Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
All mistakes are my own.
Sookie tried to put the events of the previous night out of her mind while she worked. During a lull, Sam nodded his head toward his office. She followed him and asked, “What’s up?”
“You went on a date with Bill last night, didn’t you?”
Her cheeks flushed. She’d picked up her paycheck before leaving for her date and everyone, including Sam had looked at her in a way they never had before. “I’m not so sure it was a date,” she said finally.
“You certainly looked like you were going somewhere special.”
Sookie tried to stay out of his head, she knew by the look on his face that his snarly thoughts would be more agitated than usual. “I asked Bill to take me to Fangtasia—”
“What? Why would you do that?” he interrupted. “Do you know how dangerous that is?”
“Let me finish! I went so I could ask about Dawn and Maudette.”
At the mention of Dawn’s name, Sam’s expression changed. “And? Did you find anything?”
She nodded and looked at the ground. “They’d both been there. One of the vampires said they wanted to die. That anyone who spends time around vampires wants to die. But I don’t think it was a vampire who killed them. Why would they be strangled to death and not drained?”
“I agree. That’s what makes it even more frightening. If it wasn’t a vamp, who did it?”
“A regular ol’ psychopath, I guess.” Sookie clicked her tongue. “I’m real sorry about Dawn. She didn’t deserve to go like that.”
“Thanks, cher.” He touched her shoulder lightly and shifted his body toward hers as if he were going to hug her. “I appreciate you trying to find an answer, but you shouldn’t have gone. I couldn’t stand to lose you, too. Maybe you should lay low for a while, stay away from vamps.”
After the night she’d had, she couldn’t agree more, but she didn’t think she had much say in that. She also didn’t appreciate his possessiveness. “Thanks for being worried about me. I should probably get back out there. Table two probably needs more ranch by now.” She slipped out of his office and avoided him for the rest of her shift.
By the time she left work, the sun had been down for an hour. She stopped at the store on the way home, cashed her check, and bought groceries. With a bag over each arm she called out, “I’m home!”
Gran laughed and then replied, “We’re in the kitchen, honey.”
We? She didn’t have to wonder long who was sitting with her grandmother. Bill’s calm face came into view the second she rounded the corner. “Oh. Hi, Bill.”
He stood when she entered the room. “Sookie.”
Gran took the bags of groceries and started unloading them. “Vampire Bill and I were just talking about the next Descendants meeting. He’s offered to speak for us, isn’t that wonderful?” Her old cheeks glowed.
“Truly,” Sookie answered because she knew nothing would make her Gran happier. “How kind of you,” she said to Bill.
“I wondered if I may have a word with you,” he replied.
“Sure, what’s on your mind?” she said.
“In private.” He glanced at her grandmother.
“Why don’t we go into the living room?” She figured he would want to speak to her outside, but she wasn’t stupid enough to leave her house with him without knowing how he felt first.
“You made a lasting impression last night,” he started, his voice more calm and cool than ever.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I think you know what it means.” He glared at her for a fraction of a second before going on. “Eric is quite taken with you.”
Her heart skipped a beat. “Good for him.”
He took a step toward her and grasped her elbow, pulling her toward him. His cold, stagnant breath puffing against her forehead as he spoke, “What happened?”
So Bill wasn’t spying on us. I would’ve thought he had gotten home before us, what with our little detour. “Eric took me home, just like he said he would. End of story.”
“Did he bite you?” Bill whispered, caressing the side of her neck with his free hand.
“What? No!” She pulled away from him. “You vamps always assume we’re going to give you anything you want.” She snorted.
“Because you usually do,” he answered casually.
He frowned. “He didn’t touch you?”
She thought back to the brief moment when he’d held her hand and touched her with his large, cool thumb. A shiver of pleasure echoed through her. “He offered his hand to help me out of his car, that’s all. Why?”
“Because you’re mine.”
“No I’m not.” The only time he showed even a hint of interest toward her was when another vampire was involved. She narrowed her eyes. “You keep saying that. What makes you think I want to be yours?”
“It’s for your protection,” he answered.
“Ha. Just like with Diane, Liam, and Malcolm, right? You claimed me so they wouldn’t ‘feed’ from me.” She quoted the word with her fingers. “Has it ever occurred to you that I don’t want to be owned by you? I saved you, after all.”
“From humans.” His face contorted with disgust as if humans were the most pathetic creatures ever to walk the earth. “Don’t forget how dangerous we are.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” she said, unable to hold her tongue.
He reached out to grab her arm again but she saw his movement and jumped backward. “Don’t touch me again. You gave me a bruise last night. It hurts.” She turned her inner arm toward him and lifted the sleeve of her shirt. “That doesn’t seem like a very mainstream thing to do.”
His eyes flashed anger and then he put his hands behind his back. “I apologize.”
“So that’s the only reason? For claiming me?” she asked, getting back to the question of the day.
“I’m trying to protect you.”
So he’s not interested in me. He just sees me as a project. She didn’t know if she should be relieved or disappointed. “Are we done talking? I’ve been on my feet all day.
“Eric would like to see you again.”
“No thanks. I’m taking a break from vampires.”
Bill scoffed. “That’s not how it works. Eric is Sheriff of Area Five, and when he requests an audience, you cannot turn him down.”
“He’s not my sheriff.” She stared at him. “I appreciate your offer to help my gran, but as far as I’m concerned, we’re square.”
“I saved you, you saved me. Even.” She walked toward the front door and held it open. “Goodnight, Bill.”
“Goodnight, Sookie,” he whispered before leaving in a blur of movement.
She rolled her eyes and joined her gran in the kitchen.
“Everything okay, honey?” Gran asked.
“Yeah. I’m taking a break from Bill.”
Gran clicked her tongue. “He’s such a nice young man, too bad it didn’t work out.” A frown worked its way across her forehead. “Do you think he’ll still come to my meeting?”
“I’m sure he will. He did that because you asked him to, not me.” It was kind of the truth. Sookie had asked Bill to consider it, but Gran sealed the deal.
“He never actually seemed interested in me. Not like that. Besides, he’s too possessive. I don’t like it.”
“I can understand that. No one likes to be controlled.”
Sookie laughed. “Maybe you should tell that to all the vampires out there!”
* * * *
The next day came and went. Sookie worked the dinner shift and made enough money to cover a few expenses. Her paychecks supplemented Gran’s retirement and social security, neither of which were enough to keep the house afloat. Waiting tables made her back ache and her feet swollen, but it paid the bills. Closing always brought in the most customers, especially on a Friday night, but it meant she didn’t get home until three in the morning.
She rubbed the back of her neck as she turned toward Hummingbird Lane, but stopped abruptly before turning down her driveway. Mostly because she couldn’t. A shiny red Corvette blocked it. She sighed, turned her car off, and got out. She tapped on the dark driver’s side window, which eased down with a mechanical whir.
“Could you please move? You’re blocking my way.”
“No. I’m afraid I won’t move.”
She let out a loud, exasperated sigh. “Why not?”
“Not until you agree to come to Fangtasia again.”
“You’re seeing me right now. What’s the difference?” She took a step backward as his door clicked open.
Eric rose to his full height, unfolding his large body from the compact seat. “Let me explain.”
She sat on the hood of her car, resting her feet on the bumper, and pressing her elbows against her thighs. She slumped forward. She couldn’t stand to be on her feet any longer, and it didn’t seem like this was going to be a quick conversation. “Look, I’m tired, okay? Can we just get this over with?”
A smile tugged up the corner of his mouth. “You are very interesting.”
“You keep saying that.”
“Because it’s true.”
“Can we just cut the crap? What do you want?”
His smile grew. “I want many things, including you, but that’s not why I’m here.”
Heat crept up her neck. Eric certainly didn’t hide his feelings the way Bill did. “So why are you here?”
He took a step closer to her, making her straighten her back. When he spoke again, he whispered, “I need your help.” He looked around at the dark woods as if someone were listening and then stepped closer, his body touching her knees. “Someone is stealing from my business.”
She frowned. “How much?”
She blinked. Thousands of dollars. “And what do you want me to do?”
“Find the thief. Listen to them.” He touched the side of her head.
She closed her eyes and leaned into his hand. She jerked in surprise when his lips fell onto hers. She pulled away and touched her mouth. The kiss had only lasted for a split second, but it had warmed every cell in her body. “What will you do if I find them?” she mumbled, trying to get their conversation back on track.
Eric licked his lips, revealing his fangs. He blinked and focused on her. “What did you say?”
“The thief. What will you do with them?”
“Kill them?” He shrugged.
She shook her head. “No. My answer is no.”
“Fine. I’ll reprimand them.”
“Or you could let the police do that. It’s their job, after all.” She sighed. “There are vampire and human officers who handle all sorts of legal issues.”
“Shh,” he said, touching her mouth. “Secrecy is crucial.”
She listened to the woods. No human brains and no blank spots, either. “There’s no one around to hear.” Her lips rubbed against his finger with each word.
“Oh?” His cocky smile reappeared.
“That’s not what I—”
He silenced her with another kiss, and that time he didn’t hold back. Boy, could he kiss! His tongue pushed inside her mouth, wrapping around hers and pulling it. She leaned back on the hood of her car and Eric followed, wedging his body between her legs and hovering inches above her. The soft sound of crickets disappeared. All she could hear was the beat of her heart and the slippery sound of their mouths moving.
When she pulled away to breathe, Eric’s hands moved across her hips, dragging her body down toward him. Her head swam as something pressed against her brain.
“Yield to me,” he demanded. “Let me claim you.” He stared into her eyes intently, the same way Bill had the first time he’d tried to glamor her.
And just like that, the spell was broken. “Excuse me?”
“I bet you’re sweet. I’d like to find out.” His fingers moved to the button holding her tight black pants closed.
“Hold it right there, buddy.” She pushed herself up and knocked his hands away. “I know you’re used to people throwing themselves at you, but that’s not who I am.” She had to take a few deep breaths to get her lust under control. “Also, I can’t be glamored, so you should stop trying. When someone wants you, they should want you because they want you, not because you influenced them. That’s what consent means.” Anger flared inside her. “Is that how you get what you want? By forcing people?”
“No.” He frowned and pulled away. “They offer.”
“So when I didn’t you thought you’d try to influence me?”
“You should be ashamed of yourself.” She stood and poked his chest. She also made the mistake of looking down at the very large bulge in his jeans. She swallowed hard and tried to stay mad. “I need to go to sleep. Please move.”
Eric tightened his jaw. “Not until you agree to help me.”
“What’s in it for me? Getting involved in the financial affairs of a vampire’s business is a big risk.”
“I’ll pay you. Please?”
“Hundred?” Sookie asked.
Eric frowned. “Thousand.”
Her eyes widened. “Oh. That’s a lot.”
“It’s nominal compared to how much I’ve lost. Do you want less?”
“No. Five thousand is great.”
“Are you changing your mind?” He smiled.
“Maybe,” she answered, holding her finger up to silence him. “But only if you promise to turn whoever it is over to the police, and you keep your hands off me. I’ll be working, so it needs to be professional.”
His smile fell and then he nodded. “I agree to your terms. I’ll be in touch.” Without another word, he got in his Corvette and sped away, flicking rocks at Sookie and her car.
She drives a hard bargain, doesn’t she? Read more! Petulance: Chapter 3