It had been idiotic for me to stand there in silence when her blood all but screamed at me she was feeling insecure.
It had been impulsive to make a sexually charged joke. Hoping to bring down the barriers I could feel her erecting within herself and bring back her earlier lightheartedness.
And all of the progress I’d made with her over the course of the evening had been demolished in an instant.
The blame was one hundred percent mine.
The longer I remained quiet, the louder her emotions screamed at me. I hadn’t the time or the wherewithal to formulate a plan on how to make her mine when I’d been too busy enjoying our practice. Not once had she questioned my cool touch. Not once did she pause or feel any apprehension when I flipped her body to and fro into whatever position I wanted us in. She was – in a word – intoxicating and it was my own drunken stupor that led to my downfall.
Ironically, it mirrored my last night as a human.
Dates weren’t out of the question, but sharing a meal would be. All of my thoughts concerning making her mine had centered around sharing her bed. I was a fool to not consider any of the other traditional courting rituals. I could give her any material thing her heart desired. I could worship her body night after night and give her a thousand years’ worth of sexual experience. I could give her immortality. And yet something as commonplace as going out to dinner wasn’t something I was capable of. Not without raising suspicions as to why I never ate.
I’d never allowed a human so close to me. I’d never shown so many parts of my true self to anyone and what I did allow them to see, they had been glamoured to forget. Her proposal was preposterous, but not for the reasons she imagined. I hadn’t been prepared. But then it wasn’t like I’d dated anyone before.
As much as it pained me to walk away – feeling her pain – I needed to regroup. Retreat and re-strategize. Formulate a plan and then launch another offensive.
I would have her.
The only thing I could find to be grateful for was the fact we’d been in my hotel when she’d kicked me out of her room. Hearing her utter the phrase, ‘I rescind your invitation’ had been like a stab to my chest. And had we been in her true home, it would’ve given away my secret when the power behind those words magically forced me out. I’d have no choice but to glamour her then.
I waited until I heard her enter the shower before walking away. It was already after midnight and feeling as she was – angry and miserable – I didn’t think she would be leaving her suite. With every step I took, the blood tie connecting us diminished. The farther I ventured, the more our bond weakened, but not completely. I could tell she was there.
I could feel her resentment.
So I experimented with our newly formed link. Using the magic in my blood I searched, gathered, and contained what I could distinguish as hers. Erected my own barrier around it until I managed to close it off. I couldn’t devise a plan to win her over when I felt her antipathy for me as if it were my own.
And from the strength of what I felt coming from her, I had a lot of work to do.
Despite my words to her earlier, I did in fact have other work that needed to be tended to. So I locked myself away in my office and went over the necessary paperwork, killing another hour of what had started out as a great night, before heading downstairs. My intent had been to wander the streets. To allow my senses to wander freely in search of potential predators in my territory, so that my mind would be free to create a blueprint on building a foundation for a relationship with Miss Stackhouse. I would endeavor to think of every potential roadblock and then figure out a way to overcome them.
It was necessary considering how poorly I performed when speaking off the cuff.
I’d just stepped out of the elevator when one of my bar managers approached me. An irate customer wanted to speak with the owner about an employee acting inappropriately towards her. She was waiting in the nightclub. Tapping into our bond told me Miss Stackhouse was close by.
I sped over hoping it was her. Hoping she would be standing there and make a joke of all of the ways I’d been inappropriate with her.
This she was attractive. Exceptional even and yet while she would have been someone I was willing to entertain for the evening B.S. – Before Sookie – now she was nothing more than a pitiful comparison to the woman who held my balls hostage.
Also BS. Pure bullshit. Because it was true.
My mind faintly registered her complaint – a dealer had ‘rudely’ stared at her cleavage (which was currently on display as though there were prizes to be handed out at the end of the night) and caused her to lose several hands of Blackjack.
Because it was difficult to count to twenty-one while being silently ogled.
While she pleaded her case, my eyes appraised her. Detailing each and every way in which she didn’t hold a candle to Miss Stackhouse. She took my visual inspection to mean something else entirely. I could scent her arousal. While better than the Werefish, it did nothing for me. Not when I was still covered in the scent of sunshine. Not when I could still taste honeyed blood on my tongue.
No. There was no comparison. None of them held any appeal.
I was officially screwed.
She made her misconception known by smiling coyly and saying, “I’d be willing to overlook it if you’d care to join me for a drink.”
She’d forget whatever I wanted her to forget. Willing or not.
I was about to pull her mind under my influence to do just that when I was hit with a strong wave of disgust. Strong enough that my mouth watered as my stomach churned for the first time in a thousand years. On top of that I was then hit with a surge of anger that threatened to make my fangs descend.
It only took a second for me to realize the cause. My eyes confirmed what my blood told me.
I was officially screwed.
I caught sight of the back of her blond head as it stormed out of the nightclub. Even without my blood inside of her, her movements gave away her hostility.
She wore it as well as the leather outfit from earlier.
I had no doubts she saw me. No uncertainty that she had made another assumption. Given her earlier words about my previous proclivities where my evening entertainment was concerned, I didn’t need to be a mind reader to know what she was thinking.
I was officially screwed.
And I’d have to work twice as hard if I ever hoped for that figurative phrase to become a literal one.
I quickly glamoured the woman in front of me, embedding a strong desire to stick to the slot machines from now on as well as investing in turtlenecks, before leaving her there to pursue Sookie. I’d planned on waiting until the following night to say something to her about what had happened. To apologize and try to explain my way out of the mess I made of everything, but there was no way I wouldn’t go to her now. I couldn’t let her stew and fester without making an attempt at righting everything. I still had no idea of what I would say, but I wouldn’t leave until she knew enough to know I did want her.
For more than one night.
The more I thought about it, the more I regretted not saying something sooner. Not coming up with something – anything – to tell her because it would’ve been better than where we were at now.
With her pissed and me screwed.
On any other evening, I could mostly move about unhindered. There was the occasional overconfident and flirtatious woman – or man – who would put themselves in my path, but for the most part people gave me wide berth. It was their survival instinct. Predisposed to know on a subconscious level I was dangerous to them.
And with the mood I was in, that fact was truer now more than ever.
Which was why it was all the more difficult when the city’s mayor came strolling up to me. I had to be nice. Smile and be pleasant. Even though I wanted to glamour him to go the fuck away. I would have had he not brought over and introduced his guest.
I was stuck pandering to them for over fifteen minutes. My connection to Miss Stackhouse had grown weaker with every minute that passed. I had just comp’d their evening and managed to get away from them when I was then approached by the fire marshal.
And then an official with the Louisiana Gaming Control Board.
I’d snapped Miss Stackhouse free of Murphy only so she could make me her bitch in her stead.
It seemed as though anyone who had any reason to talk to me; anyone who had a reason to drop in unannounced – had descended on the casino all on the same night.
Had there been a meeting?
A grassroots movement?
Was #OccupyNorthman trending?
The longer I was waylaid, the dimmer our connection grew. It was nowhere near as strong as when she was pressed up against me and given how faint the pulse inside of me was, I figured her to be back up on the twentieth floor in her suite. Over an hour had passed before I could go to her, but I didn’t bother to knock when I arrived at her door.
My blood told me she wasn’t there.
I might have noticed on my way up had my mind not been working on what I would say to her once I got there.
‘I would love to take you out to dinner, but I’m afraid I’m on a liquid diet. What liquid, you ask? Oh, well let’s just say when you tuck in to your steak, I can just tap one of your veins. Perhaps if I’m extra good, you’ll allow me to tap your ass when we get back?’
Why couldn’t they market bottled blood for these types of situations? It would certainly make my undead life easier.
But finding she wasn’t home had the predator in me going on alert, wanting to prey on those who would dare to prey on her. I darted to the roof and took to the sky, using my blood in her to hone in on her location. The connection was weak and I had to circle the city before I felt it flare up. Thumping inside of me and pulling me in like a moth to a flame.
My fangs snapped down when I found where she was.
I landed in a back alley and forced them back into my gums before going into the rowdy bar. It was off the beaten path where tourists were few and far between. And because I’d warned her it wasn’t safe for her to go off wandering around at night all alone, she of course surrounded herself with the most unsavory variety of citizens who called New Orleans home.
Another nonverbal ‘fuck you’.
My eyes automatically landed on her while my mind calculated the proximity, strengths, weaknesses, and species of every individual inside. The potential threat they were to her was no longer a concern.
Because I was there.
And I would kill them if they touched her.
She sat up at the bar with a fool on either side of her, each looking to get her attention. The only thing saving their lives was her only interest at the moment was the bartender and his ability to refill her drink.
With her natural light and sapphire wrap dress, she looked like a blue light special in the middle of a redneck swap meet.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed.
Nearly every man had their sights set on her.
So I would kill nearly every man there.
I strode towards her, noting the three Weres and single shifter spread throughout the bar, but paid them no attention. Her back was to me and her blatant disregard for the men flanking her made it easy for her to miss when one went missing.
And then the other.
I took the newly vacated seat at her side and glared at anyone who dared to look as though they would be occupying the other. While I’d known she’d showered before leaving her room, I didn’t care for the fact she no longer smelled as strongly of me. The miniscule amount of my blood inside of her only allowed for my scent to be noticeable up close.
I resolved to get more of my blood inside of her somehow before I finally cleared my throat and asked, “Come here often?”
Her whole body tensed with her eyes slamming shut at my lame pickup line. She whispered something about ‘Betty’ and ‘delirious’ before she opened one eye and slowly looked my way.
She blinked twice more with that same eye before she looked away and muttered, “Shit damn hell mother fucker…”
“Is that a no?” I asked with a hesitant smile. My mouth didn’t want to cooperate.
Not when she was still angry while she had my balls in a noose.
Her other eye finally popped open only so she could narrow them both back at me before she reached over and grabbed a filthy bar towel.
Which she then used to drape over my head and face.
“There,” she laughed without amusement. “Now you don’t have to worry about being seen with me.”
I allowed it for a few seconds – part of my penance – before pulling it off and saying, “Let me explain.”
“There’s nothing to explain,” she said, shaking her head with enough force she nearly fell off of her stool.
I’d been too busy feeling my own anger at finding her in the middle of Rape R Us to notice how she felt.
“There you go again,” she pointed with menace. “Being an ass…toot. Being astute.”
“You’re intoxicated. Let me take you home.”
“Drunk as a skunk,” she nodded. “But it’s not your trouble. We’re not even friends ‘cause you burst Betty’s bubble.”
I had no idea who this Betty was and while I didn’t want to try and have any meaningful conversations with Drunk Sookie, I couldn’t help but ask, “Did you just rhyme your put down?”
She shrugged and half-slurred, “You have your entertainment and I have mine. But eating so much pussy makes you nothing but swine.”
Dismayed. Mildly offended. Greatly amused.
Me. Not her. She was just angry and hurt.
“Why are you here, Mr. Consummate Winner? I figured you’d be balls deep in tonight’s bleach blond dinner.”
I ignored her dig and asked the obvious even though I already knew the answer. “You’re drinking on an empty stomach?”
Her eyes looked away when she whispered out, “Eating alone is pathetic and sad. Drinking alone means I’m mysterious or mad.”
While I found her mysterious, I knew she was mad. And hurt. And the implication of her words did far more damage to me than I thought possible.
“Let me take you to get something to eat,” I practically pleaded. She was drunk enough that I could easily sway if I wasn’t careful. I was hoping food might help soak up some of the alcohol.
Her anger flared and her eyes rolled back as she scoffed out, “I hereby reject your preposterous proposal. Bistro Betty is no longer at your disposal.”
I was worried. Ashamed. Guilt ate away at me, but it was the third time she’d mentioned the woman, so I had to ask, “Who is Betty?”
Her gasp was followed by her head falling forward, creating an unwelcome curtain of blond strands between us. I reached out to rectify the unwanted barrier when she all but hissed into her lap, “See? We meant nothing! It was all a mistake! Now quit singing ‘Dick in a box’ Justine Timber Fake!”
It didn’t answer my question. In fact, it raised several more, but her rhyming was still going strong. I was impressed with her mental capacity despite her inebriation and probably could’ve listened to her inanities for hours if she hadn’t seemed to be coming unhinged. Quickly. Or perhaps that was me coming unhinged, hearing her words.
Hearing she thought she ‘meant nothing’ left me feeling like she’d blanketed me in silver.
Although I’d like to explore the ‘Dick in a box’ part at some point if I could repair the damage I’d done.
Rather than allow her to be a spectacle to the degenerates around us, I threw down enough cash to cover her tab. Pulling her into my arms, I had her up and out of the bar before she even knew what was going on.
“We’re leaving,” I explained once her eyes were able to refocus on me. I’d flown there because – again – I was an idiot. It wasn’t like taxis were common in this section of the city because robberies were common in this section of the city. I could always call someone from the casino to come pick us up.
If I’d remembered to take my phone.
I was debating on glamouring her just this one time. Reasoning it wouldn’t even do much damage since she was so intoxicated. It wouldn’t take much to pull her will into mine, so then I could fly us back.
“Something is,” she muttered a moment later.
Right before she vomited on us both and passed out in my arms.
At least I wasn’t so far gone in my obsession that I found EVERYTHING about her smelled like sunshine and rainbows.
Ignoring our disgusting matchy matchy-ness, I scooped her into my arms bridal style, and walked back into the shadows before launching us into the sky. We landed on her balcony moments later and just as I was letting us in to her suite, she woke and asked, “How? How did we get here?”
She was still out of it, so I smirked and replied, “Would you believe I flew us back?”
“Nope,” she sighed and closed her eyes again. “I’m done believing anything you say.”
I flinched at her words but continued on towards her bedroom. While I’d sustained most of the damage, only the bottom of her dress and her legs had been soiled. I laid her on the bed with her knees bent at the edge of the mattress so that her legs dangled off the side before going into her bathroom. Returning with a wet washcloth, I cleaned and dried her legs and feet before unwrapping the dress from around her body.
My eyes were scorched when they were met by pale blue lace.
When I could see again, I returned to the bathroom and rinsed her dress before leaving it hanging over her shower door. I found a nightgown in one of her drawers and was in the middle of pulling it over her head when she awoke again. She helped me get her arms into the sleeves and then looked at me asking, “What kind of sick dream is this?”
“What do you mean?” I asked, not sure if I wanted to hear the answer. She could very well feel sick being in my presence in such an intimate setting.
“You’re putting my clothes on and you smell like tequila and ass had a baby and it threw up on you.”
Ha! At least I wasn’t the only one.
“Your parents were named Tequila and Ass?” I asked with a slight grin. “Your grandparents were cruel.”
Her eyes stared at me long and hard when I felt the flush of her embarrassment before I could see the flush on her cheeks as she flopped back down and covered her face, saying, “So that part wasn’t a dream?”
“No, but I believe from now on I’ll have you write all of the company memos. I enjoyed the rhyming.”
“Shut up,” she mumbled from underneath her hands.
All I could do was watch and wait. I still had no idea of what to say. Or how to fix what I’d obviously broken.
But I wanted to.
“You really do smell awful,” she half giggled and parted two fingers so she could peek at me. “I’m not sorry, but you should feel even better that dinner never happened tonight.”
“Miss Stackhouse,” I began, having recalled her earlier correction. “I don’t feel better at all. In fact, I feel worse than I smell. When you invited me out to dinner earlier, my hesitation didn’t stem from me not wanting to be in your company, public or otherwise. It’s just that…there are some things. Things about me that aren’t public knowledge. Things only a very select few know about and I’m unused to discussing them with anyone.”
Her expression all but said, ‘Well?’ But it was my blood in her body that told me whatever I said next had to be good or else there would be no forgiveness from her.
No guts. No glory.
I crossed my mental fingers and began, “I have a condition. A disorder. One the doctors have no name for, but one that makes me literally allergic to sunlight. Even indirect rays would leave burns on my skin. It’s why I’m so pale. I become extremely lethargic during the daytime as well, which is why I need a personal assistant to perform some of my duties during the daytime. It affects the blood flow to my body. My veins constrict so that I’m physically cold to the touch. Because of my condition I’m on a very strict diet. I can’t eat a normal meal, so that is why I balked at your suggestion earlier. Not because I found it to be a preposterous proposal.”
None of it was a lie, per se.
She put my words up under a microscope and compared them to my actions.
I awaited her verdict.
“Why are you telling me now?” she asked softly.
It wasn’t her words, but her body language and my blood that told me it was okay for me to reach out and take her hand in mine as I explained, “Because I’d rather you know my weaknesses than let you believe what I’d said had been a lie. My lewd comeback was merely reflexive and impulsive. It bears no weight on how I truly feel about you.”
Her tension eased as did her anger and resentment. If anything, I would guess she felt pity for me. But at the same time, she felt relieved.
“Which is how?”
I could tell by her tone that she was back to feeling playful again, so I scoffed and said, “I’ve admitted to enough for one night, don’t you think?”
“Hey,” she grinned. “I threw up on you first. The least you can do is spill your guts.”
“Charming,” I smiled.
“And stinky,” she laughed, altering her voice having pinched her nose shut.
It was better. We were better. I could feel it in her just as well as I could feel it in me, so I didn’t hesitate to ask, “Don’t you think you owe me a shower? I washed you. The least you can do is return the favor.”
Her feet darted out and playfully jabbed at my thigh as she said, “Get out Mr. Prison Porn. My boss is gonna have a shit fit if I don’t get my tasks done before he gets his lazy bones outta bed come dark.”
“You’d wanna kiss it too if you got a look at it, Mr. Poster Boy for Sexual Harassment. Now leave. I’m gonna need extra beauty rest.”
“The kettle to my pot, you’re making it difficult for me to go.”
“Shall I get the hose?”
“I happen to have one right…”
“Get out,” she giggled.
If it weren’t for the coming dawn, I likely would’ve kept her up all night, but I begrudgingly stood up and walked to her bedroom doorway. Turning to look back at her, I didn’t want to say goodnight. I didn’t want the night to end and for the first time in many years, I hated being a vampire.
“If you’re wondering if you’ll get an invitation to join me in bed if you keep standing there, you should get comfortable where you’re at. I’ll just pull the shades down and walk over your body when I leave for work. Not. Gonna. Happen.”
“No, but I do have one question.” Meeting her eyes with my own, I asked, “Who is Betty?”
The pillow flew in my direction along with the words, “Get out!”
It was likely the first time I’d died for the day while still chuckling.