I’m pretty sure I didn’t stop smiling as I walked over to a couple tables to take their orders. Even just a possibility of having another discussion with Eric tonight was enough to fuel my good mood. I didn’t even care that even though I was a bartender, we were so busy tonight, I needed to help with tables too. It was the only way for the bar to function smoothly being short one wait staff. Kim was handling the other side of the place but, met me half way to the bar, handing me her own orders.
“What were you doing in his office?” she said, raising an eyebrow and probably wondering why I was smiling stupidly. I guess I should wonder the same thing. There should be no reason I was this happy just from talking to him.
“Just discussing stuff,” I told her dismissively.
“Right,” she replied with a corner smile.
“I saw you guys flirting earlier and it’s not like any of us actually spend our breaks with him. Plus, you have that stupid grin on your face,” she said, elbowing me in a friendly gesture; touché.
“We are just friends,” I quickly said, as I made her drinks first. “You know he’s taken, I told you about him and Lexi.”
“And I told you they are not together. It was probably just for the sex,” she said, and I placed the drinks on her tray.
“Why would I want to be with someone who does that? It’s intimate, it’s special, I don’t just have casual sex. I’m not some conquest.” I replied offended.
“Right. I know Sook,” she said apologetically. “I didn’t mean it that way. I just think Eric seems to like you, that’s all.”
I couldn’t explain to her that it wasn’t exactly what it looked like. It wasn’t that he was attracted to me or interested. Our friendship, I guess you could call it, had everything to do with the fact he didn’t need to hide his true nature from me. I felt the same way. Being able to put down my shields, having him now know what I was capable of and not judging me for it made me more at ease, friendlier even. Sure, I couldn’t deny that I was attracted to him and the idea of him being attracted to me made my insides tingle. I just couldn’t imagine someone who could have anyone and everyone they’ve ever desired, wanting to be with me. I might be pretty but he was out of my league.
It was almost closing time when I realized just how fast the time had passed. I hadn’t taken any other breaks since my first one and was a bit sad that I hadn’t spent any more time with Eric.
The crowd was quickly winding down, which gave Kim and I the ability to start on our clean up duties. I wondered what Eric and Pam had planned in order to replace Longshadow, since he was gone. It was strange to think about him in light of what had happened and I could feel my stomach retract as I recalled the events.
“You alright?” Kim said, and I nodded that I was but I could tell she knew better.
“I’m just tired,” I lamented.
“Don’t get sick on me. We’re already short on staff. Where the hell is the new waitress or Longshadow anyways?” she said, as she took the last customer’s credit card.
She punched it through and handed it to him as he took off in a hurry. Once he was gone, the two bouncers entered the bar and locked the door. Their shifts were over and some nights, they stayed behind to help us clean up. Looked like tonight was one of those lucky nights, which was welcomed considering how short staffed we were.
We finished cleaning around 3 a.m., at which point, I was really ready to head home. Kim left first and was quickly followed by the bouncers who left me behind when I told them I just wanted to say bye to Eric before I left. I grabbed my bag around the bar and noticed a cellphone had been left behind. I grabbed it and swiped my finger across the screen. Of course it was locked, so I placed it behind the bar and grabbed my own. I quickly texted Kim to see if she’d forgotten her phone but the one I had didn’t ring and she replied she hadn’t. I left it there, figuring someone was going to come claim it tonight during my next shift.
I headed to Eric’s office and knocked on his door, waiting until he told me to come in. He was sitting at his desk with his feet on it, reading a thick binder.
“Just wanted to say goodnight. We’re done cleaning,” I said to him, waving.
“I am sorry we were short on staff,” he said.
“What happened to the new waitress?” I asked.
“She wasn’t right for the job,” he responded. I wanted to ask how so, but he continued, not leaving me a chance. “I have hired replacements, they should be in tomorrow. Pam will be here to help train. I trust you can show the new bartender the ropes of your job,” he said, and I looked down at the mention of a bartender. This was a replacement for Longshadow and just like earlier, my stomach automatically twisted and I took a deep breath. “Of course, Pam will not be there until sundown so you will need to take care of them until then,” I nodded.
As if Eric had noticed, he reached across the desk for my hand squeezing it gently. I felt uncomfortable, not that his affection was not welcomed or wanted, but I felt guilty anytime he showed me any affection.
“Is Lexi going to be there tomorrow?” I asked as a distraction as I took my hand away from his.
“Yes,” he replied crossing his arms across his chest. “We will have a staff meeting after the shift to make sure everyone is on the same page.” he added.
There was an awkward silence between us and I wasn’t sure what to say. Should I ask him about Lexi and him? Was it in the past now? Did he flirt with his waitresses and bartenders until he would get his way and then move on?
Or maybe I should be more worried about what was coming up this weekend and stop wondering about petty things. I shook my thoughts out of my head and looked up at him.
“I meant to ask whether the people who attacked Pam, and the man from the basement were what I read about in that Cweller book?” I asked him to change the subject.
“Yes they were.” His voice was flat.
“Do you get a lot of hunters figuring you out like that?” I said jokingly. If Eric was an old vampire, wouldn’t having a business put a huge target on your back? Surely he was better at hiding?
“Not exactly, it’s a lot more complicated than that.” His voice was still flat and emotionless.
“What did they want from me then?”
“Most likely information about this operation,” he offered, but I knew there as a lot more to the story and he was simply not sharing.
“Right,” I said suspiciously, “because all they wanted was information about your bar. I’m not stupid Eric.”
“I never said you were. Unfortunately, that is all I am allowed to share with you at the moment. As far as my world is concerned, you are an employee here. I am not to discuss official business with an employee.”
I instantly became defensive and hurt by his words. Of course I was just an employee, nothing else. Why would he share important information with me? I guess my deflated ego had problems accepting the truth. I admit, I’d hoped that after all that had happened, I was a bit more than just an employee to him. I guess I really was naïve and stupid.
He stared at me as if he was studying me. I grew uncomfortable so I tried to avoid eye contact.
“Sorry for asking boss,” I said, between my teeth, as I rose to my feet.
I heard him growl and he was about to reply when Pam entered the office without any warning and scared the crap out of me.
“I hate it when you do that,” I said; vampires and their soundless walking.
“Look at you getting all comfortable with all things vampire. Isn’t it precious?” she said sarcastically. I just rolled my eyes.
“Pam?” Eric said with a stone cold face.
“Sunday; they wanted to wait until the bar was closed,” she replied. I guess I’d missed the first part of the discussion.
“Very well, Sookie, will you still be able to assist me at the trial?” he asked.
“Well I normally work on Sundays so…”
“I am sure Lexi won’t mind taking your shift so you can attend the trial,” he replied.
“You’re not gonna glamour thingy her right?” I said defensively. I didn’t like the bitch but I felt as if glamouring was like violating people. Sure, I am one to talk but to my defense, I didn’t always have control over my ability. They sure did though.
“As I have said to you before, we do not glamour the employees here.” He said and I nodded.
“Alright, is it going to take place in the basement?”
“Perhaps, the location of a trial is never known until mere moments before it starts.” He explained, as I watched Pam taking a seat on the couch across the desk.
“Don’t worry breather, you will be safe. As an asset of the court, you need to be there while they discuss your fate.” She added and I frowned.
“Excuse me?” I may have sounded disbelieving because why would they discuss me, as if I was just an object with no feelings?
“Not helping Pam,” Eric immediately replied.
“I am no one’s asset and I’ll be damned before I go to some fucked up meeting,” I began, walking over to her to give her a piece of my mind. Before I could take even one step, Eric was in front of me.
“Out,” he said, and at first I thought he was talking to me. When he said it again, louder and angrier, he was glaring at Pam. I knew then he was talking to her.
“Fine!” she exclaimed, laughing her ass off and I wondered what the hell was so amusing. Their relationship was more like brother and sister to me than anything else.
Once she exited and closed the door, I was ready to continue my train of thoughts but Eric placed a finger on my lips.
“Sookie, I have explained to you that the only way for you to be completely safe, is if I claim you as my asset. “
“You mean pet!” I said louder.
“Please calm yourself.” His voice was calm and gentle.
I huffed and turned my back on him. Who in their right mind would accept a vampire laying claim on them at some kind of trial? Plus, if the trial didn’t go as he planned, what the hell would happen to me? And calm myself? I was as calm as I could be at the moment.
I didn’t answer him back and instead walked out of the office. I wanted to get back home and find a hole to crawl into. I was angry and now was not the time to try to convince me that being a pet was a good thing.
Much to my dismay, he followed me but before I could reach the main bar, he had grabbed my arm.
“Sookie please,” He said to me, in a softer tone. I was facing him and he had placed his hands on either side of my arms. “I know you do not want to be referred to as a pet. That is not what you mean to me. I don’t have a choice but to use the laws of my world to ensure your safety. This means I will have to pretend you belong to me. It will keep all vampires and any other being, who wishes to live, off your back.” He said it all with a resolved tone that left no place for arguments.
“You seem really confident about this trial,” I replied. I didn’t have his confidence at all and I was having a hard time shaking off my anxiety the minute the trial was mentioned. Sunday was just a couple days away. Was he ready; was I? I felt like my entire life was going to be decided for me and I suddenly had no say in it.
“It is not my first one.”
“How old are you?” I said and he looked away.
“Stop avoiding the question Northman!” I said, which caused him to move closer to me. He was leaning forward enough that our noses were almost touching, his lips millimeters away from mine.
“Why are you so interested in my age?” he whispered, as his lips gently brushed against mine. Parting them as an invitation, I forgot anything and everything that had kept me away from responding to his now obvious advances.
“Mmm-mm,” I heard someone clearing their throat. I immediately took a step back and looked behind me. Of course it was Pam.
“Sorry to interrupt such a fascinating discussion but we have to leave before the sunrise.” She said obviously amused by the situation.
“You’re leaving?” I asked surprised. I guess I’d assumed they both lived in the basement.
“We don’t actually live here,” Pam said.
“Oh,” was all I could reply.
“I was invited to spend tomorrow night in my Queen’s company and her lawyers. They would like to go over a few things before the trial. Nothing to worry about,” he added, as if he felt my anxiety flaring up.
I didn’t reply anything frozzen by my anxiety and the fact that Pam was still in the room. As if he understood how I felt, he requested Pam to leave and wait for him in the car. As soon as the door was closed, he was right in front of me again and no matter how many step back I took, eventually I was stuck between him and the couch.
“Perhaps if I walk you through the trial, your nerves will ease?” he asked and I took a seat on his couch unable to deal with him being so close. All I could do was nodding.
Instead of sitting beside me, he grabbed a chair from his desk and sat in front of me.
“Pam and I will be there to represents ourselves. The Queen and her consorts will be on the opposite. It will look a lot like human trials. The majestrate is what our judge is called. They will most likely start with the matter of Longshadow. You will be asked to testify as a witness. “ he paused, giving me some time to process everything. “Once the matter is settled, they will discuss you as an asset. “
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes as he grabbed my hands leaning forward.
“You won’t like that discussion but I promise you, my only intention is to keep you safe.”
I reopened my eyes and stared at him for awhile. I didn’t know if I felt; angry with the fact I was going to be claimed as an object and ashamed because I was going to let it happened, scared to be too naïve and stupid and that maybe something else was at play here or grateful to have him in my life and taking care of me in such manner.
“Why?” I asked blinking a few times. It was true, as much as I believed him in his intentions, I didn’t understand why.
He stroked the top of my hand with his thumb gently but didn’t reply. Instead, he looked down at the floor and I frowned. Why was he not anwsering me? After several minutes of silence, I could hear Pam had came back inside the bar and was yelling to Eric it was time to go.
I sat at my computer, in my pyjamas, ready to do some research about Sam’s insurance company. But, before I really got into it, I opted to send a text to Lafayette about the note so I wouldn’t forget.
By the time I finished the text about the insurance company and had opened my browser, I heard my phone chime. Briefly looking at it, Lafayette’s reply was short, informing me that 2 men had come to the house to talk to him and he had played dumb.
I started thinking about Sam and placed my phone under my pillow, making sure it was on vibrate mode. We had to find him, if only to make sure he was alright. I had no clue where he could possibly be hiding but, at the same time, I had information that all the others didn’t have. He was definitely supernatural, a shapeshifter, so I knew Sam would most likely not be hiding as a human. He could be anywhere in the wild, hiding as any animal I could imagine, which was making my search a bit long.
I could try to make contact with him. Maybe leave something of his and something of mine in the woods with a cryptic letter letting him know that I know that he’s a shapeshifter and I need to talk to him. I wondered if that would put him in danger?
After tossing and turning for awhile, I decided that making contact was my only option. Knowing Sam, he wouldn’t be far from what was left of his bar. He cared too much to abandon it and everyone he knew. So I picked up a piece of paper and a pen and proceeded to write the note; short and sweet.
Boss, I know your secret. We need to talk. Bark 3 times when you see me.
I figured if someone found the note, A: they wouldn’t know whether I’m talking to Sam or Eric and, B: the barking part wouldn’t make sense to them other than some kind of code between us. Of course, it was my way to let Sam know I knew he could shapeshift and I was sure he’d seen enough dogs that he could transform into one. In the event someone found the note and knew about him, then they would look for the person who wrote the note and wouldn’t know who it was. Okay, maybe by smell they could find me, but I had to take the risk. I also hoped Sam would know the note was from me by my scent and handwriting; he’d seen it enough on bar tickets to know it.
I took one of my old shirts from the closet and left for my car. I wasn’t sure if Gran was still asleep but normally people were at this time of day. I hoped she couldn’t hear me leave otherwise I would have some explaining to do later on. I got to my car and headed to the woods around Merlotte’s. Dropped my shields to make sure no one was nearby, I entered the woods once I was convinced I was completely alone. After 15 minutes of walking, I left my shirt and the note on the ground and went back home.
I got to work a bit before 8 p.m., beating all the other staff members to work. It was still bright outside so I knew Pam wouldn’t be up yet. The bouncer let me in with a bit of small talk. Knowing he was a member of the supernatural community made it easy to talk with him. I mean, it explained the fuzziness of his mind, but it also explained some of the tics he had. Overall, it just removed some of the mystery around them. He asked me a couple times if I knew who the 3 new employees were but I just shrugged every time. All I knew, is that Lexi and I were going to be shadowed for my bartending shift and Kim nad Nathalie was doing the same for the waitress one.
“To be honest I didn’t even know they were hiring 2,” I replied to him when he asked about how busy we’ve been, “but we sure could use the help.”
“It’s only gonna get busier, I mean with the band season coming up and all,” he added. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about exactly. I guess I knew they had bands here and there for different types of crowds, but I wasn’t aware there was actually a season for live music.
“There is such a thing as a season for bands?” My voice couldn’t contain my surprise.
“Yeah, there is more activity I guess. I mean Blackthorne is coming and that’s pretty big. They don’t normally come to bars like this one. I don’t know what the boss told them but it’s definitely going to bring a lot of business.” It was nice getting information from other employees.
“When are they coming?” I asked innocently. Truth be told, I had no idea what he was even talking about and I found it odd I wasn’t told about it. Then again, Eric and Pam had been pretty busy these past few weeks including my enlightenment, so really, who could blame them?
“Next Saturday,” he said, which made sense, it’s our busiest night. “It’s going to be completely crazy here. It’s more of a rock band than anything, it’ll attract a different crowd.” He passed his hand through his hair and looked to the parking lot where a young lady pulled in. “I guess it’s a good thing the boss decided to hire more people; probably humans too.” He added with a quick smile after sniffing the air.
“That’s a good thing why?” I was curious as to why he would want more humans and not other weres.
“Control of course,” he replied and I frowned. Maybe I was being naïve when I believed Eric and his ‘no glamour policy’ when it came to employees but I didn’t see anything else he could have been referring to.
“Can you be glamoured?” I asked him, feeling weird to be having this discussion in the first place.
“Only from very powerful Vamps,” he said, before adding, “heads up,” chin pointing to the girl that was walking towards us.
She was tall and skinny and walked with a lot of grace and confidence. She had black hair, black eyes and her skin colour was fairly dark. As if there was not enough darkness about her looks, she was dressed completely in black leather down to the colour of the nail polish on her toes.
“Hey” she said as she quickly waved. “I am Beca, the new bartender,” she added, as I smiled at her. She wasn’t the warmest person in the world but she was nice enough. Plus, her presence was quite welcomed and needed; being short staffed was not fun at all.
As if on cue, a second car pulled into the parking lot and a woman with the exact same frame got out of it. As she walked over to us, I noticed she had the exact same walk as Becca, the exact same legs, arms, hips. Heck, even her hair was the same length, colour and everything. Once she got close, it became obvious they were actually twins. Great, maybe Eric had a fantasy about being with a set of twins; it’s a fairly common one after all. I’d heard it countless times.
I shook the mean thought out of my head and waited for Becca n.2 to reach us. It was interesting to see that as much as they were identical in their physical features, they both dressed completely different. While Becca was dressed entirely in black leather, her sister was dressed with a white flowy cotton dress, which was very odd and didn’t really match the image of Salon Rouge at all.
“Hey,” she said to Becca and then looked at me and the bouncer. “I’m Kat! New waitress and no we are not related,” she added. I looked at her in confusion. “I’m just kidding,” she declared and they both laughed.
“I’m Sookie and this is Pete. I’m a bartender as well,” I said to Becca and she simply nodded in response. “Pam won’t be here,” I paused before stating, “until sundown,” and then cleared my throat. “She comes in a bit later. Let me show you around.”
The bouncer let us through and I showed them where to drop their purses. They were both very quiet but their minds weren’t so much. Becca seemed to be cataloguing the place as if she needed to remember where everything was. I found it odd but at the same time, I’d come across such minds before. They were logical in nature with very little feelings intertwined with the thoughts. Usually, these people were very efficient at their job and I guess it makes sense she was going to be the bartender. Kat however, was the total opposite of her sister. All I could pick up was actual excitement over how the place looked and how fun it will be to work here for a little while. She then started thinking about Eric and I could tell she had met him before and that she was attracted to him. She was wondering when he would make an appearance but little did she know; he wouldn’t join us tonight.
Before I could hear anything else, I decided this was a good time to stop listening to their thoughts. Not only were they of a personal nature, but I really didn’t need to know if anything happened between them. For all I knew, she had a crush on him because he was the one she’d given her resume to.
We took about an hour to go through the bar and the drink menu. They both seemed as if they had previous experience, which was a huge plus since some patrons were already coming in. Kim came in at the same time and I waved at her. After another round of introductions, we all started working and getting in some sort of rhythm, where Kim was bringing me her orders and Kat and Becca were teaming up. Of course, I kept an eye on Becca to ensure that the drinks were right and that she was taking the right cash or making the right marks in the black book.
Kim kept an eye on Kat and judging by her thoughts, she didn’t like her much. She kept calling her weirdo in her thoughts which made me chuckled and put my shields back up.
Pam made an appearance around 10:30 and made a straight line to my side of the bar. She sat on one of the stools and leaned forward on one elbow.
“Thoughts?” she asked and I frowned at my interrogation. “Did you pick up any?” she asked.
“If you mean to ask whether I have been snooping around their mind or not, No,” I said firmly, a bit hurt she would think I listened into people’s minds all the time. If only she knew what people thought about, she would understand why I don’t.
She growled and rolled her eyes.
“Sookie, your abilities can be useful here. Don’t you see how important it is to verify the new employees? Don’t be a brat!” she added between her teeth as Kat and Becca made their way to her as if they were on cue and synchronized together. Pam rolled her eyes before saying hi to them and then addressed Kat telling her that was not Salon Rouge approved attire. She had such good bed side manners this one.
I resumed working, not interested to know how they took it or whatever else Pam wanted to tell them. I was still annoyed about her insinuations. I understood why she wanted me to snoop around but it didn’t make me comfrotable about it.
The bar was very busy and everyone was buzzing about the band coming the following weekend. Some of them even asked me if I was a fan and if I’d met them. I of course replied no, since I had no clue who they were or even what kind of music they played, nor did I care. I was in a bad mood and it now showed in my tips.
I decided that despite how uncomfortable I was to openly just listen to people’s thoughts, I had my part to play in keeping this place safe including the staff. Eric had already promised to look after myself and my family; I felt I owed it to him to protect what was his?
The rest of the shift went by quickly and I had not picked up anything suspicious from anyone in the bar. It was strange not having Eric around and if I am honest, I missed him. I knew I would see him tomorrow but there was a part of me that just wanted to see him as much as possible and I was impatient for this never ending day to end.
A/N: thank you Nicole for the beta work 😀