FRIDAY, JANUARY 14, 2005 (approximately three weeks later)
“What the fuck?” Alcide asked himself as he thumbed through a stack of invoices on his desk. He’d brought some paperwork home with him, determined to get it done that weekend—after he kicked out Debbie for good.
It was time. “Past time!” he growled to himself.
He’d given Debbie almost a month to get her shit together. And—to her credit—she had seemingly done just that. He knew for a fact that she was off of V—finally. Her eyes were clear, and her health was returning with her appetite. She’d even gained a bit of weight, which was good—because she’d seemed downright skeletal before! And her beauty was on the way back. Truth be told, a part of Alcide wanted her to stick around—which was why he’d not forced the issue of her leaving before. But a greater part of him knew that he needed to get her out of his house.
His sanity depended upon it, for reestablishing a relationship with Debbie Pelt would almost certainly lead to his unhappiness!
It always did.
His life also depended upon it. Every night Debbie was in Area 5 was another night that Eric Northman might catch up with her. And that would lead to both his death and hers.
Plus, he was fucking tired of having to leave his house early so that he could rent a motel room—just so that he could shower and change into fresh clothing in order to avoid smelling like Debbie. And—since she’d been in his house for so fucking long—he’d also had to start keeping his clean clothing in the garage! He’d put it straight into plastic containers right from the dryer so that it wouldn’t get Debbie’s scent on it. Otherwise, the motel and the showers would have been wasted! The whole damned process was a pain in his ass!
Thankfully, Debbie was in contact with a friend of hers from a northern pack, a woman named Tonya, and she seemed set to join her friend as a breeder in her pack.
Was Alcide happy about the fact that she was going down that path? Hell no! Part of him still thought of Debbie as his! But the rational part of him knew that he and Debbie just didn’t work together—at least not for long. When he was younger, he hadn’t been able to see that; he’d been almost obsessed with her in some ways. But that had ultimately damaged them both. Alcide was incredibly thankful that he’d matured when it came to his thinking about Debbie.
Three weeks before, she’d offered some flimsy excuse that she needed to stay with him for a while longer because the little apartment her “new pack” was setting her up with wasn’t quite ready yet. She’d promised to do the cooking and the cleaning—and to not leave his house. She’d also promised to be out by the middle of January.
The next day—the 15th—would mark that middle in Alcide’s book!
If he were being honest with himself, Alcide had let her stay because he’d hoped that she would come up with a plan other than becoming a “breeder,” but she hadn’t done that. He sighed. Debbie had made her bed, and her previous choices had led to her limited options.
“Not my problem anymore,” he muttered.
Alcide was finally ready to get her out of his life—once and for all. Oh—she’d not been a horrible companion for the last several weeks. They’d even spent some cordial time together, watching movies or sharing meals she’d cooked. But any time she’d tried bringing up the possibility of a reconciliation, Alcide had shut her right down! And—to her credit—Debbie hadn’t pushed the topic. For the most part, they’d been functioning as mere roommates, but Alcide wanted his house back.
Speaking of houses . . . .
He took his cellphone out of his pocket and dialed his father. It rang twice and then went to voicemail.
As always, Alcide felt a sense of dread when Jackson Herveaux didn’t pick up. Was he on a bender? Had he fallen of the wagon—again?
“How the fuck did I find myself surrounded by addicts?” he complained to himself as he shook his head.
Granted—like Debbie—his father seemed to be doing very well with his sobriety. Indeed, he and his dad had spent a really nice afternoon together on the day after Christmas—hashing out everything that had happened between them, especially regarding Jackson’s drinking. And—since then—they’d even met for lunch and had gotten along just fine.
Of course, his father had promised sobriety before—many times—but even Alcide had to admit that his dad’s efforts seemed authentic this time. He was going to AA and was checking in with Colonel Flood every day—since the Colonel had vouched for him when it came to some work contracts. Indeed, Jackson seemed quite busy at work, and Alcide was happy that he’d not been contacted by any angry customers about his dad showing up to a job drunk—or not even showing up at all!
Both situations had happened more times than the younger Herveaux cared to remember.
Alcide looked at the phone in his hand as it rang. With relief, he noticed it was his dad and answered.
“Hey, Son! Sorry about that. I was just taking a shit,” Jackson reported.
“Geez, Dad!” Alcide chuckled. “You ever hear the term ‘oversharing’?”
Jackson chuckled in return. “Sorry. I—uh—it’s just that my sponsor’s been encouragin’ me to be honest to a fault lately—to say whatever’s on my mind.”
“It’s okay,” Alcide said, shaking his head.
“Did you think about my offer for dinner soon?” Jackson asked hopefully.
“Uh—yeah. And I’d like that,” Alcide said. “Maybe Tuesday?”
“Sounds good!” Jackson exclaimed, clearly pleased.
“Um—that wasn’t actually why I was callin’ though. I—uh—was just looking through the monthly invoices, and one of yours got missorted into my pile.”
“Again?” Jackson said, rather exasperated. “I’ve told that new receptionist about five times that she needs to get her act together.”
“Yeah,” Alcide agreed. “But she’s only been with us for a couple of months. Let’s give her a few more before we give her any ultimatums or replace her.”
“That’s fine,” Jackson agreed. “And don’t worry about the invoice. I can’t think of any bill that’s pressing. Just put it on my desk tomorrow, and I’ll get to it.”
“What I was mainly wanting to ask you about is the fact that there are ten light-tight shutters in the order. I wasn’t aware that you were working for a vampire, Dad. And—uh—I don’t know if it’s the best idea for us to keep doing vamp contracts.”
“Oh—uh—I would have told you, but discretion was asked for,” Jackson said somewhat stiffly. “And it’s actually a human that’s the client.”
Alcide shook his head as he looked at the invoice more closely. “Hey—your job’s in Bon Temps?”
“Yes,” Jackson answered somewhat hesitantly.
Alcide was silent for a long moment. “And the job’s not for a vampire named Bill Compton?”
“No,” Jackson returned.
“Is it for Sookie Stackhouse?” Alcide asked tensely.
“Listen, Son. My client was looking for anonymity on this one. Me and the crew even agreed to glamour so we couldn’t talk about the client or the exact location of the job.”
Alcide felt his frown etch into his handsome face. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll find out on my own!”
“Please. Don’t be upset. I—uh—the job’s good,” Jackson said—as if it was difficult (due to the glamour) for him to say even that much.
“I’m not angry,” Alcide sighed. “But I want to talk about not taking any more vamp clients when we meet for dinner.”
“Alright. I’ll see you then. I—uh—I love you, Son,” Jackson said.
Alcide didn’t respond right away; after all, he wasn’t used to exchanging endearments with his father.
“Um—see you soon,” Jackson stammered before hanging up right before Alcide found his voice to tell his father that he loved him, too.
The younger Herveaux sighed and contemplated whether to call his dad again; instead, he sent him a quick text. “You too,” he wrote.
Looking back at the invoice, the Were felt an inexplicable tug. He always did whenever he let himself think about Sookie Stackhouse. She’d appeared and then disappeared so quickly from his life that it was almost as if she’d never been there at all.
But she had been there. And he’d been quite attracted to her. He liked her devotion—though he wished it were better placed than with the vampire who had almost raped her. He ran his hand through his thick hair. Sookie also seemed strangely fond of Eric Northman. The Were growled as he thought about the arrogant vampire.
To him, Northman represented all of the reasons why Weres were right to avoid working with vampires. The bastard was arrogant to a fault! Every meeting Alcide had ever had with the Viking had involved Eric calling him “dog” or “mutt.” Northman also liked to speak down to people—a trait that Alcide despised.
“I’m Were enough to be an Alpha one day!” he brooded to himself. “Where does that fucking vamp get off patronizing me?”
Speaking of Alphas, Alcide had been surprised to learn that Colonel Flood didn’t seem to mind the vampire so much. Of course, Flood was comparing the Sheriff of Area 5 to other vampire sheriffs he’d dealt with during his time. And—truth be told—even Alcide recognized that things could be worse when it came to vamp sheriffs.
At least Northman was the same bastard in front of people as he was behind them.
Alcide looked down at his phone—contemplating. And then he dialed.
“Hello, Alcide,” Sookie said by way of greeting once she picked up the call—after several rings. Alcide thought momentarily that she must have gotten a better phone—one with caller ID.
“Hi, Sookie,” the Were return. “I—uh—how are you?” he asked.
“Good. Thanks,” she said a little stiffly. “How have you been?”
“Not bad. Uh—listen, I was just going through some company invoices, and I noticed one for renovations generally associated with vampire jobs.”
“Oh?” Sookie asked, an edge to her voice.
The Were frowned. Her tone made her sound more annoyed than guilty or ashamed. And he felt that the latter two emotions would have been more appropriate if the job was—indeed—on Sookie’s home.
“Listen, I—uh—don’t like Herveaux and Son doin’ business for vamps,” he explained. “And I called my dad—not that he told me anything.”
“Alcide, why are you calling?” Sookie asked, clearly annoyed.
The Were sighed. “Is the work for you, Sookie? Please tell me that you didn’t take back Compton. He tried to rape you!”
“I haven’t,” she responded.
“So the work isn’t for you,” Alcide said with relief.
Sookie paused for a moment. “It is for me,” she said firmly, “not that I appreciate how you’re speaking with me right now.”
“Are you with Northman?” Alcide asked with disbelief.
Sookie sighed. “Are you my friend, Alcide?”
“What? Uh—yeah!” the Were said insistently. “You know I am.”
“Good!” Sookie returned. “Then you’ll be happy for me that I’m happy with my life right now. I don’t need friends that judge me.”
The Were took a deep breath. “I’m not judging you, but I am concerned. I’ve had dealings with Northman that make me,” he paused, “worry about you.”
“Don’t worry, Alcide.” She paused and he could hear her exhaling. “Listen, Eric and I are together, and I work as a telepath now. I’m startin’ a business with it.”
“You don’t think the vamps will just try to manipulate you? You think they’d actually pay?” the Were asked incredulously.
“They already are,” Sookie responded. “And I’ve got control over who I work for.”
“Listen, Sook. I’m really worried about you now! You can’t trust vamps to give up any control they don’t want to. And don’t you know that the more people who find out about you, the more could try to kidnap you? Jesus, Sook! At least, let me come and guard you at night!”
Again, Sookie sighed loudly. “I can tell you’re worried, and I think that is coming from a good place in you—one that has true concern about me. And I appreciate that, but I already have adequate guards. Eric has provided them; he’s my partner in the business.”
“Is that why you’re having work done on your house then? For vampire guards?” he asked.
“No. I’m with Eric, Alcide. The work is so that he can stay here safely; it’s work I ordered and that I wanted to do—for him and for me! I’m happy with him. If you are okay with that, we can be friends. If you aren’t—well—it was really nice knowin’ you.”
The Were frowned deeply, but managed to hold his tongue for the moment.
“You were worried I’d disapprove? Is that why my dad didn’t ask me to be on his team for the job?” he asked with realization.
“I wasn’t lookin’ for your approval or your disapproval,” she said rather sharply. “But I did worry that you’d make trouble. You weren’t exactly understanding when I left Jackson with Eric.”
It was Alcide’s turn to sigh. “That was because I liked you. I thought—after the kiss we shared—that you liked me, too.”
“It was a confusing time for me. And I apologize if I led you on,” Sookie sighed. “But I don’t apologize for my relationship with Eric. He’s a good man—whether you think that’s true or not. And he’s good to me. And—more importantly—he’s good for me.”
Alcide’s fists clenched, but he held in his derision for the vampire. If only he could see Sookie—without Eric presiding—he was certain that he could convince her that she was wrong about the monster.
“Well—as long as you’re happy,” he said, trying to sound sincere.
“It was bad timing for us, and I do regret that,” she returned. “But I really hope we can build on the friendship that started between us.”
“I hope that too,” the Were responded. “So—uh—in the spirit of that—how about lunch? Maybe tomorrow? I really would like to hear about the work you’re having done. I might even be able to make some suggestions for you. Plus—uh—you might just convince me that projects like yours and those of other vamps are worth takin’ on—at least in Area 5—for vamps that your—uh—boyfriend—Northman—approves of. My dad would sure be glad if we expanded the clientele.”
There was a moment of silence on the phone. “Eric’s not just my boyfriend. He’s my bonded. It’s fair that you know that now, Alcide. Before I agree to meet you. So that it’s not a surprise.”
The Were bit his lip for a moment to curb his reaction. “Bonded? Did you get hurt again? Need his blood?”
“No. Eric and I made a choice to bond—one I’m happy with,” she clarified.
“Okay,” Alcide pushed out with difficulty. “It is good you let me know. If I’d smelled you before I talked to you, I might have jumped to the wrong conclusions. I might have thought the vamp forced you or something.”
“He didn’t,” came a fast response.
“That’s good enough for me,” the Were said—though he was having difficulty keeping the anger from his tone. “Anyway, I do hope you’ll agree to lunch. I’d like to hear about your new business.”
Again, there was a moment of silence as Alcide waited for her response. “Yeah. Lunch would be fun. And tomorrow is good, actually—at least, I think. I’m meeting with one of Eric’s human lawyers at 2:00 p.m., so I’ll be in Shreveport anyway. How about we meet somewhere at 12:30? I’ll need to double-check with my guard, but I like Bob’s Diner right off of the I-20, near Barksdale. It’s nothin’ fancy, but it’s delicious. And it’s owned by a friend of my guard.”
Alcide lifted his brows in surprise. Bob’s Diner was Were owned. “I’ve been to Bob’s many times. And 12:30 works for me.”
“I’ll text you to confirm—or to let you know if I need to change the time or the location. Okay?” she asked.
Alcide again bit his lip so that he wouldn’t point out the fact that she used to be able to do things without her guard’s—and probably Northman’s—permission.
“That sounds great, Sook! It really will be nice to see you,” he added.
“You too,” she said, though there was a question in her tone. “Until then. Bye,” she said.
“Bye,” he returned before hanging up.
He ran his hand through his hair, even as he began to run through what he’d say to Sookie the next day at lunch. He had to convince her to find a way to get away from the vamps!
With her, he figured that he’d have to take a less direct approach, but he was certain that—with the right words—he’d be able to convince Sookie that being with Northman was a huge mistake!
“And—after that—we can worry about how to get rid of that damned bond. Even if I have to get rid of Northman to do that for you,” he growled.
From outside of the office door, Debbie had listened to Alcide’s call.
She hadn’t meant to. It was just that she heard Alcide say the name “Sookie” as she’d been going from her bathroom to the kitchen—so that she could do a bit of prep work for the dinner she wanted to cook for Alcide.
It was to be a special dinner. During it, she was going to “force the issue.”
It was time for Debbie to move on—past time. She now had very few withdraw symptoms, and she’d managed—just the day before—to go through almost the entire day without having a single craving. The tremors in her hands had stopped. And she could think about V rationally now.
Yes. Her plan was to make Alcide a nice dinner—with some venison steaks from the deer he’d hunted earlier that year.
Hunted as a Were.
She knew just how to fix the steak for him. And she planned to pair it with a potato dish he’d always loved, as well as a nice salad. And when they were done eating, she planned to talk to him about the future. She intended to calmly tell him that she still loved him—wanted to spend her life with him. She would focus on how good things had been for the last weeks as they’d spent time hanging out. She knew that he would probably turn her down, especially since their being together would involve them moving away from Louisiana since she was a marked woman in Area 5. However, she had decided that it was important to try. That way—she’d never regret not putting herself out there.
And—if Alcide said “no”—then she’d leave the next morning. She already knew the bus schedule, and she’d collected what she would need to disguise herself so that she could get out of Area 5 clean. A box of hair color, the right makeup, and the right clothes would make her look like an overweight, brunette, forty-year-old—not an underweight, blonde, twenty-five-year-old.
She planned to call her friend, Tonya, once she was in Missouri, where she would get off the bus and spend the night at a cheap motel before getting on another bus the next morning. Indeed, she planned to travel mostly during the day—if she was traveling alone, that is.
She’d even decided not to do anything about Sookie Stackhouse. In her sobriety, she’d begun to believe that Sookie was a non-issue. After all, Alcide had neither seen her nor spoken to her in three weeks.
Until she’d overheard Alcide’s call, she had held out hope that he might go with her. It was an outside chance, but it had been there, more than Debbie had even wanted to acknowledge. But the rage she now felt at having heard Alcide’s tone as he’d worked to placate Sookie fucking Stackhouse cut at her, awakening her hate for the woman once more.
She hurried back to her room so that she could get ahold of her emotions. She went to the back corner of the bedroom, crouched down, and lifted the carpet there, which she’d loosened. She studied the little vial of V she’d hidden there.
A part of her wanted to take it right then, but she held off.
“No,” she whispered. She wasn’t about to ruin her sobriety for nothing.
“No!” she reiterated.
She closed her eyes and put the V and the carpet back into place, allowing herself to calm down so that she could plan. She knew that Alcide was meeting with Sookie the next day. She’d heard him say Bob’s and knew that he was referring to Bob’s Diner, which had been one of her and Alcide’s favorite places to go.
Again, she had to work hard to stifle her anger.
“12:30,” she whispered so lightly that even she didn’t hear herself. Alcide was going to meet the bitch at 12:30. Debbie took a deep breath. She’d heard Alcide mention guards.
Debbie opened her eyes and stood up. She was done with Alcide. She sneered as she thought about him fixating on Sookie.
She shook her head. If Alcide couldn’t recognize what Debbie was prepared to give to him, then he wasn’t worth her time! The werefox took a deep breath. She would make the meal as planned, but—instead of asking Alcide to go with her when she left—she would simply tell him that she’d be going the next day.
And she would be going.
She would leave Alcide’s early the next morning and go to Bob’s Diner and stake out the place; that would allow for plenty of time for her scent to dissipate in the area. She knew just the spot she could hide in. An old office building across the street from the diner had windows that looked directly upon the little diner. As long as the offices were still abandoned, as they had been when she’d last gone to the diner about a year before, she would be able to see just what was guarding Sookie Stackhouse.
And then she’d follow Sookie Stackhouse, take the vial of V so that she would have strength, kill the bitch, and then get the fuck out of Dodge!
She’d be damned if Alcide was going to push her aside only to live happily ever after with that human bitch!
Sookie Stackhouse would pay, and then Debbie would leave her old life behind forever.
“Without any unfinished business,” she growled to herself.
A/N: Hello all! So glad to bring you a chapter of this story! And so sorry for the “pause” to it. I’m hoping not to have to pause it again, but I know for sure that you’ll have new chapters for at least the next month. Thanks to everyone who has already checked out my new story, The Journey Itself.
As for The Engine‘s new chapter, it was time to advance the time line a bit. We’ll get caught up with what Eric and Sookie have been up to next week—through a new point of view for me to write, Maria-Star’s (she’s fun to write, by the way). Anyway, I hope you enjoyed it. Of course, it was only a matter of time before Debbie’s crazy came out.
I hope you’ll leave a comment if you have the time and/or inclination.