Sitting beside her on the couch and watching her fingers fly across the keyboard, I didn’t know which pissed me off more. The fact my laptop was now an added barrier to what lied just beneath it or my earlier reaction to feeling her sadness.
My overwhelming need to comfort her made me…uncomfortable.
Flirting with her was easily done. While I’d grown unaccustomed to playing with my food, as it were – thanks to the women who relentlessly threw themselves at me at the bar – it had been easy to fall back into the seldom needed habit of having to work for someone’s attention.
And Sookie had undoubtedly captured mine.
But seeing her tears…
Hearing her sobbing cries…
Feeling her clutching at me as though I, of all creatures, was a life preserver…
I couldn’t stand it.
Any of it.
Nor could I understand why.
So instead I just blamed the magic of her allure.
But that didn’t explain why I was perfectly content to sit there now, being ignored by her in favor of surfing the internet, instead of trying to quell my other wants with her.
As the sadistic doctor had said, there was only one way to find out if all of me would be accepted by all of her.
And I knew very well Sookie wasn’t researching that at the moment.
“Here,” she exclaimed, pointing at the screen and pulling me from my thoughts, while confirming them at the same time. “This is the chatroom I stumbled across not long after you all made yourselves known.”
I’d been surprised by her idea to place the blame with drainers and even more astonished she would so willingly make herself my silent partner in the Three-card Monte game we were playing with the queen.
But her explanation begged the question, “Why were you looking into the goings on of drainers?”
It wasn’t because I didn’t trust her. Perhaps had I known about her knowledge of drainers beforehand, I wouldn’t have died beside her for the day, but she’d had every opportunity to do me harm and she hadn’t.
Now I was merely curious.
“I wasn’t,” she denied with a shrug. “I was just curious about vampires in general.” And then looking at me with a mischievous glint in her eyes, she added, “But if you’d rather, we can look at the chatrooms filled with your adoring fans, Master.”
Hearing her call me Master again didn’t have the same effect as when she’d done it at the bar the night before. Perhaps because of my suspicions as to what she had read about me, so I forced myself to ask, “You knew of me? Before I ever came knocking on your door?”
I’d seen no recognition in her eyes that night. Nothing but caution and wariness had seeped into her blue orbs.
“Not really,” she chuckled. “But now that I know you own Fangtasia – and seeing your throne for myself – I can read between the coded lines.” Looking back at the screen, she added with a playful lilt to her voice, “And from what I’ve read, you’re quite the catch.”
But her mood went from playful to insecure in a flash and my suspicions were soon proven true when she added in a whispered mumble I probably wasn’t meant to hear, “Seems you’re easily caught too.”
Fucking venfican allure making me give a fuck she’d read about my fucking exploits.
While I questioned my own sanity for feeling the need to…what?
Apologize for my actions?
Complain to anyone who would listen about her immunity to glamour?
Her fingers went back to tapping away on the keyboard, while she stared pointedly at the screen, and her internal fortitude strengthened when she asked out of the blue, “Are you sure you want me to stay here? With you, I mean?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
What did any of that have to do with her?
Taking a deep breath as she gathered her thoughts, she gathered her long hair off to one side and twisted it – mimicking the slight twisting I could feel inside of her – before she left it dangling in a knotted mass of golden waves. Returning her hands to the laptop, she went back to pecking away at the keyboard and finally filled the silence with her reply of, “I don’t want to impose…you know…in case your uh…other friends come here looking for you.”
“I can just check into a motel or something,” she offered, still not looking at me. Her mood shifted so that it was like staring at a blank page, giving neither me nor our blood tie anything to go on, despite the smile she forced onto her lips, as she said, “It’ll be like a mini vacation.”
“Hmm?” she murmured, pretending to focus on her work, but her fingers had stalled over the keys.
But already tired of being ignored, I took the laptop and placed it on the coffee table out of her reach. And then reaching over, I pulled her chin to face me and when her eyes finally met my own, I said, “I have no other friends and no one but Pam even knows the location of this house.”
Instead of appeasing her, my words seemed to have had the opposite effect and her frightened eyes grew wide, while a shiver worked its way down her spine, when she admitted, “I don’t want to be turned into a skin suit.”
“I’m hippy,” she huffed. “And not in the way that means I like to hug trees. I could probably make two skin suits to the size of one Pam.”
Then shaking her head, she tried to stand up, but my hands went to her hips that were only meant to hug my tree, while she muttered, “I don’t want to piss off your uh…friend. While I might be deadly to some vampires, I’m obviously not deadly to all of them. And thanks to my recent enlightenment, I know I’m not immortal. I might not have much of a life, but it’s mine and I’d hate to, you know…pop your girlfriend or make you have to dig out the OxiClean on the off-chance she made a Sookie-stain on your hardwoods.”
Her talk of ‘Sookie-stains’ and ‘hardwoods’ were evoking images of a different kind, but I forced myself to focus on another word she’d used.
Hoping to ease her rising anxiety, I couldn’t quite hide my amusement over her misconception, despite the fact she would have no way of knowing otherwise, as I explained, “Sookie, Pam isn’t my girlfriend. She is my child.”
“Who’s her daddy?” she asked incredulously.
I couldn’t say it.
No way in hell would the words, ‘I’m her daddy’ ever fall from my lips.
If Pam ever found out, I would never hear the end of it.
At the very least, I would be inundated with ties, depicting golf tees and the like, every Father’s Day for an eternity.
‘Never’ had an entirely different meaning to immortals.
So I chose other words that would convey the same thing by finishing my thought with, “Maker. I am Pam’s Maker. The one who made her into a vampire. It’s why she is the only one who knows of the location where I rest. I trust her implicitly.”
“Yes,” I agreed, with a small smile. “Oh.”
And in spite of my better judgment – which seemed to fail me at every turn in her presence – I found myself adding, “And as for anyone else you may have read about, they were nothing more than a means to an end. I don’t know the names to half of them and the other half, only because they told it to me thinking I gave a damn. They certainly didn’t get to know me as you have, nor would they ever have been brought to my home.”
For whatever reason, I needed for her to know that.
That she was as unique as…
A venefican vampire slayer/possible fairy weapon, wandering around a Louisiana bayou.
No longer blank, her emotions were more like a crumpled page, too jumbled for me to make any sense of them.
Part elated. Part worried. Part apologetic.
So I only had her words to go on and the visible corroboration of them, when the tension noticeably eased from her shoulders, while she said, “You don’t have to explain anything to me, Eric. I met you four nights ago and you’ve been around for a thousand years. How you chose – choose – to pass the time is none of my business.”
And yet her choice of switching to the present tense, didn’t sit well.
Chose versus choose.
I didn’t know why.
Or perhaps I didn’t want to admit to the likely answer myself.
So I said nothing – not knowing what to say – and sat silently at her side, while she went back to working on the laptop. After all, as she had said, it had only been four nights.
Five thousand seven hundred and sixty minutes.
I hadn’t touched another woman in that time and had fed only from bagged donor blood, and that I would willingly admit – to myself, at least – was because of Sookie. Her scent spoiled me in that everyone else smelled like shit in comparison, so I hadn’t even been tempted by any other.
But four nights certainly wasn’t a record dry spell for me.
Not with a life spanning a thousand years.
But if you whittled those thousand years down to the last two, since the Great Revelation, then…
Thankfully she interrupted my mental call to Guinness, by pointing at the screen and saying, “Here! What do you think about this guy?”
The guy she was referencing smiled back at us from the image on the screen. But he was nothing like what I expected.
Given what I’d seen and dealt with firsthand, when it came to drainers, I expected to see someone in need of dental work.
Someone who could seamlessly slip into the cast of Deliverance.
Someone who likely smelled of stale beer, sweaty ass, and crotch rot.
Not someone who looked like he could seamlessly fit into any boardroom or country club.
But taking in the rest of the image, I asked with a bit of awe, “Did you hack into his DMV records?”
“Sshhh…” she snickered and then whispered, “Don’t tell anyone.”
And then completely downplaying her remarkable abilities, she went on to say, “Meet James Bailey. Husband of Melissa, father of son James Junior, and daughter Jaime. If they spawn a third time, they’d better hope for a boy because I think ‘Jameson’ is the only name left for mister narcissist to use in building his army of mini-mes. But if there’s any justice in the world, the kids are actually the products of an affair with the pool boy.”
“You know all of this, how?” I asked, still choking on my astonishment.
I hadn’t been paying any attention to what she’d been doing on the laptop.
Too busy choking on my own self-absorption, worried she would think less of me for the way I’d chosen to spend my time, prior to meeting her.
Or was it that she would discount her own importance to me?
But was she important beyond the possibility of being a fairy WMD?
Every action – or inaction – I’d taken thus far was proof enough that she was.
Not that I would admit to it out loud.
“Here,” she offered, with her clicking through various windows. “I traced his IP address from his chatroom account back to his house, just outside of Barksdale AFB. He runs some big shot security firm that has contracts with the military. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram gave me the rest.”
And then looking back at me, she warned, “Social media can be a stalker’s best friend. If you give me a little more time, I’m sure I can dredge up the identities of the rest of his posse. But this guy would definitely have the means, knowhow, and manpower to pull off something like catching Andre.”
Reeling for a moment on everything she’d managed to find within literal moments of beginning her search, I couldn’t find much to add to the conversation just yet.
And in spite of everything she’d just said, all I could manage to focus on was just how remarkable Sookie was regardless of her other attributes.
But she’d pointed out a critical human flaw I hadn’t thought to exploit. While vampire were generally secretive by nature, most humans seemed to want attention in any way possible. I’d known of the social media outlets, of course, and Fangtasia even had its own accounts on some of those she’d listed.
It was the way of the internet age and businesses could either adapt or die.
Something vampire had been doing for centuries.
But I’d never taken any interest in them. Vainglorious prick, though I may be, I had neither the time nor the inclination to keep up with any of it. I’d seen no need.
However Sookie was showing me our kind still had a long way to go when it came to adapting.
And now that I could see the usefulness of such things, I found myself offering, “You know, I would pay you to do this type of work for me.”
But mentioning ‘work’ reminded me she already had a job and without thinking it through, I wondered aloud, “Is anyone going to report your disappearance?”
Feeling the sudden stab of pain in her gut, I realized how tactless my question would sound – given her circumstances – and quickly added, “Your work. I meant will those for whom you work report you missing.”
“It’s okay,” she eventually replied and turned her sad smile towards me to add, “I guess that’s one good thing about living like a hermit. There’s nobody who’s going to come looking for me. And even if they did, there’s no one who can say for sure just how long I’ve been gone.”
“Sookie…” I started, about to assure her I would notice her disappearance and come looking for her.
And I wouldn’t stop until I’d found her.
But she held up her hand and stopped me, saying, “But to answer your question, no. I can still do my job from anywhere where there’s internet access. In addition to saving my work to a hard drive, I back everything up onto cloud storage, so I don’t even need to get anything from my house to finish it. No one will be the wiser.”
I felt like an asshole, asking the girl who had no one in her life – other than me now – if anyone would notice her disappearance from it.
It was something she must have suspected because she chose to ignore my dickery and got us back on topic by saying, “But as for your offer, I would gladly do this for you for free. I don’t need the money and had I’d known about vampire sheriffs all along, I probably would have anonymously reported these assholes when I first found them. I know the Bon Temps sheriff well enough to know he wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about drainers and my balls aren’t big enough to have sent an anonymous tip to someone like the FBI. I know my way around a computer okay, but I’m not egotistical enough to think they couldn’t track something like that back to me.”
While I silently marveled over her altruism towards my kind some more, I watched as she pursed her lips and her eyes narrowed, just as she turned to me and asked, “What are you all doing about The Fellowship of the Sun? Those are some seriously fucked up righteous assholes.”
Laughter bubbled out of my throat, both seeing and feeling her absolute disgust, and I shrugged noncommittally as I replied, “They’re all hot air, fanning the infernos from which vampire rise, with their oven-mitted bibles. The scent of garlic repels us no more than an unwashed ass and their crosses can only do us harm if they’re made from silver. But their balls only inflate and turn into brass when the sun is up, so their blustering isn’t a real threat.”
“Eric,” she stared back at me, with all of the seriousness of her tone. “They’re forming their own secret militia to catch vampires, so they can watch them burn during a sunrise service.”
I stared back at her, once again at a loss for what to say.
Possibly the Fae.
As though we didn’t have enough threats to contend with.
Now I had yet another to consider.
But curious didn’t come close to describing what I was now that she’d enlightened me to a threat I hadn’t even seen coming.