“Thanks, Barbara,” Sookie whispered, gently tapping the librarian’s desk on her way out of the library.
The woman looked up and politely smiled at the blonde. “Take care, now, Sookie,” she replied, her words playing over the images of her beloved husband in her mind.
Barbara Beck’s husband, Alcee, was a lifelong acquaintance of Sookie’s, and Sookie had to stifle her laugh at his wife’s concern. Alcee, a very serious member of the Bon Temps’ police force, was a firm believer in the existence of supernatural beings in the universe. Unfortunately for Sookie, his belief was not on the welcoming end of such forces, so Barbara’s slight suspicion of Sookie amused her to no end. Officer Beck would no sooner touch Sookie with a ten foot pole, let alone any other appendage of his body.
“Ruston,” she murmured, starting her car and heading for the I-20. Several times after her Gran’s passing, Sookie had utilized the public fax machine in the UPS store there for a few legal proceedings, and while the public library in Bon Temps possibly had machine she could use, she felt safer sending information to Eric from another town.
Sookie sighed at the growing list of things she would need for her new occupation. A fax machine would suit, for starters, and possibly high speed internet at her home. She was content, for now, to use the public computer at the library, but she would not be able to to search for the more sensitive material her job would surely require. The information she currently sought for Eric was simple enough, and Sookie had marveled at the wonder that was ‘street view’ on Google maps.
The sign of the store she had seen in James Weston’s head, belonged to two locations in Shreveport, as Pam has said. Only one of the stores, however, faced a row of businesses and apartment buildings. A series of quick phone calls to check the available vacancies and rental opportunities confirmed, in Sookie’s mind, at which location she suspected Felicia was being held.
Her meticulously detailed notes took all of five minutes to transmit, and Sookie forced herself to dutifully head back toward Bon Temps, as opposed to finding her way into Shreveport and strictly by chance venturing past one of the addresses. It would have been easy, driving by, leaving her mind open, but Eric had been adamant. The more she thought about it, the more it made sense. She questioned how she would react to, or even handle, hearing something incriminating. A group of men willing to capture and drain a vampire were more than capable of doing who knows what to a human woman, and Sookie cringed at the thought. Her blood would not be their primary interest, she was sure.
It was unusual for the whole afternoon and evening to stretch in front of her, and she almost squealed with glee at the chance to spend some time in the sun. Her recent late nights called for a nap, and once home, she changed into her smallest bathing suit and plopped herself in the middle of her back yard. Two hours later she awoke with a start, face down, her body smart enough to have turned over in the heat and sun, and she peeled her sweaty self from her blanket. The sun was much lower in the sky, and she glanced around the yard, disoriented.
Without thinking, Sookie rushed through her shower, not bothering with her hair, and was halfway dressed before she realized that she was preparing to go to work on her self-appointed night off. And while she would have normally scolded herself for the mistake, or even laughed, instead she was disappointed at the idea of staying home. She slowly pulled up the straps of one of her new dresses and sighed.
There was nothing wrong, she figured, with being excited over a new job. There was nothing wrong in feeling pride at doing one’s job well, she reasoned. There was everything wrong, though, she worried, in rushing to work in hopes of kissing her boss again.
“Goddammit,” she said wearily. She’d managed all day not to think about it. Not about how Eric’s mouth felt on her skin, not about how his body felt pressed against hers, and certainly not about how not once, in any of the many memories she’d witnessed of him in other women’s heads, had he ever kissed anyone. “Shit!” she cursed, pulling her hair tightly up into a ponytail and huffing at her reflection. Whatever game Eric Northman was playing with her, Sookie felt for sure she was losing. When he wasn’t pissing her off, she found herself having difficulty keeping her knees together around him, and neither reaction was anything she was used to.
Sookie continued to grumble as she rooted through her refrigerator. The cool air from the appliance felt good on her bare feet as she pulled out what she’d need for a sandwich. The evening weather was feeling as oppressive as the sun had earlier, and Sookie wondered if it would storm.
She had just finished her meal on the front porch and was getting up to refill her iced tea, when the headlights of a car shone down her driveway. Reflexively, she cast out with her head, and initially she tensed as she realized a vampire was heading toward her. When Eric’s car came clearly into view, she relaxed briefly, only to freeze up again. It was a mixture of excitement and fear, and Sookie once again cursed her body for it’s reactions to the man.
Eric paused by the back of her SUV to pick at something on the rear window, before sauntering over to where she sat on the porch. “Miss Stackhouse,” he said, smiling.
Sookie was sure her blush was as red as the sundress she wore, as she stood on wobbly legs to greet him. “Hey, Eric. Mr. Northman.”
“Eric Mr. Northman,” he mused, slowly ascending the porch steps and unabashedly admiring her body. “I like that color on you.”
The man made her feel naked, and she shuddered. “Ha ha,” she managed. “I meant Eric.” Sookie gestured to one of the porch chairs, and he shook his head, instead leaning against the railing. She could have sworn he’d dragged his hand somewhere in the vicinity of his crotch, but at that moment, his arms were folded across his chest, and he was still smirking. “Pam at work?” she asked.
“Fangtasia is closed on Mondays.”
Sookie was about to nod and stopped herself. “I took off the night it’s closed?” she asked, and he nodded. “You didn’t tell me we were closed on Mondays.”
“I told you to choose any two nights you wished,” he said calmly. “That you chose one of the nights the club is closed is entirely…your choice.”
“You’re serious?” Never had Sookie met anyone like him, vampire, employer, anyone.
“Deadly,” he said, chuckling at his own joke. “Would you have preferred I allowed you to come in to an empty club? I can do that, if you wish.”
“Forget it,” she said, waving him off. “So why are you here?” she asked bluntly.
“I was in the neighborhood.”
“Uh huh.” Sookie gathered up her plate and glass and opened the screen door. “I have to invite you in, right?” she asked, letting the door slam behind her and walking to the kitchen. She wanted to let him inside, but she was slightly embarrassed at how good it felt, leaving him there on the porch. She took her time putting her dirty dishes in the sink and splashing some cold water on her overheated face, before returning to the front door. Eric hadn’t moved. “Would you like to come in?”
He silently slipped past her and went immediately to the living room as if he lived there. “You need only rescind the invitation,” he reminded her, studying the photos that lined one of the walls.
“I don’t have anything for you to drink,” she said apologetically. She’d thought of it on the way home that afternoon and second-guessed herself, never seriously believing she’d entertain a vampire in her home that far from Shreveport. But there Eric was, crowding her living room with his tall frame, his face inches from the family pictures on her wall.
“I could drink you,” he said quietly, enjoying the immediate response Sookie’s body had to the suggestion. “Who is this?” he asked, tapping at one of the frames.
“That’s my brother.”
Sookie moved in next to Eric to be sure they were looking at the same picture. She’d never thought of her brother as much of a man, but she supposed he was. “Yeah, that’s Jason.”
“He is related to you by blood?”
“As opposed to what?”
“You share the same lineage,” Eric clarified. His eyes darted to every picture on the wall.
“Oh. Yes, he’s my…biological brother. Same parents.”
“Show them to me.”
Sookie raised her eyebrow and pointed out the last photo taken of her parents before they had died. “That’s them. My biological parents,” she said, emphasizing the last words.
“Do they live here, as well?” he asked. Sookie had only mentioned a brother in her interview, he recalled.
“No, they passed away when I was younger.”
Eric said nothing and continued to study the pictures in front of him. “Interesting,” he said eventually. He stepped back and glanced around the rest of the room. “Are the other rooms like this one?” he asked. The house appeared lived-in to him and worn with time. He was not concerned with it’s appearance, he was simply interested in the environment that had produced her.
“I guess so. It’s an old farmhouse.” Sookie wondered what type of house Eric lived in. Or any vampire, for that matter.
“It is very far from your job,” he remarked, taking a seat on the couch. He did not think it appropriate that she traveled as she did, especially in the dark. She should be closer to him.
“I know,” she agreed. “I’m kind of surprised you made the trip.”
Eric looked her over again. “You were leaving?” he asked, gesturing to her dress.
Sookie blushed again and laughed. “Believe or not, I forgot that I didn’t have to work tonight.”
“Promise you will wear that another night,” he said seriously.
“Whatever you like,” she said smartly, and he grinned. Sookie folded her hands in her lap and sighed. “Why are you really here, Eric?”
“Ah.” His primary motivation had been the woman in front of him. “I do have something to report, based on the information you provided.”
“You got the fax!” she exclaimed. “Was I right?”
“You found her?” Sookie asked hopefully.
Eric crossed his long legs and studied her. Though the trial period of one week was not over, he knew what he wanted from her. And while she had not indicated that she wished to leave his employment, Eric knew, he’d never let her go. “How far do you wish to take this, Sookie?” he asked seriously.
She cocked her head in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“It is one thing to provide information, regardless of the source,” he explained, glancing purposely at her head. “It is another, to become involved in how that information is used.”
Sookie understood immediately. “Right.”
“Right,” he repeated.
“I think,” she said slowly, “that I only know what you tell me. I also think, that I should know what I need to know.” Eric’s face was impassive, but he nodded for her to go on. “If the time comes, that I need to know something, and you don’t tell me…well then, that’ll be the time for me to leave.”
“And if you do not ask something, about which you are not told?” he countered.
“Shame on me,” she said quickly. Sookie felt herself smart enough to ask what she should know. “And if you don’t tell me, something I need to know?”
Eric smiled, though he had now learned how her mind worked. “Shame on me,” he answered.
“Felicia’s dead,” Sookie guessed.
“I’m sorry,” she said sincerely. She could have asked how he knew, or who went looking for her, but it wasn’t necessary. “They’ll come for you next.”
Eric shrugged. “Perhaps.”
“We should find the guy who was holding your picture, Eric.”
“I believe we will.”
Sookie had to admit, he was fascinating. She didn’t know if vampires had friends, or if they hung out together outside of places like Fangtasia, but it didn’t surprise her that he was a someone in charge. “Do you think you’ve been targeted because you’re a Sheriff, or could it be something personal?”
“What is your guess?” Eric asked, knowing it unlikely he’d avoid her questions for long.
“If someone’s showing your picture, I’d say it’s personal,” she speculated.
“I would agree with you,” he admitted.
Sookie nodded thoughtfully. “So who would be gunning for you, so to speak? These guys are humans. Do vampires hire humans?”
Eric paused at what she had asked, stunned. There was something to what she said, though he could not put his finger on it. “Why would you suspect a vampire behind a human plot to capture a vampire?” he demanded.
“I have no idea!” she exclaimed defensively. “I was thinking out loud. I don’t want to assume y’all just up and kill each other! I don’t know, you usually hire someone to do your dirty work so it doesn’t come back to you, right? Or you’ve got a score to settle. Like an eye for an eye.”
“Perhaps it is a human, hiring humans,” he suggested.
“Could be,” she agreed. “It just seems bigger than that. Whomever it is, isn’t just going for you, they’re aiming for your whole circle.” She was about to go on, when somewhere in the house, her cell phone began to ring. Sookie’s eyes glanced around the room and she cursed.
“Allow me,” Eric offered, pinpointing the phone’s location in the room adjacent to the one in which he sat. Only two numbers were programmed into it, and Eric was curious in that he was not calling her, nor was his Child. He was back within seconds, handing Sookie the device while searching his memory for the name ‘Preston Pardloe.’
“Thanks,” she said appreciatively. Sookie answered without looking at the phone’s screen as she walked from the room. “Hello?”
“Sookie? It’s Preston.”
“Hi, Preston,” she said warmly. “How are you?” She looked at the kitchen clock and wondered why he’d be calling her at ten o’clock at night.
“Feeling foolish realizing how late it is,” he said, chuckling. “I don’t suppose you’re in town,” he added hopefully, and she smiled.
“In Shreveport, no! I’m in the middle of something, anyway, but it was nice of you to think of me.”
It was all Eric could do not to rip the phone from Sookie’s hands and crush it. He watched her body language, attempting to assess how she felt about the man on the other end of the line. She sounded pleased to hear from this Preston, but he didn’t seem to elicit the same responses Eric did from Sookie. He decided to press the issue.
“I have been thinking of you,” Preston admitted.
Sookie felt her body heat up, but it wasn’t at the words in her ear. It was the tall vampire standing behind her, grazing her body with his, trapping her where she faced the sink. “Oh,” she stammered, as he wrapped her long ponytail in his fingers, placing it over her shoulder and onto her chest.
“Am I being too forward?” Preston asked worriedly at her silence.
“N-no,” she said breathily. Eric’s cool lips teased the shell of her ear before moving gently down the side of her neck. His arms slid around Sookie’s waist, holding her in place as he moved closer against her.
“You smell like the sun,” he whispered, his mouth back at her ear. “And of the sky,” he went on. Eric’s arm moved higher, across her breasts to pull at her chin and bring her mouth to his.
Sookie was barely conscious of the phone slipping from her hand as she opened her lips to his, gasping his name. She was at his mercy in that position and had no intention of begging him to release her. They kissed for a moment longer, until Eric pulled back to smile at her.
“Your phone, lover,” he said gently, loosening his grip on her when she startled in his arms.
“My phone!” Her hands flailed across the counter, sending the phone skittering into the sink. “Shit!” she swore, grabbing it and putting it to her ear. “Hello?”
Eric was satisfied, in more ways than one, that he understood the relationship between Sookie and the man on the phone. He’d heard Preston, repeating Sookie’s name, saying he thought he’d lost her, and Eric had agreed. “Hung up?” he asked innocently, reluctantly pulling his hips away from the softness of her backside.
“I feel bad,” she groaned.
Eric did not. “We should finish our discussion,” he suggested.
“You’re right,” she said, facing him. “I shouldn’t have answered it in the first place. We were busy.” Her hands worried the front of her dress, and he was tempted to give them something else to do. Eric wondered how much longer he would last around her, without attempting to insinuate himself inside some part of her body.
“Come,” he said, offering his hand and leading her from the kitchen. And her phone.
Sookie rushed to keep up with him before trying to stop him in the foyer. “Eric, wait…”
“What was that?” she asked earnestly. “In there,” she said, hiking her thumb over her shoulder. “What are we…what do we…?”
“No one asks me the things you do, Miss Stackhouse,” he said, grinning.
Sookie released the breath she’d been holding and frowned. “So, what, I’m…different?”
“I don’t remember kissing in the job description.”
“That,” Eric said, pointing in the direction of the kitchen, “is not part of your job.”
“Oh,” she said, surprised. “What if I didn’t want to…do that?” she asked sheepishly.
“But you do want to ‘do that,'” he pointed out, much to her dismay and embarrassment. “As do I.”
“Let’s say, for argument’s sake,” she started, ignoring the smart-ass look on his face, “that I didn’t want to do that. Would I still have a job?”
“Of course,” Eric answered, unable to envision such a scenario. He slowly leaned down, cupping his large hand around the back of her neck, and kissed her, moving slowly from her mouth to her neck, before lingering again at her lips. Eric waited patiently until Sookie opened her eyes to stare up at him. “Can I expect you at work tomorrow night?”
All she could do, was nod.