Author’s Note: Thank you to all my readers. Your chats with me through reviews and remarks are so welcome. I appreciate your insight, and I thank you for reading. To Breathesgirl: I owe you a great debt. My work is better because of your sharp eye and thoughtful collaboration. Thank you.
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.
Nautical Note: A running sea refers to a strong current that is running with you. It cuts the time needed to make any voyage and it generally smooths the way. That is, as long as you are traveling in the same direction.
For the first time since Sanctum, Sookie found herself waking up before nine in the morning. A part of her screamed that she should just roll over and close her eyes again. But another part; the bigger part that had not been able to fall asleep told her to get up and face her day.
As soon as she told Eric she thought she could run this house she had found her mind racing. She would close her eyes only to have questions and lists appear behind her eyelids. She would focus on her breathing just like she had been taught as a technique to head off panic attacks and she would feel her body relaxing and then, just as she would feel sleep approach, she would find herself playing ‘what if’ all over again.
Sookie had always known that Eric would leave their bed to do other work after she fell asleep but for the first time she realized just how much time he spent somewhere else. She figured wherever he went it was out of their suite of rooms altogether because she couldn’t detect any other signature around her. Sookie found herself wondering why she was left alone. Shouldn’t there be a guard on the doors even if it was only her? Sookie added it to the list of questions that ran through her head.
It was getting to be a really long list; that list of questions that needed answers. How many people worked here? Were there managers? Aside from the kitchen, which she’d seen, what other services were provided on premises? Was there a laundry? What about housekeeping? Sookie assumed there had to be donors on premises. Where did they live and how many were there? How many vampires actually lived in the palace these days? Sookie knew that there were a number of services Eric had provided to the local vampires when he was Sheriff: Everything from references to loans, training to computer access. Was that something that happened here?
Sookie realized that as much as she thought she knew about Eric’s duties as Sheriff, there was simply much more that she didn’t know. She wondered if Eric would also be Sheriff for New Orleans. She vaguely remembered either Quinn or Amelia Broadway telling her that Sophie-Anne had been both Queen and Sheriff of Area One.
Sookie felt a twinge thinking about Amelia. She figured she must have had had her baby by now. She wondered if the witch was still with Bob the Cat and if they were living in New Orleans. Sookie almost rolled over and picked up the phone to try and call her, but in the same instance remembered all the times Amelia had interfered with her relationship with Eric or caused Sookie herself trouble by running her mouth. Sookie literally shook her head as she told herself rather firmly that she would not call the witch now or maybe ever. ‘After all,’ she thought, ‘just how much trouble do you want to borrow?’
Sookie was still fitfully sleeping when Eric returned and slipped back into bed.
“Do you need help sleeping?” he asked and Sookie could hear the hopeful tone in his voice.
“Well,” Sookie huffed, “I suppose you could try,” and she giggled as he turned her towards him and began rubbing himself all over her. She was exhausted but leave it to Eric; he found a reserve of energy she didn’t know she had and she wasn’t awake when he fell into his day death.
But now it was morning and Sookie pulled herself out of bed and padded to the bathroom. She turned on the lights and just stood there allowing her eyes to adjust. She felt like she had sandpaper under her eyelids and her mouth felt gummy. After taking care of her human needs she turned towards the shower. The enclosure was all glass and the door was heavy but glided with the press of a finger. There was a console on the wall and a post-it note that said, ‘Sookie, press 2.’ When she pressed the button a series of shower heads were activated and the water temperature flashed on the unit followed by a little ding. Sookie thought it sounded like an egg timer and wondered if she was the egg.
After her shower Sookie felt better although her nerves still felt a little like wires, stretched and humming in a way that wasn’t fully pleasant. She found a pair of shorts and a t shirt that had some trim around the collar. She slipped her feet into flat shoes and let herself carefully out the doors and into the sitting area. There was no one in the sitting room, but as she exited into the main hallway two guards turned to her and bowed. She didn’t recognize either, but she could see that they were both weres.
“Mistress,” the one on her left said.
“Morning,” Sookie replied and smiled politely. “Can one of you tell me who would be in charge of the day staff?”
The two guards straightened and exchanged a look over her head. “House staff or Guards?” left guard asked.
“House staff, thanks,” Sookie replied. “By the way, I’m Sookie. And you are?”
The left guard smiled tightly, “We all know who you are, Mistress. I am Charles and this,” he jerked his chin at the other guard, “is Stuart.”
Sookie looked from one to the other. They weren’t avoiding her in the way Titus had yesterday. Instead they seemed to be wary. Sookie tried peeking in their heads and found the usual snarl of red that identified the two-natured. Charles was not easy to read at all. She got an impression that he thought Eric might be a better master than Victor Madden had been. She also got an image of Thalia snarling and flashing fangs.
Stuart was easier to read. She could hear him trying to figure out how he could work the new monarchy to his advantage and ticking off lists of who would be willing to buy any information he gathered. Stuart hadn’t really heard of her; mostly gossip from members of the local pack. He was thinking she might be one of Alcide Herveaux’s leftover fuck buddies. He was also thinking she must be pretty cheap to be sleeping with a dead man.
Sookie kept her smile pasted on her face. “So, who did you say was in charge of house staff?”
“Devrah runs the house now, Mistress,” Charles told her.
“And is Devrah here? We have a number of visitors due today and I wanted to ask her about some things,” Sookie marshalled on. The guards exchanged another look and then Stuart volunteered to take the telepath downstairs to the staff area. Sookie was relieved that of the two, Charles would be the guard left to protect Eric. She resolved to speak to Thalia as soon as the vampire rose about the guards and Stuart in particular.
Stuart led Sookie along a long hallway, then down three flights of stairs. Sookie found herself almost running to keep up. “You all must be in great shape to never use elevators,” she exclaimed. The were let out a sharp, barking kind of laugh.
“There is only one working elevator, Mistress,” he said over his shoulder. “And that ‘s being used to transport your guests as they arrive.”
Sookie stopped on the stairs. “That seems strange. This is a pretty big building for only one elevator,” she said.
Stuart stopped at the bottom of the stairs and then turned back to face her. “I did not say there was only one elevator, Mistress,” he said and then he lowered his chin and looked at her directly. “I said there is only one working elevator. The king’s palace has four elevators including a service elevator for coffins and other heavy stuff. But only one of the private elevators is working. It makes moving some of the larger coffins a pain in the ass, if you’ll pardon my saying.” Sookie thought she saw a slight smile and a shrug as he bowed his head.
“I don’t understand. I’m pretty sure I heard there was an inspection done. We were told that all the systems were checked out.”
Stuart lifted his chin again and said, “Checked out does not mean it is working, Mistress. No repairs were scheduled.” Sookie heard him thinking that anyone that took a report coming out of the palace at face value was a fool.
Stuart led them into the kitchen that Sookie remembered from the day before and then from there to a corridor lined with storage rooms and work tables. About halfway down the hall he stopped at a door and knocked. From inside Sookie heard a female voice boom, “This better be good!” and then the door swung open to reveal an amazon of a woman. She was tall and broad; her dark face was angled and Sookie was sure from her bone structure she must be part Native American. She looked down her nose at Stuart. Sookie saw him cut his eyes and her sharp gaze fell on Sookie. The telepath figured this person must be at least six feet tall. The woman’s eyes swept past her and she said, “You the extra set of hands? Good. I don’t have time to give you the whole run down. Just tell me you know how to get beds made.”
Stuart cleared his throat loudly and the woman Sookie assumed was Devrah cut her eyes back his way.
“This is the new Mistress,” he said. Devrah’s eyes widened and Sookie caught a sudden and very clear image from the woman’s head. Sookie could see Eric standing in the kitchen they had just passed through. There were people standing around, including Devrah. Eric was holding a female vampire by the throat and she was struggling and pleading for her life. Eric was telling everyone that there would be no disrespect of him or his fiancé. He told them that those who did not obey would face punishment and then Eric staked the woman who exploded and then disintegrated.
Sookie felt a cold wave rush over her and she reached out to steady herself against the wall. Then she doubled over and was sick on the floor. Sookie could see a strong black arm come around her. “Don’t worry, petite. I have you,” Sookie heard Devrah say.
Sookie was aware that Stuart had turned on his heel and walked back down the corridor, leaving her being half supported and half carried into what appeared to be a small office. She found herself practically lifted onto a cushioned chair set across from an industrial metal desk.
Sookie was blushing in shame. “I am so sorry,” she kept saying. Devrah hushed her and told her to think nothing of it. The tall woman walked over to a tray and poured a glass of water. She brought it back and handed it to Sookie. The telepath found it took both hands to wrap around the cup and get it to her mouth; she was shaking so badly.
Sookie found herself thinking about Eric; her Eric. She thought about how he had wrapped her up in his arms and promised he’d keep her safe. She remembered how he had made love to her last night and how they had laughed. And she thought of the memory she pulled from Devrah’s head; how he had looked almost bored as he killed that woman. ‘My God,” Sookie thought. ‘He killed her and then he came right to me and acted like it was just another night.’ There was a voice inside Sookie’s head telling her that Eric would only act for their benefit; for her well-being. But there was another small voice whispering, ‘He’s a vampire, Sookie. Didn’t you think you knew Sam? How well do you ever really know anybody? What else is he hiding?’
Sookie took another sip of water and lifted her head to see Devrah waiting. “You with child?” she asked.
“No!” Sookie exclaimed. Then she looked at the cup in her hand. “No, that’s not possible.”
Devrah shrugged. “If you had told me I would ever see a vampire stake one of their own for a human I would have told you that wasn’t possible. But here we are. “ Devrah kept her eyes on Sookie’s and when she saw the younger woman’s eyes widen she said, “That’s what happened, isn’t it? You could see what happened last night in the kitchen.” She didn’t wait for Sookie to acknowledge what she could already see in the younger woman’s face. “You a witch?” she asked.
“No,” Sookie shook her head and looked at the cup she held in both hands. “No, I’m a telepath,”
Devrah nodded. “Figured there was something different about you. You human at all?”
“Yup,” Sookie nodded. “Mostly.”
“Huh,” Devrah sighed. “Well, don’t you fret yourself about that vampire, Melanie. She was a bad piece of business and she didn’t mean any good by you or the king. She and Victor Madden were thick as thieves. It’s the only reason she survived when the Las Vegas mob took over. She was a guard here before then. Once she got into Victor’s pants she was Queen Bee, make no mistake.” Devrah shifted and then said, “Folks say you are Miss Hadley’s cousin.” As the housekeeper dragged up a chair so she could sit beside her, Sookie peeked back into the woman’s head and saw that Devrah had a clear affection for her cousin. Sookie got a vision of the two of them, Devrah and Hadley, sitting in this office and playing cards; Hadley laughing and cheating.
“I am,” Sookie told her. “We had kind of gone separate ways long before Hadley came here. I guess I really didn’t know her; who she became. But I can tell you liked Hadley.”
Devrah nodded. “That I did. She was a winning girl.” Devrah’s eyebrows lifted and she tilted her head a little to the side. “I held her hand the night she told me she had done something stupid and told the Queen about you. They loved each other; the Queen and Miss Hadley. But Hadley was so trusting. She could never believe that Miss Sophie would be so hard. Miss Hadley never meant you any harm. She felt bad. It was the only time she ever betrayed the Queen. She offered herself to that weasel, Compton, in exchange for forgetting all about you. ” Devrah shook her head. “She cried and cried; made a mess of my favorite slacks. Of course Compton wasn’t going to back off. He used her and went on his merry way. I told her she was a fool.” Devrah shook her head. “Miss Hadley was just a little less happy from then on. Miss Sophie could see it in her eyes.” Devrah looked past Sookie then, lost in her own thoughts.
After a minute, Devrah leaned forward and patted Sookie’s knee. “Feeling better, petite?”
Sookie smiled and nodded. In truth she wasn’t feeling better. She felt like something inside her had been damaged and she wasn’t sure she could talk with Eric about it. Sookie could tell that Devrah was getting worried; that there were many things to do with so many arriving.
Sookie swallowed and brought her chin up. “The guard? Stuart? He told me that the elevators aren’t really working, but I know we got a report that said all the systems were checked and everything was okay.” Sookie looked straight at Devrah. “That can’t be easy for you or your staff. Just thinking about folks carrying laundry up and down all those stairs makes me tired. And I know we have guests coming today; all Eric’s new sheriffs and Pam besides.”
Dervah nodded. “It is a worry. If that elevator gives out we’ll be hard pressed to get folks in their rooms. And if you want me to be totally honest here, I don’t have half the staff I need and some of the folks around here aren’t worth the air they breathe.”
“Do you know what’s needed to fix the elevators?”
Devrah nodded. “There’s a man we call. All he needs is authorization. When the walkthrough was done there was an estimate. The repair man we call said he had all the parts. Melanie just never did it. She figured it didn’t bother vampires. And she didn’t want to make anything too comfortable for the new king.”
“Well, I’m authorizing repairs now,” said Sookie. “Please call him. What else do you need?”
Devrah smiled. “Well, I called in some staff for extra hours. If you could confirm that they’ll get paid it would help. And we could use some extra TruBlood on hand in case there’s trouble with the donors.”
“So, do you anticipate trouble with the donors?” Sookie asked.
“No,” Devrah said quickly and Sookie could hear that there was something not right there.
Sookie nodded. “You just let me know what you need me to sign.” The telepath stood up, meaning to leave and let Devrah do what she needed. Then Sookie remembered something else. “Was there something planned for tonight to welcome everyone?” The look on Devrah’s face told her the answer. “Okay,” the telepath said. “Do you know anyone who would be willing to come on short notice and play some music? It’s what New Orleans is famous for. It would be nice to have something.”
Devrah nodded. “I may know a couple fellas who would be willing. They’re nothing fancy but they sound good. One plays guitar and the other plays horn. They got a real jazz sound. That work?”
“Sounds good,” Sookie acknowledged. The two women confirmed times and how many were staying. Then Sookie asked, “Anything else you can think of?”
Devrah shook her head and Sookie couldn’t feel anything but a wary kindness coming from the other woman.
As Devrah started leading the way back towards the kitchen she got a wry smile on her face. “For a little thing you sure seem to have big brass balls. Course I don’t know what else I would have expected if you’re hanging around with Eric Northman.” Sookie laughed at that and Devrah just shook her head. “I heard the king staked Victor Madden. You think that’s true?”
Sookie nodded. “I know it is. I was there.” As she said it Sookie felt a chill run through her again.
Devrah stopped and Sookie almost ran into her. The taller woman turned around and looked down at Sookie, the smile finally making it all the way to her eyes. “You are the one, aren’t you? The one Victor wanted so bad; the fairy. He couldn’t stop talking about you and how much he hated that Eric Northman had you. I thought the way he talked about it you were the Viking’s blood slave, but that’s not it at all, is it?”
Sookie shook her head. “Nope. Never was.”
As they reached the kitchen a harried looking younger woman walked in. “What is it Meg?” Devrah asked.
“That skinny, mean lady? She buzzed and you know how mean she is,” Meg said and Sookie knew immediately who they were talking about.
“You know, my very next stop was going to be Twy. Why don’t I come along? I’ll have my breakfast there,” Sookie said.
Meg looked at Devrah, her face questioning, but the housekeeper just smiled and said, “Better do what the Mistress asks of you.”
Meg and Devrah assembled a breakfast tray with fruit and a pot of coffee with two cups and within no time the telepath found herself following the fast-footed woman back up two flights of stairs and heading for the suite that hosted their guest.
Sookie found that Twy in the morning was a different person. The hard exterior had not been strapped on yet. Sookie found her wrapped in a pale blue bathrobe, her hair brushed and held back by a soft scarf. She was seated at a desk, her laptop open, the television streaming news programs and her phone in her hand.
“Morning,” Sookie said brightly.
“Morning yourself,” Twy answered. Then she said “I’ll call you back,” to whoever was on the phone.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt. Do you mind if I join you for breakfast?” Twy looked at the second coffee cup on the tray and nodded. “Fine and dandy, Toots,” she said and waved her long, tapered nails at an open seat. Twy looked over the offerings on the tray and then she turned to Meg. “So, I would like dry, toasted whole wheat bread. No spread on it. Nothing. No jam. No butter. No nothing. Got it?”
Meg smiled and nodded then turned to Sookie. “Is there anything more I can do for you, Mistress?” she asked and bowed.
“No, Meg. I’m good,” Sookie said and the young woman left. Sookie turned back towards Twy’s open-eyed, speculative look.
“Mistress? Kinky. What is that exactly?” Twy asked.
“It’s a vampire thing,” Sookie told her. “There was some kind of misunderstanding yesterday.”
“I’ll say,” Twy responded. “Are you going to explain it to me?” She leaned forward and Sookie felt that the taller woman’s gaze was trying to capture her; a human version of glamour.
“I’ll try. I’m still learning. Vampires have a lot of rules.” Sookie poured coffee for both herself and Twy. Once the publicist was settled with the cup, Sookie started. “Vampires have been around for a long time and most of that time they’ve had to hide who they were. Those stories about villagers searching them out with torches and pitchforks? That really happened. Doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out that when humans are your food source moving freely among them is going to be dangerous.” Twy nodded. “So when a vampire developed a relationship with a human it was for one reason and one reason only. They called us ‘pets’ because we were allowed to be near them.” Sookie looked down at her coffee. “And it was understood a vampire never got emotionally involved with their pet. Your pet was there to feed you and take care of other needs.” Sookie raised her head and pulled her lips back into a smile. “A true vampire would never allow their pet to have any standing. To be a vampire’s pet is pretty much at the bottom of the barrel, socially speaking.”
“Or the bottom of the food chain,” Twy offered and arched her eyebrow.
Sookie shrugged. “I guess. Anyway for Eric to announce to folks that we are a couple and we’re getting married; well it doesn’t make sense to a lot of vampires. In fact there’s a whole bunch of them that are pretty well insulted by the whole idea. They think it makes Eric weak.” Sookie looked directly at Twy. “And a weak vampire? They don’t last long.”
“Ok,” Twy said. “Loving humans is bad. Pets are bad. How does this tie into what happened yesterday?”
Sookie sighed a little. “Well, like I said, I’m still learning all the rules. So when that woman offered me that chain? The one that belonged to my cousin? I didn’t realize what it was. It was a kind of leash. A traditional gift that a vampire gives a pet.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Twy said and she reared back in her chair. “What? Like ‘Princess Leia Jabba the Hutt’ kind of leash?”
Sookie couldn’t help but giggle. She had a flash of herself in the Leia slave girl outfit with Eric holding a thin chain. Then she had a flash of Eric, his arm covered in blood, a stake in his hand and she looked down quickly and swallowed as she pushed the image from her mind for another time. “Yeah,” she nodded. “Pretty much the same only not sexy. If any vampire saw me or if anyone who knows vampire rules saw me wearing that? It was telling them what I was to him and they would treat me like I was nothing because according to their rules I would be.”
Twy’s look turned speculative. “Okay, I guess I understand the whole throwing things and destroying the evidence move.”
Sookie nodded. “And now I’m ‘Mistress’ and they all have to bow. Eric can’t afford to have anyone thinking that they can just grab me or use me. Because if I were his pet, they could.”
Twy leaned back and her look turned both interested and predatory. “So, that explains why there was that danger vibe in Los Angeles. When we were there your boyfriend was worried. He clued me in about the threat that oily bastard De Castro made but I hadn’t realized the whole grab and go angle. Like property?” Sookie nodded. Twy’s face broke into a slow, self-satisfied smile. “His face after the whole thing was dismissed? I wish I had a video. Oh wait,” she said. “I do!” Twy’s fingers flew over her phone and she pulled up an app and handed it over to Sookie. Sookie smiled as she watched the image of Felipe de Castro. His face was twisted with rage and his fangs were fully distended. Sookie subconsciously found herself holding the phone a little further from her face. As the clip ended she couldn’t escape the feeling that Twy had caught a tiger by the tail.
“Don’t discount him,” Sookie told the publicist as she handed the phone back. “He may look ridiculous but he has power. And he never forgets.”
Twy waved her hand. “Yeah, sure. He can call my attorney. And I have good ones.”
Sookie shook her head. She wasn’t sure how she could explain any of this in a way that would make enough of an impression on Twy. Hell, Sookie wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t experienced what she had. She thought back to the time that she felt like Twy did; that vampires were creatures that made her world more interesting.
“So,” Twy said and she prolonged the syllable in an exhale, “you and Eric are the first bi… what? Bi-species? Cross-relational? Romeo and Juliet /my family hates your family kind of couple?”
“Bi-species, I guess. I don’t think we’re the first. But I do think that we’re the first that’s trying to mainstream this way where one of us is a member of their royalty.”
“So, you and Golden Boy are bucking the odds for love. He’s rich. You’re good looking. He’s a king. You’re not.” Twy started moving toward her laptop. “Miss Jane Q Public is going to eat this up.”
“Hey, wait a god damned minute,” Sookie said. She leaned over and pushed the top down on the laptop. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed but things here have changed. Eric can’t drop everything and go gallivanting all over. And he needs to take some serious time now to pull things together.”
Twy’s eyes had begun to narrow. “I see. And that makes you his mommy now?”
“No,” Sookie said. “It makes me the woman that loves him and wants him to survive this. If he’s distracted that may not happen.” Sookie’s throat tightened as she thought about how many hours Eric had spent with her in Jackson; hours he could have spent building his kingdom. “I think some things are different now that so many people know about vampires. I don’t think some vampire could just show up here and take over during the night like they used to. But he still needs to get stuff done and all his people in place.” Sookie could still see Eric’s face the night he showed up on her porch; the night Felipe de Castro had killed Queen Sophie-Anne and all the other sheriffs.
“Why do I feel like you are talking in code?” Twy asked. Her look was sharp. “What used to happen? Did the old king just go somewhere when there was a takeover?”
Sookie looked at the woman across from her long and hard. She dipped into Twy’s head but couldn’t hear anything that would give her a clue how far to trust this person. So she made a decision. “There was only one way a takeover happened before. The new king killed the old king or queen. And sometimes they killed everyone who had sworn loyalty to that king too and brought in their own people.”
Twy took in a sharp breath through her nose. “Is that why Eric has so many ‘challenges’ now? Because everyone here was killed?”
Sookie shrugged then she said, “No, not this time. You were there when Louisiana and Arkansas were handed over. No one died. But that’s not saying it didn’t happen before.” Sookie bit her lip. Telling general stuff was one thing; telling Twy anything about that night at Fangtasia with Victor was something else. “Everyone is being replaced. Pam is the regent in Arkansas now. You knew that, right?”
“I knew something big was happening with her but she never said there was a title.” Twy sat back and sipped her coffee. “So, how does that happen? Finding regents? Does someone go out and place want ads? Hire a headhunter?” and the publicist snickered.
“Not exactly. Of course you look to those you know and trust. Pam is Eric’s progeny and they work well together so that was a natural choice. Beyond that you ask other vampires you have some connection with for recommendations or you call in favors. I was always surprised how few vampires there seemed to be. I mean a lot of them are really old so you’d think they would all know each other. But that’s not really how it is and if you read between the lines you start to figure out just how violent things have been. I mean Eric is old; really old even by their standards. And there are only a handful of vampires in the United States who are even close to his age. I think Russell Edgington might be older, but I’m not sure. They are kind of secretive about that stuff.”
“Well, Eric was ‘made’, right? So that vampire would be older than him.”
Sookie couldn’t help the shudder that ran through her. “You mean his maker. Appius is gone and good riddance.”
“Dead?” Twy confirmed.
“Finally dead,” Sookie corrected.
Twy leaned back and allowed her eyes to lose focus. “The original plan was that Eric would find safety in notoriety. Pam told me. And it worked. Now you’re telling me that he is in just as much danger; maybe more, but he doesn’t have time to give interviews or make appearances?”
“I’m not saying he can’t do any. I’m just saying he needs to keep the kingdom his first priority.”
“First priority even over you?” Twy asked.
“Yeah,” Sookie nodded. “Even over me.”
Twy began tapping her fingernails against her lip. “So, we need to find a way to keep him visible without taking his time.” She threw her head back and then looked back at Sookie.
“Shanna! Aren’t you really Shanna, from that mash up book the other vampire wrote?”
“Not really,” Sookie said. “And just so you know, Bill Compton is writing another book to fix all that.”
Twy’s face became skeptical. “What are you talking about? Shanna and Troy are a hit. From what I hear, there’s a movie in the works.”
Sookie could feel her anger coming forward and showing all over her face. “Well, if Bill wants to keep walking around he’s going to get busy on that new book and fix the crap he wrote the first time.”
“And who is going to make him, Miss Stackhouse? You?” Sookie didn’t notice the way Twy was looking at her.
“You bet. And you better believe Bill Compton knows it too.”
“So, all that violence; it’s not just vampires, is it Sookie?” Sookie’s mouth opened and she realized that Twy now knew. And Sookie could see herself in the eyes of the publicist. Sookie might feel funny about Eric, but there was something bone deep in her own self that didn’t struggle too much with killing either. Sookie would think about this moment in years to come. It was almost like something shifted inside her revealing a Sookie Stackhouse that understood Colman and Niall and Bellenos; a part that smiled back at her with pointed ears and sharp teeth.
Twy’s eyes were wide and held a fascinated respect. “What are you?” she asked.
“Something that isn’t quite human,” Sookie said almost automatically. “But it’s enough that Bill Compton had better do as he’s told.”
Twy seemed to shake her concerns off and became all business. “Well, if there were some kind of hook, like Troy turns out to be more like Prince Humperdink than Wesley; you know, the handsome prince is really an ugly toad.”
“You said it,” Sookie said under her breath.
“Of course Compton already has an agent and an editor. My people come from the publishing world. I may be able to have a conversation with his editor about the new book. I’m known and if the editor thinks I have an interest in the new book that would help keep Compton on track. Do you know if he’s started?” Sookie shook her head. “Well I can probably find that out too.” Twy tapped her fingers against the table. “The agent will be excited to know that I’m interested in promoting Compton. I’m good at drawing attention.”
“I’ve noticed,” Sookie said.
Twy continued, “So if there’s publicity, the agent will feel like there’s more money to be made.” She turned back to Sookie. “Assuming that the end game for Shanna is supposed to change?”
“Sure is,” Sookie said. “Shanna gets Leif; not scumbag Bill. I mean Troy.”
“Yeah, yeah. I knew what you meant,” Twy said. Then she sat forward, all business. “Look, I’m willing to do this but there will be a cost. And I mean more than money; and there will be money. If I’m behind some successful mainstream vampire makeover then I expect to get plenty of recommendations.”
“Sure,” Sookie said. “I can promise you introductions. We can start with the new sheriffs tonight. They are a pretty good looking group.”
“Hot?” Twy asked.
“Oh yeah,” Sookie said and made a fanning motion. Twy picked up her phone and started tapping.
“I want photos. Group shots and posed – all of them. And shots of you and Eric together. Agreed?”
“No more than two hours total for everyone,” Sookie answered.
“Only if I get to pick the room and set up ahead of time.” Sookie nodded. “And,” Twy continued, “exclusive access to your coronation and wedding.”
“I approve who you invite and how many. Three, tops, including yourself.”
“But that doesn’t count beauticians, wardrobe and stylists who come in for the event.”
Sookie squinted at Twy. “Only half the number you had in here yesterday.”
“What are you talking about? That was already a skeleton crew!” she shrilled.
“Don’t care. I’m a telepath and I can only deal with so much noise,” Sookie said and crossed her arms.
“Fine,” Twy said. “And I get one person on person interview and one media event a month.”
“You get a one on one interview or a media event once a month. And it will be Eric or me or both of us. And I get to pre approve each one.” Twy started to say something and Sookie added, “and no live audience or auditorium stuff. Controlled environment. And if there are crowds it’s walk-through so we don’t have to be exposed for more than half an hour.”
Twy sat back. “I think we understand each other, Miss Stackhouse. Or should I call you Mistress?” Sookie smiled. Then Twy leaned forward again. “I know all the skeletons that can be thrown in Eric’s directions. What about you, Sookie? Any deep dark secrets that could derail the America’s Sweethearts train?”
Sookie swallowed. “Like me working on getting a divorce? Or my being married to a shifter who abused me? Like that?” Twy’s face turned grave.
“Yes, just like that.” Twy pulled back her laptop and booted it back up. “Look, bubbala, I’m going to have someone I know do some fact checking and poking around. Let’s find out just what could come crawling out of the woodwork if your face starts showing up on television, shall we? No need to get surprised, right?”
Sookie felt her discomfort ratchet up. She wondered what people would say; what terrible things would become public. She wished not for the first time that she could roll back time and be a waitress in Bon Temps living in her Gran’s house. But that wasn’t possible. Not anymore.
“Yup,” Sookie said. “No surprises”