Suki59's Fanfiction

Sleepless in Shreveport

Sookie hears the voice of a lonely caller on the radio one night, and her life is never the same. Set in Book 1, this sweet little romance is for Rebelina11 from her Secret Santa in the Sookie’s Secret Santa fic exchange. Rated: T – Romance – Chapters: 1 – Words: 8,922 – Published: 12-26-11

A/N: This was written for Sookie’s Secret Santa fic exchange, a brilliant idea from Jan of Arc and blakes boogie that drew a record number of participating SVM fanfic writers. Rebelina11 was drawn for me, and so this was written for her.

Thank you to Jan of Arc and blakes boogie for hosting the exchange. (I wrote The Exchange as a special thank you to them both—see my profile for the link.) And thank you to my very wonderful beta, Thyra10.

Disclaimer: I don’t own the Southern Vampire Mysteries or Sleepless in Seattle, but I love them both.

It was Christmas Eve and I was on my way to Jason’s house for a late dinner after work. Bill had called earlier and said he’d just meet me there rather than pick me up. I hoped that was because he had some last minute shopping to do, but feared that more likely he had some sort of vampire business. I didn’t like to think about that.

This was our first Christmas without Gran, so Jason and I decided we should spend it at his house where it might lessen the pain of her absence at least a little. Jason wasn’t much of a cook, but he promised he’d feed us. We’d decided to celebrate after Merlotte’s closed on Christmas Eve rather than on Christmas morning so Bill could come as well.

It was my first Christmas without Gran, but also my first one with Bill, so I wanted to try and enjoy it for that reason.

Thinking of Gran made the tears start, so I pulled over and stopped the car, turning off the lights. The road was empty. I assumed most people were at home with their families. I let the familiar sadness wash over me, sobbing into my hands for a few minutes. I needed to get it all out so I could get through the rest of the night with a smile on my face.

Once I’d settled down, I wiped my cheeks and blew my nose. Even in the dark though, I could see enough in the rear view mirror to tell my face and eyes were all red.

I decided to wait a minute before continuing, so I turned the radio on to pass the time.

It seemed every Christmas carol started a lump in my throat. This wasn’t what I needed at all. Finally, I found a station with one of those call in shows. I usually found those to be pretty boring, but this one was for vampires, so it caught my attention.

“Merry Christmas, everyone,” the woman’s voice started. “This is Doctor Marsha Mainstream, and I’m here to help humans and vampires work together to find happiness.”

I rolled my eyes. Could humans and vampires find happiness together? Sure, I loved Bill, but let’s face it, a big part of me wasn’t so thrilled with what he was. Vampires seemed to me to be violent and secretive, and I suspected I’d only seen the tip of the iceberg.

“Our next caller is on the line. Calling from Shreveport, Louisiana. Merry Christmas, caller. How can I help you tonight?”

“Are you supposed to be like a Dear Abby for vampires?” a woman’s voice asked.

“Not exactly, my dear. I’m a doctor. Please call me Doctor Marsha. And what can I call you?”

“Pam. My name’s Pam. A doctor of what? You know what … never mind. It doesn’t matter. I have a problem with my master.”

“So, you’re a vampire?”

“Gee, you must have a special degree to have figured that out.”

“I sense some anger in you, Pam.”

There was just a deep sigh from the caller that made me smile.

“And what seems to be the problem with your master?” the doctor continued.

“Well, he’s not getting the whole mainstreaming thing. He bites and … um … enjoys human women indiscriminately. You know, as if we were still in the coffin. I keep trying to get him to treat them better, but … well, it’s been many, many years since he was human. He’s just not capable of connecting with them like you mainstreamers seem to want.”

“I see. And you feel he’s missing out on some joy he’d find with the right human?”

“Hmm. Sort of. I guess I just want to see him happier. He’s just … well, he doesn’t seem to be getting anything out of all this. Other than getting fed and laid, I mean. But is that enough?”

“Please remember we’re on the air, Pam.”

“Oh, sorry. Anyway, what do you suggest for a very old vampire to try and get him mainstreaming?”

“Well, surely, he once loved a human—at least when he was one himself.”

“I don’t know. Honestly, it’s been so long for him.”

“Do you think he’d be willing to talk to me about this?”

“Are you kidding? He’d silver me if he knew I was …”

Pam seemed to be interrupted and there was a booming man’s voice in the background.

“Are you on the radio?” The man sounded furious. “Give me that.”

Then, the voice was clearer. “Is this that Doctor Mainstream idiot?”

“Please call me Doctor Marsha.”

I rolled my eyes again.

“Don’t be angry with Pam,” the doctor said evenly. “She’s very worried about you. She called me because she wants you to be happy with a human.”

“Happy? She said that?” And then presumably to Pam, “You called her?”

“She loves you and wants you to be more fulfilled in your relationships with humans. Are you troubled by your inability to connect with humans? Does this keep you up nights? I’ll just call you Sleepless in Shreveport.”

“I’m a vampire, you moron.”

“And, you’re so angry, Sleepless. I’d like to help you with that.”

There was an audible click, followed by a brief silence.

“Sleepless? Are you there?”

Nothing.

“Let’s go to a commercial now, and when we come back, we’ll talk a little about how age can affect a vampire’s ability to mainstream.”

I turned the radio off and found I’d forgotten how upset I’d been only moments before and was actually smiling at the angry vampire on the radio. The host was kind of an idiot, but it was just funny to me how he’d pointed it out to her listeners.

I started driving again, in a much better mood, and headed to Jason’s.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

Once the new year started, I was feeling a little better. I’d gotten through the holidays, which were tough without Gran, but things were moving along.

Bill and I were getting more serious and I was happy that I finally had someone special in my life. I believed that Bill sincerely loved me, but I’d be lying if I said that nagging little voice in the back of my mind didn’t bother me. It kept reminding me that I was dating a vampire.

It also wouldn’t let me forget that radio caller in Shreveport. There was just something about him that seemed to stick in my mind.

At work one night, Arlene asked if I ever listened to Doctor Marsha Mainstream.

“Actually, yes, I did just recently,” I answered.

“Well, she had this one caller, Sleepless in Shreveport …”

“Yes, that’s the one I heard. It was pretty funny, actually.”

“Well, apparently, you weren’t the only one listening that night. I heard the radio station has gotten like a zillion marriage proposals from all these women who want to marry that grumpy old vampire. Can you believe that?” She started laughing as if the idea of marrying a vampire were the most preposterous thing any woman could imagine. Then she caught herself. “Oh sorry, hun.”

I just smiled.

“But, I’m sure he’s not anything like your guy,” she continued.

I dipped into her brain and heard her think, Actually, they do all seem the same to me.

“That’s okay, Arlene. There was something really interesting about that vampire. I can kind of see why women would be intrigued. It’s like a challenge.”

Arlene nodded in understanding.

“Plus, he did have a really nice voice.”

Arlene’s brow furrowed.

“Not that I’m interested, of course.”

“No, of course not.”

We went back to our tables and didn’t mention Sleepless in Shreveport again, but he was on my mind more than I cared to admit.

Was I curious because I was involved with a vampire? Or was it something else?

I mulled it over and over in my mind but just couldn’t seem to sort out my feelings. Finally, one night on my break, I sat down at Sam’s desk and decided to write out a letter—to try and get my feelings down on paper. But it was just for me. I certainly had no intentions of mailing it. I thought of the angry vampire and started to write …

Dear Sleepless in Shreveport,

I understand you’ve had a bunch of proposals from human women.

I’m human, but I’m not proposing.

I’ve thought a lot about you and how you seemed to feel about what your child, Pam, said about you on the radio.

I understand your anger, but she obviously sincerely worries about you. And now, so do I, for some reason.

I think everyone deserves happiness in life, and it seems you’re having trouble finding it.

I can’t really imagine how you must feel since you and I are obviously very different. But, then again, aren’t we really all the same deep down? Are you really so far removed from your human life that you don’t connect to us any more?

Anyway, I hope not. I hope you find your way back to a day when you were happy. I hope you haven’t given up on us. Or on yourself.

I stopped writing and folded the letter and stuffed it into my apron pocket. Time to get back to work.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

January flew by. I kept busy at work. Bill and I were doing fine. I tried not to think about Sleepless in Shreveport and to focus instead on my own relationship.

After I’d started my letter to Sleepless in Shreveport that night in Sam’s office, I’d accidentally left it in my apron pocket when I tossed it into the laundry hamper at work. I hoped Sam didn’t find it and think I was some kind of nut.

Of course, most people looked at me like I was crazy anyway. I watched Sam for a few days and checked his thoughts, and got very little. He was harder to read than most people for some reason, but he didn’t seem to act any differently towards me, so I let it go.

I was off the last Saturday night in January, and Bill had invited me to go dancing at a bar in Shreveport. It sounded romantic and fun, so I said yes, of course.

I put on my best dress even though it was kind of summery, and paid special attention to my hair and makeup. I was very excited about our big date, but on the drive to Shreveport, Bill was very quiet for some reason. He seemed almost distant—distracted maybe.

Of course, I couldn’t hear his thoughts, so was left to wonder if I’d done or said something wrong.

We pulled into the parking lot of the bar and I read the sign out front.

“Fangtasia?” I asked.

“It’s a vampire bar,” Bill said as he pulled into a parking space.

“Oh, Bill, I don’t know about this.” I spied the line of people waiting to get in and they were all dressed in black and leather and looked pretty rough.

“It’ll be fine, Sookie. Don’t worry.”

We stood in the line and when it came our turn at the door, a beautiful blonde vampire asked for my I.D.

When she read it, I thought I caught some kind of recognition, but then her face was a blank again and I wondered if I’d imagined it.

“Sookie Stackhouse, is it?” she asked.

“Yes.”

She eyed Bill for an uncomfortable moment and he finally said, “I’m mainstreaming, Pam.”

“I can see that,” she answered dryly, and handed my license back to me. “Welcome to Fangtasia,” she said to me.

“Thanks.”

Bill took my hand and led me to an empty table for two. He ordered a True Blood and a gin and tonic for me and then just sat quietly scanning the room.

I kept waiting for him to ask me to dance, but he didn’t. So I started to look around the room as well.

It was filled with people trying very hard to look cool or tough or sexy. I felt completely out of place in my white sundress with red flowers on it, and wished we’d stayed in Bon Temps.

I watched the people on the dance floor and sipped my drink, wishing I could blend in more when I suddenly had the distinct feeling I was being watched.

I turned my head and saw a man seated alone at a booth in the corner of the room by the bar. He was staring at me alright. I could tell he was a vampire, of course, but he was also the most beautiful man I’d ever seen. His eyes were a piercing blue—I could tell even from a distance, and he had long hair the same color as mine. When our eyes met, he stood from the booth and unfolded into a very tall, very gorgeous, very masculine man. One who was headed right at me.

My breath caught in my throat and I felt a rush of warmth in my cheeks.

The people in the bar seemed to step aside for the vampire as he neared our table. His eyes never left mine as he approached.

He stopped in front of me and took my hand in both of his. They were large and cool to the touch, of course. Mine trembled a little, but I wasn’t afraid.

“I’m Eric Northman,” he said in a deep velvety voice. I was glad I was sitting down or my knees might have buckled from the sex dripping from his voice.

“How do you do?” I squeaked out. “I’m Soo …”

“Eric!” Bill interrupted me. “How are you this evening?”

Eric’s eyes flicked over at Bill, but then quickly returned to gazing into mine.

“I wasn’t expecting you tonight,” Eric said. He was obviously speaking to Bill, but still looking at me.

I became aware of our hands still touching and was suddenly uncomfortable with my feelings, especially with Bill right beside me. I pulled my hand back and placed it in my lap.

Eric turned his attention to Bill.

“I’m meeting someone,” Bill said and I turned to look at him. This was news to me.

“Do tell,” Eric said. I was curious as well.

“Andre, if you must know,” Bill responded.

I had no idea who Andre was.

“I believe I should know, don’t you?” Eric seemed a little miffed.

“This doesn’t concern you, Eric.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Bill. You’re in my area. You know better.”

“We can discuss this later, Eric,” Bill said. He didn’t seem too interested in pursuing this line of conversation in front of me. I wondered what in the world was going on and felt very uncomfortable.

Eric looked back at me and his stare made me feel a little dizzy.

He said, “Where are my manners? Would you like to dance?”

My stomach did a little flip at the prospect of spending a moment in this man’s arms, but before I could answer, Bill interrupted me.

“No,” Bill said sharply.

I looked over at him.

He continued, “I mean, no, thank you, Eric. I promised her a dance first.”

Bill grabbed my hand and dragged me from my seat towards the dance floor. I turned back to say something—it was nice to meet you? Thanks anyway? But, the sexy Eric Northman was gone.

Bill and I danced and I positioned myself on the floor so I could see that corner booth, and sure enough, there he was again. With his eyes on me, I should have felt self-conscious, but instead, I just felt sexy. I reluctantly tore my eyes from his and turned my attention back to Bill.

Bill glanced back and saw where I’d been looking, naturally.

“So, what’s his story?” I asked. There was no use in pretending I hadn’t noticed him.

“That’s Eric,” Bill said. “He owns Fangtasia. And he’s the oldest thing in here.”

It’s funny. I’d never thought about how old he might be. Vampires all seemed youthful in appearance, and Eric certainly looked young. But I guess with vampires, you can’t really tell.

I looked back at Eric, but he wasn’t looking at me anymore. I felt a touch of disappointment.

There was a small crowd of women around his booth. All of them had their attention focused on Eric. I watched as one approached him, but he scowled at her and she backed away.

Seeing him look so angry—well, suddenly something clicked. He was very grumpy and angry. And Bill said he was also very old.

I looked over at the entrance of the bar—at the beautiful woman checking I.D.s and remembered that Bill had called her Pam. Could she be Eric’s child?

And where were we? In Shreveport. All the puzzle pieces fell into place and I looked back at Eric and gasped.

Eric was Sleepless in Shreveport.

I remembered how his voice had been haunting me and how I’d felt so sad at how unhappy he must be. And then, I thought how it was even sadder now that I saw him and understood how empty he must feel with all these women throwing themselves at him, but his never finding anything meaningful in it.

And how ironic that he was so gorgeous. Of course, he could have anyone he wanted, and yet, he was unfulfilled.

At that moment, Bill stopped dancing and took his phone from his pocket. He read the screen and said, “I’ll be right back.”

I stopped dancing as well and watched him run out the front door. When I looked back at Eric, he was watching me again.

I walked over to his booth and ignored the insults the women around him were thinking at me.

I stopped and held out my hand and said, “I’d like that dance now, if the offer is still good.”

Eric smiled and my heart melted. “Oh, it’s very good,” he said teasingly, and stood and took my hand.

We walked to the dance floor and he put his hand on my waist. He took my other hand in his and we began to dance in a very formal and old fashioned style. It wasn’t a slow song, but we danced slowly anyway, staring into each other’s eyes and smiling. I forgot anyone else was in the room.

Eric finally spoke. “You’re lovely.”

I blushed. “And so are you.”

He laughed a little and pulled me closer to his body. My heart raced as his face touched my hair and he inhaled.

His head turned a little and he spoke into my ear. “There’s something very different about you.”

I pulled back and looked into his eyes and teased, “I’ll bet you say that to all the girls.”

He smiled, but then his smile faded. “Honestly, I can’t remember when I last said that to anyone.”

I thought of how Pam had described him as so unhappy and my heart broke for him. I looked at his beautiful mouth and wanted to kiss him more than anything I’d ever wanted in my life.

I looked back at his eyes and they were on my mouth as well.

For a long blissful moment, we just held each other and I felt a connection I’d never felt before. His face came a little closer and for one breathless second, I closed my eyes, waiting for the kiss.

But instead of a kiss, I got a loud, “Excuse me!”

Bill was suddenly beside me. “We have to go.” He pulled my hand from Eric’s. “Goodnight, Eric,” he said as he started to lead me away.

I looked back and Eric just smiled as I was pulled away from him. I gave him a little wave and soon found myself out the door and in the parking lot.

As soon as we got in the car, I asked, “Why do we have to go?”

“It was just time to leave, that’s all.”

“Oh.” We pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards Bon Temps. “And what about that Andre guy?”

“Don’t worry about that.”

“Who is he anyway?” I asked.

“No one for you to be concerned about.”

The rest of the ride was mostly silent. I kept thinking about Eric, and Bill seemed to be far away in thought as well.

For once, I was glad when he dropped me at home and didn’t ask to come in. He said he wanted to walk in the woods a bit and I said I was tired.

But really, I just wanted to be alone with my thoughts. I lay in bed and replayed that dance over and over in my mind. I thought it was hard for me to get Sleepless in Shreveport off my mind before. Now, I knew it would be impossible. All I wanted to do was think about him. About Eric Northman.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

When I got to work the next afternoon, I stepped into Sam’s office to stash my purse in his desk drawer and he said, “Oh, Sookie, this letter came for you last week. I kept forgetting to tell you.”

He handed me an envelope with my name and the bar’s address on it in very flowery handwriting. There was no return address.

“Thanks, Sam.” I couldn’t imagine who had written me a letter at work and I started to open it as I made my way out to the bar to start my shift.

But before I’d taken the letter out of the envelope, Arlene came up and grabbed my hand and said, “Oh my god. When did that come?”

I looked up at her, puzzled. “You know what this is about?”

She smiled sheepishly. “Oh, honey, now don’t be mad at me, but I … well, I kind of mailed that letter you wrote to that guy on the radio—Sleepless in Shreveport.”

“You did what?” My mouth fell open.

“Well, I found the letter when I was sorting the laundry and it was just so sweet, and honey, I know it’s none of my business, but there’s no reason you can’t be seeing other people. I know you’re dating Bill and everything, but … ”

“You mailed it?” I still couldn’t believe it. I tried to remember what I’d said in the letter. I looked down at the envelope in my hand. “And you signed my name?”

“Well, sure. But I didn’t put your home address. I wouldn’t do that.”

We both just stared at the envelope for a second and Arlene finally said, “Well?”

I took the letter out and started to read it out loud.

“Dear Sookie. I really liked your letter. You don’t sound nearly as stupid as most humans.”

I glanced up at Arlene and we both frowned a little.

“I would like to meet you to see if we can have a romance. Dear Abby says human women love romance. In my research, I have learned that they often wish for their own lives to mirror those in film and literature in the romance genre.”

“He sounds like a professor or something,” Arlene interjected.

I went on. “Let’s meet at midnight on Saint Valentine’s Day on top of the newly constructed parking garage at 5th and Westbrook in Shreveport. It’s not exactly the Empire State Building, but I think we can make it work.”

“Oh, it’s like that Cary Grant movie!” Arlene squealed. “An Affair to Remember. Do you know it?”

“Well, of course. I’m a girl, aren’t I?” We both giggled and I went back to the letter. “We can smell each other and ascertain whether we should mate. Dear Abby puts a lot of stock in scent when it comes to successful coupling.”

I looked at Arlene and her nose wrinkled.

“I look forward to meeting you. Signed, Sleepless in Shreveport.”

I took a deep breath and Arlene said, “Well, he’s not exactly a poet, is he?”

“No, not exactly.” I folded the letter and put it back into the envelope. “Arlene, I know who Sleepless in Shreveport is.”

Her eyes grew wide. “You do?”

“Yes. As a matter of fact, I met him last night.”

“Oh my god. And tell me—is he cute?”

I thought of those clear blue eyes and the way he held me when we danced and I shook my head. “Way more than cute. He’s … well, he’s gorgeous.”

Arlene jumped up and down and clapped. “Really? Oh my god, this is so exciting. So, now you have to go to him on Valentine’s Day!”

“Not so fast.” I looked back down at the letter. “Yes, he was gorgeous, but now that I see a little of his personality, I’m not so sure this is such a good idea. He wants to smell me? To see if we should mate?”

“So, he’s not a great writer. Don’t hold that against him. Writing can be overrated. Sookie, you have to do this.”

“No.” I walked behind the bar and tossed the letter in the trash. “No, this is crazy. I’m not going. I have a perfectly wonderful boyfriend. There’s absolutely no reason to go running after a gorgeous vampire who wants to smell me. This was fun, but it’s over.”

Arlene’s face fell. “But, sweetie …”

I patted her on the arm, “I’m not mad that you sent the letter. In fact, I’m glad you did. Now I know he’s not for me.” I tried to shake the image of his tall frame walking towards me from across the room—the way his hair moved, and his long stride. “Nope. Not doing this.”

I gave Arlene a hug to show her I wasn’t upset and went to work setting up my tables.

I thought a lot about the letter and it helped me every time I caught myself picturing the tall blond god I’d danced with. I was determined to move past the obsession first with the radio caller, and then, the subsequent meeting of Eric Northman. I would make myself forget him and move forward with Bill. Of that, I was certain.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

For the next two weeks, I focused all my energy on Bill. I loved Bill, and wanted nothing more than to try and be happy with him. But, it seemed the more I tried to get closer to Bill, the more distant he became.

I’d tried several times to ask him about that meeting with Andre that he’d apparently missed at Fangtasia, thinking that if I showed more of an interest in his vampire affairs, we could be closer. But, it only seemed to make him mad.

He’d started to spend more and more time on his computer, but if I asked what he was working on, he’d change the subject.

I wondered if we were both working too much—me at Merlotte’s and Bill on his computer, and thought that a romantic night out for Valentine’s Day would be just the thing to get us back on track.

Sam was happy to give me the night off, and I told Bill I thought we should have a date that night.

Bill made reservations at a fancy penthouse restaurant in a hotel in downtown Shreveport (not at Fangtasia, thank you very much).

I splurged on a beautiful new dress at Tara’s Togs. It was midnight blue velvet with a scoop neck and long sleeves and delicate black lace trim. It showed more cleavage than I was used to, but the lace softened it a bit.

When I got dressed that night, I draped my little black purse over one shoulder and took a long look at myself in the mirror.

Gran had crocheted that little purse for me and added one of her old rhinestone pins as a closure. I felt my eyes start to well up, and caught myself.

Gran would not want to see me crying. She would want me to be happy. That’s what people want for their loved ones. Then I thought about Pam on the radio wishing happiness for Eric. I truly hoped he’d find happiness.

But tonight, I’d be working on finding my own. I wiped away the tear that had spilled onto my cheek and went out into the living room to wait for Bill.

~ o ~ o ~ o ~

The Penthouse in the Westbrook Hotel was the most beautiful restaurant I’d ever seen. Bill and I had a table by the window with a view across the city that took my breath away.

Once we were seated, Bill ordered drinks for us and I asked for a menu.

Bill gave me a funny look and as soon as the waiter walked away, he said, “I thought you would have already eaten by now.”

It was after ten and I was starving. “No, I thought we were eating here. I mean … I thought I’d be eating here. So, I waited.”

“Oh.” He sat back and just kind of looked out at the view.

I knew it grossed him out to see me eat, but I thought since this was a special date ….

“You know what, I’m not hungry after all. Don’t worry about it. I won’t get any food.”

He smiled at me. “Thank you, Sookie.”

I nursed my gin and tonic slowly, not wanting it to go to my head since I had an empty stomach. Bill and I watched the couples on the dance floor and enjoyed the view out the window.

Bill kept checking his email and texting someone. I started to ask who he was texting, but then caught myself. I didn’t want to irritate him. He already seemed to be a little grumpy.

My mood was starting to deflate as well as the evening progressed and it didn’t seem to be the romantic date I’d hoped for.

I excused myself and went into the ladies room and gave myself a silent little pep talk in the mirror. I touched the crocheted purse at my hip and thought of Gran. I plastered a happy smile on my face and went back out to see Bill again.

I sat down at the table and Bill glanced up from his phone and gave me a curt smile in response to the big one I was wearing. Then suddenly, it hit me. I’m not happy. I was trying so hard to pretend, but it was all fake.

And Bill wasn’t happy either. His polite smile was as fake as mine. I stopped smiling.

“What is it, Sookie?” he asked, putting the phone into his jacket pocket.

“We’re not very happy, are we?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Being happy. It’s important, don’t you think?”

“I suppose.”

“Yes, it is, Bill. It is important. At least to me.”

“Okay, so what would make you happy? Is this about dinner? I’m sure we can still order something.”

“No. This isn’t about dinner.” My stomach growled right on cue. “This is about us. You and me. Honestly, Bill, I can’t remember when we were last really happy.” I paused and waited for his response, but he seemed speechless. So, I went on. “I don’t think this is working any more.”

Bill’s mouth opened and closed again before he finally spoke. “You’re breaking up with me?”

That hadn’t exactly been my intention when I’d started the conversation, but suddenly, it seemed to be a very good idea. “Yes. I’m breaking up with you.”

He just stared at me for a long moment and finally said, “Is there someone else?”

“No. There’s no one else.” I felt a twinge of guilt when Eric’s face flashed in my mind, but dismissed it. “This is just about you and me.” That was true.

I waited for Bill to say something. Suddenly, his expression changed and he pulled his phone out and looked at it. He held a finger up and said, “I need to take this,” before he stood and stepped away to answer the phone.

I thought, well, isn’t this typical, and turned to look out the window while he took his apparently extremely important phone call.

I looked out across the city at the twinkling lights and then down to the street below. There was new construction on a building down below and up the street a little. I was trying to figure out what it was going to be and decided probably a parking garage.

A parking garage.

I looked all around the building to try and determine where it was exactly. And that’s when it hit me I was in the Westbrook Hotel. On Westbrook Avenue. And the street on the corner past that parking garage must be 5th Street.

I stood from my table and looked around the room for a clock. Was it after midnight? Was I too late?

I wasn’t wearing a watch. I knew Bill was but he was nowhere in sight.

I looked back down at the top of the parking garage and saw a tiny blond head pacing back and forth. Eric.

Suddenly, I wanted to be on the roof of that parking garage more than anywhere else in the world. I turned and walked straight out the door of the restaurant and ran to catch the elevator.

When I got down to the street, I ran to the end of the block and found the stairwell to the parking garage. I dashed up the five flights, but when I got to the top, I stopped in my tracks.

Pam was standing in front of me at the far end of the pavement. The security lights were on and I could see she was smiling at me.

I was confused but started walking towards her, still out of breath from climbing the stairs.

She turned and started heading to the edge of the building. She moved an orange and white stanchion away from the edge and there was no longer any kind of barrier between her and the edge of the building.

My heart leapt in my chest when I realized she was going to jump.

I started to run and yelled, “NO!” as I came closer.

Oddly, she didn’t jump, but turned to me and knelt down and started to climb backwards off of the ledge while shouting, “Don’t come any closer! It’s dangerous!”

I watched in horror as she disappeared from sight over the ledge, her hands clinging to the edge of the building. I instinctively dove forward, sliding across the pavement and grabbed one of her hands.

The sheer emptiness below was terrifying, but I couldn’t let her go. I gripped her wrist with all my might and she just kept screaming, “NOOOOO!”

I wondered how long I could hold on and for one brief instant I thought her weight might pull me over the edge.

Suddenly, someone grabbed me from behind and yanked me backwards and I screamed as I lost my grasp on Pam’s wrist and watched her hands disappear.

I was on my feet and being pulled back from the ledge, but I was fighting to get back to Pam. I had to see if she’d fallen. I just kept screaming, “NO, NO!” over and over until I turned to see who was holding me back and was shocked to see Bill.

I stopped screaming and just started sobbing into his chest. “She’s gone,” I cried. “She’s gone!”

“I’m here!” a woman’s voice called out.

I opened my eyes and pushed Bill away and there she was. Pam was standing behind Bill with Eric at her side. I stopped crying and blinked, unable to believe what I was seeing.

“But, how …,” I started.

“Eric can fly,” she said and stepped forward and took my hands in hers. “I’m so sorry. I never dreamed you’d try and save me. You could have been killed.” She dropped my hands and pushed my hair back from my eyes and whispered, “My god, you’re brave.”

I felt my knees give way and I sat down on the pavement. Suddenly, all three vampires were crouched down around me, asking if I was okay and looking very concerned.

It was at that point, I realized my chest stung and I looked down and saw a bloody scrape on my cleavage above the neckline of my dress and the velvet and lace of the dress was ruined in the front from my dive across the pavement. I checked my crocheted purse and it seemed fine, thank goodness.

“I’m okay,” I said weakly, but knew I was still too wobbly to stand up. “I’m a little woozy. I haven’t eaten anything tonight. I just need a minute.”

Eric said, “Give her some room,” and all three vampires backed off a little, but still kept staring at me. I became acutely aware of the blood on my chest and instinctively covered the scrape with my hand.

We sat in silence for a minute until Bill finally said, “What were you doing here anyway?”

I looked at Eric who was looking at Pam and said, “It’s kind of a long story.”

I wasn’t sure where to start or really that I even wanted to explain it to Bill—the man I’d just broken up with-when the sound of a siren interrupted my thoughts.

Bill stood and said, “That’s probably the police.” And then to Eric, “I’ll glamor them.”

“Wait,” I interrupted. “Don’t.”

All three pairs of eyes were on me again.

“I just mean, I should probably get this treated.” I pulled my hand away from my chest and it had blood on it.

Bill and Eric said at the same time, “I’ll do it,” and then turned and glared at each other.

“No!” I said and they both looked back at me. “I mean, no thank you. I’d like a human doctor to do it.”

“As you wish,” Eric said, and Bill just shot him an angry look.

I was relieved when the police and paramedics arrived. The three vampires gave their accounts of the incident to the police while I climbed onto the gurney.

I heard Bill call out, “I’ll be right behind you,” as I was wheeled away.

Honestly, at that point, I wasn’t so keen on the idea of any vampires following me to the hospital. I felt glad to be rid of them for awhile.

I was lying on the bed in the emergency room, waiting to see the doctor when the nurse came in carrying a brown paper sack.

“There are two gorgeous hunky vampires out in the waiting room here to see you,” she said. “The tall blond one brought you this.”

She held out the bag and I took it and peered inside.

“The doctor will just be a minute, sweetie,” she added before leaving me alone with my gift from Eric.

I was thrilled to see the bag contained a cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake. Wow. I was starving.

I wolfed down my dinner just before the doctor arrived. He said my abrasion was fairly minor and that I was lucky it was unlikely to leave a scar.

The nurse bandaged me up and then led Eric and Bill into the room while I waited for my discharge papers.

Bill sat in the chair beside my bed and Eric stood behind him.

Bill took my hand and I pulled it away from him and looked up at Eric.

“Thanks for the food,” I said to Eric.

“My pleasure. Pam sends her apologies. And she will buy you a new dress.”

“That’s not necessary,” I said.

“She insists,” he said, and then added, “And so do I. Are you feeling better?”

“Yes, I am. I’m just tired.”

“Well, I’m sorry to have to do this tonight, but there’s something we need to discuss.”

Bill looked back at Eric and I could see Bill was not happy.

“What is it?” I asked. They definitely had my attention.

Eric didn’t answer me and there was a beat of silence before he said, “Tell her, Bill.”

“Sweetheart,” Bill began and I bristled. “I hope you know that my feelings for you are genuine.”

I did not like the idea of discussing our relationship with Eric in the room.

Bill continued, “But I’m afraid I haven’t been completely forthcoming with the hows and whys of when we met.”

I wondered why there would be “whys.”

“I was planning on telling you all this in time. I was just working out the details.”

I glanced up at Eric and his face was stone.

“I was actually sent to Bon Temps to procure you for the Queen of Louisiana.”

“What?” There was a Queen of Louisiana?

“It’s a long story, and fairly complicated, but the Queen is interested in your telepathy, and she sent me to …”

“Stop,” I said.

Bill stopped talking and waited for me to continue.

I looked up at Eric and asked, “You knew about this?”

“I found out tonight,” he replied. Then he looked down at Bill, “But I should have been informed much sooner.”

Bill started to speak again. “Of course, as soon as I fell in love with you …”

“Okay, stop again,” I said. “I don’t think I want to hear any more. In fact, I want you both to leave.”

“Darling, you were never in any danger. I would have protected you,” Bill went on.

“I asked you to leave, Bill. Both of you.”

Bill took a deep unnecessary breath and finally stood from his chair. Eric stepped back and allowed Bill to pass in front of him. They both walked out the door without looking back.

I just lay there for a minute trying to absorb what I’d just learned. I was furious with Bill, but also fairly frightened at the thought of some sort of vampire queen wanting me “procured.” How in the world did she know I was a telepath? And what did she want me for? To keep as a pet?

I started to cry, thinking of how I’d been duped by Bill. I was so tired and so mad. But then I was also so glad I’d broken up with him earlier. My instincts were right even without being able to read his thoughts. I wanted nothing more to do with Bill Compton.

I wanted nothing more to do with any vampires, but now that I knew that some queen knew about me, I had a sinking feeling that I wouldn’t be able to keep them completely out of my life whether I wanted to or not.

I was able to pull myself together and stop crying, and finally, the doctor came in and said I could go home. I got all my discharge papers together and folded them up, sticking them into my little purse.

I started to tear up again when I looked at the purse. What would Gran say if she knew what was going on? I missed her so much and felt so very alone in the world.

I wiped my tears away and walked out through the waiting room and out the front door.

I stopped in the courtyard in front of the hospital and scanned the area for a pay phone. I didn’t see a phone, but Eric was sitting on a bench staring at me with those blue eyes.

I walked over to him and he stood up.

“Where’s Bill?” I asked, and then I sat on the bench.

Eric sat back down beside me, facing me a little.

“I sent him home,” he said. I wondered why Eric would do that and he added, “I am his sheriff. He is supposed to comply.”

I just shrugged. I really wasn’t interested in vampire politics. Not tonight. Or any other night, for that matter.

“May I drive you home?” he asked.

“No offense, Eric, but I don’t really know you. And considering the night I’ve had …”

“But of course. I understand. Then, I’ll have to earn your trust.” He took his phone out of his pocket. “May I call a car service for you then?”

“Actually, I’d like to call my brother.”

Eric handed me his phone and I called Jason. I apologized for waking him up in the middle of the night. When I told him where I was, he didn’t complain and said he was on his way.

I gave Eric his phone back and he stood and removed his jacket, placing it around my shoulders before sitting down again.

“Thank you,” I said.

He just nodded.

Apparently, Eric was going to wait with me until Jason arrived.

“So, there’s a Queen of Louisiana …,” I started.

Eric proceeded to give me a little lesson in vampire politics, although I felt quite certain he was leaving out a lot. He basically explained how the system was set up and what his position was.

After he’d explained that the Queen wanted me to read humans for her, I asked, “How did she know about me in the first place?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “But we’ll find out.”

I liked that he said “we” instead of “I.” I wanted to know what they knew about me and how they knew it.

Eric continued, “I should have been told about all this, although Andre claims he was planning on briefing me when he arranged the meeting with Bill at Fangtasia two weeks ago—the night we met.”

I blushed at the image of the dance that flashed through my mind.

“But he was detained, so we’ll never know. I finally found out what was going on tonight and was able to secure a contract for your employment.”

“You were?”

“Yes. I’ll send you a copy, naturally.”

“And what if I don’t want to work for the Queen?”

“Everything’s negotiable. Right now, you’ll only work for her one or two days a month. The money is fair, I think, but again, we can work on that. You can still keep your job at Merlotte’s if you’d like.”

I hadn’t really even thought of the possibility of working for the Queen. The word “procure” made it sound like she’d own me. One or two days didn’t sound so bad. But, still, she was a vampire.

“Will I be in danger?” I asked.

“It is in the Queen’s best interest to keep you safe, so no, you’re not likely to be in danger.”

I nodded.

“However, I have stipulated that I will always accompany you if that makes you feel better.”

It did. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. But the prospect of being with Eric one or two days a month did have its appeal. Yes, he was a vampire, but an incredibly gorgeous one. And one who had brought me a milkshake, after all.

I decided to change the subject. “So, you’re Sleepless in Shreveport.”

He smiled and nodded. “I suppose I am.”

I smiled too.

“I didn’t realize until tonight that you were the woman who wrote me the letter,” he said. “Pam’s favorite letter,” he added.

“Well, I did write it, but a friend mailed it. Without my consent.”

“Apparently, Pam wrote a letter in return without my knowledge or consent.”

“Ahh, now that explains a lot,” I said. “She’s into Dear Abby then.”

“Oh yes,” he said and chuckled a bit. I loved to see him laugh. “I can only imagine what she said in the letter.”

“You don’t want to know,” I said and laughed a little as well. Then I had a sudden thought. “Do you think she wrote me to help the Queen procure me? Was she in on all that?”

“No, it’s not possible. I would have known. She simply found your letter to be charming.”

I breathed a little sigh of relief.

Eric went on, “She’s been bothering me for weeks to meet you, but I refused. Of course, had I known that the Sookie Stackhouse that wrote that letter and the vision of beauty that came into Fangtasia that night were one and the same …”

I blushed again.

“You’re so lovely when you blush,” he said.

I looked down at my hands and then back up to his face.

He continued, “Anyway, when I refused, she had the brilliant plan to ‘call me’ with her fear on that rooftop so that I’d have to come. She knew I was nearby. Of course, she had no idea you’d try and save her. It could have been a tragedy,” he said soberly and he brushed a finger across my cheek.

“And Bill came because he felt my fear,” I said. “Or maybe he’d just followed me.”

Eric nodded. His eyes wandered down my face and landed on the bandage across my chest.

“Are you in pain?” he asked. “Would you like some blood?”

“No, thank you,” I said. “I’m fine.” It did sting a little.

“May I take you to dinner tomorrow night?”

I was slightly taken aback by the sudden change in subject. And by the fact that Eric Northman had just asked me on a date.

“I have to work,” I said, and for once, I kind of wished I didn’t have to.

“Ah, yes. At Merlotte’s. Then, may I come and see you there?”

“Sure, I guess. It’s a public place.”

Eric grinned and his blue eyes twinkled. “So it is.”

“And I guess we do need to talk about that contract and all,” I added.

“Yes, we do. But I do want to make it clear that I am interested in more than a professional relationship with you,” Eric said and I felt a little flutter in my stomach.

“I don’t know, Eric. I just broke up with someone a few hours ago. And I think I swore off vampires earlier tonight.”

“Well, I hope I can persuade you to change your mind,” he said and he took my hand in his. “At least give me a chance.”

“Would that make you happy?” I asked. I thought of how unhappy he seemed when I first heard him on the radio and how it was my wish that he could find happiness. I also thought it amazing that here I was, months later, hoping for a way to make him happy myself.

“Yes, it would,” he said. “That would make me very happy.”

I squeezed his hand and rested my head on his shoulder. He kissed the top of my head and then we just sat like that in comfortable silence while we waited for Jason to arrive. I felt safe and content in spite of a very harrowing night.

Yes, I had sworn off vampires, and with good reason. But there was something very different about Eric Northman. Something kind of wonderful. I didn’t know where it would lead, but I knew then that I had already opened my heart to him a little. And who knows, maybe he and I could find a little happiness in this world. Maybe we could find it together. I was certainly willing to find out.

XXX

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