Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
I dedicate this chapter to my Ella. I adore you. All the love in this chapter is for her, sorry lemon-lovers.
SeriousCrush is always the most loving editor in the world. Thank you!
Ella and I were seated and made small chitchat about the food choices on the menu while we decided what to order. I ordered the Salmon Genovese, which not only sounded delicious, (who doesn’t love fillets of salmon with lemon and pasta?) but it also seemed like the only thing that didn’t have garlic all over it. That’s the trouble with Italian restaurants. Italians love their garlic. I wonder if Italian vampires have grown accustomed to tasting garlic in their meals? I would have to ask one if I ever had the opportunity.
Ella ordered steak, and as I waited for her to give the details of her order, I eyed the dessert menu. I am a sucker for tiramisu, and this restaurant was known for theirs. Ella saw the dessert section I was looking at and said, “I’m torn between the amaretto housecake and the panna cotta.” I felt better knowing I was not the only one planning on ordering sweets. One of my favorite parts of eating out was ordering desserts. I love desserts. Also, I really enjoyed not having to cook for myself. Cooking takes time and having someone else cook for you always seems to make the food taste better. Perhaps it is because no one cooking for themselves would ever use that much butter and salt! Just another great part of eating out! Before the waiter left, I ordered a glass of white wine, and Ella ordered a glass of red. Nothing like a little wine to help relax everyone.
Ella started, “So, what is it that you need me for?” She folded her hands on the table and smiled at me.
“Uh, I’m not sure. Eric, my husband, suggested I hire someone to help me with shopping for clothes, packing for trips, taking care of things at the house to make sure I had plenty to eat when we got home from our trips, and transportation to and from airports.”
“So, you travel a lot, I take it?”
“Sorry, I should have said. Yes, Eric and I fight for vampire rights throughout the country. At least that’s the plan. Nothing has really happened so far, except for a meeting in New York. We’re leaving tomorrow night for SLC, and then flying straight away to Vegas. This is all so new!”
“Oo, you sound like superheros!” Ella chimed in, and then added, “Eric is a vampire?”
I nodded my head and said, “Pam is his child. She and I are sort of like sisters, I guess, and that is how I got your number. You’re not weird about human/vampire couples, are you?” I asked. I had not delved into her brain yet, but as I asked the last question, I poked around, listening for her initial reaction in case she decided to filter anything. I sighed in relief when I ‘heard’ It’s no big deal and then she said, “It’s no big deal.”
“Pam tells me that you are married, to a human.”
“Yes, Julian is wonderful and fully supports my choice to work so closely with vampires. I have had excellent experiences so far, and I hope that this will be no different. We have one dear little boy, and he keeps me busy. He goes to school full time though, and Julian is home quite a bit, so I will have plenty of time to dedicate to whatever you need me to do for you.” I nodded, of course women are excellent multitaskers. “My parents died in a plane crash when I was ten. My grandparents raised me, and my older sister. I still visit them every week. They are the reason I never moved away from Shreveport.”
“I am so sorry for your loss. I really can’t believe how similar our childhoods were, my Gran raised me and my older brother after my parents died when I was 7. She was so amazing! I haven’t really come to grips with her death, even though it’s been a few years now. It’s really hard to have the ‘Gran is gone’ conversation with your brain when you lose someone so important in your life.”
“Oh, sweetie, I’m so sorry! You must miss her so much! I am really terrified about losing my grandparents. They are everything to me. How do you go from having dinner every Tuesday night to never being able to talk to them again?” She shuddered and her eyebrows furrowed as she thought of her grandparents and their mortality.
“I do miss her, and believe me, moving out of the house she raised me in was incredibly difficult. Everything was so familiar, so cozy. Eric and I discussed me moving in with him, and I thought it was time for me to make a commitment to him and spending my life with him. I couldn’t really do that while I lived in Bon Temps!”
“Is that where you’re from?” Ella asked, her mouth hanging open. “My sister just moved into a house in Bon Temps! Her husband works for Norcross.”
“I have a good friend that is a crew leader at Norcross! Calvin Norris. Does his name ring any bells?”
She shook her head. “I’ll have to ask him if they know each other next Tuesday night at dinner.” She pulled out a small notebook. “To help me keep track of details.” She said pointing to it with the tip of her pen.
“Small world!” I couldn’t believe the similarities between our lives. She was perfect. I felt so comfortable with her, and although I wasn’t accustomed to telling people about my gift, in this case, if I didn’t tell her it would feel like a breach of trust. I would have to think of the right place to share this secret with her. “Obviously, I want to hire you, so, what details do you need to know about me?” I smiled at her, and knew that this was right.
She smiled back at me, pleased that I wanted to hire her. “Name, date of birth, dress size, shoe size, favorite colors, preferred style of clothing, colors and styles you dislike or wish to avoid, family/friend contact information-in case I need to organize a party of some sort for you, favorite foods, that sort of thing.” She had flipped her notebook to a new section and was poised with her pen, ready to write down everything I said.
Before I could begin, the waiter came with our food. I thanked him and dug in. The food was delicious and perfectly cooked. Ella seemed to be enjoying her dinner too, and we spent a few minutes in silence.
I made small talk about myself, only to find that Ella and I had more similarities in our lives. She had also been a waitress, although her experience had been relatively short lived, as she worked her way through college. She only had one sibling, she loved breakfast for dinner, shopping for others relaxed her, she too had many great friendships with gays and lesbians, and after talking for a while I discovered that she and her husband had a healthy and adventurous sex life. She leaned across the table and asked in a whisper, “How is it, I mean, with a vampire?”
A wide smile spread across my face as I thought of how to answer her. I started and stopped myself a few times. “That good, huh?” I nodded and giggled. “I have tried, uh things, with Eric that I would never have thought I would have tried before, not that I’m experienced by any means.”
“No. I didn’t date much in my teens and early twenties, and when I finally did, it was with a vampire, a weretiger, and now Eric. Not exactly conventional dating.”
“Really? Three? Don’t get me started….I would sound like a hussy compared to you!”
I waved my hand, dismissively. “How did you and Julian meet?”
“Actually, we have known each other since we were in high school. I spent a few years rebelling against my grandparents, translation, dating guys they didn’t approve of. I spent a lot of time sneaking in and out of the house. Julian was my best friend, so he knew all about it. By the time I realized that he was perfect for me, he was in a relationship. He knew something had changed and forced me to tell him one night. I am ashamed to say that he broke up with his girlfriend the next day. He had wanted me for so long, so when I told him how I felt about him, he jumped at the opportunity to be with me. I had never felt so desirable in all my life. This man had patiently waited and secretly loved me for so many years, and has said many times that he is going to spend the rest of his life treating me like the princess he knows I am. He is amazing, and he cooks.” Ella sighed as she thought about her husband. I smiled, happy to find someone else so happy in love. “Enough about me, let’s get on with your details. I’m ready.” She picked up her pen again and pushed her clean plate out of the way, holding her wine glass in her other hand, sipping occasionally.
I started with my family contacts: Jason, Claude, Dermot, and Hunter. Explaining that Hunter was my cousin’s son, and that although she had died, Hunter’s dad, Remy was more than happy to keep me in their lives. Then, I listed Tara, Sam, Pam, Amelia, and after thinking about it for a minute, added Amando. I gave phone numbers and spouse names where relevant. I realized as I listed my friends that only one of them was a ‘normal’ human. I also realized that I had nine people that I cared about besides Eric. That seemed like a terribly small number. I shook my head and went on, telling her my dress size, shoe size, favorite color, favorite style of pants, skirts, shirts, that sort of thing. I went on to describe the attire that was suitable for these meetings, and eventually the meetings we would have with press. Lowering my voice, I told her my bra and panties size, and explained what I typically bought for Eric. She smiled and said, “Nothing makes a woman feel more powerful than knowing how sexy she is under her clothes!” I couldn’t agree more. She assured me that there was an environmentally friendly dry cleaner that she went to that did a great job, for a reasonable price, with no chemical residue smell. She also assured me that she had several places she loved to shop and could find some really sexy and smart outfits for me. I mentioned that Tara had an amazing clothing store in Bon Temps, and she always had something stunning for me. I explained that I had gotten the outfit I was wearing tonight from her store. She made a note next to Tara’s name.
The waiter cleared the dishes from the table and asked if we wanted dessert. “Oh, yes!” We said at the same time. “Get out of my head!” I told her, putting my hands on my hips, in mock anger. We both giggled and glanced at the waiter, who looked at us like we were crazy. I ordered the tiramisu and she ordered the panna cotta.
“Do you have a contract you usually use?” I asked, once I had given her the rest of the details she needed.
She pulled a folder out of her purse, and opened it to reveal a neat and short contract. “Trust. It’s all about trust. I need to be able to trust you, and your husband, with my life. You need to be able to trust me in your personal space and with your money.”
“I agree. Ella, would you feel comfortable going over this contract with Eric and I? He really wants to meet you, and needs to know that he can trust you, since you will have access to our house.” I smiled at her, and waited for her reaction.
“I would love to. I will follow you home.” She tucked the folder back into her purse.
I paid for dinner, and when she protested, I told her not to mention it, it was a work related expense. She put her wallet away and motioned to zip her mouth shut.
We left the restaurant and a few minutes later were pulling up to the gate waiting to be flagged in. “Good evening, this is Ella Golding. She will be working for me and will need access to the house, would you please put her name on the list of people allowed through?” The man inside the booth nodded and smiled, grabbing a clipboard and writing her name next to our house number.
I came in through the door inside the garage, and Ella hesitantly followed me. I probably should have taken her through the front door. Oh well. I called out to Eric and was greeted in the hall with a big smile and a hug that lifted me off the floor. He kissed me gently and put me down. “Mm, you taste like sweet coffee.”
“I had tiramisu for dessert.” I said, explaining the flavor in my mouth. I turned around to see Ella staring at us. She had stopped dead in her tracks as she took in our greeting. Eric was smiling kindly at her, and I touched her hand. “Ella? Are you alright?”
“Uh, yes. I’m fine! Sorry, you didn’t mention that your husband was a six and a half foot tall Viking god!” Her voice was breathy, “Sorry, I have lost my filter. I have always had a weakness for tall blondes.” She leaned towards me and whispered, “Julian.” Her face flushed as she started to realize that she had just gushed over my gorgeous husband.
“Would you like me to turn around? Sookie enjoys that view quite a bit.” Eric said, lifting his arms like he was about to put on a show for her. I smacked him in the chest and mouthed ‘knock it off!’
“Sorry. He thinks he’s funny.” I smiled at her, taking her hand and leading her into the living room, where Eric had been reading. His Kindle was still glowing softly on the table.
“This is the living room, the kitchen is there, my bedroom, well closet really, is down the hall, along with a bathroom, and our bedroom is downstairs.”
I motioned for her to take a seat on one of the soft chairs, and Eric and I sat on the couch facing her. “Thank you for your willingness to come here tonight, it is important that I get a good impression from the humans I work with. Your invitation here, to our home, is a very serious matter. I must know that I can trust you.” Eric said. His voice was serious enough to startle me. I hadn’t really considered the implications of giving someone access to the place where he rested and was so vulnerable. “That being said, I would like to request that any business you have here, you keep to this level of the house.” Ella nodded.
“I totally understand. I am very interested in working with you both, and I would never do anything to jeopardize my job. Do you have any more requests or information?” Ella asked as she pulled the small notebook out of her purse.
I bit my lip and nodded my head. “Ella, there is something you should know about me, that may influence your willingness to take this job, although I really hope it doesn’t. It is not something that I share with everyone, so I will need your word that you will keep my secret.”
“Sookie, of course you can trust me with your secret.” Ella nodded emphatically, leaning forward to listen to me.
“I am a telepath. I can read human minds. It used to be very difficult for me, but it is much easier now, to concentrate and block people’s thoughts, preventing them from overwhelming me.”
“That is fascinating! It must be hard to be surrounded by people!” She was awestruck. “Did you listen to my thoughts tonight?” Her face closed, and her eyes narrowed.
“Only once,” I admitted, “when I asked you if you were alright with human/vampire marriage. I always feel like I’m violating people listening to their minds, but I need to know that I am safe.”
“I understand that, and I don’t feel violated. If I had a gift like yours I would use it too.” Ella said. The fact that she called my telepathy a gift made me want to hug her.
Ella pulled out the folder containing the contract. “This is the contract that I sign with new clients. As I explained to Sookie, it is all about trust. We both need to be sure we are safe, and if we can agree on that, we’re golden. Of course we can always add a clause indicating my willingness to keep your secret.”
“I would like that.” I said, and watched as she quickly jotted down the additional information at the bottom of the contract.
She handed the contract to Eric. We both read it carefully, checking to be certain that it covered all the bases. It did. Pam was right about Ella. She was perfect. Ella handed us her pen. We both signed and watched as she signed.
“Sookie, will you show me around? I don’t want to feel like I’m snooping.” I nodded and left Eric to his reading. I opened all the cupboards in the kitchen, showing her how I had organized everything, and where I put food. She had brought her notebook with her, and as we went, she made notes about the brands of food in the cupboards, and the items in the fridge.
I led her to the bathroom, and she made notes about everything I would need, brands of toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, razors, tampons, facial cleaner, toner, and moisturizer. She admired my wooden brush, and mentioned she wanted to get one like it as she was always on the search for a good brush.
I slowly pushed on my bedroom door, trying to decide what to say about the sex swing, and finally just sucked it up and opened the door. A sly smile spread across her face as she eyed it. She smiled at me and said in a whisper, “You didn’t say anything about this kind of sex!” I smiled and said back, in a normal voice, “There’s no point whispering, he can hear everything.” Eric’s voice came down the hall, “Too right, Lover!” She blushed again and said, “I always forget about that!” I pulled her into my room to show her my closet and dresser.
We ooed and aahed over several of the outfits in my closet. I showed her my favorite ones, giving her an idea of what I really loved and what looked best on me. She nodded her head and made more notes; colors, cuts, styles. She noticed that I had an awful lot of skirts in my favorite wardrobe. “They are so perfect for spontaneous sex!” She laughed out loud and said, “I know just what you mean.” She lifted the hem of her skirt just enough to reveal thigh highs connected to a sexy pink garter. I squealed and pulled her over to my dresser, opening the drawer of my ‘sexy’ clothes, including a growing collection of garter belts. I didn’t have a pink one. She made a note. I also mentioned that sometimes my underwear were a casualty of sex, so if she could get a few pairs that matched a bra that would be best. I found myself being more and more open with her.
“You know, Ella, I have never had a girl friend that knew so much about me. Someone that I could be so honest with, share so much with. I know we just met, but I adore you. You are so amazing, and I just know that we will be great friends.”
“I feel the same way. I am not usually friends with women. They are complicated and petty. Not you. You are refreshingly honest and so funny! I adore you too.” She hugged me, and I hugged her right back.
“So, you’re leaving tomorrow night. Would you like me to shop for a few new things for you and take you to the airport?” I nodded my head and said, “But I don’t know how to work this all out, money-wise I mean.”
“Why don’t we join Eric and discuss money.”
He had his book down and was ready for our conversation since he had been listening to every word we had exchanged. He was happy, probably because I was. I loved him for that.
Ella started, “What I typically do, is sit down with my clients,” she gestured to us sitting together, checking it off her mental list, “and agree to a salary, based on the amount of help you require. Then we can discuss an ‘allowance’ for spending on clothes, shoes, food, etc. I have a full size van, which can be used to transport a coffin, although with your size I’ll need measurements just to be safe. Transportation to and from airports will not be a problem. I only request that you provide the itinerary for each flight so I can call the airlines to get accurate arrival and departure times, that way I can be waiting at the pick up curb for you and get you to your flight on time. I will be happy to shop for Sookie and pack your luggage, if you would like.” She paused, and waited for me to nod, I hated packing for trips. “Eric, would you like me to do any shopping or packing for you?”
“No, I’m very fast, so I don’t see a need for help.”
Ella continued, “Ok, that’s fine. Now…..salary. I typically charge $3,500.00 a month for what I consider ‘full time’ employment. I will be available via cell phone 24 hours a day, and will be happy to handle any requests you have, including last minute shopping. I will be here when you need me, and will do my best to assist you in any way possible.”
“Sold.” Eric said, making Ella gasp since he didn’t try to barter on the wage she asked for. “We need you immediately, and when we get back, we can discuss an annual wage. I will also set up a charge card through our account, for your shopping ‘allowance.’ This time, I will give you cash.” Eric stood up and in blur, was gone and back before either of us could figure out where he had gone. “Is $3,000 enough to get you started?”
Ella was nodding again. I just stared at him, my mouth gaping open thinking ‘3,000 dollars for shopping money for one trip?’ I couldn’t voice my disbelief before Eric said, “Stop looking at me like that, you know how I love to spoil you! Just imagine the beautiful things Ella will be able to buy for you!”
She took the pile of cash and put it in a flat wallet in her purse. She sat down with me to hash out each day of our trip. Eric supplied her with the travel itinerary. “Sookie, I will go shopping for you tomorrow, and be back here at 5 to help you pack then take you to the airport.”
“I will be sure to set an alarm then!” I said, “He’s a bad influence on my diurnal sleep schedule.” Eric smiled at me and hugged me again. “I love being a bad influence on you!”
Ella tilted her head and had a happy smile on her face, watching us again. “I’ll let you get on with your night. It was so nice to meet you both. I look forward to a long and happy relationship, based on work and friendship.” She hugged me again and turned to leave. Eric released me and said, “Let me walk you to your car.” I thought it was very sweet of him to offer, and as I watched them outside talking quietly I knew I had made the right choice.
Eric came inside a few minutes later, with a cat’s-got-the-canary look on his face. “What’s that all about?” I said, pointing to his smile.
“You’ll just have to wait and see. Ella is going to do a little favor for me while she’s out tomorrow. No cheating, I want it to be a surprise.”
“Fine. No cheating.” I do love a good surprise.
I know, I know, the lack of lemons is a bit sad, but I do hope you enjoyed meeting Ella. Do you have any ideas about what Eric’s surprise will be? I’d love to hear!
On to Getaway Ch 44: SL UT