"I guess I’ll stay," I said, though I was still far from satisfied with the way things stood between us. If I’d been strong enough, I would have left. But it would be very foolish to start driving home and risk having a wreck.
Eric was suddenly right in front of me, and he put his arms around me. I started to pull away. "Sookie," he said. "Let’s make this right. I have enemies on every side, and I don’t want to have one here at home." I made myself hold still. I reviewed everything I’d told myself while I’d been taking my time-out in the bathroom. That seemed to have been a week ago, instead of hours.
"Okay," I said slowly. "Okay. I know that I should be totally all right with what you did with that woman. I know if people are willing, there’s no reason you shouldn’t take a sip from them, especially since she was actually booby-trapped. I think you could have held out if you’d really wanted to. I know my reaction is emotional, not logical. But it’s the reaction I’m having. I also know, in my head, that I love you. I’m just not feeling it at this moment. Oh, by the way, I have something to confess to you, too, regarding another man."
Ha! That sharpened him up. Eric’s eyebrows flew up and he stepped back a little, looking down at me and very nearly scowling. "What?" he said, biting the word out as if it tasted bad. I felt more cheerful.
"Remember, I told you I was going to Hooligans to see Claude strip?" I said. "There were other guys, too, mostly fae, who did, well, almost the full monty." I raised one eyebrow and tried to look inscrutable.
Eric’s mouth quirked in what was very nearly a smile. "Claude is a beautiful man. How do I stack up against the fairy?" he asked.
"Hmmm. The fairy was stacked all right," I said, looking off in another direction ostentatiously.
Eric squeezed me. "Sookie?"
"Eric! You know that you look pretty good naked."
"That’s right, fish for compliments," I said.
"That’s not all I’m fishing for," he whispered. He picked me up by sliding his hands under my rear, and suddenly I was at just the right height to kiss him.
So an evening that had held so much that was bad ended in something good, after all, and for fifteen minutes I utterly forgot that I was in the same bed he’d sat on while he took blood from someone else … which may have been the target Eric was aiming for. He hit it, dead center.
He got downstairs in the nick of time.
I didn’t roll out of bed until noon. I had slept very heavily, and I’d had bad dreams. I woke up groggy, and I didn’t feel refreshed at all. It didn’t occur to me to check my cell phone until I heard it buzzing in my purse-but that wasn’t until I’d drunk some coffee, showered and put on the change of clothes I kept in the closet, and (no matter what Eric had said) gathered up all the dirty "service items," as flight attendants call them.
By the time I’d dropped my hairbrush, opened my purse, and groped inside to extricate the phone, my caller had hung up. Frustrating. I checked the number, and to my astonishment I found that Mustapha Khan had been trying to get in touch with me. I called the number back as quickly as I could press the right buttons, but no one answered.
Crap. Well, if he wasn’t picking up, there wasn’t anything I could do about it. But I had other messages: one from Dermot, one from Alcide, and one from Tara.
Dermot’s voice said, "Sookie? Where are you? You didn’t come home last night. Everything okay?"
Alcide Herveaux said, "Sookie, we need to talk. Call me when you can."
Tara said, "Sookie, I think the babies are going to come pretty soon. I’m effacing and I’m starting to dilate. Get ready to become an aunt!" She sounded giddy with excitement.
I called her back first, but she didn’t pick up.
Then I called Dermot, who actually answered. I gave him a condensed version of the night before. He asked me to come home immediately, but he didn’t offer an explanation. I told him I’d start back within the hour unless the police arrived to delay me. What if they wanted to come into Eric’s house? They couldn’t just come in, right? They had to have a warrant. But the house was a crime scene. I was worried about them trying to get into Eric’s downstairs bedroom, and I remembered that Bill was in the bedroom across the hall in a guest pod. What if the cops decided to open it? I needed a set of those "DO NOT ENTER VAMPIRE AT REST" coffin hangers I’d seen advertised in Eric’s copy of American Vampire.
"I’ll be there as soon as I can," I told Dermot. I hung up feeling a bit worried about Dermot’s insistence that I return. What was happening at my house?
With great reluctance, I returned Alcide’s call. He’d only try to get in touch about something pretty important, since we weren’t exactly buddies anymore. We weren’t exactly enemies, either. But we could never seem to be happy with each other at the same time.
"Sookie," Alcide said in his deep voice. "How you doing?"
"I’m okay. I don’t know if you’ve heard what happened here at Eric’s last night …"
"Yeah, I heard something about it."
No surprise there. Who needed the Internet, when you had the supes around? "Then you know Mustapha is missing."
"Too bad he’s not pack. We’d find him."
Pointed, much? "After all, he’s a werewolf," I said briskly. "And the police do want him. I know he could explain everything if he’d just come in to talk to them. So maybe if someone in the pack sees him somewhere, you could let me know? He called me-or at least someone using his phone did. I missed the call, and I’m really worried about him."
"I’ll let you know if I find out anything," Alcide promised. "I need to talk to you about something else, though."
I waited to hear what he had in mind.
"Sookie, you still there?"
"Yes, I’m just waiting."
"I’m hearing a complete lack of enthusiasm."
"Well, considering last time." I didn’t even need to finish the sentence. Finding Alcide naked in my bed had not endeared him to me. There was a lot to like about the werewolf, but his timing had never matched mine and he’d taken some bad advice.
"Okay, I was wrong there. We had a good result from you acting as our shaman, but I was wrong to ask you to do it, and I freely acknowledge that." Alcide said that kind of proudly.
Had he joined Werewolf Manipulators Anonymous? I looked at myself in the mirror and widened my eyes, to let my reflection know what I thought about the conversation.
"Good to hear that," I said. "What’s up?"
Rueful chuckle. Charming rueful chuckle. "Well, you’re right, Sookie, I do have a favor to ask you."