My response to Eric’s zinnias was orange mock—deceit. He wasn’t going to be seeing a single rose from me, no sir. I was angry and hurt and I wanted him to know that a few measley flowers weren’t going to smooth things over. Assuming I even wanted things to smooth over, and I didn’t think I did.
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why Eric had picked me. He hadn’t trained a girl in a long time. I had assumed he meant it had been years, but giving the fact that Pam was claiming to be more than 200 years old it could have been more like decades or even a century. What was it about me that had convinced him to change his mind?
My knowledge about submission was limited. I wasn’t an experienced sub and I doubted he was all that keen on starting from square one with a girl. More than that, why had he taken play outside of the club? If he was so keen on me never finding out what he was, that seemed like the best way to keep it from happening. At the club there wouldn’t be cuddling, dates or checking in with each other all the time. What Eric had proposed wasn’t just the occasional playdate, but a real relationship.
He wanted to know me outside of how many times he had to spank me before I’d cum for him. Well, before I’d beg him to let me cum for him. He wanted to know about my family, friends, job, goals, hopes, dreams, plans for my future. He wanted to know me, and not just as his sub. He was doing what he could to help me realize those goals and dreams, in addition to helping me with my training.
We were on solid ground, and moving forward at a rate of speed that I was comfortable with.
Then Sam had to come along and fuck it up all for what I was still convinced were selfish reasons.
Time went by and I continued to play the back and forth game with Eric and the flowers. He responded to my orange mock with sweet peas for ‘departure.’ I responded to those with Snapdragons for deception. There was a lapse of a single day before I received yellow jasmine from him—timidity and modesty. Who did he think he was fooling? He got orange lilies (hatred, disdain, wealth and pride) in response.
After that he sent me purple hyacinths every day for a week. I swear, between the two of us we were clearing out florists right and left, and it was starting to get really expensive to keep up with him.
Since I was unemployed and had nothing better to do with my time when I wasn’t job searching, I spent most of my time cleaning or at the library reading. When I finally managed to get a hold of Tara it was because I went to her store to visit her.
“So how are things with Leif?” she asked after we exchanged the basic pleasantries of friends that hadn’t seen each other in a while.
“Over,” I said flatly. “I found out some things about him that I’m not sure I can live with, so I had to end it.”
“Well, that explains that,” she said as if she was thinking of something else entirely.
“That explains what?”
“He hasn’t been around the club much. I was just there Friday and Saturday night and I heard that he hasn’t set foot in the club for a couple of weeks now. He used to go to the jungle gym once a week but he hasn’t been there since he started training you,” she informed me. “On top of that, Madame Raven’s been bitchier than usual but no one knows why. There’s been rumors going around that maybe Leif’s leaving the club.”
“He’s not going to leave the club,” I said. He was an owner. He wasn’t going anywhere.
“How do you know that if you broke up?” she asked me.
“Just trust me, he’s not leaving. I’d tell you more but you know how secretive they are and how seriously they take the confidentiality stuff.”
“Of course, but he’s an ex-boyfriend now. Wouldn’t it feel good to let it all out?” Tara asked with a wiggle of her eyebrows and an expression that was way too eager to find out all the dirt.
“Yes, it probably would, but I made a promise to keep it to myself and just because Leif can’t keep his promises doesn’t mean I can’t keep mine.”
Tara’s smile faded and she asked, “He didn’t go too far with you, did he?”
She looked legitimately concerned, and I understood why. Comparatively, what Tara and Eggs were into was child’s play. I had signed myself up to find a person to abuse me, at least from an outsider’s perspective. It would be easy for her to assume that he had gotten carried away with one of our scenes and done me bodily harm that I wasn’t okay with, or that he had ignored some of my limits because he was a selfish asshole.
“No, Tara, nothing like that. If fact, Leif was really good about making sure that I was comfortable with everything we did. If I ever would have told him to stop, he would have.”
“So then what happened? Sook, you can tell me. I’m your best friend,” she pleaded.
“I know you’re my best friend but for your own safety it’s better that I don’t tell you. The secrets aren’t mine to tell,” I said. Quite honestly there was a part of me that said I was lucky to be alive.
I had no doubt that Pam was serious about that comment she’d made about ripping my throat out. It was one hell of a way to make sure I didn’t talk or spill their secrets to anyone. Eric was taking a huge leap of faith by trusting me to keep it all to myself, but I had no interest in making his life any worse by blabbing things around. Besides, if I ran around telling people that my ex-boyfriend was a vampire they would just get out the butterfly nets and the straightjacket.
Tara and I talked for a while and I told her about losing my job at Merlotte’s. Again I was vague, but it was to protect Sam and Eric both. She offered to go in there and knock Sam upside his head for me, but I didn’t see the point in that. If I wasn’t going to let Gran go in there and give him the tongue lashing he deserved I couldn’t really endorse Tara doing it either. What she did do, however, was offer me a part-time job.
“It’s nothing fancy and I know you’ve got other goals but it would be nice to see you a few times a week,” she said after making the offer. “I can’t pay you much but it would be something in the meantime until you find something better.”
“That’s real sweet of you, Tara,” I smiled at her. “Let me think on it and I’ll get back to you.”
“Please do. If you work for me it’ll save me from having to hire off the street. At least with you I know I’ll be getting someone who’ll actually do their job and not spend the day browsing the racks for how they can spend their paycheck. You know the last girl I had in here actually tried on clothes during her shifts like I was paying her to shop?”
“Sounds like a very helpful person,” I smirked.
“I canned her ass inside two weeks,” Tara said with a shake of her head. “I swear, I don’t know what’s wrong with people these days.”
Yeah, me either.
I hung around for another twenty minutes or so until a customer came in that had an appointment with Tara to get fitted for a new dress.
“Sook, if I see Leif do you want me to say anything to him if he asks about you?” Tara asked with a sad look on her face.
“Tell him the truth. Tell him I’m fine and I’m moving on,” I said.
Tara didn’t look happy about that, but she nodded and gave me a hug before sending me on my way. I wasn’t sure what to make of him not spending time at the club. I didn’t know that he had frequented the orgy room, but then I had never asked and what he did before we were together didn’t really matter. I realized that even though we had signed a contract we had never really gone on any dates. Technically, he probably didn’t even think of me as a girlfriend. Hell, did vampires that old even think about being someone’s boyfriend?
I asked myself if I would have taken it all differently had Eric come to me on his own and confessed that he was different. He had told me that he couldn’t alter my memories and I believed that. He would have erased Callisto, I was sure of it, if he’d had the ability. It was possible that he’d tried, but it hadn’t worked.
That got me thinking, however. Maybe I should pay a visit to Callisto. I got the distinct feeling that Eric never talked to her like I asked him to, but I didn’t have to go through him to ask her questions. She had said something about me and the Bacchanal and I wanted to know just what the hell she was talking about. So I did the only thing I could think of—I got dressed in all black and headed to The Playground.
I parked outside the club and it wasn’t much of a surprise that there weren’t many cars lined up. It was early, after all, and the club wouldn’t be open for a few more hours. I didn’t care. What I did see was Pam’s BMW parked outside so at least I knew she was there. I went to the door and pressed my thumb to the little pad. The door released and opened for me so I stepped inside. I didn’t get more than three feet before Pam appeared, dressed in her street clothes, with a slightly pissed off expression on her face.
“We’re not open yet, Scarlet,” she said.
“I’m not here to play. I came to see Callisto,” I told her.
“Planning an orgy in that backwater town of yours?” she snarked.
“No, I have some questions to ask her. If she’s not here will you tell her I came by?”
“She’s here,” Pam said. “And so is Leif. In fact, I’m sure he’s watching you as we speak. Perhaps you’d like him to join your little tête-à-tête?”
“If he did then it wouldn’t be a tête-à-tête, now would it?” I fired back at her.
Pam smirked and said, “Wait here. I’ll summon Callisto.”
She disappeared and left me standing alone in the little lobby area. I had no idea where the cameras were or if Eric was really watching me. So much for Tara’s assumption that he wasn’t coming to the club. More than likely he was just making sure he was gone before the doors opened for the night.
I looked a little closer at the art on the walls while I waited for Callisto to appear. I expected the door to open that separated the lobby from the long hallway where all of the different playrooms were, but I was tapped on my shoulder without so much of a sound.
I jumped and turned to see Callisto standing there in a shimmering white gown that was identical to the one she had been wearing the first time I saw her.
“You’re back,” she smiled, and her eyes drifted down to look at the necklace I was wearing. Her hand rose and she fingered the pendant of it. “Where did you get this?”
“From my Gran,” I said, and moved the pendant away from her touch. “It was a gift from a relative when I was born. I’m not sure who gave it to her to hold.”
Callisto smiled and said, “I bet I know, but I’m sure that’s not why you’re here.”
“I’m here to ask about the Bacchanal. You said that I was going to be a big part of it. Why is that?”
“You are on a journey, λίγη ομορφιά,” she said. “That means little beauty.”
“Uh, thank you,” I said uneasily, and watched as Callisto started to pace in circles around me.
Callisto still gave me the creeps. There was something about the energy pouring off of her that made me uneasy, and I started to question why I’d thought it was a good idea to come see her. For all I knew she was just some crazy chick that was trying to get me into something I had no business being a part of.
“You don’t understand your talisman, do you?” she asked as she continued to circle me. “You don’t know about its power.”
“It’s just a necklace,” I said.
“No!” Callisto said sharply and then she was in front of me. “Non sibi. It is Latin. Interesting since it isn’t the usual language of your kind.”
“My kind?” my eyebrows shot up toward my hairline.
Callisto put her palm on my forehead. Her eyes closed and she smiled broadly. “The sun. Oh the sun. It feels so warm on my shoulders. Clouds are moving slowly and the breeze is picking up. There is thunder. It is distant but moving quickly. A storm is coming. The bridge will flood. The water will take its toll. There will be no survivors.”
She sounded manic and completely insane but I was afraid to move. Her body started to shimmer and shake in an inhuman kind of way, and then she was gone. I stood there completely unsure of what had just happened.
Things just kept getting weirder and weirder. For a minute I wondered if maybe this was all just a big hallucination, or if maybe I’d hit my head harder than I thought on the bumper of that truck. Maybe I was in a coma somewhere and my imagination was trying to weird me into waking up.
“She won’t be back anytime soon,” Pam said from behind me.
“How do you know that?”
“Because when she moves like that it means she’s gone to see Her.”
“The Ancient One, the utmost authority of our kind. She was an oracle at Delphi and we need not question Her rulings. Her word is law,” Pam said.
“You’re speaking Greek to me,” I sighed and folded my arms over my chest.
“Your necklace is missing,” Pam pointed at me.
I looked down and sure enough it was gone. Great. Not only was Callisto a raving nut, she was also a kleptomaniac.
“Shit. How do I get her back here? I want my necklace back.”
“She’ll return it after her audience with the Pythoness,” Pam assured me. “Although I’m curious why she would take your necklace along.”
“Because it’s a talisman,” Eric said from behind me.
My heart leapt up into my throat. I wasn’t prepared to see him. I hadn’t planned to see him.
“Hello, Sookie,” he said pleasantly. “Are you enjoying your hyacinths?”
“Not as much as the sick children at the nearby hospital,” I said curtly. Gran had started taking my flowers with her when she went, dispersing them where she saw fit.
“Clever of you to catch on to my game,” he said.
“Clever of Gran. She figured it out first,” I told him.
“Pity I never got the chance to meet her.”
“Shoulda thought about that before you lied to me,” I snapped, but kept my back to him. “Pam, when you see Callisto, please tell her that necklace is very important to me.”
Pam nodded and then I headed for the door.
I only stopped when I heard Eric’s sincere voice say, “I miss you, Sookie.”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, but then I left the club without responding.