Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest. A huge thanks to FairytaleAmber for her help editing. I owe you big time! 🙂 All remaining mistakes are my own.
Quinn. What a waste of time. I can’t believe he lied about everything. I learned more about him in a five-minute conversation with Jake than I have over the few months we’ve been seeing each other. It’s not much of a relationship, that’s for sure. We spent one night together. One night. That’s all he’s willing to give me. I think I deserve more than that! He hasn’t even kissed me since I’ve been here. He’s too busy working. Same old story, different day.
Sookie checked the stage, hoping to catch another glimpse of Eric. Now there’s a man who knows how to give me what I need. Why didn’t I try harder to make things work with him? Why is everything so complicated?
Sophie-Anne touched her arm. “Sookie?”
She blinked, erasing the thoughts in her head and focusing on her boss. “Sorry, I got a little … distracted.” She gave her a half smile. “What were you saying?”
“Kentucky and I need to talk. Will you go fetch our missing luggage?”
Sookie nodded and excused herself. She glanced at Andre’s blank face before she left. She shuddered as she thought about what could be churning around in his mind. He’s definitely not thinking about lying boyfriends and longing for exes. That’s for damn sure. She had almost made it to the door when she noticed a tray of wine glasses filled with blood tipping toward her. A shriek left her lips as the syrupy red liquid spilled down the front of her blouse and dripped on the floor.
The server who had been carrying the tray apologized up one side and down another as he bent over to clean up the shards of glass, revealing Frannie with a gleeful smile plastered on her face.
“Oops. Did you get covered in blood, blondie?” Her grin turned into a smirk.
“Did you do that on purpose?”
I don’t give a rat’s ass whose sister Frannie is. Sookie clenched her hands into fists and stepped to the side, letting a group of servers into the space between them so they could clean up the mess. All in all, it only took about a minute.
She looked up into Frannie’s eyes and whispered, “You’re lucky I’m working.”
“Ooo. I’m scared.” Frannie scoffed. “What are you going to do? Force me to eat possum? Isn’t that what ya’ll eat in whatever small back-woods town you come from?”
Sookie lunged toward her, intent on beating the hell out of her, when someone grabbed her shoulders.
“Babe, what seems to be the problem?”
She spun in Quinn’s arms, focusing her glare on him. “When were you going to tell me you have a bitch for a sister?”
Quinn raised his eyebrows. “Now wait a minute.” He glanced at Frannie and then at Sookie again. “What happened?”
Frannie’s face was the picture of innocence when she said, “Your clumsy girlfriend bumped into that waiter and then she tried to blame me for it! Can you believe it?”
Quinn sighed. “Babe?” He shook his head.
“You actually believe her?” Sookie screeched, getting the attention of half the room. She didn’t care who looked. “That bitch spilled synthetic blood all over me.”
“Watch it. She’s my sister.” Quinn narrowed his eyes and directed her out into the beige service corridor, away from the growing crowd, never releasing his grip on her shoulders.
Frannie followed them.
So much for having a private conversation. “She did it on purpose!” Sookie ground out.
“Why would I do that?” Frannie asked.
Sookie yanked away from Quinn. “Because you found out I’m dating your brother and you obviously don’t think I’m good enough for him.”
Quinn held his hands up to form a time-out. “How do you know each other?”
“We met earlier,” Frannie said. “While she was supposed to be working for those blood-suckers.”
“Don’t you dare talk about my work ethic. I’ve been here for the whole convention, unlike you, who just happens to show up the night before a big event so you can mooch off your brother.”
Quinn frowned. “How do you know that?” he asked, his voice steely and cold.
“Jake told me…” Uh-oh. Shouldn’t have said that. She looked away.
“You asked Jake about me?” His jaw clenched.
“Yeah, I did. Okay? It’s not a crime to try and find out information about someone you’re dating. You haven’t told me anything. You haven’t been honest about anything.”
“Oh, and I suppose you have.” Quinn crossed his arms over his chest.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I’ve seen the way Eric looks at you. And you right back.”
“I knew it! You’re nothing but a fang banger!” Frannie interjected.
“He’s… He’s complicated.” Sookie stammered. “Stay out of it, Frannie.” She spat her name out.
“Don’t talk to my sister like that.” Quinn growled, making the hair on her arms stand on end. Frannie sidled up next to her brother, the two of them forming a wall.
Sookie’s blood boiled. “You’re really going to side with her?”
Quinn gave her a condescending look that said, poor simple Sookie. “She’s my family. She’ll always be first.”
“Then you can forget about us. I don’t need this.” She motioned down to her bloodstained shirt. “I’m not going to be second. Especially not to her.”
Quinn didn’t flinch. “So we’re done?” he asked in a flat, matter-of-fact voice.
Sookie nodded. “Yep.” She turned on her heel and walked away, leaving Quinn and Frannie staring after her. She dodged through the kitchen and then made her way toward her room. Her hands shook as she pulled her card key out of her pocket.
With a slight whoosh of air, Eric appeared beside her. “Sookie.”
After she recovered from the initial shock of his arrival, she turned to face him. “What do you want, Eric?” He still wore the black robe with the gold belt. His golden mane of hair spilling over his shoulders. Some of the tension eased out of her shoulders. “I need to change.”
“I saw what happened. She tipped the tray.” He gave her a cool nod.
She sighed. “I figured as much. She’s so horrible.”
A smile tugged up the corner of his mouth. “Looks like you, what’s that expression?” His eyes went up inside his head, pulling the right phrase out of his brain. “Dodged a bullet. Yes?”
Her shoulders sagged. “I guess. He wouldn’t defend me. He wouldn’t even listen.”
Eric nodded and touched her back, soothing her more. “I heard.”
“Great.” She rested her forehead against the door.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you inquiring about his past. Especially when everyone else knows it.” His hand rubbed circles on the small of her back. “You also had the Queen’s attention. She’s interested in our complication.”
“Everyone heard our breakup?” She searched his face, hoping it wasn’t true.
“You weren’t exactly quiet, and we are vampires.” He smiled. “I explained our history to the Queen.”
She tilted her head. “Oh really? What did you tell her?”
“That we have been lovers—”
A sharp laugh escaped her mouth. “Of course you started with that.”
“And that I stayed with you during the witch war, and also that we have exchanged blood on a couple of occasions.” He took an unnecessary breath. “That is the most interesting part of our past, as far as she’s concerned.” He stepped closer to her, and when he spoke again, his breath caressed her ear. “She wants you in the fold. I am already under oath to her, so I am the logical choice.”
“She wants you to turn me into a vampire?” Dread gripped her as she stared into his beautiful face.
Eric laughed, and Sookie frowned. Wait, she doesn’t want me to be a vampire? What does she want? What does being in the fold mean?
“Don’t laugh at me. Tell me what’s going on.” She scowled at him.
“Another exchange. It will solidify our bond.”
“I don’t want to be bonded to you. I don’t want anyone to own me.” She pouted and pulled away from him, bumping into her door.
Eric frowned. “That’s not how it works. Would you rather be bonded to Andre? That’s what he suggested, but I told him I would talk to you, and the Queen agreed I am the more logical choice. You are too valuable to her. She can’t risk losing you to someone else.”
Chills went up her spine. “Not Andre.” She shook her head and her eyes went wide.
“If we are not bonded, you will be forced to drink Andre’s blood.” His eyes clouded over and his jaw tightened.
“I don’t want that.” And neither do you, apparently.
He shook his head.
“Can I change first? My shirt is starting to dry and I’d really like to try and get this stain out.”
Eric stepped away from her and motioned to the door. “Be my guest.”
They walked inside the room together and Eric grimaced as he took in the sight of her roommate’s disheveled things. “She’s been a joy to stay with,” Sookie said. “I’m going to jump in the shower, then we can discuss.”
She left him staring at the pile of things on Carla’s bed.
The synthetic blood had soaked through her blouse and bra and stained her skin. She turned the shower on as she stepped out of her clothes. Her slacks had a few splatters, and only took a few seconds to rinse out, but the shirt would take much longer. Good. That’ll give me time to think.
She hunched over in the tub and turned her attention to her ruddy shirt. Of course the queen would want to have control over me, why didn’t I see that before I agreed to come? Not like I had any other choice. When the queen tells you you’re working for her, you can’t just tell her no. I’m screwed. I’m either bonded to Eric or Andre. She took a deep breath. Would it be so bad to be bonded to Eric? She rubbed a bar of soap across the silky fabric as the warm water pelted her skin. He had always looked out for her, kept her safe, made her feel special, given her presents, and no one had ever made her as happy as he did the weeks he spent with her during the witch war. Maybe being connected to him wasn’t such a bad thing. Especially considering her current situation. Even if it was the best idea, she still had a lot of questions for him.
Wrapped tightly in a towel, she stepped out of the bathroom. Now I need to get dressed. Why didn’t I pick out clothes to change into?
Eric sat on her bed reading the romance book she’d brought from home. His robe had fallen open a little, revealing the milky white skin stretched taut over his chest. His eyes danced when he looked up from the pages. “You enjoy this?”
She blushed. “It’s fun to read, I guess.” Something’s got to keep me warm at night.
He started reading out loud. “She could feel his manhood pressing against her leg, sending a shiver down her spine.” He smiled again.
She swallowed hard and attempted to avoid looking at his manhood, failing miserably. It had been months since she’d had sex. With Quinn. Just thinking about that night made her furious. I trusted him. She shook her head. “I have questions. How does it work?”
Eric lifted one eyebrow and glanced at the page. “I think they’re about to undress and fuck.”
She reached over and grabbed the book out of his hands and put it back on the nightstand, positioning herself right in front of him. “Not the book.” I’ve read that part enough to know they’re going to have sex, not just once, but twice. She hid her smile. “The bond. What will it be like?”
“Oh.” He sat up and became much more serious. “I’ll be able to feel you, you’ll be able to feel me. Especially when we’re near each other.”
“I guess I already feel you,” she said and frowned. “That’s what it is, isn’t it? I never realized it until just now, but I’ve been able to feel you a little since the bombing in Dallas.”
He nodded. “The third bond will make it permanent. It will also be stronger. If you need me, all you have to do is feel it and I’ll be there.”
“And if you need me?”
He smiled and stretched his legs out on either side of where she stood, trapping her. “Then you’ll know and you’ll come to me. You’ll need to come to me.”
“And if the queen wants me to do something?”
“She’ll go through me. Politics.” He shrugged. “I’m your best bet.”
“Can’t we just say we did it?” she whined.
Eric raised his eyebrows. “You think Andre will be satisfied with your word? He’ll want proof.” He caressed the side of her neck.
Sookie’s eyes closed. “Proof.” Proof meant a big ol’ bite mark on her neck.
“He suggested we exchange in front of him, but I requested a more private setting.” His fingers followed the slope of her collarbone and played against the edge of the towel, making her heart race.
Focus! “How will he know you didn’t just feed from me? You’ll heal within seconds.”
“If I smell like you, and you like me, that should be enough.”
The hand she’d been clutching her towel with began to ache. “I need to get dressed.” She couldn’t look at him or think about the way her body hummed whenever he touched her. I just broke up with Quinn and I can’t stop thinking about rubbing against Eric. What’s wrong with me?
“Or you could let go.” He put his hand on top of her white knuckles.
I know what I would do… On to Third Time’s The Charm: Chapter 2