Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
All mistakes are my own. Hold onto your hats!
Sookie stood outside at nine on the dot, but she couldn’t see hide or hair of Bill. She paced the length of the front porch twenty times before his car rolled up. He lived a quarter mile away. Why had it taken so long to get there?
“Are you ready?” Bill asked, standing at the bottom step and glancing at the closed front door before taking her in from head to toe.
“I am, thank you.” She took the steps carefully. The last thing she wanted was to fall in front of him.
He held her door open and then took his seat as soon as she was safely inside. He drove in silence for the first twenty minutes, occasionally glancing at her, and then he said, “You look very pretty.”
Sookie scoffed. “I don’t get you. I ask you to take me out and you say nothing about the way I look, and now, you’re doing an errand for Eric and you can’t stop looking at me.”
“I always thought you were beautiful.”
“You never said so,” she retorted. “If you don’t speak your mind, how am I to know? I can’t read it, remember?”
“I know he came to see you. Has he claimed you?”
“What is it with you vamps and your claims on people?” She rolled her eyes.
“No!” She crossed her arms over her chest and shifted in her seat until she was facing the window.
“Perhaps that is the reason for tonight’s visit.” Bill scoffed. “He wants to humiliate me.”
She bit her tongue. Bill’s jealousy was ugly and it wasn’t her job to soothe him.
When they arrived at Fangtasia, Sookie got out of the car before he could offer, and as they waited for the vampire checking ID, Bill put his arm around her shoulder.
“Don’t touch me,” Sookie said, offering her driver’s license to the stony-faced woman guarding the door.
The vampire snorted and waved them by. “He waits in his office,” she spoke in stilted English.
With little nudges in the right direction, Bill ushered her inside, but instead of taking her to Eric’s office, they stopped at the bar.
“Can’t stay away, gorgeous?” Long Shadow asked as they approached.
“You’ve got me figured out!” Sookie said with fake enthusiasm.
Bill and Long Shadow exchanged a few uneasy glances before Long Shadow said, “Everything okay?”
“We’ll see,” Bill replied.
Sookie frowned. What was it with those two? “Can we go to Eric’s office now? He’s waiting for me.”
Long Shadow mouthed Eric’s name and his scowl deepened. Bill shrugged and then pointed down the long hallway with the sign for the restrooms.
The noise from the bar faded as they walked toward Eric’s office. Sookie’s heart was still racing, but now it seemed to be going double fast. She lifted her hand to knock, but before her knuckles met the wood, the door opened.
Eric nodded to Bill. “Thank you, Compton. Stay close.” He waited until Bill retreated before talking to Sookie. “Looking as luscious as ever,” he said, stuffing his hands into his pockets as if he were having trouble keeping his hands to himself. He nodded toward one of the chairs in front of the desk.
“He thinks he’s here because you plan to claim me and humiliate him.” She shook her head. “I think it’s just so you have an excuse to drive me home again.”
“You didn’t discuss your work?”
“Not with him.” She exhaled. “Let’s get started,” she said, her stomach a ball of nerves.
“Changed your mind, I see.” Eric smiled and slithered up against her, taking her in his large arms. He nuzzled the base of her neck.
A ripple of pleasure moved through her, easing some of the tension out of her muscles. She swatted at him and backed away. “The job.” She chuckled.
“Later?” he asked, his eyebrows making a hopeful arch. “We wouldn’t want to disappoint Compton, would we?” He started laughing, too.
She smiled. “So tell me what’s going on.”
“As you know, someone is stealing from the bar. I think it might be the accountant. It has to be someone who works here. Whoever it is knows what they’re doing.”
“Aren’t most of your employees vampires?”
“What should I do about them?”
“Nothing can be done. Focus on the humans and I’ll worry about them.” He exhaled. “I mean the police will deal with them,” he added.
“If you find anything. I mean anything that seems off or suspicious, let me know. Only Pam knows why you’re here. You implied you spoke to someone else about your work here. Who?”
“It wasn’t in detail, but my boss and my gran both know where I am. It’s my safety net. If anything happens to me, you’ll have to answer to them.”
His eyes danced. “Noted.”
Within ten seconds, Pam came in, escorting a sweaty, balding man.
“Lovely to see you again, Sookie,” Pam greeted, thrusting the terrified man into the chair next to Sookie.
Sookie looked at Eric. He nodded. It was time to work. She reached out to shake Bruce’s hand but regretted it immediately. It was like holding a slug. “Nice to meet you, Bruce.”
His eyes widened and he flinched with every word.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered. “I’m not going to hurt you. I’m here to help.” She was trying to put him at ease and get his thoughts going. She already got a flicker of his thoughts with the brief, slimy handshake. Deciding against holding his hand again, she pushed back his sleeve and touched his wrist. She closed her eyes and opened her mind to him.
She jerked back as his thoughts bombarded her.
Who the fuck is she? Why am I here? God. I know why I’m here. Why did I even point out the problem with the books if I didn’t have an answer as to where the money was going? Lillian doesn’t even know where I am. She thinks I work at a law firm. Why is this woman holding my wrist? Why won’t she let go? Does she know who took the fucking money? I sure as hell hope so, because they think it’s me. Why did I take this job? What’s wrong with me?
Sookie released her grip. She’d heard enough. “Bruce, do you know who took the money?”
He shook his head, making sweat drip off the tips of his thin hair. Sookie recoiled. “I wish I did,” he mumbled.
Sookie looked at Eric and then Pam. “It’s not him.”
Pam grimaced before gripping the driest patch of Bruce’s jacket and yanking him out of the chair. “Come on.” She dragged him out and fear rippled off him in waves.
“Where is she taking him?” Sookie asked.
“To the storage room. He’s fine. If you say he’s not guilty, he’s not guilty.”
In a minute, Pam returned with a woman dressed like the queen of all fang-bangers. For all Sookie knew, she might be. She certainly had bite mark scars to prove it. She’d been ridden hard and put away wet for years and it showed.
“Hi, sweetie,” the woman said to Eric, full of confidence.
Sookie scoffed. Eric hadn’t responded at all. She knew what it looked like when he wanted someone. That wasn’t it.
“Ginger, answer this woman’s questions,” Eric commanded.
“Yes, master,” she said, and she bowed low enough that her ample cleavage nearly spilled out of her low-cut dress. When she sat, she left her legs open, as if she were tempting Eric.
Sookie reached out to touch her, but Ginger pulled away and screamed, “Don’t touch me you servant!”
“Pam, please restrain her.”
Pam happily gripped Ginger’s arms, pinning them to the chair. Ginger squirmed, but she figured out eventually that she was just wasting her energy. Sookie touched her wrist and closed her eyes. Ginger’s mind was the exact opposite of Bruce’s. Instead of an onslaught of thoughts, there were none. But unlike JB’s mind, Ginger’s had been altered somehow. Thoughts floated around, but they weren’t coherent.
“Ginger, who took the money?”
Ginger shook her head and started crying.
“She knows who it is, but there’s no name. No images. Nothing. Like a hard drive that’s been wiped clean.”
“She’s been glamored.” Pam shook her head sadly.
“Does she have any friends?” Sookie asked.
Ginger’s cries turned into wails.
“Belinda,” Eric answered.
“Should she stay or go?” Pam asked Sookie.
“Go. She’s distracting.”
When she and Eric were alone, she whispered, “It’s a vampire.”
Eric frowned and held up his finger. He left the room without an explanation. Moments later, his voice boomed through the bar. “Fangtasia is now closed. Patrons, please leave. Employees, stay behind.” A chorus of questions filled the room. “I said leave!”
Sookie poked her head down the hall and saw a flood of people rushing toward the exit. A handful of vampire remained, including Bill and Long Shadow who still lingered by the bar. Noting the change in venue, Pam brought another woman to the main room, which seemed spacious with all the empty tables.
“Belinda, sit. Pam, lock the doors,” Eric commanded.
Sookie counted quickly. Six vampires. Two humans. Plus Ginger and Bruce in the storage room, wherever that was. Pam returned. “Both doors are locked.”
“Good.” He scanned the room, letting his gaze linger on a red-haired vamp, then the vicious looking woman who had been checking IDs. He looked at Long Shadow and Bill and finally to Pam.
“What’s the meaning of this?” The redhead said.
“Belinda is going to answer a few questions,” Eric replied.
Belinda nodded. Despite the fact that she and Ginger wore the same dress, Belinda looked twice as good in it. Classy somehow. Her fear mounted with each passing second.
Sookie reached out and touched her. “Who is Ginger dating?”
Belinda scoffed. “Anyone who will have her.”
Sookie locked eyes with Eric and she nodded, confirming it to be true. “Here, at the bar. Who is she seeing here?” Belinda didn’t have to say his name. Sookie could see him in her mind, having sex with Ginger in the ladies bathroom. Sookie grimaced and then blinked hard. She couldn’t help but look at the bar.
“It was his idea!” Bill shouted, running for the door.
“You fucking coward!” Long Shadow bellowed, going after him with the wooden handle he’d just snapped off of the beer tap.
The other vampires moved out of the way as Long Shadow tackled Bill to the ground and then sank the makeshift stake into his dead heart. Bill howled and then his skin melted away from his flesh, which liquefied and slowly seeped across the floor. Pam and the redhead held back the petite dark-haired woman, who was obviously excited by the fight. So much so that it took both of them to restrain her.
Eric grabbed Belinda and Sookie, dragging them down the hall to the storage room. Belinda panicked and thrashed against Eric as Long Shadow pulled Sookie out of his grasp and gouged her with the weapon in her low back. White-hot pain split her body in half and she crumpled to the ground. The back of her head hit hard, making her vision blur. Belinda howled with pain somewhere near. The ceiling was replaced by Long Shadow’s ugly face.
“And you.” He spat in her face with each word. “Bill thought you’d be the perfect rent-a-meal. All we needed was start up. Fuck him.” He opened his mouth wide and ripped into her throat.
Holy shit. That hurts. Where’s Eric? Is Bill really dead? Am I dying? Something warm and wet pooled under her head, like a cozy blanket. That’s nice. The commotion from the other room died down along with everything else. She couldn’t open her eyes and screaming was out of the question. Long Shadow crushed her esophagus and trachea. Hey, I remembered the real names. My ninth grade biology teacher would be so proud!
The darkness called to her, willing her to stop fighting. So she did the only thing she could: let go. Just as she exhaled her last ragged breath, the pain in her neck subsided and then something cold and metallic coated her face while a heavy weight fell on top of her. It was like being crushed by a tree, but it didn’t matter, she didn’t need her lungs anyway. She swallowed. How do I know that taste? She swallowed again and again. Power, hunger, strength, and desire. I know this taste. Swallow. The noise from the room returned, but she still couldn’t open her eyes or breathe.
“Get her out of here!” Eric shouted. He did something that made Sookie’s body light, and then she was floating. “Sookie? Hang on.” She wasn’t floating. She was flying. Flying with Eric toward the darkness.
Almost there. She hadn’t taken a breath in a while. How can I breathe with a hole in my neck? How is my brain still functioning? That’s a weird thought. How many seconds is it before I get brain damage? Or is it minutes?
Eric interrupted her internal tangent. “Drink,” he commanded.
She wanted to tell him he was too demanding, that you got more flies with honey than vinegar, that he was a good kisser, but she couldn’t say anything. Something wet touched her lips. The same thing she’d just tasted. Blood! I finally figured it out. Vampire blood! But this blood tastes different. She swallowed faster and faster, latching her mouth over his wrist, feeling better with each passing second.
“Thalia’s gone,” Pam said from somewhere near.
“She’s a loose cannon,” Eric growled.
“Is she going to make it?”
Wait … are they talking about me? I really did almost die, didn’t I? Who cares? I feel amazing!
“We’ll see,” Eric said, as he caressed Sookie’s sticky face.
Aww. He’s worried about me. How do I know that? What happened out there?
All the questions rattling around in her brain came to a screeching halt and everything went black.
What are you waiting for? There’s more! Petulance: Chapter 5