While I quickly tallied the number of times Sookie had told me she was meeting with the aforementioned purple pansy-eyed pussy event planner, I was forced to recalculate the odds of her ending up with me when she was out – apparently making friends – while doing her work for me.
And I didn’t like that the odds were no longer in my favor.
It hadn’t occurred to me she would have the time to spend on anyone else, not realizing that I was giving her that time by keeping her busy doing things on my behalf. But I also couldn’t see a way of forcing her own assistant on her to keep her out of circulation and out of prying pussy eyes.
I would be forced to go back to the drawing board on that one.
But in the meantime…
“No, friendships in the workplace aren’t prohibited,” I offered to her and then turned to the dick she wouldn’t have the time to stroke in front of me, adding, “We appreciate all of your hard work and I’ll be sure to recommend your company to others should the need arise.”
Others based in Alaska or Timbuktu.
Anywhere that was far enough away for him to keep his paws anywhere near Sookie.
He seemed dumbfounded by my dismissive tone, which only cemented the fact he was too dumb for the likes of Sookie. Something I would try and make her see if she insisted on seeing the giant douchebag standing before us and I had high hopes that would happen sooner than later when she broke into the awkward silence, saying, “I’ll be sure to email you with a glowing recommendation for your services, Mr. Quinn. Now if you’ll excuse us, Mr. Northman and I have a very busy day ahead of us.”
A double entendre for a great fuck?
I hated unknown variables.
While I’d known Sookie knew none of the women I amused myself with meant anything to me, I hadn’t considered the possibility she wouldn’t know what she meant to me. That she was my rock. My caretaker. My best friend and only confidant. Yes, I teased and flirted with her mercilessly, but would she know it was a ruse? A defense mechanism to hide my true feelings away from her, knowing I would be devastated to find out she felt otherwise?
Would she know she was the only woman I could picture myself growing old with?
I didn’t know if I was in love with Sookie – I was definitely in deep like with her – but I did know she was the only one I could see myself falling in love with. That was the equivalent of finding the key to human regeneration in my book.
A miracle if there ever was one.
“That uh…would be great, Miss Stackhouse. I uh…I guess I’ll talk to you later then?” the big roid user finally stuttered.
Sookie made a noncommittal noise that sounded like, “Mmm…”
But did ‘Mmm…’ mean, ‘Mmm…I can’t wait to fuck you again,’ or, ‘Mmm…not in your wildest dreams you giant pussy’?
I hated them as much as I hated purple pansy-eyed pussy mother fuckers.
As soon as he was gone, I turned to her, not sure where to begin – if I would be able to go down that road at all – and ended up taking the chicken shit route by asking, “What are we going to be so busy doing today?”
I couldn’t recall her mentioning anything out of the ordinary, but then I seemed to be very selective in what I wanted to hear coming from her.
A mistake I wouldn’t be making again if it could end up costing me her.
“The way I see it,” she smiled, “We have a full day ahead of us trying to get your panties untwisted you big ass. Tell me you’re jealous over Sir Babe-A-Lot, so I can give myself permission to fall on the ground and laugh my ass-you-don’t-own off.”
I grinned at my own personal telepath and lied to her face, saying, “I’m not jealous.” And adding a dash of truth to my most epic of lies, I explained, “I’m greedy. I pay you well for your time and I want all of it devoted to me.”
She sauntered around the desk to lean her ass-I-did-own against it as she said, “So I’m not allowed to have my own amusements while you’re busy with yours? I don’t remember reading that in my contract.”
My fists involuntarily clenched at the thought of her amusing herself with the likes of anyone but me – hypocritical, I know – but I’d earned my title of being an arrogant ass for a reason. So I took another step closer to her, entering into her personal space, and nearly whispered in a heated voice, “You should have read the fine print.”
Watching her lick her lips and then lean towards me, did nothing to help me maintain my sanity when her breath fanned across my face, as she softly replied, “I did. There was no non-amusement clause.”
It was a game we played – flirting with one another until my eyes became crossed and my dick painstakingly hard – but it was getting harder to play.
Harder to keep it a game.
Maybe I’d just been fooling myself into thinking I could last for two more years. Maybe I’d just been fooling myself into believing she would come around despite my blatant womanizing.
Maybe I’d just been a fool.
I’d always been a go-getter. I’d never shied away from any challenge. If I wanted it, I went after it – be it animal, vegetable, mineral or theoretical. Some things were easier to obtain than others, but I never gave up despite whatever obstacles were in my way. But Sookie had taken me by surprise. When I first picked her resume out of the pile it was thanks to her unusual name.
What the fuck was a Sookie?
And then she walked through my door and showed me. More than her brains and more than her beauty, she continued to show me exactly who and what a Sookie was. And while I’d always known I wanted to fuck her, it was the depth of everything else I felt for her that snuck up on me.
It was what made me feel sucker punched right now at the thought she could be amusing herself with others.
I’d never wanted to kiss her more than I did at that very moment. It was an urge I’d felt plenty of times in the past, but it was a line I had yet to cross.
And that was saying a lot, considering just how many other lines I’d crossed with her up until that point.
But I think I’d always known, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, that once I did there would be no going back. At least not for me, so if she decided we weren’t going to pursue us any further, then I didn’t know how I would be able to face her every day after that, seeing what I would be forced to realize would never be mine.
But knowing all the while I would be just as miserable if I didn’t see her every day after that, in spite of being out of the running.
The thought sucked times infinity.
But I was saved from having to find out the hard way when the office phone beeped, followed by my ass kissing secretary’s voice booming through the speaker as he said, “Mr. Northman. Mr. Madden wanted me to inform you Colonel Flood is on his way up to meet with you.”
Sookie grimaced hearing his voice and I knew it was because she didn’t like him. Truth be told, I didn’t either, but he was efficient and did what he was told.
And I didn’t have to worry about Sookie wanting to amuse herself with him.
“That’s fine Bobby,” I replied and leaned forward, pressing the front of my body against Sookie’s, so I could disconnect the line. Her breath hitched in her throat – just like my dick hitched up a few notches in my pants feeling the heat of her body – so I didn’t pull away at first.
Nor did she back away.
Or push me away.
And the battleship in my jeans was screaming, “Anchor’s away!”
“What are you doing?” she softly breathed.
Testing the limits of my control.
“Experimenting,” I finally replied.
Both of her hands ran up my front and came to rest on my chest, but I could still feel the fiery blaze left behind long after they’d touched my body, when she gave me a slight push and said, “Well I’m afraid your results will have to be inconclusive. I can hear Victor on his way back into the office.”
Sookie’s sonar. It never failed.
I had no problems flirting with her in front of Victor, but I wouldn’t make her out to be my fuck toy in front of strangers. It was Sookie – not her position as my Executive Assistant – that demanded respect and I wouldn’t give outsiders any reason to believe otherwise, so I reluctantly took a step back. And then another, until I was far enough away to see the flush of her skin and for her to scoot back around the desk and elegantly drop down into the chair.
I should be in my chair with her in my lap.
But before I could suggest a change in the seating arrangements – appearances be damned – the sound of Victor’s voice came booming through the still open doorway as he said, “Eric! We’re in luck. The colonel was in the area and came straight over when I called.”
Turning to face them, I was surprised to see how young the colonel was. I was used to meeting generals and admirals, with all of them reminding me of crotchety old grandfathers. But the guy standing at Victor’s side could’ve believably passed for one of the SEALs who offed bin Laden.
And I was suddenly reminded of a late night confession, involving one too many mojitos, where Sookie drunkenly admitted she wasn’t opposed to SEAL sex.
Fuckers. All of them.
“Mr. Northman,” he greeted me in a no nonsense tone. And because he didn’t appear overly interested in Sookie, I actually shook his offered hand as he said, “Colonel John Flood. I appreciate you taking the time to see me.”
Victor shut the door behind them, so I gestured for him to take a seat and said, “It’s Eric. Now what can I do for you Colonel?”
“It’s John,” he smiled, but his worried eyes belied the forced curve of his lips. The good thing about military folk was they didn’t beat around the bush. He wasn’t there to stroke my ego or any other part of me, so he reached into his pocket and took out a thumb drive. Handing it to Sookie, he said, “Ma’am, if you’d please.” While Sookie busied herself with uploading the files, the large flat screen hanging on the wall came to life so we could all see what the drive contained as Flood said, “I know the three of you already have top secret clearances thanks to the projects you’ve done for the military in the past. But what I’m about to show you, only the President and a select few members of his Cabinet – to include the Secretary of Defense – have been privy to. We’re at a loss Eric, so we’re really hoping you can give us something to go on here.”
Sookie handed him the remote so he could select whatever files he needed to and the first picture to come onto the screen was a satellite image. “What you’re looking at is a remote area in Estonia located about fifty kilometers west of Tartu. It’s called Võrtsjärve hoiuala and billed as a nature preserve,” he explained and clicked the remote several times, zooming in on the shot until the shadowy images at the center became more defined.
But it only made me all the more confused.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand, John. Are wolves not indigenous to that area?” I asked, seeing the pack of five.
They appeared larger than the average wolf, but they were just oversized wild dogs as far as I was concerned and I couldn’t imagine why the military would be interested in them. Or me for that matter.
My name wasn’t Cesar Milan.
“I’m getting there,” he sighed. “Just watch.”
He opened a video file this time. It looked to be of the same area only this time it was five men standing in the center. The images were taken at night, so the video was shot using night vision, but the outlines were unmistakable, which only made it seem like a mistake when they…
“NO!” I shouted and leapt up from my chair to get closer to the screen. Studying it, I reiterated, “No fucking way!”
“That’s what the President said,” he smiled without any amusement.
I motioned for him to rewind the footage and he obliged me, but that didn’t make it any more sensible to my senses.
Men turning into wolves.
I would sooner believe I could lick my own balls before I would believe lycanthropy was real.
“Were any images shot during the daytime?” I asked incredulously. “If there’s a skinny emo looking kid, sparkling in a field of wildflowers nearby, then I can think of someone else you should talk to.”
Because, seriously. No. Fucking. Way.
“From your lips to my daughter’s greatest wish come true,” he smiled, genuinely this time, and then clicked on another video file explaining, “Our satellite picked that up six weeks ago. This was acquired by one of our Black Ops teams from a nearby facility two weeks ago.”
On the video was a man strapped down to a table. He didn’t appear unwilling, just a little frightened, when a latex covered hand holding a syringe appeared off to his side. The contents were injected into the I.V. attached to his arm and for a few moments afterward, nothing happened. There was a time/date generator at the bottom left corner of the screen, so we could see exactly how long everything took.
The video stopped and restarted on Day Two, approximately twenty-four hours later, showing beads of sweat had begun cropping up on the man’s forehead, face, and neck. His eyes rolled back in his head and his entire body began to shiver, but he didn’t seem cognizant of his surroundings, with his glazed eyes opening and closing at random.
It was on Day Four, ninety-six hours after the injection, that he screamed out in pain and it was only the leather straps holding him down that kept his flailing body from falling from the table.
Day Six had him muttering in incoherent Russian, but he didn’t seem to be in any more pain. The shivering and sweating had stopped, but we could see on the machines monitoring him, his core body temperature had been elevated to one hundred and six degrees. It made sense his body’s immune system was fighting against the foreign substance injected into him days earlier, but it was his resting heart rate that had my attention. He looked to be around my age, so his maximum heart rate should have been around 190 beats per minute and he would have had to have been running at top speed to achieve it. So the two hundred and twenty beats per minute it was pumping – while he slept – only left me even more perplexed.
On Day Ten, someone entered the room and, using a scalpel, sliced a one inch deep by three inch long incision into his left pectoral muscle. The now fully conscious man barely showed any signs of discomfort and the camera remained trained on his wound, without any stoppage of the video, so we could all be left dumbfounded again by the end of it.
In the span of eight minutes the bleeding slowed to a stop and without the aid of any outside forces, the wound seemed to heal on its own, leaving behind nothing more than a light pink scar that disappeared a few minutes later.
It would seem I wasn’t the only one looking into the benefits of human regeneration.
But it was Day Fourteen that left me slack jawed. The camera was zoomed out, leaving the entire room visible. The unknown patient was alone in it now and the lights were dimmed, just as the sound of the window blinds being mechanically raised could be heard in the background, revealing it was night time outside.
With the full moon visible through the window.
So I could only guess it was perhaps that instigating factor that precipitated the violent seizure the man suffered. A yellow glow lit up in his eyes in the moonlit room and I watched completely stunned as the brutal sounds of bones breaking narrated what my eyes still refused to believe they were seeing.
In the span of fourteen days, a seemingly human man was transformed into the fully formed wolf now crouched down on top of the table, growling menacingly at the empty room and baring his teeth.
All throughout the documentary, other people had occasionally entered the shot, but their faces were never shown. Their thoughts left unspoken, so their voices were never heard. There was no way to identify them from the video that I could see, but I had a short list of people who I thought could have the knowhow and possibly the wherewithal to have succeeded in making the impossible a reality.
“CGI,” I muttered when the video ended, even though I didn’t believe that either.
I wanted to believe everything I had just seen had been computer generated imagery because there was no way werewolves actually existed.
At least not in my world.
“We’ve had our techs go over it with a fine tooth comb and they claim it hasn’t been enhanced in any way they can see,” he sighed. “But you’re welcome to keep the thumb drive and go over it yourself if you’d like.”
My mind was in a tailspin, with possibly two hundred and twenty thoughts pumping through it per minute, when I finally zeroed in on one and spoke it aloud.
Slumping back down into my seat, I scrubbed the shock from my face with my hands and asked, “Why are you coming to me with this? What is it you’re looking for me to do here?”
No one – not even Sookie – knew I was looking into human regeneration. I knew what my interests were in this, but they were purely from a scientific standpoint and I wasn’t sure what kind of help the government thought I could be to them.
I hadn’t yet mastered the key to human regeneration, much less ventured into figuring out how to turn humans into the things teenage Twilight fantasies were made of.
He opened with a stern, “Mr. Northman,” and then did an about face, wiping the military man from his expression and turning it into one more human saying, “Eric…we’ve already put feelers out to the heads of every biological research team out there. If you can believe it, the CDC has a plan in place for a zombie outbreak, but no one is prepared for something like this. Everyone we’ve spoken to have all come back with the same answer.” Locking his gaze onto mine, he said, “Eric Northman is the man to see, or so I’m told. So here I am, seeing you and hoping like hell you can find us some answers.”
He clicked the remote again, bringing up a map of the planet, and I counted ten markers at various points across the globe. Three in Eastern Europe, including the one in Estonia. Two in Africa. Another two in South America and the remaining three scattered throughout Asia.
“Our satellites have picked up similar camps in these areas, but by the time our teams have arrived on site they’ve been deserted. Two of our best men died getting ahold of that video, but in doing so we’ve unavoidably shown our hand. Whoever is behind this knows we know about them now.”
Leaning forward in his seat, his eyes drilled into me as he said, “We don’t know what these…people are capable of, but we suspect they’re breeding some sort of super soldiers. We don’t know what their weaknesses are. We have yet to face one to know if they’re susceptible to conventional weapons, but as you saw for yourself, they heal at a rapid rate. We need answers Eric and we’re hoping you can give them to us.”
Reaching into his briefcase, he pulled out a container and from it, produced several slides saying, “These are samples our teams were able to gather at a few of the abandoned camps. Most of them were burned beyond recognition, so we were lucky to have found them. Our people said they haven’t seen anything like them before, but we’re hoping they’ll help you figure out what exactly we’re dealing with.”
I was still feeling gobsmacked – something I rarely felt when it came to human biology – but I was no longer dealing with just human biology. So I took the offered samples, no longer able to focus on anything other than what I now held in my hand and said, “I’ll take a look and let you know what I find.”
A grateful smile lit up on his face and he stood up, reaching out once more to shake my hand, as he said, “We appreciate it Eric. Welcome to Operation Werewolf.”