If she hadn’t turned around and darted through the door when she did, she would’ve seen my fangs snap down, having no more control than a teenage boy popping wood upon seeing his very first Hustler magazine. It had been difficult enough hiding not just my desire, but my awe at her angry rant and I found we had something in common.
We both hated silver – spoons, at least, in her case.
But smelling her arousal wafting towards me was like nothing I’d ever experienced and had been the final straw in my losing battle of keeping my fangs retracted. Her scent was altogether different than most humans – lighter, sweeter – but nothing I had a reference for and if the scent of her pussy had me salivating, I could only imagine what tasting her blood would be like.
I may have growled at the prospect – either one. Pussy or blood, I’d be content.
Still, my lack of control was embarrassing.
No sooner had she left than I’d spun around and pulled up the casino’s surveillance system, watching her make her way down the hall. Oddly worrying over her wellbeing when she appeared to nearly be hyperventilating in the elevator and then feeling a wave of relief when she looked to be back to normal once she stepped out. Almost as relieved as when her answers under my glamour hadn’t given me a reason to suspect she was my very own personal Mata Hari.
Although she could be compared to the sun.
It was the Indonesian translation for ‘sun’ – or more literally ‘eye of the day’ – and while I certainly appreciated her sun kissed skin and the radiance that seemed to emanate from her being, I wouldn’t have been able to ignore a double agent sent to spy on me. Pulling her under my spell had felt differently too, like her mind was stronger than most and put up a resistance my glamour. I appreciated that quality – not many humans had a strong will – but I pressed harder until I was certain no human could withstand the effects and was pleased with the results. However it taught me I would have to be sparing when choosing to glamour her. The strength of her will would make it more difficult and I knew too much interference from me could alter her brain to the point she could turn into a Renfield – something I didn’t want – so I would have to save it for the big things.
I was old enough that I didn’t need to feed often and there were plenty of weak-minded women willing to entertain me and unknowingly feed me. The injuries I’d suffered recently happened few and far between – my own ego had been my downfall in believing they would be of no consequence. It was what had allowed Malcolm to stab me in the back with a silver blade, narrowly missing my heart, as I ended both of his nest mates. But it had done its damage before he too was ended and had the added effect of bringing my ego down a notch.
I wouldn’t make the same mistake again – at least not for another five hundred years or so.
I wouldn’t need bagged blood often, so I could omit that from her duties for now. Burnham’s mind had been easy to take hold of, so out of my own laziness and growing apathy towards the meals on heels who would circle me like buzzards the moment I stepped into the casino’s nightclub, I had him keep my refrigerator fully stocked with bagged blood at all times. My cause to glamour her tonight wasn’t trivial in the least. My concern for knowing beyond a doubt I had her utmost loyalty was crucial because she would have access to areas no other being had access to.
My resting place.
The room I died in for the day was, and would remain, secure from her entry, but she would need access to the main living areas in order to complete some of her tasks. Gathering and then returning my laundry and dry cleaning, among them. None of the other staff could enter my suite without me there and since I wasn’t a slob, I only required housekeeping to come in one night a week to clean.
But thoughts of Miss Stackhouse in a French Maid costume flitting around with a feather duster in hand made me rethink their usefulness.
I continued to follow her progress, noting she didn’t bother to lift her eyes from the floor as she made her way outside. I had outdoor cameras as well that monitored all four sides of the casino along with the roof, so seeing her pull out her cell phone had me calling up another window on my computer. I’d begun tracking the calls of all of the applicants as soon as they submitted their resumes to see who, if any, were disingenuous. The final five had wiretaps recording their every call and hidden GPS tracking devices placed on their cars, but both would be moot once she started working for me. Her new cell phone was from my own private technology firm outfitted with levels of encryption that made it impossible to trace.
At least by anyone other than me.
I knew from memory she mostly called her grandmother and occasionally her brother with a few casual acquaintances sprinkled in between, but I smiled seeing who she was now calling. Cataliades. Her initiative only confirmed my feeling that she would be a good fit.
And I could likely go mad wondering how else she would fit me well.
Like an obsessed stalker – protector, my mind attempted to ease my own self-loathing at my actions – I kept watch of her until she finally drove away in her car.
Her. Piece. Of. Shit. Car.
It was a box of rust with speckles of yellow paint holding it together. I knew she had a vehicle, but I hadn’t seen it before now. I also knew she didn’t come from a family of means, but instead had worked hard to earn herself a full scholarship to Tulane. She would be graduating on Saturday with Summa Cum Laude honors – no easy feat – and she’d spent what little free time she had away from her coursework working at the campus library. Instead of partying and blowing her earnings on booze, her bank statements told me she lived like a pauper and chose to send every spare penny back home to assist her grandmother who’d raised her after her parents died when she was quite young.
Even knowing all of this, I was still shocked seeing what she entrusted her life to in order to get from Point A to Point B.
It was distressing.
I immediately called up another window on my computer and began typing in the details of what I wanted. I found the model and color I required in Los Angeles, so I had more than enough time to have it shipped to New Orleans before Monday. The company car I’d planned on assigning to Miss Stackhouse to use was similar to the one Burnham had used – a Mercedes sedan.
Only a newer model than the last and free of the Mack truck imprint left behind on the old one.
It had been an afterthought – a luxury car befitting the status of my personal assistant. One that had fit Burnham’s elitist personality well – almost as well as the stick up his ass – but now that I knew a little bit more about Miss Stackhouse, I could no longer picture her in it.
Never mind what I imagined would fit very well when stuck into one of her many orifices. And if I pictured it too often it would necessitate I change my pants.
With that done, I noted that according to the tracking device on her soon to be junked car she was indeed headed back towards her campus home, but now that my lovely new assistant was no longer there to distract me with her beauty, scent, or amusing diatribes, I had nothing left to do but get to work on the things that had piled up in my absence. Not my casino’s business, which I had tended to via the computer in my suite, but my other business.
As the self-proclaimed ruler of the Southern Louisiana vampire population.
I wasn’t the only one to have made such a claim. I knew of another who’d staked Las Vegas as his own and ruled with an iron fist and yet another who’d claimed all of Mississippi as his personal boy toy sanctuary. There were smaller territories scattered around, depending on the human to vampire ratio of the population, but those were the largest in proximity to my own.
De Castro and I would clash eventually. He was too greedy and too power hungry to be able to sit idly by and watch me make millions in the casino industry without trying to put his hand in the pot.
And for his troubles, he would lose it.
I wasn’t worried though. He and his army would likely pass through Stanislaus’ territory in order to reach mine to launch his offensive, so I knew I would get fair warning before they ever stepped foot onto Louisiana soil.
Because many of us still led nomadic lifestyles, it wasn’t unusual to have new vampires moving into and out of my area at any given time. It normally didn’t take long for the incoming to have learned of my rule over the area, as well as my requirement they come see me to be given the lay of the land and the strict laws I governed by, but occasionally I would have to seek them out on my own. If and when they agreed to abide by my terms, I used my money and influence to make their undead lives easier as well. It wouldn’t do for them to be caught by humans any more than allowing them to drain the population at will, so I kept tabs on their security, monitored their established identities, provided references for them if they had need when seeking a new job or residence. And in return – aside from their adherence to my rules – all I asked was to be given notice when they moved on as a courtesy. It was one that would garner them favor should they decide to return.
On tonight’s schedule was a newcomer – Mickey Callaghan – a common enough name and one I wouldn’t bother researching because in this day and age, the one thing all vampires had in common besides their dinner was the ability to change their identity – or steal one if necessary. According to his paperwork he’d made his way to New Orleans from Chicago over the last six months, never staying in any one area for more than a few weeks. Reading it tickled something in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t nail down a cause. Perhaps because I had been settled in the same area for over a hundred years I’d lost my wanderlust long ago, but I knew younger vampires often didn’t have the means or wherewithal to survive in one area for long.
Or survive at all for that matter.
No sooner had I set his paperwork aside when my intercom buzzed with my Were assistant’s voice coming through the speaker announcing Callaghan’s arrival. He slinked into the office a moment later, looking as though he would be auditioning later on that evening for the part of the stereotypical ‘bad guy’. Slicked back hair sat atop his slim frame with narrowed shoulders poking through the drape of his ill-fitted suit. His long fingernails were nearly as sharp as his facial features, but then I supposed we all couldn’t be Louisiana’s Hottest Catch.
Another innate ability vampires rose with was the capacity to be able to sense when another of our kind was older than themselves. Of course it didn’t stop some from believing them capable of besting one who was more powerful – my own ego included me among them – so I waited silently with nothing more than a stony expression aimed his way to see if he would challenge me. Just by looking at him I knew he was no more than a century old and why his Maker had chosen him for a child was completely lost on me. But then, I had yet to find anyone I would want to either condemn or gift with immortality.
Oddly enough, Miss Stackhouse’s face came into my mind once more.
I pushed it right back out.
It had been Thalia who had discovered him skulking around the city limits three nights earlier and informed him of his need to seek an audience with me. She had the personality of a rabid Tasmanian devil and had been prone to aggressive behavior in the past, but she had tamed somewhat over the years and now that she could settle in one area she had shown marked improvement. She had proven her loyalty to me and abided by my rules, so I tolerated her presence.
And she sated her occasional need to hunt for her prey two states over, so I had no cause to reprimand her.
To hunt was an instinctual compulsion that couldn’t be ignored by the very young and one that never truly left us, but it could be overridden with the proper willpower and motivation. The willpower they would have to find for themselves, but I provided them with the motivation to stay on course and sated my own need to hunt by pursuing those who broke my laws.
My eyes never strayed from Callaghan’s, but before long all I could see was Miss Stackhouse. She intrigued me in all ways. It had been quite some time since anyone had held my interest and she had far surpassed all others, but getting a glimpse of her fiery spirit had me looking forward to making her angry in the future.
And making her aroused would be even better.
“They said I needed to come see you?”
A full five minutes had passed with him under my scrutinizing gaze, all while I passed the time fantasizing about my new assistant, before he finally flinched by asking his question. So I left him dangling in silence for two more before I deigned him with an answer.
His youth showed in his inability to remain still. He was cagey and couldn’t refrain from needlessly shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
If he could sweat, it would be pouring off of him.
“Uh…” he eventually stammered. “I uh…I heard that you’re in charge around here and that if I wanna stay, I need to talk to you.”
While watching him squirm was amusing, he wasn’t nearly as entertaining as my previous appointment.
I probably could have dragged it out even longer, but I was already losing interest, so I had mercy on him and put an end to his anxiety.
“Yes, I am in charge. If you find that unpalatable – leave. If you want to remain in my territory, you will abide by the rules I have established. Rule number one – you will not kill any humans in my territory. If you don’t like it – leave.” His eyes gave away his surprise, but I knew it was an unusual request.
I also didn’t give a fuck what he thought about it.
“Rule number two – You will always glamour and then heal your meals. If I see so much as a pock mark on the neck of anyone, I’ll be coming to see you first. But don’t mistake me for criminal forensic specialist or even a court of law. I’ll rip your fangs from your mouth to gauge whether or not they are the offenders and if so, my justice will be swift and there will be no appeals. It will have been your last meal. If you don’t like it – leave.”
He swallowed hard, but ceased his shifting feet and only nodded that he understood, so I continued on with, “Rule number three – Consider it a blanket clause. You will do nothing that will put yourself – and thereby our kind – under the scrutiny of humans. If you put one toe out of line – leave one ‘i’ un-dotted or one ‘t’ uncrossed – and risk our exposure, I will end you. Do. You. Understand?”
Another swallow. Another nod.
And back to shifting his weight.
“If you choose to remain, I will make sure your home is outfitted with a state of the art security system. If you have need of a home, I will help you find one. If you have need of employment, I will find you work. All I ask in return is your abidance of the rules I have just outlined and your unwavering loyalty to me. For that you will have my protection from others who would do you harm as well.”
I let him mull over my demands for all of ten seconds.
Another swallowing nod.
“Yes…uh…yes sir. I agree to your terms and I want to stay,” he stuttered out.
He smelled of sex and blood – a female. Not an unusual occurrence for our kind, so I asked, “Did you come into my territory alone or do you have a pet as well?”
Also not an unusual occurrence. Many of my kind took to keeping pets for easy access to blood and sex, glamouring away their memories until they tired of them.
I found it to be the lazy way out and hadn’t kept one since the mid-1300’s. It had been necessary at the time when it seemed nearly every human in Europe was succumbing to the Black Death.
“No,” he quickly answered. “No pets.”
I motioned for him to sit down before I actually managed to get seasick for the first time in a thousand years thanks to his constant swaying and gave him a stack of paperwork to fill out. He needed a job and considering I still had that niggling feeling in the back of my head, I decided to employ him at the casino where I could keep a close eye on him. He had, however, obtained a home. I would’ve put more thought into how he’d acquired one so quickly if I hadn’t recognized the address as that of a vampire who’d left my area a couple of years earlier. The nomadic ones often swapped homes since secure resting places were few and far between in normal dwellings, so I didn’t bother questioning him over it. Since so much time had passed, I informed him I would have my assistant drop off the necessary paperwork at his home for the security system to be upgraded. He’d need to be there to obtain the new codes and have his retinal and fingerprint scans done, but that would have to be scheduled later on. For now my security firm of Weres were working on upgrading the system at my casino and wouldn’t be free for at least another ten days.
But thinking of my new assistant in regards to the new twitchy vampire in my area, I added one more rule. “My personal assistant, Sookie Stackhouse, is mine. You will not approach her for any reason that isn’t business related. You will treat her with the same respect you show me. If you attempt to glamour her for any reason, you’ll lose your eyes and then your life. If you attempt to feed from her, you’ll lose your fangs and then your life. Do you understand?”
My eyebrow arched at his silent nod to which he mumbled out, “Yeah…uh…yes, I understand. She’s yours.”
My cock twitched just hearing it.
It twitched again when I sent out a mass email to the vampires in my area informing them of my new Number One Rule – Sookie Stackhouse is mine – before I gathered the completed documents from him and called Clancy to my office. His red hair and quick temper gave evidence to his Irish heritage and since the name Mickey Callaghan was as Irish as a Shillelagh stick, I thought it would be a match made in heaven.
Or the resulting brawl would be entertaining at the very least.
Clancy managed the bars, so I told him to start training Callaghan as a bartender and put him on the schedule. Once they were gone, I went over the books and then took a stroll downstairs to the club to look for my nightly meal. It had been more than ten days since I’d had fresh blood, but I soon found I was repulsed by every woman that approached me. They were too thin. Too heavy. Too tall. Too short. Too blond. Not blond enough. Most of all, it was their odor. None of them smelled appetizing at all and it took going through the room and scenting them all to realize what the problem was.
None of them smelled anywhere near as good as my new assistant.
The one I swore I wouldn’t feed from.
I didn’t know if I was angrier at her for ruining the others’ appeal or at myself for making the ‘no feeding’ rule to begin with. Instead of forcing myself to feed from any of them I took to the skies in the dead of night to survey my territory. The rushing of the night air felt good against my skin and I took my time flying in a wide arc over the city with my eyes seeking out the secrets in the hidden darkness of the streets and alleyways.
Perhaps it was the close proximity. I chose to believe that probable lie than admit to any other reason being the cause when I found myself hovering over Tulane University.
Specifically, the dorm building I knew to be the residence of one Sookie Stackhouse.
I tried to minimalize my presence there by telling myself the college campus was a virtual buffet for my kind and I was only doing my duty by monitoring those below. But it was as if a higher power was calling me out on my half-truth because I found myself scouring the parking lots from above and getting edgier by the moment when there was no yellow speckled rust box to be found.
Once I was certain it wasn’t anywhere within a reasonable walking distance, I flew back towards the casino taking the likely path she would have traveled on her way back home, looking for her car. It wouldn’t surprise me if she’d been stranded. I would be more surprised if she hadn’t been, but she – like it – was nowhere to be found. Even as I made my way back to my office, forcing myself to walk at a human pace, I tried to reason that perhaps she’d just gone shopping. Or for a bite to eat.
Or perhaps one of my kind had gone shopping for a bite to eat and chose her for their meal.
I would kill them. Revive them. And then kill them again.
I’d never given anyone my blood before, but I knew the effects. Even with just a few drops, I would be able to sense her proximate location and emotional state.
Was I really considering it?
It was no different than outfitting her with an alarm for her car; a security system for her home. She was my asset and it was my duty to protect her.
I ignored the fact it was an unprecedented step and that it took the notification of the local police to inform me my previous assistant was dead.
The difference was already crystal clear. Learning of Burnham’s death had merely aggravated me because of how his death affected me. My time; my energy – wasted. Not knowing Miss Stackhouse’s whereabouts or current state of health was grating on each and every nerve ending. If I hadn’t known for a fact Callaghan was currently learning to make a Bloody Mary at that very moment, his head would be the first one I removed in my search for her.
It wouldn’t be necessary, but at least it would ease my tension.
As soon as I was in my office I pulled up the GPS tracker for her…car…and saw she was still traveling.
Far far away.
Not in a distant galaxy, but she was now in the northern half of Louisiana.
Out of my territory.
Where being mine and having my protection would mean nothing to anyone who came across her.
I knew she came from a shithole town in Renard Parish, but nothing of her previous monitored calls, emails, or texts led me to believe she would be going home so soon before her graduation. Everything had said her family would be traveling to New Orleans to attend her graduation.
Knowing the advanced age of her grandmother I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps her health had unexpectedly failed. I didn’t like the thought of my…Miss Stackhouse having to grieve her matriarch, but I knew all too well that nothing lasts forever.
Going back to the site tracking her phone calls I saw she’d received one not long after her discussion with the demon lawyer ended. I recognized the number as belonging to her brother and I prepared myself for having to contend with a sorrowful assistant come Monday when I clicked on the icon to listen to their conversation.
J – “Hey Sook. You heard from Tara?”
S – “Not for a couple of weeks. Why?”
J – “Ain’t nobody can find her. We’re hopin’ she took off with that new sugar daddy o’ hers, but it ain’t like her to disappear without tellin’ nobody.”
S – “What ‘sugar daddy’? She didn’t tell me she was seeing anyone.”
J – “Beats me. Some new fella she’s been seein’. Nobody’s met him, but he got her a new ride. A Camaro. Candy apple red. She said it was funny because of his name and all.”
S – “What’s his name? Has anyone tried to find him?”
J – “Don’t know where to look. All’s I can remember is it had somethin’ to do with apples… Hey, Sook? Do ya think you can come home? You know…and do your thing?”
Thing? What ‘thing’? Did he expect her to elbow everyone in her path and then knock them on their asses for talking to her chest?
S – “Of course. My classes are over and I’m already in the car, so I’ll just head on home now. I’ll be there in a few hours.”
J – “Thanks sis. Now you be careful, ya hear? And I’ll be waitin’ at Gran’s for ya… Oh hey! I remember his name now. Mott. Like the applesauce. Franklin Mott.”
Franklin Mott had moved from my area two years earlier and I know he resided at times in both Dallas and Mississippi after leaving New Orleans, but I had no clue as to his whereabouts now. I wouldn’t care now if I didn’t know Miss Stackhouse was about to go searching for him.
But recalling the address of my newest vampire resident, I knew where I would start investigating.
S – “Okay Jase, I’ll see you soon and we’ll figure out where to go when I get there.”
The line went dead after that. Just like I would be in less than an hour. It was too late for me to try and fly there, but even if I did it wasn’t like I could just land on her doorstep and offer her my assistance.
It annoyed me to no end.
I decided to take my annoyance out on Callaghan and as a bonus, find out Mott’s last known location since Callaghan was currently residing in Mott’s home, but by the time I made my way back down to the bar he was already gone.
Of course he was. Dawn was less than an hour away.
And as I later died for the day, the fact Miss Stackhouse was already several hours away from me and unknowingly searching for a four hundred year old vampire who had possibly abducted her friend, bothered me like nothing else I could ever recall.