Chapter 3

Tara POV
Karma. That’s the only reason my life should suck big hairy ass as much as it does. If I hadn’t been such a bitch on wheels, I wouldn’t be sittin’ drinkin’ alone in a dive bar in Monroe. I’ve been nasty and judgemental and the man I loved was taken away from me because of it. You do good things and good things happen to you. I’m tryin’, lord knows I’m tryin’. I’m makin’ time for my Momma and keepin’ away from people who might piss me off right now. I only have one drink and I nurse that sucka for 3 hours just to avoid the good folks of Bon Temps. Any time I have a night off, this is what I’ve been doing. The bartender recognises me but I’m still a long way off from being a regular, the manager is missing tonight, he’s usually on a stool at the end of the bar keeping an eye on the waitresses.

I hear booming voices and see the manager walking into the bar from where the restrooms are he’s followed by another man, older than I am but handsome still. I shouldn’t be lookin’, after eggs I don’t think I’ll ever love again; it just hurts too much to let people in.

“See Angelo, this is just wrong!”

I turn to find the handsome man gesturing to me, he betta’ not be talkin’ ‘bout the fact I’m black. I spin in my seat ready to give this fucker hell the next time he opens his big white mouth.

“How can you let a pretty lady like this look so downhearted? You should really get some entertainment in this dive.”

Well shit. I vaguely hear ‘Angelo’ muttering ‘bout how people come there specifically to feel depressed, I can’t disagree. Handsome comes closer and I notice he’s pale, way pale, like vampire Bill pale.

“Please, allow me to introduce myself. I am Franklin.” He takes my hand and kisses the back “May I have the pleasure of knowing the name of the lady I’m paying attention to?”

“Tara pleased to meet you … Franklin.”

“This place is a dump Tara; let me take you somewhere that your beauty will be appreciated.”

“That’s very kind of you to offer but I should be getting home.”

“Tara!” He puts his hands over his heart “You’re rejecting me before we have a chance to get to know one another. Can I at least have a telephone number so I can try to convince you to accompany me on a date?” Shit this guy’s smooth, and he ain’t givin’ up easy, not in a creepy way either, it’s nice.

“You can contact me at Merlotte’s bar, Bon Temps. If you’ll excuse me.”

No way was I giving that guy my phone number, hopefully he’ll take the hint and back off. Smooth as he is, I don’t know if I’m ready to start up with anyone let alone a vampire.

Eric POV
I call Pam into my office to inform her I’ll be leaving early. There were two parts to the debt I was calling in from Herveaux. The first was Sookie’s house and the second was to listen carefully to the grapevine in case the Weres with Lorena made themselves public. His pack had apprehended a Were based in Jackson, Mississippi who had been bragging about a vampire job in a local Shifter bar. Alcide had very kindly promised to wait until I was there to start the questioning, very impressive, I’ll keep him in mind for any other jobs that require daytime muscle.

I arrive at an abandoned barn near Ruston and the smell of Were almost makes me heave, one or two I can stand but squeeze more than 8 in an enclosed space and it’s unbearable.

“Only Herveaux and I need to be here for this, you may wait outside.”

There’s the obvious growling, Weres don’t like taking orders from vampires but they’ll do it for the right price. Herveaux takes a sack off the tied up Weres head. He’s a typical biker Were, some of the two-natured just can’t bring themselves to be civilised like Herveaux, hell even bathing more often would be in this guys favour.

“You were heard talking about a job for a vampire. Do you know which vampire hired you?”

“A dark haired chick, she called herself Lorena. She hired me and three of my men to watch her boy toy.”

“Boy Toy? She was with a male, human?”

“Nah Nah Vamp like her. Called him William. He didn’t wanna come at first but 5 minutes alone with her and they were at it like rabbits!”

“They shared blood?”

“Maybe, I dunno. It sounded wild anyway. The two of ‘em left last night arm in arm to go back to Jackson.”

“Your only orders were to take the vampire and watch him?”

“Nah, she wanted us to go and rough up some chick, but we refused. Vamps are one thing but she said the chick was human – I don’t roll like that.”

“How noble of you.” I turned to Herveaux “She ordered a hit on Sookie.”

“What!? Why would she do that? Sookie’s a nice girl.”

“Indeed. Tell me, do you know if she managed to get a taker for the hit on the human woman?”

“Yeah, Coot’s gang picked it up. I heard one of ‘em boasting about how he loves to get paid for what he does best.”

“Charming. Alcide you need to be my eyes and ears around Sookie Stackhouse in the daytime, I’ll keep watch on her at night.”

“Sure thing Northman. Not a problem. Can I let this guy go?”

“He’s told us everything he knows and he’s only an accessory, untie him.”

Alcide unties him and the dirty Were stands and stretches. I allow him to walk five feet then I strike, pinning him against a wall by the neck with one hand.

“Do. Not. Fuck. Around. In. My. Area. Understand?”

“Sure thing man, we’re cool, I’ll stay out unless I got official pack business.”

I let him go, nod to Alcide and drive as fast as I can to Bon Temps. I swing past the shifters bar in case she is at work and sure enough her piece of crap car is parked near the trailer that the Shifter lives in.

Sookie POV
This has been a bad night.
Tara has the night off and is doing whatever it is she’s been doing these days, at first I thought she was with her Momma but Lafayette says she gets in her car and drives off but always comes back before midnight. I’m worried about her but finding it hard to listen to other people’s problems seeing as I have a few of my own.

Hoyt keeps asking me if I’ve seen Jessica, it’s a major probability she’s in the basement at Fangtasia for tearing Truckers’ throats out but I can’t tell him that.

A gruesome biker guy with ‘Hell Hounds’ stitched on the back of a leather vest sits in my section and keeps staring at me like dog stares at a steak.

And finally, as if my night isn’t complete, Eric Northman strolls in like he owns the goddamn place and gives Lafayette a heart attack! I can hear the cook running around back there trying to hide. Eric stands at the bar preening, I swear I can actually hear the elastic on Arlene’s panties loosening. I guess I should see what he wants

“Hey Eric, can I get you anything?”

Anything Sookie?”

“To drink, from a bottle.”

“Then no, I would like to speak with you though.”

“Can it wait until I’m done?” Eric looked at the biker and the biker growled at him. I checked out grease balls brain and it was the same as Alcide’s.

“No, can we go somewhere more private?”

“Sure Sam’s office is down here.” He follows me into the small room and closes the door behind him. I don’t like this, I had another freaky ass erotic dream about him last night and the last thing I want is to be in a small room alone with him.

“Sookie, we know where Bill is but there’s a problem.”

“What kind of problem?”

“Well two problems really.” I give him my ‘well go on then’ look “First it seems Lorena has rebonded with him.”

“Yeah, yeah, he can’t leave her.”

“He doesn’t want to leave her Sookie. They were overheard being … intimate and seemed very affectionate towards one another when leaving the area.”

“Oh.”

“I know that was not what you wanted to hear but there is more.”

“More? More than finding out that the man who proposed to me less than a week ago is off humping his bitch ho’ maker?”

“Yes, before Lorena left the state she put out a hit on you. One of the gang members who agreed to take the job is sitting out in the bar.”

“So, she had to rebond to get her man and take out a contract on his ex’s life just to make sure? Exactly how crazy is this bitch?”

“Very. Sookie, this is my fault.”

“How is it your fault Eric?”

“Bill was pissing me off; I knew he was hiding something so I called Lorena to shake him up. I had no idea she would put you in this danger.”

“You called in Bill’s maker just to piss him off? For no other reason?”

“The thought that she might come between you and Bill was not a downside. I have not hidden my interest in you.”

“Your interest in my Telepathy!”

“If that’s what you want to think it is. The fact remains that you have a price on your head, you need to be protected until we can neutralise the threat. I or Pam will be around at night and Alcide will be there during the day.”

“Alcide? He’s not human is he?”

“He’s a Werewolf, not only that but he is a Werewolf that I trust, you can count the number of those on one hand.”

“Great so let me just get things straight. My boyfriend is cheating on me…”

“Vampires really don’t care much for monogamy; it wouldn’t be classed as cheating in our world.”

“Whatever! He’s off doing another woman and I don’t care much for that, not only that but his whore wants me dead why? Just to make sure?”

“Probably.”

“So as a result of you having terminal dickheadery my life is in danger?”

“Terminal dickheadery?” He’s actually smiling; the big a-hole is smiling at me.

“Eric I’m glad you find all this amusing. Now I have to be babysat until when? Until Lorena calls the gang and says ‘whoopsie’?”

“We find the gang leader and convince him to leave you alone and I find the way you rant to be very amusing, especially when it makes you go that delightful shade of pink.”

He starts to walk towards me, slowly reaching a hand out to stroke down one side of my face with his index finger. I’m angry that Lorena is involved because of him but as soon as Eric realised it had gotten out of hand he told me the truth, I appreciated that and it calmed me down. I don’t remember Bill calming me down so quickly when I was angry at him.

“I have to go help close up Eric.”

“I will wait for you and follow you home.”

I nod and go out front to make sure everything is where it should be, thankfully Arlene took care of my tables for me. Lafayette must have taken off in case Eric decided to talk to him too. When all the customers were out and the takings were in Sam’s safe, Eric walked me out to my car. We couldn’t see the biker guy, but Eric followed me back to Bills place. Just walking in the door like he owned the place, a big part of why I didn’t feel safe at Bills was the fact vampires didn’t need an invite.

“You. Stay down here. I’m going for a shower.”

He looked at me and smirked as if to say ‘yeah right’ but somehow I knew he would do it. He’d been different since Bill had been taken, nicer. I pondered this as I walked upstairs into the room I’d been using. I opened the window and looked out over the cemetery when I heard screaming coming from … my house!

Eric POV
She should be angrier than this. Shock, she must be in shock or perhaps it’s my admission that I was the one to bring Lorena into the mix. Sookie likes the truth, she appreciates honesty. She accepted my protection without argument as soon as she knew why she was in danger and the only demand she has made is that I remain downstairs while she showers. Which I will. She is beginning to trust me; one wrong move would undo any headway I’ve made.

I hear a scream from beyond the graveyard and Sookie comes barrelling downstairs. I quickly throw her onto my back and race to her farmhouse at vampire speed to find out the source. There is a blonde girl standing next to a limo, bags at her sides and her hands over her mouth. The driver of the car is standing next to her. I let Sookie down and she runs to the girl. When she turns I see it is the Queens pet. Why on earth would she be here?

Sookie POV
“Hadley?”

“Oh Sookie! You’re okay! When I saw the house I thought … I don’t know what I thought!”

Well that wasn’t unusual, Hadley very rarely thought at all. What the hell is she doing here? All these years and she chooses to show up when my life is more complex than a crossword without clues. She pulls me into a hug and I just stand there. What am I supposed to do here? Should I ask her to come back to Bills with me?

“There was … some trouble, I’m getting it fixed. I’m staying … across the way right now. Let’s go and we’ll talk about this.”

Eric is watching us closely; he’s looking at Hadley like he knows her. She picks up her bag and dismisses the driver.

“So is Gran there too?”

“Hadley” I rub my hands over my face “Gran is dead, we would have gotten in touch but no-one knew where you were.”

“Dead? How?”

“Murdered, by a man who didn’t like woman being friendly with vampires.”

“Was Gran … y’know … with a vamp?”

“Of course not! Geez Had! He was after me because of Bill, a vampire I’m … I was seeing and after he killed Gran he didn’t give up, he would have got me too but I fought him off.”

“Wow Sookie, your life sure is interesting.”

Almost through the cemetery, I can’t wait to just get inside and get to bed and deal with her in the morning.

“Yeah sure Hadley, interesting, whatever.”

I check to see where Eric is, he’s walking behind us listening to everything. When we get to Bills, I take her upstairs and put her in the room Jessica uses for her clothes, it has a bed but I’ll need to get sheets for it. Eric follows me

“How do you know that girl Sookie?”

“She’s my estranged cousin, we thought she was dead actually, god knows where she’s been all this time.”

“I’ve met her, at the Queens palace. She is a pet there.”

“What? That’s where she’s been? Fangbanging with royalty? Too busy to let her family know she’s alive and then she just decides to show up here without warning.”

“She seemed to be a favourite of the Queen, you should find out what she’s doing here. Does she know of your mind reading?”

“Well everyone knows Eric; they just don’t like to talk about it.”

“I see.”

We look into each other’s eyes, cogs turning. The Queen, Hadley, Bill, me. I grab the sheets and run back to the room. Hadley is humming a tune, unfolding her clothes and laying them flat in the suitcase to stop creases.

“Hadley, where have you been all these years?”

“Well, I was bad with drugs but Sophie-Ann found me when I hit rock bottom and took me under her wing.”

I looked at Eric and he nodded at me, was he confirming that Sophie-Ann and the Queen of Louisiana were the same woman?

“Is Sophie-Ann a vampire?”

“Yes! Queen of the vampires in Louisiana! How did you guess?”

“Just a hunch.” I grit my teeth “Did you tell her much about our family? About me?”

“Well she asked a lot about family, and she loved to hear my stories about you when you were little. Y’know how you used to always be in trouble for speaking out of turn with that thing you do.”

“You told her I could read minds?”

“Well she was really interested. She’s nice Sookie, well now she is, I had some behavioural problems at first but I learned.”

“Okay Hadley, I’ll just let you get settled.”

I looked in her head, she was thinking about how nice my life would be if I went to live with her, how much fun we could have at the palace. Oh God! They had a room ready for me and everything. I numbly turned around and headed to my room, once again Eric followed me. He watched as I picked out some pyjamas and sat on the bed when I went into the bathroom to change. I came back out and sat next to him.

“Are you okay Sookie?”

“I’m … I don’t know how to feel about this, any of this. Every corner I turn there’s another knife in my back, I don’t know how much more I can take!”

I shudder and pull my knees up to my chest letting the sobs rack my body. I look at Eric, covered in tears and snot and he’s shocked? Disgusted? Scared? I can’t place his facial expression.

“Sookie I … I’m not sure what to do. Do I hold you? Crying women like to be held would you like that?”

I shake my head. A thousand years, wars, blood, guts and he’s scared of a crying woman? I start to laugh, almost hysterically and stagger into the bathroom to wash my face. I turn around and he’s watching me from the door uncomfortably.

“I amuse you? Are you making … fun of me?”

“Eric. It’s not that, it’s just that you’re so big and strong and mean and I’ve made you uneasy just by crying. You have to admit, that is pretty funny!”

“If you say so. My comfort zone with females rarely exceeds sex and feeding, I don’t deal well with emotional women.”

“I can see that!” I sigh “So, it’s been a long night and I’d like to try and get some sleep. I have work tomorrow and I’d like to meet the crew who’ll be working on my house before I go.”

“I have some calls to make, do you know if Compton has a light-tight space I could use?”

“Yes it’s …” He put his fingers over my lips and told me just to show him. As we walked past the room Hadley was in I checked her brain pattern – she was asleep. I took him to the closet and opened the trap door. He was muttering in that language he and Pam spoke in sometimes, he closed the trap door and closet door and told me to go back upstairs and rest. It didn’t take long for sleep to take me despite all the circles my mind was going round in. I dreamt of a cool hard body lying next to me, wait it wasn’t a dream. Could it be? Had Bill come home? I checked the time on my cell phone – 4am, I turned around and saw Eric not Bill.

“Eric! What are you doing?!”

“Snuggling.”

“What is wrong with you? I thought Bill had come back! Why don’t you have a shirt on?”

He snorted and said something about Bill not making life that easy for anyone. Apparently Bill and Lorena had been spotted in Jackson and if I wanted to help I could maybe try listening in at some Supe club there to try and find out exactly where they were.

“It would be more subtle if I did that, if I didn’t go what would your plan be?”

“Abduct and glamour. Not so subtle and obviously I’m well known so the less I’m visible the better.”

“You know Bill wouldn’t like this don’t you? Me putting myself at risk.”

“Because Bill thinks you can’t handle it, I know different.”

“So if you need to be ‘less visible’ who’s going to this club with me?”

“It needs to be a Supe; I’ve asked Alcide if he would accompany you.”

“When? I’ve got responsibilities here. Sam is away right now and I’m helping run the bar.”

“As soon as possible, I could send a couple of waitresses from Fangtasia over, ease the load if you think that would help.”

“That would be great … why are you doing this? I know the Queen told you to find Bill but why are you being so nice to me? I mean I’m grateful and all …” He rolls on top of me and traps me between his arms. I’m trying not to think about how great he looks, I’m trying not to look at his chest but keeping your eyes off perfection is difficult.

“How grateful?”

“What?! Eric I’m not going to have sex with you to say ‘thank you’!”

“I don’t really care why you do it. Yield to me Sookie.”

“Gross Eric! Get off me! Put your shirt back on and leave me to sleep!”

I had to get him out of the bed before I did something I’d regret. Through everything that’s happened recently I’m finding myself … glad … that he’s around. He’s right about Bill not thinking I can handle things, Bill would never ask me to use my telepathy to help anyone, which begs the question ‘what the hell did he think I would use it for?’. I feel that I can speak up and be myself around Eric, that isn’t his blood doing that, it’s always been the case. Bill always tried to stop me speaking my mind and asking questions and it annoyed me but I get the feeling Eric would only stop me if it would cause major problems.

Alcide POV
I rap on the door of yet another dilapidated house in this area. Is there any property that doesn’t need work in this town? I’m not here to rate architecture; I’m here to guard Sookie. I don’t know what it is about this girl but the fact she’s got a female vamp putting a price on her head and Northman making sure it doesn’t happen, makes her pretty damn special.

The door is opened by a blonde and at first glance I think it’s Sookie but it’s not. I hear Sookie’s voice asking who it is

“Some hot guy. You expecting any hot guys Sook?”

“What are you on about Hadley? Oh! Alcide, hi how are you?”

“I’m fine Sookie, you ready to go check out what we’ve done so far?”

“Yeah, I noticed most of the inside had been cleared.”

“Yeah we’re going to work on the siding today then move into the interior; the crews can work at it while we’re away.”

“Okay.”

“Where are you going?” Other blonde … Hadley? Sookie stares daggers at her; I get the feeling that Hadley isn’t welcome here.

“Had, I have to go out of town for a while; Alcide is going with me to make sure I don’t get lost.”

“Can I come? I don’t want to be left alone here.”

Sookie pinches the bridge of her nose and tells Hadley she can come as long as she doesn’t get in the way. I can see she doesn’t want the other girl to know any details of where and why we’re going out of town. They follow my truck to the farmhouse, I quickly show them what the crew has done and what they’ll be finishing today and introduce Sookie to the guys before I follow Sookie’s car to Merlotte’s so I can keep an eye on her at work. Hadley decides she’ll ‘help out’ and I can see Sookie’s blood pressure rise.

I sit in a booth where I can see the entrance and most of the bar, I can move to keep an eye on Sookie if she needs to go to the bathroom or store room. She sends Hadley out back with the trash and heads over to get an order from who looks to be the local Sherriff. There’s a lot of banging, growling coming from outside. Everyone from the bar runs round to the back of the building to see a Motorcycle speed off and Hadley bleeding on the ground. I get close enough to scent the air – Were.

Sookie POV
Bud radioed in for the paramedics. She wasn’t dead, just real close. Whoever attacked her must have thought it was me. I ride to the hospital with her but she’s unconscious so it’s not like I’m putting her mind at rest or anything, just tryin’ to make myself feel better, Alcide had followed the ambulance in his truck. She just happened to come back to Bon Temps right after the Queen found out Bill hadn’t tricked me down the aisle, and she just happened to be the Queens pet, whatever that entailed.

So it turns out I can’t trust my family, I can’t trust the man I love (loved?) but I can trust the one person I didn’t want to. The doctor informs me she’s had substantial head trauma and is in a coma. They don’t know when she’ll come round, there’s nothing more I can do. I call Jason to tell him what’s happened and tell him a friend will give me a ride back to Bon Temps. I didn’t give him the details of why I thought Hadley was back, just that she was and that she’d been attacked, I didn’t say that they thought she was me.

The sooner we get Bill back and get everything cleared up the better, I pick up Hadley’s belongings and Alcide takes me back to Merlotte’s where I find three waitresses from Fangtasia picking up the slack so I tell everyone I’ll be back in a few days and we head back to Bills so I can pack a bag for Jackson. I was about to leave Hadley’s cell phone with the rest of her things but something tells me to keep it close.

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