays.
Surprisingly she’d managed to sleep until three that afternoon and while she knew the best tanning time had already passed, the sun would still have its revitalizing effect on her Fae side…and therefore her mood, too. She’d donned her skimpiest bikini and wrap and headed to the “private relaxation area” she’d created on the rooftop of her townhouse.
That area, separated from the adjoining townhouse by a stately concrete divider, was one of the main reasons she’d chosen to purchase the end residence. She had used it quite often during the past several years to help both her mental and physical well-being.
It seemed her Fae side needed the sun for more than just energy; while the light literally recharged and balanced her own light, it also balanced something in her psyche. The availability of healing sunshine was yet another example of how Yuma had been so good for her and she wondered why there wasn’t an active Fae presence in the area.
Maybe there was one and she just didn’t care enough to search it out.
As she settled in more comfortably, Sookie wished she could have afforded the time to come up earlier in the day, but she had needed her sleep for the coming night’s work. At least she was much more likely to get sleep these days.
For the longest time rest, peaceful or not, was a precious commodity she had desperately needed but could rarely find because sleeping meant having horrible nightmares. Sleep had quickly become the enemy and only crept up on her when she was unlucky enough to collapse from exhaustion.
Sometimes she’d dreamed she had murdered in cold blood the dark-haired lover of her dreams – the person she had allowed herself to believe that Bill had first been; several times she’d dreamed that she’d staked him just after he’d taken her virginity. Another couple of times she had staked him during marriage proposals or during their first Christmas Eve together. One time she had even staked his sorry ass during their first wedding dance.
It wouldn’t have been so bad except in these nightmares he’d been the sweet, tenderhearted lover she’d always wanted, and those “lover Bill” dreams had taken a dreadful toll on her psyche.
Eventually, however, came the monster dreams; dreams where “lover Bill” morphed into the hideous monster she hadn’t realized – until too late – lived below the surface. In those dreams he would sometimes Turn her without her permission, and often he would then murder her – again – after she unwillingly rose from the dead. Sometimes he would beg her to kill him until she reluctantly gave in only to betray her by mostly draining her then selling her weak body into slavery to his horrible queen.
In many such nightmares she fared far worse – torture, rape, betrayal… In several he would force her to watch by commanding her as her Maker to watch while he flayed Eric alive or did far worse to him, and then to her.
In time she noticed that the “lover Bill” nightmares had apparently played themselves out because only the “monster Bill” night terrors remained. Oddly she found she preferred it that way.
Well, once the episodes where he gratuitously tortured and murdered Eric had finally ceased. Those were the worst.
It was only after she had started soaking up the sun that even the “monster Bill” nightmares finally dwindled down to nothing.
She figured the sun must have baked out what filthy vampire blood the asshole had left in her system.
Over an hour later her alarm still hadn’t chimed again and the daylight was beginning to weaken. With a sigh she checked her phone…and cursed.
The damn battery was dead.
She rushed back downstairs and gasped when she saw how late it was. She didn’t have to try to access the messages she just knew were waiting on her – after previous experience with this particular crew she knew that a couple of feathers probably needed soothing already. Cursing the lack of time for a shower, she quickly changed out of her bathing suit, tossed on some work clothes, and headed in.
Two kitchen-busy hours later Misty arrived to escort the first wave of food-laden catering vans to the venue and witnessed the Sookie version of a frustrated meltdown in the making.
It was bad.
Long blonde hair coming loose from her formerly professional bun, eyes glaring with looks that could kill, and jaw tight as she barked out orders to the staff, Sookie looked minutes away from firing the entire crew.
Once the last batch of orders had been issued, Misty grabbed Sookie’s elbow and pulled her into the head cook’s office. To Sookie’s everlasting shock, Misty gave her one of her rare hugs complete with a couple of there-there pats on the back. She then grabbed the slowly calming blonde a bottle of the spendy vitamin-enhanced sweet tea she preferred from the office fridge, told her to chill, and left.
**A/N: So, what did you think?**