“Are you sure you’re not trying to kill me?” I asked playfully.
Sort of. In a way, it did sort of feel like she could be trying to kill me.
“Of course not,” she smiled innocently back at me in the mirror. “You know how much I hate job hunting.”
“How would I know that?” I smirked back. “You’ve only ever worked for me.”
“Exactly,” she replied smoothly. “It took me three years to train you. Do you think I want to go through the hassle all over again with someone new?”
Sookie had me trained alright. As soon as I saw her body covered in clothes, my immediate response was to want to remove them.
Two nights. Two nights of having Sookie all to my own and I was her puppet.
My hands had already gotten the memo, but there seemed to be a lag in inter-office communication with my executive assistant because as soon as I started sliding the zipper down on the dress she was wearing, Sookie stopped fiddling with her hair to turn around and smack them away.
“Stop it,” she playfully chided. “You’re gonna make me fucked.”
“Exactly,” I leered.
Finally. The lag in communication had righted itself.
“Quit it,” she laughed. “You’re not hittin’ it again right now. I have to get to work before my hard-ass of a boss gets on me for being late.”
“Your boss is hard for your ass right now.”
While true, the strength behind my flirtatious words surprised even me. I’d always wanted Sookie, but finally having her did nothing to sate my need for her.
I would be jonsing for her again the moment my dick stopped shooting cum into her.
Unaware of my very real addiction to her, she winked at me and said, “He’ll get over it when I get under him later on.”
Not soon enough.
Extricating herself from my grip, she pulled me down for a quick kiss and added, “Besides, I’m sure he’s just dying to go downstairs and play with his Legos.”
My Legos. The furry puzzle pieces I was trying to snap together.
“Aaand…he’s off!” Sookie snickered and patted my chest after a moment of silence, bringing me back to the first floor from where my mind had automatically wandered to downstairs.
“See?” she grinned and added, “You won’t even notice I’m gone.”
“Lies,” I smiled, but in reality it was my denial that was a bit of a lie too. While I constantly craved her presence, in the two days since she’d agreed to be with me I felt an all-encompassing clarity. I felt better able to focus on whatever it was before me. Work. Sookie. One or the other, depending on which one was in front of me, I was there one hundred percent.
But even when she wasn’t physically around, she was still there. In the back of my mind. In the depths of my…pants. But then, in a way, she’d always been there, well before we’d become well acquainted with what was in each other’s pants.
The only difference now was I felt an odd but welcome sense of peace knowing she was mine.
It was a little while later that I heard the footsteps coming down into the lab and I was surprised when I looked up seeing Victor of all people. He’d dropped in occasionally in the past, but hadn’t in a very long time, so I stopped what I was doing and looked back at him asking, “What brings you here, old man?”
Without preamble – and without returning my smile – he opened with, “You need to rein in your little blond assistant. I know she takes care of a lot of the things you don’t want to bother with, but she’s overstepping her bounds lately.”
“Sookie?” I asked needlessly because who else would he be talking about. “What did she do that’s got your dick bent?”
I knew they only tolerated one another and that was okay. They didn’t have to be BFF’s, but since we were all working towards the same goal, they usually kept their mutual dislike to a minimum.
“She overrode my decision to hire Krasinski and Associates to look into the missing funds and went with another firm without even bothering to run it past me,” he complained.
“And?” I asked. “What does it matter who audits the books?”
Sookie told me the reasons why she’d immediately dismissed the asshole sent over by the Krasinski firm and I agreed with her reasoning.
Her tits were mine. End of story.
But I could do without her ever again telling me that Bobby’s ass was mine for the taking.
“That’s not the point, Eric,” he scolded. “She takes liberties she shouldn’t be taking. She acts as though she is the CEO of Northman Inc. instead of you. You need to put her in her place or else you’re going to wake up one day and find she’s stolen the company out from under you. You give her too much free reign to do as she pleases. Did it ever occur to you that maybe she was the one who’s stolen the money and that’s why she went with another firm. One that would be reporting directly to her. One she would have control over.”
I kept trying to tell myself he was only looking out for me, like he’d done for the majority of my life. I’d joked plenty about Sookie being my sex toy – for lack of a better term – in front of him in the past, but he didn’t know we were a couple now. He didn’t know my true feelings for her and it was the only reason why I didn’t jump up and break his jaw with my now clenched fist.
“Victor,” I growled out, surprising us both with how menacing I sounded. “I trust Sookie. Her decisions. Her ability to run things in my absence. Her, Victor. I trust her. She wants my money about as much as she wants a raging case of crabs.”
Her words. Something she enlightened me with on more than one occasion.
I went on to add, “She gets paid nearly as much as you do so three hundred thousand means nothing to her. You need to find a way to accept the fact she’s not going anywhere and that she has my approval to do whatever she sees fit to do in running Northman Inc. Maybe it’s my own fault for teasing her so much around you in the past, but the fact is Sookie and I are together now, so watch what you say about her.”
“Eric!” he exclaimed and then softened his tone, adding, “Son. You can’t be serious. She’s no good for you. She’s only concerned with her career and how high she can climb up the corporate ladder. Do you honestly think she wouldn’t drop you in a heartbeat if a better opportunity came along? You’re making a mistake, son.”
“You’re making a mistake!” I hissed. “I told you! Watch. What. You. Say. You have no clue of how Sookie and I work or what our real relationship is like. What she does for me, to me, or because of me. Who she is to me or what she means to me.”
By then you could cut the tension in the room with a knife, so of course he added another heaping dose of it to the already full room by saying, “You love her.”
While it wasn’t posed as a question, his tone didn’t disguise the fact it was one of both wonder and disgust. But as his words settled into my psyche, I found I didn’t feel any need to deny them. Maybe I did love Sookie. Maybe I’d felt something close to love for her for a while now and I only needed for us to clear that last hurdle – commitment, on both of our parts – before I could realize it. But I’d be damned if I was going to admit it to him before admitting it to her.
So I said nothing.
And taking my silent response in whatever fucking way he chose, he dropped the subject by changing it altogether and asking, “Have you made any progress on the werewolf situation?”
“Some,” I eventually replied, feeling my blood pressure ratchet down a few notches. I owed Victor a lot for everything he’d done for me in the past, but Sookie wasn’t a price I would ever be willing to pay, to repay him for that debt.
I explained what I’d found out about the reaction their blood had to silver – omitting the details of how I came about that discovery – and how Godric had tracked down and ID’d the man from the video. A false identity – so far as we could tell – but it was something to go on. He hadn’t used the credit card again since the gas station and Godric had been able to track his movements using the traffic cameras posted along the highway after he’d gassed up. All the way up until he got off of the interstate and contact with him was lost when he entered into a more rural area about sixty miles north of Los Angeles.
Flood’s search team should be scouring that same area at that very moment.
But before I could tell him about that part, Victor said excitedly, “We should call Colonel Flood.”
“I did,” I replied. “He came by last night and I told him everything.”
I was close to figuring out the puzzle and I knew it. I just couldn’t tell how close I was, but the characteristics of the unidentifiable elements in the blood samples Flood had provided were starting to feel familiar in ways that had nothing to do with how long I’d been working on the problem. Hopefully I’d figure out why sooner rather than later.
“What do you mean you told him everything?” he bellowed. “Eric! Did you sign anything? What kind of contract did you negotiate?”
“Contract?” I asked, flabbergasted now that I was trying to puzzle out his words.
His face froze into one of pure shock as he said, “You didn’t.”
“Didn’t, what?” I asked again, still not knowing what he was getting at.
“Tell me you didn’t give them everything you just told me for free.”
“What?” I repeated, thinking I couldn’t have heard him right. “Why wouldn’t I tell them everything? Flood asked me to do this for them and I agreed. You were there.”
“Eric!” he yelled again. “Do you realize what you’ve done?”
“What I said I would do?” I yelled back in response, getting more and more pissed off.
He ignored my angry and snarky tone and began pacing back and forth before eventually stopping short and using a calmer voice when saying, “Maybe this is a good thing.” I could practically hear the gears turning when he explained, “You’ve given them a taste of what you’re capable of, so now they’ll be willing to pay through the roof for whatever you come up with.”
“Victor!” I yelled again, interrupting him before he could make my blood pressure go through roof, and said, “I’m not doing this for a payday. For fuck’s sake, I would’ve paid them just to have access to the samples they’ve already given me, but I’ll give them whatever I come up with for free. Just because I’ve never jumped at the chance to fashion the latest and greatest WMD for the military in the past doesn’t mean I won’t do whatever I can to help protect this country. There are werewolves on American soil. Do you think there’s any amount of money that’s worth the safety of this country?”
He stared me down and I thought perhaps he was finally getting it through his thick fucking skull, when he surprised me by saying, “I’ve told you before, Eric. War is business and just like your little blond tart, you’re making a mistake.”
“You’re right,” I agreed through clenched teeth. But before he could get his hopes up, I added, “I did make a mistake – in keeping you on after I took over the company. You’re fired. Now get out.”
“Eric!” he exclaimed. “Son! Think about what you’re saying!”
“You should’ve thought about what you were saying, but I’m glad you didn’t. At least now I know how you really feel, so I know we’re really not on the same page. I appreciate all that you’ve done for me in the past, Victor. But this just cements what I’ve been suspecting for a long time now. We have different ideals. Too different to keep trying to make this work.”
“You’ll regret this,” he offered after several moments of silence. “You’ll calm down and realize you’ve just made a huge mistake.”
Tired being told how wrong I was, I flippantly offered, “According to you, I’m making them left and right. So what’s one more?”
And even though he left without another word, I had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last I’d heard from him.
Or his lawyers.
But I hadn’t been lying when I said I’d had a feeling our ideals weren’t meshing. I’d kept Victor around out of loyalty and gratitude, but the truth was his beliefs were outdated. His business sense, antiquated. It took me coming in when I was twenty-one to revitalize the company.
Victor was a dinosaur in a world evolved to where werewolves were now at the top of the food chain.
Hopefully, not for long.
But thinking of food made my eyes fall to Pam’s tank where she was all but saying, “Feed me, bitch!” with her expression. She’d been languishing away – just like my work on human regeneration – for the last month, but as I did as her eyes bade me to do, I had an epiphany of sorts. Thinking back on my research with her made me see the similarities to the unidentifiable properties I’d found in the werewolf blood samples and a few more pieces of my Legos snapped into place.
Victor was long forgotten as I plowed through the next few hours and when I was done I was almost positive I had solved the riddle.
Or perhaps, improved upon the unknown.
According to my calculations – in theory – the serum I cooked up was very similar to what could have made Furnan molecularly transform into a werewolf. But – in theory – my version was a kissing cousin of that one, when added to the research I’d already done with Pam. Without more data – the kind only having a werewolf would provide – there was no way of knowing if they were able to retain enough of their human thought processes while transformed into their wolf persona.
Did they just react based off of their animal instincts?
Or were they capable of acting with premeditation?
The differences I hoped I may have just achieved would give a human all of the strength and quick reflexes we thought the wolves possessed, but without the furry four-legged exterior. An enhanced human who could heal from wounds at a rapid rate. One who wouldn’t tire as quickly and could move fast enough to keep up with a wolf – if not overtake them in speed.
A human like that would be nearly unstoppable.
But the only way to know for sure would be to test it. Animal testing – the standard in medical research – would be of no use in this situation, considering I would be testing for inhuman reactions. Flood had already let me know the night before he had a contingent of men both ready and willing to be my lab rats, if and when the time came. They had all volunteered because they had all been a member of one of the teams that had gone out to track down the werewolf camps. They had all suspected conventional weaponry might be of no use when their opponent had the potential to move quicker than they could aim and pull the trigger.
And they had all known at least one – if not both – of the men who had died getting a hold of Furnan’s video transformation.
And while I thought they were brave to volunteer for something so dangerous, I couldn’t in good conscience potentially kill someone in the name of science.
So it was a good thing I had an artificially intelligent busybody lying around.
I’d been running my theories and calculations by Godric all day – or night by now, for all I knew – and knowing Sookie would probably be back at any time, I wanted to finish up as much as I could. Mixing a sample of the serum I’d made along with a sample of my own blood, I ordered, “Godric. Run a simulation on the theoretical outcome and make adjustments as needed to calculate the dosage for the optimum result.”
I had a good supply of donated human blood that I kept on hand for running my experiments, but my hubris demanded I use my own.
“You realize the effects could be idiosyncratically different to each individual based on their distinctive DNA?” he asked, as a computer generated outline of a man I presumed to be me came up on the smartboard.
Staring at the gross misrepresentation my smartass AI put up on the board, I ignored his question and asked my own with, “You realize my head isn’t that big, don’t you?”
I looked like a balloon-headed stick figure.
Snickering, he replied, “I apologize if you find my creativity lacking, but I do believe that is a very accurate representation. However, if you disagree, perhaps my sensors could use a recalibr…”
The sound of his voice cutoff just as the power flickered and then went out altogether. I was plunged into complete darkness and for a split second, I wondered if Sookie had come in upstairs and put Operation Counting Sheep back into effect. But I could tell based on the lack of sound that everything was shut down and there was no dim light left on like last time. It didn’t make any sense since I had backup generators hooked into the house’s main power supply that ran off of solar energy, but there was nothing else I could do in the pitch black room but get up to go take a look outside. I was in the process of feeling my way to the door when I heard it.
I couldn’t place the sound at first, until another one was added to the mix.
A low growl.
Like the kind a wolf might make.
It dawned on me then the clicks I heard were the sounds of their nails on the marble floors, but before I could grab the baseball bat I kept in the lab – it helped me think when I paced – they were on me.
Snarling. Biting. Tearing.
The pain was horrific, just like the sound I could hear coming from my throat, but there was nothing I could do to stop them. I had no weapon. No silver bullet or earring at the ready.
I wasn’t strong enough to fight them off.
Nor could I fight off the will to succumb to the shroud of darkness that came over my eyes and my last thought was that I hoped they would be long gone before Sookie got home, when my consciousness finally faded to black.