“Sookie, just come out here already. I’d like to get back to the bar before midnight,” Pam said in that usual bored tone of hers.
They had been shopping for the last three hours and really, Sookie’d had enough. Pam, however, was insisting that Sookie try on another half dozen dresses, citing that she was going to need them if she was going to spend time at Fangtasia, presumably parked up on that platform next to Eric. The command hadn’t been issued yet, but Pam had taken the liberty of ordering a chair for Sookie since the bond was complete. Pam was pretty sure Sookie was about to become a regular around the bar, but as long as Eric kept showing up she was just fine with that.
As long as her Maker was happy, Pam was happy.
Sookie heaved a heavy sigh and then came out of the dressing room before Pam let herself in… again.
“I look ridiculous, Pam,” Sookie sighed, staring down at all the leather she was wearing.
“You look like your evil twin,” Pam almost smirked as she took in the dress Sookie was wearing. She stepped forward and started fussing with Sookie’s hair a bit and said, “All you need are some chandelier earrings and a nice choker, and you’ll fit right in.”
“I don’t want to fit in,” Sookie said defiantly. “I’m not a fangbanger and I won’t dress like one.”
Pam rolled her eyes and said, “You’ll need outfits like this for when you meet other vampires. If you keep dressing like a cupcake in front of them you’re going to have to deal with more than their sweet tooth.”
“So I should dress different because vampires can’t control themselves? That’s pathetic,” Sookie propped her hands on her hips. “And as a woman I can’t believe you don’t find that particularly offensive.”
“Get off your soapbox, princess. You can keep your pastels and garden party frocks, or you can stop being stubborn and listen to what I’m telling you,” Pam folded her arms under her breasts. “This is about stacking the deck in your favor, not stifling your personal fashion sense. Well, at least not entirely.”
Sookie rolled her eyes again, but realized that Pam had a point. Since she was very aware of what a tasty treat she was to vampires, it made sense to try and blend in in places where a large concentration of humans would be. Wearing pastels would simply draw more attention to herself. Sookie still prickled at the idea that she would be asking for it if she wore yellow, but she understood what Pam was saying.
“Fine. You win,” Sookie finally conceded.
“Good,” Pam forced a smile and the motioned to Tracey, the boutique owner. “We’ll take six of those. And do you still have the red chiffon?”
“I think so. Let me check in back,” Tracey said, and then disappeared.
“Do I really need six of these, Pam? That seems a little excessive to me,” Sookie said while reaching behind herself to take off the dress.
“Sookie, I realize that your yearly clothing budget is probably what I spend on shoes in a week, but let me explain something to you: your wardrobe is a reflection of Eric now. If you show up looking shabby or out of style, others will assume that you aren’t properly cared for. When you’re behind closed doors you can wear anything you want, but when you are in public, the clearance rack at Wal-Mart isn’t going to cut it.”
Sookie snickered and said, “I’m shocked you even know what WalMart is.”
“I go there when I want something greasy and inbred,” Pam snarked, and Sookie wasn’t amused.
“It might not be as glamorous as checking IDs at the door or running Eric’s errands,” Sookie snarked right back. “But it’s an honest day’s work. And at least they get health insurance. I don’t get that working at Merlotte’s.”
Pam kept quiet, which Sookie was surprised by. Tracey came back with a red chiffon dress and handed it to Sookie. She closed the dressing room door and swapped out the leather for the chiffon. There were too many clasps built into the dress for Sookie to get them fastened on her own, so she reluctantly opened the dressing room door to ask Pam for help.
In three seconds the clasps were fastened and the dress was zippered up. Sookie looked at herself in the mirror and couldn’t help smiling. The dress looked similar to the one she had worn while she was in the Summerland. The skirt was ruffled and pleated and there was intricate beading just under the bust. Sookie hated to admit it, but everything about the dress was perfect. From the color to the cut to how easy it was to move, Sookie loved the dress.
“Okay, now this one I love,” she admitted.
“What other colors do you have this in?” Pam asked Tracey.
“In her size I’ve got marine and royal,” Tracey said.
“We’ll take one in marine. And we’ll need lingerie measurements,” Pam said.
It was another two hours and several thousand dollars later before Pam declared them to be done… for now. Sookie followed Pam out of the boutique to her sporty black BMW, and got into the passenger’s seat. Pam, it seemed, drove just as fast and recklessly as Eric. They were back at Fangtasia just before midnight, and Pam took her in through the back door. They found Eric in his office, sitting behind his desk.
“How’d it go?” Eric asked.
“Fine,” Sookie said, trying to keep the tension she was feeling out of her voice.
Eric looked back and forth from one woman to the other. Pam put the credit card back in the desk and then went to the closet in the office to grab the outfit she’d brought with her. Without a word she took the hanger with her and left the office to change clothes. No way was she working the door in her regular street clothes. She had a part to play, and hoped Sookie would figure out that they all did in the supernatural world.
“What’s wrong?” Eric asked once they were alone.
“Pam just spent more on clothes for me than I do on property taxes in a year,” Sookie sighed. “Is that really necessary?”
“I’m sure Pam probably went overboard, but you do need clothing,” he said.
Sookie nodded and collapsed on the couch. Eric stood and went over to sit next to her. He reached for her hand, trying to figure out why Sookie was so stressed out. Wasn’t shopping supposed to relax a woman? Pam was always happier after a little retail therapy, as she called it.
“What happened that has you so sad, Sookie?” he asked her.
“I know this sounds silly, but this trip just reminded me of how different our worlds are. I spend my time checking the sale racks at WalMart and Pam is picking out dresses that are hundreds of dollars like it’s nothing. I could never afford any of this stuff on my own and I feel like I’m taking advantage of you, even though I didn’t ask for any of this stuff,” Sookie explained.
“Sookie, you aren’t taking advantage; you’re accepting your role,” he said.
“But why do I need to wear clothes and shoes that cost more than some peoples monthly mortgage payment in order to be accepted? It seems like a big waste of money to me. I’m just not a fancy person, Eric.”
He smiled and pulled her face to his to kiss her. At first she tried to pull back because as much as she wanted to kiss him, she wasn’t into it either. She didn’t feel like she was good enough, or like she deserved any of the things she had just been given. A lifetime of busting her behind for everything she had, and watching Gran figure out ways to scrimp and save to make bigger purchases made it difficult to fathom being able to plunk down a piece of plastic and pay for whatever her heart desired.
And she explained all of that to Eric.
“It doesn’t always have to be like this, Sookie, but you are my responsibility now. Believe me when I tell you that whatever it was Pam spent tonight isn’t going to break the bank,” Eric assured her.
“I know that,” Sookie looked up at him. “You own how many houses in this area alone? I figured out already that you’re fairly well off. I just don’t want to end up feeling like you’re my sugar daddy.”
Eric chuckled at her choice of terms, and then kissed the side of her head. “You could start charging people for use of your telepathic services just like you do the queen. That way you would have your own money coming in. I can think of a few vampires that would love to have your services.”
“If I didn’t know any better I would think you’re trying to pimp me out,” Sookie cracked a small smile.
“I suppose I am in some way,” Eric admitted. “But anyone who puts a hand on you won’t live to see another sunrise.”
Sookie thought about it for a moment. It wasn’t such a bad idea. Besides, her contract with the queen didn’t say anything about her not being able to take side jobs. Why should Sophie-Anne be making a profit all the time? Especially now that Sookie knew the queen had drained her grandfather, she wasn’t at all looking forward to working for her.
“There’s something else I need to discuss with you,” Eric said warily.
“What’s that?” Sookie squeezed his hand.
“I went downstairs and talked to Bill. I asked him about your grandmother,” Eric confessed.
“And?” Sookie asked with wide eyes as her heart leapt into her throat.
“And I think you need to talk to Bill,” Eric said grimly.
“Did he do it?” Sookie asked, searching Eric’s eyes. He stayed quiet and that was all the answer Sookie needed.
Her stomach turned and she jumped off the couch to stick her face in the trash bin and throw up. She sobbed and tried to breathe between gags and heaves. Eric was immediately on his feet and crouched down beside Sookie. He held her hair out of the way and rubbed her back until she regained some calm. He called to the bar to have a glass of water brought back for Sookie. Moments later the waitress that Bill had fed from appeared with the water, and quickly disappeared when she was dismissed.
Sookie drank her water and tried not to let that come back up too. Neither she or Eric spoke. She couldn’t blame him for not wanting to be the one to give her the details if what happened, but at the same time she didn’t really want to be anywhere near Bill either. As if it wasn’t bad enough the bastard had broken her heart, betrayed her more times than anyone she’d ever met and damn near drained her, but now he was responsible for Gran’s death.
The more Sookie thought about it, the more her hands started to glow. Without a word, she stood up and started for the basement. Eric followed right behind her down the stairs. Sookie walked right up to Bill, who was in downtime, and slapped him across the face to wake him up.
“You son of a bitch!” Sookie yelled at him. “How could you? How could you?”
He didn’t get another word out before she lifted her hands and shot him with her light. Bill howled in pain, his body twitching and convulsing as it absorbed her light. When Eric started to smell burned flesh, he grabbed Sookie’s shoulders. The light faded away, but Sookie stood there shaking with anger.
Bill looked all kinds of fucked up. Any of the healing that had taken place after his feeding had just been undone by the shock he’d received from Sookie. It was obvious to anyone she was furious, and when she jerked away from Eric she stepped closer to Bill again and demanded, “Why, Bill? Why did you murder Gran?”
Eric stood back, letting Sookie ask her questions and watching Bill try to soften the blows he was landing. Eric felt every one of Sookie’s emotional flinches as Bill told her more and more detail. Finally Sookie held up her hand to get him to stop speaking. She was completely overwhelmed by what she had heard, and knowing the horrible details of her Gran’s murder was just too much.
“Eric, please get me out of here,” Sookie said with her eyes vacant and trained on the floor.
“Sookie, I’m so sor-” Bill started, but was cut off mid-sentence.
“Silence,” Sookie said with another dose of light going Bill’s way, and even though his mouth was still forming words there was no sound coming out. That was a neat trick.
Sookie turned for the stairs and Eric followed behind her. She moved like she was a zombie, and when it became obvious that she didn’t know where she was going, Eric scooped her up and decided it was best just to take her home. For the night, Sookie had had enough.