Waking up alone was weird. I had gotten so used to having Eric resting next to me. I sighed before grabbing my silk robe and going to the home office. The absence of Eric meant that I would be able to conduct more business than I did recently. I really needed to do more work, I had been slacking and that wasn’t me.
My brother had been a godsend. After our father’s death in February, he had taken over the business and had done everything in his power to make the transition go smoothly for me. Between my finals and the Commencement Ceremony, I barely had any time to myself. If it had only been up to me, I would have jumped into work right after graduation. But Jason had insisted on letting me take some time off to get my bearing. As much as my Harvard education had prepared me, I realized that my workload was more than I expected. Luckily, both Eric and Pam’s businesses were well administered and my father and brother had done a great job over the years.
Gran found me surrounded by paperwork late in the afternoon. I had been working on writing new contracts for some of AIK’s senior executives and didn’t even take a break.
“You need to take a break, my Sookie” she said, setting a plate of sandwiches in front of me.
“I can’t… I’m behind on everything! I can’t let Jason do all the work! Especially when he has to go to the Magister’s Tribunal while all I’m expected to do is go to a social gathering!”
“You’re still new to all of this, sweetheart. We wouldn’t want you to kill yourself working to death. Eric wouldn’t want that!”
I sighed. “If it was up to him, I would be a kept woman… You know that’s not me, Gran. He hired me to be his lawyer for God’s sake! I can’t spend all my time lounging in the backyard doing nothing! That’s not what he pays me for!”
“I know, but promise me you’ll finish soon. You look so tired!”
“Tired of doing nothing! I had 2 months off before starting the job while my fellow graduates started working right away! Sometime I think Eric and Pam are being easy on me, as if they’re afraid it’s all too much for me. But I know I can take it!”
“Maybe they are being easy on you because they know that with everything that happened it is too much for you!”
“Let me finish, young lady. You lost your father last winter, you ended up being all alone while you struggled to finish Law School.”
I was getting ready to argue that I didn’t ‘struggle’, that I still handle everything as if nothing happened, but the look she sent me told me it was pointless.
“You were supposed to graduate and then work under your father. Corbett was supposed to show you the ropes, to guide you. While you are a lawyer like all your fellow graduates, you are not a typical one. You don’t work for a regular law firm. Your clients are different… I worry for you, my sweet girl. Jason at least had your father after he finished school. And while he is a great lawyer, there just so much he know and can show you…”
I nodded. Dad’s death had really changed everything.
“While your education prepared you for the work of being a lawyer, it didn’t prepare you to the world of Supernaturals. I’m pretty sure it is very different…”
I couldn’t agree more. Dealing with Supes was nothing like dealing with humans. The laws weren’t the same… Well the official laws were, but there were so many unwritten laws. I just had to think about the ‘negotiations’ with Merlotte as example. No respected lawyer would have dealt with it the way I did. But then, Merlotte was a Shifter, a Supe, and Eric was the Vampire Sheriff of the Area.
“I know… In a way, I’m mad at dad for dying. That’s pathetic, right?”
Gran smiled. “It’s not pathetic, sweetheart. You have a right to be mad.”
“Can I… Could you for a moment forget you’re my grandmother? I mean, can I talk to you about something and…”
“Go ahead, Sookie.”
I took a deep breath. “I feel like Eric is treating me differently due to the change in our relationship. What I mean is, if dad had died 3 years ago, when Jason was finishing Law School, do you think he would have been as lenient with him? I don’t want him to go easy on me just because I’m sleeping with him!”
I blushed and felt tears threatening to fall down my cheeks.
“We’ll never know, sweetheart. What I do know, is that Eric loves you. He might not say it out loud, but actions sometimes speak louder than words. He loves you and yes, sometimes he’ll act more like a concerned lover than a demanding boss.”
I quickly finished my sandwich and went back to work. It was just after 4PM when I finally had all the contracts ready to be sent to AIK’s headquarter by courier. After a rather long shower, I decided to send Eric a quick report on the contracts. I knew he must already be ‘awake’ and waiting to head to the Tribunal.
I went to the walk-in and perused through the many beautiful clothes trying to find an adequate outfit to wear tonight. What does one wear to a Southerner’s engagement party? Nothing in the complete wardrobe seemed okay. Sighing, I decided to look through the underwear’s drawer when my cell phone alerted me of an incoming text message.
What are you wearing?
A smile appeared on my face as I sat on the island countertop, clutching the white towel around my waist before answering.
Are you en route to the Tribunal?
I decided to send him a shot of my cleavage. Two could play this game.
I left the phone on the island and choose some delicate – red tiny little piece of lace – panties with a matching balcony bra. Eric didn’t wait long to answer me back.
We just left.
Driving with Chow and Compton.
Wish you were here.
Gotta get ready for my party.
I went back to my search for the perfect dress and finally settled on a red bandage dress with lace Jimmy Choo pumps. As I put each article of clothing, I sent Eric a new picture. Me pulling on the sexy panties, the bra, the shoes… Standing in front of the floor length mirror, I took a shot of the final result.
I would probably be overdressed, compared to everybody else. But, as Pam once told me, better be overdress than underdress. I put on some make-up and styled my hair in soft curls before going down to the kitchen. Gran was sitting at the breakfast table, sipping a cup of tea.
“Looking fancy tonight, Sookie dear.”
“Thank you, Gran. Still don’t want to come with me?”
She smiled. “No, these parties are for the youth. But I did bake some pecan pies for you to bring.”
“Are you sure you’re okay with staying alone, tonight? I could call and say…”
“Don’t you worry about me, young lady. Anyway, I have a date tonight with Mr. David Copperfield. Now off you go! And give my congratulations to Arlene.”
I kissed her goodnight before watching her, followed by Freyja, retreat to the library. Grabbing my purse and the pecan pies, I left the house and drove toward Bon Temps.
I had to admit that I was impressed with the set up for the party once I arrived at Merlotte’s. A band was playing on an improvised stage, long tables, filled with different dishes, had been put near the entrance of the bar and several other were set around the dance floor. I took Gran’s three pies and was welcomed by both Arlene and her fiancé.
“Sookie! You came!”
“Good evening, Arlene, Rene. Gran ask you to please excuse her absence, but she sent you these pecan pies…”
“Mrs. Adele’s pecan pies! You’ll have to thank her!”
She took them and set them on the dessert tables.
“You look mighty pretty, Miss Sookie” said Rene, eyeing me.
“Thank you, Mr. Lenier…”
“Please, call me Rene!”
I smiled my ‘crazy Sookie’ smile and looked around. As I expected, I was seriously overdress.
“I didn’t know what type of party it was… I hope I’m not…”
“Hope you’re not what?” asked Arlene when she came back, circling Rene’s waist with her arms.
“Miss Sookie didn’t know how to dress tonight, cherie.”
“Don’t you worry, Sookie! You’re as pretty as a magazine cover! You got to tell me where you got your shoes! They’re pretty as hell!”
“They were a gift, actually, so I don’t know where they came from. But what I do know is that they are Jimmy Choo.”
“Bet the vamp got them for her…”
I frowned at the glimpse I got from Rene’s mind. I had to keep my walls up tonight or I’d go crazy.
“Lookin’ mighty hot, hookah!” said Lafayette, dropping a kiss on my cheek.
“Lafayette! I was telling Arlene and Rene that I wasn’t sure about my whole outfit…”
“What’s wrong with it, hookah? You is as hot as Lala’s Chili!”
Arlene’s children came running toward us, looking left and right as if searching for someone.
“Miss Sookie!” said Lisa, excited. “Did you brin’ Mister Eric with you? I wanna dance with him!”
“Think he’ll tell us another story?”
“Yeah, where’s that hunk o’ man of yours?” asked Lafayette, winking.
“I’m sorry, he couldn’t make it tonight. But maybe your mother will need a babysitter soon and I’m sure Eric will agree to help me…”
The two young one looked quite disappointed and left. Rene swept Arlene to the dance floor, leaving Lafayette and I alone. We sat down at one of the many tables, Lala still gushing over my outfit.
“You sure clean up nice, little flower.”
“You can be honest with me, Lafayette. I didn’t know what type of event it was or I would have definitely worn something else. I didn’t think it would be such a casual event…”
“This is a Redneck engagement party, hookah. And Arlene’s fourth one! Don’t you worry, you is fabulous!”
We talked some more and Lafayette gossiped about almost everybody. I learned a lot from him, if you know what I mean. But there was something strange in him, I couldn’t quite pin it.
“Are you okay, Lafayette? You seem strange…”
He sighed. “That cuz of mine is drivin’ me crazy! She and that mama of hers went and got exorcised by some crazy voodoo woman.”
“And Eddie who’s gone missin’… Fuckin’ Amy!”
So Lafayette’s V supplier had disappeared. And new waitress Amy probably had something to do with it? Shit… That was the proof Jason and I needed! I decided to keep quiet and talk to Eric about it upon his return.
The party was in full blast. After a while I decided to take a spin on the dance floor and found willing partners in Lafayette, Hoyt Fortenberry and Andy Bellefleur. Physical contacts usually make my ability to keep my shields up way more difficult and tonight wasn’t different.
“Mama says she’d make a good wife if only she didn’t work for vamps… She’d have to quit her job… Ain’t no wife of Hoyt Fortenberry gonna be workin’…”
“She’s nice enough for a Yankee… And she calls me Detective!”
When I went back to Lafayette, a camouflaged-clad blond guy with a bandage on his arm who had already drank too many beers decided to sit down next to me.
“You ain’t at your place sittin’ with that faggot, babe” he said.
“All I’m sayin’, babe, is that you need a man, a real one! Come with me and I’ll show you a real good time!”
I had to try hard not to laugh. Meanwhile I could feel Lafayette taking deep breath and trying to calm himself.
“Good thing for me, I have a real man.”
“That sissy faggot ain’t a man, babe.”
“She ain’t talkin’ ’bout me, Royce” said Lafayette. “Though Lala’s more a man than you. How ’bout you go and leave us the fuck alone? You ain’t lookin’ to catch AIDS, aren’t you?”
“Shut the fuck up, faggot! If that pretty lil’ thin’ had a man he wouldn’t leave her alone with a fuckin’ faggot like you! If he did, then he ain’t a real man!”
I sighed. “Well to be honest he’s not really a man. He’s a vampire.”
The look in the eyes of the Redneck suddenly changed.
“Fuckin’ fangers! She a fuckin’ fangbangin’ whore! We should burn those motherfuckers down like we did those vamps in Monroe….”
So this Royce was responsible for the True Death of the Disco Triplets. Guess it was a good idea to come tonight.
He finally left and Lafayette excused himself for a moment, leaving me alone. Taking my cell phone out of my purse I sent a quick text to Eric.
Text me as soon as you’re back.
I need to talk to you, Area business.
Still missing you.
I sipped on my beer and watched people dancing to country songs. I felt like I entered another dimension. For a second I tried to think of what my life would have been if I grew up here, in the South. Would I have gone to college? To law school? If not, what would have I done with my life? Would I be a waitress like Arlene? Working at Merlotte’s? No, that was crazy!
“Lookin’ quite lonely by your lonesome” said Rene, pulling me out of my bubble.
“Beg your pardon?”
“How ’bout I take you for a spin?”
Seeing as I had no excuse not to, I agreed and allowed Rene to wrap his arms my waist.
“You havin’ fun?”
“Yeah, I… The food is great.”
“The food is great… Why don’t you say you’re too good for it!”
I tried not to frown as I caught his thoughts. But what surprised me more was the fact that his Cajun accent – that still creeped me out – didn’t seem as pronounced as usual.
“Arlene looks so happy” I said suddenly, uncomfortable by the silence. “You do seem to make her very happy.”
“I do everythin’ to keep her happy. I’m sure that vamp of yours does the same…”
My ‘crazy Sookie’ smile was back in full action. We were halfway through the song when someone tapped on Rene’s shoulder, cutting in.
“Rene, Arlene is lookin’ for you” said Sam Merlotte.
“Then I better go find her!”
Merlotte swiftly took Rene’s place.
“I saw how comfortable you seemed.”
“Well thank you, Shifter…”
He let out a laugh.
“You sound so much like Northman… He too doesn’t call me by my name.”
“Well, you do call him fanger and vamp most of the time.”
There was a pregnant pause as he spinned me across the dance floor.
“I wanted to apologize… For the way I acted when we first met… It was really hypocritical of me to think of you as a freak and prejudiced you for workin’ for fan… for vampires.”
“Apology accepted” I said.
We continue our dance until a very drunk Tara, dressed in what I guessed was her prom dress, arrived causing quite a raucous.
“I better go tend to her…”
“Not that there’s anythin’ between us, no… But she’s my employee… My friend…”
“Go, Shifter” I said with a smile. “Say hello for me.”
I went back to my table while Merlotte tried to coax Tara toward his trailer. Lafayette was nowhere to be found and I decided to grab a soda. Alcohol tends to amplify my gift which in turn made it quite difficult to keep my shields up. I was already catching glimpses of people’s thought without even trying and decided not to stay longer. I would make my excuses to Arlene, go back to Shreveport and wait for Eric to come back.
“Hey! You’re the hunk’s sister, right?”
Before I could even invite her, Amy the waitress sat next to him.
“Is he here tonight?”
“No, JASON is not here. He’s away on business.”
“What a shame, he and I could have had lots of fun, if you know what I mean.”
“And with what I have at home the sex would have been epic.”
“So, tell me. Is he single? I hear he’s a lawyer…”
“Listen, Amy… My brother is not interested so back off.”
She looked offended.
“Why? Because I’m just a waitress you think I’m not good enough for your brother?”
“You being a waitress mean nothing. You’re just not his type of girl.”
“According to gossip he’s quite the Tomcat.”
“And according to gossip you’re a V addicted bitch. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back home.”
I got up and made my way toward the desserts table where Arlene is being fed pie by Rene. The thoughts of the people around me were hitting me really hard.
“I gave these two less than six months…”
“My Hoyt needs to find a good girl…”
“What the hell am I going to do for dinner tomorrow…”
“I can’t believe I let her convince me into lettin’ her mom stay with us…”
“Fucking fangbanger… She’ll die just like the other three…”
I stopped halfway to Arlene at these last thoughts. I closed my eyes and tried to separate all of these thoughts, as to isolate the one I heard last. Despite the alcohol I had taken, after a while I succeed and what I caught sent a chill down my spine. The serial killer was in attendance. I caught glimpses of what I could tell were the murders of Dawn, Maudette and a third woman. I watched as he trashed the farmhouse’s living room and left the hateful message. It was as if I had access to the killer’s memories. I saw everything, except his face. But what I saw could really help the whole investigation. Maudette and Dawn were not his first victims. He had killed before and he would kill again.
“Sookie… Sookie, are you okay?”
Arlene was now standing in front of me, Rene by her side.
“You looked like you were a million miles away! ”
“Alcohol getting’ to your head, chere?”
“No… I… I do have a lot on my mind right now. Boring business things. I was actually coming to tell you goodnight.”
“You’re ain’t leavin’ right now?”
I smiled politely. “I am.”
“But the party ain’t over yet! You have to stay!”
“Arlene, chere, we ain’t goin’ to keep Miss Sookie away from her business…”
“I really I’m sorry to have to leave so early, Arlene. But I did have fun and there’s always your wedding celebration, if I’m invited, of course.”
“Absolutely! You’ll have to come!”
I said my goodbye and went back to my car. Taking several deep breaths I took my cell phone with shaking hands and checked my texts. Eric had replied a couple of minutes earlier.
So much I need to tell you.
And apparently so much you need to tell me.
Still shaking, I started the car and drove back to Shreveport.