Gran and I spent the day in the kitchen making preserves. Strawberry, peach, pear, apple, marmalade and even lingonberry.
“Where do you want me to put them, Gran?”
“Put them in the box on the counter, sweetheart. Oh, but leave a jar of marmalade and a jar of lingonberry out, please.”
“Want to give them to Jason?”
She smiled. “No, the marmalade is for Pamela, the lingonberry is for Eric. Pamela said she used to have marmalade every morning and Eric’s favourite snack as a child was lingonberry.”
I frowned. “But you do know they won’t be able to eat it, right?”
“Of course, silly! I’m not daft. But Eric was here last Sunday and I had made bread… Said the smell reminded him of his home when he was a little boy. I thought that the smell of those preserves would bring them both good memories. Do you think I shouldn’t have?”
I was in awe… My Gran was one of a kind.
“No, I think it’s very thoughtful of you…”
“Oh and next time, I’m doing some banana one! Bubba loved bananas!”
There was a soft knock on the door and, without even taking my apron off, I went to answer it.
“Miss Stackhouse?” asked the man.
“Yes, that’s me. And you are?”
“Bobby Burnham, Miss. I’m Mr. Northman’s daytime assistant.”
“So this is the mysterious Miss Stackhouse? Not what I had in mind… But then, her grandmother is the most amazing woman…”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Burnham. As you know, I’m Sookie Stackhouse, Eric… hum, Mr. Northman’s lawyer.”
“She’s on first name basis with him?!”
“What can I do for you, Mr. Burnham? Did Mr. Northman ask you to drop some paperwork for me?”
The man searched through his messenger bag and took a blue Tiffany’s box.
“Miss Swynford De Beaufort asked me to bring you this. Have a nice day, Miss Stackhouse.”
He went back to his Sedan and waved at me before driving away. I went back to the kitchen, examining the little box, curiousabout its content. Pam had a history of giving me outrageously pricey gifts, but she’d never bought me jewelry. No, most of my jewelries were either gifts from my dad or gifts from Eric’s, like the charms bracelet he got me for my 9th birthday and the charms he got me each year after that…
“Who was it?”
“Mr. Burnham, Eric’s daytime assistant. He brought me a gift from Pam.”
I showed it to Gran, who smiled at the well-known little box.
“So? What is it?”
I opened it and let out a gasp at its content. It was a platinum necklace with an E pendant with little diamonds. A card had been tucked in it.
I thought it was better than an Eric necklace.
You’ll thank me tonight, Tinkerbell.
“What a beautiful piece of jewelry! You’ll have to wear it tonight, sweetheart.”
“You… You don’t think it’s… I don’t know, too much?”
Gran smiled before taking the delicate necklace and putting it on me.
“There. Perfect! And you did say he was YOUR vampire…”
I sighed. My words were coming back to bite me. I took off my apron and served myself a glass of Sweet Tea.
“So, what did you think of our new neighbor? Is he interesting?”
“You know, Gran… I’ve been spending so much time with Pam, Godric and Eric that it takes a lot to impress me. Bill Compton seemed like a very old fashion vampire… I get this vibe from him, like he’s acting as if he was a Southern gent from the 19th century.”
“Maybe is he, or most likely was, dear. I wonder if he’s the William T. Compton with the empty grave, you know the soldier who never came back from the war?”
I didn’t need to ask which war she was talking about. Gran was a member of the Descendants of the Glorious Dead, a Bon Temps club about the Civil War. She had a plethora of memorabilia in the attic.
“I’ll have to ask him.”
“Do ask him, dear.”
She left for her gardening club, while I went to prepare myself for my meeting tonight. I searched the web for some companies in the area that offered home improvement and printed out their information. I took a long hot shower before choosing carefully what I was going to wear. I needed to be aggressive tonight. Sam Merlotte’s had been a real pain in the ass by stalling the negotiation for the sale of the land. And I needed to look professional, no need to have Vampire Bill think of our meeting as some sort of date.
I choose a black pencil skirt suit with a black silk cami. The necklace looked amazing with it, nestling between my breasts. I put some black 4 inches pumps before being satisfied with the result.
The night was warm, so I decided to walk to Merlotte’s. I know what you think, how can she walk that distance in heels? Well, Gran told me about a short cut through the wood and I’m used to walk through the brick streets of Boston.
Merlotte’s was pack at full capacity when I arrived. I couldn’t get a table so I went to the bar where Tara Thornton was mixing drinks and drafting beer.
“Good evening, Tara.”
She looked at me suspiciously.
“Is Mr. Merlotte in tonight? I have an appointment.”
“He hasn’t left his office all day. Go ahead, I think you know the way.”
I tried to stay out of her head, but she was a loud broadcaster tonight. She thought some pretty nasty about me, mainly aboutthe way I was dressed.
I found Sam Merlotte again in his office, looking through the paperwork I had sent him by courier earlier today.
“Good evening, Shifter.”
“Would you please… Don’t call me that!”
“Why? That’s what you are. And that’s pretty much a double standard, you know. With the hateful thoughts you have regarding vampires. May I sit?”
He nodded, looking quite frightful.
“I see you received my courier. Did you have enough time to look through it?”
“Yes… But I’m… I’m not sure… It is a lot of money, but…”
I took a deep breath. “AIK is a well known company. Along the years they have acquired several properties across the world. Their projects are always the best. Just 10 years ago they bought an old mansion near Jackson Square, in San Francisco, that survived the 1906 Earthquake. Back in the day it was one of the many brothels of Barbary Coast. AIK completely restored the house to its former glory and it is now one of San Francisco best rated inn. I could tell you about so many projects. Ever heard of The Gaul Ambrosia? It’s a well known wine produced in France, in a vineyard owned by AIK.”
“Why would such a corporation be interest in bumfuck Bon Temps, Louisiana?”
“Can you keep a secret? You know the Sheriff of Area 5? Eric Northman?”
“I’m a Supe. I might not socialize with Fangers, but I do know who he is. Why?”
“He’s my boss. And AIK is his.”
Something changed in his eyes. A mixed of fear and anger.
“NO! I won’t get involve in…”
“The way I see it you have two options. Option 1, you sign the papers, cash a huge check and we’re done. Option 2, Mr. Northman is currently enjoying a nice evening with my Gran at our farmhouse. One phone call and he’s in this office and by the time we are out, the land will be his and the amount of the check you will receive will be substantially less than our first offer.”
“He’s with Adele Stackhouse? She… Her, a fangbanger? At her age?”
“Did you just call my Gran, my respected grandmother, a FANGBANGER?”
I took my cell phone out of my purse.
“No! No… I… I’ll sign the papers… I’ll sign whatever you want! Please… Don’t call him…”
I calmed down and threw him a pen. He was shaking as he signed his name on the dotted line.
“A registered check will be sent to you tomorrow morning. It was great doing business with you, Shifter.”
One business done, one to go. I went back to the bar and ordered a Gin & Tonic, waiting for Bill Compton to show up. I looked around me and tried not to pry so much into the minds of the people surrounding me. After a while, I got impatient. It was already half past nine and it was clear that I was stood up. I paid my tab before going to the bathroom. The moment I locked my stall the door opened and the chattered of Merlotte’s two waitresses filled the little room.
“I’m going back tonight, Arlene” said Dawn.
“To that Vamps’ bar in Shreveport? Honey, you are playing with fire!”
The brunette let out a laugh.
“But it’s so good to play with fire, Arlene!”
“No one respectable would dream to get caught going there!”
“If only you knew… You know Maudette Pickens, right? That trash working at the Grabbit Kwick? She’s there almost every night! Have I told you about this big blond vampire that’s always there? Oh God, he’s sex on a stick! And he’s good, like real good. Better than Jason Stackhouse!”
“You had sex with a vampire? And with Jason Stackhouse? No!”
“I had sex with lots of vampires, Arlene. And yes, I let them bite me. But that blond God… Unforgettable! And Jason is pretty perfect for a guy with a beating heart. Athletic, good looking and with a big bank account!”
That little skank! I couldn’t believe it! I flushed the toilet and opened the stall, going straight to the sink.
“Good evening, Arlene, Dawn.”
“Hi, Miss Stackhouse…” said Arlene, as red as a tomato.
“Oh, please, Arlene. Call me Sookie.”
I washed my hands before turning to Dawn.
“If you plan on going to Fangtasia after work I have to warn you that Mr. Northman won’t be there. My client is not at the bar tonight. If you plan to ‘offer’ yourself to him, here’s a little piece of advice if you don’t want him to reject you once more: take a shower. Mr. Northman doesn’t like the smell of your other squeezes. Oh, and about Jason… You’re not his type. You know the desperate kind who lies about who she sleeps with. Well, have a good evening, ladies.”
I left them, not even bothering to put my shield back on as Dawn thought awful thing about me. I looked once more at my watch before deciding that I had waited long enough. Bill Compton had stood me up. Nobody had ever stood me up!
I made my way through the short cut, but stopped in my track. Something was wrong. I could feel a void not so far from me. Lowering my shields I picked up some thought.
“We are going to make so much money out of that fanger’s blood!”
Drainers! I took my Taser Gun out of my purse and made my way quietly toward the thoughts. Bill Compton was lying on the dirt ground, bound by some cheap silver necklace and being drained by two rednecks. The man was looking at the little vial like Gollum with the ring while the woman was inserting a needle in the vampire’s veins.
“You know that draining a vampire and selling V is a Federal offence punishable with at least 5 years of prison?”
“Who the fuck are you?” asked the man.
“The woman who’s about to tase you!”
Everything happened quickly. I tased the man, who writhed in pain. The woman tried to jump on my back, but she fell victim of my Taser gun as well.
“You’ll regret this, bitch!”
“Come on, Denise! Let’s get the hell outa here!”
In a flash, well not really ’cause they were still stung by their close encounter with my Taser, they were gone. I looked at the vampire still on the ground and had to try hard not to laugh.
“Need help with those silver necklaces?”
He simply nodded and let out an exaggerated groan when I took the silver from him.
“Wasn’t that bad, right? I guess this is why you stood me up?”
“They took me by surprise… Tackled me from behind.”
I took the papers I had printed out earlier and handed them to him.
“Here, these are some of the contractors working in the area…”
“Thank you… Would you like to keep the vials of blood? You could make a lot of money out of them. Or you could drink them.”
I laughed. “Do I have to remind you, Mr. Compton that I’m an attorney? Selling V is against the law and I’m not a drug addict.”
There was an awkward silence.
“Aren’t you afraid to be with a hungry, nearly drained vampire?”
“Not at all. First, you weren’t nearly drained. Second, I still have my Taser. While it’s not silver or a stake, it still can incapacitate you.”
He looked at me curiously. It was as if he was trying to see through my soul. Or maybe he was trying to glamour me.
“I would be more than happy to escort you back home, if you’d like. The drainers might come back…”
“Didn’t you just tell me you were nearly drained? Would you even be able to defend poor little me if the two rednecks came back?”
He looked puzzled. “I’m… I was simply… I was raised not to let a young lady venture through the woods alone.”
“Aren’t you a perfect gentleman? For your information I’m not a delicate Southern Belle that needs to be protected. But… You can escort me home. After all we are going in the same direction.”
We were walking through the paths toward the farmhouse when my cell phone biped, alerting me of a text message.
P and I are at the farmhouse with A and J.
You didn’t tell me you were meeting Compton.
Come back soon.
“What? Oh, my clients are at the farmhouse. Want to come for a drink? We have Tru Blood and I’m pretty sure we still have a bottle or two of Royalty Blend.”
“You know about Royalty Blend?” he asked in disbelieved.
“I told you last night that we, Stackhouse, were used to vampires. My law firm is specialized in vampires. I’ve known about you all since I was a little girl.”
We arrived at the farmhouse, all lights up, with Gran’s Caddy, Jason’s Escalade, my Audi and Pam’s stylish mini-van parked inthe driveway.
“Won’t you please come in, Mr. Compton?”
Gran, Jason, Pam, in a beautiful pink dress, and Eric, dapper in a black suit with a black open collar shirt, were all sitting in the living room, chatting softly. The moment Compton saw the two vampires he nearly lost all little color he had in his face.
“Sookie, dear, look who came to visit me!” said Gran, squeezing Eric’s hand.
“Good evening, Sookie. Adele told us you were meeting your new neighbor tonight…”
“Yes, I was. Bill Compton, I’d like to introduce you to my clients, Eric Northman and Pamela Swynford De Beaufort, and my brother, Jason Stackhouse. Jason is also a lawyer.”
“No need to introduce us, Sookie” said Pam. “Eric and I are already acquainted with Mr. Compton.”
“Yes, a long time ago” added Eric. “By the way, how is Lorena, Bill?”
The dark haired vampire gulped. “My maker released me nearly 70 years ago. I haven’t seen her since.”
I could tell that there was much more to the story, but kept quiet. Gran took over her duty as hostess and offered our guest a drink.
“I have Tru Blood, of course, oh and I have your favourite, Eric dear, Royalty Blend!”
The blond vampire smiled. “You are too nice, Adele.”
“How many times will I have to tell you, Eric? Call me Gran!”
I frowned. These two were up to something.
“Mr. Compton? Pamela?”
“I’m good, Gran. But if you could do some tea and bring the pot here, I would love it.”
“Mr. Compton? A glass of Royalty Blend or a Tru Blood?”
Compton was still stunned. “A Tru Blood will be perfect.”
Jason offered to help Gran with the drink and I took a seat next to Eric. He quickly took my hand in his and dropped a soft kiss on my knuckles.
“How did it go with the Shifter, love?”
Love? I was used to min lilla – my little one, min lilla älva – my little fairy and the occasional min älskling – my darling, but love? That was a new one. I decided to play the game.
“Very well, min kärleksfulla Viking (my loving Viking). The land is yours.”
Our exchange clearly made Compton uncomfortable, while Pam was beaming like a proud mama. Gran and Jason soon came back with the drinks and the interrogation started.
“Mr. Compton, I have to ask you… You wouldn’t happen to be the William T. Compton? The one who fought in the War?”
“If you mean the Civil War, Mrs. Stackhouse, then yes, I am this William T. Compton.”
“It’s my lucky day, then! I have so many questions… If you don’t mind answering them, of course.”
“Gran is a history buff, Mr. Compton” explained Jason. “She’d probably be able to teach college level history class if she wanted.”
“Jason is exaggerating. I love history. But I do have a preference for the Civil War era.”
“Gran was so disappointed that I wasn’t born for it and that Eric was in Scotland during the whole thing.”
“I wasn’t disappointed, Pamela! You were extremely resourceful about late Victorian England and you were in San Francisco before the earthquake! And Eric is a thousand years old! He has seen and experienced so many things!”
“Gran is a member of the Descendants of the Glorious Dead. It’s a sort of club, mainly senior citizen of Bon Temps with roots to Confederate soldiers” I said.
“The glorious dead? There is nothing glorious about dying in a war.”
“I think the name of the club refers to the glorious cause, am I right, Gran?”
“You are totally right, Eric dear. Would you agree to come and talk at one of our meeting? We would, of course, accommodate your schedule.”
“It will be a pleasure, Mrs. Stackhouse.”
Gran kept asking Compton questions about Antebellum Bon Temps. Looking at the clock, she realized how late it was.
“An old lady like me needs her beauty sleep, so I’ll have to tell y’all goodnight.”
She kissed Jason, Pam, Eric and I goodnight before leaving for her room. Pam was looking at her cell phone, frowning.
“Long Shadow needs me at the bar… I’m going back to Shreveport.”
“Go ahead, Pam. I’ll fly home.”
Jason finished his beer before getting off the couch.
“How about I drive back to Shreveport with you, Pammy? It wouldn’t look good if a lawyer got arrested for DUI…”
It was soon decided that Pam and Jason would drive back to Shreveport in Pam’s mini-van – no way in hell Eric would be caught driving a pink mini-van! A couple of minutes after my brother and his one-time lover left I let out a big yawned.
“Tired, min älskling?” asked Eric, softly stroking my hair.
I nodded, blushing.
“We better call it a night, right Compton?”
The dark haired vampire, who was intensely looking at us, didn’t answered.
“I’m sorry… I didn’t quite…”
“I said we better call it a night, Compton. Min älskling Sookie needs her sleep if she wishes to be able to work tomorrow morning.”
They both got up and went outside. I said my goodnight before going to the dining room. The window was open and I had a clear view of the porch. The differences between Compton and Eric was so clear, and it went beyond the height difference.
“Those Stackhouses are quite something” said Bill. “I have never seen humans being so open to vampires.”
“The Stackhouses are exceptional, Compton. And they are under my formal protection.”
“You’ve got nothing to worry, Northman. I came back to Bon Temps to mainstream.”
Eric let out a laugh.
“But that Sookie… She’s quite something. Not the Southern Belle I would have expected. But still, very sweet… beautiful… virgin…”
Eric grabbed the other vampire by the collar and held him on one of the pillar, fang down.
“Let me make something clear, Compton: Sookie is MINE!”