What in the hell was I doing?
I stared at my reflection. Adorned in a perfectly sized cotton t-shirt and equally fitted pair of track pants, my heart gushed more than Betty ever had and I knew without a doubt I had it bad.
It was a feat considering her splashback memories could drown a small African village.
But it was like I was helpless where he was concerned. Weaker than a drunken Lindsey Lohan statement given to the first cops at the scene. All it took was a melt in your mouth piece of cow flesh and being serenaded by a beautiful Barry Manilow and I was done for.
Completely moony-eyed while Betty tied a bib around her neck waiting to see if his beef stick would melt in her mouth too.
But I knew it wasn’t a hunk of beef or the fact the one who brought it to me was a hunk too. It was just him. The man behind the Styrofoam container. The man who was incredibly sweet and kind and thoughtful. Funny and sexy and quick-witted.
And had an ass I could crack walnuts on.
I wasn’t used to it. Any of it.
While I’d dated plenty and wasn’t technically a virgin, that didn’t mean I hadn’t checked the thoughts of the guys I’d gone out with here and there. I’d never lingered in there for long because knowing they just wanted me for my tits was a bit of a downer, but it was enough warning for me to know not to get attached. None of them had ever treated me as Northman had and I knew from their heads, none of them had even thought to. Of course I couldn’t read Northman’s thoughts, but his actions spoke louder than any telepathic words I had ever heard. And I knew my feelings had nothing to do with his money, fancy cars, or even fancy cuts of beef. It had to do with the thoughtful guy behind it all which was why finding Tara in that house of horrors was only made worse when I couldn’t help but wonder if Northman was in on it. That maybe he was Callaghan’s partner in crime.
Why else would they know one another?
Why else couldn’t the FBI – with all of their resources – be able to pin anything on Northman, unless he’d had a partner all along?
But I couldn’t picture it. My mind refused to fuse together the man I was coming to know with the monster he was suspected to be. And when he’d shown up. When he’d met my suspicious glare with nothing but concern. When my accusatory tone was answered with his sincerity. When he proved yet again I meant something more to him by extending his thoughtfulness to my childhood best friend. I was done for.
Cold. Aloof. Detached. That was how he’d been described in his FBI file.
And he was cold. But only from his rare illness. Not only could he leave me hot and bothered. The rest of him managed to warm my insides like no one other than my family had ever been able to do.
He was so aloof fire had nearly shot from his eyeballs he’d been so angry at me for endangering myself when I’d rescued Tara.
And detached? He was so attached to my ass that he both literally and figuratively couldn’t leave it alone if he’d tried.
And if I could admit to my own mental illness, I might admit to falling in love with him.
But that was crazy. I barely knew him.
I was probably just confused because I couldn’t hear him and being in his arms was better than a fat kid beating Hansel and Gretel to the Gingerbread House. Made worse by the Blind Witch Betty who wanted to lure him inside and go cannibalistic on his sexy ass.
And yet my heart told me I knew him better than probably anyone else.
I’d had no choice but to call my FBI contacts when we’d gotten to the hospital. I couldn’t not tell them everything that had happened. Tell them what I failed to mention to Northman.
That Tara had lost blood in her attack. And not just superficial blood loss.
A lot of blood loss.
The doctors had to pump three pints into her before her color was anywhere close to being back to normal. It was consistent with the other victims only they had actually been drained of it all. Their bodies hadn’t been in good enough shape for the medical examiners to determine how they’d been drained of their blood. Only that it had happened. Wild animals, decomposition, and even fires had destroyed any evidence they might have gathered otherwise. The bodies had been mutilated beyond recognition. It had taken DNA evidence to even determine their identities. And it was why it had taken so long for anyone to figure out the cases were linked.
I only knew from listening in on the doctor’s thoughts that while the puncture marks on Tara were consistent with bite marks, the lack of any other teeth impressions left them stumped. It was as though she’d been bitten by an animal. He’d actually pictured a wolf in his head before he dismissed it just as quickly, but a small part of him had still expected there to be canine DNA left on her skin.
But they only found human saliva.
And she really didn’t remember anything. I knew because I was inside her head the whole time. At first she was scared and confused, but the more the doctors poked and prodded, the more pissed off she got. As far as she was concerned, she just wanted to forget everything else too. She couldn’t remember it, so she didn’t want to be reminded of it.
And staring at my worried face staring back at hers did nothing but remind her of it.
So she was sick of looking at me too.
The FBI had taken over the case. They used Tara’s kidnapping as their reason for being there though, not wanting to alert the media just yet they thought there was a serial killer on the loose.
Because who would believe Dracula was lurking about Louisiana?
So I wasn’t surprised to see my FBI counterparts walk into her room the next morning. Agent Sara Weiss, I liked. But her partner, Tom Latteste, I could do without. His thoughts were degrading. He didn’t believe females should be on the front lines. He didn’t believe a woman could get the job done like a man could.
I believed he ought to be neutered to save the world from his future bigoted bastards.
They didn’t acknowledge our connection in front of Tara and I hadn’t expected them to. But they didn’t ask me to leave either, so I listened to their questions and I listened to her answers. I also listened to every thought going through their minds to go along with it and knew they thought Callaghan was their man. But like my thoughts from the day before, they too thought perhaps Northman had been in cahoots with him. They both thought it was too coincidental for them to be linked to one another in any way without there being a more sinister connection.
Tara didn’t recognize Callaghan from the picture they showed to her. It was a standard picture taken for the badge all of the casino staff had to wear and he wasn’t smiling in it, but while Agent Weiss thought Callaghan looked goth-like and imagined he could’ve filed down his teeth to look like fangs, Latteste actually wondered if vampires were real.
I could already picture it.
Your honor, in the case of the State of Louisiana versus Mickey Callaghan, we’d like to call our first witness. Anne Rice.
Tell us Ms. Rice, how did you come to suspect the defendant was a vampire?
Why, I interviewed him. Of course I changed his name to Letstat in my novel.
I managed to keep my eyes from rolling into the back of my head and once they were done taking Tara’s statement and were preparing to leave, I made an excuse to leave the room and followed them out into the hallway.
“It wasn’t Northman,” I blurted out. “He was with me last night.”
Don’t ask what we were doing. Don’t ask what we were doing. Don’t ask what we were doing.
“And what were you doing?” Agent Weiss asked.
“Talking about football,” I hedged.
And I have the knee pads to prove it.
“That doesn’t mean anything,” Agent Latteste snarled.
‘Fuckadoodledumbshit!’ Betty snarled back, incensed on my behalf.
It had meant more to me than I’d ever admit to. Even under oath.
Unaware my vajayginator was preparing for battle, he continued on with, “Don’t you think it’s odd someone linked to you was the next victim? We know you went home last week after your interview. We know you met up with Thornton at her shop. The shop she was kidnapped from.”
“And by her own admission, she was still there up until Saturday night,” I argued while feeling a bit creeped out they knew so much about what I’d been up to. Which was funny considering Northman tracked me down at the bar and it only made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.
“And where was Northman on Saturday night?” he asked with venom. “Perhaps if you’d read the case file you’d know there’s no discernible pattern on how long the victims are kept alive for. He wasn’t seen in the casino that night or on Sunday. We know that you stayed in your dorm room until Monday morning, so tell us Miss Stackhouse, where was Northman during that time?”
I had no answer because I had no clue. If I hadn’t been such an insufferable twat and moved into the casino on Friday afternoon after signing my contract, I might’ve known where he’d been. But instead, I had no alibi to give him.
Not a credible one.
“I don’t know,” I admitted and then my brain farted with it ripping right through my lips as I gasped out, “But he bought my stripper outfit from Second Skin Leather on Saint Philip Street. Maybe they remember seeing him there!”
After all, how could anyone miss a walking talking sex on a stick?
Latteste didn’t even bother trying to hide his disgust while Weiss only raised her eyebrow at me and said, “We’ll look into it, but there’s still too much time unaccounted for. Maybe you can find out more from Northman about where he’s been.”
Not without raising his suspicions.
“He gave me time off to look after Tara,” I offered weakly.
Because I was weak in the face of his sweet gestures.
“I don’t know when I’ll see him again,” I added in a defeated tone.
Because I already missed him.
“We’ll look after the girl. Until Callaghan is caught, we’ll have her under protective detail. He could try and go after her again,” Agent Weiss replied. “We can’t ignore the fact that Callaghan was in Northman’s employ. We already had suspicions the victims were chosen from the casino and if they’re partners, he could very well try and contact Northman. We need you to remain there. Do whatever you have to in order to find out if there’s something more between them. The agents in the casino last night said he appeared comfortable around you. That he talked only to you when you were on the floor together, so use that to your advantage.”
Betty heard, ‘Do whatever you have to,’ and took that to mean it was open season on the grizzly in his pants, but my heart heard, ‘Use that to your advantage,’ and sunk.
Use his feelings for me against him was what it equated to.
I was in over my head. Way over my head. I couldn’t tell up from down or left from right. I could no longer tell whose side I was on. See which side was the right one. Hell, I could hardly see straight from the whirlwind going through my mind, but they took my silence as my agreement and walked away without another word.
Leaving me to wonder who I’d be walking away from when it was all said and done.
Eric Northman or the FBI?
If I couldn’t tell up from down, I certainly couldn’t answer that one.
The doctors released Tara later on that afternoon saying there was nothing more they could do for her and she just needed to take it easy for the next few days. I offered to go back to Bon Temps with her, but I already knew from her thoughts she didn’t want me to. I was just another reminder of what she didn’t want to remember, but since she had no way of getting home without me, she didn’t have much choice but to endure at least five more hours of my presence. That is, until, we walked out of the hospital.
I’d intended on hailing a cab to take us to the casino where I’d grab my car and drive her home, but instead we were met by a nice older gentleman in a black suit, standing alongside a stretch limo. He greeted us both and handed me my lost cell phone along with a handwritten note.
The driver has been instructed to take you and Ms. Thornton wherever you’d like to go. Take as much time as you need to see to your friend’s welfare. Your job, among other things, will be waiting for you upon your return.
Tara had already climbed into the open door and waited for me to follow her inside before she asked, “Is this from your new boss too?”
She’d been just as surprised as I had been seeing the clothes he’d brought for us, so I nodded and replied, “Yeah. The driver will take us to Bon Temps.”
“Me. Take me,” she immediately corrected. I could tell from her thoughts she felt bad for wanting to be away from me and she was grateful I’d found her, but at the same time, she didn’t want to see me right now. She needed time to try and come to terms with what had happened to her. And in Tara terms, that meant not wanting to think about it at all.
Not that she could remember any of it.
In her mind, she went from closing up her shop on Saturday night to waking up in the ambulance on Tuesday afternoon. She didn’t want to remember what happened in between and I couldn’t say that I blamed her.
I wished I could forget every encounter I’d ever had with my Uncle Bartlett.
“Sookie, I don’t want you to think I’m not grateful,” she whispered.
Rather than make her say it out loud, I just squeezed her hand and said, “I know, Tara. I know.”
I lowered the partition separating us from the driver and asked that he drop me off at the casino before driving Tara home. It wasn’t until we pulled up to the curb a few minutes later when Tara was hugging me goodbye that the dam on her tears finally broke. Mine broke too.
“Thank you Sookie, for everything,” she softly sobbed.
There wasn’t anything I could do or say that would make it go away for her, but remembering Eric’s words from the night before made me just try to find solace in the fact she couldn’t remember any of it. When we eventually pulled apart, I scribbled my new number down and handed it to her, saying, “You know all you have to do is call me and I’ll be there. And the FBI guys said they’d keep a watch on you. But he won’t come back. They’ll catch him.”
She promised to call me when she was ready, but just in case I waited until the limo was driving away and texted Jason to ask him to look in on Tara. I didn’t tell him why and instead just said that she was down in the dumps. I didn’t want to be the one to spread the news of her attack and New Orleans was far enough away from Bon Temps that it was a secret she might be able to keep to herself.
And God knows I was all about keeping secrets.
When I got up to my suite my only intent had been on taking a shower, but my feet stopped short seeing a picnic basket on my coffee table with a note I now recognized in Eric’s handwriting.
For the next time you become lost on the way to your grandmother’s house.’
Opening the basket, I pulled out the single item and turned the same color of them when my brain clicked on to what they were.
A pair of itty bitty red edible underwear.
Is that what he’d meant by being on a strict diet?
I didn’t want to think of the ramifications of that and was just grateful Tara hadn’t come up to my room with me.
How would I explain that kind of uniform?
Flopping down on the couch, I tried to think of what my next move should be. I doubted he’d expected me to return so soon. I doubted I could find any evidence of him being Callaghan’s partner in crime…
Because I doubted he was the killer.
And with all of the chemistry between us, I doubted I could keep up the farce or my pants for very much longer.
The most I could hope for was for another body to turn up when I knew exactly where Eric Northman had been the entire time.
Admittedly, it was a shitty thing to hope for.
‘No it’s not! He could be between our legs!’ Betty shouted out her silver lining. She was more than tired of suffering the clam jam my mind kept interjecting into her sexy times.
And when my eyes strayed back to the snack he’d left, I wondered if maybe she wasn’t right.
Talk about going above and beyond in the call of duty.
I wanted to just tell him the truth. The guilt was eating away at me inside and I knew I couldn’t let myself get any closer to him without him knowing what I really was.
And being a telepath did me no good either. I couldn’t hear a goddamn thing coming from his pretty head, but it didn’t really matter because my heart ruled the roost when it came to believing him innocent of the crimes he was suspected of. The only problem was I suspected if I told him my secret – being in the FBI, not being a telepath – he would rightfully give me the boot. Kick me to the curb. God knows I deserved it, but if I wasn’t there to prove his innocence, he might never be cleared.
So I was stuck.
In more ways than one.
The answers I was looking for weren’t going to be found on the couch, so I got cleaned up and headed up to his penthouse. It was still about an hour before sunset, but I didn’t know if he’d be awake yet. I’d decided somewhere in between rinsing the shampoo from my hair and adding the conditioner that the only thing I could do was go about things like everything was normal. Since he hadn’t known I’d be there, he hadn’t left me any tasks to complete. I hadn’t worked there long enough to have my own routine for what needed to be done, much less to know what his routine was. But I did remember him saying gathering his dirty clothes daily was one of my chores, so that was what I’d intended to do.
And if I happened to catch him full monty in the closet?
Well then…poor me.
I didn’t see any naked giants upon entering his closet, but I did see his full length mirror along one wall and decided I would use that as Defense Exhibit A, if need be.
Vampires had no reflection, so why would he have one in his closet?
Because he is NOT a vampire, therefore he can’t be the killer, your honor!
Yeah, I would’ve made a great lawyer.
In Crazy Town.
Moving on, I found his hamper empty. Again. I wasn’t sure exactly what time he’d left that morning, but it was still dark out.
Maybe he’d fallen into his bed fully clothed?
I had no way of knowing. That is until I was headed back out of his closet and noticed the door with no handle was slightly ajar.
‘If me be openin’, the bosses will do terrible things to me. Tewwwibble things!’ my inner Jar Jar Binks squealed.
So Betty shoved a shiv into his throat and danced a jig around his dead body, while I made sure the door leading to the hallway was closed. The only light in the closet was thanks to GE, not the sun, so I slowly pulled the other one open, while feeling guilty the entire time.
It didn’t stop me though.
I could see from where I stood that his giant sized bed was empty, so I strained to hear him moving around, but heard nothing. Reaching out with my head, I didn’t run across any bumps either so I knew he wasn’t there.
So where was he?
His pillow was calling me to it with promises of his sex on a stick scent, but I refused to even step one little toe into his room. If I ever entered it, it would be at his invitation.
And with full disclosure of who I really was.
It was the least I could do, so I headed back down in the elevator and decided to wait in his office while I tried to quiet the little voice inside of me now questioning if his sunlight allergy was true.
My laptop was right where I left it, but since I hadn’t had the chance to take care of setting up my company email the night before I figured I could do it now while I waited on him.
It took up all of three minutes.
So I sat. And I waited. And then I waited some more. The more time that passed, the more nervous I got. It was ridiculous considering I’d spent the better part of the night on his lap, but I was still filled with anxiety over seeing him again. Maybe it was because I was afraid he would see my betrayal on my face. Or maybe it was because I knew if he couldn’t it probably wouldn’t take long for it to fart out of my mouth anyway.
Seven o’clock seemed to be the time he was usually in his office, but it came and went without him. I was a nervous wreck by the time seven-thirty rolled around, so I finally bit the bullet and walked up to Mr. Fuckity Fuck asking, “Do you know where Mr. Northman is?”
He could’ve had a meeting I didn’t know about. He had other businesses besides the casino, so he could be anywhere.
While his lips said, “He signs my paycheck. Not the other way around. I don’t keep tabs on him unless he tells me to,” his mind thought, ‘Hopefully he’s out taking care of shit since he’s been too busy playing with his new pair of tits to do much else. She doesn’t smell like she’s put out yet, but she’s probably just stringing him along hoping to get more shit out of him. I wish he’d have her pick up all of the fucking boxes that have been coming day in and day out full of clothes for her. I can’t even get to the printer paper in the supply closet now. Hopefully he’ll lose interest once he fucks her.’
What in the hell?
I don’t smell like I’ve fucked him yet?
If I had, I would’ve showered, fuck you very much.
The gold digger thoughts, I almost understood when I saw the sheer volume of boxes from the inside of his snarly ass head. But I wanted no part of wondering if he’d lose interest after fucking me.
Because a part of me wondered that too.
Not that I planned on fucking him.
I walked away before I ended up slapping the shit out of him and, against my better judgment, took a quick peek inside of the supply closet.
It was chock full.
I didn’t open any of the boxes and figured there must be some mistake. He was obviously a fuckadoodledumbass too, so the boxes were probably meant for one of the hoity toity boutiques downstairs. And thinking of downstairs, made me enter the elevator and go down there to see if I could hear anyone thinking about Callaghan. If I did, then maybe they would have an idea of where he’d gone to and then I could pass that along to the FBI.
The sooner he was in custody, the better.
He was the reason I’d slipped my gun into the small of my back earlier. If Northman found it during one of his spontaneous pat downs later on, I would just say I was still freaked out about Callaghan.
It wouldn’t even be a lie.
And considering how pissed off he’d been that I’d gone into the house all alone to begin with, I doubted he’d think it was a bad idea.
I spent the next two hours wandering between the three bars trying to engage the bartenders in conversation and dropping Callaghan’s name. The only problem was I couldn’t read all of them. Some were clear as a bell and yet others were big hulking nothings. The only thing I could figure was because the ‘nothings’ made the tiny little hairs on the back of my neck stand up whenever they looked at me. They smiled and acted friendly, but something inside told me they could be scary if they wanted to be.
And then I told myself the ambiance Northman had been striving for at the casino was working like a mother fucker and I too was a fuckadoodledumbass for letting it get to me.
Fed up with learning squat about Callaghan and getting a headache from listening to so many people, I let my feet wander into the nightclub. I still hadn’t seen hide nor hair of Northman, but after the last time I’d spotted him in there, I really hoped I wouldn’t see him now either.
And I didn’t. Because he wasn’t.
And it was then I realized I should’ve at least texted him to let him know I’d stayed in New Orleans while Tara had gone home. I didn’t think of it earlier since I’d expected to see him in his office and I was just reaching for my phone when I saw Callaghan.
Not in the flesh, but in someone’s thoughts.
A woman had just walked into the nightclub to meet up with a group of her girlfriends. She was relieved to see them because she’d been startled on her way inside. She’d parked two blocks over and was walking here when Callaghan seemed to appear out of thin air in front of her. She’d screamed on reflex, but he’d taken off just as quickly.
I didn’t even think about the fact she looked a lot like me.
I didn’t think at all.
And in the future I would promise myself to work on that shit.
Less than five minutes had passed since she’d seen him, so I took off out of the casino, taking the same path the woman had walked only moments earlier. It made no difference it was only a Wednesday night. In New Orleans in June, the streets were crowded anyway. I wandered around and around. Looking for that greasy piece of shit everywhere and sifting through the thoughts of everyone around me hoping to find someone who’d seen him. Flashes of how I’d found Tara – naked, battered, and bruised – kept popping up into my mind and I wanted him to pay for it. To pay for what he’d done to her. And it was due to my sifting that I came across another bump like Northman’s.
That little tiny seed of doubt sprung up. The one that had been planted by finding his room empty earlier began to grow. My heart fought against it, so it was with that hope that I followed that bump. I’d run across several by then and I was hoping to prove the FBI and that small part inside of me wrong. That he wasn’t Callaghan’s partner in crime.
Because I couldn’t take it if he was.
And I was right. Sort of.
The bump had led me to a back alleyway. I’d been too focused on it to notice until it was too late. And if it weren’t for that bump I could sense, my eyes would’ve been fooled into believing I was all alone.
Instead I was just fooled.
He was on me in a split second. One hand covered my mouth as he bashed the back of my head against a brick wall while the other trailed down my face and he snarled out, “It was you.”
I couldn’t have answered him if I wanted to. Not only did his hand cover my mouth, but the force of the blow had left me dizzy. I could feel the warm moisture begin to seep down my neck and knew I was bleeding, but what happened next was a shock.
Or maybe I was in shock.
Callaghan was quite literally in my face. And one minute he didn’t have fangs, but a snick later and he did.
His nostrils flared and his eyes widened before his thin lips formed into a fangy grin with him saying, “You owe me one pet, but you’ll more than do. You smell much better anyway.”
His hand let go of my mouth so he could grip each side of my head as he pulled me forward and bit into my neck. Too much air had left my lungs in order for me to scream, but feeling something else of his poking me farther down below gave me the jolt of brainpower needed to reach for my gun. I pulled it in between our bodies, aimed and fired.
The force of the gunshot was enough to make him let me go and stumble backwards, but I still needed the help of the wall to keep me upright as I mumbled out, “FBI. You’re under arrest.”
Maybe I should have said that before I shot him?
I couldn’t really see straight. Between the bash to the head and blood loss, I was really dizzy which is why I had to question what I saw next. He straightened up in front of me and pulled his bloodied shirt up so we could both watch as the bullet was slowly forced back out of his body and the wound completely healed right before my eyes.
I was SO fucked.
“FBI?” he taunted with an evil grin. “I’m under arrest?”
What else could I say?
“What are you?” I asked as I shakily held my ineffective weapon up in between us.
He took two steps forward and snatched the gun from my hand. Not that I could put up much of a fight by that point, but I watched wide eyed and terrified as he bent my 9mm Beretta in half. Dropping it at my feet he answered, “Your worst nightmare.”
I managed to scream when he tackled me to the ground and bit down on my neck again. “FBI…I’m with the FBI,” kept tumbling from my lips, over and over again while I weakly tried to fight him off of me. I could feel my body getting cold. Either from the pavement or the blood loss and my eyes were going out of focus. At one point I could’ve sworn I saw an anxious Claudine in the distance, but her image disappeared just as I heard the most ungodly of sounds.
He’d just torn my pants open and was working on his own when an animalistic roar echoed through the alleyway and I was suddenly free of my attacker. My head lolled towards the sound of angry growls, snarls, and what sounded like snapping jaws, but all I saw was a fast moving blur that ended less than a minute after it had begun, with a blood covered Eric Northman standing in a cloud of ash.
He moved to hover over me just as quickly and I saw my hand rise up so my finger could touch his new fangs. I still felt better having him there with me, pointy teeth and all, and I heard my voice whisper out, “My, what big teeth you have.”
But he wasn’t in the mood for jokes.
He was angry.
So angry, he had fangs now.
I couldn’t form a complete thought if I’d tried, so I couldn’t be sure what he was so angry about until he took an appraising look at me and asked, “Do you trust me Agent Stackhouse?”
Even my muddled mind knew that wasn’t good. He was pissed off. Most likely at me, but it didn’t change the fact that I did trust him.
Maybe stupidly so.
So maybe I was just stupid.
“Yes,” I finally replied.
His eyes stayed locked onto mine for a long moment, but I knew I couldn’t play our stare-off game for very much longer. My eyes kept trying to close no matter what I wanted them to do, but they managed to stay open long enough for me to eventually see him bring his wrist to his mouth. Biting down on it, he placed the bloody wound at my lips and ordered, “Then drink.”
The last thing I could remember was the warmth that shot through me as soon as the cold liquid hit my throat right before I passed out.