Sam had officially made me a partner in the bar. I legally owned a third of Merlotte’s.
I put my head on the table and swore. In a happy way.
This past twenty-four hours had been my personal trail of tears. No more!
I picked myself up out of that chair, slapped on about a ton of makeup and a sundress, and put a smile on my face. It was time to rejoin the land of the living, the everyday world. I didn’t want to learn one more secret or suffer one more betrayal.
I was due to meet Kennedy for breakfast at LaLaurie’s, which (she’d told me) served a great Sunday brunch. I didn’t think I’d ever eaten a meal and called it "brunch." Today I did, and it was really excellent. White tablecloths and cloth napkins, too! Kennedy was wearing a pretty sundress, too, and her hair was in full pageant mode. The hickey on her neck was not quite covered by her makeup.
Kennedy was in an excellent mood, and she confided in me way more than I wanted to know about the wonderfulness that now lay between Danny and her. Danny was even now running errands for Bill Compton since he didn’t have to work at the lumberyard, which was closed on Sunday. It was going to work out. He’d be making a living wage. When their finances stabilized, maybe they would move in together. "Maybe," she emphasized, but I wasn’t fooled. Their cohabitation was a done deal.
I thought of my happy fantasies of the night before; had it really just been the night before? I tried to remember all the happy endings I’d imagined for everyone, and I tried to recollect if I’d included Danny and Kennedy in the roundup.
After I left LaLaurie’s, full and happy, I knew I couldn’t wait any longer to thank Sam for his amazing gift. His truck was parked in front of his trailer. His carefully watered hedge and yard were flourishing despite the heat. Not many men would try to keep a yard around their double-wide if it was parked behind a bar. I’d always tried to let Sam’s house be his house. I could count on my fingers the times I’d knocked on his door.
Today was one of them.
When he answered the door, my smile faded away. I could tell something was mighty wrong.
Then I realized that he knew what Jannalynn had done.
He looked at me bleakly. "I don’t know what to say to you," he said. "This is the second time I’ve been with a woman who tried to do you harm."
It actually took me a second to remember who the other one had been. "Callisto? Oh, Sam, that was a while ago, and she was hardly a woman. She didn’t mean any of it personal. Jannalynn, well, she definitely did. But she’s an ambitious young woman; she’s trying …" My voice trailed off. She’s trying to take over the pack from her packmaster, to whom she swore loyalty. She’s trying to make sure my boyfriend gets arrested for murder. She conspired with a fairy to pay Kym Rowe to go to her death. She kidnapped Warren. She left him to die. She was trying to kill me, one way or another.
"Okay," I said, conceding defeat. "You f**ked up with Jannalynn."
He blinked at me. His reddish-blond hair was standing up like porcupine quills all over his head. He tilted his head to one side as if he wasn’t sure I was quite in focus.
His mouth quirked up in an unwilling grin. I grinned back. Then we both laughed. Not a lot, but enough to clear the air.
"Where is she?" I asked. "Do you know what happened night before last?"
"Tell me," he said, standing aside so I could come in.
Sam had heard a sketchy version from a pack member who’d become a friend of his, a young man who worked for Jannalynn at Hair of the Dog. "You didn’t tell me what you suspected about her," Sam said. He left that sitting there between us.
"Sam, let me tell you about what’s happened the last couple of days, and you’ll understand, I promise," I said, and with a certain amount of editing, I told him.
"Good God, Sookie," he said. "You really know how to have a birthday, huh?"
"The best part of my birthday was my present from you," I said, and I took his hand.
Sam turned red. "Aw, Sook. You earned it. You deserve it. And look, I didn’t make you equal partner, did I?"
"Trying to make your gift look like less won’t work for me," I said. I kissed him on the cheek and got up, to make the moment lighten so Sam would be more comfortable. "I got to get home," I said, though I couldn’t imagine what for.
"See you tomorrow."
It would be a lot sooner than that.
I felt curiously blank on the drive home to my empty house.
For what seemed like forever, my spare time had been taken up by Eric. We were making plans to meet, or we were together, or we were talking on the telephone. Now that it seemed our relationship was unraveling, I had no idea what to expect from our next meeting. If we had a next meeting. But I couldn’t imagine how I would fill the hole in my life left by his absence. Now that I knew who’d tried to get Eric into trouble, I knew that his involvement with me had led to this moment. He’d never have been targeted by Claude, by Jannalynn, if it hadn’t been for me, and that was such a reversal on the usual situation-I’d been the object of so many schemes because Eric was my lover-that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. I wondered how much Eric knew of what had transpired, but I couldn’t bring myself to call him to tell about it all.
He had known I had the cluviel dor, and he had expected me to use it to get him out of the arrangement Appius had made with Freyda.
And maybe I would have done that. Maybe I still would. It seemed the obvious choice, the most apparent thing to do with the magic. But it also seemed to me that Eric was expecting me to magically get him out of a situation that he should defeat by his own efforts. He should love me enough to simply refuse Freyda. It was like he wanted the decision out of his hands.
That was an idea I didn’t want to have. But you can’t erase a thought; once you’ve had it, it’s there to stay.
I would love to feel an absolute conviction that yanking that cluviel dor out of my pocket and wishing with all my heart that Eric would stay with me was the right thing to do.
I poked at that thought. I prodded that thought. But it just didn’t feel right to me.
I took a much-needed nap. When I got up, though I wasn’t really all that hungry, I microwaved a dish of lasagna and picked at it as I thought. No one at the bar had heard news of any more mysterious deer deaths, and now I was sure there never would be. I wondered about Hooligans, presumably now sitting empty, but it wasn’t anything to do with me anymore. Oh, gosh, the guys were sure to have left some stuff upstairs. Maybe this evening I’d pack it up. Not that there was any address to forward it to.
Okay, maybe I’d take the clothes to Goodwill.
I watched television for a while-an old black-and-white movie about a man and a woman who loved one another but had to overcome all sorts of things to be together, a cooking show, a couple of episodes of Jeopardy. (I couldn’t get any answers right.) My only phone call was from a fund-raising organization. I turned them down.