A/N: This chapter is brought late to you by homemade chicken broth, which enabled a human made bleary by allergies, bronchitis, and flumonia to somewhat concentrate on her fingers as she attempted that “creative thinking” thing. I hope it worked out well…
Eric led Sookie back down to the basement and this time the smell was even worse. It seemed James had added to the stench, and she had to swallow back her gag. “Improved ventilation wouldn’t be a bad idea, Boss,” she muttered as she took her seat near the drainer.
Half an hour and not much new information later, Sookie wearily plopped down in Eric’s booth and gladly ordered her old standby – a gin and tonic. She’d been making a point to try new drinks, but sometimes she just wanted the “tried and true” comforts.
She was glad that Eric and Pam had things to discuss in his office because she needed a chance to catch her breath. Using her telepathy on purpose was more tiring than she’d thought, but it was more rewarding, too.
While she hadn’t seen any further references to the man in the cheap suit, she had discovered that James’s brother Robbie was deeper into the draining business than they’d thought, and that he was knee-deep in debt. James himself really was looking for a way out…he simply wasn’t looking all that hard.
Felicia was the first vampire he’d been around while they were actively being drained, and the sickening realities of the situation were hard for him to stomach…but not so hard that he was willing to forego the “finder’s fee” for bringing in Pam or Eric. James didn’t like seeing the blood coming out of her body, but the fact that a vampire was being harmed didn’t bother him a bit. He also had an odd addiction to comic books and Lana Turner. Both vampires had given her the oddest looks when she’d shared that tidbit.
Eric had surprised her several times during that half-hour. When the “interview” was over, instead of torturing the man or turning him over to the police, he’d set him free…sort of. Eric had decided to glamour James into forgetting his time spent in the basement, to botch any future attempts to capture a vampire, and to call him immediately with any new names or information. That he had also glamoured James into keenly fearing all vampires didn’t surprise her.
She knew that James probably wouldn’t last very long once he started acting on Eric’s glamour, but couldn’t bring herself to care all that much. From what she’d seen in his thoughts, he hadn’t minded capturing vampires and knowing that they were being bled to death. He simply didn’t want to watch it happening. She just hoped that he’d live long enough to give Eric a lot information before everything caught up with him.
Sookie contemplated Eric’s most recent behavior while she traced designs in the condensation ring left by her drink. She couldn’t figure out what exactly had changed between them, but something had. He was just as focused and intense as before, but somehow he seemed a bit less reserved toward her. Although he certainly hadn’t apologized or said anything about it, for some indefinable reason she felt that he regretted the small bit of uncomfortable tension that had passed between them, at least a little. Maybe.
Earlier he’d been so insistent that she not try to find the building where Felicia was being kept, and that didn’t make any sense to her. It would be so easy to narrow down the location since there were only two to choose from, and all she had to do was simply drive by and listen for the drainer’s thoughts.
Although she wondered why Pam went from almost liking her to being overly-suspicious, even she had seen the sense in letting Sookie put her PI talents to use. A couple of drive-bys is all it would take. Easy-peasy, she huffed to herself, then resumed listening to the people in the bar.
Catching the thoughts of two underage girls in the main area, Sookie looked around but didn’t see Pam. She did catch Chow’s eye, but, not wanting him to know of her “gift,” she just shook her head slightly. Less than a minute later Pam blurred to the booth.
“What,” her voice dripping with a combination of boredom and irritation.
Proud of herself for not jumping in surprise at her sudden appearance, Sookie leaned close to Pam, who took the hint and leaned in. “Two underage girls, both wearing red pleather, at that small table on the left side of the room. One has blonde hair, the other light brown.”
Pam, having been told by Eric to do nothing that would draw attention to Sookie’s gift, wandered back to Eric’s office for a few minutes before re-emerging to deal with the two underage girls.
A bit later, Eric slid into the booth beside her. “Two under-agers?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary for here.”
“Give me an example,” he asked. While he couldn’t care less about what people were thinking unless it revealed a threat of some sort, he was definitely interested in keeping Sookie talking. He wasn’t sure how this “non-linear” thing was supposed to work, but he was certain it would work better if he knew more about her.
“Well, the usual for a bar, I guess. Some thoughts are vague, and some are pretty explicit.” She shrugged. What did he expect people to be thinking about in a bar?
At his gesture, she took a deep breath and continued. “Sex, sex, how expensive the watered-down drinks are, sex, hope my wife doesn’t find me here, more sex, how fantastic you were in bed, will you bit them again, how they wore that particular outfit to attract the attention of any vampire, ewe-gross, how to check a cantaloupe’s ripeness,” she shrugged, then continued, “and…more sex.”
Mentally cursing the fact he hadn’t glamoured anyone to forget having been with him, Eric said nothing about his recent feed and fucks. He didn’t want to draw attention to anything that might stand in the way of his goals.
“What was the “ewe-gross” thought?” His curiosity made him ask. He sincerely hoped it wasn’t about him.
Sookie’s cheeks turned red and she had to look away. What was wrong with people? She cleared her throat. “You had that ‘banger chick tied up in your basement. Why would you want to have sex with someone if you had to tie them up and gag them first?” The disgust was clear in her voice.
While Eric didn’t answer her question, he did find her blush entirely too enticing. He was thankful when Pam appeared and disrupted this increasingly uncomfortable conversation.
“She was correct and the problems have been glamoured not to return until after they’re legal.”
Eric nodded, then flicked his hand in dismissal. A waitress, possibly thinking he had called her over, quickly appeared. Sookie caught her thoughts as she remembered her time with Eric. Cheese and rice, wasn’t there anyone here he hadn’t had?
Sookie caught herself before she rolled her eyes too hard, but a quiet snort still escaped.
Eric pretended not to notice. “A True Blood for me, and do you want another…,” he indicated her drink.
“Can I get a Dr Pepper instead?”
The waitress nodded, and an uncomfortable silence prevailed until after she’d returned with their drinks. He took a long pull from the bottle of faux-blood as he tried to figure a way out of this current mess. The more time she spent in the bar, the more thoughts she would undoubtedly hear about his exploits. He certainly wasn’t ashamed of his prowess, but he didn’t want knowledge of his exploits to interfere with his pursuit of the delectable Miss Stackhouse. It was obvious that he would have to start glamouring his feed and fucks. He found himself surprised that he actually cared about what she thought.
“You seem tired,” he commented quietly after a while.
“I am,” she replied just as quietly. “It feels good to use my, erm, talents like this, trying to save someone, but yeah, it wears me out. I’m glad I’m off tomorrow.”
Internally Eric tamped down his frustration. He had already thought of several errands he had wanted Sookie to run for him, the kinds that would have resulted in her appearance at one of his houses, but this changed his plans. She did look tired.
“You should rest, then.”
“But, Eric, I have to ask. Why can’t I just drive by those two places to find out if I can hear something that might could help us? I could…,” she trailed off when he started shaking his head.
“No. Absolutely not. It’s too dangerous.” The thought of those drainers getting their hands on her luscious body almost made him drop his fangs.
Sookie slumped against the back of her seat as she wondered why she wasn’t being allowed to do her job. Worry for the female vampire bubbled to the surface. “But how much longer do you think she’ll be alive?”
“Uh, Eric, you know what I mean. The longer we wait, the worse off she is.”
“We?” He quirked his brow.
“Yes, Boss, we. You asked for my help with this, and I’m giving it. We.”
He didn’t want to consider how much that “we” affected him. “And I appreciate it, but I will not have you going into a dangerous situation during the day when I cannot protect you. This is my final word.”
Surprisingly irritated by his high-handed refusal to accept her help, Sookie snarked, “Yes, Master.”
A swift breeze later, she found herself pinned against the back of the booth by a large, intensely-focused blond vampire. Eric’s fangs were fully distended, his blue eyes intense as he stared down at her for a long moment before growling into her ear, “Do not, under any circumstances, call me Master…unless you mean it, Miss Stackhouse.”
Sookie squirmed as she tried to get away from him, but his huge body proved to be an effective cage. She pushed her hands against his hard shoulders, and he didn’t budge an inch. “Eric, let me go!”
He slowly, lightly, trailed his nose down her throat from her ear to her collarbone, and back up. “A pertinent piece of advice: do not say anything you do not mean when dealing with vampires, Miss Stackhouse. We tend to be a very literal species at the best of times.” He moved back enough to stare back down into her eyes.
“Had you said that to any other vampire, they would have been free to claim you as their own as it would sound like you were offering yourself to them. Do you want to be claimed by any other vampire, Miss Stackhouse,” he demanded very seriously.
“N..no, no, I don’t.” Sookie had a strong suspicion that she’d opened a can of worms that she didn’t know how to close. She’d been annoyed with his high-handed refusal of her assistance…and by how that waitress had addressed him.
But…Master? Seriously? She didn’t want to address the jealousy that had flooded her system then…or when she’d seen remembered evidence of his sexcapades with over half the women in the bar.
Eric continued, “Then never call a vampire “Master”. Certainly do not joke about this, and do not ever address me as such…unless you truly mean it.” He paused to gaze over her face for a moment before switching his focus back to her eyes. “And if you do, be prepared for the consequences.”
He lowered his head and captured her lips in a surprisingly gentle kiss. As his firm lips glided smoothly over hers, Sookie couldn’t help but notice how thorough he was, even with his fangs fully erect. She inhaled his spicy, masculine scent and when she groaned her approval, he took immediate advantage and thrust his tongue between her parted lips.
He cupped the back of her head and deepened his kiss, thrusting his tongue in and out, then nipping very gently at her lips before invading her mouth once again to massage her own tongue with his.
As the kiss grew heated, she realized that her hands on his shoulders were pulling him toward her instead of pushing him away. Long minutes later he began placing open-mouthed kisses across her jaw and down her neck, where he paused to nibble and suck at her sensitive flesh in one particular spot, knowingly leaving his mark there.
The sound of a throat being forcefully cleared brought them both out of their lust-filled daze. “Yes, Pamela,” Eric answered huskily while still running his nose along Sookie’s neck.
“You have a phone call. It sounded important,” came Pam’s patented “bored out of her mind” reply.
“In a minute.”
Eric rested his head on Sookie’s shoulder for a moment, then gruffly stated, “You are dismissed for the evening. Enjoy your night off tomorrow,” he raised his head to stare directly into her eyes, “and do not, under any circumstances, look for the drainers. Understand?”
Sookie blew out a puff of air from several levels of frustration, then nodded.
“Good. Good night, Miss Stackhouse.”
“Good night, Boss.”
Suddenly and unaccountably happier, Sookie smiled sweetly at Eric, who smiled slightly in return before vacating the booth. She finished her Dr Pepper, grabbed her purse, and stepped lightly through the parking lot. When she parked the SUV near her door 45 minutes later, she realized that she had missed him driving her home.