I couldn’t believe it. The person sitting in one of the chairs in Eric’s office, was none other than Nan Flanagan from the American Vampire League. I had seen her a number of times on the TV, arguing about vampire rights’ with other officials. I had never before met her in person. I wondered what she was doing in Eric’s office.
I turned around to face Eric, suddenly apologetic for barging in on his meeting. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize…” I turned back toward Nan Flanagan. “I’m sorry for interrupting. You see… He needs to-no, I need him for something.” I turned back to Eric once again. “Something important.”
I tried to communicate with my eyes, as well as with my mind. My gaze was full of urging.
“That is fine,” Nan replied, regally. “I will take my leave but…our conversation is not over with, Mr. Northman.” She gave him a pointed look, then took her leave from Eric’s office.
“What was that about?” I asked, as soon as Nan Flanagan had left the room. “She’s famous, isn’t she?”
“What is wrong, lover?” Eric asked, ignoring my questions. “You are very scared. Did someone threaten you in my club?”
“No!” I objected. “No, it’s nothing like that. Well, kind of. I heard someone’s voice. A male I think. They were threatening to plant something on me because you would never dream of suspecting me. I don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s all so confusing for me. Do you know what they could possibly mean?”
“What did this person say?” He asked, curiously.
“He said that he needed to get rid of the shit. He knows that you own Fangtasia and that he fears you. After you came out and sat with me for a couple of minutes, he noticed me. That’s when he started wondering about planting it on me…but I could tell that he’s scared of doing it when you’re around. Do you know what any of that means?” I asked, puzzled and confused.
“Do you know who this person was?” I had Eric’s full and undivided attention. He sat up with an alarmed kind of alertness.
“No,” I shook my head. “I can only tell you that he was in the room. When I looked around the club for him, he could plainly see that I was looking at him. But I didn’t notice anybody looking back at me or anything.” I shrugged my shoulders.
“I think I know what “shit” he is referring to,” Eric thought aloud. He sighed. “I have been holding something back from you, lover. I should tell you the whole thing, since it is now obvious that they may use you to get at me,” he explained. “I have suspected that there has been a V dealer that has been selling V in my club. I have had my people investigating it, but every road leads to a dead end. In fact, that was why Nan Flanagan was here. She was acting on behalf of the League to find out if all of the rumors were true.”
“Does that mean that you could be in trouble?” I worried. I bit my lip anxiously. “What did she say?”
“She had hardly started; when you burst in. She told me that she was here on behalf of the League and that they suspected some kind of drug activity originating from Fangtasia. I assured her that I had nothing to do with it and that I was investigating it. Then, you barged in.”
“Oh.” I felt badly for interrupting. “I’m sorry. I should have knocked, but the guy had me so scared. I didn’t want to stay out in that room without you.”
“Pam would have protected you. I have instructed her to,” he tried to reassure me. “Come.” He motioned with his arms to come sit on his lap. I did. I rested my head on the crook between his neck and shoulder. He leaned his chin upon my head. “I promise you…I will find out who this person is. I will get rid of the V-selling in my club. I promise to find out who is stalking you. I will make sure everything turns out right in the end. I am sorry,” he tried comforting me.
“This could really hurt our court case with Hunter,” I commented, aloud.
“I know, my lover. That is why I forced you to move in with me for the time being. I need to take care of this, so that we will not have any problems when it comes to the court proceedings. I can not do that, if I am in Bon Temps. And I will not leave you alone with anybody but myself, except for Pam. There is no one else that I trust that completely.” He explained. “Feel better?”
I lifted my head and gazed into his blue eyes. “A little, perhaps. What happens if you don’t find out who the V trafficker is?”
“Then I am sure that the League will step in. Which will make things look even worse for social services. I am sorry that I did not tell you about this sooner. I really thought that I would have solved the problem by now.” He frowned, as if puzzled as to why he hadn’t. “Your stalker has not helped matters any either. If social services finds out about this, then you may not gain custody of Hunter.”
“Argh!” I cried. “Maybe I should rethink this thing?” I mused aloud.
“Lover, please do not let things that are out of your control – reshape your goals and dreams. We will get ourselves out of this somehow,” he said, reassuringly.
“Some parents we’re turning out to be,” I complained. “We can’t even take care of ourselves!”
“Shush.” He pulled my head into his shoulder again. “We will get through this. I promise. It will not be as easily as we pictured, that is all.” He tried to reassure me once again. “Come with me, we will go out into the bar area. You listen intently for that voice and communicate with me what he is saying exactly. If he is too scared to do anything when I am around, then we might be able to catch him before he does anything to you or to others.”
He lifted me from his lap and stood up to his amazing height. I had to crane my neck to look up at him. He took my hand and led me out of his office. We sat down at his table. We both looked around the room for signs of the drug dealer.
“Anything yet?” Eric asked me, telepathically.
“No,” I replied back. I continued to look around the room at all of the patrons. Suddenly, I heard that voice again. I squeezed Eric’s hand to let him know to tune into my mind. I let my mind roam free so that he could listen in. It reassured me because I knew that Eric was basically eavesdropping in on everything that I was hearing. I didn’t feel quite as scared.
There they are. Shit! How can I plant it on her when he’s sitting right next to her? I will have to create a distraction for him, but what? Think, damn it! What to do…what to do?
Suddenly, a fight broke out near the bar. Eric and I both turned towards it, but instead of interfering, we both continued to listen in on the human mind. Eric motioned with his hand, for his employees to take care of the disturbance for him.
Perfect. I didn’t even have to start that fight. What in the hell? That fight should’ve taken him away from her! Damn it! Think!
I looked around the room and happened to notice a man who seemed familiar to me for some reason. Could he be the one? I looked over at Eric, who was frowning, deep in thought.
“See that guy over there by the bar? The one in the overalls?” I asked Eric.
“Yes, what about him?” Eric replied back, after searching and finding the one in question.
“He seems really familiar to me for some reason. The voice mentioned that he knew me and that I worked as a barmaid. Maybe that’s him?”
Without saying anything, Eric moved with blinding speed over to the bar, to where the guy was sitting on a barstool. I wasn’t sure what was said, because Eric couldn’t read the man’s mind, unless I was doing it first. But I could hear the man’s thoughts.
Oh, shit! Can he move fast. I must get out of here! What if he discovers what I’m doing?
A different man and not the man that Eric had approached at all, got up and walked steadily towards the door. I called out to Pam to stop him. She looked at me strangely, then followed the guy out the door. Having heard my words, Eric stopped what he was doing and followed in the chase.
I rushed out of Fangtasia, hoping that one or the other one had caught him. I found Eric and Pam standing next to the building. Eric was holding the man’s neck and pressed him up against the wall. Pam was watching. The man’s feet were off the ground. Eric was choking him. His fangs had elongated.
“What are you doing selling V in my club?” Eric accused. He shook the man. “Who is your supplier?” He demanded.
The guy couldn’t talk of course. He was being choked. He tried to answer Eric but only gurgling sounds came out.
“Eric, you might get your answers if you stopped choking him,” I spoke aloud.
“Stay out of this, Sookie!” Eric shouted at me. I could feel his control slipping.
I had to think of another tactic. “Pam, please…do something,” I pleaded. “Eric won’t get his answers, if the guy is dead.”
I could see her nod her head.
“Eric, Sookie is right. We can take him to the basement. You can interrogate him there,” she tried to reason with her maker.
After a few moments, Eric seemed to be a lot calmer, I could feel. I could tell that we had gotten through to him. “Okay,” he agreed.
They took him to the basement and tied him to a table. I stood on the staircase, watching.
“Sookie, you should not be here to see this,” Eric turned towards me to say. “Go on up to my office. This will not take long.”
Knowing that I didn’t like the thought of watching anybody get tortured, I didn’t fight it. I left the basement and went into Eric’s office, where I paced, impatiently.
After awhile, Eric came back into the room. He had a very pensive look on his face that made me worry.
“Eric?” I asked, as he sat down behind his desk. He looked stunned. “What is it?”
As if suddenly reawakened, Eric shook himself and looked at me. “He…he did not take well to pain. He told me who supplies him, but nothing more than that. I do not think that he knew who was behind it. He admitted that he had been selling V here for awhile. But he did tell me something…that surprised me.”
“What?” I asked, impatiently waiting for Eric to reveal it to me. “Tell me everything,” I pleaded.
“No,” he shook his head. “Let’s just say that you have nothing to fear.” Eric had a pleased expression on his face. “I think I can come up with the rest on my own. I have had my suspicions for awhile now,” he explained.
I could definitely feel Eric’s sense of relaxation. His mood was happy and there was not a hint of concern in his body. I narrowed my eyes at him. Why wouldn’t he tell me? I thought that we were through with keeping secrets from each other?
Eric had read my mind of course and answered my question for me. “You will find out in due time, my lover. In due time…I have a plan and your reaction plays a part in it. I’m sorry. I want you to be really surprised when it is finally revealed,” he explained.
I wasn’t happy. Eric could sense that too. He motioned for me to sit on his lap again. “Come on…” he tried to placate me. “I know that you are disappointed, but I promise…it is better that you do not know for right now. I want this plan to be successful. They will be watching you closely.”
“Who are ‘they’?” I asked him, curiously and suspiciously. I stood there with my arms crossed across my breasts, pouting.
“You will find out soon enough.”
I sighed. I didn’t like being left in the dark and knowing about it too. “I guess…”
“Sookie…have I ever let you down before? Have I not always saved you in the nick of time? Have I not given you what you wanted?” He asked. I nodded my head. He had always been there for me, even when I least expected it. “Good, then trust me on this too.”
I sat down on his lap, not happy, but accepting that the only reason why he was keeping this from me was so that his plan might be successful. We cuddled for awhile. Eric rested his chin on my head. I snuggled up against him, like a comfortable pillow. I felt happy and content in his arms.
“Promise me that when this all blows over, that there will be no more secrets?” I asked. “I promise that I will never keep anything from you ever again too. I think that both of us think that we’re trying to protect the other, but all we’re doing is hurting ourselves in the long run.”
“I agree, lover. I promise.”
He kissed me, sealing our vow. I wished that we were sealing another kind of vow, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up where that was concerned. We had enough on our plate as it was, we didn’t need to make marriage plans another. But I hoped that it would happen…eventually.
The next evening, we were scheduled for our first supervised visitation with Hunter. The social worker would pick him up and bring him over. She would sit there and watch us, while we tried to bond. I was nervous, sure, but I still couldn’t wait. I was terribly excited.
Bella and I had cleaned up the house and rearranged things so that Eric’s valuables would be kept safe from a curious four year old. It had taken all day. I even started to pick out which bedroom Hunter would stay in (hopefully) eventually. He would have a room, that at the moment, looked much more decorated for an adult. I would need to redecorate it for a child. I had the color scheme and everything all planned out in my head.
Eric was nervous, I could tell. I wanted to reassure him that Hunter or any child for that matter, wasn’t as scary as he thought. You’ll be fine. I kept reassuring him in my mind. Hunter is a great kid. I think you and he will get along famously.
Eric would snort when he would hear those thoughts. I knew that they made him happy, but I knew that it didn’t take away his fear. Funny, that a thousand year old vampire would be afraid of a four year old little boy. I wondered how Hunter would react to seeing Eric, a tall striking vampire who used to be a Viking. I hoped that Hunter wouldn’t be a afraid either.
The social worker showed up with Hunter hanging on to her hand. As soon as he saw me, he rushed over towards me and gave me a big hug. I knelt down to hug him. He squealed because I must have squeezed him too tight. Eric’s blood made me stronger than a lot of other human beings. I didn’t know my own strength.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to squeeze you,” I apologized to Hunter. He looked past me and over at Eric. His eyes grew round. “Hunter, this is Eric. Eric, this is Hunter,” I introduced them.
I noticed Hunter’s gaze move up Eric, starting at his feet and up to his head. His eyes grew rounder. I could hear Hunter’s thoughts saying, “wow, he’s big. Is he going to hurt me?”
I spoke to him in his mind. “No, Hunter. Be a gentleman and shake his hand.” I invited.
Hunter stuck his hand out towards Eric, who stood there looking down at him like he was the strangest thing that he’d ever seen. “Pleased to meet ya,” he bravely kept his hand held out for Eric to take it.
“Pleased to meet you too,” Eric reached out and shook his hand, careful not to squeeze it too hard, since he would easily break bones in it. The two of them measured each other up, while they shook hands. Eric grinned and squatted down so that he was at the same level as Hunter. “Welcome to my home. Come with me, I have a surprise for you.”
Hunter looked at me, to give him approval. I nodded my head and told him in his mind that it was okay. Eric led Hunter away into the family room, where the TV was. The social worker and myself, followed along behind. I hadn’t known that Eric had planned a surprise for Hunter. I couldn’t imagine what it would be. I was curious.
There was a box sitting on the coffee table, that I hadn’t noticed until now. It had a big red bow on it and was wrapped like a present. Hunter’s eyes zoomed in on it. “Is that for me?” He asked, curiously.
“Yes,” Eric replied, grinning down at Hunter. “You can open it if you want.”
Hunter raced over to the present and ripped open the wrapping paper, like most little kids do. His eyes grew round when he saw what was inside. “Wow,” he exclaimed, studying the present. “A truck!”
Eric laughed. “That is what it looks like.”
“Can I play with it now?” Hunter wondered.
“Sure,” Eric replied. “It is yours.”
“Really?” Hunter asked, amazed that Eric had given him a present.
“No way!” Hunter exclaimed, excitedly.
“Way,” Eric replied back, fighting to keep the laughter back.
With Eric’s help, Hunter took the truck out of the packaging and started to play with it on the carpeted floor. I walked over and stood next to Eric. “That was very generous of you,” I commented to him. Tears of happiness sprang to my eyes at the thought of Eric doing something so nice for Hunter.
Eric glanced at me, noticed my tears and wrapped his arm around me. “Hey, why are you crying?” He asked, curiously.
“Because…that was so sweet and wonderful and…” I tried to explain it to him, but I was choked up with emotion. “I love you.” I wrapped my arms around his middle.
He hugged me close. “It is okay. I did not think that you would cry because of this.” Eric was concerned about me. “Did I do something wrong?” He asked, suddenly unsure of himself.
“No,” I exclaimed. “You did everything right!”
“Then, why are you crying?”
“No reason. I’m just…you make me so happy. I couldn’t ask for a better man than you,” I replied, still crying.
Eric leaned over and whispered in my ear. “Do not let that get out, you understand?” He laughed.
I laughed too. We stood there and watched Hunter playing with his new truck until I remembered the social worker standing there. “Oops! Where are my manners?” I exclaimed. “Would you like some tea or coffee?” I asked, playing hostess.
“Tea, please,” the social worker replied back, her gaze on Hunter while he played. “That was very nice of you to buy him a toy.” Her mind was easy to read. I would never expect anything like that from a vampire. She thought to herself.
“No problem,” Eric replied. “Have a seat.”
I called Bella into the room, and asked her to bring us some tea. We sat down on the couch and made ourselves comfortable. Eric sat next to me. The social worker took the chair across from us. Bella came back with a tray with a couple of cups and a tea pot. I prepared the social workers’ tea, as well as my own. We sat back and watched Hunter play with his truck.
Hunter was going vroom-vroom, while he drove the truck across the carpet. Eric was staring at him with a curious and puzzled expression on his face.
“Tell me,” the social worker said. “How did the two of you meet?”
I glanced at Eric, who was still staring at Hunter. I could tell that I was on my own with this one. Eric was too curious about Hunter to pay much attention to what was happening with the social worker to care. I shrugged. “Well…it’s a long story. Are you sure that you want to know?”
“It will help with your case,” the social worker pointed out. She kept glancing at Eric and myself, then back again. I could read in her mind that Eric made her scared and she was very curious about our relationship.
“Okay…let’s see,” I tried to think of where to start. “I’ll start at the beginning. I first met Eric when I was investigating a friends’ murder. I went to his club here in Shreveport that he owns. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s called, Fangtasia.” The social worker nodded her head and kept glancing back and forth from me to Eric. “Well, I asked him some questions about my friend, as well as another girl who had been murdered. Then, I kind of started working for Eric. Mostly doing odd things for him.” How do you tell someone that those odd things included mind reading? “Well, we became friends and eventually…we started dating. The rest, as they say is history.”
“Interesting…” the social worker commented. “And are there any plans for the future?”
This time I needed Eric’s help. Eric! I told him in my mind. Help me! I really need your help with this one!
Eric shook himself from his reverie.
“I’m sorry, what was the question?” Eric asked, getting involved with the conversation for the first time.