“What the hell happened to you?” Dawson is seated at the bar, a cigar clenched between his teeth and a glass of scotch in front of him. Pam is seated beside him counting the receipts for the evening. I had told her of my suspicions about Long Shadow so she said she would handle the closing duties from now on. She glances up when I entered the room, but otherwise said nothing. I’m sure she knew everything I was feeling because I was far too amped up to keep my side of the bond closed earlier. I am actually surprised to find Pam still here; I would have thought she needed to work off her own sexual frustration caused by my feelings in our bond. Though if Dawson is here I’m sure she won’t be left unsatisfied.
“I did not realize I had to answer to you,” I say coolly as I drop the towel I had run through my hair on the bar. For the first time this evening, I feel like myself; I feel calm and in control. Pam nods at me once, letting me know that the three of us are the only ones here. I do admire the efficiency of my child.
“Cut the crap Northman,” Dawson says derisively. He taps the ashes from his cigar in the ashtray Pam had provided. “What the fuck was that between you and Sookie? Even in battle, I’ve never seen you lose control like that. Is it because of what she is?”
“I don’t know,” I answer with a sigh. I sit down on the bar stool next to him. “Is she OK?” Now that I’m fully aware, I can feel the three ties I began this evening with the Stackhouse family. Each tie feels slightly different and I spend a few minutes analyzing them even though all three indicate they are asleep. Adele’s is easy to pick out; it feels more serene and old-fashioned, a reflection of the woman herself. Even in his sleep, Jason’s hums with energy. There is also a strong undercurrent of lust that runs through the tie. I wonder if the blood dreams have started with him. I should have warned him that they would happen, but I found it far more amusing to let him discover that on his own. Knowing the little I do about the male Stackhouse, I’m sure he will start to freak out when he begins to have sexual dreams about me. I will have to remember to flirt with him the next time I see him. The look of horror and his discomfort will be immensely gratifying.
It is the third blood tie that interests me the most. Sookie sleeps, but she is not resting. Her emotions run the gamut from lust to worry, sadness to elation. What thoughts plague her dreams that she feels so much?
Dawson leaves me on tenterhooks as he puffs lazily at his cigar then swallows his glass of scotch, tapping the bar to show he would like another. Pam pours the drink, her eyes flicking back and forth between the two of us. Dawson swirls the liquid amber liquid in his glass. “She’s worried and scared,” he finally admits.
“Of me?” I feel something plummet inside me to settle uneasily in my stomach. If I could vomit, I would.
“She’s worried for you. Sookie made me come here to check on you, said she needed to know you were okay. If anything, she’s worried she did something wrong,” Dawson shakes his head a little incredulously before slamming back his drink. Pam tips the bottle to refill his glass, but Dawson shakes his head as his hand covers the glass. I share his incredulous nature. She’s worried about me? She thinks she did something wrong? What could she have possibly done wrong? I am again humbled by her selfless nature, and stay steadfast in my decision she deserves someone better than me. I am a monster consumed by darkness; she is an angel, lit from within so she shines above all others.
“No more for me. I’ve got to be heading back. Cataliades and his nieces are watching over the family. He wanted time to talk with Sookie without her Gran or brother interfering.” Dawson rises from his stool and smiles roguishly at Pam’s pouting expression. “Don’t worry kitten; I will scratch that itch of yours soon enough. My next night off, I’ll be all yours. In the meantime, go find something pretty to play with.”
“But it’s more fun when you’re there to play along,” Pam pouts and I can see a full-blown tantrum beginning to develop.
“You can play tomorrow night Pam,” I interject. “Dawson bring Sookie to the club; we’ll be closed and I need her to help me find out who’s been stealing money from the bar.” I had meant to mention this to her earlier, but clearly I was sidetracked by other things.
“Are you sure that’s wise? No offense Northman, but you lost your head around her tonight. What happens if you lose control again? This isn’t her home; she can’t rescind your invitation. And no one else would be here to protect her. I don’t like it,” Dawson shakes his head emphatically.
I want to snap at him that I am in charge, that he works for me and had no business questioning my decisions. But the Were makes a valid point. I am a thousand-year old vampire that has perfected the art of control, yet a twenty-something year old slip of a girl shreds my willpower and makes me nothing more than a newly risen impulsive vampire.
“I will have Thalia here with me. She will be instructed to protect Sookie at all costs.” Thalia will bitch and moan the entire time she is forced to do it, but she will follow orders. The elder vampiress resides in my area because I leave her the fuck alone unless necessary, and this situation is fucking necessary.
“She’ll rip your fucking throat out for making her protect a human,” Dawson says with a smirk. “I’m almost sorry I will miss that confrontation. Makes me want to stay around and watch.”
“Oh no you won’t!” Pam vamps around the bar to place herself in front of Dawson. She leans her body against his, rubbing herself against him like a cat in heat. “You’re mine tomorrow night! Don’t think I won’t keep you tied to the bed to keep you there.”
Dawson smiles wickedly before fisting his hand in Pam’s hair to give her a bruising kiss. Pam moans wantonly and I smell her arousal in the air. My eyebrows arch up as I watch this display between Dawson and Pam. Normally she won’t engage in any physical activity with Dawson in front of me, though I have heard them on more than one occasion. I think Pam has completely forgotten I’m here because she looks ready to climb on top of Dawson and ride him for all she’s worth. Dawson must sense this too because he pulls away from Pam. He smacks her on the ass sharply, which makes her bite her lip as she suppresses a moan. He winks at her before walking to the door.
“I’ll be here with Sookie tomorrow night around 9; she’s working the afternoon and early dinner shift.” I nod in understanding and then Dawson turns his attention to Pam.
“You know you don’t need restraints to keep me in your bed, but I’m willing to play if you are. Something tells me you’ll break long before I would. Remember what happened the last time you were restrained.” He winks at her before walking out the door with a whistle on his lips.
Pam looks at me with a happy smile on her lips, and I shake my head in disgust. “I don’t want to know,” I say as I walk away from her.
Rather than go to one of my safe houses, I go to ground in the hidden subterranean level of Fangtasia. Fortunately, the entire bar is light-tight save for when the outside doors open. I am sitting in my office catching up on paperwork as I feel the first rays of dawn crest over the horizon, yet I do not feel the pull to go to rest. I have about ninety minutes before I will cease to function. The annoying thing is that the bleeds will start in about forty-five minutes.
I have already contacted Thalia; she was pissed off to say the least but she will be here. I had to promise to let her out of her mandatory bar hours for the rest of the month. Thalia is older and stronger than me, so despite the vast differences in our height, I know she will be able to restrain me or defend Sookie from my attack.
I sigh as I consider the events from earlier. Even the few times in my history where I have had Fae blood I have never reacted that way. What is it about this girl that elicits such a reaction from me?
“Is it done?” I instantly spring from my desk chair into attack mode. Niall Brigant leans against the door frame of my office with a smirk on his face. I straighten from my position though I leave my fangs down. I fucking hate being caught unaware and this has happened twice.
“Yes, it is done,” I answer snappishly.
“How did it go?” His stance and his tone are nonchalant, which I find suspicious. Niall Brigant does not do nonchalant; he is a cagey bastard but he always says what he means.
“Why not ask the demon?”
“I’m asking you,” he says in a soft voice as he walks in the office to close my door. Before I can ask what he is doing, the delicious smell of the Fae instantly fills the enclosed space. It smells of sunlight and promise, delicious decadence at its finest. My entire body tenses and my fangs throb with hunger, but I do not move. I will not attack the Prince of the Fae and start a war.
“Are you insane?!?!?” Every vampiric instinct is screaming at me to attack, to sink my fangs in his carotid artery, and drain him dry until there is nothing left but dust. I pray to my long forgotten gods to stay my hand; I plead in the bond with my maker to send me strength. I snarl and hiss as the intensity of the smell is ramped up. What the fuck is he doing? Niall moves to stand directly in front of me, his arms crossed over his chest as he stares at me for long tense moments. He is looking at me critically, as a doctor would a slide under a microscope.
“Curious,” is all he says before the smell instantly disappears, leaving no residual trace in the room. I crumble to my feet as all the tension leaves me and my body relaxes. I stare at him with apathy in my eyes.
“Do you have a death wish? Is that what you hoped to accomplish with that stunt? If that is what you wish, you had only to ask. I would have been happy to oblige you; it has been a few centuries since I’ve had Fae blood,” I joke weakly.
“You could control yourself with the smell of a pure-blooded Fae surrounding you, saturating the air. Yet you lose control with my great-granddaughter, a woman who is only one-eighth Fae,” he says with an incredulous tone.
“I prefer blondes,” I deadpan as I rise slowly to my feet.
“Perhaps. I do wonder if it is more than that,” he says cryptically. Before I can respond, he changes the direction of our conversation. “Desmond informed me the contracts have been filed with all the proper authorities; the Stackhouse family is recognized as yours. You have my gratitude Northman. It comforts me to know Fintan’s line will be protected,” he says before departing from my office.
Well that was strange.
At 8:30 pm, the entire staff of Fangtasia as well as my accountant are settled in the bar area. As partners in this business venture with me, Pam and Long Shadow are also here to witness the interrogations, though Pam will be leaving as soon as Dawson arrives. She is dressed in a pastel pink sleeveless dress reminiscent of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who along with Audrey Hepburn, were two of Pam’s all-time favorite fashion icons. She had mourned the passing of both women, saying the world would never be as stylish again. Pam sneers at the women of today, saying none of them would know true fashion if it kicked them in the cooch.
As for Long Shadow, I couldn’t think of a way to prevent him from being here. Had I told him that as his sheriff, his presence wasn’t requested for the staff meeting, he would have become suspicious. I know he is curious about why our accountant is here, but the smug expression on his face tells me he thinks he is in the clear. What does give him pause is Thalia’s presence. She scowls at everyone in the room but does not move from her perch close to the door. I appreciate that she has already put herself in a place to protect Sookie.
You would think her telepathy extends to vampires, because no sooner do I think her name than my personal ray of sunshine walks in the bar wearing a white sundress. Dawson trails closely behind her, nodding deeply at Thalia when he sees her by the door. Dawson’s eyes look warily to me, gauging my reaction to the woman in front of him. The moment the door had opened, I stopped taking in air so I would not be tempted by her unique fragrance. But her scent is not the only thing that calls to me. My blood inside her body seems to sigh with relief now that she is in my presence. And I was so far gone last night that I failed to notice all the changes my blood had facilitated in her. Sookie was a beautiful woman all on her own; now she is positively radiant. Her flawless skin glows a healthy bronze color and her hair shines to look almost platinum or silver. And when I look in her eyes to see if my blood has changed their color, all I see is worry.
Cautiously, I approach her at human speed so everyone is aware of what I am doing. I stop a few feet in front of her and inhale slowly. A wonderful, rapturous feeling envelopes me as I smell our combined scents; if I thought she was appealing before, it is nothing compared to smelling the faint scent of the sea mixed with sunlight, wheat, and honey. It reminds me of the fields near our village where I played as a boy. I think of those summer days when I would collect honey from the hives of bees and eat my fill while lying in the golden fields, the sounds of the sea in the distance as the sunlight warmed my skin. It was my idea of what Valhalla would be like; that is what Sookie smells like to me.
I lean down slowly and kiss her cheek in welcome. “Thank you for coming on such short notice,” I murmur near her ear so the other humans will not hear.
“I’m happy to help,” she says softly while maintaining a deferential attitude in front of the other vampires. I must remember to tell her how well she is behaving in front of others. If it were just Pam, there would be no need for this charade.
“Let’s go to my office for a moment. There is something I wish to discuss with you,” I say as I place my hand on the small of her back to guide her through the bar. Her rigid stance relaxes at my touch and I too feel a sense of peace wash over me. Thalia and Dawson look back and forth, unsure of what to do. I indicate they should come with us as well as Pam since my child hates to be left out of anything. Long Shadow moves to come with us but I command him to stay; his presence is not required for what I need to say.
As the others follow behind us, I keep my hand on Sookie. Even through the cotton material of her white dress, I can feel the warmth of her skin. Sometimes the feeling of humans against our skin can be uncomfortable because of the drastic differences in temperature between us. But with Sookie I do not notice the extreme temperature difference; she feels just right. I wait until everyone is in the office then close the door. Once they are settled, I address Sookie directly.
“Are you alright?” Once we are in the room, I’ve put some distance between us because I need it. Being that close to her is giving me all kinds of urges, things I cannot act on.
“I’m fine. What about you?” Sookie takes a step towards me with her hand outstretched, but stops as if she too realizes we need to maintain our distance.
“I am well,” I admit. She doesn’t need to know everything I had to do to get my control back last evening.
“I was worried about you last night,” she admits with eyes full of worry.
“Last night was . . . intense, but I suffered no adverse effects. I was worried for you,” I say as shame washes over me again. There is no reason why I should have lost control as I did.
“Hence the added security for this evening,” Sookie says with an amused glance towards Thalia, Pam, and Dawson.
“Thalia is here at my request,” I admit. “Pam and Dawson have . . . plans.”
“Yeah, I got that earlier,” Sookie mumbles as she glares at Dawson.
“Hey, if you don’t like what you see, then stay out of my head.” Dawson grins unabashedly as he addresses Sookie though his eyes never stray from Pam’s body. Pam raises an eyebrow in response, obviously curious about what Dawson was thinking to warrant such a surly response from the telepath.
“I wasn’t trying to get in your head. You were thinking really loudly and I brushed up against you while I was working; touch always makes it easier for me to hear your thoughts,” Sookie explains. Her lips curve in amusement and she says sweetly, “Maybe next time you’ll be more careful what you’re thinkin’ about around me. Unless of course you liked having a tray of iced tea dumped on top of you.”
Dawson shrugs as if it doesn’t bother him one way or the other. “I needed to cool off anyway.”
“You two can go,” I say to Pam and Dawson. They don’t have to be told twice; the office door is slamming closed behind them as I turn my attention back to Sookie.
“I need you to read the humans that are seated outside,” I say to Sookie. “Someone on the staff has stolen over $60,000 from us in the last three months. Do you think you can find who it is?” I move towards her unconsciously and ask my question while standing in front of her. Without my permission, my hand moves towards her face to push a stray hair back from her cheek. My finger briefly grazes the soft skin of her cheek and I feel the electric shock shoot straight up my arm. I know Sookie feels it too because her eyes widen and her skin flushes the most delicate shade of pink. Thalia moves just a fraction of an inch, but it’s enough movement to let me know she is poised to strike. It is enough of a warning for me to step back and put a safe distance between me and my pet.
“I’ve been reading them since we arrived outside,” Sookie admits as she slips back into a business-like persona. “They are wondering why they’ve been called in tonight if you’ve closed the bar. All of them were thinking about sex, predominantly sex with you,” Sookie says with an edge to her voice. “Now that you and Pam aren’t out there, they are focused on Long Shadow. Except for one of the waitresses; every time her thoughts stray to him it becomes a void. The other girls have similar holes in their minds, but nothing like what I’m seeing in her mind.”
“Who is it?” I need her to confirm that it is Long Shadow’s most recent convenient feed and fuck. He’s too lazy to actively search for his meals, so he poaches among the staff.
“What will happen to her when I tell you?” Sookie straightens her spine and stares at me with steely eyes. Before I say anything, she advances towards me with her hands on her hips. “I’m not going to tell you who it is if you’re only going to hurt her. The poor girl’s done nothing wrong; she’s been glamoured into doing whatever it is you think she’s done. You want me to help you, then the people I find that have broken the law will be turned over to the police. Those are my terms; take it or leave it.” She ends her tirade by crossing her arms over her chest. I am so fucking hard now! Sookie is absolutely stunning in all her indignant fury. It makes me want to bend her over the desk, push her white dress up to her waist as I take her from behind.
“I like her,” Thalia says to break the tension that has risen up in the room. She moves forward with a rare smile on her face. It is quite possibly the scariest thing I have ever seen. Sookie is even a little put off by the feral expression on Thalia’s face, though she smiles timidly at her in return. “Can I be part of her guard if it means I don’t have to do time in this shit hole?”
I look at Thalia without blinking as I contemplate her question. There are pros and cons to this situation that I need to evaluate further. “We will discuss it later,” I say to her and turn my attention back to the ballsy woman in front of me. “When possible, humans will be turned over to the human police. I cannot guarantee that will always be the case. Human laws have not yet caught up to the fact there are other species out there besides themselves. Our own state still does not recognize that killing a vampire is a crime, and they are only beginning to talk about adding vampire blood to the list of illegal narcotics. If the perpetrators are Weres or other Supes, then it will certainly not be handled by the human police.” Those are the best terms I can give her.
Sookie’s eyes narrow as she processes my terms before she sighs with regret. “It’s never going to be black and white with you is it? Right and wrong mean something different to you than they do to me.”
“Right and wrong are never black and white; there are always shades of grey. You already know that,” I remind her gently.
“But how am I supposed to be okay with knowing that you will kill people based on the information I give you? I may not be the one doing the actual killing, but I still feel like I’ll have blood on my hands.” Sookie turns from me as tears fill her eyes. Her shoulders hunch and she wraps her arms around herself as if trying to ward a chill.
“Sookie,” I say softly. “I will not harm any of the waitresses.” It’s hard enough finding people willing to work here; I can’t afford to lose the few staff members we have. And if my suspicions are correct, they did not steal from me willingly. The blame for this will rest solely on Long Shadow. And once I have my money back, he will no longer be a problem.
Sookie sighs as her shoulders drop in defeat and her head falls back so she is looking up at the ceiling. “Ginger. She’s the one that has a void when she tries to think of Long Shadow.”
“Thank you,” I murmur. Thalia nods to show she will stay in here with Sookie while I take out the trash. The damn fool doesn’t realize he’s been caught; he’s too busy having Ginger and Belinda service him while he waits for us. He disgusts me; I will be happy to no longer have to deal with him once I send him to the True Death.
“Are you hungry Sheriff?” Long Shadow gives me a fangy smile as I walk slowly across the main floor. Belinda and Ginger rise from their knees as they hear my footsteps and they look hungrily at me, as if I am their dinner to be feasted on. I know both of them long to experience my talents and want to be my pets, but that is never going to happen. Long ago I learned never to fish off the company pier. Not to mention that both women are repugnant, Ginger more so than Belinda, but it’s a photo finish.
I smile slightly at him though there is no warmth in the gesture. “I am hungry,” I say as I brush past the pathetic waitresses to move closer to Long Shadow. “I’m hungry for the $60,000 you stole from me,” I hiss out in anger as my hand wraps around Long Shadow’s throat. His eyes bug out with fear as he realizes he’s been caught and can’t escape. He fights valiantly against my hold, but he’s only a third of my age. I have him secured in the basement, staked out on the floor with silver chains secured around his wrists, legs, and neck. Long Shadow snarls and hisses in anger as the silver burns through his flesh. The sizzle of flesh is music to my ears as I stroll up the steps whistling a jaunty tune. He’s not going anywhere and I have other business to take care of.
Returning to the main bar, the staff looks at me curiously, not knowing what to expect. Quickly I catch all of the staff with my glamour and erase the events of tonight, instead leaving all of them with the idea that they came in for a training session. Releasing all of them from my glamour, I clap my hands loudly to thank them for attending our training session this evening and that we will reopen for business tomorrow as usual. The waitresses tell me “Yes Master”, something my puckish progeny has taught them to do, and gather their belongings to leave. Once the door closes behind the last of them, my office door opens and Thalia appears with Sookie behind her.
“Thalia, will you please escort Miss Stackhouse to her home? I have unfinished business with Long Shadow.”
“I don’t have a car; Dawson drove me,” Sookie admits quietly.
“Take mine,” I say tossing my keys to Sookie. “I will pick it up from you later. If I do not pick it up before sunrise I will get it first thing tomorrow night. Long Shadow needs to be dealt with tonight. I do not trust him not to use his blood to call one of his playthings to try to free him during the day.”
Sookie hands the keys to Thalia, and murmurs she will meet her in the car. Thalia looks unsure about leaving the two of us alone, but I gesture she can go. She’ll only be right outside and will hear if something is amiss. When she vamps out of the bar, Sookie walks slowly over to me.
“Be careful,” Sookie says as she looks up at me with doe eyes.
“Are you worried about me Miss Stackhouse?” Her concern is misplaced, but I find that I enjoy the idea of her caring about my well-being.
“Of course I am. I’d hate to have to find a new vampire to call ‘master’,” she says with an exaggerated wink. So much for being able to control myself for a few minutes. Hearing Sookie call me her master . . . she has to be doing this intentionally. There is no way she cannot know the effect her “innocent” words have on me. She needs to get out of the bar. Now.
“I’ll make sure Dawson has your check for tonight’s work. Thalia is waiting for you,” I say as I gesture towards the door of the bar. Sookie opens her mouth to argue with me, but her sense of self-preservation must kick in because she rushes towards the door without saying a word. Only once she has the door open does she turn back to me.
“Good night Mr. Northman,” she calls out sadly before slipping through the open door.
“Good night Miss Stackhouse,” I reply though she cannot hear me. I inhale deeply of her lingering scent, letting the sweetness settle inside me before I go downstairs to show Long Shadow exactly what happens to those that steal from me.