“Excuse me, what did you say?” Miss Stackhouse blanches and sways on her feet. Fainting women are not something I feel like dealing with, so I vamp to her side, grabbing her arm to steady her. She shrieks whether from my sudden nearness or the coldness of my fingers, I do not know. However, her bravado returns because she tries to tug her arm free while ordering me to let her go.
“No.” My short response and non-compliance set her off, and she starts calling me every vile name she can think of. In my thousand years of experience, I thought I had heard everything; so I am quite impressed with the fact she has come up with a few insults I’ve never heard of.
Quiet laughter interrupts the venom spewing from Miss Stackhouse’s lips. I knew Dawson was approaching but Miss Stackhouse seems surprised by his presence. Surely if she can sense him a hundred feet from her home she could sense his arrival. Her ability truly fascinates me; I want to know every nuance of how it works.
“Oh good; I didn’t miss the fireworks!” Dawson is still chuckling as he drops a large duffel bag at his feet. I’m sure the bag has everything I’ll need to secure the surviving drainer. “Your meeting is going well I take it?” The grin on his face is so big that all of his teeth are visible; it reminds me of the wolf ready to eat the girl in the red cape from that Brothers’ Grimm story.
Fucking Were! Due to his smartass comments it has me rethinking why I hired him if he is going to be finding humor at my expense. I have enough of this shit to deal with from my progeny; I don’t need the added aggravation from a mangy dog. Before I can turn both my bark and my bite on the lone wolf, Miss Stackhouse interrupts us.
“Why can’t I hear any of you?” Her tone is both wondrous and panicked. I release her arm in confusion. What is she talking about? Dawson and I are talking at a normal volume for human ears? Did she injure her head and I don’t know about it?
“Can you hear me now?” My voice is a loud boom in the stillness of the woods and every critter in the woods goes silent. They recognize that a true apex predator is in their midst.
Miss Stackhouse surprises me by giggling. “I didn’t realize this was a Verizon cell phone commercial! Should I check to see how many bars I have on my phone? Oh wait; I don’t have a cell phone. I’ll have to borrow one of yours.” She giggles again; it’s a musical, infectious sound and I find my lips wanting to curve in response. Unbelievable! Why does this girl cause such atypical responses in me?
Her face sobers and she glances warily between Dawson and me. She sighs before crossing her arms defensively over her chest. My eyes are drawn to how this pushes her breasts together and makes the cotton of her shirt stretch tautly across the breasts I am certain are a size D at least. The outline of her nipples is visible to my heightened eyesight and I have to wonder what color they are. Are they a pink color like the blush of her cheeks or are they a darker brown from her time in the sun? Inquiring minds want to know!
“My eyes are up here ya know,” she snaps. My eyebrow rises in response but I say nothing. I’m not about to apologize for finding her attractive. That would be like asking her to apologize for breathing; it’s an involuntary reaction that cannot be controlled.
“To answer your earlier question,” she says after the silence has stretched between us, “I’ve lived in Bon Temps my whole life. Now I have a question for you. Why have you been having him,” she points to Dawson who is securing the arms and legs of the drainer, “and others like him follow me?”
“What do you mean ‘others like him’?” She can differentiate Weres from humans based on their thoughts alone? This ability gets more interesting the more I learn about it.
Miss Stackhouse looks at a loss for words, as if she is struggling to adequately describe what she encounters. “Most people think in a voice that sounds like the voice you hear audibly. Their thoughts can come across as full sentences, phrases, or even images, but it always sounds like them. You,” she points at me, “I can’t hear at all. You seem like a TV that’s getting nothing but static. And when you were touching me, I couldn’t hear anything. It was so quiet, peaceful. I’ve never felt that before,” she says with a serene smile. My chest swells with pride knowing I was the one responsible for that smile. Seeing her so happy and relaxed makes me feel like I’ve found the fucking cure for cancer and settling the national debt while finding the path to world peace all in one.
“But him,” Miss Stackhouse says while pointing almost apologetically for not referring to Dawson by his given name. “His thoughts are tinged with colors, like it’s an emotion or instinct. And he tends to think more in pictures than words. I’m not really describing it well, but if I had to use a word to describe it, I’d have to say wild or animalistic.”
My grin is devilish when I look at the Were, who is scowling at me as he wraps the corpse in a tarp. “It seems Miss Stackhouse has begged you correctly Dawson; you are a wild dog after all.” Dawson’s looking at me as if he is sucking on a lemon. Rather than rub his face in it anymore, I take control of the conversation. “Miss Stackhouse, I’d like you to meet Tray Dawson, an associate of mine. He and a few others have watched you and your family until I could make contact with you. It was for your protection.”
“Am I in some kind of trouble?” She looks worried and I am quick to reassure her that there is nothing wrong. Not technically a lie, but not the entire truth either. Before I can continue speaking, the Shifter comes running, interrupting our conversation again.
“Dammit Sookie! What the hell do ya think you’re doin’?!?! He’s a vampire; you’re gonna get yourself killed!” The Shifter then grabs Miss Stackhouse by her upper arms and is shaking her like one would those Magic 8 Balls that answer your ridiculous question. How dare he put his paws on her?
I grab the Shifter by the throat and squeeze, cutting off his air supply. My voice is a deadly hiss when I begin speaking. “Remove your filthy paws from her. The only one to hurt her tonight has been you Shifter. Release her or I will do it for you! I do not guarantee you will have all your parts intact if I have to remove your hands from Miss Stackhouse myself.”
In the only intelligent move I’ve seen the Shifter make this evening, he releases the Fae-hybrid. I guess you really can teach an old dog a new trick. As I throw the Shifter away from Miss Stackhouse, I am pleased to see Dawson put himself between Merlotte and Miss Stackhouse. Merlotte’s eyes widen incredulously and he unleashes his fury on Dawson as he rises from the ground.
“You’re working for him now?!?! Since when the fuck have you sided with a vamp over one of your own kind?!?!?!”
Dawson gets right in Merlotte’s face, acting like the true Alpha wolf I know he is. “I’m siding with Northman when he’s done nothing but make sure the Stackhouse family has been protected this past week and plans to keep protecting them in the future. I am siding with the Sheriff of Area Five who is dealing with the issue of two drainers in his territory, something you failed to notify him of. Why is that Merlotte? Were you getting a cut of their sales? Or did you like the idea of one less vampire in the world to offend your delicate sensibilities?”
And that right there is why Tray Dawson has my respect. He focuses on the issues at hand and not choosing sides based on Were versus vampire. Merlotte is gaping like a fish, trying to think of a response to Dawson. Eventually, the Shifter backs down, his tail tucked firmly between his legs. His eyes are pleading with Miss Stackhouse, and the way her eyes narrow in response makes me think she’s heard something she doesn’t like.
“You know what Sam; I think it’d be best if I went home for the night. Clearly you don’t need me in there, and frankly, I don’t wanna be around you with how you’re actin’! I’ll see you tomorrow!” She stomps off, heading back towards the bar. The Shifter calls her name, shouting apologies, and asking her to talk to him. He tries to go after her, but Dawson stays in front of him, making it clear that Miss Stackhouse is to be left alone.
Once I’m confidant Miss Stackhouse can no longer hear us in the literal sense, I turn the full force of my fury on the Shifter. I would like nothing more than to do physical harm to him, but I know it will only damage my fledgling relationship with the young woman. “You will no longer interfere in my business with Miss Stackhouse. She is to be my pet as will her brother and grandmother. If you interfere or harm them in any way from this moment forward, I will enjoy showing you exactly what happens to an animal that is past its time!”
“Your pets?” The Shifter’s voice and expression show his incredulity. “What the hell do you want with the entire family? The Stackhouses are good people; too good to be chewed up and spit out by a damn fanger!”
I’ve had enough of his posturing and blustering. Catching his eyes with my own, I use the full force of my glamour to erase the knowledge of the Stackhouse family’s relationship to me. I also glamour him not to interfere with my dealings with Miss Stackhouse; his will is strong and he tries to fight me. In the end, my glamour wins out. Before releasing him from my influence, I plant the memory that he came to the woods to deal with the Rattrays causing a disturbance on his property. Rather than calling the local police, he tried to deal with it himself. As soon as I finish the cover story, Dawson lands a punch to the gut of the Shifter and then one to his chin; it knocks Merlotte out cold.
I look at Dawson with amusement and he shrugs nonchalantly. “Consider that me going above and beyond the requirements of my job. Asshole had it coming.” He hauls the bound and gagged drainer over his shoulder. He gestures his head towards the body wrapped in the tarp. “If you can get that one, my truck’s at the edge of the woods. I’ll take the woman to Fangtasia. What should I do with the other one?”
“Pam will let you know. She’ll also have something for you as payment for going above and beyond your duties tonight.” I’ve hefted the corpse over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes. We walk in silence to Dawson’s vehicle and deposit our cargo inside the cargo hold. Once the cover is secured over the bodies, Dawson turns to me with a grin which lets me know I’m not gonna like what he has to say.
“You said Pam will have something for me going above and beyond huh? Maybe she’ll wanna play knick-knack, paddy whack, give a dog a bone.”
My progeny has questionable taste when it comes to her sexual partners. She prefers women, which I fully support, but when she decides she wants to play with a man, she prefers virile, rugged men that can dominate her. Pam does not often take a man to her bed, but lately her partner of choice has been Dawson.
“I don’t know, I think you might be in need of a flea bath tonight. You’re lookin’ a little mangy.”
Dawson gives me a slow, wicked grin while scratching his beard. “Pam’s usually good for scratching any itch I’ve got.” My stony expression makes him chuckle again. He climbs into the cab of his truck, turning the key so the engine roars to life. “Have fun talkin’ to Miss Stackhouse. You look like you were doin’ a bang up job before. I’ll be sure to let Pam know all the progress you’ve been makin’.”
Dawson’s chuckles are the last thing I hear as I take off in the sky towards the Stackhouse home. The death trap she calls a car was not in the parking lot. Why the fuck didn’t she wait for me so we could finish our conversation? As I approach the old homestead, I notice no lights are on; even the flickering of the TV is no more. The piece of shit car that had been in the parking lot of the bar is next to the sedan I’d noticed earlier. Does she think she can avoid having this conversation? I may not have an invitation to enter her home, but that won’t stop me from getting to her. It won’t be the first time I’ve torn down a house to get to those inside.
“Are you gonna fly around all night or are you actually gonna talk to me? Some of us need our beauty rest.” Despite the soft tone, the sarcasm is heavy in her voice. As I land on the porch steps, I see Miss Stackhouse sitting on an old wooden porch swing with her body covered by a hideous multi-colored homemade blanket. She’s removed the band from her hair; it falls around her shoulders like spun gold. It makes her look softer, more womanly, and I feel myself drawn to her again. Walking up the porch steps, I notice that she really is exhausted; her eyes are heavy and she keeps yawning.
“Perhaps we should do this another time. You are weary and I do not wish to repeat this conversation because you cannot keep your eyes open.”
Her eyes snap open showing the blue fire within. Clearly she has no sense of self-preservation because she thinks nothing of arguing with a thousand-year old vampire. “Listen Buster; I want some answers! I answered your damn questions earlier; don’t think I didn’t notice you avoided answering mine! Who are you and what do you want?”
Bristling at her tone, I answer in a clipped voice. “My name is Eric Northman; I am Sheriff of Area Five in Louisiana.”
“A vampire sheriff?” Her voice is suspicious as she ponders my words. It’s like I can see the gears turning in her brain as she thinks. Finally she shrugs offhandedly before replying in an even tone. “I guess that makes sense; you gotta have someone to keep the vampires in line. I’m sure y’all have rules to follow too; otherwise y’all wouldn’t have been a secret for so long. So what can I do for you Sheriff?”
Incredible! Rather than asking me ridiculous questions about my position, she is able to think rationally and of the bigger picture. As an observer of the human condition for ten centuries, I can tell you that does not happen often. “Actually, I believe it is something I can do for you. When was the last time you saw your cousin?” The Stackhouse family is small; she will know exactly whom I am speaking of.
“Hadley?” She scrunches up her nose which causes a v to form between her eyes. “We haven’t seen Hadley since she left home years ago. Do you know where she is?”
I nod my head. “She’s living in New Orleans . . . with the Vampire Queen of Louisiana.”
“You’re fuckin’ kiddin’ me right?” She laughs heartily and I’m easily distracted by the fact her laughter does amazing things to her breasts. The blanket that covered her body slips down revealing two of the most perfect unharnessed breasts I’ve ever seen. She’s removed the bra she’d worn for work and it’s clear the bra was not intended to help hold the girls up; a bra on her is just pretty decoration. I’m finding it harder and harder to remember why I wanted this to be a business arrangement. She’s going to be my pet after all; a pet’s purpose is to please their master. One time won’t hurt anything right?
Her laughter turns into quiet chuckles and she’s wiping her eyes with her fingers. “I’m sorry; I don’t know why I found that so funny! It’s just ridiculous to think that there’s a Vampire Queen of Louisiana!”
Part of me wants to be offended by her mirth, but I can’t. Looking at it from her eyes, it is ridiculous. And if she ever meets Sophie-Anne, Miss Stackhouse will realize even more how absurd the situation is since the Queen is nothing but a spoiled brat. Which is the reason I’m here this evening. “I assure you, if you are ever in the presence of the Queen, you will not want to laugh. She is a very temperamental woman, and like most vampires, she is a very selfish creature. Sophie-Anne Leclerq is used to getting her way and doesn’t handle it well when someone denies her something she wants.”
“So what you’re saying is . . . she’s a brat.” I smile and dip my head in acknowledgement of her words. I’ve drifted closer to her during our conversation; it was not intentional. I wanted to remain aloof, detached; I am not supposed to get involved with the Stackhouse family any more than necessary. However, something about this girl draws me in. Even now I feel as if there is a connection between the two of us; it’s like an invisible rope that’s stretched tautly. The closer I am to the girl, the more relaxed the rope becomes. This is maddening!
“Well, I guess she and Hadley get on like a house on fire, since they have so much in common. But what do Hadley and the Queen of Louisiana have to do with you stalking me?”
“I am not stalking you,” I declare indignantly. “I have arranged protection for you and your family.”
She looks at me with raised eyebrows and an expression of exasperation. “Protection my family was not aware of that watches us from the shadows and reports our every action back to you: means stalking in my book.”
“Are we going to debate semantics or do you want to know the reasons behind my actions?” As much as the girl draws me in, she frustrates me like no one else. I swear she’ll be able to give Pam a run for her money, and Pam’s had a century to perfect the art of arguing with me.
“Sophie-Anne has taken Hadley for her pet.” I hold up my hand to stop Miss Stackhouse from interrupting me with her righteous indignation. “A pet to a vampire is someone who belongs to the vampire. It is usually a mutually beneficial relationship. The vampire receives blood and sex from a willing partner; the human is financially taken care of. In some cases, there is an emotional attachment between the pet and their master. This is the case with Sophie-Anne; she loves your cousin. So much so that she is considering bonding with her and eventually turning Hadley into one of her progenies. In an effort to protect Hadley, Sophie-Anne contacted me to make certain that Hadley’s family is protected and cared for. It is not uncommon in our world to use the ones closest to a vampire against them.”
I am leaning against the porch railing as I finish my explanation. Miss Stackhouse is staring at me with an owlish expression, but her body is practically humming with energy. She vaults off the swing to pace the length of the porch; her feet slapping against the aged wooden slabs. The blanket lays forgotten on the swing as she paces in agitation, so I’m able to enjoy the show of watching her body as she walks. I lose myself in fantasies for a moment as I think of how passionate she will be once she is in my bed. I know she is a virgin; I can smell her innocence. My fangs and cock throb in anticipation as I think of the ways I will prepare her body to receive me; how I can train her to be the perfect sexual partner. Knowing I will be the first to have her gives me a small shiver of pleasure and my eyes roll in the back of my head.
Miss Stackhouse stops her pacing and whirls around to walk back in front of me. She is oblivious to the sexual haze I seem to find myself in. “I get that Hadley’s a selfish twat that would enjoy bein’ takin’ care of like a whore by a rich vampire. Hadley’s always been lazy and always wanted others to take care of her. As much as it broke my Gran’s heart, I was happy to see her leave because it meant she wasn’t our problem anymore. But don’t you dare think for a second that I’m just like her! I don’t need someone to pay me to sleep with them or give them my blood! And I’ll be damned if I’ll ever call you ‘master’! I am a human being, not a slave for you to do what you want with! Gran and me have been doin’ just fine on our own; we don’t need you or anybody else coming in here and turning our lives upside down!” She moves to stomp away, and yet again, I grab her arm to hold her in place.
I get right in her face so she can see how much her words have angered me. “I’m not here to enslave you! I’m here because of a Queen’s command that the entire Stackhouse family be protected, including you. And I do not think your great-grandfather would allow me to enslave any of you, so come off your high horse and listen to my proposition!”
“My great-grandfather?” All the fight leaves her body and she’s staring at me with wide, hurt eyes. “Everyone in my family is dead except Gran, Jason, and Hadley. Aren’t they?”
Shit! I didn’t mean to bring up Brigant. “That is something you need to ask your grandmother. It is her story to tell,” I say quietly. I hate the look in her eyes; knowing that now I’m the one to cause her pain is like a stake to my heart. Wordlessly, she yanks her arm out of my grip and runs into the house, slamming the door behind her.
Well, that didn’t go quite like I hoped.