Sookie walked into the bar a half an hour before her shift was scheduled to start. She found Sam in his office, going over the books. He smiled to see Sookie walking toward him.
“Hey, Sook, how are ya?” he asked, and leaned back in his chair.
“I’m good,” she said with a bright smile, and put her purse in her cubby space. “How are you? I know I haven’t been around too much lately.”
“I’m alright… A little worried about you. I’ve run by your house the last couple of nights and I haven’t seen you there,” Sam confessed.
“I’ve been stayin’ with Eric, but I can’t say where. It’s best if you don’t know, or I’d tell you,” Sookie sat down beside the desk.
“What’s he got you caught up in now, Sookie?” Sam asked with concern.
“He’s helpin’ me, Sam. Bill and I broke up… for good, this time. I found out some things that made it impossible for me to forgive him. But in breakin’ up with him I made myself a target, so Eric’s been hidin’ me while things settle down,” she explained.
“Eric’s even more dangerous than Bill,” Sam sat forward. “When I came to ask for his help with MaryAnn, he wanted to trade information for you.”
“He’s not… What do you mean by that? Tell me what he said,” Sookie insisted.
While she had been in Dallas with the vampires, the maenad that had scratched her had arrived in Bon Temps expecting tribute from Sam the same as she had from Eric. When Sam’s offering wasn’t good enough, she had besieged the town and driven all the humans mad for a few days. Sookie, Bill and Jason had just gotten back into town in time to catch the tale end of things. She didn’t know that Sam had gone to Eric for help, but it was a smart move on Sam’s part.
“He told me if he did me a favor I would owe him one in return. When I asked him what I wanted, he said he wanted you,” Sam said with disgust.
Sookie wasn’t quite sure what to think about that, but decided it probably wasn’t really that important. Eric had admitted to her that his interest in her in the past had been shallow and superficial, but she also knew he was opportunistic. It wasn’t really that surprising that he had tried to manipulate Sam into doing what he wanted.
“Look, Sam, I understand why you’re worried about me, but I need for you to trust that I know what I’m doin’. Eric’s been good to me, and he’s helped me a lot in the last few days,” Sookie told him.
“And what if it’s all a scam, Sook? What happened with Bill that made you breakup with him for good?”
Sookie was careful about what information she revealed to Sam. It would have been nice to be able to tell him everything, but for his own safety there were a few things she left out. When she was finished he knew about Bill’s betrayal, and the fact that he had been sent on a mission by the queen. Since Lafayette hadn’t come forward yet to reveal that he was alive and well, Sookie didn’t mention him. She figured if Lafayette was still in hiding it had to be for a reason.
Sam was obviously furious about the things Sookie shared with him. She could see the tensing of the muscles in his arm, and the twitch of his jaw.
“Son of a bitch,” Sam cussed under his breath, and rubbed his hand over his face. “Sook, why didn’t you come to me? I would have helped you.”
“I know you would, Sam, but…” she trailed off for a moment. “I didn’t want to drag you into my mess, and Eric is a vampire so he knows how all of this works. He’s also Bill’s superior, so I thought he would have more information. I just didn’t want anyone to get hurt because of me.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Sam asked her, a rather helpless look in his eyes.
“Just be careful around Bill,” Sookie advised.
“Sook, if it’s dangerous for you to be in Bon Temps then why are you here?”
“Because I’m not gonna let Bill run me out of my life. If I stay here at least I have the home field advantage, right? I know this town and everyone in it. People might think I’m crazy, but they know who I am. If I go missin’, folks’ll notice I’m gone. They might think I got what I deserved by foolin’ around with vampires, but—”
“They don’t think that,” Sam said to be nice, but Sookie knew all too well how untrue that was.
“Sam, I know what people think of me,” Sookie tapped her temple. “I’m used to hearin’ people think nasty things about me. I can’t worry about what other people think of me. What I do in my private life isn’t any of their business.”
Of course that was easier said than done, and like it or not it was hard to completely ignore the thoughts that people had in their heads. She tried not to let it influence her too much, but there were undoubtedly times when their opinions made her second guess herself. But, she decided, where Eric was concerned there was no room for doubts or second guessing. She needed to completely disregard what everyone else thought. They didn’t know him the way Sookie did, but she realized there was a lot she didn’t know.
Bonding herself to Eric was a big deal, and the more she thought about it the more she wondered if it might not be a good idea to put it off a little. From all she’d been told, and from the way she understood it, it would be a lifelong commitment for her. True she could ask Lafayette and Jesus to break the bond if it came to that, but she didn’t really want to go into the bond thinking there was a way out. It was tantamount to marrying someone while having a divorce lawyer on standby.
“Sook, I know this ain’t really any of my business, but I gotta ask you anyway,” Sam sat forward in his chair and braced his elbows on his knees.
“Okay,” she said hesitantly.
“Your relationship with Eric… is it just a business thing, or is it more personal than that?” he asked.
“Both, I guess,” Sookie admitted, and Sam’s face told her everything he was thinking. “Don’t give me that look, Sam.”
“I don’t get it, Sookie. You just got out of a relationship with one vampire that wanted to use you for your blood and your ability, and now you’re rushing into a relationship with another one that’s even older and more dangerous? What are you thinkin’, Sook?” Sam shook his head.
“Sam, I don’t need your approval anymore than I need the approval of any other person sitting out in the bar right now. I’m tellin’ you about all of this because you’re my friend and my boss, and I don’t want to lie to you about where I’ve been the last few days. That doesn’t mean I’m askin’ your permission for anything,” Sookie said defiantly. “You might not understand my choices, but you don’t have to. I’m just askin’ that you respect ’em the same as you would anyone else’s.”
“I just worry about you is all, chér,” he said sincerely. “I don’t want to see you get caught up in something that’s not your place to get caught up in.”
Sookie smiled somewhat sadly and said, “Sam, it’s too late for that.”
It was shortly after sunset when Nora walked into Merlotte’s. She was wearing black from head to toe again, but she’d left the leather at home for the time being. Sookie smiled faintly and headed toward the vampire.
“Nora, what can I do for you? Eric didn’t say anything about you comin’ by,” Sookie said in her usual friendly way.
“He doesn’t know I’m here,” Nora said, and quickly scanned the bar to get a count of how many humans were inside.
“Who’s the fanger?” Alcide appeared suddenly, his voice all low and growly.
“Alcide, this is Nora. She’s a friend of Eric’s,” Sookie said. “Nora, this is Alcide Herveaux—”
“I know who he is,” Nora looked Alcide up and down like he was nothing. “And I know he can’t be much of a bodyguard if I was able to get to you this easily.”
Alcide growled, prepared to defend himself against any physical attack that might be coming his way, but Nora just smirked with amusement.
“You have a seat, puppy. I just need a moment with your charge,” Nora looked like she might try to pat Alcide’s shoulder.
“Alcide, I’ll be fine,” Sookie said when he didn’t react.
Alcide continued to stare Nora down for a few seconds before he backed off and returned to his table.
“Was that really necessary?” Sookie asked her.
“He’s supposed to be keeping you safe, from what Eric tells me. I never should have been able to get this close to you without him getting in my path,” Nora said unapologetically.
“He saw you with Eric the night before and you weren’t a threat then. Do I need to be worried about it now?” Sookie asked her.
“If I was here to hurt you, Sookie, you would already be dead,” Nora said casually. “I’m here because I wanted to talk to you about Bill.”
“And Eric doesn’t know you’re here?” Sookie double checked.
“No, he doesn’t,” Nora nodded toward an empty table. “Do you have time to talk right now, or does your shifter boss not allow you to take breaks?”
“We’re a little too busy right now for me to take a break, but if you’re willin’ to wait I’ll have a few minutes when things slow down,” Sookie offered.
“I’ll wait,” Nora nodded, and went to a table to sit down.
Sookie went around to check on her other tables and run orders from the kitchen. It was close to an hour before things slowed down enough for Sookie to take her break. She grabbed a True Blood from behind the bar and brought it with her to Nora’s table.
“It’s on me,” Sookie said, putting the blood down and taking a seat across from Nora in the booth. “So what can I do for you, Nora?”
Nora sipped her blood for a moment and then said, “Your former lover is a problem for the vampires I work for. He needs to be eliminated, Sookie, and I want your help in making that happen.”