“What?!” Sookie was sure she hadn’t heard Eric correctly. “What did you just say?”
“I said that you’re staying here, with me. End of discussion.” Eric unlocked a side door and stepped inside, obviously expecting her to follow him.
“What the hell, Eric?” Sookie balked, her voice rising with loud indignation as she took three steps back. “I am not staying here with you! Why the hell would I?”
Eric glowered at her for a long minute, scanned the darkness surrounding them, and simply picked her up and whisked her into the small office. After he gently sat her down , he quickly secured the door, then switched on the meager lights in the windowless room.
“Eric! What the hell is going on? What the hell are you…”
“Sookie, if,” he stressed the word, “you will stop talking, I might,” he stressed, “have the opportunity to tell you…” he paused as he checked an incoming text on his phone.
Eric replied to his text while keeping an eye on the furious blonde who was pacing the length of the small room. He considered how little he could get by with telling her yet still ensure her cooperation.
Finally he broke the tense silence. “Have you considered that you yourself may now be a target?”
Sookie stopped pacing, crossed her arms, and glared at him in disbelief. “Me? Why would I be a target?”
“Who do you work for? Where do you spend your evenings? Who have you been seen with?”
Eric’s rapid-fire questions each brought home to Sookie the truth in his theory.
“If someone is after me, then we must assume that they’re after you, too, and I will not risk your safety.” His voice brook no argument.
Sookie returned his serious stare for a long minute, then stated, “You’re really worried about this, aren’t you.”
“It stands to reason that if someone is after me, they will use you to get to me. So, yes, I am concerned. Since the night after Felicia’s disappearance, I have not died for the day in the same place twice, and I commanded Pamela to do the same. That is one of the first survival skills any vampire learns.” He leaned back against a bare wall and watched as she paced another few turns and then sat down in one of the cheap office chairs. “You will now do the same to help ensure your own survival.”
She couldn’t believe this! How incredibly high-handed! How…arrogant!
And this job…it was meant to be a simple job, a good way to make decent money with a career she could enjoy; it wasn’t supposed to be something that could get her hurt, or…worse. She briefly considered quitting, but for some reason that just didn’t feel like the right thing to do. Besides, even if she did quit, if the drainers or whoever really had already started following her, what good would quitting do? And, did she really want to quit anyway?
So, if drainers were after her, and if she wasn’t going to quit, her best option at that particular moment would be to stay here with him. There was no telling who could have followed her home or when. He knew how to stay safe, and well, this is Eric… But she wouldn’t agree to these measures too quickly, however. She didn’t appreciate his high-handed attitude – he could have given her a choice, and a head’s up would have been nice so she could have at least packed a bag…
She cleared her throat and picked up the conversation they’d started in the mini-van. “So…we’ve got a group of drainers who have already caught and killed Felicia. Of that group, Robbie is in contact with some guy wearing flannel who was waiting for you to show up at Fangtasia tonight. Flannel guy is also in contact with Brown, the guy in the cheap suit who’s a V addict that they call the “good deacon”, and he’s the one who’s showing your picture around. So, you are definitely a target,” her voice dwindled as she thought about the situation. Then she added, “And you know, I think I’m right: I don’t think they’re after you for your blood, Eric, or at least not just for that.”
Eric cocked a brow, encouraging her to continue. He was still trying to decide what, and how much, to tell her, and was fascinated to hear what she figured out on her own.
“Because if all they wanted was a vampire for blood, wouldn’t they choose an easier target, or like I said earlier, just buy it? It would be stupid to go after a six and a half foot tall walking mountain,” she gestured from his head to his feet. “They’d choose someone easier to subdue, like Felicia, bless her heart. And they wouldn’t be showing your specific picture around, either. No, they’re after you for some reason. Can you think of someone who might be after you?”
Eric, of course, had reached the same conclusions earlier.
When he didn’t respond and the silence lengthened, Sookie asked, “So, how long will we be staying here?”
“Just until sunset tomorrow, then we will go to a new location.”
“But I don’t have any clothes with me, Eric, and what about food?”
“That is being taken care of, and I will escort you to your home tomorrow after dark so that you may pack a bag.”
“How long do you think this is going to go on? I have bills to pay and things that I need to take care of at home.”
“It will take as long as it takes.” At her glare over his curt answer, he elaborated. “We do not yet know the full scope of this threat, and until we identify and neutralize the danger, we will take steps to ensure our safety. This current situation will continue until the threat is over.”
She sighed as she contemplated the vague enormity of the situation. Eric left her to her thoughts as he sat down at the desk and he consulted his phone, intermittently reading and texting, until a while later he abruptly announced that Pam had arrived.
“Only for you, Sookie, would I have purchased human food,” she proclaimed with a flourish as she entered the small office and deposited several full shopping bags, obviously from a local convenience store chain, at Sookie’s feet.
Sookie snickered when she realized that Pam said “human food” much the same way as she herself would have said “cat food”. She was thirsty and starting to get a little hungry, so she grabbed the closest bag and began looking through it. Several beef jerky sticks, chocolate bars, bags of chips and packs of chewing gum later, she concluded that Pam didn’t have a great grasp on shopping for human nutrition needs. The Dr Pepper she found, however, did go down nicely.
As she reached for the second bag, she consciously listened to Pam and Eric as they spoke quietly about the threat. She scooted her chair up to the other side of the desk and began organizing Pam’s purchases, much to Eric’s bemused curiosity.
“So we do not know who this “good deacon Brown” is,” Pam questioned, happily using her air quotes, “or what church he may or may not be affiliated with?”
Cheap toothbrush and mini toothpaste set? Um, ok, they’d come in handy…
“No. Sookie has seen his face, but nothing that would point to a specific church or organization…or anyone else for that matter,” Eric replied irritably.
While he understood his child’s need to hash out information about this situation, he really would prefer to see her taillights leaving the parking lot. Although it was early in the evening, he preferred to be alone with Sookie, and dark was burning.
Individual mini-packets of Tylenol, Advil, Alka Seltzer, Pepto Bismal tablets, and a small bottle of aspirin? Well, uh, ok.
“And this Robbie both heads his own drainer crew and reports to Brown who, according to Sookie, waves your picture around.”
Eric nodded, his attention equally divided between his child and the contents of the bags that she had given Sookie. Perhaps he should have been more specific in his instructions. From what he understood, pain relief pills were not food.
“So, all we know for a fact is that a V-addicted church man who wears cheap suits has hired drainers to target you specifically.”
Small box of tampons and a tiny canister of hair spray? PAM!!
Pam always did have a way of distilling known information, Eric thought wryly as he glanced at his watch.
WTF? Black shoelaces? Erm…ok…
“Eric, do you have any enemies that we need to know about? Either someone in a church who hates you enough to hire drainers to go after you, or someone who hates you enough to hire the deacon guy to go after you?” Sookie’s query caught both vampires off guard especially since she was still obviously rummaging through her second bag.
Pam gave Eric a pointed look then glanced furtively toward Sookie.
Assorted Charms Blow Pops, Gummy worms, sour candies, Goobers, Twizzlers, Raisinettes, and a (squished) loaf of bread? Well, bread is an actual food…
He glared briefly at his child, then reluctantly acknowledged the possibility. “Yes, but at this time we don’t know enough to make specific assumptions.”
A small can of Beanie Weenies, a roll of toilet paper, a small jug of orange juice, a bottle each of Mountain Dew, Fresca, and Sprite, and three bottles of water… So, beef jerky, Beanie Weenies, and a slice of bread it is, then. More actual food-type items would have been great, though she could gnaw beef jerky with the best of them. Now, to find a spoon…
“Either way, hiring drainers can’t be a cheap proposition, and if the deacon guy was just wanting a V fix, it would be a lot cheaper, easier, and quicker to just buy it on the street or whatever they do, wouldn’t’ it? So, who would hate you enough to want to spend this kind of time, money, and effort?”
Catching the look that passed between Maker and child, she demanded, “What? What is it? You know that not showing me all the cards in play isn’t helping anything, right?”
She glared pointedly at Eric before turning her attention back to the odd lot of food on the desk. Sookie opened and bit into a beef jerky stick as she waited for his answer. Yep, still just as dry, salty, and wonderful as ever. She grabbed a bottle of water off the desk.
Eric rose to pace. “Something is…wrong…with my Maker, Godric. He has been displaying behaviors that are unusual for him. I have been concerned about him for a couple of months now,” he paused to lean against the bare wall, arms crossed over his chest. “People in his circle have been dying or disappearing in ways that may or may not connect back to him.”
After placing the bottle of water and the half-eaten jerky on the desk, Sookie rose to stand before him. She could tell by his flat tone that whatever was going on, Eric was worried about his Maker. “In what ways has Godric been acting strange? What does he say about this? Is he acting strange because of someone close to him dying or disappearing, or is he the one causing it?”
“I do not believe he is the one causing the deaths and disappearances. But I cannot just ask him, Sookie. That is not the type of relationship I have with him. Godric has always been a force unto himself. You wouldn’t understand,” he finally concluded irritably.
He saw what he thought was pity in her eyes, and didn’t want it.
“Well, I don’t understand right now, especially since I’ve never met him, but in my world when you love someone you help them when they need it whether they want it or not. Maybe it’s different with vampires, I don’t know, but…” she paused as thoughts raced through her mind. She absent-mindedly returned to her chair.
Pam piped up, “But?”
“But…don’t you think the timing of all this is weird? I mean, you’ve got your GrandMaker,” she looked over at Pam, unsure about the term, “acting weird and with people dying. Now, I don’t know exactly in what ways he’s being different from how he usually is, but still, he’s acting weird all of a sudden, and now you’ve conveniently got a “good deacon” flashing Eric’s picture around and hiring drainers to go after him. It just screams “not a coincidence” to me. It would really help if we could go talk to him about this.”
“We can’t. For one thing,” Eric began when he saw Sookie start to speak again, “he’s in Texas. Politically, it would draw attention if I were to suddenly appear in his area. If I were to start digging around for information, it would draw the wrong kind of attention. The powers that be in Texas would not like a ‘power’ from another state sniffing around in their state.” He cocked an arrogant brow, inviting Sookie to disagree with the facts.
When she didn’t, he continued, “Also, Godric would know if I were near him. It is not my place to go as he strongly rejected my offers of help, and would be incensed if I ignored his orders. You do not want to see my Maker angry.”
Eric shook his head and gave Pam the signal to leave. All this running around in verbal circles was pointless, and he wanted some time alone with…
Sookie, missing Eric’s hint to Pam, asked, “So, are the missing or dead people very close to him? Does Godric have the kind of enemies who would do that sort of thing? Does he have other children, or pets or girlfriends or whatever who we could talk to? I don’t know why, but this all just seems a little too coincidental to not be related to what’s going on with the threat to you, Eric.”
Pam rose, fangs bared, and hissed, “Or perhaps this entire situation is about Godric, and whoever is after him is gunning for you to get at him? Not because you’re you, but because you’re his child.”
Eric and Pam stared at each other intently for a long minute, then Eric dismissed her until the following evening.
“Come,” he placed a hand on Sookie’s lower back. “We’ve spent enough of this night on conjecture. Let’s put this evening behind us and adjourn to the basement.” He wagged his brows unexpectedly, causing Sookie to laugh.
“Ok, I’ll bite. What’s in the basement?” She began bagging up the items on the desk and missed Eric’s appreciative gaze lingering on her figure.
“We shall see, won’t we, my Sookie.”
After Sookie filled and gathered the bags, Eric guided her over to one of the two other doors leading out of the office. He flipped open a panel hidden in the wall beside the door, pressed a series of buttons too quickly for Sookie to follow, placed his finger on something, then opened the door. He then flipped on a light switch, and gestured for her to go on down while he closed up the office. Sookie descended the steep stairs until she came to a landing halfway down where she stopped briefly to wait on him.
Eric joined her, and took pleasure in her gasp of surprise when they reached the bottom of the stairs and he turned the lights on to illuminate “the basement”. The grungy exterior of the warehouse and the small, cheap office completely belied the spacious luxury found on the lowest floor of the building.
Sookie immediately toed her shoes off and sank her feet down into the blissfully soft camel-colored carpet covering the entire floor of the large room. The area was very nicely lit with soft light flowing from the recessed pots in the ceiling and floor lamps scattered about near the dark brown plush leather sofas and chairs. A couple of end and coffee tables were conveniently placed here and there, and a huge book shelf covered one entire wall.
Another wall held a huge flat-screen tv and media center, and large framed paintings and closed doors took up their own space on the soft beige walls.
Eric led Sookie over to a tiny kitchen area complete with sink, microwave, and regular sized refrigerator. She placed her drinks in the fridge alongside the copious amount of True Bloods already in there, and began organizing her “food” on the small counter space. She held up the solitary roll of toilet paper and quirked her brow at Eric, who laughed and motioned toward one of the closed doors.
“This way, mademoiselle.”
He led her to a small but well-appointed bathroom, and left her to her “human needs.”
A few minutes later, after having tended to her “human needs” and thoroughly exploring the luxurious space, Sookie emerged to find Eric already having changed clothes and seated on one of the sofas.
“Not fair, boss. You get to change clothes but I don’t since no one thought to clue me in to the fact that I was being all kidnapped and stuff.”
At the not-so-fake pout she threw his way, Eric rose and took Sookie’s elbow to guide her to the other, now open, door.
A huge, high bed dominated the large, softly-lit room. The headboard was pushed against the outer wall, and the soft, camel-colored duvet looked so warm and inviting. Two matching dark wood dressers faced each other against opposing walls, and a matching nightstand was placed on each side of the head of the bed. Each held a small intricately-braided metal lamp with an ivory shade. Before Sookie could take in the various framed pictures and paintings decorating the walls, Eric drew her attention to a chair in the corner of the room.
“Tomorrow I’ll escort you back to your home so you can pack a bag, but this should do for tonight,” he indicated a couple of shirts and a robe draped over the chair. “I’ll…reluctantly…leave you to change,” he added with a playful leer.
Sookie waited until she heard the door close, then turned back to the clothes on the bed. She held up a red “Fangtasia” T-shirt, and figured that it had to be Eric’s because it was so huge. She quickly shed her outer clothes and put on the shirt, which fell to her knees, and slipped on the midnight blue robe.
After she finished dressing, she sat down in the chair for a moment to ponder this most recent situation. She was alone with Eric, in the luxurious “basement” of a dingy, crusty warehouse somewhere in Shreveport, because for some reason drainers were after him, and she, because of her association with him, was in danger, too.
She shook her head, and realized that she was starting to get a headache. Maybe Pam was smart to buy her some pain relievers, she thought with an eye roll. She took her hair down out of the ponytail holder, and shook out her long, blonde tresses. Sometimes when she wore her hair up the weight would give her a headache, and she hoped that taking it down would help.
When that proved fruitless, she walked back into the living area and headed over to the small kitchen area.
Still sitting on the sofa, Eric watched Sookie’s progress and wondered why she didn’t come over to him, then saw her pick out a packet of the pain relievers and a bottle of water.
“Why are you taking that?”
His deep voice, coming from just over her shoulder, make Sookie jump.
“Eric! You startled me!”
He smirked. “My apologies, of course. Now, why are you taking that?” What was wrong with her?
After she swallowed the pills and put the bottle back on the counter, she turned to face him, and was surprised to find him still so close.
“I’m starting to get a headache. That should help, though.”
“Come, sit on the sofa and relax with me. The events of tonight have undoubtedly been stressful for you.” He wrapped his arm around her waist and drew her with him to the sofa.
She turned to sit down, but as she sat, she found herself suddenly sitting sideways on the sofa with Eric’s large body at her back.
He laughed softly, and said near her ear, “Put your feet up and lean back. I will rub your shoulders as we discuss something I believe you should do this night.” His hands had already started threading through her long blonde hair.
Even through the fabrics of the T-shirt and the robe, his strong fingers felt like magic as they danced and rubbed over her shoulders and neck. Long minutes passed before she finally remembered her question.
“What…did you want me…to do,” she breathed out as she craned her neck to the side to encourage him to linger on a particularly sore spot.
“I want you to take some of my blood.”