"Damn, it’s hot out there," Roy said. "You saved my life." Roy was medium: hair a medium brown, eyes a medium blue, height a moderate five foot ten, slim build. He did have great teeth and a winning smile, which he flashed at me now. "I think you know my girlfriend, Ms. Stackhouse."
"Who would that be? Call me Sookie, by the way."
"I date Palomino."
I was so startled that I couldn’t think of what to say. Then I had to scramble to get some words out. "She’s sure a pretty young woman. I haven’t gotten to know her real well, but I see her around."
"Yeah, she works for your boyfriend, and she moonlights at the Trifecta."
For a vampire and a Were to date was very unusual, practically a Romeo and Juliet situation. Roy must be a tolerant kind of guy. Funny, that wasn’t the vibe he was giving off. Roy seemed like a conventional Were to me: tough, macho, strong-willed.
There weren’t many "granola" Weres. But Alcide, though not exactly beaming at Roy, wasn’t scowling, either.
I wondered what Roy thought of Palomino’s nestmates, Rubio and Parker. I wondered if Roy knew Palomino had been part of the massacre at Fangtasia. Since Roy was a bit clearer to read than some Weres, I could tell he was thinking of Palomino going to a bar with him. Something clicked inside me, and I knew I’d gotten an idea, but I wasn’t sure what it was. There was a connection I should be drawing, but I’d have to wait for it to pop to the top of my brain. Isn’t that the most irritating feeling in the world?
The next time I passed Alcide’s table, Roy had gone to the men’s room. Alcide reached out to ask me to pause. "Sookie," he said quietly, "I got your message. Nobody’s seen Mustapha yet, and nobody’s heard from him. Or his buddy Warren. What did he say to you?"
"He gave me a message for you," I said. "You want to come outside for a second?"
"Well, all right." Alcide rose and walked to the door, and I trailed after him. There was no one lingering in the parking lot on a day this hot.
"I know you won’t want to hear this, but he said Jannalynn was out to get me, and not to trust her," I said.
Alcide’s green eyes widened. "Jannalynn. He says she’s untrustworthy."
I raised my shoulders, let them drop.
"I don’t know how to take that, Sookie. Though she hasn’t been herself for a few weeks, she’s more than proved herself as my enforcer." Alcide looked both bewildered and irritated. "I’ll think on what you’ve told me. In the meantime, I’m keeping my eyes and ears open, and you’ll hear soon’s I know something."
"He wants you to call him," I said. "When you’re alone. He put a lot of weight on that."
"Thanks for passing along the message."
Though that wasn’t the same thing as telling me he’d place the call, I made myself smile at him as we went back inside. He resumed his seat as Roy returned to the table. "And now, what can I get you hungry guys for lunch?"
Alcide and Roy ordered a basket of fried pickles and two hamburgers apiece. I turned in their order and made the rounds of my other tables. I had my cell phone in my pocket, and I checked it from time to time. I was very anxious to hear about Tara, but I wasn’t going to bug JB. I figured he was nervous enough as it was, and there was a good chance he’d have turned off his cell phone since he was in the hospital.
I was more worried about JB than I was Tara. For the past two weeks, he’d been coming in to parade his worries to me. He hadn’t been sure he could handle being in the delivery room, especially if Tara had to have a C-section. He hadn’t been sure he could remember his coaching lessons. I figured it was good he was presenting a strong face to his wife and saving the worries for a friend, but maybe he should have been sharing his qualms with Tara or her doctor.
Maybe he was passed out on the hospital floor. Tara … she was made of stronger stuff.
Alcide and Roy ate with the hearty appetites of men who’ve been working outside all morning-men who also happen to be werewolves-and they drank the whole pitcher of tea. They both looked happier when they were full, and Alcide made a big effort to catch my eye. I dodged it as long as I could, but he nailed me fair and square, so I went over, smiling. "Can I get you-all anything else? Some dessert today?" I said.
"I’m tight as a tick," Roy said. "Those were great hamburgers."
"I’ll tell Antoine you said so," I assured him.
"Sam not here today?" Alcide said.
I almost asked him if he saw Sam anywhere in the room, but I realized that would just be rude. It was not a real question. He was trying to segue into another topic.
"No, Kennedy is on the bar today."
"I bet Sam’s with Jannalynn," Roy said, grinning significantly at me.
I shrugged, tried to look politely indifferent.
Alcide was looking off into the distance as if he were thinking about something else, but I knew he was thinking about me. Alcide was feeling kind of lucky that he’d never managed to clinch our relationship, because he figured there was something fishy going on between Jannalynn and me. Alcide didn’t consider that he himself could be the bone of contention, since Jannalynn had told him she was going to propose to Sam, and I was Eric’s girlfriend. But we two women clearly had issues, and he had to wonder how that would affect the pack, which had become the most important thing in the world to Alcide.
He was thinking this all so clearly that I wondered if he was trying to let me know his concerns, projecting them on purpose.
"Apparently we do have issues," I told him. "At least, she does." Alcide looked startled, and half turned. Before Roy could begin asking questions I said, "How’s the bar doing?" Hair of the Dog, the only Were bar in Shreveport, wasn’t a tourist bar like Fangtasia. It was not exclusively for Weres, but for all the twoeys in the Shreveport area. "We seem to be pulling out of our slump, here."
"It’s doing good. Jannalynn is doing a great job of managing it," Alcide said. He hesitated for a moment. "I heard that those new bars were falling off some, the ones the new guy opened."
"Yeah, I heard that, too," I said, trying not to sound too smug.
"Whatever happened to that new guy?" Alcide said, keeping his words guarded. "That Victor?" Though the world knew about the existence of vampires and the two-natured, their infrastructure was not common knowledge. It would remain a secret if the supes had their way. Alcide took an elaborately casual sip of the remaining tea. "I haven’t seen him around."
"Me, either, for weeks," I said. I gave Alcide a very direct look. "Maybe he went back to Nevada." Roy’s mind was empty of Victor-thoughts, and I was glad that Palomino had kept her mouth shut. Palomino … who hung out in a Were bar. Now I made the connection. That was why the distributor was leaving TrueBlood at Hair of the Dog … it was for Palomino. Just Palomino? Was another vamp visiting the Were bar, too?