It was an odd but welcome change of pace to rise for a second night in a row with a smile on my face and something to look forward to. Or rather, someone. I still had about a half hour before the sun completely set and I could seek out that someone, so I busied myself with getting ready.
Entering my closet, I found myself stopping short at being slapped in the face by her addictive scent. If my blood hadn’t told me differently, I could’ve been fooled into believing she was hiding amongst my jeans. She permeated every square inch and like a bloodhound, I followed the path she took. My clothes. My drawers. Even my shoes had been graced by her touch and I ended up selecting the items that smelled the strongest of her, pulling them on and rolling my eyes at my own actions because of the absurdity.
But it didn’t stop me.
And being saturated by that aroma was preferable to the one she’d graced me with the night before. I’d tossed the ruined outfit before retiring for the day, not wanting her to have to deal with the reminder of why she’d chosen to get drunk in the first place. But scenting her everywhere caused me to return to my room and pull up the surveillance video feed to watch how she’d spent her time in my home.
She’d entered every room. Checked every surface. Opened drawers , cabinets, and closets. A part of me said I should be concerned at the very least seeing her going through my things. But even without the ability to rewind our blood tie to tell me how she’d been feeling at the time of her scavenger hunt, I could see it on her face. She felt uncomfortable. Extremely so. Knitted eyebrows and pursed lips accompanied her every step throughout her exploration. As though she didn’t really want to look, but had to.
Perhaps she felt the need to familiarize herself with what I kept in my home in order for her to do her job to the best of her ability. Perhaps she was looking for clues that would give her insight into the man behind the door. There was nothing telling for her to find. Nothing that would lead her to believe there was something more peculiar about the individual I portrayed myself to be. Not in those rooms. But I couldn’t begrudge her curiosity. I had done that and more. And so I watched as she appraised my home with a small part of me wondering if perhaps she was attempting to picture herself living within these walls.
I couldn’t say I wasn’t close to picturing that myself.
As I continued to be a voyeur into her recent past, I watched as she moved to my bedroom door and let her finger hover above the sensor pad. Had she scanned it, she would have found it would not have allowed her access to my resting place, so I was glad she’d stopped herself from doing so. Cold skin and a strict diet were one thing.
No heartbeat was something else entirely.
It was also something I had no clever excuse for, but I had already formulized plans to distract her from noticing.
Plan A – Orgasms.
Plan B – Redouble efforts of Plan A.
With the sun finally setting, I exited my suite and reached out to her through my blood. Expecting to find her no more than one floor below given the time and yet finding she was farther away than that.
Much farther away.
I silently berated myself for already worrying. She was a young but grown woman. The sun had just set moments earlier and younger vampires were only now able to rise. I’d been given no reason to suspect any of those in my fealty would be a danger to her and no indication there were others of my kind newly lurking about in my territory. She had managed to get along just fine before I came along and started beheading vampires to claim her homeland as my territory, so I ignored my growing unease and proceeded out of my chambers.
Entering my office, I noticed the presence of her laptop and the missing key fob. To appease my anxiety, I told myself she was likely too absorbed in driving her new company car to notice the time. She was too far away for me to detect any of her emotions, so the excuse worked for a minute.
Two at best.
Until my mind flashed to the Den of Iniquity she’d chosen to get drunk in the night before.
No longer able to ignore my own burden I pulled up the GPS tracking device all of my cars were equipped with, hoping to find her blazing a trail down the interstate in order to be on time for our seven o’clock appointment.
She only had three minutes to work with.
Instead my eyes grew wide seeing the car wasn’t moving. In fact, it was at a standstill and according to the vehicle log, had been for several hours.
At Callaghan’s home address.
My feet took two steps and nearly leapt into the sky from my office balcony when I recalled my idiocy from the night before. If something had happened to the car. A mechanical malfunction. A flat tire. A fucking cat got lodged in the undercarriage and rendered it un-drivable. I would need a way to take her back to the casino that didn’t involve glamouring away her memories of our flight.
Or being doused with regurgitated cheap liquor.
With her love of Aston Martin’s, she would likely know the monetary value of the car I’d given her to drive and would be hesitant to leave without it.
If that was the case, she obviously didn’t know her own worth.
My phone showed there were several messages awaiting me from others which I ignored, but no new messages from her. No indication something was amiss. No word she would be late. Instead of being angry, I only grew more concerned.
I called her cell phone in order to see where she was. Now that it was precisely seven o’clock, I even had a valid reason to do so.
But it merely rang and rang until it finally went to voicemail.
Even turned off I would be able to locate it and my computer showed it too was at Callaghan’s address. It was my tipping point. Something I couldn’t ignore. He was too new to my territory for me not to worry about her safety in a one on one situation with him, so I ignored the paperwork awaiting me on my desk and went straight to the parking garage. My Maserati was nearly outside of the city limits on the way to Callaghan’s when my blood told me to slow down.
And turn left.
I followed the commands of my internal GPS – Go Procure Sookie – when our weak connection became stronger. Her fear flared inside of me. And then her worry. And I only grew more concerned when our tie led me to the city hospital. Her mental anguish was at the forefront and the only reason I was able to maintain any semblance of control was feeling no physical pain from her.
Given the cause for her to be in my employ – my previous assistant’s unfortunate loss in a game of chicken with a Mack truck – I surmised she’d likely been in an automobile accident. Perhaps right outside of Callaghan’s home. She was likely worried about my reaction to the damage done to the car and that was the reason she hadn’t found the courage to notify me yet.
But I didn’t give a fuck about the car.
It was my new assistant who was irreplaceable.
I strode into the emergency room and immediately discontinued breathing. I didn’t want to be distracted by the scent of fresh blood since it had been a while since I’d last fed from a fresh source. Having tasted Sookie’s blood the night before had already spoiled my appetite for any other, so it wasn’t a hardship to ignore the walking wounded and instead I let my blood be my guide. I glamoured the front desk attendant into buzzing the doors open and followed the pulsing of her heartbeat in my chest until I found her.
In a trauma room with two policemen flanking the door as guards.
I glamoured them away and walked in. Peering around the curtain, the last obstacle separating us, I once again stopped short and was slapped in the face.
Instead of finding my bruised and battered future lover convalescing in the sterile bed, she was sitting in a chair beside it.
With Mott’s pet occupying the bed instead.
“Sookie?” I asked softly, seeing the other girl was asleep.
Her head whipped around and the sight of tears in her eyes had my feet moving forward, but the tension that rose in her body upon seeing me made me stop short.
Before she could slap me in the face.
“Who is Mickey Callaghan?” she hissed out, feeling both weary and wary.
I attributed her emotions to the unknown events of the day that brought her here and stalled for time, asking, “What?” My eyes darted over to her friend and only then did I notice the bite marks on her neck and what I could see of her chest.
My fangs fought to free themselves realizing at least part of the reason for her to be here.
Mott had admitted to me in Jackson that he owed Callaghan a debt. It was why Mott had allowed him the free use of his New Orleans home.
I was guessing a ranch in the suburbs was no longer payment enough.
“Mickey Callaghan,” she repeated. “Who is he to you?”
It wasn’t until she stood up with her inquisition that I noticed her clothing was torn. Dirt and blood smeared along her sleeves and pants. Seeing her bandaged arms, my lungs automatically pulled the surrounding air in through my nose and confirmed the scent of her blood in the air.
And Callaghan’s scent all over the girl.
“What happened?” I asked, no longer concerned about anything else and fighting the urge to bite into my wrist to force the open wound to her lips. “How were you injured?”
More tears filled her eyes as she looked up at me and said, “What happened was I went to Callaghan’s house to drop off his stuff when I…I…I heard her crying inside.”
Our bond flickered. Like an injured bird it swirled around and around in the air between us. Unsure of where it would land until it finally thudded to the ground and slowly stretched out with both wings to cover each end of the spectrum.
Her statement was both a truth and a lie.
It left me confused. I had nothing I could compare it to having never shared my blood before. But it was something I would have to think on later because, unaware of our supernatural connection, she continued on with, “I recognized her voice. She’s my best friend from back home. When she didn’t respond to my yelling out her name, I broke in through a window. I…I…I found her. She was all alone. Tied up to a bed. Completely naked. And her body is covered in…in…puncture marks.”
Despite seeing her obvious distress, anger flared up in me as I hissed out, “You broke in to a house? A house you suspected to be dangerous? All by yourself? Why didn’t you call the police?”
I might end up having to glamour her after all. Not to forget anything to do with me or my kind, but to have some sort of regard for her own personal fucking safety.
She ignored my harsh rebuke and my livid expression. In fact, we were once again matchy matchy when she hissed out, “What in the hell was I supposed to do? Call 911 and wait outside? What if she stopped crying? What if the cops told me it was probably just the TV? What if they had to wait for a warrant? Bullshit! They can put me in jail for breaking into that fucker’s house. I wasn’t going to leave her there.”
Bullshit, indeed. It was all bullshit. The fact she had no self-preservation instincts. The fact Callaghan had been so careless. The fact he’d chosen his debt to be repaid in the form of my assistant’s best friend.
Yes, bullshit just about covered it.
“Now, who is Callaghan? I used his home phone to call 911 and told the cops I was there to drop off paperwork for his security system, so they were going to call your firm for details. Is he just a client?”
Her eyes regarded me cautiously, but the fact she was even asking told me they hadn’t found his resting place. From the files my security firm maintained, I knew it to be underneath the house in the crawl space. Hidden and camouflaged to blend in with the existing duct work. Fireproof and virtually impenetrable. He could enter and exit from a hidden trapdoor in the floorboards of the bedroom closet or use a second door that would allow him to escape from underneath the house. If the police were there when he rose, I had no doubt he’d used the latter and was already long gone.
And if he wanted to escape his automatic death sentence, it was his best option.
There were too many individuals involved for me to try and contain the clusterfuck I now found myself in. Glamouring the incident from their memories wasn’t an option as it had likely already made the evening news, so I replied, somewhat truthfully, “He is not just a client. He is also a newly hired bartender at the casino. All of the employees are given discounted rates at all of my businesses and he had chosen to have my firm outfit his home with an alarm system.”
His personnel file at the casino contained nothing but the information to corroborate his human identity, so I would gladly hand it over to the detectives I was sure would come looking for it.
Placated by my response, her shoulders sagged just as her chest started to heave with quiet sobs. Staying away from her was literally impossible, so I crossed the distance still separating us and gathered her into my arms. Her body took comfort in my embrace and when her cries slowed, I softly asked, “What has your friend said about what happened?”
I would have no choice but to try and contain at least that much. The knowledge of our existence to humans couldn’t be left unchecked.
Even if I had to glamour my assistant as well.
“She’s…blocked it? Her memories are hazy. She was completely out of it until we were in the ambulance and on the way to the hospital. It was like she was finally waking up from a bad dream. She doesn’t know how she got to New Orleans or anything else. The last thing she remembers is closing up her shop on Saturday night. It’s closed on Sunday and Monday, so no one would’ve known she was missing until she didn’t open the shop today. And she took off without telling anyone just last week, so I doubt anybody would go looking for her right way. The doctor said it’s normal for someone to not remember a trauma like that. Their mind blocks the memory of it all as a way of coping.” She paused and her breath hitched in her throat when she added, “She doesn’t remember, but they think she was raped.”
I hadn’t needed a rape kit for confirmation. His scent was literally oozing out of her pores.
“The only good thing is they could tell he’s sterile, so she doesn’t have to worry about getting pregnant,” she added.
It wasn’t the only good thing in my mind. At least he’d been bright enough to have kept her under glamour while he’d had her. The effects would’ve faded somewhat when he died for the day, so it was likely the cause for her to be frightened and crying during the daytime when she woke to find herself tied to a bed with no memory as to how she got there. Being taken away from the home and away from the source of her glamour, it would’ve broken the effect completely. I would still need to question her myself later on under my own glamour. It could be she did remember some details of her attack, but was too afraid to admit anything. Finding out monsters were real and lived amongst humans wasn’t an easy thing to disclose. Especially to other humans who had the capability of having you confined to a padded room.
Situations such as this were quite rare. Vampires normally killed their prey after playing with their food, so typically it was the aftermath I was left to deal with. Contain what I could. Erase what I couldn’t. And punish the offender for making me have to do it at all. A live victim being found, like in this case, was unheard of in this day and age. And in this day and age it would be impossible to contain much, so I could only hope to minimize the damage.
We continued to stand there with her still in my arms. One hand slowly stroked her back while the other ran through her hair, hoping to soothe away her worries, when she finally spoke again.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call you. My phone must have dropped out of my purse in the car when I was looking for the one I was supposed to drop off there. I have that one with me, but I couldn’t get it to turn on to use it and I figured you’d be asleep anyway. I was getting ready to call you when you walked in. I’m guessing your security firm told you what happened?”
“Something like that,” I replied softly.
I knew one of the messages I’d ignored on my phone was from the Were in charge of my security firm during the daytime, so it would be true had I checked. Similar to my own phone, the one she was to deliver to Callaghan was made to order by my own tech lab for each individual vampire in my territory and was one of the lab’s best sellers among the supernatural community. To the naked eye it looked like any other smartphone, but in order for it to be accessed, it required a sample of the owner’s blood to complete the authentication process. Each phone also had a hidden application that allowed us to communicate supernatural business in coded messages that were encrypted. And each one contained a small amount of acid that, when released, would literally melt the inside components if it was lost or stolen. They merely had to contact my firm and the phone would be rendered useless instantly.
There was an app for that.
Her body sagged in my arms and I could feel her strength leaving her. With her adrenaline gone, all she was left feeling was tired. Hungry. Physically drained.
“When was the last time you ate anything?” I asked.
After our previous night’s debacle, I was almost hesitant to ask, but her wellbeing outweighed any backlash she might have felt over my question.
“I don’t know,” she sighed and burrowed herself further into my chest. “If salt and limes don’t count, then Sunday maybe?”
See? No self-preservation instincts whatsoever.
“Considering they didn’t stay in your system long enough for your body to absorb any nutrients, no, they don’t count.” She chuckled softly at the reminder until I said, “There’s nothing more you can do here for your friend. Let me take you home and I’ll order dinner for you. You can return to her in the morning.”
I would call on Thalia to stand guard over the girl in case Callaghan was stupid enough to try and retrieve her. Once Sookie was fed, in bed, and asleep, I would take to the skies to try and track him down.
“No,” she argued with her pulling away and pulling from a hidden reserve of strength. “I’m sorry. I know I’m supposed to be working right now, but I’m not leaving her. I can’t leave her. Not like this. Not after everything she’s already been through. She has no one else.”
I didn’t bother to raise my objections. She felt so strongly about her statement that I knew it would do no good.
My eyes narrowed down out her. More out of concern for her than anger over her refusal. I admired her loyalty. Even if it made her act rashly at times.
And perhaps I hoped she would feel just as strongly if it had been me.
“Your work is done for the day,” I pacified. “The week, if need be. Stay here. I’ll speak with the police about Callaghan and give them what information I have on him. I’ll return shortly.”
Relief and gratitude radiated from her. With or without our bond, I would’ve known because she refastened her arms around my waist and pressed her head against my chest, softly whispering out, “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” I warned teasingly. “Just wait until you see the uniform I expect you to wear on Super Bowl Sunday.”
“Just remember that as my teammate, you’ll be expected to wear the same one,” she chuckled softly.
It was so odd to feel comfort on two sides. My own for having her safely in my arms and feeling hers from being in my embrace.
“Our birthday suits, it is,” I murmured into the top of her head. Placing a soft kiss to her crown, I added, “We’ll make a fetching pair.”
My words weren’t meant to evoke her desire or my own, but an attempt at regaining some sense of normalcy.
At least normal for us.
It was torture to let her out of my arms, but I had many things I needed to do before I could return to her side, for at least a few hours. I found the policemen in the waiting room where I’d glamoured them to go, but before releasing them from my will, I learned all they knew of Callaghan so far. Which was essentially nothing. I then released them from my hold and told them all I knew – of his human identity – and informed them his personnel file would be delivered to the station within the hour.
Once I was back in my car I sent out a mass email to all of the vampires in my territory, informing them Callaghan was wanted by me. I attached the photo taken for his work ID and let it be known anyone who harbored or aided him in fleeing from me, and did not come forward immediately, would bear the full brunt of my wrath as though they were Callaghan themselves. He couldn’t have gotten very far in the hour that the sun had been down and I knew my best bet at finding him would be now.
But to do that would mean leaving Sookie alone. Possibly for hours on end, when she was tired, hungry, and scared for her friend.
The protector in me warred with the long forgotten nurturer. I wanted her to be safe and in order to do that I had to eliminate the threat Callaghan represented, either to her or her friend.
Because I had no doubts she would put herself in his path if he came calling on the girl.
But sensing her emotions as I now could brought out feelings I hadn’t had in a millennia. For the first time since I’d been with my human family, I wanted to take care of someone. To provide nourishment. Shelter. Hopefully comfort by my mere presence.
Yet another strange but welcome sensation.
My concern for her safety trumped every other feeling she evoked within me, so I exited the car and contacted the demon lawyer to bring the appropriate files on Callaghan to the police. With that done I called the hospital’s Chief of Staff personally to request the girl be moved to a private room. I informed him I would pay for all of her medical expenses, as well as expressing my desire that my assistant not be hassled about remaining with her friend for the night. Being a generous benefactor of the hospital, he didn’t hesitate to agree.
After calling on Thalia to come and stand guard, I flew to Callaghan’s home. Seeing the navy blue jackets with ‘FBI’ emblazoned on the back kept me from landing and I guessed their involvement stemmed from the girl’s kidnapping. I remained hidden in the darkness as I circled the property in a wide perimeter, trying to pick up Callaghan’s scent and hit pay dirt two blocks over. It was fresh with him heading west, but I didn’t take off after him right away.
Hearing the plastic wheels rolling down the concrete driveway three doors down naturally got my attention. Remembering how my own hubris had left me wounded after my last hunt made me meet up with the unsuspecting suburbanite where he left his trash can at the curb. I hadn’t truly fed since that night over two weeks earlier and had been getting by on bagged blood and the small amount I’d gotten from Sookie. I needed to be at my strongest if I was going to fight, so I glamoured my meal from him and ignored the similarities between our nightly chores.
We were both tending to the garbage.
I’d hoped the taste of fresh blood would be enough to at least temper the desire I now had for Sookie’s, and while he tasted as though he led a relatively healthy lifestyle, it only made me crave hers all the more.
At least she viewed kissing as a contact sport, so I’d have to make due with that.
I tracked Callaghan back to New Orleans. He seemed to pass through every main tourist draw there was, I assumed in an attempt to hide, but eventually it led me to train tracks that ended at the Port of New Orleans. It was the only deep-water port in the country served by six major railroads and was starting point for some 6000 vessels bringing 500 tons of cargo up the Mississippi river each year. Which meant I was soon inundated by the overwhelming scents of coffee, steel, lumber, and rubber. Callaghan could be in any one of the endless rows of shipping containers. He could be on a boat headed up the river or on one headed south into the gulf. A cruise ship. A rail car. Even at night the port was alive with activity, so it would be nearly impossible to continue tracking him without drawing attention to myself.
But another perk of immortality meant that time held no meaning. It could be tomorrow or a hundred years from now; I would see justice served.
With that being a bust, I flew back towards the hospital and stopped in at the nearest shops where I purchased appropriate attire for both Sookie and her friend. Feeling her hunger again now that I was close enough, I also procured takeout from one of the better restaurants for them both and finally returned to the hospital.
I motioned Thalia’s dismissal for the night with nothing more than a slight nod in her direction and located Sookie through my blood, finding her at her friend’s bedside in a private suite on the sixth floor. There were two beds in the room, but she’d chosen the chair closest to her friend and her closed eyes flicked open at my arrival. Sookie slowly got up to join me on the other side of the room where I set everything down on a coffee table in front of a couch. It was far enough away that we wouldn’t disturb the girl and I motioned for her to take a seat as I handed her a container of food and asked, “How’s your friend doing?”
Mention any vampires, did she?
Her gratitude managed to even outshine the hunger she felt smelling the aroma wafting from the container and she took it with a smile and said, “Thank you. And Tara, she’s…fine? I guess? I mean, they gave her some really good drugs, so she’s probably out for the night. But it’s like she doesn’t realize what she’s been through. Honestly, I think I’m more traumatized than her at the moment.”
“Understandable,” I agreed, “but maybe you can view it as a small victory for her. If she can’t remember what she’s been through, then hopefully she’ll never have to relive it. While her body might have been freed, her memories could’ve held her captive for many years to come.”
My eyes fell to her injured arms and for a brief moment I thought of slipping a bit of my blood into her drink, only to realize it would just create more suspicions when her injuries miraculously disappeared.
Things would be so much easier if I didn’t have to hide what I was around her.
I could feel the comfort she felt, either over my words or her not so miraculously disappearing meal, when she eventually asked, “What’s wrong with you?”
I’m a vampire? I want to TELL you I’m a vampire? Take your pick.
“Plenty,” I replied with a small smile and took a seat next to her. “But you’ll have to be more specific if you want specifics.”
She’d asked in an almost lazy way, as though the words had entered her mind and slipped right through her lips, so I waited while she took another bite and then said, “Your sheer audacity and questionable ass taste in dominatrix outfits aside, you’re funny. Smart. Sweet. Walking talking sex on a stick. So why are you still single?”
“Did you not read the contract you signed?” I smiled. “You answered your own question. That equally cheeky ass,” I pointed to what she was sitting on, “is mine. I have the signature to prove it. You see, I also have an outrageous sense of entitlement and an equally absurd belief that I should always get my way.”
Her eyes sparkled for the first time that night as she chuckled at my true statement and said, “So you’re in a perpetual state of going through the terrible-two’s with the world being your sandbox. You’re just a lot taller and have moves like Jagger. But speaking of absurd, I left your car at the asshole’s house.”
Not wanting her to dwell on the asshole now that I felt her burden lifting somewhat, I ignored that part and asked, “Did you enjoy driving it? I know it’s not your dream car, but I thought you might like it.”
“I felt bad they used the last of the unicorns for the upholstery, but then I started the engine and realized I was riding bareback on a griffin. I decided I didn’t care if they ripped them out of a crying Baby Jesus’s personal flock. I nearly came,” she added just as casually along with a small nod and then popped a piece of potato into her mouth while I gauged her words against my blood.
She wasn’t lying.
“Perhaps from now on you’ll have to do all of your errands at night. With me there. In the passenger’s seat. For safety reasons.”
And perhaps I’d activate the hidden in-dash webcam in any case.
“Perhaps if you’d been awake I would’ve thanked you in person.” Her raised eyebrow told me she hadn’t meant to thank me with a Hallmark.
“I’m awake now.” One part in particular was very awake.
She locked her mischievous eyes onto mine and set her food aside. Wiping her mouth clean with her napkin, she ran her tongue over her lips and sat forward. Leaning towards me, she let her eyes travel down to my lips where they stayed for a moment before moving on and coming to a rest on my crotch. Neither one of us realized I’d mimicked her movements and was now much closer to her until she looked up and her lips were a hair’s breadth away from my own as she whispered, “Thank you.”
And then sat back in her seat and popped another potato into her mouth with a grin.
And I was thisclose to throwing myself down onto the floor and showing how a true tantrum was thrown.
She laughed at my low growl as she picked up one of the bags I’d left beside her chair and pulled out the clothing I’d purchased for them. They weren’t anything special and had been selected with their comfort in mind, consisting of age-appropriate casualwear. Her lightheartedness took a hit as we were both inundated with the waves of gratitude now coursing through her.
With no clue as to why and not a peep from her, she stood up and then sat right back down.
In my lap.
She curled into me like she’d done it a thousand times before, but it was several moments before I heard her sniffle and say, “When they moved Tara into this room, I told them she didn’t have any health insurance. I was already setting aside money in my mental checkbook to help her out when they told me you arranged for the room and that you arranged to pay for her medical bills. Instead of a burger and fries, you brought me a filet mignon that melted like butter in my mouth. Instead of leather and corsets, you brought comfy sweats and tees for me and my friend you’ve never even met.”
She shifted enough to look up at me and placed a hand on each side of my face. Gently pulling me down, she met me in the middle and left a chaste kiss on my lips as she whispered out a heartfelt, “Thank you.”
The night hadn’t gone anywhere near as I’d planned, but I couldn’t say I didn’t like where we’d ended up. While I’d already learned Sookie could be quite candid when expressing her opinions or feelings, the genuine sincerity she felt when thanking me didn’t leave me unaffected.
But I seemed to be affected by everything about her.
I could feel her sitting on the fence. Sad sat on one side while happy lurked on the other. I knew she was still fearful over her friend’s situation and knowing I would have to leave her there to contend with it on her own come sunrise, I decided to pull her towards a happy place.
Or rather, grind her against my happy place, and teasingly asked, “If I track down an actual centaur for you to ride bareback, how will you thank me then?”
“That depends,” she laughed softly. “Is that your nickname for the Little Eric in your pants?”
“Nothing about him is little,” I scoffed. “Feel free to check for yourself.”
“That’s not what your itty bitty red underwear would imply.”
“You were snooping in my underwear drawers?” I jokingly gasped. The fact she’d brought it up herself when the cameras in my penthouse were hidden did away with the little piece of doubt I’d held onto up until then.
“What snooping?” she giggled. “I got lost on the way to my grandmother’s house and was chased into your business suits by the big bad wolf. When I didn’t come across any of the seven dwarves or a bridge with a riddle making troll toll to pay, I got hungry and foraged in your drawers looking for something to eat.”
“I’m feeling a bit peckish myself.” Nuzzling into her hair, I playfully ran my hands up under her ass and added, “I think I’ll do a little foraging of drawers myself.”
She giggled again and nearly shot out of my lap when I hit a ticklish spot, asking, “Who says I’m wearing any?”
I probably would’ve tried to take things a little farther had I not felt the slight pain she felt where she’d hurt herself rescuing her friend. I’d seen the broken window on the back side of Callaghan’s house and figured she’d crawled through it to get inside. Not wanting to ruin the mood, I kept my angry tirade to myself and settled her back in my lap, wrapping my arms around her and said, “I doubt you’d want to wake the entire floor, so you’re lucky I suspect you’re a screamer or else I’d be forced to mythbuster the urban legend of Commando Sookie.”
She snorted softly against my shoulder while her fingertip traced invisible patterns across my chest. She was so relaxed I could’ve wondered if she’d fallen asleep which was why I was startled when she sat up ramrod straight. Looking me in the eyes, she asked in a pleading tone, “Seriously! What is wrong with you? You’re too perfect. You even give good cuddles. You’re ‘Louisiana’s hottest catch’ for a reason, so why haven’t you been caught? Is your iPod filled with nothing but 90’s boy bands? Is your sunlight allergy just bullshit and really you’re just playing World of Warcraft all day? Do you wear polyester leisure suits and don a fake pornstache disguise, so you can sneak out and lounge lizard Air Supply’s greatest hits on karaoke night?”
And she thought me perfect.
She had yet to say anything that didn’t completely captivate me and now was no different, but not liking the air supply in between us, I pulled her back to lie against me and said, “Barry Manilow, actually.”
“Damn it,” she fake sighed. “I knew it was too good to be true.”
“I also have a Facebook girlfriend. She’s dying of prostate cancer, so until she succumbs we’ll have to keep our practices to just scrimmages.”
“I admire your sense of loyalty,” she managed to choke out through her laughter. “Tell me,” she asked. “Is her name by chance…Mandy?”
Shaking my head slowly, I smiled and said, “Her name is Lola.”
“She was a showgirl?” Sookie played along.
“With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut, just cut down to there,” I nodded and poked the center of her fifty yard line.
Sookie was still happily, if not drowsily, humming the tune hours later when the coming sunrise coupled with her own admirable sense of loyalty forced me to leave her there.