Author’s Note: The following picks up in the middle of Definitely Dead. More than a month has gone by since the last chapter. Sookie has met Quinn at the packmaster contest and has had her first date with him. You’ll see that—without Eric in the picture—things happen very differently for Sookie.
SUNDAY, MARCH 20, 2005
I looked at my companions in the back of the limousine: a vampire and a demon. It would be safe to say that I was flabbergasted (thank you Word-of-the-Day Calendar) by just how “un-normal” my life had become, despite my attempts to be just plain-ole Sookie Stackhouse, barmaid.
I shook my head. I was going to New Orleans to settle the estate of my recently-undead and recently-murdered cousin, whom I’d thought had already been dead years before! Why Hadley had left everything to me was still beyond me. She’d always been closer to Jason.
Still, I knew that Gran would do flips in her grave if I didn’t do “right” by Hadley. It wouldn’t have mattered to Gran that Hadley never felt compelled to do “right” by the rest of her family.
I stretched a little and cringed at the slight pain that my movements caused.
“Sookie,” Bill said with concern, “are you injured?”
“Oh,” I said, trying to wave off his apprehension with a wave of my hand, “it’s nothing.”
“Nothing?” the vampire frowned as the demon looked on with interest.
“Yeah—um—plus Quinn took care of the situation anyway,” I said vaguely.
“John Quinn? The weretiger?” Mr. Cataliades asked.
I nodded. “Yeah. We’re—uh—dating.”
The demon looked intrigued, but also slightly concerned. I wondered why.
“I must insist, Sookie,” Bill said in that antiquated Southern “gentlemanly” way that told me he would keep insisting until I just spilled the beans.
I relented. “Well—Quinn and I went out Friday night. And—uh—when we were leaving the movie theater, two bitten—not born—Weres attacked us. Anyway, Quinn was spittin’ mad since I’m supposed to be a friend of the Shreveport pack and all, and we went to the Hair of the Dog.”
“He took you into the Were bar?!” Bill half-asked and half-demanded.
I ignored his obvious anger. “Yeah. So—uh—Quinn told everyone there about what had happened to us, and he said that he expected them to take care of things—uh—since the bitten Weres were in police custody.”
I blushed a little as I thought about the make out session Quinn and I’d shared following our trip into the Were bar, and I blushed again when I recalled just how much he’d wanted to have sex with me in the dirty parking lot of the club!
I tried to school my expression as Bill looked at me as if I’d stolen his puppy. But I wasn’t about to change my plans regarding Quinn because of Bill. Forgiving the vampire for what had happened in the trunk and agreeing to remain his friend had been the limits of my charity.
No—I wanted to move on, and that meant away from Bill.
I closed my eyes for a moment. Indeed, Bill had hurt me a lot—first by basically ignoring me for months and then by lying to me and cheating on me.
And then by almost killing me.
And also by hurting me in the worst way a person could be hurt.
I took a deep breath, refusing to allow myself to think about that word or the trunk incident anymore. Dwelling on it wouldn’t help, after all. Bill had done what he’d done because he couldn’t control himself, so I was determined not to hold him accountable. No—it was best to put the whole Jackson trip out of my mind!
What I could dwell on, however, was the fact that the queen was demanding my service at the upcoming vampire summit!
As if reading my thoughts, Mr. Cataliades spoke, “So, as I told you before, the summit is not until September; however, the queen will require your presence at several State events before then—as practice.”
I frowned. “But my agreement to use my telepathy is with Eric. Isn’t he supposed to be involved when I work for vampires?”
“You are better off working directly with the queen,” Bill soothed. “I can help you negotiate payments—if you want,” he added, his eyes almost pleading with me.
I didn’t have time to tell Bill ‘thanks but no thanks’ before Mr. Cataliades had taken several files from a briefcase. “Knowing of your previous arrangement with Sheriff Northman, the queen instructed me to inform him of her needs. The sheriff initially argued that your gift was not developed enough for you to work at large gatherings such as a summit; however,” he paused, “the queen was not to be dissuaded. So Sheriff Northman was kind enough to fax me a copy of your contract with him so that I could use it as a template.”
Bill frowned. “But Sookie has no official contract with Northman—nothing on paper.”
For a moment—as both men in the back of the limo looked at me—I felt as if I were a mouse who’d been presented with two choices: Trap A or Trap B.
Obviously, freedom was not a choice.
I couldn’t begin to fathom why Eric had pretended that we had something more formal than just his words and mine. But seeing the eagerness in Bill’s eyes and the caution in Mr. Cataliades’s almost black orbs helped me to make my decision.
“Eric and I formalized things after you left Bon Temps to be with Lorena,” I lied, trying to keep my voice even—trying to sound as if I were telling the truth. “You had basically left me to him—after all,” I reminded.
Bill looked skeptical, but—then again—his blood in me was likely screaming that I was a liar. I looked down. At least my pants weren’t on fire—yet.
“It’s always best to have things in writing,” the demon lawyer said as he passed me one of the files. “Don’t you agree?”
“Yes,” I responded as I began to look at the papers inside; in truth, I almost passed out because of what I saw. It seemed that Sophie-Anne would be required to pay me ten thousand dollars in advance for any job that required me to be out of Bon Temps. And then she had to give me five thousand dollars for every night I worked—or seven thousand dollars if I was required for both day and night duties. This money quadrupled if I was injured.
I noticed that Bill had moved so that he could read over my shoulder. I wanted to chastise him for sticking his nose into my business, but I didn’t bother.
“I’m sure that the queen won’t allow you to be harmed,” Bill said comfortingly as he looked at the injury clause.
“Um—well—I’m sure you understand why I wanted that clause,” I said, again trying to sound like I’d known about the so-called template that Eric had sent.
“Hmmm?” Bill questioned.
“After Dallas—when I was injured in the Fellowship church and then at Stan’s house,” I reminded.
Bill nodded solemnly as I continued reading the contract.
“You will see a stipend for your clothing—to be paid to you along with your initial payment for each job,” the demon said, pointing at a bullet point. “As indicated in Section 3, no job will take you from Bon Temps for more than one week’s time. Also, there is a limitation on the number of jobs that you can be asked to perform per month. And, as you can see in Section 3, Item 7, there is also the stipulation that you will receive at least two weeks’ notice before your jobs—when possible,” he said somewhat guilty.
“When possible?” I asked.
“The queen wasn’t aware that there would be so many limitations to,” he paused, “employing you, but Sheriff Northman was adamant that you would tire and become unable to perform effectively if your skill were overused.”
Bill looked as if he were about to say something to contradict what Eric had told Mr. Cataliades.
I didn’t think that would be a good thing, so I spoke up. “Yes, I confided as much to Sheriff Northman.”
“When?” Bill asked defensively.
“Some time in December—I think,” I responded evenly. “After you’d gone to be with your maker.”
Bill cringed a little at my words, and I felt guilty for them almost immediately. I knew that Bill couldn’t have resisted his maker’s call—even if he’d wanted to. Still—it made me a little upset that my first love seemed to be actively working to question everything about the contract that seemed like it would help me in the long run.
But—when I thought about it—I didn’t have a difficult time figuring out why. After all, the contract template had—apparently—come from Eric. So, of course, Bill would be suspicious of it. After all, Bill thought that Eric was always up to something and/or looking out for his own good.
But I was no longer certain about that.
Still, I didn’t see Bill changing his tune about Eric any time soon.
I smiled sincerely at the vampire in the limo. “I know you’re just looking out for me, Bill,” I said, reaching out to pat his cold hand. “And I do appreciate that.”
Bill looked ready to try to hold my hand in his, but I pulled back before that could happen. After all, I was ready—eager actually—to try something with Quinn.
THURSDAY, MARCH 24, 2005
It was so odd how much could change in just a few days.
And how surreal things could get.
And also how some situations seemed to repeat.
Like me. In a limo. With a variety of Supe species for company.
Only this time, I was sitting next to a Weretiger and across from a vampire. A demon was driving.
Moreover, two nights before, Andre had pronounced that I was part fairy. How fucked up was that!? But I guess it explained how I’d found myself with a fairy “godmother” and a “Claude” in my life.
Romance novel covers and all!
I suppose hearing that I was more “non-normal” than I’d already thought I was should have come as no shock to me. Still—I felt a little discombobulated (thank you Word-of-the-Day Calendar).
Of course, maybe I was out-of-sorts because I’d experienced two near-death instances, an ectoplasmic reconstruction, and my first sexual encounter with a warm-blooded man since I’d arrived in New Orleans on Sunday!
And I figured that combination would discombobulate almost anyone.
And—then—of course, there was the testosterone competition going on in the limo between the weretiger and the vampire.
I sighed and looked out of the window as Quinn possessively “possessed” my hand. But I figured it was better than him trying to pee on me in order to demonstrate his claim.
Still, I couldn’t help but to wish that Bill and Quinn could get along as I closed my eyes and thought back to my last several days/nights.
My first day in the Big Easy had been relatively calm. I’d met Amelia, and we became fast friends—a phenomenon I certainly wasn’t used to. It seemed to me that most of my friendships were spiraling downwards—a few of them even circling the drain. But Amelia seemed happy to welcome me into her life, and—as a witch—she had no problem with my being different.
However, that night turned into a near-death experience for both Amelia and me when we were attacked by Jake Purifoy, a newly turned vampire. Bill, feeling my distress, had come to the hospital to see me. He’d even offered me his blood—though I declined it. I was banged up quite a bit, but I would recover without more vampire blood—thankfully.
The next morning, I’d awoken to Claudine’s company at my hospital bed; Amelia, who was released before I was, soon joined us, and after the doctor determined that I was fit to be released, we all returned to Hadley’s apartment, eventually deciding that an ectoplasmic reconstruction was the best way to figure out how Jake had come to be newly undead in Hadley’s apartment. It turned out that someone had fatally wounded him, and Hadley had turned him, but the mystery of who had caused the initial damage wasn’t solved, so the whole thing had been a wash—except for the fact that Queen Sophie-Anne, as Jake’s “grandma,” decided to take some responsibility for him.
I couldn’t help but to feel sorry for him. He’d been a Were, and—apparently—they had a really hard time of it when they were made into vampires.
On the morning after the ectoplasmic reconstruction, I’d been packing up Hadley’s stuff when Quinn arrived to help me. But it soon became apparent that he wasn’t really there to help me pack—though he did manage to take my mind off of all of my problems for almost an hour!
A big part of me was screaming that I’d jumped into a physical relationship with Quinn way too quickly, but that part had shut up the day before—when Quinn had hoisted me up onto the kitchen counter and fucked me.
I know that Gran would hate me referring to sex as “fucking,” but that’s what it had been—to be honest. My first time with Bill—I had, at least, thought that I loved him, though I sometimes wondered now if the “love” I felt was just the nice sensation of being in a relationship for the first time.
My first time with my Eric—well—it was difficult to know how I felt about him. I was on my way to loving “my” Eric, and I’d had a good deal of stored-up lustful feelings about the “real” Eric, too. But, despite any confusion I had about my feelings for Eric, I had never considered what we did to be merely “fucking.” In fact, our “couplings”—as “my” Eric once termed them—were the most mentally and physically intense experiences of my life so far.
With Quinn? Well—to be sure—I liked the fucking. And I liked him, too. But “love” in any form wasn’t even on the table yet. Heck—”love” wasn’t even in the room! I didn’t know much about Quinn—to be honest. In fact, the whole physical act with him had felt strange to me. Less than a month before, I’d told Eric that I couldn’t have sex without my feelings getting involved, but my feelings for Quinn were definitely not as intense as I thought they would become after we had sex. In fact, sex hadn’t changed them at all.
I wondered if—having lost “my” Eric so recently—I was holding back. I supposed that I was, for a big part of me just didn’t feel up to “feeling.” And, honestly, I didn’t get the impression that Quinn was hankering for anything too serious either—despite all the “babes” he was hitting me with.
I sighed. The reason why I’d liked “my” Eric’s term “coupling” so much was that I’d truly felt like half of a “couple” with him—a first for me since I’d never really felt like I was in a “partnership” with Bill. As much as I wanted to try something with Quinn, I wondered if he and I were capable of becoming a “couple.”
Still, having sex with a warm-blooded individual had been a different experience for me—to be sure. Because of Quinn’s nature, I’d never picked up much from his mind—just a fragmented thought or an emotion here or there. Of course, I’d never tried to “listen in,” preferring to be able to get to know him in the way that “normal” women got to know guys—from what they said and did. The experience was—for lack of a better word—”nice!”
However, I’d been worried that sustained touched would cause Quinn’s thoughts to filter into my brain. However, his mind had—thankfully—been a kaleidoscope of colors during the sex itself. Reds and oranges and yellows—mostly.
Indeed, I was more thankful than I could say about that!
I closed my eyes and saw Gran’s face in my mind. She’d told me once that my granddaddy had been her “first” and her “last.”
I couldn’t help but to wonder what she would think about me now. Since her death, I’d had sex with three men. And none of them had been my husband at the time.
Would she be ashamed of me? She’d always felt a little disappointed in Jason’s “lose morals”—though she also had thoughts like, “He just needs to sow his wild oats.” I doubted she would have had those thoughts about me.
The modern world might accept that women could be as sexually active as men—and I’d certainly never judged anyone who had been. However, I couldn’t lie to myself; I knew that the woman who’d raised me—the only one who had always accepted me despite my differences—would have been disappointed in me.
Even if she would have still loved me.
“Sookie, I feel that you are unwell,” Bill said, breaking me from my thoughts. “What is the matter?”
“Just processing the last few days,” I said brightly, trying to stifle my feelings by affixing my “crazy Sookie” smile onto my face.
I smiled even more widely as Quinn squeezed my hand to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if a bone or two had broken. After all, I knew that there were at least 27 bones in the hand—thanks to one of the books I’d recently checked out at the library. I suppose I had a couple to spare.
“You are hurting her,” Bill said with an edge to his voice.
Immediately, the pressure on my hand eased.
“Sorry, babe,” Quinn said, before rubbing my hand.
“Fear not,” Bill said somewhat arrogantly. “My recent blood infusion in her will heal whatever damage you caused.”
The whole limo vibrated as I thought that Quinn was about to shift.
I prepared myself to be hurt in what felt like the inevitable fight between them and had a fleeting thought about Eric. I wondered where he was. After all, he was the one who always seemed to appear out of nowhere whenever I’d been injured.
At least, until the month before—when he’d said goodbye to me in the small apartment I’d stayed in until my home had been repaired.
I shook my head to expel thoughts of the Viking from my mind. After all, what good would it do to remember Eric now? I’d lost him in every way that I possibly could—more than once. And some of that losing—maybe even most of it—had been my fault.
Instead, as Quinn—thankfully—settled down, I turned my thoughts back to earlier that day and the reasons why I now had a fresh infusion of Bill’s blood inside of me.
After Quinn and I’d had sex, I’d been keeping as tight of a hold on my shields as possible. Being held by a warm-blooded being had felt nice. But as soon as he’d cum, Quinn’s thoughts had changed from colors to actual “thoughts.” The first thought that had slipped through had been something about his mother!
Yep—I’d put up my shields quickly and solidly! I didn’t need to hear it if Quinn was comparing me to his mother! Or even if he was just thinking about an errand he needed to run for her. Nope! I figured that post-coital thoughts would likely be more “dangerous” to hear than pre-coital ones.
I’d been happy to find out that, with my shields at full strength, I couldn’t really “hear” Quinn anymore, for—in addition to be a weretiger—he wasn’t a strong broadcaster. Oh—there was something there in his mind, like whispers that I couldn’t quite pick up on, but, thankfully, his nature and my shields equaled something a telepath could live with.
Of course, those shields being up so firmly had also meant that I’d missed the fact that a group of Weres had come to kidnap me. Thankfully, they decided to take Quinn too—rather than to simply kill him. Luckily, the Weres underestimated me, and—with Quinn’s help—we escaped, though we had no idea where we were. Quinn had shifted into his impressive tiger form by then, and I rode on him—an odd experience to say the least—until we stumbled upon the kidnappers’ cabin and discovered that they worked for the Pelt family.
Quinn figured that we should go on the offensive to eliminate the threat, and I had been about to protest when Bill had shown up—having sensed my anxiety and location through our blood connection. A couple of vampires I recognized from Sophie-Anne’s court had accompanied Bill, including one of Sophie-Anne’s mammoth bodyguards. Unsurprisingly, there had been growling exchanged between Quinn and Bill before a plan had been settled upon.
I wasn’t really consulted for my input with said plan—beyond telling my companions that the five Were kidnappers were expecting the Pelts to arrive at the cabin during the next half hour; they planned to regroup and determine their next steps.
And when I argued that we should just leave and call the local packmaster or something, I was looked at as if I were a child asking for the Easter Bunny to keep the Twix Rabbit in line.
Oddly enough, Sigebert or Wybert—whoever was with us—agreed that I could do what I wanted with the Pelts, but he grunted that killing the Were kidnappers was necessary. Apparently, the queen didn’t like mercenaries for hire in her kingdom.
Proving that I really was a danger magnet, I was hurt during the battle that ensued—even though I tried to stay out of the fray. Between the vampires and Quinn, the Weres were quickly taken out—except for one, who literally stumbled upon my hiding place before trying to use me as a shield. Long story short—I’d gotten knocked down when Quinn and Bill had both attacked the Were, and my ankle had been twisted.
Again, Bill had offered me his blood, but I’d declined—a fact that had clearly pleased Quinn.
Not long after that, the Pelts arrived, and they were—thankfully—quickly secured without too much harm coming to them. Sophie-Anne’s vampires left as soon as the Pelts were tied up, leaving me to speak with them. I wasn’t surprised when Bill didn’t go with the other vampires. But I was surprised when he agreed to let me talk to the Pelts alone and convinced Quinn to do the same.
Given the situation, I knew that Debbie’s parents and sister needed to hear the truth about the events that led up to my killing Debbie. That’s why Barbara and Gordon Pelt, Debbie’s adoptive parents, had kidnapped me—because they desperately wanted to know what happened to their daughter. I knew that if I didn’t speak with them, they would never leave me alone; I just hoped that my explanation would satisfy them.
However, my decision to tell them the truth didn’t mean that I wanted Quinn or Bill to know the story, so I waited until they were far enough away from the cabin to ensure that their Supe hearing wouldn’t pick up my words before I told the Pelts everything: about encountering Debbie for the first time at Club Dead where I was pretending to be with Alcide; about saving Bill, whom Debbie had helped to torture, from his maker; about Debbie trapping me in the trunk with him; about seeing her again before the witch war; about Alcide abjuring her once he’d learned about what she’d done to Bill; about her trying to kill me once again during the battle with the witches; and about her showing up at my house later that night with the intention of shooting me.
With tears flowing down my cheeks, I confessed that—after Eric had taken the bullet meant for me and as Debbie was about to shoot again—I’d killed Debbie in self-defense. I explained that I’d not called the police because I—honestly—didn’t think that any of the area Supes would want me to. I confessed that, looking back, I could have done about a million things differently—including telling Alcide what had happened and contacting the Longtooth pack for advice. But, then again, Colonel Flood had just been lost during the Witch War, and I wasn’t sure who to contact in the pack—since a lot of the members seemed much less tolerant of me than the colonel.
Finally, I admitted that I’d been scared—frightened that no one would believe I’d acted in self-defense.
Frightened that I’d be targeted by Weres who resented that a “mere human” had killed one of their own—abjurement or not.
Frightened that I’d be taken off to jail.
I could hear “acceptance” from Debbie’s parents as I told them my version of events. In truth, Barbara and Gordon Pelt were well aware that Debbie had been “troubled”; they’d just needed to know what had happened to her in order to move on, and I was ashamed that I’d not been brave enough to tell the truth before then. After giving them a few details about Eric’s amnesia, I promised them that I would contact them if I ever learned where Eric had buried their daughter. Debbie’s parents were trying to convince their remaining daughter, Sandra, to accept that Debbie had been ultimately responsible for her own actions and death when Sandra got loose from her bindings and attacked me.
By the time Bill and Quinn arrived, I’d been kicked enough times that I had several broken ribs and a punctured lung, and I was choking on my own blood.
So Bill gave me some of his.
When I was healed enough to become aware of my surroundings again, I saw that Bill was glamouring Sandra to believe that I had nothing whatsoever to do with Debbie’s disappearance. I poked into her mind long enough to know that the glamour had been effective since I was aware that glamouring Weres sometimes didn’t work.
I was grateful to Bill and Quinn for not killing Sandra. I didn’t need her death on my hands too. And Barbara and Gordon Pelt were grateful that they were not going to lose another daughter.
And I was also very grateful to Bill for saving my life—again.
What I wasn’t grateful for was the fact that I could seemingly sense Bill’s emotions now. I prayed to God that this was a side-effect of having more of his blood and that it would wear off quickly.
A/N: So—a couple of thoughts. First of all, thanks to everyone who responded to the previous chapters! I was glad to see that a lot of you feel like I do about Sookie: to say she’s had a rough stretch of time would be an understatement. I want to warn you that Sookie’s got a few more mistakes to make before she figures out that not having Eric in her life makes her existence worse in many ways—both practical and personal.
Secondly, I should admit that I have come to dislike Quinn more and more over the years. I see this part of Sookie’s life as her “trying” to be with someone who’s not a vampire. I think that she was so broken and bruised emotionally at this point that she accepted the idea of being in a “relationship” with someone who would hardly ever be around. I saw this as another indication of her lack of self-worth. And I also think that—at this point—CH was trying to force things with another love interest besides Eric. Frankly, Definitely Dead was my least favorite book before the last three were “unleashed.” To me, the Quinn and Warlow “relationships” were almost equally forced from left field. So—yeah—this story isn’t going to be kind to Quinn.
Many thanks to Kleannhouse for lending me her eyes. And an extra thanks to Sephrenia. She’s agreed to do some character banners for the more important original/book characters in this work in order to help you to visualize the characters. 🙂