I know I wasn’t easy to live with after Dad died. He was healthy as a horse and to just drop dead of a heart attack like he did…
I barely did anything. I got by with my housework and barely went to the salon unless Jarvis called about an emergency.
I was useless. Poor Alcide had to make all the arrangements and take care of everything afterwards. I still hadn’t signed the papers on my inheritance.
I’m aware that my family suffered. Dell had the right to be disappointed in me, I was. My son was close to replacing me with Big Bird.
I tried to get out of my funk and I didn’t have any luck. It took Alcide and Sookie’s visit a couple of months ago to help.
Alcide called me to say he’d be in Jackson for business and tell me that he was going to stop by with Sookie.
Mr. Clean and I were working on the house before I hung up the phone. It wasn’t until I realized how embarrassed I’d be for Sookie to see my house that it dawned on me just how far down I’d slipped.
Cooking and cleaning, getting my house ready for company made me feel human again.
It only took a couple of days, but I felt so much better once the laundry was caught up and I’d scrubbed the floors… I cried. It was a good cry. I’d accomplished something for the first time in a month and when Dell came home from work that night. He told me ‘it’s about time you did something’.
I kept things up. I managed to stay away from throwing my own pity parties. Tommy went back to day care and I went back to work. I was making the effort to prove to my husband that I was better. Getting better at least.
He made his excuse to not be home when Alcide and Sookie visited. He worked late that night, only getting home once we were asleep. We drank 3 bottles of wine and laughed until we cried. Another good cry.
I started setting little goals for myself. Lists were helping and everyday was getting a little easier. Christmas was going to be bittersweet without Dad, but my big brother was going to spend it with me and I couldn’t have been happier.
I couldn’t have felt more at piece while he was in Jackson. Even when a couple of Vampires came by to see him about ‘business’, Alcide introduced me to them with a smile on his face and they spent about an hour in the living room looking over papers. I tried to get Tommy out from underfoot, but Alcide sat with him on his lap. Tommy watched Transformers and Alcide had his meeting.
It all fell apart after Alcide went home though. He had to get back to H&S and I’m sure he missed Sookie. He said they weren’t a couple but they texted each other about a million times a day and it was kind of a clue that she sent a basket full of goodies for us with him.
Dell didn’t come home on New Year’s Eve or the next day. When he finally came home, he had a hickie he didn’t remember getting and wouldn’t tell me where he’d been for three days.
I don’t think the question was ‘if’ he was cheating. ‘How long’ was probably the smarter question to ask. He’d had zero sympathy for me when Dad died and hadn’t even gone to the funeral with me so I was sure that my depression was more than likely what made him stop hiding it.
I suppose it was a good thing I’d pulled myself up from the depression before he broke my heart, now what to do?
Married for a few years and established in Jackson, I didn’t want to start over. Who does? I did want to get away. Take a break. I wanted to go home; home to my brother and finish the Christmas visit that was too short, but I didn’t want to be a burden. He has the company and the pack and Sookie and some girlfriend named Carla (so he said).
I obsessed over what kind of havoc I would wreak on his life for nearly a week before I called.
I had to try to not laugh when he was with Sookie at the time. ‘Not a couple’, my ass.
…When he invited me to visit, I must’ve cried for an hour… the whole time I made my list…
I’d tucked Tommy in and packed our bag while I watched a movie Alcide had put in my stocking. PS I Love You. He always made fun of me for liking sappy romances, but it didn’t keep him from buying a few for me every year.
I had just closed the back of my van over our things when Dell pulled into the driveway.
I smiled and tried to give him a hug, part of me was still hoping to work things out, but he dodged me. I could smell Marker’s Mark and two of the buttons on his shirt were missing.
I offered him something for dinner.
I offered him a drink.
He wasn’t thirsty.
I reminded him that Tommy and I were leaving in the morning to visit Alcide.
He lost it.
He’d never laid a hand on me before, but as soon as I finished telling him that there was a week’s worth of meals for him in the fridge, he lit me up.
He didn’t ever look angry and he never gave me a clue as to why.
By the time I was out of the bathroom, hoping in vain that a shower would ease the pain, he was passed out face down on the couch.
I took a box from the garage and went to Tommy’s room to pack as much as I could. Starting over wasn’t as scary as it used to be.
Thursday, January 14th…
I cried again as soon as I got off the phone with Alcide. I was going home. I was happy to be going home, but I was going to have to tell Alcide.
Tommy had only been awake for the first half hour or so, leaving me with my thoughts. I was going to have to make another list. Item #1: Divorce lawyer. Item #2: Figure out whether to sell my shop, close it down or just turn it over to Jarvis to run for me. God knows that I couldn’t run it from Shreveport…
I could email all my friends to let them know why I bolted town. It was a chicken shit move to do it in bulk, but that way, I’d only have to cry over it once. Having them offer to help and tell me how much they love me and will miss me one at a time might make me angry enough at Dell to sick Alcide on him.
Shit. Item #3: Make sure Alcide explains the Werewolf stuff to me. It never affected me other than getting a babysitter during full moons when I was little, so I never pried. But now that he’s in charge of ‘some stuff’ I’d been hearing about more and more ‘pack business’. I felt bad that I knew so little about Alcide. He’d told me once that being a Werewolf was ‘like being a normal human except for when it wasn’t’. He was being vague so that he didn’t freak me out.
Now that Vampires are ‘real’ though, my curiosity had been piqued. I’d become one of those closeted weirdos that couldn’t learn enough about Vampires and Werewolves. Vampire info was easy to come by since they are ‘real’, but werewolf stuff online just seemed too farfetched. Then again, reading the Wikipedia page about the vampire king of Mississippi made me laugh coffee through my nose. I mean, honestly, a gay, 800 year old vampire who got married in that hotel right before it blew up? It sounded like a bad paperback.
I imagine that item #4 on my list should be finding somewhere more permanent to stay. I have enough in my personal account to set me and Tommy up with a nice little place in town and if I can’t find work at a salon, I’m sure Alcide could find a phone for me to answer at H&S.
I hated that I was visiting him like this. Needing something. Even if it is just a soft place to land before I put my life back together.
I was afraid I was in the wrong place. I stopped on the shoulder and pulled the directions up on my phone’s screen. ‘At 2.1m take left onto unmarked driveway. Iron gate/stone pylons. Can’t miss it.’
I’ll kill him.
I was reading the message again when someone snuck up to the car and tapped the window. It scared the crap out of me.
He didn’t look friendly. Not angry, just serious.
“I guess so. Are you familiar with the area? My brother sent me these directions…” I went to hand him my phone, hoping he could make heads or tails of the directions and he stooped down.
He gave me a wide smile. “You’re the sister? Janice. You’re a lot prettier than the PM.”
“This is the right place?”
He put his hand out and I shook it. “Yes ma’am. I’m one of the guards. Chip. Nice ta meet ya.” Guards?
“Nice to meet you too. This is where Alcide and Sookie live?”
“Oh yeah. One big happy family… Ooh, your little guy is stirring back there. Let’s get you moving. Sookie’ll have breakfast waiting.”
He patted the roof of my car and walked over to the gate to put a code into the keypad. He waved when I drove by and I smiled at him even though I saw a gun under his jacket.
It was the longest damn driveway I’d ever been on and the street I lived on wasn’t as wide. I finally saw the house when I turned the bend and cleared the trees. It looked more like a hotel and there must’ve been 10 cars in the driveway. The bays to the garage were full. Even if the ‘guard’ knew Alcide, I still caught myself looking for his truck.
If I didn’t know better, Alcide had been waiting behind the door for me to ring the bell. He was laughing when he swung the door open.
“Hey there! ‘Sup Tom?”
Tommy nearly lunged out of my arms for him and Alcide took him right away. My brother put his big arm over my shoulders and kissed my forehead, making me glad Tommy had gone for him. A real hug from Alcide would have killed me.
“How was the drive?”
“Quiet. Tommy slept most of the way and there isn’t any such thing as traffic that time of morning.”
He smiled at me. “Well come on, Sookie has breakfast ready and we’re about to get attacked.”
He led me into the kitchen and he didn’t get to answer me before two kids came running at us full speed yelling ‘momma’ and ‘daddy’.
Alcide squatted down and introduced Tommy to Manen and Hunter. Kids?
They took Tommy through a door and they all came back with a juice and sat at the table as Sookie was putting plates down for them.
“How ya been, Janice?”
I was still watching the kids, the little boy was coaching Tommy on what was on his plate. “Momma lets us pick out what we don’t like, but it’s all really yummy.”
Tommy, the pickiest eater at day care, nodded at Hunter and shoved a big spoonful of food into his mouth without looking.
“Uhhh, same old. I missed you at Christmas. I still wish you’da come. Those goodies you made didn’t last the day.”
Sookie, put plates down in front of me and Alcide and my brother moaned with a goofy smile on his face about ‘cow for breakfast’.
“Sorry I couldn’t make it. I had a laundry list of stuff I had to take care of and I was still waiting tables. It didn’t feel right taking a week off when the other waitress could’ve been with family.”
I was still watching Tommy chow down. “I hear ya. I don’t take appointments between Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, but I let my stylists make gypsy appointments. That way it’s on their own terms.”
She smiled at me. “I was clearly in the wrong line of work.”
“How long ago did you stop working at the diner?”
“Almost 2 weeks now. My boss and I had a difference of opinion.”
“It must’ve been a big one. I thought you really liked it there.”
She shrugged. “I did. I like my new job a lot more though.” She winked at Alcide and he actually blushed and started paying more attention than usual to his steak.
“You’re going to get fat, bobo. She cook for you like this all the time?”
“Three times a day, but I get plenty of exercise nowadays.” That made Sookie blush. ‘Not a couple’ my ass.
While we ate, I saw a bunch of guys moving around in the yard walking back and forth. Some of them had guns in holsters. Some of them had guns on straps. Worried would be an understatement.
Sookie went off towards the sound of a dryer buzzing and Alcide started waving his arm and gave me a wink as Manen tip toed around the bar to the freezer and grabbed some popsicles. She took off like a bandit and Hunter neatly stacked their plates and put them on the counter before taking Tommy’s hand and leading him to the back of the house.
“It’s a game we play. Sookie.”
She came around the corner with a smile on her face. “They’re yogurt bars, so I don’t mind. They don’t have to know that it’s healthy.”
Nice. I wish I’d have thought of it… “Well?”
Alcide’s face wrinkled up a little. “Well what?”
“Well…the last I heard you were living in your house, working at H&S and dating Carla. What gives?”
They were both amused for some reason. “Well, now I live here, I still work at H&S but owners don’t do much, I do more as Packmaster and I’m with Pam.” Pam who? When did a Pam become an option?
“Is this Sookie’s house? What’s with everyone in the yard? Why did those kids call you ‘Daddy’?”
Sookie made another plate for Alcide and started cleaning up the dishes from the kids. “This house belongs to my friend, Eric. The guys in the yard are the security detail for the company that just left and the kids called me Daddy because that’s what I am to them. They needed parents and we took them in, the four of us. Me, Sookie, Pam and Eric.”
“Who is this Eric guy? Is he part of the pack?”
“No he’s the King of Louisiana and Arkansas.” King?
“You live with a vampire? After what they put Dad through?” Oh God. He’s not gambling. Like Dad?
“Dad had a gambling problem and the vampires he owed money to, were fairer to him than any other loan shark would have been and they let me work off his debt for him. I don’t even want to think about how many favors Eric had to call in to get that taken care of. Eric isn’t like the ones you hear about.”
“Yes I am. When I need to be. Eric Northman, nice to meet you.” Huge. Huge, gorgeous, blonde man. Adonis. Greek god beautiful. He was right behind me when I turned around and had his hand out. It was ice cold. Wait. King. Eric. Eric Northman. Holy Shit! I just shook hands with a vampire. I just shook hands with a vampire in broad daylight.
“Uhhhhhh… Who lives here with you? Is it safe here? Why do you have so much security?”
He laughed a little and even his laugh was sexy. “I own this house but it is our home. Alcide, Sookie, Pam, Manen, Hunter and I share this house. Currently Sookie’s brother is staying here while he works through some personal matters, our governess Angela and we have 12 guards. You couldn’t be safer here because we are the most powerful and strongest Supes you can find in one place. As for the security, most of them are leaving this morning. They were only here because we had 3 Kings visiting this week. Once they are gone, you’ll barely notice ours since they’re like having friends over.”
They had a vampire king sleepover? What kind of pjs do vampire wear? I probably would’ve asked if my attention wasn’t grabbed by the hotness coming down the stairs.
Oh hello! Another hunk. Nnnnnnn. Tan too. Big pretty grin. And thank you for not wearing a shirt, Mr. Six Pack & Davids. The kids came through and told him ‘good morning, uncle Jas’. Jason? Oh god. Sookie’s brother. Nice. Shit. Shake it off, Janice. You’ve seen beautiful men before. Just pretend they’re all gay… Oh, but the way he smiled… Nnnn.
This damn house was like… That island. The one Wonder Woman was from. Where all the women were super models. Except this was the Island of Delectable Men. Even the guard was worth a checking out. But the smaller one…
Wait, he’s talking… to me. “It’s only crazy until you see it for yourself. They’re all awesome together. These kids really lucked out… Hey sis, you think you could fix me up? Me, Febes and Dozer had a little too much to drink this morning…” He only stopped talking long enough for Sookie to grab his head and start glowing. “Thanks sis, you’re the best. Ooooh, is that Gran’s breakfast casserole? Is there enough for me?”
He leaned over the counter after popping a piece of sausage in his mouth. “Hey. I’m Sookie’s brother Jason. I’m new here too.” He winked at me and his hand… warrrrmmmm. Not a vampire. Nope.
I probably could have watched Jason eat his breakfast, hell I could have watched him read a newspaper.
When two more people came in, from a door near the bathroom, Sookie grabbed their heads like Jason’s and glowed again.
No one else seemed surprised, but… “Ok, Sookie, what are you doing to them?”
“I fixed their hangovers.”
“How did you do that?”
Alcide put his hand on mine and cleared his throat like he was bracing me for something. “Because she’s part Faerie, and part Were with a little bit of human mixed in. She’s the most powerful of all of us” Fairy? Ha. Funny.
I was so not going to let him ‘get’ me. “Ok, so y’all are all roommates and y’all have taken in 2 kids. Is that it?”
Sookie smiled at me. “Pretty much, other than being really hectic at times, we’re just one big happy family.”
More pretty men came and went. The house really was hectic for a few minutes. Like a kicked anthill. I just watched all the pretty asses come and go while furniture was moved and Sookie made a grocery list after running the menu by Alcide and then she disappeared leaving me in the dining room with my werewolf brother and his vampire pal. What the hell?
“I should go check on Tommy.” I slid my chair out, but Eric held his hand up and stared into nothing.
He smiled. “He is playing legos with Hunter and watching Muppets, no it’s Sesame Street.”
Eric shrugged. “It’s a vampire thing… Ladybug Picnic?”
We laughed at the confused look on his face.
“Ok. So, if you’re not with Sookie then why are you who she’s planning meals with and what is a Pam?” God, tell me she’s nothing like a Debbie.
Eric stared at Alcide and started laughing. “Damn it man. Just answer her.”
Alcide growled at him. “Sookie asked me about dinner because the other adults don’t eat.”
Eric huffed at him. “You’re insufferable… Sookie, Pam, your brother and I are the staples. Everyone else who dines here is either an employee or just visiting. Since Pam and I are Vampire, Sookie and your brother are the authority on groceries.”
“Pam? PAM! You’re dating a VAMPIRE?”
Alcide cringed and threw a punch at Eric’s shoulder. “Yes. I’m dating a vampire. I’m living with a vampire.”
“What do you have in common? How old is she? How the hell did you end up dating a vampire?!”
He stared at me for a minute before he huffed out a deep groan. “We have enough in common to get along really well, she’s got a few years on me and Sookie hooked us up, but our paths had crossed before.”
“How the hell did Sookie make friends with a vampire?”
Eric started chuckling again so Alcide shot him a dirty look. “Her and Pam have the same asshole boss.”
Eric fired back. “Hey! Be nice. I could be a much bigger asshole.”
“Yeah, except back then, they weren’t stacking shit any higher!”
“You have an attitude problem.”
“You have an eating disorder.”
“You have fleas.”
Alcide scrunched his face up trying not to laugh. “I’m going to tell Sookie you’re being a jerk again.”
“I’m going to tell Sookie that you’ve been having impure thoughts about me.”
“Well, my therapist sucks. Blame him.”
Eric and Alcide started laughing, but they were interrupted when Mr. Six pa… Jason came jogging down the stairs.
He was cringing and biting his bottom lip. “Uh, Eric… You don’t by any chance have a body bag do ya?”
Both of his eyebrows went up. “Pardon me?”
“Something flexible and light tight… Bubba. He’s the last holdout. We need to move him before the RVs go bye bye with a passenger. I can MacGyver something….”
“Damn if that isn’t the highest maintenance… Are you sure he’s in there?”
Jason cocked his head to the side and raised his eyebrow. I guess he was sure.
“Top shelf of the work bench.” Uh, I’m just going to pretend that he had a reasonable excuse to have a spare body bag.
“K. Should I stash him next to Angela?”
“That’s fine. Do you want help?”
“He ain’t likely to wake up biting is he?”
“Not likely at all.”
“Then I got ‘em.” He patted Eric’s shoulder and ran out of the room.
When he was gone, Eric started laughing like a mad man.
He shook his head and laughed out, “The irony!”
Alcide stared at him for a minute and then he started rolling.
Jason stuck his head back in. “I can hear you, ya jerk offs.”
They both meowed at Jason as he went outside and went back to laughing.
I kicked Alcide under the table. “What’s so damn funny?”
“Bubba is a vampire. He’s a little messed up. He only drinks cat blood.”
“Yeah… well, Jason is a werepanther.”
I giggled. “So the cow is going to help out the Burger King.”
We had finally settled down from the juvenile joking and I figured I’d try to get some more information out of Alcide, but we were interrupted.
All of a sudden, Alcide smiled at something behind me. “Good morning.”
I heard the sound of high heels, and they carried a very sexy voice. “What has you two so entertained? It is impossible to sleep with such racket.”
I turned around and my eyes hit THE most gorgeous woman and she smiled at me.
“We were laughing at Jason.”
“Oh shoot! And I missed it? Oh well, plenty of time for that later.”
Alcide laughed. “Amen. Pam, this is my sister Janice. Janice, that is a Pam.”
Pam held her hand out and I shook it. “Nice to meet you. So you’ve laughed at Jason, I assume you eaten Sookie’s cooking and I’ll bet that Hunter has stolen your little one.”
“Well then, you’ve been initiated.”
“I guess so, except I can’t get a straight answer out of my brother. He tried to convince me that Sookie is a Fairy.”
She laughed through her nose. “He did? Did he tell you to park by the fountain of youth under the money tree too?”
“PAM!” It came from Eric and Alcide both.
She laughed again. “I’m sorry. When did you find out about Werewolves?”
“I guess I was a teenager.”
“And I assume you found out Anne Rice wasn’t full of shit with the rest of the world, yes?”
I nodded and she was still holding my hand.
“Well, then… If there was anything else you would certainly know about it, I suppose.”
Her eyes were crystal clear and almost hypnotic… and completely serious. “Shut UP!”
She raised her eyebrow at me. “Faeries are real, just not like you would imagine. No wings and Faerie dust only happens when you kill one.”
She slowly let go of my hand and went to the fridge, pulling out a bottle of blood. “Eric?”
“None for me, thanks. Sookie is in the office.”
“I’m aware. I heard her heresy while I was in the shower.”
She nodded. “She took the name of my lord Louboutin in vane, blaming him for Neimen Marcus’ lack of sevens.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “No worries though. I set her straight. She simply needed to adjust her perspective, i.e. worship at Saks instead. I’ll be right back.” She became a streaky blur and was gone in a second.
“She’s a trip.”
Alcide and Eric both groaned, “She knows.”
When she came back, Manen was right behind her. “Far, the boys are ganging up on me.”
“What have they done?”
She hopped up to sit on his lap. “They hogged the TV to watch Sesame Street and now they’re watching Wonder Pets. It’s stupid.”
“What is ‘wonder pets’?”
“A talking duck and turtle and guinea pig. They solve problems for other talking animals that get themselves into stupid stuff.”
“You couldn’t be more right. They shouldn’t watch anything of the like. The idea that they would watch a show that would encourage teamwork and generosity!”
I had to bite my tongue. The little girl was not amused by his sarcasm. She scowled at him, snorted and then slid off his lap. “Wrong parent… Mummy?” We all laughed at her.
“Manen, I know what it’s like to be outvoted by the men, but I’ve learned that if it keeps them quiet the world is a better place. Would you like to go to work with me?”
She lit up and nodded.
“Very well, you’ll need to dress.”
She ran over and kissed Pam and gave Eric a dirty look on her way by. This time we waited before we laughed.
Jason slid the back door open laughing.
“Morning, Pam. You roll out of bed looking like a Fox, dontcha?”
“Why yes, Jason, I do. Thank You for taking note.”
“Always notice a pretty lady, especially when ya need a favor.”
“What would that be?”
“Would you mind grabbing a blood and getting Sookie to do it up for Bubba here?”
“It would spoil…”
“Jason, I told ya I can walk.” The voice in the body bag squirmed.
Jason rolled his eyes at the voice and everyone else froze as he shifted the weight over his shoulder. “I told ya, buddy. I can’t unzip ya. The sun’ll burn ya.”
“I reckon you’re right.”
Jason patted Pam’s shoulder. “You’re catching flies and he’s getting heavy.”
She seemed to shake it off and ran to the fridge and then to the back of the house. Alcide and Eric were just as slack jawed as Pam had been.
“It won’t spook nobody if they find me in the house will it?”
“No sir. I’ll make sure everybody knows.”
“I don’t wanna scare the yung-uns.”
“Don’t worry about that none. They don’t spook easy.”
“I’ll leave early so I won’t be under foot.”
“I’m putting you in a vampire room. You’ll be fine. We’re still fishing tonight, right.”
“That’ll be nice. I ain’t fished in a long time.” Pam came gliding back into the room and handed Jason the bottle of blood.
He thanked her with a kiss on the cheek.
The three of them got wrapped up in a staring match that didn’t seem like it would ever end until Manen came in, ready to go… Then, Eric and Alcide went right back to staring at each other until Jason came in to be stared at. He stood at the fridge and grazed for a few minutes before guzzling a half gallon of milk and finally taking care of his empties. “Didn’t sleep enough, I guess. Y’all need to move anymore bodies, I’ll be sacked out for a while.”
“Yeah, alright…” Alcide watched until Jason got to the catwalk and went into one of the doors. “…THAT too? Are you fucking serious!?”
Eric shook his head. “He doesn’t handle it as well though.”
“Sookie didn’t either at first… And he’s not drin…”
Eric cut him off, looking more serious than he had all morning. “I’m aware.”
“What are y’all talking about?”
I got a ‘nothing’ in stereo just before Sookie came out of wherever she’d been hanging out to talk about dorms and intercoms. She’d called Eric ‘old man’ so I couldn’t help but wonder how old he was.
She called to the kids as she grabbed her shopping list and purse.
“Hey boys, I’m going to run a few errands. I’m stopping at the grocery. What kinds of stuff are you in the mood for?”
Hunter scrunched up his face while he thought about it. “Manen ate the last of the blood oranges and we’re low on vanilla pudding cups.”
Tommy, I knew he would, blurted out his favorite snack. “Gushers!”
Sookie looked confused. “Dussers?”
Sookie blew out an ‘exasperated’ breath. “If I can’t understand you, I’ll probably get the wrong thing… unless you go with me.”
Tommy asked if he could go with her right away and she promised that he wouldn’t be ‘too much’.
Eventually the boys ran through to the garage, ready for shopping. She kissed my cheek and then Alcide and Eric (the same way).
“Eric Northman, you need to get some sleep.” She pulled an iPod out of her purse. “I recommend the ‘Peace and Quiet’ playlist. It might drown out some of the noise.”
He smiled at her and gave her another kiss.
As she left, Eric took off to get some rest, leaving me alone with Alcide.
“Why don’t we get you unpacked and give you the tour.”
I smiled at him as we got up and went through ‘the’ hallway that had seen so much traffic today. It went past the door for the room over the garage, the pantry, the laundry room and to the garage. That explained the traffic alright.
Alcide grabbed my big suitcase and I grabbed Tommy’s pillow pal and bwankie.
The tour started in the living room that was ‘never used’. Then the dining room: ‘used once, don’t ask’. Up the stairs and he took me to his room. The one he shares with Pam.
“You’re seriously sleeping with a vampire?”
He looked a little annoyed, a little embarrassed. “Yes, Janice, I am.”
“Seriously. I thought you were really with Sookie.”
“I told you, we’re best friends.”
“You act like a couple.”
He started shaking his head and laughing. “Except we’re not. She’s with Eric.”
“This is weird.”
He folded his arms and his forehead wrinkled up like it does when he’s worried.
“I like her.”
“Janice. I’m not with…”
“Shut up! I meant Pam. I like her. She’s fun.”
I shrugged. “I guess I always wanted to be an aunt is all.”
“Well, good news. It’s a boy and a girl.”
“But they aren’t really…”
His look got angry, fast. “Janice, they’re my kids. They’ve been mine, OURS since they walked through the front door. Sookie and I are adopting them together.”
“Really? Wait. Why the two of you?”
“Vampire can’t adopt legally. Eric and Sookie are getting married in March. We’ll file the paperwork as soon as they get back from their honeymoon. Their names will be changed to Herveaux-Northman and the four of us will share legal custody. It’s the best Eric and Pam can get for now.”
“Sorry. It’s horrible that they can’t adopt.”
“Mind if I ask you something?”
“I guess not.”
“Why are you being so defensive?”
I nodded. “And tense. It kind of makes me feel like you’re hiding something or you don’t want me here or something.”
“Shit. I’m sorry. I am tense. I know this place isn’t exactly conventional. I guess I’m just worried you’ll flip out.”
“Well, some stuff takes us by surprise.”
“Like that stuff when Jason came in with that Bubba guy? I don’t see the big deal about that.”
“It’s not… You… Vampire die during the day.”
“I mean DIE. The nanny, Angela, I could take you downstairs and we could cut her legs of with a butter knife. She wouldn’t budge.”
“We don’t know. Sookie and Jason have a lot of new powers. We’re trying to figure all that out.”
“What about Eric and Pam though? They’re obviously not dead.”
“When a human dies and rises as a vampire they usually have a ‘vampire gift’ or two. Eric and Pam are ‘daywalkers’.”
“That’s cool! How’d that happen? You’d think people would have heard of that.”
“It’s not exactly common. Eric is a lucky mother fucker and he made Pam, so she inherited the gift.”
“He made her?”
He nodded, looking tense again.
“So your best friend’s fiancé killed your girlfriend?” That is weird.
“Not the way she looks at it. She loves being a vampire.”
“Oh. Well that’s cool… So you look unhappy just because you’re worried I’ll be scared or something?”
He nodded. “There’s always something going on here and it can get really crazy, but you and Tommy really are safe here.”
I started shaking my head. “Bobo, I know better than to think you’d let us stay here if we weren’t. I’m fine, but just warn me if you think something’ll freak me out. I watched a talking body bag get carried through the house, but since I knew why, it was easy to deal.”
The tour led me to ‘my’ room (right next to Jason’s) and then to the kids’ room. Sookie had thought to get a toddler bed for Tommy… it was just like the one he had back home, right down to the bedding.
Alcide pointed out Sookie and Eric’s room just before he took me down the back stairs and to the biggest damn den I’d ever seen. It was as big as the 6 car garage, easy.
“Holy cow, Alcide! This is as big as a theater.”
“It needs to be. Right now there’s 8, well with you and Tom, 10 of us. We chill out with ice cream and a movie in here all the time and there’s plenty of room.”
“The vampire’s eat ice cream?”
He looked down at his feet for a second and cleared his throat. “No they don’t eat it. They can’t, I meant the Weres.”
“Do the kids know? I mean about all the Weres and Vampires and stuff.”
“Oh yeah. They know.”
“They aren’t scared?”
“No. Why would they be?”
Shit. How do I answer that? Because Werewolves and Vampires are the things that make kids wake up screaming in the middle of the night. “I don’t know… I… I guess I just think they should be. It… It would scare me.”
He scowled at me and for the second I thought I pissed him off, I understood how I could have. “Mom and Dad never told you anything, did they?”
I shook my head, embarrassed. For years I’ve been sure that the only reason they told me was because I saw a wolf in the back yard and went on for weeks about learning how to load the shotgun we had.
“There’s nothing to be scared of. We’re the same as we are as people. It’s not like we blackout and forget who we are. The kids have seen it.”
“They’ve seen you!? Like…”
“Yeah. Me and Jason and a few of the guards.”
I sat down and started putting toys into containers while Alcide put away movies and wrapped cords around controllers, explaining everything. It made me feel horrible that I knew so little, that being a Were was so much more than just full moons for him, but he answered every question I had and even explained about the difference with Bittens since Jason is one. It took him nearly an hour to cover everything, but he was so sweet about how dumb I was. It bothered him that he had to tell me, but only because Mom and Dad hadn’t.
“So, while the house is quiet, you gonna tell me what’s going on with you?”
“I’m… Dell and me just aren’t working out.”
“You’ve been married 5 years. You’ve never complained. You telling me that this is a sudden thing?”
“I don’t know how long, but he’s been stepping out. He disappeared for three days without calling and came home with a hickie. I can’t pretend that’s ok. I don’t want Tommy to grow up thinking it’s ok.”
“That prick. You know, when he met Sookie a year ago, he gave me shit about bringing her around Tommy because we were ‘shacked up’.”
“Yeah well, it was probably a guilty conscience.”
“Guess so. He turned right around and told Dad too. I had to listen to that shit for weeks… You alright?”
“Yeah. I guess. I don’t like the idea of starting over, but I feel aright about why.”
“You have a plan?”
“I have a list.”
He chuckled at me. “A list, huh? Ok. Let’s hear it.”
“Find a lawyer, figure out what to do with my shop, get a new house, find a job.”
“You can scratch off the house hunt. My house and Dad’s house are empty.”
“You’re that serious about staying here?… That you’re offering your house out?”
“I’m not going anywhere. The house is free if you want it.”
“You never rented out Dad’s house?”
“No. Couldn’t make myself deal with it. That one’s bigger, it’s got the garage. Your pick.”
“You’re sure? I was thinking that I would just rent an apartment.”
“You could do that too.”
“It would actually help if you had an opinion.”
He smiled at me. “Sorry. You’re a grown woman. You’re allowed to make your own decisions.”
I snorted at him. “Where the hell did that come from? If our parents lived long enough they’d have told us which nursing home to move into.”
“It comes from being completely miserable when I lived like Dad’s puppet. He never would have approved of Sookie, but she’s the best friend I’ve ever had. He’d have hated Pam for being a vampire and I’m really happy with her. He’d have made a U-turn in the foyer and never come back… It comes from being happy by ‘fucking up’ my life on my terms.”
“He’d have told me to go back to Dell.”
“And you would have, but would you be happy?”
“How’d you get so smart?”
He patted my hand where it was sitting on the back of the couch. “I heard somewhere that having kids makes you think different. C’mon. Sookie’s back and the kids are amped.”
I watched Alcide kiss Sookie hello and thank her for letting him carry in 4 really big boxes that I figured I’d ask about later since Tommy was rattling on.
Sookie laughed and apologized for him being so hyper. Not only had Pam let them ‘draw in sugar’ on the bar, but the grocery store had been handing out samples of juice and sugary snacks. She promised to get him down for a nap though. Given his mood, I’d be surprised if she could get him to blink by dinner time.
I was leaning into the fridge putting Snapples into the rack when Alcide yelled. I knew right away… just by his tone… my tank top had come up over my belt… he must’ve seen one of my bruises.
I turned around, pulling my shirt down like it wasn’t already too late.
Like it wasn’t bad enough that Alcide saw it, but Sookie must’ve too. She started trying to settle him down.
“How am I supposed to calm down?” He was so mad. I knew it wasn’t at me, but still… his eyes actually looked like they were someone else’s. I couldn’t talk and I felt like a baby when I felt the first tear roll down my cheek.
“Getting mad doesn’t make things better.” Sookie grabbed his chin and stared at him. Staring seemed to be a thing here, but it worked I could see my big brother calming down.
Sookie saw a window and took it, grabbing my hand and towing me past Alcide and into the bathroom.
I felt like that stereotypical ‘victim’ when I pulled my shirt up to show Sookie how bad it was. I braced myself when I saw her coming towards me like she was going to hug me. I don’t know why, but even though Tommy’s little leg hurt to rest on my hip earlier, Sookie’s touch was soothing. It didn’t seem like it took long enough. It actually felt like… a blackboard being wiped down. I could feel the pain and swelling wash away one area at a time.
Sookie seemed to know that I needed a minute before I faced Alcide and left to work on him. He’d just been completely honest with me and I opted to gloss over something pretty big. It was a crappy way to return the favor. And to make matters worse, Sookie was stuck in the middle now since she was keeping Alcide from going through the roof. Just because he’d just told me that I was free to live my life like I wanted, didn’t mean that my big brother was going to let something like a beating slide. Sookie was right when she warned me that Dell wasn’t exactly safe in Shreveport anymore.
It made me cry again when he apologized for getting upset. He thought he’d scared me. He was the last thing I was scared of.
After we helped Sookie put dinner together I sat on a barstool and watched her levitate.
Alcide stood next to me, watching her. “Shug, are you sure you should be doing that? I mean… Eric can do that when he wakes up. Can I at least help?”
“Naw, Beb. Just be my lookout.”
I laughed. “What are you looking out for?”
He took his eyes off of Sookie’s project just long enough to smile at me. “She doesn’t want the kids to catch her cheating. She doesn’t want them getting any ideas.”
Understandable, but how the hell would they get it in their heads to float off the ground?
The stained glass panels were beautiful and a perfect fit for the frames that were already part of the glass wall. They were gorgeous once they were up.
Alcide suggested that I go unpack since the kids were going to have some quiet time and he was going to the office and could listen for them. With the company they’d had, he’d been slacking as a Packmaster and with H&S.
When I was done unpacking, jealous that the guest room I was staying in was nicer than my old room at home, I went to the den to make sure Tommy was behaving.
Sookie was laying on the couch and Tommy had curled up on her chest. He was storing and drooling on her shirt.
I covered my mouth so my laughing wouldn’t wake anyone, since they were all out like lights and went to the office.
“Alcide, have you checked on the kids recently?”
“No. I tend to rile them up, but I haven’t heard anything. Why?”
I chuckled. “You gotta come see this.”
He followed me to the den and stared down at the pile of Sookie and Tommy. “Huh, it must be a family trait.”
“What do ya mean?”
“The second I snuggle up to her, I slip into a coma. Done. KO.” Excuse me?
“You nap… with Sookie? Eric and Pam are cool with that?”
He gave me a look like I had three heads. “Yeah, why not?… Uh… Janie… Does Tom still have fire hose issues in his sleep?”
“Oh crap. Yeah.”
He grinned at me and went around, wedging his arm between their two bodies and scooping Tommy up. Sookie stirred, but she went right back out. I followed Alcide upstairs and slid a pull-up onto my sleepy baby and he never stirred as my brother set him in his bed.
When Alcide went back to work, I snuck out to the back yard to call Jarvis.
One of the many, many good looking men noticed me and waved on his way over. “You’re Packmaster’s kid sister, right?”
He had his hand out so I shook it. “Yeah, you’re one of the guards or…”
“Yeah, I’m Azo… Did PM… Alcide brief you on security?”
“Just that you guys are here.”
“K. We work in three shifts. The night shift is vampire, any given time one of us is in or by the house, one is at the gate and two are trolling the grounds. If you see anything ‘off’ just give a yell and we’ll be there. K?”
I smiled at him. “Ever have any trouble?”
“Other than Bubba surprising us the other night, nothing. There might only be one or two idiots in the world that’re numb enough to try anything with this group. This is the safest damn security gig you can get when the principles are as bad ass as your brother and them.” Alcide, bad ass?
“Good to know. Do any of you smoke?”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack, holding it out to me. “Those things’ll kill ya.” Not considering I only smoke about a pack a year. I think my fireplace had done more damage.
He lit the cigarette for me and took off with a ‘nice to meet ya’ and I was out of stall tactics.
Talking to Jarvis wasn’t as bad as I imagined. He gave me a ‘good for you’ for not becoming Dell’s doormat and it took us all of 5 minutes to figure out how much he’d make as my manager until he could arrange to buy the salon for himself. I wanted to cry again. I was so relieved I didn’t even realize I had company until he said something.
“You come out to be alone or for the ‘fresh air’?”
I looked up from my seat and Jason was standing by the back door with a pretty grin, dimples and all. “I stole a cigarette from a guard because I thought the call I needed to make was going to be hard, but it went better than I thought it would.”
“Hey, that’s something, right?”
“Yeah. Things are already looking better than I thought they would.”
“You walked out on your husband?”
“Alcide’s got a big mouth.”
He started laughing as he sat down next to me. “Naw. He didn’t say nothing. I just figured since he worked you over and all.”
I gaped at him.
“I don’t know how I know… Eric and Alcide are trying to figure everything out. Me and Sook have some new powers… I felt like I’d been hit by truck when I shook your hand this morning. You’re alright now though. You had Sookie fix you up?”
“Yeah. She took care of it.”
“It took me a couple of visits to get the swing of things.”
“I’m just in shock that my brother is with a vampire.”
He smiled over at me. “Eric is Sookie’s second vampire. I never liked the first guy.”
“Why didn’t you like him?”
“General asshole. He was uppity and moody. Eric isn’t though. He’s a funny bastard. Real good to her too. And the kids.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Better part of a week, I guess.”
“They all get along?”
“Yeah. Never seen ‘em even disagree. Best thing I can tell ya, don’t be shy. You got a question, just ask. They’ll tell ya most anything, but watch out… Eric’s an oversharing mother fucker.”
“Oversharing? Do I want to know?”
He started laughing. “Just be careful how you word questions and make sure you want the answer. If he can give you a dirty answer, he will.”
I started laughing. “Oh great! Just how old is the ‘dirty old man’?”
“Grand, give or take.”
He smiled at me. “Fucking unreal, right? Pam’s over 200.”
My mouth fell open. Even if something came out, it wouldn’t have sounded too intelligent.
He started chuckling. “And I used to get impressed over wheat pennies.”
It started to get chilly so we headed inside. Alcide and Eric were sitting at the bar watching Sookie like a hawk while she made dinner. I watched for a minute and she was like a machine. She’d put a batch of crabcakes in the oil, then a batch of ravioli in the water, then flip the steak, then stir the garlic sauce, then the lobster sauce, then go back to the cutting board. She smiled at me and turned me down when I offered to help.
Not only was dinner huge and elaborate (I was jealous) but it was amazing. The vampires were the only ones talking because the rest of us were eating like we were competing for a blue ribbon. Tommy even ate the basil and tomato salad… and liked it. I’m sure that if he’d seen what the lobster looked like before it went into the sauce, he wouldn’t have touched it, but he asked for seconds.
Since I only ate one serving, not that it was modest by any stretch of the imagination, I started rinsing plates and loading the dishwasher while Sookie finished. I was probably too excited that she let me help with dishes, but it was the least I could do… I looked. It made me even more jealous when I looked around for a chore to help with and couldn’t find any. The whole house was spotless.
When she was done eating Sookie and Eric did a little whispering back and forth… When she went up stairs he watched her walk away with his jaw clenched.
Alcide scowled the second he noticed. “What? What’s she doing?”
“She’s going for a run.”
“After the way she looked when she got up? Oh, hell no!”
She jogged back through in a work out set with a big smile, waving and Alcide bounced out of his seat and went after her so fast that Eric had to catch his chair so that it wouldn’t fall over.
When he came back into the kitchen alone, his and Eric’s asses went onto their shoulders. They paced by the back door and Eric spent a few minutes speaking in some ugly language before giving Alcide and Pam cryptic answers.
I opened my mouth to ask what the hell was going on, but Jason cut me off by asking me to go check on the kids with him.
The kids were officially oblivious that any of us existed since Monsters Inc was playing on the big screen.
I whispered at him. “Do you know what put them all in crappy moods all of a sudden?”
“Sookie’s been really busy. She’s been using her powers a lot. She’s weak and they can feel it. They’re worried.”
“If she’s so weak, how is she running?”
“She’s not that weak. Have you met your brother? His worry lines have worry lines and he’s rubbing off on Eric.”
“Yeah. They’ll be fine though.”
“What makes you so sure?”
He chuckled. “Cause Ludwig just told Eric that if anything happened to Sookie that she’d dress like a baby and pose for the Fangtasia Calendar.”
“You understood what they were saying?”
He grinned and patted my shoulder. “Yeah. Were hearing.”
It didn’t seem to take long for the house to calm down. By the time the new babysitter left, Alcide and Eric had cheered up again, even if they did seem to pile on top of Sookie on the couch watching TV. Jason said that it was normal though.
I have no idea where they heard of the show we ended up watching but I laughed so hard that I had to find a bathroom at one point.
After Sookie & Eric turned in… twice, the crowd in the den dwindled. Alcide and Pam were the first to go and they acted like they couldn’t get upstairs fast enough.
Angela and Jason snuggled up together, not far away from me and we watched most of an episode of King of the Hill before my eyes started to cross.
I barely woke up as Jason laid me on ‘my’ bed. Angela was untying my sneakers for me.
I rolled over and pulled the biggest, fluffiest pillow I’d ever touched and tried to remember the last time Dell had been as thoughtful…
At least I’d done something right…
I’d found a soft place to land.