Chapter 20 – Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy

I’d never flown before, and I was sure I was getting spoiled for commercial flights.  Being bonded to a sheriff had its perks.  Eric had explained that there was a flight service called Anubis that would have flown him, but not me.  He had decided against that, not wanting us to arrive separately at the airport in Dallas.  I was a bit apprehensive about flying by myself my very first time, so I decided not to remind him that I’m an adult, perfectly capable of following instructions.  Now, instead of flying a non-stop on American Airlines from Shreveport to Dallas, we made the hour flight in style.

We still left from the airport in Shreveport, but on a chartered flight.  I really didn’t want to know how much it had cost or who was paying.  I was just really glad that we got to set our time so that Eric could travel at night and not inside a coffin during the day.  It took a significant weight off my shoulders.  The only drawback was having to share the flight with Bill Compton.  Eric took pity on me and told me to bring the laptop.  I wasn’t totally there in the computer “savviness,” but it was enough to make me look busy and not have to make small talk.

I searched our hotel, the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek.  The pictures were beautiful.  There was another hotel that had been converted to allow for vampire guests, the Silent Shore Hotel, but the Rosewood Mansion catered more to both vampires and their human companions.  It had a Five-Star restaurant and plenty of places where I could catch the sun.  It even had a pool.  I was really looking forward to using it.  Hopefully I’d have the time.

I shifted the laptop to show Eric the pool, pointing to it with a silent smile.  He looked up from his magazine (Rolling Stone – he liked to keep up with the music world, who knew?) and nodded with a smile of his own.  Then his eyes shifted to mine and his smile turned devilish, lust bombarding me through the bond.  I made a “tsk-tsk” sound, and continued exploring the hotel.  I was looking at this more like a vacation than a job.  It was the first time Eric and I took a trip together.

His cool fingers traced my forearm, and I turned my arm at the tickling touch.  I liked it when he ran his fingers through the inside of my arm.  Eric resumed his reading, and I could feel Bill Compton’s eyes on us briefly.  I didn’t look up, but shifted uncomfortably in my seat.  Bill was working on his laptop as well, probably on something more important than what I was doing.  He was typing super vampire fast.  I was wondering how the machine was keeping up with his keystrokes.

It’s amazing how slow an hour on a plane will go.  Eric read through his Rolling Stone, cover to cover without skipping any articles, in just a few minutes then pulled a James Patterson book, reading slowly – for him, anyway.  He was done by the time we landed.

I could only imagine what we looked like; probably like we belonged on a chartered flight, no doubt.  Since we were going to the hotel only to drop off our bags and then straight to Stan Davis’ house, we had all dressed for work.  I was wearing a suit courtesy of Pam.  I was thinking I’d get her a badge that said Fashion Police for Christmas.  She’d taken my tastes into account, though, and had put me in a pant suit instead of a skirt.  It’s amazing what good tailoring will do to one’s butt.  I was very proud of mine, and Eric wouldn’t stop touching.

Eric and Bill were both in suits as well, and as much as I disliked Bill, I had to admit he looked very well put together in his navy suit.  Still, nobody could ever compare to my tall, handsome husband who was wearing a light gray one, sort of matching mine, actually.  The only difference was the material (mine had a little stretch to it) and I was wearing a baby pink button down shirt, while Eric was wearing a royal blue one.  I would have blamed Pam that we were all matchy-matchy, but I was sure she hadn’t picked Eric’s suit.

“Great minds think alike,” Eric had said when we had both finished getting ready for our flight.

Now we were heading through the Dallas Love Field airport, with Eric lugging our garment bag and wheeled carry-on, I with his laptop bag and my purse, and Bill with his own garment bag leading the way.  Supposedly there was a car waiting for us.

“I like this airport,” Eric commented, looking around.

I wasn’t sure what to say, only having been in the Shreveport one before this one.  The one in Shreveport was about the same size, though a little older.  I was feeling many harried minds pressing on mine, so I wasn’t paying much attention to the airport itself and redirecting my energy to shielding.

I felt Eric’s hand squeeze mine and looked up.  Apparently he’d asked me a question.  “Would you like something to eat or drink?” he repeated.

“Oh!  I’m sorry, got distracted.  A coffee would be good,” I answered, knowing this would be a long night.  A coffee would be really good.  I turned and headed for a Starbucks.

I rejoined my companions shortly after with a huge steaming cup of regular coffee (nothing fancy for me, thank you), with tons of sugar and creamer which was the only way I could stomach Starbucks coffee.  “I’m beginning to enjoy the smell of coffee,” Eric whispered in my ear, sending sweet shivers down to my tootsies.

“Why?” I asked in a teasing tone.  I already knew why, but wanted him to say it.

“Because your blood is sweeter after you drink coffee,” he said, still whispering as we walked.  Okay, not exactly words to send every girl’s heart aflutter, but they did it for me because of what happened when he drank blood for me.

We stepped outside the airport, to see that Bill had already found the car that was waiting for us.  It was a black limo.  I shook my head in disbelief.  Bill got in first, taking one of the seats facing the back, thank God.  I would have hated looking the wrong way.  Eric and I sat in the regular one facing forward.

It was time to talk to Bill.  This ride wouldn’t last long, so the conversation didn’t have to be extensive.  But what I needed to say was important.  “Bill, when I meet with humans, you’re going to have to let me ask the questions, okay?”

“As you wish, Sookie,” he answered with a nod.  I felt like Princess Buttercup, except Bill wasn’t nearly as cute as Cary Elwes.  More like Prince Humperdink.

“But I may not be listening to what they say out loud, so you’ll have to take note of that,” I continued.  It was hard for me to concentrate on listening to someone’s mind and mouth at the same time, and most times it garnered the speaker a blank look from me, or else a nervous smile.  Therefore the Crazy Sookie title I’d borne since I was a little girl.

Bill nodded politely to indicate his agreement.  I could feel Eric beside me, almost radiating with pride.  I wasn’t sure what he was proud of: my big mouth?  Or my ability to give instructions?  Knowing Eric, it was probably the latter.

The limo pulled into a brick driveway, more beautiful than the photo I’d seen of the Rosewood Mansion.  The mansion was lit beautifully, taking advantage of the lush flora surrounding it.  The peach stucco of the façade glowed softly, and I was so excited to see the rest of the hotel that my heart skipped a beat.  Eric eyed me with a worried look, but his eyes softened when he saw me practically jumping in my seat, impatient for someone to let me out of the car.  I was showing my relative age to the vampires.

Bill led the way inside, stopping at the front desk.  The bellboy ran out to our car to retrieve our bags and the front desk clerk started taking Bill’s information.  And me?  I was looking all around me in awe.  The floors were slick marble, liable to make you fall on your butt if you had wet shoes.  The ceilings were high and vaulted.  There were giant flower arrangements everywhere, each sitting on a wrought iron and marble top table.  There were several plush sitting areas around the front desk, and many people and vampires milling around them.  Most of them looked like they were on vacation, dressed elegantly for dinner and then a night out on the town.  I felt like I was at a resort.  What a lovely place.

I was brought back to Earth by an awful image.  Bill said, “I will need to feed,” to the front desk clerk and she simply said they would send someone up in ten minutes.  They meant a human for food, and probably sex.  I made a face.  Leave it up to freaking Bill to ruin my little bliss with a vision of him feeding on someone’s neck.  Ick!

“Eric and Sookie Northman,” Eric said to the girl.  She eyed us carefully, but knew better than to say anything.  A vampire and a human with the same last name could mean anything nowadays.  Perhaps Eric had been turned while we were already married.  You never know.  We could have been siblings, but Eric’s possessive hand on my lower back made that rather hard to swallow.

We headed up a beautiful staircase to our room on the second floor of the mansion, with the bellboy close behind us carrying our bags.  I dropped my shields out of curiosity, and immediately knew his name was Barry, and he was telepathic, like me.  I was listening to my own thoughts.  I quickly shielded back up, hoping that would keep me out of his mind as much as him out of mine.  I didn’t want to startle him, for one, since he seemed scared enough of Eric and more of Bill.  I also didn’t want vampires to know what he could do.  Eric was fine, but Bill… Bill had no business knowing Barry’s business.

I harrumphed quietly, earning me an inquisitive look from Eric.  I shook my head a tiny bit, letting him know now was not the time to tell him what was on my mind.  Once inside our room and alone for a few minutes, I told Eric about Barry.

“Interesting,” he said, giving it a lot of thought.  “Yes, it’s better if nobody knows.  Though sooner or later someone will figure it out,” he warned.

“I know that, but it won’t be because we said anything,” I started for the bathroom but stopped in my tracks.  Eric hadn’t had my blood, not even a taste, in two days, and was supposed to give me at least one more day.  “Eric, do you need to feed?” I asked.

“No, my love.  You’re still weak.  Better play it safe and let you heal for a couple more days,” he answered.  He was reaching inside the mini fridge in front of our bed and pulled a PureBlood, a different brand of the synthetic blood.  He didn’t like that one as much as True Blood, but it was the only one available.

“Um… But maybe you can order in,” I ventured.  Bad thing to say.  Eric’s eyes went from loving to murderous in less than a blink.  He didn’t say anything.  He was seething.

“I’m sorry,” I said in a soft voice and turned to use the bathroom, closing the door behind me, but not bothering with the lock like I used to.  Like he couldn’t break down a door…

When I was done I found him sitting on the bed, elbows resting on his knees and a bottle of blood half empty in his hands.  He was staring at it with a vacant expression.

“I have not tasted another’s blood since I met you, and I have no desire to do so.  I’d rather gorge myself on this stuff,” he lifted the bottle, “than hurt you that way.  Did you really think I would feed from another with you in the room?”

I shook my head, but he wasn’t looking at me.  “No, Eric.  I’m sorry I even suggested it.  I’m just worried about you not eating.”

I sat next to him and pried one of his hands from the bottle, bringing it up and kissing his fingers then thought better of it.  He needed more.  I’d hurt him with my assumption.  I stood up, taking the blood away and putting his empty hands on my waist.  I cupped his face and brought it up, caressing the angular lines that made his face the most beautiful I’d ever seen.  He closed his eyes when I kissed the top of his cheeks.  I brushed his lips with my thumb and he parted them for me, waiting for my kiss.  I kissed him slowly, the way he liked to kiss me.  I tasted that God-awful stuff he’d been drinking, but didn’t care.  My tongue went in search of his, barely registering that Eric’s hands were busy undoing buttons.

I pulled away a little.  “Do we have time?” I asked breathless.

He nodded emphatically, and had me pinned to the bed and ready for him in a jiffy.  He’d taken off my pants and panties, but my shirt and jacket were still on, though unbuttoned.  He pushed the bra up to reach my breasts at the same time that he glided inside me easily, still wearing his own shirt and jacket.

“We’ll have to make this a quick one,” he breathed into my nipple, and started pumping faster.

“Okay, okay, yes, okay,” I agreed with him, holding his head to my chest.  I loved quickies.  They felt naughty, particularly when we were partially clothed.

I felt a tiny prick on my breast where he’d fastened his mouth to suck, and as soon as the drop of blood met his tongue his euphoria melted into me and we both reached our happy endings together.  I floated slowly back into my body while Eric lapped up the tiny bit of blood he’d managed to get.  I knew it was really hard for him not to bite when he was hungry.  The synthetic blood kept him strong and healthy, but his hunger could only be sated with human blood.  That’s how the magic worked.

His hair had come out of its band, and I smoothed it gently, feeling waves of love ricocheting back and forth between both of us.  We had a long night ahead, but this little interlude gave me the strength I needed.  Just as I thought that, the phone in our room ringed.  Eric groaned, rolling away to answer the one on the bedside table.

Ten minutes later we were meeting with the caller, Stan Davis’ second, a vampire by the name of Isabel Beaumont.  She was tall, incredibly thin, with very long brown hair that she kept in a braid.  She must have been sick when she was turned.  Even Pam, as petite as she was, looked healthier than this woman.

“I trust you are enjoying your accommodations,” she said to Eric, sounding like she didn’t really give a hoot whether we did or not.  She only spoke to Eric, never to Bill, and much less to me.  She probably thought I was the meal.  Eric hadn’t really explained how I could help, only that I could.  It would become apparent as soon as I started talking to the other humans.

Isabel led the way to her own car, a large Lexus something or other, better known as the equivalent of Pam’s Toyota Avalon.  She would drive us to Stan Davis’ house.  I thought that was interesting.  I knew Eric didn’t ever invite visitors to his house.  The only two people who’d ever been in it had been Pam and me.  He wouldn’t trust anybody else with that address.  Then I remembered that Stan lived in what Eric had called a nest, many vampires sharing the same lodging.  Eric didn’t approve of those accommodations, not when vampires were trying to mainstream.  They had the tendency to goad each other into more and more evil acts.

As posh and mighty as the Lexus was, the back wasn’t big enough to accommodate Eric’s large frame.  I ended up sitting in the back with Bill Compton, pressing myself against the door because, though I may not have the extra sensibilities of a vampire, I am nevertheless gifted in identifying creeps.  And Bill Compton gave me the creeps.  I sat on the passenger side of the vehicle, directly behind Eric.  He only had to turn his head a little bit to keep an eye on Bill, and that’s exactly what he did, under the pretense of talking to Isabel.

“What ever happened with the lawsuit?” Eric asked.  I wasn’t sure what lawsuit he was talking about, but I listened in.

“It fell through, of course.  The anti-discrimination laws are very broad, plus our immediate neighbors don’t really mind us.  It was some fool from the HOA who joined the Fellowship of the Sun and decided to take us on using the Fellowship’s dime.  The man doesn’t even live in the same community.”  I never figured Isabel for a babbler, but it sounded like that was exactly what she was doing.  “We had a great lawyer, too.”

“I’m glad,” Eric answered, though he didn’t particularly sound glad.

I wondered what the Fellowship of the Sun was.  I had heard of it in passing, but hadn’t paid much attention.  Eric must have felt my confusion because he turned a little in his seat to look at me.

“The Fellowship of the Sun is a group that spreads anti-vampire propaganda under the guise of religion.  They’re a hate group,” he explained.

I nodded, understanding.  Of course there would be one of those.  There was a hate group for everything, always had been, and always would be.  Vampires were the new minority, even though most of them were older than any human alive.

Isabel frowned, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of the Fellowship or because Eric had taken a moment to explain to me what the Fellowship was.  I think it was Eric’s concern for me.  She hadn’t cottoned on to the fact that we were blood bonded.

We arrived at a posh community with custom built mansions, each separated by tall fences and lots of vegetation.  No wonder the vampires’ neighbors didn’t care about the vampires.  There was no way they would have interacted through the flora.  The sheriff’s house was huge and set far away from the main road.  Isabel parked at a circular driveway with many cars, probably as many cars as vampires that lived here.  I counted seven cars, including Isabel’s, and I already knew there was one missing.  At least eight vampires living under the same roof.  Suddenly I was really glad that my husband was a really old and really powerful vampire, and that vampires had rules against harming another’s blood bonded.

Eric got my door and threaded my arm through his as we walked inside.  He was calm, so I was too.  We were led through a tall foyer towards the back of the house to a dining room.  There were more vampires here than seven, and a few humans, all of them milling around apparently awaiting our arrival.  At the head of the dining room table was the geekiest vampire I’d ever seen, and wearing glasses too of all things.  They couldn’t have been prescription, not even if he had worn them while human.  All those deficiencies were corrected when a human turned into a vampire.

We approached that vampire and Eric inclined his head.  “Stan, nice to see you.”

Stan inclined his head too, standing up.  “Eric, thank you for coming,” he said, then shifted his gaze to me.  I knew that look very well, having been on the receiving end of it for quite a while now.  Stan was gauging how beddable I was, and probably how good I would taste.

Eric cleared his throat, and it almost sounded like a growl.  “Please meet my wife and blood bonded, Sookie Stackhouse Northman,” he introduced me.  Apparently that was my permanent name when dealing in vampire business.  Okey-dokey.

Stan’s expression shifted.  His eyes widened the tiniest bit, just enough to show surprise and fear at the same time.  Surprise at what I was; fear that he had looked at me the wrong way.  He inclined his head towards me like he should have from the beginning.  “My pleasure.  I am Stan Davis, Sheriff of Area 6,” he said, introducing himself since Eric had done a bad job of it, what with his being overly protective of me and all.  I forgave him.  He hadn’t been brought up in the South.

“How do you do, Mr. Davis?” I said.  I wasn’t sure what to call him.  For the most part, I called vampires by their first names, but Stan was a sheriff.  It was a rhetorical question anyway.

“And this is Bill Compton, the investigator for my area,” Eric said, pointing at Bill on his other side.

All introductions done, Stan dismissed all the people in his retinue except Isabel.  He told us the story of his missing nest mate.  “Our brother Farrell went to our club one evening, the Bat’s Wing here in Dallas, and hasn’t been seen since.  It’s been almost a week now.”

“I trust your staff is here tonight, as I requested.  My wife is here to help question your human employees.  Perhaps she can glean more information than you were able to,” Eric said.

“How will she do this?” Isabel asked with a leer.  She must have been the skeptic in the group.

“I am a telepath.  I will read their minds,” I said, my pride piqued.  Isabel’s expression changed quickly to one of surprise.  Stan’s did too.  Yeah, keep ignoring me, bitch!, I thought.  Not my most mature moment.

“Then let’s get started, please.  Isabel, bring them in one at a time,” Stan ordered, sitting back at the head of the table.  He was an easily forgettable man, with light hair and eyes, a small build, and clothes to match his geek status.  Either way he must have been smart and powerful to have been named Sheriff.

Bill took a seat at the other side of the table from us and whipped up his laptop, letting it start up while he got a pen and pad of paper.  At least he was prepared.  Eric wouldn’t have expected anything less.  Bill knew he was already on Eric’s list.  One slip up and Bill would be punished, and probably lose his job as investigator, plus whatever else he was doing for Queen Sophie-Anne.

Isabel reappeared with a young girl in tow.  The girl was crying silent tears, and I dipped into her mind to see the source of her distress.  She thought the vampires were punishing her, but she didn’t know what she had done.  She’d never been called to Stan’s house, and the fact that she was there meant she had done something wrong.  Her confusion and fear were suffocating.  I got her name, Bethany, and her age, twenty one.  She was a waitress at the Bat’s Wing.

“Bethany,” I said her name softly as she was made to sit in one of the dining room chairs.  The chair had been moved sideways, so that Bethany was facing me.  I grabbed the chair closest and turned it to face the girl, sitting in front of her so she didn’t feel intimidated by me.  The girl looked up at the sound of my voice, tears rolling down her eyes.

“I didn’t do anything,” she said in a small voice.

“Of course not, you’re a great waitress.  Mister Stan is looking for a good friend of his that disappeared, and maybe you remember seeing him at the bar,” I turned to Stan.  “What does Farrell look like?”

“Like a cowboy,” Stan said immediately.  I could feel Eric’s amusement behind me, and it was all I could do to not look at him and start laughing along with him.

I tried again.  “We’re in Dallas, Mister Stan.  Perhaps you could be a bit more specific.”

Stan raised an eyebrow at me, but then rearranged his features and complied.  “He’s… five foot eleven inches, brown hair with a little gray, slim, and that night he was wearing a blue shirt, bolo tie, jeans, black boots with a steel toe, and a light brown Stetson hat.”

Eric’s amusement spiked, no doubt imagining himself in the hat.  I tried to transmit my annoyance and got hit by his lust, no doubt imagining me wearing nothing but the hat.  Oy!

I took one of Bethany’s hands, offering comfort and at the same time strengthening the link to her mind.  “Alright, Bethany, think back to last Saturday night at the Bat’s Wing.  Do you remember seeing a vampire matching that description?”

I was in business.  Bethany had a gift for recollection.  I saw Farrell easily, sitting at a table with a red-haired vampire woman, a black-haired vampire man that looked Hispanic, and another vampire who looked to be no older than fifteen or sixteen.  I described all the vampires to Bill, who was taking notes.  Bethany had served them drinks that night.  “Then what happened?” I asked Bethany.

Her mind flooded with images of the dance floor, where I saw the red head and the Hispanic vampire, each with a human dancing companion.  The images shifted back to the table, where Farrell and the boy vampire had struck up a conversation.  Then another set of meaningless images and Bethany was cleaning up the table, grabbing her tip, wondering where the two vampires had gone.  She had looked up in time to see Farrell and the boy vampire enter the men’s room.

It didn’t take me to draw the conclusions from there.  It was obvious that Farrell had gone in the bathroom to have sex with the vampire boy, since vampires didn’t use the bathroom.  I doubted they’d gone in together to wash their hands.  I suppressed my mental yuk, and reminded myself that though the vampire boy looked very young, he was probably very old.  Farrell looked like he had been turned at close to forty, still handsome with laugh lines.  He must have liked them young and male.

“Bethany, can you describe the young vampire again?” I asked her.  I wanted her to slow down her recollection, so I could take a good look.  It was like zooming in on someone using a camera.  She saw his short blond hair, his dark eyes, and something else, a series of crude blue tattoos on his neck, around his hairline, and on his arms.  She had a hard time describing them aloud, but I’d be able to describe them better afterwards.

“Thank you so much, Bethany,” I said to her, and looked up to Stan, giving him a small smile to let him know I was done.  His gaze shifted slightly, like he’d been thinking hard about something, and soon thereafter a very young vampire girl came into the dining room.  She looked to be no older than Bethany herself.  Before Bethany let go of my hand, I had a mental picture and a name of someone she was worried for, another employee named Re-Bar.  He looked huge, and I had to guess he was a bouncer.

The vampire girl started telling Bethany about an exciting party, and I realized that she was erasing Bethany’s memory of tonight and replacing it with something far more interesting.  Well… brownie points for Stan for taking care of the girl.  Perhaps he was more like Eric than I’d originally thought.

“Mister Stan, I think I should speak to a guy named Re-Bar next,” I said.  Stan nodded, and soon the Hispanic vampire from Bethany’s memory entered the room with Re-Bar in tow.  Apparently Stan could communicate silently with his nest mates.  That was an interesting tidbit I’d have to ask Eric about later.  Both the vampire and the bouncer looked exactly as I’d seen them in Bethany’s mind.  The girl had amazing recollection.  Too bad she didn’t use it for something like going to college.

“Good evening, Mister Davis, how are you this evening?” Re-Bar asked.  From Stan’s reaction to the question I could tell this was not the way Re-Bar usually addressed him.

I touched Re-Bar’s hand briefly, and pulled it away quickly.  “His memory has been erased,” I said, suddenly remembering the night I’d tried to lift a memory by force from Ginger’s mind.  Never again.  Eric’s hand was on my shoulder immediately, and I caressed it with my fingers, letting him know I wasn’t about to do anything stupid.

“What do you mean?” Stan asked me.

“There’s a huge gap in his memory.  A vampire must have glamoured him into forgetting whatever he saw, but didn’t take the time to replace the missing memory with something else.  Not only that, but this man’s mind is damaged.  It’s missing much more than just memories.”  I made a motion with my hands, trying to get the words to come to me.  “He’s forgotten his personality.  That’s the only way I can describe it.”

Stan looked thoughtful, and I glanced sideways to see Bill scribbling ferociously on his notepad, typing something into his laptop then scribbling again.  For all I knew he was writing “I shall not be a dick” a thousand times, but I had to give it to him for looking busy and on the ball.

Stan turned to the Hispanic vampire.  “Please take Re-Bar home and make sure he has company.”  Huh, I thought.  Stan was acting very nobly.  I’d have to rethink my view of geeky vampires.

I met with a couple of other humans, a bartender at the Bat’s Wing and a frequent patron (a.k.a. fangbanger, but I don’t like labels), but their minds were not as clear as Bethany’s had been.  By the time I was finished, Bill had something to add to the conversation.

“I have found the young vampire that was with Farrell.  His name is Godric, though he goes by Godfrey nowadays.  He was turned in Roman times, and the tattoos were a sign that he had a master before he was turned.  He was a slave, probably a sex slave,” Bill said.  He was reading from his computer.  Imagine that: you could Google individual vampires.  I wondered what I would find if I Googled Eric.  “Godfrey is a renouncer.  He wants to meet the sun and has made many allusions to the matter.”

“What else?” Eric pressed.

“There is talk that he has been seen at the Fellowship of the Sun headquarters here in Dallas.  The Fellowship’s discussion boards are brimming with mentions of him.  Also, there is a big event happening tomorrow night into Sunday, something about the Dawn of Light, and Godfrey is the speaker,” Bill said and looked up.  For once he showed some kind of real emotion: revulsion.

“Godfrey is going to meet the sun this Sunday.  You don’t suppose he convinced Farrell to do the same,” Eric said, turning to Stan.

Stan and Isabel were both in obvious distress.  “No, there’s no way.  Farrell has been a vampire for only fifty years.  He was very happy when we came out publicly.  He had no reason to renounce or meet the sun,” Stan said, defending Farrell.

“Perhaps Godfrey did not want to meet the sun alone,” Bill offered.

That definitely seemed more plausible to the vampires: a kidnapping executed by the young-looking but incredibly old vampire over the relatively new one.  If I’d done my math correctly, I could guess Godfrey was even older than Eric, who had already lost count of how old he was but guessed he’d been turned around the year 980.  Godfrey would have been turned during the Roman Empire, at least five hundred years before.  No wonder he wanted to meet the sun.  He was old, and had been stuck in his youthful appearance all that time.  At least Eric looked like a grown man.

“May I suggest you search the Fellowship headquarters tonight?  Tomorrow it will be impossible without involving humans,” Eric said.

“Of course,” Stan shook himself.  Even if he looked like a geek, he was still a vampire of action.  “Thank you, Eric, for lending us a hand.  Isabel’s human will drive you back to you hotel.”

“I would like to stay and help,” Bill piped up, closing his laptop and putting it away.  Who knew he was the reconnaissance type.  Either way, he was overstepping Eric, who was his boss, and showing him up.  I knew Eric wouldn’t involve himself any further.  This was not his fight, and none of his people were in danger.  Except now, that Bill was offering to put himself in harm’s way.

“Very well, Bill.  We will see you later at the hotel,” Eric said.  He was angry with Bill, but not enough to make a scene.

Isabel’s human was a nice looking, almost-middle-aged man.  He came into the dining room after Isabel had texted him for her cell phone.  I guessed whatever mind chatter Stan could share with his people, he couldn’t share with any humans.  As soon as the man’s eyes alighted on Isabel’s thin frame, it was like a cat had scented catnip.  His pupils dilated, and his mouth sported a dreamy smile.  I’m sure he would have rubbed himself on her if she hadn’t stopped him with a glare.

“This is Hugo Ayres.  Hugo, please take Master Eric and Mistress Sookie back to their hotel,” Isabel said.  I bristled at being called Mistress Sookie, remembering the fight that had elicited the same appellation from Eric.  Isabel had done it to make sure Hugo knew his place, so I wasn’t about to argue.  Obviously that’s how they did things in Dallas.

“Hugo Ayres,” Eric repeated; he seemed to remember the name.  “You’re the lawyer who defended the lawsuit brought by the HOA.”

“Yes, I am.  Thank you for remembering,” Hugo said, inclining his head a little too much in Eric’s direction.

I’d propped up my shields after each human encounter, and decided to lower them to peek inside Hugo’s mind.  Boy, did I get a peek!  It was a horrible tale.  Hugo had been a powerful lawyer when he was contracted to defend the vampires, but had made the mistake of getting involved with Isabel.  Now he was addicted to her, had left his wife and children for her, and had modified his hours to be with her.  He had left it all for her, even his practice, because with the change in hours he couldn’t make it to court.  I also learned that Hugo was envious of me, because I wasn’t besotted by my vampire love and I looked healthy while he looked sallow.  Actually, it was less like envy and more like hatred, particularly when he saw the way Eric kissed the top of my head to calm my emotions.  Hugo wanted what Eric and I had, but with Isabel.

“I think we should call a cab,” I whispered to Eric, hopefully low enough so that the human couldn’t hear it.  Eric heard me and rubbed my arm, but he felt confident about accepting a ride from Hugo.

Inside Isabel’s car we were silent.  I had no choice but to listen to Hugo’s mental dribble for the whole ride, because I distrusted him.  I learned his favorite sexual positions, and I got to see what poor Isabel’s body looked like naked.  Skeletal.  He obviously liked them skinny, because his wife had been very slim as well, though she had plumped up a little with each pregnancy, so maybe Hugo’s wife was now a size four, compared to Isabel’s size zero.  Jerk! I thought, leaving his wife for that vampire stick insect.  I hoped Hugo’s wife knew several good lawyers, and right as I thought it I got my answer.  She had cleaned him out.  I’m not usually the vindictive type, and immediately regretted my thoughts.  God knew I had left most of my old life behind to be with Eric.

We arrived at our hotel without problems and I was more than glad to be rid of Hugo’s thoughts swirling inside my mind.  Eric walked slowly, draping an arm over my shoulders.

“Would you like to go explore our hotel?  Or do you want to go to the room?  Are you hungry?”  Eric sounded a little excited.  He didn’t seem ready to go to our room yet.

“I’m a little hungry.  Do you think the restaurant is still open?” I asked.  I hadn’t eaten since before our flight, and it was already past midnight.

“Let’s go find out,” he said, pulling me towards the front desk.  The restaurant was a little ways beyond it, but it was closed.  We kept walking and found the bar, still open and offering live entertainment.

They had True Blood, which made Eric happy, and they had food, which made me happy.  We settled at a table removed from the live entertainment so we could talk.

“Are they going to the… headquarters tonight?” I asked Eric.  I was pretty sure they were; I just wanted confirmation.

“Yes.  They want to save their nest mate, and tonight is the best night.  There shouldn’t be anybody at those headquarters tonight.  Tomorrow they have that overnight meeting and if they wait, it could turn into a raid.  They would rather save their cowboy in silence,” Eric said and leaned against me, breathing his cool breath into my ear, making me shiver.  “How do you think I would look in a Stetson hat?”

I smiled.  He wasn’t in the mood to talk serious stuff.  “As handsome as ever,” I answered, giving his ego a healthy boost, not that he needed it.

“I think I should purchase one and let you borrow it,” he nipped my ear.  I knew he was thinking the same thing he’d thought at Stan’s house: me wearing nothing but that hat.

I slapped his hand with my fingertips in a playful motion, trying not to smile but it was useless.  He was incorrigible and I only fueled his impish thoughts.

“Let’s go to the pool,” he suggested when I finished my gourmet French fries and glass of Pinot Grigio.

“Do you think it’s open?” I asked him as he waived to our server for the check.

“Let’s find out,” he said, still in that curious mood.  Our server said the pool was always open.  He’d been very polite and pleasant, and I saw Eric give him an extra nice tip, no doubt trying to earn brownie points with me.

I changed into my bikini in our bathroom, because if I knew anything with complete conviction it was that if Eric saw me naked, we would never make it to the pool.  I put on my cover-up, a short black terry dress with spaghetti straps that hid one of the many suits I owned.  It was a flowery one with a push-up top and a string bottom.  I didn’t need the push-up for the girls, but I did need the structure so that everyone would remain inside the top.

In our room, Eric had changed into a pair of black board shorts and sandals.  With his hair down all he needed was a tan to look like the quintessential beach dude.  Even though the board shorts were far preferable to, say, swim briefs, I was still salivating at the view: broad expansive shoulders, flat belly, the delicious diagonal line at his hips that pointed at, well, all the fun stuff that was covered by the swimsuit.  When he turned around to grab a T-shirt, his butt beckoned.  I almost went to touch it but he turned again to face me, already wearing the T-shirt.

There wasn’t anybody at the pool, though nobody that saw us making our way there gave us THE look.  You know that look, the one strangers give when they’re second guessing other strangers’ decisions.  Either way, I was glad nobody followed us out of curiosity, because as soon as I took off my cover-up I was met by a lustful gaze and the lustful thoughts that went along with it.  I wasn’t sure how this was going to work.

Eric came close and took my hand, leading me to the stairs at one of the shallow ends of the pool.  We descended into the tepid water together, but Eric let me go and disappeared under the water like a blond torpedo.  I envied him.  I was a good enough swimmer, having spent many weekends on the lake by Jason’s house (which used to be our parents’ house), or at the Y pool with Tara.  I still couldn’t compete with Eric’s vampire speed and the fact that he didn’t really need to breathe.

I swam slowly, once in a while seeing Eric swim under me like a shark measuring its prey.  He appeared before me, at a particularly deep part of the pool.  None of it was deeper than five and a half feet, but I am five and a half feet tall.  Eric, however, was nearly a whole foot taller than that, so even standing in the deepest part, his head was still well above water.  He caught me with a mischievous smile and I pouted.

“What’s wrong my love?” he asked, threading his arms around my waist.

“You swim so fast and so well.  I’m envious,” I said, trying not to smile.  He looked good wet, and his smile was contagious.

“Would you like a ride?” he asked and waggled his eyebrows.

“I can’t breathe underwater, and the water stings my eyes…” I stopped talking.  He’d put a wet finger on my lips.

“Trust me,” he said, and I, of course, trusted him.

He turned around and I held onto his neck.  Somehow he managed to float just below the surface, with me on his back, and we zoomed back and forth on the pool a few times, with me smiling like a fool.  I realized how he’d done it.  He’d used his ability to fly so he could float exactly where he wanted.

We ended up at one of the corners of the pool, with my back against the wall and my legs and arms still wrapped around him.  He turned to face me, and began tracing patterns from my neck to my shoulders, as if every drop of water of my skin was utterly fascinating.

“Are we leaving tomorrow?” I asked, not really wanting to, not yet.  We’d already helped the sheriff as much as we could, and maybe we could enjoy the city a little.

Eric seemed to read my thoughts, but probably my tone gave me away.  “We can stay one more night if you like.  I would love to see you in that bikini again.”

“Maybe we should get a pool,” I suggested.

“Perhaps, but I was thinking more along the lines of where to take you for our honeymoon.  I’m sorry we can’t take too much time off now, but we can go somewhere warm in January, spend some time alone,” he kissed my lips softly.  “I want to make love to you under the moonlight,” he whispered, and made me shiver with anticipation.

“We can do that at my house, you know,” I offered, just to mess with him.

“And have that idiot Bill walk in on us?  I don’t think so,” he said and chuckled.  “He’d get a show, though.  You’re beautiful.  He can barely keep his eyes off you.”

“I wish you’d do something about that.  It’s giving me the creeps,” I mumbled.

“I would, but when you deny somebody something, they want it even more.  I would rather he look at you than touch you,” then, to prove his point, his hands roamed over my butt and one of them undid a string from my bottom.  “I want to be the only one who ever touches you,” he said, leaning in to kiss me again and reaching for my center, making me wiggle in the water at his touch.

“Honey, this is not the best place,” I said into his lips.  He swallowed my words along with my tongue and continued touching me.  I’d have to trust that his super vampire senses would alert him if somebody came to the pool area.

He pulled away from our kiss suddenly and had tied me back up in a blink.  His speed scared me, making me think that we’d been spotted.  His smile told me a different story.  “I have an idea,” he said, and jumped out of the pool.  I’m not talking he used the edge of the pool as leverage, no.  He backed away from me a bit, crouched and became airborne, landing right behind me.  He reached under my arms and pulled me out easily, cradling me against him until we got to the lounge chairs where we’d left our stuff.

Eric’s idea was to take a bath together, since we needed one anyway.  I didn’t think that was much of an idea.  We took baths together often.  I said as much when he started running the water.

“This bathtub is bigger than ours,” he said, pointing out the obvious.  I shrugged and got inside.  He’d scented the water with bath salts, and the water felt hot after the not-quite-warm water of the pool.  I relaxed and dipped my head under the water, rinsing the chlorine off my hair.

When I came up for air I found my husband giving me a hungry stare from his side of the tub.  He dipped his head too and moved under the water, settling between my legs, bringing my thighs up to rest on his shoulders.  I felt his tongue begin a slow underwater exploration of my sex, making me throw my head back at the new sensation.  Everything around me was pleasure: Eric’s tongue, the warm water on my skin, the scent of the salts, the feel of Eric’s hair under the water when my fingers got tangled in it.  I hoped the walls were sound proofed because I was about to make a lot of noise.  Before I came, Eric brought me out of the water and turned me around, bending me over the edge of the tub and claiming me.

“Yes,” he snarled behind me, speeding up and making himself slow down, holding my hips steady because I felt like bucking against him in my effort to feel him deeper.

“Eric,” I cried out his name, remaining at the cusp of a prolonged orgasm.  If I didn’t go over the edge soon I would go mad.  I reached down to touch myself, to help things along.

“Touch me too,” Eric growled.  It was an incredible turn on to feel his length as it pumped inside me, knowing he was watching from above.  With the heel of my hand I pleasured myself while my fingers squeezed an orgasm out of him.  Little stars burst behind my eyelids as I came, howling in pleasure and holding on fearing I would fall under the water.  Eric’s mighty battle cry came soon thereafter, each of his spasms making the water splash around us.

Later, inside the cocoon Eric had made of the blankets, I spared a thought to the cowboy vampire we had come here to find.  “You think Farrell is okay?”

Eric took a deep breath, the way he always did when he was thinking hard about an answer.  “I hope so.  Stan and Isabel obviously care about him.  I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both are a sibling.”

“As in they share one vampire maker?” I asked, to get clarification.  Sometimes vampire lore and rules caught me off guard.

“Yes.  Siblings don’t share the same deep connection as makers and children, since they don’t share blood, but they do care about each other,” he paused, thinking.  “Like you and Pam care for each other,” he said.

I frowned.  “But I’m not a vampire.”

“But you have my blood, and so does Pam,” he said, soothing me by running his fingers over the inside of my arm.  It made sense, though Pam and I had been friends before Eric and I had bonded.

“What would happen to them if Farrell died?” I asked, thinking of the worst case scenario.

“They would be very upset and grieve for him.”

“Oh,” I said.  “I thought maybe their connection would…” I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say, so I stopped talking.

But then I tried to picture Stan and Isabel grieving, and understood the magnitude of what Eric was telling me.  Yes, I had seen Eric and Pam be emotional when it came to me and my wellbeing, but that was because we three shared a deep connection, and Pam was Eric’s child, sharing in his emotions.  Otherwise they conducted themselves like… well, like vampires.  Losing Farrell would deal a huge blow to Stan and Isabel, and probably to the rest of the nest family.  I recited my prayers in my head, and threw in a little one asking God to aid in the search and rescue of the cowboy vampire.

Next Chapter

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