Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
There weren’t many guests at Seacoast Shores this morning. Only half of the rooms were taken. Sookie chopped fruit and set out yogurt and juice. While she set up the coffee, Maryann watched her closely. “I’m not much of a coffee drinker,” the innkeeper acknowledged, “I’ve never been quite sure about how much coffee to add.”
“Well, I like it a little stronger,” Sookie told her. “I figure with a big day ahead of them, these folks are likely to want it the same way.” She was proven right when those asking for coffee asked for seconds, then thirds. Guests drifted into the dining room, taking up the little tables, and within fifteen minutes, the pace went from slow to bustling.
The breakfast menu only offered five choices, but each still needed to be prepared. Sookie initially stayed away from the stove, leaving Maryann in charge of the cooking, but when she saw her boss struggling with poached eggs, she offered to take over. “Why don’t you let me handle that? When my Mom was sick, eggs were about the only thing she really liked. I think I’ve done them just about every way there is!” Maryann stepped aside, allowing Sookie to take the pan. She moved them just right, then tipped them and using that little extra snap to her wrist, slid both eggs to lay perfectly atop the Irish bacon, yolks intact.
“See if you can do as well with these,” and Maryann pointed to the list of orders, stacked on the counter.
“Happy to!” Sookie exclaimed and for the next half hour, she found she was almost joyous. She cooked, she chopped, she spiced. She hummed as she went, preparing each order, and taking care to make sure the presentation on the plate was pleasing. Maryann moved back and forth to the dining room, and Sookie could hear the sound of voices and laughter drifting back. The sun suddenly streamed through the back windows, making everything glow, and Sookie felt her heart swell. It was perfect. “I think I’ve found it!” she said out loud.
“What?” Maryann asked from behind her. “Is there something in the eggs?”
“No!” Sookie laughed, “I think I’ve found what I want to do with the rest of my life!”
“You’re a hasty person!” Maryann scolded, “If you think one morning of cooking eggs can tell you your future!”
Sookie didn’t say anything, but each thing she did convinced her even more she was right. As soon as the orders were finished, she grabbed a tray and headed into the dining room. As she removed dishes and refilled tea and coffee cups, she chatted with the guests about their plans for the day.
They came from all over. There was a couple from Texas, but two other couples were from The Netherlands. There was a man from Norway and another from Germany. Each were happy to spend a few minutes, talking of what they’d seen and what they liked best. For Sookie, it was her dream come true. She was in a different part of the world, meeting people who came from everywhere. She could feel her smile getting bigger and bigger.
Cleaning the kitchen took over an hour. Everything had to be scrubbed and scoured until it gleamed. “No lunch or dinner for guests,” Maryann confirmed. “I’ll put together a lunch for us, though since we’re working, but I’ll give you an hour off this afternoon so you can do some grocery shopping for yourself. You have money?”
“Yes,” Sookie confirmed. “I have an account here in town.” They were just finishing with their cleaning when a chime sounded.
“Oh,” Maryann looked toward the hall, “They’ll be checking out now.” Sookie followed and together they went through the process of finalizing bills and processing payments. One couple from The Netherlands was staying two more nights, but the rest were on their way to their next stop on their trail.
Maryann pulled out a book. All the records were written long-hand in an actual ledger. Maryann recorded each guest, her penmanship neat and meticulous. She gave people the printed receipt from the credit card machine she used to process the payments as their invoice, then stuck her copy of the same receipt into an envelope. “No computer?” Sookie asked.
“Never figured them out,” Maryann said a little defensively. When the check-outs were finished, Maryann flipped the page to the list of those with reservations for tonight.
“You know,” Sookie said, “If you wanted, I could set this all up on a ledger program. I did a lot of work with them at The Grand. It wouldn’t take much. I could get everything put together in one place, your expenses, reservations, everything.”
“It can’t be complicated,” Maryann cautioned.
“I’m no computer whiz,” Sookie laughed. “I couldn’t do it if it was complicated! I’ll tell you what. I will just do a little, so you can see what it would look like. If you like it, I’ll do the rest. If it doesn’t make it easier, you like the way you’re doing it now. Won’t cost you anything!”
There was a laptop in the kitchen, so Sookie wasn’t worried about Maryann not having experience with computers. “If you do that and it works out, I’d pay you a little extra,” Maryann agreed.
“Well, that’s great!” Sookie told her, “Because I really think I’d like to earn enough to get a place of my own someday, just like this! This is everything I ever dreamed about.”
“You do have a way of jumping to conclusions,” Maryann laughed. “Let’s see if you still feel that way after getting all the rooms ready. “Come on!” and the innkeeper led the way upstairs. “We need to get all the vacant rooms cleaned, plus make sure there’s one extra ready for tonight.”
Sookie had the cleaning and refreshing routine down after the first room, so she and Maryann split up. It wasn’t very different from The Grand. Sookie stripped beds and remade things. She checked under beds and scoured bathrooms. Maryann had a cleaning agent that was so strong it made Sookie’s eyes smart, but it also made the fixtures sparkle. There was no mopping for Maryann. She insisted that floors be done by hand, and baseboards be wiped down, too. Sookie had to admit, it made the rooms that much more inviting, but by the time she reached her fifth room, her back was complaining and her knees creaked a little.
By noon, they were back downstairs, looking over supplies for the coming morning. The bell sounded in the front hall and Maryann scowled.
“The sign out front says we don’t check in guests until after three! Ignore it!” she told Sookie, and then she settled back into her chair, picking up her teacup, but the bell sounded again.
“It could be that couple that’s staying,” Sookie suggested. “Maybe they forgot their key!”
“Suit yourself!” Maryann shrugged after Sookie made clear she was going to walk out front regardless.
Sookie wiped her hands on a towel as she walked through to the formal hall. She swung open the fancy front door and found herself face to face with Breandan O’Hara. “Breandan! What are you doing back so soon? I didn’t think you were coming back to Slievemore for another couple of days,” and then Sookie felt her face blush to burning. She felt as if he’d caught her and she could feel her flight or fight reaction kicking into high gear.
His brown eyes were so dark, it was as if his pupils had taken over. Sookie thought he might be irritated, but his voice was soft when he said, “I heard you left and I cut my trip short. May I come in?”
Sookie glanced nervously toward the kitchen, and then she made up her mind. “No, you can’t!” she told him. Before he could say anything else, she said, “I’m working now! I’ll be off around four. If you’d like to talk, we can do it then.”
“But, I want to talk with you now!” Sookie felt Breandan try to push her mentally, and then he must have realized his mistake, because he pulled back. He literally leaned away from her and Sookie could see his confusion. She realized it had been some time since she’d denied him anything, so doing it now felt good. Fight won out over flight and Sookie felt the unsaid things she’d been thinking since yesterday rise within her.
“Well, Breandan, I want things, too. I’d like to be in a relationship where the man in my life, the one I thought wanted to marry me, doesn’t sleep with other people, but you taught me that sometimes you don’t always get what you want.” Sookie thought she wasn’t that angry, but saying the words made her realize she was. “I told you I will talk with you when I’m finished with work, and I’m sorry if that doesn’t work for you, but that’s the way it is!” and Sookie Stackhouse closed the door in Breandan O’Hara’s face, then turned the lock.
“He’s very handsome,” Maryann was standing at the open kitchen door. “I met Thomas O’Hara, the previous manager at The Grand a number of times. I’m assuming they’re related. Your Breandan looks a lot like Thomas.”
“I don’t know,” Sookie shrugged, “I never met Thomas.”
“So, Breandan cheated on you, then?” and Maryann shook her head before adding, “Men are pigs!”
“Breandan’s not a pig,” Sookie sighed. “Things just didn’t go the way I thought they would.”
“Well, you put him in his place and you kept your self-respect. Most young women would have chucked their dignity to the wolves for the chance to go stepping out with a rich man who looks like that!” and Maryann shook her head.
“I don’t see how I could keep my self-respect and just ignore what he did.” Sookie took a deep breath, “Besides, I gave you my word. I agreed to work for you this season and I take that seriously.”
“Then, you’re a young woman who’s likely to go far.” Maryann looked satisfied as she said, “Well, come on and let’s finish our tea. I have some paperwork to work on.”
“May I help you with that?” Sookie asked.
“You can do it for me if you’d like,” and Maryann laughed.
At four o’clock, Sookie stepped out the back door and walked across the driveway to the door leading up the stairs beside the garage to her apartment. She grabbed her purse and an extra sweater, then set off for town.
The sign on the store told her the grocery would be open for many more hours, so Sookie went instead to the electronics store to buy herself a laptop. She looked at several models before choosing one she was sure would handle what she needed. She also picked up a software package that created ledgers and accounts and had received high ratings from users. Clutching her bag, Sookie headed back outside, thinking to go to Ghoul’s Kiss next. It was early, but it would be dark enough for Eric and Pam to be around in another half hour. She looked to the left and then turned right and stepped right into Breandan.
“Were you intending to find me, or were you hoping you would escape my notice?” he asked, and then reached over to take the bag from her hand, saying, “Here, let me.”
“Oh… I’m sorry… yes, I’m in town,” Sookie stammered. Breandan flustered her. She couldn’t imagine how he’d known where she was or if this was just a coincidence. Breandan didn’t seem mad, but there was so much unsaid between them, it made Sookie feel uncomfortable. Not wanting to be beholden to him in any way, Sookie reached for her bag and took it back.
“Am I so hateful to you now that you won’t even let me carry your bag?” Breandan asked. He sounded hurt and Sookie felt ashamed, and then she didn’t.
“You don’t get to do that!” she declared.
“Do what?” and there it was again, that confused, sad look.
“Be the hurt one,” Sookie told him. “I’m not the one who was tomcatting around. I’m not the one who was lying…”
“I never lied to you!” Breandan was starting to look angry now. “You told me you didn’t want to marry me, Sookie, remember? I would have asked. I would have given up everything, but I wasn’t enough for you! I wasn’t what you wished.”
“Oh!” and the breath left her and just like that, she wasn’t mad. “Is that what you thought? You thought because I told you I wasn’t ready right away that I didn’t want to marry you…” and then she stopped. “No, Breandan, that’s not right! How many times have I told you I love you? How many times have I talked about us getting to know each other first before making promises for forever? You don’t get to pretend that didn’t happen. Why in the world would you think that sleeping with that stone-cold bitch, Mae, would be okay by me?”
“I owed her,” he said as if that was the most reasonable thing in the world. He leaned closer to Sookie, making sure she saw him as he was, “You know what I am. You know what we are! It meant nothing. She wished it, so I gave it to her.”
Sookie glanced around at the passersby. She really didn’t want to be having this conversation on the street, but she wanted to be alone with Breandan talking about this even less. “So, you’re telling me that fucking around is just a Fae thing and I shouldn’t be jealous?” she whispered.
“Yes! Just so! You do understand now!” he smiled. “It is our way. Coupling is pleasurable and it passes the time.”
“Well, that just goes to show how different we are. Giving myself to someone that way means a little more to me, Breandan O’Hara!” Sookie knew her jaw was jutting forward. It always happened when she was angry. “I can see it’s different for you, but that kind of attitude just doesn’t work for me. I’ve told you before, I’m a one-man woman and I expect the same from the man in my life.” Sookie felt great on her moral high ground until she remembered that the man she’d said this to before wasn’t Breandan. It was Eric Northman and she’d been kissing him at the time.
“If fidelity was so important to you, you should have told me it was part of your price,” Breandan hissed. The words were bad, but the way he said them made it far worse.
“Fact is, Breandan, if I was so important to you, you should have taken the time to ask me what I wanted,” and there it was. Sookie was angry, but looking at Breandan’s face reminded her of those first sweet days in Boston. He had come into her life that night when her mother was so sick and rescued her. He took care of her and she really believed he cared, but it had been months since he’d shown any real interest in her or who she was, and that realization stiffened Sookie’s backbone. Her chin lifted and she turned on her heel to leave.
“Perhaps you are right,” It was said quietly and hearing it, the way he said it, made Sookie stop. He placed his hand on her arm. He didn’t grab her. He just touched her. “I was so worried when my Father said you were missing,” he said. His mouth was close to her ear and his breath caressed her neck, “I imagined you were captured and when I saw your necklace, I thought that Rogan…” and then he stopped.
“You hurt me,” Sookie told him.
Breandan’s hands traveled to Sookie’s shoulders. He turned her toward him and brushed his thumb over her lower lip. “Forgive me?” he asked, looking right into her eyes. “Please.”
Breandan’s face came toward her and then his lips were on hers. Just breathing in his breath made Sookie feel better and he kissed her in the gentle way he could have, the way that made her want to linger. When he straightened, he brushed her hair away from her face. “I miss you,” he told her. “Mae is gone. Things will change. Come back with me, now.”
There was a part of Sookie who wanted to say yes, a disturbingly large part that remembered the way things had been between them and yearned for it to be that way again, but her head was calling the shots today. “It didn’t have to be like this,” she told Breandan, her voice cracking. “There were plenty of times you could have changed how things between us went together, but you didn’t. I’ve found a place here I like. It gives me some space to myself to think things through. I’m not saying we’re done, Breandan, but I am saying I’m not moving back in with you, not right away. If we’re meant to be together, we will be, but that courting thing you promised me back in Boston? If you really want me, you’re going to have to do that!”
“But you enjoy sex with me!” Breandan was looking confused again. “You belong in my bed! I am happiest when I’m with you, in you and you are happy, too!”
“Relationships are about more than just sex,” Sookie sighed. “Maybe my agreeing to live with you right away gave you the wrong impression. I mean it, Breandan. If you really want to be with me, we are going to have to start over,” and not wanting to leave on a bad note, Sookie pulled his head down, and then turned to kiss his cheek, rather than the lips he offered.
It was hard walking away from him. Breandan was absolute perfection as always, and Sookie could sense he meant his words as much as he ever did, but Sookie could also see he just wasn’t getting it, getting her. Each step away didn’t get any easier though, it only got harder. She almost turned around, willing to negotiate away her concerns. She figured if she asked for the two of them to return to Killary, he’d say yes. The way he had been looking at her, Sookie figured he’d say yes to just about anything right now to get her back, but it wasn’t enough. Not anymore.
The street lights blinked on, so Sookie headed up the street toward Ghoul’s Kiss, hoping Pam was back because she could really use a friend right now.
Sookie didn’t see her when she walked in, but the bartender was one she recognized. “Looking for Pam?” he asked and when she nodded, he went out back.
Pam walked out just a minute later, looking very spring-like. She was wearing a sheath dress in some cream color and her jacket was covered with a print featuring bright flowers in pinks and blues. “Are you all settled in?” she asked. “I’ll have to throw you a housewarming party!” She joined Sookie at the table and looked at the bag on the extra chair. “That looks intriguing. Most girls buy themselves furniture or clothes to celebrate moving on with their lives. A computer?”
“Maryann is handling all of her reservations off a pad of paper. She said if I can automate her and make it easy, she’ll pay me a little extra,” and Sookie sipped from the gin and tonic the bartender set in front of her. Pam was sipping something different from her mug and Sookie wondered if it was blood.
“You’re ambitious!” Pam exclaimed, which she said like it was a good thing. “So, you’ve taken on a new job, you’re finding ways to earn more on the side, so what are you planning to do with all this new-found money of yours?”
“I know it sounds crazy,” Sookie shrugged, “but this B&B thing? I think I could do this! It’s pretty much everything I ever wanted. It’s a home of my own but, at the same time, I get to meet new people from all over the world. I do some cooking, but not a lot, then during the day, my time is my own.”
“Own your own B&B?” and Pam looked at her as if she was crazy. “People coming in and out of where you live all the time? Strangers? I don’t know, Sookie,” and she saluted the woman across from her with her glass, “You sure know how to walk on the wild side.”
It occurred to Sookie that Pam’s concerns might be more specific. She’d heard stories about how vampires needed to sleep all day. “May I ask you a personal question?” When Pam raised her eyebrow, Sookie continued, “Is it true? Do you really sleep in a coffin?”
“You are my favorite breather!” Pam laughed. “Sometimes. When vampires travel long distances, we do use coffins or at least they look like coffins, but they’re specially designed for us. For one thing, they lock from the inside. The rest of the time, no, we sleep in beds like everyone else.”
“May I ask you something else?” and Sookie glanced at Pam’s mug.
“You’re going to ask about the blood. Yes, that’s true. We need human blood to survive. There’s a synthetic version that came out recently and substitutes well. It’s not generally available, but Eric and I order it in bulk, TruBlood. It doesn’t taste great,” and Pam grimaced at the cup, “but it works when the real thing isn’t available.”
“You don’t have to kill people to survive, do you?” It slipped out and Sookie blushed, stammering, “Oh! I am so sorry! That didn’t come out right at all!”
“It’s okay!” Pam just shook her head. “Younger vampires do need more than older vampires, but unless we’re really damaged, we don’t need more than a cup or two a day. Not saying taking more isn’t pleasurable for us, because it is. You should know it’s pretty pleasurable for the human involved, too, but, no, there’s really no need for anyone to be hurt.”
“Oh.” Sookie was flustered. Pam was her friend, but, still, she felt as if she’d infringed on her friend’s privacy in a rude way.
After the silence stretched between them a little too long, Pam asked, “So, why were you looking so upset when you walked in here?”
“Was I?” Sookie asked and when Pam rolled her eyes, Sookie told her, “Breandan. I saw him before I came. He wants me back.”
“I’ll bet he does!” Pam snarked, then wiping the sarcasm from her tone, she asked, “Would you go back?”
“No,” Sookie shook her head, “at least not right away. It’s hard. He does such hurtful things, but then I remember all the good things and how kind he was to my Mother. She really liked him.”
“He’s Fae,” Pam told her. “His beliefs about certain things are different than yours.”
“Like monogamy?” Sookie asked. She kept seeing Breandan’s face as he told her that coupling was a way to pass the time.
Pam nodded, “Maybe it’s because they’re immortal. You knew that about him, right?”
“He told me,” Sookie looked down. “Is that how all of you view sex? As just something to do, like eating and watching TV?”
“Not all of us, no,” Pam leaned back. “I don’t want you to get the wrong impression, we do have meaningless sex most of the time but, once we commit to someone, we’re faithful to them. For vampires, we commit through bonding or a formal contract, sometimes both. If you cheat, though, it’s considered a blood offense and the injured party could demand your final death. I don’t know enough about the Seelie to know if they have something similar, but I’m betting they do. There are stories about them going to war with each other over infidelities, but here’s the thing. Since we live forever, those kinds of commitments are never made lightly. I can think of only a handful of vampires who have ever chosen to bond. It’s mostly done as a ceremonial thing involving marriage contracts among our royalty. It cements alliances and business deals with the contract having an expiration date.”
“Have you ever been bonded?” Sookie asked.
“Nope and not likely to,” Pam laughed. “I like my freedom too much! I will tell you, if I was to find some woman who had me considering it? I’d still be thinking long and hard! Once you bond, it’s forever, or until final death.”
“No divorce, then?” Sookie asked.
“Sure, as long as it’s just a marriage contract, but bonding? Bonding with a vampire is forever,” Pam nodded.
“Breandan said he wanted to marry me,” and Sookie found her thoughts pulled back to her conversation with the Fae.
“When did he say that?” Pam asked.
“Just now, earlier, when I saw him. He said he was willing to give up everything and marry me, but he figured I wasn’t interested because I told him I wanted to wait.”
Pam looked uncomfortable. “The Fae don’t lie,” she said carefully, “but I don’t think he meant those words exactly how you may have taken them.”
“What does that mean?” Sookie asked.
“I don’t know,” Pam back-pedaled, then asked, “Are you hungry? We can get something out of the kitchen.” There were other people starting to stream in and the waitresses were moving among the tables.
Sookie glanced at her watch, “Oh my goodness! I need to get going! I have to shop and the grocery store will be closing in about an hour.”
“And you were going to drag heavy bags back to your apartment on foot?” Pam rolled her eyes. “Good thing you stopped by. I’ll get my car and give you a lift.”
They stood, and then Sookie remembered her manners. “Is Eric here?” she asked. “I need to say something to him before we leave.”
“He’s in back,” Pam’s eyes narrowed. “Is it something I can pass along? He’s pretty busy and he has people coming.”
“I really need to say it in person,” Sookie insisted. “It won’t take a minute.”
“Well, come on, then” and Pam led her down the short hallway and knocked on a closed door before opening it.
Eric was sitting behind his desk. He was staring at his computer screen, keying in something from the stacks of paper in front of him. He looked irritated, but then his eyes slid over to Sookie and a slow smile formed on his face. He stood up and walked around the desk, then leaned back against it, crossing his arms, “Miss Stackhouse! To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?”
He was giving her such a cocky smile, Sookie had to smile right back, “I don’t mean to be bothering you,” she told him, “I just wanted to thank you for the flowers.”
“You liked them?” and Eric sort of leaned forward. It wasn’t exactly a leer, but it wasn’t exactly polite either.
“I won’t lie, I was kind of flattered by the card,” and Sookie realized she was leaning forward a little, too. ‘Stop flirting with him!’ she scolded herself, forcing her stance to relax and straighten.
“I hope you found the flower selection interesting.” and Eric said it in a way that had her toes curling.
“I don’t know what you call them, but if you were trying to tell me I can run with the big dogs, like I said, I’m okay with that,” Sookie glanced at Pam who was making a job of studying her nails. “I won’t hold you up any further, I just wanted to say thank you. They made me smile.”
Eric pushed off his desk and stalked toward her, there was no other way to say it. He stopped pretty close to her and stared down at her a moment before saying, “I respect courage, Sookie. Not many women I have met are truly brave. You are unusual.”
Sookie examined his expression to see if he was mocking her, but she didn’t see any evidence of it. “I don’t see myself that way,” she replied. “I just play the cards I’m dealt.”
Eric’s hand started to lift, but Sookie saw it and started. He must have understood her because Eric dropped his hand just as quickly. He turned to walk back behind his desk, “I don’t suppose you do bookkeeping work,” he said wryly.
“As a matter of fact, I do.” The words were out of her mouth so fast, they surprised her as well as everyone else in the room. “Not a CPA or anything, but I can handle bookkeeping. I was just telling Pam that I’m going to set up my new boss’s information. She’s doing everything manually.”
Eric glanced at his paperwork, “Would you be interested in taking on another customer?” he asked.
“You told me you were just starting this,” Pam wasn’t criticizing, but the look she was giving Sookie was definitely skeptical.
“I just spent the past couple of months at The Grand learning their reservations and accounting system. When I was in college, I took four semesters of accounting. I was head of my class.” Sookie wasn’t sure why this was important, but she wanted this job.
“So, you’re a college graduate, too?” Pam asked.
“No,” and Sookie shook her head. “I finished my sophomore year, but with my Mom being sick, I dropped out to take care of her.”
“Eric told me about your Mom,” Pam sympathized. “I’m sorry. That must have been hard.”
“Still is,” and Sookie felt her throat close and her chest get tight. “She’d be happy to know I’m here, though.”
“With vampires?” Pam laughed.
“No! You know! In Ireland, meeting new people. It’s what I always dreamed about, traveling,” and then Sookie smirked, “but I do think meeting vampires gives it a little something extra.”
“Then it’s settled,” Eric interrupted. “You will handle our bookkeeping and I’ll pay you,” and he named a figure that made Sookie’s mouth fall open.
“That sounds like too much,” Sookie told him.
“I intend to train you to handle our tax filings,” Eric told her. “I can’t imagine you had time to learn that at The Grand, but it would be worth it to me to have someone I can trust handle that end of things.”
“Well,” and the reality of what she had stepped into started to sink in, “Let’s just say I’ll work for you on a trial period. You may not like how I do things or you may have something else in mind.”
“Oh, I have something else in mind, Miss Stackhouse,” Eric smirked.
“This is a business arrangement,” Sookie snapped back. “Strictly business!”
“Of course,” Eric grinned. “We,” and he glanced at Pam, “will make arrangements to drop the receipts at your home every evening. We’ll take care of the bank deposits and just include the slip so you can balance the books. I will also send over my invoices. Pam will arrange access to the business bank account so you can pay vendors. Will that be acceptable?”
“That would be great,” Sookie was starting to feel a tad less confident, but Eric leaned over his desk, extending his large hand, and Sookie stepped toward him so she could extend her own and they shook on it.
There was a knock on the door and they all turned to see a tall man with red hair enter. He was looking straight at Eric and he bowed rather formally at the waist before saying, “Sheriff!”
“Clancy,” Eric responded and releasing Sookie’s hand, he bowed his head in return.
Sookie couldn’t help it, “Sheriff?”
“Clancy? This is my new bookkeeper, Miss Sookie Stackhouse. Sookie, you’ll see Clancy’s name on the employee’s list. Make sure you process his paycheck first,” and Eric flashed the stranger a quick grin.
“What are you?” Clancy was staring at Sookie, his eyes narrowed.
“Need a lift home?” Pam interrupted and touching Sookie’s arm, steered her toward the door. Clancy continued staring at her, so Sookie stared right back.
They were almost to the door of the pub when Sookie remembered, “Pam, you sure you don’t mind stopping at the grocery store? If I don’t get there soon, I’ll have nothing in the house to eat.”
“I don’t mind kibitzing while you shop,” Pam shrugged. “It gets me out of having to sit through another boring meeting here.”
Once they pulled into the parking lot, Sookie couldn’t contain herself any longer, “Sheriff?”
“Eric will have to tell you about that himself,” Pam said quickly. “I’ve told you vampires have a hierarchy. Titles like Eric’s are a part of that.”
“So, he’s someone important?” Sookie persisted.
“He thinks he is,” Pam sassed, but wouldn’t be drawn into any more conversation on the subject.
Turned out grocery shopping with Pam was both fun and frustrating. With her vampire nose, she could immediately pick out ripe fruit and the freshest produce, but because she had no personal interest in eating, she also kept up a running, caustic commentary on additives, sugar, and the useless waste of eating pastries. She was so critical, Sookie ended up putting back the cookies and snacks, something she was sure she’d regret later.
“If you want help carrying things up the stairs, you’ll have to secure me an invitation,” Pam informed her when they pulled around the back of Seacoast Shores.
Sookie glanced at the main house. She could see the kitchen light was on, which meant Maryann was probably sitting at the table watching shows on her computer. “What’s an invitation?” Sookie asked as they walked to the kitchen door.
“Vampires can’t enter a house unless the true owner gives them permission,” Pam shrugged. “Think of it as a supernatural deadbolt.”
“Is that a strictly vampire thing?” Sookie asked. “Might have come in handy with some other Fae I know.” As Sookie knocked on the back door, she thought through how she’d maneuver things so that Maryann would say the right words. Sure enough, it was Maryann who swung the door open.
“Sookie? You have a key,” Maryann reminded her.
“I left it inside my place and pulled the door shut,” Sookie lied, then turning, said, “By the way, this is my friend, Pam Ravenscroft. She and her boss, Eric Northman, are going to have me handle their books, too. You don’t mind if they come inside my place to talk and drop stuff off, do you?”
“Give me a minute,” and Maryann disappeared, then came back, handing Sookie an extra key. Sookie held her breath, hoping Maryann would say the right words, and then she did, “Your friends are welcome to come inside any time as long as your side jobs doesn’t interfere with your work for me.” Maryann extended her hand to Pam, introducing herself and Pam returned the favor.
“So, you can consider yourself invited, right?” Sookie confirmed.
“Appreciate it,” Pam answered, but she said it directly to Maryann.
The two women stared at each other for a long moment before Maryann said, “Well, then, have a nice night,” and stepping back, closed the door.
Sookie and Pam ended up making several trips up the stairs, lugging bags full of food and supplies. Sookie started to put things away and Pam sat down at the small table, took Sookie’s laptop out of its box, and started setting it up. “Is Maryann married?” Pam asked.
“Nope,” Sookie shook her head. “From what she told me, she had a sweetheart, but it didn’t work out. Her family helped her buy this place, and it’s pretty much her life now.”
“Was that sweetheart male or female?” Pam asked and the way she asked made Sookie stare.
“You better not be thinking about screwing around with my boss,” Sookie warned.
“Women don’t screw with other women,” Pam said archly, “We lick out our differences!”
“That’s a little TMI for me,” Sookie laughed. “I say, celebrate our differences, but I’m not sure how close I want to get to the details!”
“Oh, sure, like you’re subtle! The way you and Eric circle around each other?” Pam teased. “I feel like ‘get a room’ should be tattooed on your forehead!”
“We flirt,” Sookie stammered. “That doesn’t mean anything. People flirt.”
“Sure,” Pam winked. “Not a thing! Well,” she turned the laptop around, “You’re up and running. I used the Wi-Fi address from the B&B. I’m sure your boss doesn’t mind.”
Sookie sat down and brought up her email account. “First things first,” and she started going through the steps to change her password. “I’m thinking I should probably just set up a new email account altogether.”
“You gave other people access to your email account?” Pam asked.
“I didn’t think much about sharing my account with Breandan before,” Sookie shrugged and then she felt a little guilty. They had shared the account, so remembering now had Sookie remembering other things they shared. “After all, I am working for his rivals, sort of. What kind of bookkeeper would I be if I was letting the competition see our correspondence?”
“So, how did Breandan look when you rejected him, again?” Pam was staring at Sookie in that focused way she got sometimes.
“He didn’t look happy,” Sookie sighed. “He got a little huffy. I thought for a minute he was going to go all Nicholas Cage on me and order me back into his bed! I don’t know! I miss him. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t, but the Breandan I miss is that guy from Boston who plays fiddle in the band and takes me on wonderful hour-long adventures he arranged with me in mind. It’s not the guy who dumps me in a hotel with a bunch of people who look at me as if I’m some troglodyte who’s tracking mud on their carpets, and then walks away to sleep with the bitch-in-chief.
“Did Breandan say anything about Mae?” Pam asked.
“I guess they fired her,” Sookie shrugged.
“I guess that’s one way of putting it,” Pam replied, but wouldn’t add more when Sookie questioned her. “Look at the time!” Pam said instead. “I’m surprised Eric hasn’t started stalking me!” and as if on cue, Pam’s phone buzzed. She glanced and confirmed, “The Master calls! I have to go.”
Sookie walked Pam to the door and Pam moved swiftly down the stairs, but instead of getting into her car right away, she stayed in the shadows and slowly scanned the area. That’s when she saw him. He wasn’t tall, but that was common for Selkies. He was across the street near the rocks that lay between the road and the sea. It was his eyes. They had that shine while he was looking directly toward the house. Pam pushed her speed dial and when Eric answered, Pam told him, “She may be danger.”
‘Bitch!’ The word kept circling in Breandan’s mind as he speed-walked back to the hotel. She wasn’t coming back? She expected him to court her? She felt she deserved more of him? “My wife is dead because of you!” he hissed under his breath. Breandan’s face must have reflected every bit of his fury because the people who saw him stepped out of his way or quickly crossed the street to avoid being near him.
He was barely better after he returned to The Grand, growling at Preston as he stalked through to his apartment. “Father!” he snapped, pushing the open door further, but the intruder wasn’t his Father. Claude sat on the small couch.
“I just heard about Mae,” Claude told him. “I know you don’t want me here, but I had to let you know how sorry I am.”
“Your timing couldn’t be better!” Breandan growled. “I was wrong about her. You were right. You were right about everything!” Claude stood and opened his arms, and Breandan stepped into them.