Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
All mistakes are my own. Slightly NSFW.
AN: While trying to stay true to book canon Eric, I wrote him as high-handed and presumptuous. I always assumed he would do whatever he could to get what he wanted, including trying to influence Sookie to have sex with him (which he does several times in the first three books). I want to be clear that I don’t condone that kind of behavior. One of the reasons I write is to be a voice against rape culture where I can bring consensual relationships to life.
There’s nothing sexy about a person who forces someone else to do something they don’t want to do.
In this story, instead of changing Eric’s character completely from the beginning, I view his lack of morals as his flaw … something he’ll overcome, which was my plan all along. Since I love creating stories that bring Eric and Sookie together, let me assure you that he has a lot of growing to do before that happens.
Sookie stood at the end of her driveway for a full minute, long after Eric’s taillights were out of sight. She pondered what had happened on the bumpy drive toward her house. He told her he wanted her and then he kissed her twice. That tongue. Those lips. Those hands. She shook her head. And then he tried to influence her to have sex with him. “What’s wrong with him?” She couldn’t deny her attraction to him, but that didn’t mean she was willing to give him everything. Especially after he demanded it. Things might’ve gone differently otherwise.
She was agitated enough that sleep didn’t come quickly, and when it finally did, it was full of vivid dreams. Featuring Eric … of course.
His lips moved all over her body. Instead of being on her car, they were in her room. Except it wasn’t her room. It was her bed outside, and they were both naked. He kissed her neck and licked her skin all the way down her body, hovering over her swollen sex. She moaned and writhed under him, because unlike her real experience, Dream Eric kept his big mouth shut. He rolled her nipple between his thumb and finger and pushed his talented tongue inside her, followed almost immediately by a long finger.
Sookie woke abruptly as she came, her finger still working industriously as wave after wave of pleasure washed over her. Her hard nipples scraped against the sheets, because although she’d gone to bed in a nightgown, she was now fully nude. Just like in her dream. The rest, including Eric, had been fabricated by her sleeping mind, which was good considering the sheer amount of sun streaming through the window.
When she shuffled into the kitchen, Gran was busy making lunch.
Sookie shook her head. “Not really.”
“When did you get home?”
“Three-thirty.” It would’ve been three, but Eric happened.
“I’ve got my Descendants meeting tonight! I hope Vampire Bill shows up.” Gran couldn’t contain her excitement.
“Would you like a sandwich?”
“Sure.” Sookie smiled. After lunch and a few chores, she changed into a slip and went to her secluded spot where she could sunbathe nude. Gran never went that far from the house, which was perfect because Sookie hated tan lines. With her slip draped on the end of her chaise lounge, she stretched out in the sun. As far as she was concerned, there wasn’t a better way to spend her day off. She followed the sun for a while, and then covered up and went back to the house so she could read a book in the swing out back. Gran could hardly stand still all day, and left for her meeting an hour early.
She threw a dress over her slip and switched from her book to the T.V. She deserved a real day off every now and then, and that meant sitting on her lazy ass.
She groaned when the phone rang. She had to answer it on meeting night. “Hello?”
The faint sound of people talking and a radio playing filtered through the phone, but no one spoke directly to her. It sounded like a bar.
“Hel-lo?” She scoffed and went to hang up when someone finally spoke.
“Sookie?” Eric asked.
“Oh. Hi.” Her pulse quickened. “What’s up?”
“I’m getting in touch to let you know I need your services Monday night.”
“I work that night.” She glanced at the calendar on the wall, and added, “But I’m free the next night.”
Eric didn’t speak for a few seconds. As time passed the background sounds changed, too. The noises drifted away and Sookie had to strain to hear. “I need you here Monday.”
“I can’t,” she stated. It wasn’t the whole truth. She had plenty of time to switch shifts with someone else, but it seemed like a lot of hassle to go to for someone who was asking a favor. Besides, something about the way he asked made her dig her heels in.
He sighed. “Fine,” he finally replied.
“Okie dokie! I’ll be there Tuesday night. What time?”
“Compton will bring you.”
“I’d rather drive myself.” The idea of a forty-minute brooding car ride didn’t sit well with her.
“Compton will bring you,” he repeated, his voice firm.
“Whatever. What time?”
“Be ready at nine. I’ll need your information so I can transfer money to your account.”
“Okay.” She gave him all the information he would need to deposit the five thousand dollars into her shared account with Gran. It would be nice not to have to worry about utility bills for a while. “I’ll see you then.” She waited for him to say goodbye, but it never happened.
“Yes?” Apparently he wasn’t done talking.
“I’m sorry about last night,” he whispered.
“What? I can hardly hear you.” Truthfully, she wanted to hear him apologize again.
“I’m sorry about last night,” he repeated louder.
“Which part?” she asked, needing clarification.
“When I tried to glamor you.”
“That was wrong,” she stated.
“I understand. That’s why I’m apologizing.”
“You don’t regret kissing me?” she asked, smiling.
“No,” he replied. “In fact, if you’d given in to me, I would’ve fucked you right then and there.”
She groaned. “Don’t say that. Don’t say give in or yield. That’s not how it’s supposed to be.”
“So you’re okay with the fucking part?”
Her cheeks burned. She’d purposefully focused on the other part of his statement. “What I’m saying is that it’s not supposed to be about you wearing me down. It’s all about winning me over. See the difference?” She really wanted him to understand.
She couldn’t tell if he was messing with her or if he really didn’t get it. Either way, their conversation had reached a dead end. “Goodnight, Eric.”
“Goodnight, Sookie.” The way he said her name made her nerves twinge. The line went dead, but she stood there, holding the phone in her hand anyway.
* * * *
Working the dinner shift on Monday meant Sookie got to spend the better part of the night with her brother and his friends. Jason, Hoyt, and Rene took up more than half the bar nursing a pitcher of beer. It wasn’t good for business, but Merlotte’s wasn’t hopping, so Sam didn’t mind. That’s probably why they chose weeknights to hang out.
During a lull in business, Sookie leaned against the counter and chatted with them.
“My mama said the last Descendants meeting was the best one yet. Vampire Bill really put on a good show,” Hoyt said.
Rene tensed like he did whenever Hoyt talked about his mama.
“I heard,” Sookie replied, wiping the immaculate counter for the tenth time.
Hoyt put his beer down. “You weren’t there?”
“No sir. I was watching a movie at home.”
He frowned. “I thought you and Vampire Bill were going steady.”
Sookie laughed. “This isn’t high school, Hoyt. Besides, Bill never seemed all that interested in me to begin with.”
“Not the way I seen it,” Rene piped in.
“Yeah, Sook. Everyone’s been talking about you and him.” Jason’s eyebrows jumped.
“Well they better stop, ‘cause there’s nothing to talk about.” She looked down and folded her rag neatly. Without meaning to, she picked up on a wisp of thought all snarled with hate. Maybe she doesn’t deserve to die next. She frowned. Who had it come from? Who were they talking about? Her hands got cold and clammy.
“You okay?” Hoyt asked, tilting his head.
“Yeah, got dizzy for a minute. Hey, Rene, is Arlene still sick with that cold?”
“Maybe I picked it up from her,” she said. “I think I’ll sit down for a while.”
She excused herself from their friendly conversation and went out the back door. She sat on the porch, letting her feet dangle over the gravel. Within a few minutes, Sam joined her. He leaned against the pillar holding the roof up over the porch.
She looked up at him and shook her head. “Someone in there plans to do something bad to somebody.”
He frowned and then squatted next to her. “How do you mean?”
“I heard someone. They said something about someone dying.” She tapped the side of her head.
He nodded, knowingly. “Do you know who?”
That was one of the things she liked about working for Sam. He never made a big deal about the rumors about her, and even though she just admitted they were true, it still didn’t matter. She shook her head again. “That’s the part that worries me.”
“Should we call Bud? Andy’s all but passed out in there.”
“And tell him what? That I got a really bad feeling?”
Sam scrunched his nose. “I suppose that won’t work. Just the same, I’m going to make a list of everybody in the place.”
“Good idea. I’m going to sit out here a bit longer and take a few deep breaths.”
“Take all the time you need.” He stood and opened the back screen door.
“Thanks, Sam.” She swung her feet back and forth and eventually shook the nasty feeling inside her. By the time she got back inside, a few of the tables had emptied, which meant she had bussing to do. As she kneeled on the booth cushion and wiped the far corner, she filtered through the thoughts in the room and caught a disturbing image of her being choked while someone was having sex with her. She was naked. Just like Dawn. Well I guess that narrows down the who’s going to die part. She whipped her head around, but no one moved. She looked at each and every person in the place. Rene lifted his beer and smiled. She returned the smile and got back to work. Before long, Sam closed up and ushered out Andy and Jane into their waiting rides. Andy’s grandmother had sent a car, as per usual, while Jane’s son sat behind the wheel of his car, looking embarrassed and exhausted all at the same time.
“I have a list,” Sam whispered as he locked the door.
“It happened again. Only this time, it was an image.”
Her cheeks flushed. “Me being choked.” She didn’t have to mention the fact that she was naked, did she?
“When?” He frowned and looked at his list, written on the back of a ticket.
“When I cleared off table ten.”
“So that rules out Fred, Mack, and the Listers. They all left about the same time.”
“Who does that leave?” She looked over the list and pointed to Andy and Jane’s names. “They were both too drunk to have a coherent thought. I nudged Andy’s chair to see if it was him, and he couldn’t even open his eyes.”
“Without them, we’ve got five suspects. JB, Eggs, Rene, Hoyt … and your brother.”
“It can’t be him.” She shook her head.
“I know you don’t like the idea of your brother being a killer, but we can’t rule him out just because of that.”
“In the image, I was naked. I’m pretty sure whoever is killing these women is raping them, too. Jason may be a womanizing dirtbag, but he’s never had thoughts about me like that.” She shuddered.
“Oh. You didn’t mention the naked part.”
“Why would I? It’s embarrassing.” She sighed. “Jason is the perfect candidate though. He’s been with both Dawn and Maudette. He’d be easy to pin it on.”
“He better be really careful about what he says and does.”
Sookie laughed. “My brother’s never been careful.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’m off tomorrow, so maybe I’ll go around and visit a few people.”
“That’s dangerous, Sookie. You shouldn’t go alone.”
“I won’t be alone. Gran and I will go together. Who would hurt a little old lady?”
“I don’t know,” he answered. “Maybe the same sick bastard who killed Dawn.”
“I’ll be careful,” she said. “I promise.” She wanted to tell him about her job in Shreveport, but thought better of it. He already had enough on his plate.
“I’ll keep an eye out if any of them come in tomorrow.”
* * * *
Instead of her normal, leisurely day off, Sookie woke up early and set to work baking. Everyone loved cookies, right? Even people she was going to investigate for murder. She made up a story about losing a bet with her brother the previous night and asked Gran if she wanted to visit him at work.
“Well of course I do. I haven’t seen that boy in ages. How’s he been?”
“Same old, same old.” Sookie smiled and packed the cookies into a few separate containers. “Let’s go, shall we?”
Gran grabbed her purse and held the cookies while Sookie drove to the construction site where Jason, Hoyt, and Rene worked. When they pulled up, Sookie nodded to her brother and pulled him aside while Hoyt and Gran talked about Vampire Bill’s visit to the Descendants meeting.
“Hey, Gran thinks I lost a bet to you and that I owe you cookies.”
“Great. What kind?”
“Shh.” She put her hand on his and opened her mind. It wasn’t hard. He never tried to hide his thoughts from her, even when he should’ve. Mostly he was thinking of cookies, but also about Jen, the twenty-year old who ran the Grab It Quick. No thoughts about Sookie or anything else for that matter. “She’s pretty,” she said.
“Get outta my head. Damn.”
“I’m sorry. I just had to be sure.”
“Sure about what?” Jason frowned.
“Last night, at work, I heard the thoughts of a killer. Seemed like the same guy who killed Dawn. Just had to be sure it wasn’t you.”
“Of course it’s not me!” he shouted, interrupting the other conversation.
“Be careful, Jase, you’re connected to both of the women who have died, and as far as I know, the cops don’t have a good lead. So you’re as good as any.”
“But I’m innocent.”
“I know that, and I’m going to try and help.” She smiled. “Play along, okay?”
He nodded, a hint of panic still lingering on his forehead.
“I made you cookies,” she said, rejoining Gran. “Where’s Rene?” She hadn’t noticed until that moment that it was only Jason and Hoyt working together that day.
“He’s home taking care of Arlene,” Hoyt responded.
“More like nursing a hangover,” Jason added in a stage whisper.
“How have you been, Jason? Sookie brings me up-to-date every now and then, but it’s not the same as seeing you in person.” Gran gave him a gentle hug.
“Hungry. What kind of cookies did you bring?”
Gran laughed. “Chocolate chip.”
“I made enough for the three of you, but since Rene’s not here, I’ll have to deliver them another time.”
“These are good,” Hoyt mumbled around a mouthful of cookie.
“I used to take them into work. Dawn loved them, too.” Sookie had prepared for the comment, but no one else had. It was still too soon, and she knew it. An overwhelming sadness came from the other three. Gran thought it was a real shame, Jason felt pretty much the same (except the additional she had a nice ass thought), and Hoyt wished he could find the monster that killed her. He meant monster literally, as he assumed a vampire had killed her, but not Vampire Bill, who, according to Hoyt, was a real stand-up kind of guy.
Jason broke the tension and said, “Any time you want to bet with me again, I’m happy to take you up. Just so long as you bring me cookies.”
Hoyt smiled, finally pulling himself out of his sad thoughts. “I’m just glad I get to be here.”
After a few more minutes of chatter, Sookie and Gran left, letting Jason and Hoyt get back to work. Relief made every muscle in Sookie’s body relax.
“Are we going to visit Rene?” Gran asked.
“No. Arlene’s been out for days with that cold. I don’t want to risk getting it from her!”
“What are these other cookies for?”
“We’re going to stop by JB’s, if you don’t mind.”
“Nice kid,” Gran said.
Her intentions for seeing JB were two-fold. Away from the competitive macho environment of the bar, JB was about the sweetest man she’d ever met. Easy on the eyes, too. Also, she wanted to clear his name with Sam. As far as she was concerned, Jason, Hoyt, and JB shouldn’t have been on the list to begin with, but it was probably a case of wrong place at the wrong time. She was lucky it hadn’t happened on a busier night or her cookie errands would’ve been much longer. JB lived in the dumpy apartments near Main Street. She knew he’d be home because the night before, he’d told her that he’d been laid off.
“I’m going to run these in, okay?” Sookie said to Gran. “He seemed sort of down last night, and this might cheer him up.”
“Seeing your pretty face won’t hurt none either.” Gran grinned and pulled a crossword out of her purse. “Well go on!”
Sookie grabbed a container of treats and knocked on his front door. After waiting a minute, she knocked again.
“I’m a comin’, I’m a comin’,” he called out on the other side of the thin door. When he opened it, a wide smile spread across his face. He was still pulling a T-shirt over his head. “Sookie Stackhouse!”
“Hiya, JB. Have you got a minute?”
“Shoot.” He laughed. “I’ve got all day!” He motioned for her to come inside, and closed the door behind them. It was obvious by the musky smell in the air that it had been weeks since he’d aired the apartment out. You could get away with that in the spring, but come summer, it would be another story. “What can I do for you?” he asked.
“I was thinking about your current job situation and figured cookies might cheer you up.”
His mouth fell open. “Aren’t you the sweetest thing?”
“Nah,” she said, dismissing his compliment.
“You baked for me?”
She nodded. “I took some to my brother, too. You know what a sweet tooth he has.”
JB smiled and bit into one and then smiled some more. “That’s real tasty.”
“I know what it’s like to feel down. I still haven’t gotten over the shock of Dawn.”
JB’s thoughts popped into his head and then spilled out of his mouth. “Me either. She was such a nice gal. What do you think happened to her?” As he asked the question, he tried to think of a possible scenario, but he came up with nothing. His brain was literally empty. Beyond what the police had reported, he had no idea who would hurt someone like Dawn. Sookie read him like an open book.
Sookie shook her head. “I don’t know, but I hope they catch whoever did it. I don’t feel safe.”
“I get that!” He nodded vigorously and munched on another cookie. “You sure brightened my day.”
“It was good seeing you. I should go, my gran’s waiting in the car. Don’t give up, JB, I know there’s a job out there for you!”
“Thanks, Sookie. You’re a good friend.” He hugged her with one arm and gripped the cookies in the other.
“See ya, JB.” She let herself out and sighed again. Another name off the list. Once she was back in the car, she drove the long way home passing by the run down house where Eggs lived. Mrs. Talley’s car sat in the driveway, which was more than enough to keep Sookie at bay. Mrs. Talley wasn’t the friendliest person, to say the least. She had a mean streak a mile wide and wasn’t shy about telling you just what she thought. Eggs would have to wait another day. Three out of five isn’t bad.
As soon as she got home, Sookie called Merlotte’s and asked for Sam. As soon as they connected she said, “You can cross three off. Hoyt, JB, and Jason.”
“What if they’re hiding the truth?” Sam whispered.
“Besides what I heard today, you know why Jason doesn’t fit. Hoyt thinks a vamp killed them, and JB is too simple to hide his thoughts from me.” She sighed. “I shouldn’t have said that,” she added. Everyone knew JB was dumb, but that didn’t mean it was okay to point it out.
“I know what you mean,” Sam said. “What about Eggs and Rene?”
“I’ll have to get them another time. Mrs. Talley was home when I drove by, and Rene was home with Arlene.”
“I’ll keep an eye on them if either come in today. Unless you have time to socialize tonight,” he added.
“As much as I’d like to hang out at work on my days off, I’ve got plans tonight.”
Sam must’ve picked up on something in her voice because he asked, “Where are you going?”
“Not that it’s any of your business, but I’m going to Fangtasia again. The owner asked me to help with something.” She considered telling him more, but didn’t know how much Eric would want his financial troubles known, so she kept her mouth shut. “He’s paying me, so it’s like a side job.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” he said in a warning voice.
“I know, but I don’t think Eric would hurt me.” Not intentionally, anyway, unless the hood of a car was involved.
“What makes you say that?”
She blushed and then came up with a brilliant answer. “I’m too valuable. He needs me to read someone’s mind. Telepaths are hard to come by, you know.”
“I’m aware,” Sam replied. The way he said it seemed sort of cryptic, like he knew something he wasn’t letting on to. Whatever it was, he wasn’t about to tell her. “Be careful.”
“I always am.”
* * * *
The closer to nine it got, the antsier Sookie became. In addition to two hours spent on meticulous grooming, she changed three times, finally deciding on a soft pink sundress that swished when she walked. That time, instead of dressing for Bill, she was dressing for Eric. Well, not really Eric, for Eric’s job. She looked at herself in the mirror as she applied the perfect shade of lipstick and laughed. She couldn’t even fool herself!
“Going out?” Gran asked.
“I got another job,” Sookie said. “In Shreveport. I’m helping a friend, Eric.”
“You look beautiful,” Gran said. “How late do you think you’ll be?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. A few hours? I really have no idea. He’s having a problem at work and wants me to help talk to the employees. I guess because I’m friendly.”
Gran stared at her. “I’m sure there is another reason.”
“Maybe because of that.” Sookie looked at her feet. “Bill is driving me, just so you know.”
“I thought you were taking a break from Bill.”
“I am. It’s not my choice. Eric wants me to arrive safely and I guess he trusts Bill. In any case, he’ll be here in a few minutes, but I don’t want him to get too friendly, okay?”
“I’m going to wait outside.”
“Be safe, honey,” Gran said, giving her a gentle squeeze.
“Will do,” Sookie promised.
Turns out, she couldn’t keep her promise. How could she have possibly known what was going to happen that night?
What are you waiting for? On to Petulance: Chapter 4