Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
A huge thanks to FairytaleAmber who not only brainstormed with me on this story, but also edited for me. Thanks a million times! 🙂 All remaining mistakes are my own.
“Looks like you’ve got another visitor.” Pam nodded her head slightly to the edge of the stage where Bill Compton lingered.
Eric forced a smile. “Bill, what brings you to my area?”
“The old family homestead in Bon Temps. The last of my kin has recently died.” Bill looked at his nails briefly. “I thought it best to settle in. Mainstream.”
“Ah, mainstreaming.” Eric sighed. “Any other plans? Are you going to open a business, perhaps?”
“No, I’ll be plenty busy.” He pressed his thin lips together.
Eric frowned. Busy doing what? “I appreciate you checking in.”
“It’s only right, you are in charge up here, after all.” With his hands tucked behind his back, Bill strolled away.
“What was that all about?” Pam asked.
“I have no idea. He made it sound like he was doing me a favor by following protocol. As if he’d been given orders but went ahead and checked in anyway. I wonder who is controlling him.”
“Want me to follow him? Torture him until he tells me?” Pam’s eyes gleamed.
“Maybe,” Eric said as he watched Bill heading toward the exit. “He didn’t even get a drink.”
Pam’s body tensed, ready to pounce, but Eric held up his hand. “Hold that thought.”
He left her waiting, while he made a phone call from the privacy of his office. “Rasul.”
“Eric,” Rasul answered, rolling the r.
“Do you know anything about Bill Compton being in my area?”
The noise in the background changed and when Rasul spoke again, his voice echoed as if he were in a closet. “Yes, he was here two nights ago.”
“Did he meet with the Queen?”
“Yes. About what, I have no idea.” Rasul’s voice strained.
“Of course. I will take it up with her myself. Good night.”
“Good night.” Rasul disconnected.
The second time he dialed, he called the Queen’s direct line. Andre answered.
“It’s Eric Northman, may I have a word with my Queen?” Eric asked. Whatever Bill is up to, I need to know what it is.
“One moment.” The phone clattered against a table and then Sophie-Anne answered.
“Sheriff Northman, what can I do for you?”
“Good Evening, my Queen. I was hoping you could help illuminate the purpose of a visitor in my area.”
“Oh? And who is this visitor?”
“Bill Compton. He came in tonight, and something didn’t seem right.” Everything about Bill seemed wrong. “You wouldn’t happen to know why he’s in this area, would you?”
“As a matter of fact I do,” she paused before she went on, “I met with him two nights ago to discuss a private matter.”
Eric took a deep breath to steady his voice. “If your private matter brings him into my area, I should know about it.” He knew he walked a fine line between being matter-of-fact and impertinent, but his gamble paid off.
“I had no idea you would be interested in such an insignificant errand.”
“Insignificant? He plans to settle here.”
Sophie-Anne sighed. “I sent Bill Compton to procure someone. It might take him a while.”
“Someone important,” Eric stated.
“I have served you loyally for many years. Do you have reason to doubt me now?” Eric asked with a hint of dramatics.
“Of course not!” Another sigh. “I have reason to believe there is a telepath in Bon Temps.”
“Male or female?”
“Female,” Sophie-Anne said.
“If you are interested in obtaining this human, why didn’t you ask me for help? She lives in my area.”
“Fangtasia is a very profitable business, surely that consumes much of your time.”
“I always have time for you. Of course, I will need to make arrangements, but I’m sure Pam is willing to help. Shall I tell Bill, or will you?”
“Tell him what, exactly?”
“That there’s no need for him to pursue this woman any further.”
Sophie-Anne laughed, light and airy. “Why in the world would I do that? At this rate, I should have her twice as fast as I originally anticipated.”
Eric clenched his jaw. “May I have her name?”
Eric jotted the name down on a piece of paper before he bid Sophie-Anne farewell. Moments later, he stood by Pam’s side. “Bill is here on the Queen’s business.”
“Without telling you?” Her eyebrows arched impossibly high.
“Bill is her procurer. She said it was an insignificant errand.”
“Bullshit.” Pam crossed her arms over her chest. Her eyes became tiny angry slits.
“I agree. She’s after a telepath from Bon Temps.”
“So the Queen wants her all to herself, does she?”
Eric nodded. “That’s my guess, and she’s willing to get her by any means necessary. I’ve heard Bill is very charming.”
Pam’s face scrunched up. “He doesn’t stand a chance against you.”
He took a deep breath. “We’ll see. He’s already gotten a head start. I need you to cover for me tomorrow night.”
It didn’t take Eric long to drive to Bon Temps and find his way to Sookie Stackhouse’s address. He straightened his back as he knocked on the heavy wooden door of the old farmhouse.
A frail woman in a nightgown opened the door. “Yes?” Her forehead wrinkled with worry.
“I’m so sorry to bother you, ma’am. Does Sookie Stackhouse live here?” Eric smiled, bright and dazzling.
The old woman relaxed slightly, but she frowned when she answered, “Who’s asking?”
“Forgive me.” Eric bowed. “Eric Northman. I have a matter to discuss with her. Is she at home?”
“She’s at Merlotte’s. Just a few miles up the road on the left.”
“Thank you, ma’am.” Eric bowed again.
“You’re very welcome young man.” She gave him an approving smile.
With that, he made his way to his car, driving slowly down the bumpy driveway to the main road. The dim green lights coming off Merlotte’s illuminated a small parking lot three miles away.
As he got out of his car, muttering sounds near the dumpster got his attention. A blonde woman, wearing skimpy black shorts and a skin-tight T-shirt fought to dispose of a garbage bag. Eric moved silently around the side of it and then gripped the lid the woman struggled with.
She jumped and clutched at her chest. “Sweet Jesus, you scared me!” Her bright blue eyes went wide as she took him in.
Eric bowed slightly. “I’m so sorry. That was not my intention. You looked like you needed help.”
“I did.” She dusted her hands together and then looked at her white shirt, which had gotten smudged with fine black dust. She pawed at the fabric, making her breasts bounce. She smiled at him. “Do you always help barmaids take the garbage out?”
Eric laughed. “No. But I’m glad I helped you.”
Her shoulders relaxed as she looked into his face. Her cheek sported a matching smear of black.
He brought his thumb up and wiped the dirty spot off her flawless golden skin. “You have something on your cheek.” She’s so warm and beautiful. If I weren’t here on business…
Her eyes closed slowly, and she leaned into his touch. She pulled away from him and blushed and then wiped her face with the back of her hand. “Excuse me, I need to get back to work.”
He watched her enter the building through the back door before going to the entrance.
The bar bustled with activity, people talking and drinking, filling almost every booth in the small building. Which one of these women is Sookie Stackhouse? He scanned the room and spotted Bill immediately. Situated in the center of the room. He shifted uneasily as Eric walked by, but wouldn’t look at him. Eric slid into a corner booth positioning his back to the wall with Bill facing away from him. Bill didn’t turn around.
The small wiry shifter working behind the bar seemed to be having a difficult time trying to decide whom to watch. Eric or Bill.
And then she walked into the room: the beautiful blonde. Fresh-faced and smiling, she made her way over to Eric’s table, pulling out her pencil and paper. “What can I get you?”
“Can I peruse the menu?”
She smiled and pulled a menu out of her front pocket. “Sure thing. I’ll be back.” She turned, walked a few steps and then came right back. “We just got a delivery of synthetic blood, but it’s not on the menu yet.” Her eyes darted upward. “We’ve got B positive, and O negative … I think. Let me double check.”
Before he could say anything, she bounced away. She nodded when she returned. “Yep, B pos and O neg. What’ll you have?”
He couldn’t help but laugh at her exuberance. “And how do you know I’m the kind of person who would order that kind of thing?” He didn’t exactly fit the stereotype for dark, brooding vampire.
“I can tell you’re … different. Plus, when you touched me earlier, your hands were icy.” Her cheeks flushed.
He lifted an eyebrow. “B positive, please.”
“Coming right up.” She smiled, and then she disappeared. The next time she came to his table, she carried a bottle of blood and an empty wine glass.
“Thank you,” he said. She blushed and then got back to work.
He watched her over the next hour, and to his relief, she seemed to be avoiding Bill as much as possible. She also seemed to be spending more time in his corner of the room than anywhere else.
As the night wore on, the human patrons went home, one by one. Eric ordered another blood, and when the beautiful blonde delivered it, he whispered. “Is it my imagination, or are you avoiding that man in the middle of the room?” Bill’s head twitched, but he didn’t turn around.
The woman laughed and rolled her eyes. “It’s not your imagination.” She sat at a table next to him, close enough that it was almost as if she had chosen the seat across from him, and started unscrewing saltshakers and filling them. When she spoke, she kept her voice as low as possible. “He’s been coming in here for the past few nights. Hitting on me.”
Eric took a sip and nodded. “I can see why.” He meant it as a compliment, but she clearly didn’t take it that way. She rolled her eyes again. “You are very beautiful.” That time, she blushed. She worked for a minute in silence before he said, “How did you know I was different? Besides the coldness of my skin, after all, I could just have poor circulation.”
She looked into his eyes for a moment and then back to the table in front of her. “Your, um, skin. It looks different. Like his.” She jerked her head toward Bill’s table. “So, what brings you to Bon Temps? It’s your first time here, right?”
Eric arched his eyebrows.
“I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve never seen you around before,” she said matter-of-fact.
“I live in Shreveport, but business brought me here.” His shoulders slumped. For a couple of hours, he had forgotten his promise to the Queen. I’ve probably missed her already. Most of the humans have already gone home for the night. “Do you always take such an interest in strangers?”
She thought about it for a second, and when she opened her mouth to answer, the shifter behind the bar called out, “Sookie, can you lend me a hand?”
Eric’s mouth hung open. I didn’t miss her at all. She’s been sitting right in front of me this whole time!
“Hang on a sec, Sam. I need to cap these,” she said over her shoulder. Her fingers worked quickly, twisting the lids on all the saltshakers. She sighed when she looked at him. “Time to get back to work. Thanks for chatting.” She flashed him a smile and then she left.
Eric or Bill…wonder who’s going to get the girl? 🙂 Find out in Worth It: Chapter 3