AN: Thanks to everyone who took the time to leave a review. Your feedback is most appreciated! I wanted to dedicate this chapter to one particular reviewer, Kira, who asked very convincingly for me to post another chapter before she leaves on an archeological dig. Kira, this one’s for you!
After Sookie rescinded his invitation, Eric flew straight to his Shreveport home. He needed to call Pam, but she was approximately six hours away in London and dead for the day. He decided to leave a voicemail message for her to call him back. To his surprise, he heard his child’s live voice answer the phone.
“No, I am in New York. I wanted to meet with the new designer I am bankrolling. I wanted to see the samples she created in person…and to get better acquainted with her in the process.” She chuckled.
“I’ll bet…listen, this is excellent timing, because I want to talk to you about…” His voice trailed off, as the discomfort about opening himself up to Pam’s ridicule momentarily silenced him.
“I need a female’s perspective about…well….I am wondering how to go about courtship in these times. I seem to be unintentionally alienating this woman I have recently met. I do not-”
Pam’s hysterical laughter cut him off. “Are you joking? Eric Northman is wanting to date a woman?” She snorted and sounded as if she was choking.
“Pam,” he barked. “That is enough! I am being serious. I have finally found someone who is worthy of my attentions. The issue at hand is that she knows that I am vampire, and that I have been…stalking her.”
Pam’s cackling was brought to an abrupt halt. “What? How did she…”
“She cannot be glamoured. And she is telepathic and, uh, part fae, apparently.” He paused. “Well, according to her dead grandmother.”
“What. The. Hell?” Pam shrieked.
Eric sighed. “It’s a bit of a long story. Do you have the time?”
He could hear Pam closing a door. “I’ll make the time. Please, go on.”
He was annoyed. Her voice sounded excited, as if she was sitting down to a favorite soap opera.
Eric spent some time detailing how he had crossed paths with Sookie and how events unfolded. He began discussing his plans for murdering Sam when Pam interrupted.
“You cannot kill him.”
Eric paused in mid sentence. “What do you mean, I can’t kill him?”
“Well, from what you have told me, it sounds like she and this shifter have some history together, possibly more than a working relationship?”
He begrudgingly conceded. “Perhaps.”
“You say you are trying to gain her trust, but if you kill this…Merlotte person, she will be upset if she figures out you were behind it.”
Eric huffed, “Then how do you propose I get rid of him? He wishes to turn her against me. He obviously has romantic inclinations towards her. He…wants her for himself.”
“Come on, Eric. Treat this as a business matter and bribe him!” Pam sounded matter of fact, as if the answer was transparent.
Eric smiled. Greed. Yes, that was the answer. He would appeal to Merlotte’s greed to get rid of him.
“Thank you, Pam. I will be back in touch soon because we still have not, ah, discussed modern courtship rituals. I don’t want to fuck this up.”
Pam giggled excitedly, which grated his already frayed nerves.
“Oooh, yes, I will do an online search and talk to my friend here in New York. I am going to order you some books off Amazon that will help. Also, Dear Abby says…”
“Goodbye Pam.” Eric hung up on her. He couldn’t stomach any more discussion on the subject. Also, he needed to give Bobby some instructions that he wanted attended to later in the morning. He grabbed his laptop from his office and took it into his underground bedroom. He kicked off his heavy boots and reclined on the bed, propping the laptop on his legs as he began to type.
Sookie grumbled as the cell phone on her nightstand woke her from a deep sleep. She glanced at the alarm clock. Shit. It was 8:00 in the morning. Not an ungodly hour in and of itself, but considering that she tossed and turned until after 4:00 am…She grabbed the phone and saw that Sam had left a voicemail. She was about to play the message when her phone rang again, once again showing Sam as the caller.
“Hello, Sam,” she croaked. Man, she needed some water! Her mouth felt like it had been stuffed with cotton while she slept.
“Cher! Are you…you okay?” He seemed to be breathing hard. He had actually shifted and flown to her house and back to his trailer before calling her. He could scent that Northman had been there earlier but had been gone for a while. He had peeked in her window and it appeared that she was sleeping soundly, but still…he was beyond relieved that she had answered the phone.
“Yeah, Sam. I’m okay. What’s up? Not to be rude, but I was asleep and haven’t had any coffee.”
He sounded contrite as he answered. “Sorry to be calling early and all, but I really need to talk to you about something…it’s important.”
“I’m due to come in for the lunch shift…can’t it wait ’til then?” She closed her eyes and crossed her fingers, desperately praying for at least a couple more hours of sleep.
Sam paused before saying, “No, Sook, I’m afraid it can’t wait. Can you come in an hour or so before your shift? If not, I can come to your place…”
Sookie forced herself to sit up in bed while she held her head in her hand. “No…no, Sam, I’ll come in early. I’m assuming you’re wanting to talk to me about the vampire that bought the old Compton house?”
There was a prolonged silence. Long enough to make Sookie suspect that the call had disconnected. “Sam? Sam! You still there?”
“Oh, uh. Well, cher, yeah…um, I’d rather not talk about it on the phone…it’s more of an “in person” kinda thing.” He laughed weakly.
Sookie sighed. “All right. I know you’re worried, and I guess I am too. Things are getting weird as hell and I was up all night thinking about it. But really, I’m okay.”
Sam paused. “I…I’m really sorry Sookie.”
That caught her attention. “For what, Sam?”
“For not stopping him from getting to you,” he said quickly. “Look. I really don’t want to talk about this on the phone. See you at the bar at 10? I’ll have coffee waiting for you.”
He hung up before she could reply. She was confused. “Huh. I wonder what he meant by that?” she said to herself. She rubbed her eyes and dragged her legs over the side of the bed. She sat for a few seconds before she willed herself to get up to go in the bathroom.
After taking a long hot shower, she felt a little more like herself. She threw on her Merlotte’s uniform and pulled her damp hair into a high ponytail. She went downstairs and nibbled on a piece of toast and drank some ice tea for a caffeine jolt. She preferred coffee but decided to hold off since Sam said he’d have a pot of brewed by the time she met him at the bar.
She sat down on Gran’s stool in the kitchen and mulled over the strange turn of events in her life. While she had been known as “crazy Sookie” since childhood, she had become used to the mixed blessing of her telepathy despite the alienation it caused. But now…since Gran had died, she had never felt so alone. She knew in that abstract way that everyone knows (actually she knew better than most due to the untimely death of her parents) that one day, her beloved grandmother would eventually grow older and die. And apparently, Adele had known she was dying and had given a lot of thought about her granddaughter’s emotional welfare. Enough to use some sort of magic fairy monkey’s paw before she died to ensure that she wouldn’t be alone…and for her to meet her soul mate.
She shook her head and stood up, walking into the living room. She removed a framed photo of her grandmother from the fireplace mantle and stared at it.
“Really, Gran? I appreciate that you thought about me and I know you did it out of love, but…a vampire?” She searched the picture, trying to look at her grandmother as if through the eyes of a stranger. Because that was how she felt right now…how well did she really know her Gran? How well did she know Adele, the woman? What other secrets lay behind those smiling hazel eyes?
She shook herself out of her woolgathering and looked at her watch. It was 9:15, which gave her time to return some books to the library before she met with Sam.
She drove into the near empty lot, parking next to a late model Lexus. She went inside to turn in the books instead of sliding them into the drop because she wanted to peruse the “new release” section. She happily walked down the aisle (being surrounded by books always made her feel at peace for some reason), when she heard a familiar, unpleasant voice.
Selah Pumphrey was talking to Barbara Beck, the head librarian. She was using her best syrupy southern belle voice.
“I was wondering if I could leave a few of my flyers and business cards here at the front desk? I wanted to make sure it was okay with you first before I presumed to leave them.”
Sookie could read both of their thoughts, which basically boiled down to Barbara’s dislike of the pretentious woman and Selah’s suspicions that the librarian had trashed the self-marketing materials that she had left a few days ago (she was right about that!).
Sookie strolled up the aisle, nonchalantly peeking over at them while pretending to flip through a book.
Barbara smiled politely at her and said, “You can pin them on the bulletin board up front where people have want ads and such.”
Selah leaned over and smiled a tight, disingenuous smile at her as she bit out, “Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?” She seemed to pull her façade of genteel magnolia back on quickly and asked, “Do you have any new cookbooks in? Especially one that has Italian dishes? I have a gentleman I’m going to invite to my place for a home cooked meal. He’s a big boy, so I am sure he’ll have a huge appetite…”
Sookie froze as she saw Eric in Selah’s thoughts. Or, to put it mildly, she watched Eric fucking her brains out from behind while Selah was on all fours. She suddenly had a hot wave of jealousy crash into her, causing blood to rise to her cheeks. She turned and marched out as Selah prattled on to Barbara, who was escorting her to the cookbook section.
Sookie got into her car and slammed the door, stewing as she reviewed Selah’s thoughts, which were running in a loop inside her head. She suddenly remembered Selah bragging about selling the house to Eric and discussing his good looks to a friend on the phone in Walmart. She could tell by the tone of her thoughts that she was merely fantasizing about bedding him, but Sookie couldn’t help the stab of envy that sliced through her chest. And…a burning desire to go back in the library and knock the living shit out of the stuck-up realtor. She felt strangely possessive, her inner cavewoman grunting to her to defend her mate.
She became aware of her thoughts. What was that? Mate? Jesus Christ, Shepherd of Judea, what was wrong with her thinking like that?
Her cheeks flaming crimson, she started her old car and gunned it towards Merlotte’s.
After Sam had gotten off the phone with her, he paced back and forth in his trailer.
Last night was a complete clusterfuck. One of the hardest things he had ever done in his life was watch while Northman carried the woman he loved back into her house while he stood by, helpless. It was even worse than seeing the vampire peep at her and drink her blood while she slept. It felt like he was truly losing her. And he would, if he didn’t do something quick.
He was going to lay it all on the line for her when she came to the bar. It was his time to come clean, to let her how he felt about her. And…to warn her about the Sheriff. He knew damned good and well that Northman wasn’t going to let him live much longer, and so he disregarded his threat to remain silent. He would at least give Sookie a head’s up about what the hell was really going on before he was taken out.
He continued to pace as he heard a car drive up behind the bar, between the employee parking lot and the front of his trailer. He looked out the window and saw an unfamiliar blue BMW. An unassuming man with wire rimmed glasses, wearing dress slacks and a polo shirt got out of the car, carrying a manila envelope. He looked around with a vague look of distaste on his face as he made his way to Sam’s trailer.
Sam opened the door before the man knocked. He looked startled for a moment before his snobby veneer slid back into place.
“Yes, sorry to bother you sir. I see I caught you at an inopportune time.” Here he looked disapprovingly at Sam, who stood barefoot and shirtless in his faded jeans.
Sam gave him an unfriendly stare. “Yeah, I’m busy. I was about to have a meeting with an employee of mine.” He began to close the door when the man blocked it with his foot. Sam looked at him incredulously. The guy had balls.
“I really am sorry to bother you, but I am afraid I must relay a message to you of the utmost importance. I insist that you hear me out.”
“Get your goddamn foot out of my house, first mister. We can talk for a minute on the porch. You got five minutes.”
Sam pushed his way out, forcing the man to back up.
The man cleared his throat. “Ah, I apologize. Let me introduce myself. My name is Bobby Burnham and I am a representative of Mr. Northman. I was told to offer you a monetary incentive to…”
Sam interrupted him. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
Bobby shook his head. “I assure you sir, I am serious. Mr. Northman is prepared to offer you the sum of one million dollars for your bar.”
Sam’s eyes shot open wide as he laughed. “A cool mil. For this piece of shit?” He continued to chuckle until Bobby spoke again. His words had an immediate sobering effect.
“I was told to explain to you that the offer is conditional. If you agree to the sale of the property for the proposed amount, you will leave Louisiana immediately and cease all contact with Ms. Stackho…”
He choked off as Sam grabbed him by the shirt and pushed him off the porch. Sam’s face was bright red, the veins popping out on his neck and face.
“You tell that piece of shit that he can shove his offer where the sun don’t…well, hell, I guess the sun never shines on any part of him, now does it? He can keep his damn blood money.” He continued to stalk Bobby while the other man made a hasty retreat and got back into his car. Sam followed him and yelled out, “And stay the hell off my property!”
Bobby peeled out, spraying gravel onto Sam, causing him to jump back to avoid flying rocks. As Sam watched him drive away, he shook his head in amazement.
He had to admit, the money was tempting. If it was just a matter of selling the bar, he’d give it up for that price in a heartbeat. But…not with the strings attached, and sure as hell not to Northman. Sookie meant too much to him.
Speaking of Sookie, he glanced at his watch and saw that he needed to hurry up and get ready before she arrived…
As Sookie pulled into the back of Merlotte’s, she saw Sam standing over by the employee entrance, waiting for her. He smiled and waved as she got out of the car.
“Hey cher! Thanks for coming in early.”
“No problem. I needed to get up and run a couple of errands anyways.” She yawned and looked at him sheepishly.
” Jeez. You look like you could use some coffee. Come on inside. I made it nice and strong for you.”
Sookie went in as Sam held the door open for her. They made their way to the bar, where he began pouring them both a cup of coffee. He bent down to the small fridge behind the counter and took out a carton of half and half and sat it next to the sweetener. She poured some in her cup and added a couple of Equals while using one of the plastic stir straws. He followed suit, but kept his black.
Sookie brought the cup up to her face, taking in a deep breath of the comforting aroma.
“Mmmm. This smells great. You used your private stock, not that Folger’s shit.” He nodded and grinned.
She took a sip and looked at him questioningly as he made his way towards her from behind the bar.
“Sook, let’s go sit down in my office on the couch. It’s more comfortable. You okay with that?”
She nodded and followed him, with a puzzled expression on her face. “Sure, Sam, but somehow I get the feeling you’re stalling for time.”
He remained silent as they entered his office. He pulled the small coffee table closer to the couch so they could put their cups down.
After they both sat, he angled himself towards her.
“Sookie. I have so much I want to tell you, but I feel like I just don’t have the right words to express or explain myself. Not without sounding like an asshole or a liar. I…” He looked at her intently while reaching for her hand. “I want you to read my mind, cher. You’ll see that my thoughts don’t lie.”
Her gut told her to get up and leave, but she couldn’t help but take a peek into his tangled, red thoughts.
She listened in for just a few seconds but it was enough to cause her to gasp.
She jerked her hand away and gave him a wary look. “What the hell Sam? You’re a…what’s a shifter? And you…you think you love me, but why now, Sam? Is this all about Eric?”
Sam grabbed her shoulders. “Cher, I’ve been wanting to tell you for so long…about my shifting, about my feelings for you, but it just never seems like the time is right…and I wasn’t sure how you’d react to…”
“Stop right there, Sam. That’s bullshit and you know it! I’ve known you had feelings for me for some time, but it hurt that you never had the guts to say anything. I tried to stay out of your thoughts out of respect for your privacy…but all this time you’ve been hiding a bigger secret…” She paused and frowned. “You really can turn into animals?”
He nodded his head. She took his hand in hers again. Her eyes grew wide as she saw him as an owl sitting on a branch, looking through his eyes into her bedroom window. Seeing her…
She jumped up. “You sonofabitch! I can’t believe you were peeping through my window! Oh my God, you saw me…” Sookie turned bright red and ran out the door.
Sam was mortified. This was not the way he had wanted his confession to her to go! And to be honest, he hadn’t meant for her to know he had seen her masturbating. He had instead wanted to show her that he had seen Eric sneaking into her room. It had just popped into his head, clear as day…and sure as hell backfired on him, making him look like a pervert and not the damned vampire, who he felt was the true culprit.
He ran after her. “Sookie, please wait! Let me explain!”
She jumped into her car and took off in a rush, narrowly missing the dumpster as she backed up. While she drove away, hot tears fell down her cheeks as she felt the sting of humiliation and betrayal.
Heading back to her house, she cursed under her breath. “Fuck men. Humans, vampires, shifters, fairies, sasquatch, aliens…and whatever the hell else is out there. Lying, conniving, manipulative bastards…I’m done with all of them!”