How depressing. One thing was to see Eric asleep in his bed during the day; another was to see him get in a coffin. I couldn’t pretend he was asleep. I stared at the coffin until the sun shone through the tall windows of the spare bedroom in Alcide’s condo. We had arrived in Jackson at almost four in the morning. I’d slept in the car a little bit, but then hadn’t been able to sleep anymore, even though I’d tried. Eric held me for a long time, up until he had to get in the coffin. His worry and anger were too great to offer me any rest.
Now that Eric was asleep, I supposed I could have rested, but I was plagued by my own worry. I got up and padded over to the bathroom, trying to make myself look halfway decent before I went in search of coffee. I put a sweatshirt over my PJ top. Whoever told Alcide that sixty five degrees was an acceptable temperature for the inside of a home? Holy moly!
The kitchen was small, clean, and stocked with everything I needed to make coffee. I silently blessed the Mr. Coffee machine and set to making a pot. Alcide emerged from his bedroom, looking tired and sleepy, plopped on a stool at the counter in front of the sink and went back to sleep. He almost looked too big to be doing that kind of thing. I’d been mistaken. Alcide wasn’t as tall as Eric, but only shorter by a couple of inches. Nevertheless his build was impressive. He could probably bench press me without breaking a sweat. Hell, he could probably bench press Eric without breaking a sweat!
“Would you like some coffee? I’m making enough for both of us,” I said quietly. I felt like I owed him. He’d been nothing but polite to me so far.
“Yeah, thanks,” he said. His voice was muffled by the arm over his head. He eventually made the effort to look up. “There’s food in the fridge. You can help yourself to anything.”
I turned and opened the door to the fridge. He had eggs, ham and cheese. I wasn’t particularly hungry, but knew I should probably eat. Maybe some coffee and a hot meal in my belly would make me sleepy enough to take a long nap. Yes… I can sleep after drinking coffee. I’m weird that way.
I didn’t bother asking Alcide if he wanted an omelet too, I simply made him one and put it on the counter. He’d set his head back down on it while I cooked, but looked up when he heard the plate. “You made me breakfast?” What a stupid question!
“I wasn’t about to make breakfast for me and not for you. What kind of guest do you think I am?” I asked a little cross.
Alcide looked at me with wide green eyes, surprised, I guessed. If it had been difficult to read his brain before, it was almost impossible now that he was tired. “Thank you. You didn’t have to.”
I rolled my eyes. “Aren’t you hungry?” I’d never met a man who didn’t expect to be fed, not even if the man was a vampire.
“I’m famished,” he answered and dug into his eggs. I set a cup of coffee in front of him. I didn’t know how he drank it, but today he was going to drink it the same way as me.
I sat next to him and we ate in silence, both of us too tired to make any attempt at conversation. He finished his food first and took his plate to the sink. And then, to my immense surprise, he started washing it.
“I can do that,” I said quickly.
“You cooked, I clean. Them’s the rules,” he said and gave me a quick smile.
I smiled back. It was a fair rule. “Okay. Can I bring you home for Thanksgiving, so you can clean up after me?” I snickered.
Wish Debbie was like you.
I stopped breathing. That had been unexpected. It was like Alcide had actually thought something at me. “Who’s Debbie?” I asked, before I could stop myself.
Alcide’s eyes went wide in shock. “My… my girlfriend,” he stammered then shook his head, closing his eyes briefly, as if in pain. “My ex-girlfriend. We broke up.” Alcide’s eyes went from shock to hope. “Do you think she’ll come back?”
Oh, boy! What had I done? He thought I was psychic. It wasn’t his fault. I was pretty sure Eric hadn’t told him anything about me. The poor guy was heartsick for the woman, which obviously meant that they hadn’t broken up, but that she had. I didn’t have to be psychic to get that one.
“I’m sorry, Alcide. I can’t see the future. I can only read some of your thoughts. You were thinking about her,” I explained, watching as his face fell.
“You can read minds,” he concluded. Maybe he had suspected I did something special, but wasn’t sure what.
“Human minds,” I qualified. “Yours is mostly a haze, unless you’re thinking really hard about something, then I can pick it up.”
Alcide gave me a sad smile. “Must come in handy,” he said, just to say something. He was still stuck on his Debbie.
“It’s mostly a nuisance,” I confessed. I found that Alcide was easy to talk to. For one, he hadn’t freaked out about my being able to read minds. For another, he reminded me of Sam a little bit. Maybe it was a shifter thing in general.
“Is Debbie a Were?” I asked. I was only indulging him. I knew he wanted to talk about her.
“No, she’s a shifter. She’s a werelynx,” he said.
I was truly fascinated. “Wow! How many kinds of shifters are there?”
“Many, but werewolves are the most numerous,” he said good-naturedly. He tilted his head. “Didn’t you used to work for a shifter?”
“Yes,” I said cautiously. I wasn’t sure if Alcide knew everything about Sam.
“Merlotte is a true shifter, though. Talk about rare.” Alcide’s thoughts drifted back to Debbie. A very naked Debbie.
“Alcide! Give me some kind of heads up when you’re about to do that,” I chided him. Is that all men thought about? Boobs and ass? Jeez!
“I’m sorry! I miss her,” he said, looking dejected.
I softened my tone and cut him a break. “I know, it’s okay.” I handed him my plate and cup, since he was still on KP duty. “I think I’m going to try to take a nap. I feel like I can sleep now,” I said getting up slowly. I was a little dizzy from lack of sleep.
“I think I’ll do the same. If you wake up before me, don’t go out alone. Eric would kill me. If you want to go out, you come get me. I don’t mind if you wake me up,” Alcide said in a grave voice.
“I promise I won’t go out without you, but who would know I’m here or want to hurt me?” I asked confused.
Alcide arched an eyebrow. I could see he could be just as stubborn as certain people I knew if he put his mind to it. “Please don’t make my job difficult.”
I raised my arms in surrender as I walked away. Obviously I wasn’t going to get anywhere by asking him questions. I’d have to wait for Eric. To that end, I curled up under the covers, un-tucking them from the mattress so I could tuck them around me. It was freezing! My belly satisfied and full, I fell asleep lickety-split.
“Sookie?” Alcide’s deep voice woke me. He was sitting on the bed next to me.
“What’s up?” I asked, opening one eye. The light had changed in the room, and without him telling me I knew it was the afternoon. The late afternoon! I sat up with a jerk. I’d slept the whole day away.
“You must have been very tired,” Alcide observed.
I nodded, embarrassed. At least I’d be awake all night. “What time is it?”
“A little past four. The vampires will wake up in an hour,” he said. I wasn’t sure why he needed to tell me this. I lived with a vampire, so I knew exactly when they woke up. At the end of Daylight Savings, Eric had started waking up at five instead of six. “Why don’t you get dressed and I’ll make dinner?” he asked.
“Okay, thanks,” I said.
I took a shower and put on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt under my sweatshirt. It was almost torture to take a shower in that condo. I put the water as hot as I could stand it and steamed the whole bathroom so I could retain some warmth. I left my hair dirty, refusing to get my head wet with it being so cold. When I joined Alcide in the kitchen he was finishing up dinner. He’d made burgers. That was nice. He was also dressed like it was ninety degrees in the condo instead of sixty five. I shivered at his lack of clothes. He was wearing jeans, with a sleeveless shirt… and he was barefoot! I’d put on my socks and shoes to keep warm, and was contemplating putting on my coat. Meanwhile, Alcide’s bare arms held an interest all their own. I’d never seen arms that big in person. I looked away before he could catch me ogling.
“You seem cold,” Alcide chuckled as he put the plate of food on the counter in front of me. He gave me a glass full of ice and a can of Coke. Just looking at the soda made me shiver.
“It’s freezing in here. Why do you keep it so cold?” I asked, and forewent the soda in favor of the food.
“I run hot,” he shrugged, but took pity on me. “I’ll turn it up. Why didn’t you say anything sooner?”
I shrugged too. “This is your place. It’s not for me to tell you how hot or cold to keep it. But since you asked…” Thankfully he turned up the heat and I thawed out. I wondered why Debbie had broken up with him. He seemed like quite the catch to me: handsome, mindful of others, polite. And he could cook! Maybe he picked his nose or something.
We were sitting in Alcide’s cozy living room after dinner, watching the news, when I felt Eric wake up for the night. I stood up without a word, ignoring Alcide’s curious look. I found Eric opening his coffin. It was impossible to have a bad day when you spent the whole day sleeping, but I actually felt better to see him. Apparently the feeling was mutual, judging by the wide smile he gave me as he walked over and scooped me into his arms.
“I missed you,” he said against my temple.
“You always say that,” I said looking up. He held my gaze for a long moment. I could feel longing and love from him, as if he truly had missed me. When he finally kissed me he did so slowly, taking his time before we had to do what we came here to do.
“What did you do today?” he asked, pulling away. Instead of looking at me while I spoke, he decided to explore my neck with his lips.
“Um…” Okay, so it’s hard to be eloquent when you’re getting kissed in a way that makes you tremble. So sue me. “I actually spent most of the day sleeping, sort of like you. Alcide had to come get me so I would eat dinner.”
He pulled away and studied me for a second. Was he feeling jealousy? That had never happened, not even when I told him about the male strippers. His feelings cleared of what I perceived as jealousy, and he went into battle mode. That’s what I resorted to calling the mixture of anger, worry, determination, and a hint of fear (particularly when I was involved) that he felt when something needed to be done. Without a word we headed back to the living room and laid out a plan.
It was simple, really. We’d go to a vampire bar called Josephine’s (or Club Dead, like Alcide called it, earning himself a stern look from Eric and a giggle from me), and find out what we could about Bill there. If he was inside the headquarters of the King of Mississippi, then it would be simple for Eric to go pay the required visit and find out if he could bring Bill back to his home, per the Queen of Louisiana’s orders. The King would most probably not object to a Queen’s request to return one of her subjects. The King could also order Bill’s maker to release him, or have her go home with Bill. It would behoove the King to honor Sophie-Anne’s request, since they were friendly neighbors and all.
Not that there wasn’t already a problem. For the men to get me close enough to people whose minds I could read, I had to pretend to date Alcide. Not that he wasn’t a lovely man, but pretending to date him with Eric nearby was already proving to be… awkward. And we hadn’t even started.
“The Weres won’t approach her or talk to her if she’s with you,” Alcide reasoned with Eric after telling him what I had to do. “But they’ll talk to me, and by extension they’ll talk to Sookie.”
Eric hadn’t said anything after the initial snarl. He was getting super possessive because of the stress of the situation. I didn’t think he would be any good until I had a chance to calm him down.
“Alcide, could you excuse us for a minute or two?” I asked, getting up.
“Look, Club Dead doesn’t open until eight, so I’m going to check on a few things and I’ll be back later,” Alcide got up too and left the condo. I wasn’t sure if he did it to give us some room, or if he truly needed to check on things. Whatever his motives I was glad Eric and I were alone.
“Come,” I said, pulling Eric by the hand so he would follow me to the bedroom. I only knew of one way to calm him down and reassure him… or at least, one way that didn’t involve yelling at him or beating him upside the head. That would have been counterproductive.
We were at the top of the building that Alcide’s dad owned, about seven stories up. The lights were off in the bedroom but the curtains were open, and the soft lights of Jackson illuminated the room enough for me to see. I turned to Eric and caressed the skin just below his throat, watching how his soft glow illuminated my hand as well.
My hand continued making a trail to rest behind his neck. I could see he was studying me, or else trying to make up his mind whether to stay and look for Bill or go home and make love to me in one of our own beds. I pulled him down to me, like that first night when I wanted to kiss him so bad, and he acquiesced, bending to let me kiss him.
I knew it would happen. I knew he would take over. It was inevitable. His jealousy sparked his caveman need to mark me, to brand me. I took off my own clothes quickly, not giving him a chance to rip them, and he didn’t even bother with his clothes. Once he had me pinned to the bed, he unzipped and took me, hard. I cried out at the sudden invasion, which merely sparked his need. The bed squeaked and the headboard slammed against the wall, but Eric didn’t care, and I was beginning not to care either.
“Mine,” he grunted with every thrust. “My wife, mine. My Sookie, mineminemine!” He kept repeating the words until he sunk his fangs into my neck and sent me away, tangled in an orgasm and his euphoria. I could still hear him, saying whatever he said in Old Norse at the same time he came. It had never occurred to me to ask him.
Eric licked my neck lazily. He’d pricked his finger and healed my wounds with his blood, so now he was just doing cleanup. It was like having a large cat draped over me, lapping milk from my neck. I think he even purred.
“Are you better honey?” I asked. I couldn’t find any jealousy coming from him, so maybe my plan had worked.
“I should ask you if you’re okay,” he said instead of answering my question.
“I love you Sookie.”
“I know. I love you too.”
“I know,” he took a deep breath, still at my neck. “I’ll try my best to contain my jealousy. And my possessiveness,” he added. Well… at least he could acknowledge he had a problem. That’s always the first step to recovery.
I had imagined Josephine’s/Club Dead would be like Fangtasia… I was sorely mistaken. First of all, the only humans there were the ones dating the supe that brought them. Second, everyone dressed up. No jeans or T-shirts allowed. I was glad my sweater dress could be dressed up easily. It was a dark gray turtleneck, so all I did was put my hair into a bun, wear my ruby earrings, and put on a pair of red work shoes. I had packed quickly but carefully, and remembered my red clutch. Judging by the two pairs of male eyes that looked at me with approval, I was pretty sure I did good.
We were to arrive separately, so Alcide drove me in the Prius, and Eric flew. Just thinking of how cold it would be to fly gave me shivers. Eric said he had a coat… funny.
“You’ll have to move your ring,” Alcide said, pointing to my left hand as he pulled into the strange parking lot. I really didn’t want to be there, and the feeling only grew worse as he parked. I moved my ring to the ring finger of my right hand as I looked around me nervously.
“Ignore the feeling. It’s a spell so that regular humans won’t want to come here,” Alcide said and got out of the car.
“A spell?” I asked, to no one at all. Alcide was walking around the car to get my door. Spell or not, this feeling of foreboding was really bad.
Alcide held out his hand for me to take as I stepped out of the car, and as soon as I took his hand I felt better. “Don’t let go of my hand until we’re inside the bar,” he said in a soft tone. I noticed he had regular man’s hands, like my brother’s: hard and calloused from working with them. I’d become used to vampire hands, always soft no matter what. I was almost dragging my feet as we walked towards the building, and Alcide wiggled his arm, making mine wiggle too and making me look up. “You’ll be fine,” he said with a smile, trying to calm my frazzled nerves. It made me wonder again what in the world had possessed Debbie to break up with Alcide. Maybe he was gassy.
The bouncer at the door of Josephine’s looked like a troll and I wondered if that wasn’t exactly right. He didn’t even look at our ID’s before waving us in. I guessed if you’re willing to go to a club for supes, you better be old enough and know what you’re doing… although I certainly looked my age, and so did Alcide. We got several looks as we walked, and I couldn’t have guessed if they were curious looks, nervous looks, jealous, what? Alcide steered us to an empty table near the dance floor and waved at one of the servers.
“Alcide! Long time, no see. How’s it going?” asked the girl who approached to take our drink order. She was “other.” After spending some time with Alcide and the way his brain behaved, I could tell she was slightly different than him, but probably moved on the ground, as opposed to the air.
“Everything is well, Mara. How are you?” he asked. Did I say he was polite? And he was nice to people in service positions. Maybe he snored… Darn it! The mystery was eating me alive.
“Sweetie, you shouldn’t have come tonight, even with the present lovely company,” she shot me a smile. The haze in Mara’s head cleared and I could see the problem. Debbie was coming, with her current beau, to celebrate something. Mara was worried for Alcide’s sake. I cringed before she continued telling him the whole tale.
Debbie was coming alright, to celebrate her engagement to an owl. I just couldn’t believe she chose an owl over Alcide. Weren’t wild cats supposed to eat birds? I felt really bad for Alcide. He looked devastated for all of two seconds before his expression became blank. I probed his mind: he’d seen Debbie. I glanced at the door and there she was, hanging from the arm of the owl-man. He looked exactly like a humanoid owl… and she looked way different that the way Alcide saw her in his mind. In his mind she looked almost sweet. In real life… well… let’s just say I realized why she had broken up with Alcide. She was a bitch!
Debbie’s head turned as if she could smell her old mate, and her eyes zoomed in on our table. Mara quickly took our drink order and left, knowing that Debbie was coming over. I tried to keep my eyes averted from Debbie, and poor Alcide was practically staring a hole through my head to keep himself from looking at her. I took his hand into mine, to calm him down. His thoughts were chaotic, and I wasn’t sure how to soothe him. Truth was that I’d never been in that situation. Nothing prepares you to see the person that you love in love with another.
“Hello, Alcide,” said Debbie when she was close to our table. Since I was allowed to look at her now, I studied her. First of all: Yuk! What an awful haircut! It looked like the one Meg Ryan had in the movie Kate & Leopold but in black. Blech! Second: she looked like her features would be pretty if her nose wasn’t stuck up in the air.
“Debbie,” Alcide said, forcing a smile.
“What brings you to Jackson?” Debbie asked him.
“Business, as usual,” he answered, forced smile still in place.
Debbie cut her eyes to me and back to Alcide. “I would have thought it was pleasure,” she almost purred. I felt my cheeks flush, but I wasn’t sure if I was mortified or mad. Probably both.
Just at that moment, my darling hubby decided to enter the door, and he looked livid. I’d been trying to read too many minds at once to focus on his feelings inside me, but the expression on his face said it all. Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure why he was mad: at what Debbie had said (since he would have been able to hear it), at the fact that I was holding Alcide’s hand, at the fact that we were in Mississippi… It could have been all three things that made him mad.
“Congratulations, on your engagement. Now, if you will excuse us,” Alcide said and stood up, holding my hand. He walked us away from the table to the dance floor. That was the only time I could read Debbie’s thoughts. She was all kinds of jealous. Then why leave him? Oh, that’s right. She was a bitch.
Alcide brought me too close, probably too mad to pay attention to what he was doing. I forced him back and away before his head became separated from his body. He looked down at me, finally realizing what he’d done, and his face became chagrined.
“I’m sorry, Sookie. I didn’t mean…” his voice trailed. Oh, jeez! Poor Alcide.
“It’s okay. Let’s just focus on what we came here to do so we can leave,” I whispered, very aware that Eric was staring at us intently. He was sitting at the bar, imagining bloodshed, I supposed.
Dancing gave Alcide a chance to scan the whole bar and identify whatever Weres worked for the King of Mississippi. Once he saw a promising group, he steered us that way. He knew the Weres from working for the King, so this should be easy-peasy. I crossed my fingers and prayed.
“Bruno, how are you?” Alcide asked one Were, and the men shook hands.
“Very well, Alcide. What brings you here?” Bruno answered. He looked scary in a leather vest, but seemed friendly enough to Alcide.
“I’m showing my date a little bit of Jackson,” Alcide answered, pointing at me.
Bruno’s attention turned to me. I didn’t like the extra attention, but decided to grow thick skin. “Hello! How are you this evening?”
“I’m fine, thank you,” I said, and smiled my wide smile, the one that came out when I was nervous. I tried to tone it down a little to make it look genuine.
“You guys going to the concert tomorrow?” Bruno asked us, tearing his hungry gaze from me to look at Alcide for an answer.
“What concert?” Alcide asked. I was wondering the same thing, and all I could get from Bruno’s brain was the song Blue Suede Shoes playing over and over like a broken record. Talk about an earworm…
“The King’s new flavor of the month found this vampire Elvis impersonator, and he is awesome. They’re having a concert tomorrow night at the estate. You gotta come, man! And you too, darling,” Bruno said turning to me.
With my smile still firmly in place, I said, “You’re too kind,” like a true Southern Belle.
“So what’s going on at the estate? Everything okay? I haven’t seen it since we installed the upgraded utilities,” Alcide asked.
“The estate is fine, but man! Those vamps are sick,” Bruno started, but I stopped listening with my ears. He was broadcasting loudly, and it was obviously something that hadn’t sat well with him. A vampire torturing another, tons of vampire blood on the floor, the screams in the night. I almost got sick to my stomach when I realized who he was talking about. The face he’d seen covered in blood was Bill’s face. His maker had done that to him. I didn’t care for Bill one bit, but that was just insane.
“And the King knows about this?” Alcide asked.
“He doesn’t give a fuck. That twisted sister is the vampire’s mom, or some shit. They don’t get involved. Man! It’s like the inquisition in there. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Bruno said. I tried to listen to his brain a little harder, to see if I could gather any more information, but we were back to the Blue Suede Shoes.
“Darling, tell this big lug to take you to the concert tomorrow,” Bruno said, handing something to Alcide.
“Sure will,” I answered.
Alcide led the way back to our table, where Mara had left our drinks waiting for us, and I gulped my gin & tonic like it was soda. I hated seeing things like that. No matter how bad Bill had been, I didn’t want that kind of revenge. And what was his maker trying to do anyway? Punish him for stalling when she called? That seemed excessive.
Back at the condo I was pacing as I told Eric and Alcide everything I’d seen and gathered from Bruno’s mind. It wasn’t much, but it was enough.
“It’s okay, Sookie,” Eric tried to soothe me. I was in more and more distress as I kept thinking about it. “First thing tomorrow night I’ll request an audience with the King and present Sophie-Anne’s wishes.”
“And what if he refuses?” I asked, standing in front of him with my hands on my hips. “Bruno said the King doesn’t give a fuck.” I didn’t like to swear, but I was quoting verbatim.
“Honestly, Sookie. The man gives you the creeps. You’ve said so yourself. Why this sudden interest?” Eric asked, arching an eyebrow and raising his voice. Alcide was watching us like we were a tennis match.
“I don’t know, Eric! Maybe because it’s unfair. Maybe because I feel guilty that I wished him evil and now evil came upon him! I’m a good Christian woman, damn it!” I stormed to the bedroom.
In a moment of lucidity, I finally understood my concern. I’d have to be careful what I wished for. I perched on my bed, miserable, and looked up at the ceiling. “God… I’m sorry I wished evil on Hadley. Please keep her safe…”