Chapter 5 – For All the Cows
Things between me and Frank were pretty tense, not in a bad way of course, but you could almost feel the desire for closeness rolling from both of us. I wanted to make an early start on the donors, they were usually up and around not long after I was, making a good dent in the numbers before my meeting with the Queen and Mr. Cataliades was the plan but you never know how these things are going to turn out. I had my usual ‘breakfast’ with Frank; we kept finding ways to touch each other. A pat on the arm here, leaning in to each other when we talked, knees touching under the table.
When we were done eating and decided to head to the donor quarters Frank brought his hand up to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear and we heard someone clear their throat. Miriam. She frowned at us and tutted before walking away.
“I guess she’s not a big fan of employees being friendly with each other.”
“Don’t worry Sook, we’ll work it out.”
I nodded and we walked side by side, my upper arm brushing against his elbow. The donor quarters were in the same wing as mine but a floor below. It took up the whole floor; there were something like 18 or 20 donors living here. Before they signed a contract they had to clear a test for Sino-AIDS and any other blood diseases, they had to be retested every 6 months to ensure they would not pass anything onto the vampires. When you think about it, if you want to have your blood sucked and a lot of sex at the same time it was a sweet deal. I had asked Bill many questions about them. They were always referred to as donors in the Queens court but many Kings apparently kept them in a brothel setting and dubbed them blood whores. A rose by any other name.
The Queens donor accommodation was nothing like a brothel, they had a large social area with couches, a TV, music centre and a kitchen a bit larger than mine but it was not used to entice the vampires to pick a particular girl, this was for relaxation only. The donors were usually well dressed, scattered around the public rooms and socialised rather than lounging in tiny clothes waiting to be picked. All the girls had their own rooms which they were allowed to decorate in their own taste (I was allowed to do this too but hadn’t gotten round to it). Bill had asked them all to be present in the social area before he rested this morning so I was surprised to notice that only 6 girls were sitting watching TV when I and Frank arrived. They turned to look at us but only one girl got up to greet us.
“Hi I’m Sadie.” Sadie wasn’t her real name.
“Hey Sadie, I’m Sookie, this is Frank. You guys know why I’m here?”
One of the other girls sneered at me “Yeah you’re here to sneak the secrets right out of our heads.”
“Oh no! It’s not like that. Have you spoken to Collette?”
“No she wouldn’t talk about what you done to her. Said it was so freaky that her usual Vamp has been treating her differently.”
“Bill? How do you mean differently?”
“He’s been nice to her, more gentle, not taking as much blood and properly healing her marks.”
Sadie seemed confused so she asked why that was a bad thing. No-one really had an answer for that.
“I don’t steal secrets from people’s heads. I do read minds but I’ll be asking specific questions to find out whether any of the girls is a threat to the security of the compound.” Sneery girl, Tia, looked at me; she was thinking why any of this was her business “You see if anyone is a spy for the Fellowship or another organisation out to destroy vampires, they won’t stop with the vampires. Several registered donors have been found dead and the Queen suspects the Fellowship are behind it.”
Yeah, that got their attention. The girls split up and started knocking on doors muttering through the keyholes and generally rounding up the troops. Soon there were 18 girls bright and eager to answer my questions.
“Is there anyone missing?” Frank wanted to make sure we had everyone. He had their employee files with photos attached so we could more easily establish who I had read and who I hadn’t. I picked up the top file and called out her name. I managed to get through 6 girls before the sky went pink. Maybe I would get lucky and be able to read some more after my meeting.
I had just finished eating when Bill came for me. He was obviously not impressed with the food scents wafting around my apartment judging by the way his nose was twitching. I locked my door and walked with him to the Queens chambers. He was still twitching his nose and it was starting to annoy me. He also had barely spoken two words to me in the course of our journey and that annoyed me too.
“Bill. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine Sookie.”
“Bullshit, your nose is twitching like Samantha Stephens!”
“You know. From bewitched.”
“I don’t believe I’m familiar with whatever bewitched is.”
“Argh! It was a TV program, a classic! Never mind, what’s with the nose?”
“You have been close to Frank today.”
“You … uh … can smell that?” he nodded grimly “Oh. Well yes, we work side by side during the day.”
“Does that bother you?”
“More than I thought it would. You have a way about you Sookie, you accept everyone as a person, who they are not what they are. It’s very appealing.”
I smiled awkwardly, was he telling me that he liked me? Liked me in more than a friend/guide way? I figured there was no point making more out of it unless he came right out and said ‘Sookie I would like us to be more than friends’ or unless he tried to kiss me or something. That subject is a sleeping bear I don’t want to poke.
Bill left me outside the Queens chambers and went off to get something to eat. He told me that I should wait until the light goes green and then enter. Green for go! It’s now or never Sookie. I opened the door to find Sophie-Ann and Mr. Cataliades lounging on two sofas. I shuffled nervously towards them, Sophie-Ann smiled warmly, that put me at ease. I was worried she’d be pissed off about me asking for this, either that or she was way too good at hiding her emotions. I sat down and smiled at both of them, Sophie-Ann motioned for me to state my business.
“First of all, thank you again for seeing me, both of you.” They both nodded and assured me it was no problem “Well I’d like to begin by saying that I really love working here, you’ve given me such a great opportunity within your court and I will always be very grateful for that. The contract is amazing with all the clauses to protect me but I’m wondering how much a contract will actually prevent anything bad happening.”
“Sookie.” She was being Sophie-Ann right now, not Queen of Louisiana “I think I understand you. You may have a clause in your contract that you do not wish to be fed from without your explicit agreement but realise that a vampire could take you and feed from you anyway.”
“Yes Ma’am. Also, even though I have resisted glamour, who’s to say it won’t work another time.” I felt a tickle on my brain, like someone taking a feather to my frontal lobe; it was not nice at all.
“Well you just resisted my glamour; the only one who can glamour better than me is The Northman. I would say that you don’t have to worry about that. About the feeding problem, any vampire who feeds from you without your consent would make my contract with you void – they would potentially lose me my telepath. Do you think I would accept that considering the amount of time and effort I’ve put into procuring you?”
“Well, you managed this long without me.”
“Oh Sookie, you underestimate your charms! You are the talk of the compound, and despite a few negative comments, most of the chit chat is about how much respect people have for you talent.”
“Really? Wow, Bill did mention I had a way about me.”
“Indeed and I would not accept any vampire in my court, living or visiting, to put at risk the agreements we have come to. Feeding from an unwilling human is a dangerous game now that we are out in the public eye, punishment would be harsh.”
“I think I may have a solution, if I may?” The rotund lawyer spoke up “We could find a witch to ward your room so all visitors have to be invited inside any time the visit with you. Also we could provide you with an alarm that could be easily accessed if you were accosted while anywhere else in the compound.”
“Those are wonderful ideas! What do you think Sookie?”
“That would make me feel a whole lot safer! Thank you Mr. Cataliades.”
“Was there anything else you wanted to ask me Sookie?”
“Actually no your majesty. I should get back to reading the donors if I want to finish them up tomorrow night. Thank you again for your time.” I nodded at both of them and they nodded back, Bill was waiting for me outside the room. We went back to the donor quarters and I managed to read another 4 available girls before sunrise.
Reading the donors was very tiring, some had been glamoured too often, some were just more intent on getting laid than answering questions and a couple were a little too vocal about how I thought I was better than them. The truth was I didn’t think I was better than them; we were much the same really. We all made money from our talents, it’s just that mine wasn’t of best use in a bed. I finished up with them pretty early, 11pm so I had the rest of the night to relax and gear myself for reading the Sheriffs DA’s tomorrow night.
Bill had told me that the Sherriff’s were coming tonight so they could be ready to meet at first dark and the DA’s were driving to New Orleans during the daytime. There was supposed to be some kind of social event going on tonight to welcome them, Bill asked me if I wanted to go but I knew any other humans there would be donors so I declined. I decided to have a relaxing bath, I spent well over 30 minutes in the tub and was scrubbed to a pink glow and smelling wonderful. Robe wrapped tightly, cookies opened, offensive late-night chat show on. Check out Sookie with the ‘me’ time. Oh yeah!
Just as the red neck momma accused her red neck son of using her bottle of moonshine to set her pick-up alight there was a light rapping at the door. Never knowing who could turn up, I put the chain on, not that it would stop a vampire but it made me feel like I was being proactive with my safety. It was Hadley, she looked kind of down.
“Come in Had, what’s up?”
“I was lonely. I’m still a young vampire so I don’t get spoken to a whole lot at functions and stuff. All the older vamps get together and laugh about the shit they got up to ‘back in the day’ or well night or whatever.”
“Oh Had, that’s a shame. You could stay here and watch TV with me if you want.”
“Actually I was hoping you would doll yourself up and come down to dance with me.”
“Oh. Well I didn’t want to go because I’d be the only human non-donor there, that’s just asking for trouble. I’ll tell you what. You keep the vamps off my veins and I’ll dance with you until sunrise.”
“Deal!” we done our old secret handshake from when we were kids. I was surprised she still remembered it. I went back into the bathroom and slapped some make-up on while Hadley picked out my cocktail dress from the wardrobe. The dress felt short considering I spent most of my time in pants or jeans but it hugged my figure nicely. It was red satin with black chiffon flaring out from under the bust; the chiffon had black sequins dotted over it which made it look like I was moving more than I actually was. A pair of modestly heeled black pumps and I was set.
Hadley and I walked arm in arm the whole way there, giggling like we were going to the prom. Just as we got to the doors my heart rate increased and my palms got sweaty. What if something happened? Hadley turned to look at me and grabbed my face in both her hands.
“Sookie, this will be fine. Stick close to me, Bill is there if you need someone else and of course the Queen will not stand for you to be harmed so any harassment you tell one of us right away, understand?”
I nodded, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I didn’t open my eyes again until we were through the door. A few people turned to look at us but not many. Surprisingly the music was fairly modern, Hadley led me to a bar area where I didn’t have a clue what to order. Had said she used to drink gin and tonic when she was human so I decided to give one a try. One sip, it was quite nice, it was the first time I’d had anything stronger than beer or wine so I decided to take it very easy.
I looked around to see who was calling for me and saw Sadie waving franticly, grinning and flushed, maybe she’d decided not to take it easy. Sure enough on her way over she stumbled a little and had to grab a chair to steady herself. Had and me decided to close the distance to save her maybe having an embarrassing incident. I helped her into a chair and Hadley went to get her a glass of water. Sadie was occupied gushing about what a good time she was having, I dipped into her head and saw three orgasms why she was having a good time. Hadley came back, accompanied by Bill.
“Sookie, what a lovely surprise, you decided to join us after all. You look radiant.”
“Thank you, you look very dapper yourself Bill. Uh … I think Sadie should go and have a lie down, she’s been … um … busy.”
“I’ll take her back to the quarters.”
“Was she wasted cuz?”
“Not really, I think she was just a little euphoric. Dizzy from a rather pleasurable experience y’know.”
“Huh? Oh sex! Well we’ve all been there right?” My blank look made more of an impression than anything else I could have said at that moment. “Sookie? You’re still … y’know … I don’t want to say anything out loud or you’ll be really popular, really quick.”
I muttered that it was none of her business then one of my favourite songs came on. I remembered my Mom and Dad used to dance to this all the time; it brought back happy memories for me so I grabbed Hadley’s hand and we got our groove on. We danced to another 5 songs, I noticed Bill was back so I mock-curtseyed to him and he smiled broadly. I realised that the couple of drinks I’d sipped on had made me a little flirty so I decided to dial it back a bit and sit down for a while. I was busy people … vampire watching, Hadley was dancing with Bill and the Queen was sitting with her remaining children. A deep baritone voice interrupted my thoughts
“May I sit with you?” I turned to see the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen. He was well over six feet tall, with long hair the same colour of blonde as mine and his eyes reminded me of the sea in all those commercials for the Caribbean. He was also a vampire.
“I guess so.”
“I have been watching you, you are not a donor.”
“No I’m not.”
“You are close to … Hadley. The Queens youngest child. Are you her pet?”
“No, I’m her cousin.” I could see he was being polite, trying to work out why I was there without actually saying ‘Why are you here?’. “I’m the Queens Telepath. Sookie Stackhouse and you are?”
“Eric Northman, I am one of the Queens Sheriffs.” Just then Hadley and Bill came over; Bill asked if Sherriff Northman was bothering me. I said ‘no’ but I can’t be sure that further conversation with him would have made me uncomfortable. He was certainly intimidating but I didn’t feel like I was in immediate danger with him. Eric was not amused by the insinuation that we were having anything other than a polite conversation so I made my excuses and asked Hadley to walk me back to my room.
“So cuz, what were you and the Viking talking about?”
“Sherriff Northman, he’s over 1,000 years old and apparently was a Viking when he was human.”
“Wow, well he just wanted to know who I was.”
“Did he ask to feed from you?”
“No, he knew I wasn’t a donor, he did ask if I was your pet.”
“Pet!” Hadley snorted “I don’t think you could ever be any vampires pet Sook!”
Well that was something I could definitely agree with. We parted ways at my door and I changed into my pyjamas. I wanted to be very well rested for my meeting with the DA’s, I wanted to impress all of the visitors and do my best. I was happy, I got to see Frank again tomorrow but as I drifted off to sleep I found myself thinking of a blonde vampire rather than my handsome were.
I didn’t sleep well at all, the alcohol in my system made my dreams more unusual and vivid than I’m used to. I dreamt I was dancing with Eric but there was somewhere I had to be, someone I had to be with, it reminded me of the scene in Labyrinth where Sarah is dancing with Jareth. I woke up feeling sweaty and thirsty; I dragged my carcass to the sink and drank glass after glass of cool water trying to wake up my brain. Note to self: do not drink gin the night before you have an important meeting. Maybe I’d feel better after something to eat. I threw on some clothes and went to meet Frank in the staff dining room.
“You look tired today Sook. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah Frank, there was a social for the Sheriffs last night and Hadley roped me into going along. I’m not used to drinking and the gin tasted nice.”
Frank laughed and welcomed me to ‘hangoverville’ which didn’t really improve my mood, but a plate full of greasy goodness did. There weren’t any people for me to read, but Frank recommended I eat with the DA’s in the evening to establish that I was on the same rung of the ladder as them. Apparently some DA’s feel they’re better than other humans that serve vampires and if I didn’t socialise with them they might think that I’m either not as important as them or that I think I’m too good to spend time with them. After spending so much time talking about my telepathy with Frank we came to the agreement that I should maintain an air of neutrality with anyone I read to try and prevent them thinking about me. Luckily I was a pretty good judge on how to act around different social groups without going into their minds. I had also spoken to Bill about this theory and he agreed whole (non-beating) heartedly.
There were a few hours before the evening meal would be served so we decided to take a trip to the city park, it was a crisp, clear day, ideal for walking or sitting close or making out on park benches. After the 3rd dog walker cleared their throat and made a comment about horny kids we decided to get back to the compound. We arrived at the same time as a very pretty, if a little uptight looking, woman. Miriam was just about to show her to her room when she spotted me and Frank giggling our way to the door. The look she threw at us made me feel like a 5 year old yawning in church, Frank coughed and wiped the smile off his face
“I’ll see you at dinner Miss Stackhouse; enjoy the rest of your afternoon.”
“Yes Mr. Parr, I’ll see you soon.”
We nodded to each other but Miriam was still sneering at us, what was her problem anyway? I went to my room and dug out my most feminine business suit before freshening up for our meal. Dinner was usually served at around 5.30pm and consisted of a hot buffet where everyone filled their plates and either took it back to their room or sat in the dining room but with our guests I wasn’t sure if the meal would be split into courses and brought to the tables. I arrived at 5.25pm and Miriam informed me that we would have a more formal setting for dinner, Frank was already seated with three humans and as I walked to the table he stood to introduce me
“Miss Stackhouse, this is Ms. Talbot, Mr. Burnham and Mr. Halliwell.”
“It’s very nice to meet all of you.” I shook their hands, sat down and looked at the menu for the evening. I was glad Chef Dalton had decided to keep the selection fairly simple, it made it easier to hide my ignorance of fine dining. We talked of our choices, the weather, Ms. Talbot complemented my outfit and I returned it despite the fact she looked like she was going to a company CEO’s funeral. We all seemed at ease with each other until Frank projected that Mr. Burnham kept ‘checking out my rack’, which made me a little uncomfortable.
Small talk didn’t last long and soon we turned to asking about each other’s jobs. Ms. Talbot worked with the Sherriff in Baton Rouge, Mr. Burnham in Shreveport and Mr. Halliwell in Lake Charles, they were all very interested in my work but I managed to fob them off with some ambiguous answers regarding how the Queen came across my talents.
“My cousin recommended me; she is the Queens youngest child. She knew what I could do and suggested that it may be useful, the Queen agreed and brought me here to live and work.”
“So where are you from?” Mr. Burnham seemed to be leading the questions about me “New Orleans?”
“No. I’m from a small town in North Louisiana – Bon Temps, have you heard of it?”
“I’ve seen it on maps of my Masters area but I’ve never been there or met anyone from there. Is it nice?”
“It’s a typical small town, no large corporations, no mall, no nightlife except a redneck bar. I’m glad I was given this opportunity. So if I visited my Grandmother back there I would be in your area?”
“Yes, are you planning on doing that soon? Perhaps we could meet for coffee?” I swear I heard Frank growl, Ms. Talbot must have too because she stared at him oddly. “I would like to go soon, as long as the Queen permits it, but I’m sure my first time back in a long while would be filled with reconnecting with my family and getting to know people again, I doubt I’d have time for coffee but I’ll be sure to get in touch if I do.”
Mr. Burnham smiled brightly and Frank nodded at me. Thankfully the meal was over and I excused myself to fetch my notepad and told them I would meet them in the day room. Frank followed me out and walked me to my room where we found Bill waiting for me
“I’ll see you tomorrow Sookie” Frank gave me a peck on the cheek then looked at Bill as if to say ‘look but don’t touch’. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but Bill wasn’t happy. As soon as Frank was out of earshot he decided to let me know
“Sookie, are you and Frank … together?”
“Well, we like each other a lot but we haven’t really talked about it.”
“I see. Do you have a physical relationship with him?”
“Now you just hold on there William Compton! That’s none of your business!”
“I apologise Sookie, I can see I have offended you with my questions, I’m unused to the human females I converse with being unwilling to speak of these things. The donors speak of their physical relationships very freely.”
“As you know Bill, I am very different from the donors. I am a lady, and ladies do not talk about things like that!”
Bill smiled at me softly “Your sensibilities remind me so much of my wife when I was human, like yourself she was a lady and I will keep that in mind when I desire to know something about you.”
I smiled back at him, I could think of only one reason he would want to know how close me and Frank were but until he made the first move I wasn’t going to assume he wanted to be with me in a boyfriend/girlfriend way. Maybe if Bill had warmed up a little sooner it would be Frank I was having this discussion with. I think about how different things are for me here, before I was sent to Valmont boys wouldn’t come near me but now I had two very handsome men growling over me, not to mention the appraising looks from Mr. Burnham, Andre and Sherriff Northman. Was it because they didn’t have the knowledge of ‘crazy Sookie’? It probably was, which reinforced my happiness in accepting Sophie-Ann’s offer, I had a fresh start with everyone here.
We reached the day room where the DA’s were waiting patiently, the Queen and her children and Sheriffs were talking amongst themselves. Sophie-Ann nodded at me to let me know I should just get started so I sat at my reading table with my notepad. Eager to impress I decided to read all three at the same time, I asked my questions and it just seemed like we were chatting about what I was asking and I was writing down their opinions. I took longer than usual as I had to separate their thoughts but it was very effective as I was getting information from their brains and from the four way discussion which gave the context of their thoughts clarity. When we were done I excused myself and the Queen took me into her office to speak privately about my findings.
“Well Sookie, how did we do?”
“No problems your majesty, Ms. Talbot – Lucy, is new and eager to build trust within her area. Mr. Burnham – Bobby, is very loyal and would rather lose a limb than speak to anyone in the Fellowship and Mr. Halliwell – Steven, thinks it would be beneficial for the DA’s to meet once a month to report and share any instances of Fellowship activity.”
“Very good Sookie, I understand you would like to visit your family. I am currently scheduling meetings with my business associates but the first isn’t until Thursday. I believe you would handle a trip to Bon Temps without problems, I will arrange a driver to take you there tomorrow and here is the business address of the area Sherriff. You will have to check in with him to ensure you are adequately protected.”
“Thank you your majesty! This means a lot to me! I’m going to call Gran and let her know right away!” “I could see that my Sheriffs were impressed with you Sookie, and you’ve been working hard since you got here, a few days break will help clear your mind for the larger scale jobs I have planned.”
“Thank you again, may I be excused?” Sophie-Ann nodded and I tried not to run back to my room but I couldn’t wait to let Gran know I’d be back in Bon Temps in less than 24 hours!