I woke up early the next morning, not at all surprised to see that I was all alone in bed. I wondered when Eric had left to meet with Bill. I hoped that whatever he was dealing with, it wasn’t nearly as serious as what I was going through. But then again, if Eric was getting Bill to investigate…? There were only two reasons why Eric would ask Bill for anything. One, anything to do with investigating something that had to do with his Area or his businesses. Or two, anything to do with me. While Eric hated it that Bill had used me and had basically betrayed both of us, he knew that Bill cared enough about me to know that he would do anything to protect me. Besides the fact that Bill and I were neighbors and Bill would be able to get to me the quickest, in case anything happened.
I didn’t want to think about what Eric was going through. I could tell that he was troubled about something, just from his feelings. But since I knew next to nothing about his business other than the fact that he ran a vampire bar-my assistance would be pretty much useless. Not that I didn’t want to help him-it was just that I was probably the last person who would be of any kind of help that he could use, I thought to myself.
I climbed out of bed, poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table to read the morning paper. Nothing in the paper caught my eye, other than the fact that they had an article about the funeral that I’d attended yesterday.
I called work, to let Sam know that I would be willing to work the next day. I needed to earn some money to pay bills and to pay for lawyers’ fees…if I could find one, that was.
I did some things around the house. It was a bright, sunny day outside. I figured that I’d get a head start on my yard work, since the day was so nice. I weeded some of my flower beds. I raked leaves that had fallen on the ground. I was busy putting the leaves into garbage bags when I heard a car pull into my driveway.
Expecting that it was Amelia, who had called to tell me that she was leaving New Orleans and was on her way home, I spun around to greet her with an expectant smile on my face.
I was startled to see that it was a newer vehicle. It was expensive looking. I looked over towards it, holding the garbage bag with one hand and a handful of leaves in the other. I was surprised to see Mr. Cataliades step out of the vehicle.
He walked over towards me with a friendly smile on his face. The last time I’d seen him, was briefly in Las Vegas. He had been there on business and we had chatted for a little while.
“Good day, Sookie,” he greeted me, when he had moved to a few feet away from me. “You’re looking lovely.”
“Good day to you too, Mr. Cataliades,” I replied back, with a smile. “What brings you by?”
“Oh…” he paused, as he looked around the yard and at my house. “I was in the neighborhood and thought I would stop in…”
He was? I was surprised. He was a half-demon lawyer, who didn’t really know anyone in the area, other than me or Bill…unless he had been asked to. Suddenly, I was suspicious. I narrowed my eyes at him, curious as to the real reason why he was there.
“Are you here on business or pleasure?” I hesitantly asked.
“A little of both, it’s been too long since I’d last seen you. I hoped your trip to Vegas was a rewarding one?” He asked, leaving the question open-ended. Neither one of us had really told the other what our real business was in Las Vegas.
I nodded my head, still kind of speechless at seeing him at my house. “As I hope that yours was as well?” I asked, courteously. “Would you like anything to drink?” I frowned, because I couldn’t recall what demons ate or drank at that moment. My thoughts were swirling around in my head about the real reason why he was there.
“No, thank you,” Mr. Cataliades shook his head. “But I would like to sit down and have a talk, if you don’t mind?”
I nodded my head. I dropped the leaves and the garbage bag on the ground and led us both inside my house. We both sat down on the couch. I stared at him, still unsure of why he was there. I decided to let him lead our conversation. I took off my gardening gloves and rubbed my dirty hands on my jeans. Raking always made my hands feel dry and chapped. I didn’t think that I would need to wash my hands if I wasn’t going to be serving Mr. Cataliades anything.
He looked around my living room, then turned back towards me, as his eyes met mine. “I understand that you are in need of some help.”
“Help?” I repeated, not sure of what he had meant. I stared at him, both puzzled and confused.
“Yes, I’ve heard…I understand that you are having troubles finding a good lawyer.” He replied, giving me a knowing look.
Suddenly, I knew exactly why he was there. The only question was, who had called him and if he was willing to take my case. I felt suddenly relieved. “Yes, I am. Have you heard about my…situation?” I asked, curious to find out all he knew.
“Yes,” he nodded his head. “I understand that you are looking to adopt or have guardianship of a little boy?”
“Yes, sir,” I replied back, suddenly hopeful that he would be helping me out. “He’s my cousin, Hadley’s little boy.” I knew that he would remember Hadley. I wished that I could tell him that Hunter was a telepath like me, but I wanted to protect Hunter. It was funny, because I was already thinking of him as my own.
“I see.” Mr. Cataliades replied, as he took that news in. I could tell that he was surprised, but not entirely. Hadley hadn’t lived a life that would make it seem impossible. “And where is he now?”
“I don’t have a clue,” I replied, shaking my head. “All I know is that he’s staying with Remy’s cousin and his wife. They scare him. He told me that Remy’s cousin is really bad.”
“How do you know that?” He asked, curiously.
“Because he called me late one night. He told me over the phone before we were interrupted,” I explained. “I saw him yesterday at his father’s funeral and he was begging me to take him home with me.” Tears sprang to my eyes, as I remembered. “Please, I need to know. Are you going to help me?” I pleaded. “I know that I won’t be able to pay you right away…but maybe we could work something out?” I shrugged.
Mr. Cataliades seemed to think about it for a few minutes. During that time, I began to fidget and move around in my seat. I was nervous, hoping beyond hope, that he would be able to help me.
“I’ll represent you,” he looked at me, levelly. “Count me in as your official lawyer,” he answered. “Now, I have to be honest with you…”
“Ok-ay,” I replied back, not sure if I wanted to hear it.
“This could be an uphill battle. I’m not going to sugarcoat it by saying that you can get yourself ready to move him in. The family courts really look hard at prospective parents, you see. Are you prepared to fight?”
“Have I ever not been before?” I countered.
“No,” he shook his head. “I just wanted to be sure. The lawyers representing this other couple could try to make you look bad. They will point out that you’re a single woman, who works in a bar. They will try to find out any and all dirt about you,” he explained. “You haven’t had anything peculiar happen to you lately, have you?”
I frowned while I thought about it. Other than the fact that I knew that Eric had killed a vampire who had been out to get us and the fact that I was considered Eric’s blood-bonded, I couldn’t think of anything. “Not that I’m aware of,” I replied. A sudden thought hit me and I wanted to find out if it would have anything to do with my court case. “What if a person was…?” I tried putting it into words, but I was suddenly fearful. I didn’t think that I was being harassed…but I had nothing else to explain the notes and the phone calls.
“What?” Mr. Cataliades asked, curiously. “Nothing should harm your case unless it has bearing on your character,” he replied. “Why?”
“No reason,” I answered, relieved. “I was just curious.”
“Listen, they know about the supernatural world enough to know that if you’re involved with vampires, they may look at you differently, that’s all,” he tried reassuring me. I let him assume that it had something to do with the supernatural world because I had trouble understanding it myself. “Some may hold it against you. Others may not. It all depends on who the judge is on the case.”
“Have you worked in cases similar to this before?” I asked, curious as to how good of a job Mr. Cataliades might do. “Have you ever appeared before in human courts?”
“I…have, but not in a very long time. I have to tell you the truth, the human courts are a lot different than the ones in the supernatural world,” he answered. “Rest assured, I do have assistants who work in human courts all the time. If anything should happen that puzzles me, I’m sure that they will help us see it through.” He said it mostly to reassure me that by hiring him, I would be doing the right thing.
Face it, I thought to myself. I didn’t really have a whole lot of options, did I? Mr. Cataliades was the best that I would be able to get. “Does this mean that you will help me?” I asked, hopefully.
“Miss Stackhouse, I was already your lawyer. I was only making sure that you were prepared for what we are going to do,” he replied.
“When it comes to your fees…I’m not sure how I’ll be paying you,” I frowned in deep thought. “But I’m sure that we could work out something. Maybe I could make small payments over a number of years or something?”
Mr. Cataliades waved it off. “Don’t worry about it. Your bill has been handled.”
“It has?” I questioned, surprised and puzzled. “By who?”
“Um…let’s just say that I was made aware of the situation by someone who knows you and wanted to help,” he replied, vaguely. It was as if he didn’t want me to know or to guess, but I did.
“It’s Eric, isn’t it?” I accused. “He’s the only one who knows. The only one who knows about what I want to do.”
“Now, Sookie,” he tried to pacify me. “You shouldn’t get mad at Eric Northman about this. He called me and told me that you were having troubles finding a lawyer and that you were really wanting to adopt this child. He offered to pay my fees and I couldn’t really refuse. I owe him.”
That sounded like Eric, I thought to myself. He always kept track of who owed whom favors, and collected on them when he needed to. Sometimes, it paid to have Eric as my bonded, I thought to myself. But I wondered in the back of my mind if Mr. Cataliades would have taken my case, if it hadn’t been for the fact that he owed Eric a favor. I decided that I didn’t care. I had a lawyer at last.
“Don’t worry, I’m not mad. I just wished that he would’ve told me that he had hired you,” I sighed. “He likes to do things high-handedly.” I explained. Eric was going to get an earful the next time I saw him, I decided.
Mr. Cataliades didn’t comment. He took in all in stride. “Now that you’ve hired me, we will have to work out our next course of action. I’ll need you to meet with me at my offices in Shreveport.” He replied. “We have a lot of work ahead of us.”
“I’m ready,” I replied, already gearing up towards the case. “I will do anything you ask-if it will mean that Hunter will be able to live with me,” I vowed.
“Good,” he replied, then looked at his watch. “I have to get going. I have another appointment in a couple of hours, so I have to get back. When can you make it?”
“Um…let’s see.” I pictured my work schedule in my mind. “Can I meet you there on Sunday?” I asked, hopefully.
“Sunday is good,” he replied. “I don’t usually work on Sundays, but I will make an exception, just for you.”
He stood up and I walked him to the door. I watched him walk to his car and drive away.
For the first time in a long time, I was really excited. I couldn’t wait to tell Amelia and thank Eric (after I gave him a proper tongue-lashing for keeping it from me). I couldn’t believe what Eric had done. I had thought that he was dead-set against it. He hadn’t said a word about it to me the night before either. I didn’t know whether or not I should strangle him or kiss him. I decided to leave things as they were. I had a lawyer and I wasn’t going to go broke trying to pay him off, that was the main thing.
I finished up my yard work and took a bath. I cooked myself a meal, then sat down to eat.
Amelia came home and I no longer had the house to myself. It was noisy once again, not that I minded. She told me all about her trip and how her house was going.
“…and you wouldn’t believe that asshole of a foreman!” Amelia shook her head. “He had the audacity to tell me that I shouldn’t tell him what to do!” She paused, then continued in her tirade over the construction workers. “The sad part is…he’s a very good-looking man.”
I laughed. “I thought you were through with men for the time being?” I reminded her.
“True, but this one reminded me of why good-looking men are only good for one thing. They should keep their stupid thoughts to themselves,” Amelia pouted.
“Not all good-looking men are like that you know,” I pointed out to her. “Just some of the ones that you’ve met.”
“How is Eric, by the way?” Amelia asked, quickly changing the subject. “Have you seen much of him lately?”
I stared at her. “Have you been talking to Pam?” I asked, cautiously.
“Pam?” Amelia repeated, as if she couldn’t remember who Pam was. “Yes and no. Your bonded is keeping her very busy. She complains about it on the phone to me all the time,” she replied.
I was surprised by this. “What does he have her doing?” I asked aloud.
“Beats the hell out of me,” Amelia shrugged. “Both Pam and I thought that once you two started dating, that Eric would be more easy-going and give Pam less things to do, but he’s not.” Amelia studied me, thoughtfully. “Unless, you aren’t putting out enough…”
“Amelia!” I gasped, then exclaimed. “That’s none of your business!”
Amelia laughed. “Look at how you’re blushing,” she teased. “Is it good? Is he good?” She persisted.
“I’ll have you know that Eric makes me very happy-if you know what I mean. But I honestly don’t see how my relationship with Eric would make things better for either Pam or yourself. I have no control over what he does in his businesses.” I shrugged my shoulders, confused by Amelia’s comments.
“Ah-ha!” Amelia nodded. “That is where you’re wrong. Pam told me all about it. How he changed after the time he spent with you when he’d lost his memory. How he isn’t as carefree as he used to be… It’s not a bad thing. Pam is kind of glad that he fell in love with you and not some crazed fangbanger.” She leaned in closer, as if confiding a secret. “Pam told me that Eric took you out on an actual date.”
“Well…I wouldn’t call it a date in the normal sense of the word,” I replied back, laughing. “Eric took me to Fangtasia, of all places. He had this table set up and we danced and everything. But then our date got interrupted by some crisis that he had to deal with.”
“I’m sorry,” Amelia immediately sobered up. “I used to date a workaholic and they are the worst. They never pay enough attention to you.”
“I don’t think Eric’s a workaholic…he’s just rusty at the dating game, I think.” I replied, automatically defending him. “I think he’s not used to having to court a woman, if you could believe that. He actually came and spent a night or two here, while you were gone.”
“Good,” Amelia breathed a sigh of relief. “I was kind of worried about you being out here all alone.”
“No reason, really,” Amelia shrugged. “It’s just not as safe as a house full of people, I guess.”
We talked some more and Amelia explained the reason why Octavia had to go home. The niece was going in for surgery and needed a fulltime babysitter, which was a relief.
“What’s new with you?” Amelia asked, switching the subject on to me once again.
“Well…Eric bought me a necklace and earring set. I’ll have to show them to you later,” I replied. “And…” this was where I paused. I had forgotten that Amelia might want to have a say in my decision to fight for Hunter. “Did you hear about that accident by Red Ditch?” I asked, curiously.
“Can’t say that I have,” she replied. She frowned, as if trying to remember.
“This couple were driving home and were hit by a drunk driver. They died,” I explained. “Anyways, the man was the father of Hadley’s child.”
“Hadley had a child?” Amelia repeated, incredulously. Her eyes were round. “Since when?”
“Since before she moved in to your house and was turned.” I explained. “This boy is staying at one of Remy’s cousins and…I want to take him into my home.”
“For how long?” Amelia wondered.
“How long is awhile?”
I sighed. “I want to become his legal guardian. He thinks Remy’s cousin and his wife are very bad.”
Amelia was silent for a few moments.
“You’re not saying anything,” I commented.
“What do you want me to say?” Amelia asked. “Are you sure that this is what you want? How will you support him? What will you do for a babysitter? Have you thought this through?”
“Yes. I’ll find a way. I haven’t thought about it yet. And yes again.” I replied back, answering each question in turn.
“What does Eric think about this or does he even know?”
“Eric is…he’s not very happy. But he understands. He knows that this is what I want. He’s going to support me. In fact, he hired Mr. Cataliades to represent me in court.” I answered, pleased that Eric had done that for me. “I was hoping that you would support me too.” I started to pout.
Amelia stared at me. “I don’t know, Sook,” she sighed. “This is a lifetime commitment. Are you sure that this is what you want?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“I can’t believe that Hadley had a child…” Amelia shook her head, in disbelief. “But then again…she was always wild. I’m shocked that you managed to find out who the father was.”
Normally, I would’ve agreed with her. Hadley had been nothing like me. The only thing we’d had in common had been that we were cousins and shared a similar history that involved our Uncle Bartlett. “Please, I need to know that you’re okay with this,” I pleaded.
Amelia stared at me for a few minutes while deep in thought. I could hear it in her mind, all of the thoughts going through her head.
Finally, she spoke.