Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
All mistakes are my own!
“Thank you,” Sookie mumbled as she gripped the narrow glasses and made her way back to her miserable friend. She glanced over her shoulder at the spectacular specimen of a man standing behind the bar. He was watching her. She smiled at him and then focused on walking back to Beth.
“I got you a Long Island iced tea. I hope you like them.”
“They have a lot of booze in them, right?”
“Right.” Sookie nodded.
Beth wiped her eyes. “Then I like them.” She took a sip and then shook her head. “Whoa. Strong.”
Sookie craned her head around Beth to peek at the golden god who had served her.
“What’s so interesting?” Beth asked, taking another drink, much longer than the first.
“That guy behind the bar,” she whispered, “there’s something different about him.” She wanted to scream, He’s silent, but kept her mouth shut.
Beth turned in her seat, clearly staring at him.
Sookie smacked her hand. “Don’t be so obvious.”
“He looks like a Viking,” Beth observed. “Like an honest to goodness Viking!”
“Beth,” Sookie whispered. “Turn around. He’s looking at us.”
She shrugged and then turned to face Sookie again. “I can see why you’re looking. Besides looking like a Viking, what’s so different about him?”
Sookie squirmed in her seat. I can’t tell her about my gift. Why did I even bring it up? “He, um, sounds different.” Why can’t I hear him? Is my brain broken? She frowned. She worked her way around the room, mentally, focusing on the few other customers.
The first, an old unkempt man, hunched over his beer, immediately projected his sorrow through his thoughts. What am I going to tell Irene? She doesn’t even know I got fired last week. Sookie shook her head. The other two men sat near each other, coworkers sharing stories about their boss. The younger man projected images of the dull workday ahead of them. He looked up when he noticed her eyes on him, he grinned at her. Suddenly, the images in his brain shifted to ones of a more sexual nature, featuring her.
Sookie looked away quickly, blocking him from her mind. Nope, still works. Pig. Turning her body toward the bar, she focused on the blond man again. Still nothing. Her eyes flicked over to the petite woman mindlessly cleaning bottles of vodka, and her mouth hung open. I can’t hear her either. What in the hell is going on?
Ice cubes clattered against glass as Beth smacked her lips. “That was good.”
Sookie slid her glass across the table. “Here, have mine.” She needed to stay sharp to figure out what was going on.
Beth clicked her tongue. “Are you sure? We’re supposed to be wallowing together, remember?”
Sookie smiled. “I’ll get something else. Be right back.” She slid off the stool and headed for the bar, trying to avoid the amorous man’s table. But the man’s thoughts assaulted her before he could say anything, so she turned toward him and scowled. “You don’t stand a chance, buddy.”
Clearly offended by her straightforward rejection, he downed his beer and mumbled to his friend, “We should probably go. Early morning.”
Sookie watched them leave out of the corner of her eye as she finished her trip to the bar. The Viking god was nowhere to be seen.
“You handled him nicely,” the blonde woman behind the bar said. “He’s an asshat.”
Sookie laughed. “Thank you.” She tilted her head as she tried to listen to the woman’s thoughts, finally giving up. “Can I get a ginger ale?”
“Of course,” the blond god said.
Sookie gasped. “Where did you come from?”
“My office.” He pointed down the hall and then poured her drink.
When he handed it to her, her fingers grazed his and an electric shock shot up her arm, radiating through her body. He must’ve felt it too, because his eyes widened and he inhaled quickly.
“Thanks,” she murmured. When she got back to their table, Beth had finished half of her second drink. A sloppy smile tugged up the corners of her mouth.
“You’re back!” she slurred.
Sookie laughed. “Let the wallowing begin!” She clanked her glass to Beth’s and then they started talking about worthless men.
After they exhausted every flaw of her ex, Beth asked, “Do you like working with me?”
Sookie nodded. “I do. You’re really nice.”
Beth grinned. “You’re nice too. Thanks for being my friend.”
“Ditto!” If only she knew how hard it is for me to be around other people. Maybe one day, I’ll tell her. “I’m sorry Jake dumped you. You deserve better than that.”
Beth’s smile fell and tears sprang into her eyes. “Thanks.” She finished her drink. “I’m drunk.”
“Do you feel better?” Sookie’s eyebrows knitted together.
“I do. Thanks again.”
“Come on, I’ll drive you home.” Sookie offered her hand.
“What about my car?”
“We don’t have any houses tomorrow, so we’ll just swing by here at some point and pick it up.”
Beth put her arm around Sookie’s neck and leaned on her. “Okay.”
On their way out, Sookie smiled at the bartenders and paid for their drinks, leaning Beth against the bar. “I need to get my friend home. Is it okay if she leaves her car here overnight?”
The god answered, “We lock the parking lot during the day. It’ll be open at eight tomorrow night.”
“Thanks. We’ll be back.” She took a deep breath before trying to hoist Beth onto her feet again, and a familiar scent filled her nose. She inhaled again, but Beth was too close, so all she could smell was Beth’s shampoo.
* * * *
The following night, Beth chatted on their drive to Shreveport. “Thanks for picking me up tonight. Sorry I got so hammered. It’s kind of a long drive.”
“I don’t mind,” Sookie replied. She couldn’t help but smile at the thought of seeing the mysterious blond man again.
“I’ll pay you back. Next time we go out, I’ll drive.” Beth bit her bottom lip.
Next time. We really are friends. Sookie grinned. “Deal.”
Sookie’s heart thundered inside her chest as they pulled into the parking lot at Up All Night.
Beth got out and said, “I’ll see you at work tomorrow, okay? Thanks again for the ride.”
“No problem. See ya.” Sookie watched her drive away and then stared at the door. She pulling into a parking spot and turned her car off. “I should probably let him know we came to get the car, right?” she asked herself in the mirror. “Right.” She nodded and stepped outside, slamming the door behind her.
On her way toward the main entrance, she heard a clattering sound off to the side of the building, followed by someone muttering in frustration. She turned and walked toward the back of the building where the sound originated, but when she got there, she was alone. She frowned and touched the side of a box that must’ve just tipped over. One of the glass bottles inside had broken and the sour, pungent aroma of alcohol permeated the air.
She took a step backward and then turned, bumping into a six foot four inch wall of Viking. She gasped and her hands came up instinctively, nearly touching his chest.
“Looking for something?” he said, his voice low and smooth. He was just as silent as he had been the night before, which put her at ease immediately.
She inhaled deeply and held her breath. There it is again. Where do I know that smell? She closed her eyes and savored it and then remembered she needed to answer him. Her eyes fluttered open. “I heard someone struggling, and thought I would help.” She let her hands fall to her sides.
“Aren’t you sweet?” His pupils had dilated and his lips were pulled tight over his bumpy teeth.
She shrugged, feeling slightly dizzy being surrounded by his scent. “I worked at a bar for years. It sounded like someone dropped a case.”
He scoffed. “The corner of the box got caught on the door.”
Without warning, her knees buckled and she fell toward him. He gripped her shoulders and propped against the wall for support. She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to clear her head.
“Are you okay?” he asked, inches away from her face. He squeezed her shoulders gently.
She blinked at him, her heart racing as he frowned. “Yeah, just feeling a little dizzy … for some reason.” Because I forgot to breathe.
“I feel it too,” he whispered, closing the gap between them slightly. It was his turn to inhale, which was followed by a low growl.
The concern on his face was replaced with hunger. She had never felt more desirable in all her life. His hands slid down her arms, sending the same electric pulses through her body she had experienced the previous night. A tiny moan escaped her lips and her knees quivered again, that time, for a very different reason.
He matched her moan with another growl and then pulled away from her. “You shouldn’t be out here alone.”
She squared her shoulders, her shirt digging into the uneven brick behind her. “Why? Because I’m a woman? You think I can’t handle myself?”
“I know you can’t handle yourself.” He loomed over her.
Fear rippled through her, mixed with excitement and lust. Power flowed out of him. She had never met anyone like him. “What are you?” she asked.
Before he could answer, the blonde woman opened the back door and said, “Where’s the vodka?” She froze once she saw them, a smile tugging up the corner of her mouth.
The Viking didn’t move, ignoring the woman talking to him.
Sookie cleared her throat and looked at his face briefly. “I just wanted to tell you that my friend got her car. Thank you for letting her park here overnight,” she stammered. “I should go.” She scooted sideways and gave them both a weak smile before heading back to the parking lot. She could feel them watching her, only making her walk faster.
Her breath came out in short gasps by the time she got in her car. She swallowed hard and exhaled slowly. “Whoa.”
* * * *
Sleep did not come easily that night. Sookie tossed and turned, twisting her legs in her sheets. Her mind raced, tripping over the same questions: Why can’t I hear him? What is he? Why can’t I place his scent? Why didn’t I kiss him?
The last one was the most frustrating. He had been inches away; all she had to do was tilt her face up toward his a little more. She sighed.
His mouth. Those lips… She kept her eyes closed and pulled her nightgown up. One hand dipped between her legs, while the other caressed her breasts. His hands. His fingers. She imagined him exploring her body. She moaned when she found her clit. Writhing against her hand, she came quickly, seeing his cocky smile in her mind. She shuddered and fell asleep.
* * * *
She dreamed of him every night that week, but did not return to Up All Night. Work kept her occupied most of the time, and helping Beth took the rest, still crying over lost love and what might’ve been.
Sunday night, when they arrived at the house in Shreveport, Beth took a deep breath and nodded. “I’m not going to think about him tonight. I’m going to focus on work.”
“Good idea,” Sookie agreed, and they both got busy. She kept her mind open to Beth while they worked, ready to offer a kind word if she needed it. She was so preoccupied with her friend that she cleaned on autopilot. Before she knew it, she was in his room.
The second she stepped inside she was surrounded by the familiar scent she had been craving: the Viking’s scent that had overpowered her in the ally behind the bar. She crawled onto his bed and moved over to the camera and said, “It’s you.”
On to Up All Night: Chapter 4