The next day, Sookie sat at her breakfast table slowly munching on a piece of toast. When she'd awakened this morning, she'd been surprised to find herself in her bed still in the dress from the night before. Once she'd figured out that she must have passed out after Eric had fed from her, she was shocked he hadn't used the opportunity to see her naked. Shocked, but thankful. Taking off the dress and tossing it in the trash, as she never wanted to be reminded of all that had gone wrong last night, she had quickly hopped in the shower. After letting the hot water relax her muscles and ease some of her tension, she'd washed her hair and body quickly before drying off and slipping into a pair of shorts and a tank top to eat breakfast.
Sitting there and partaking of her simple meal, she jumped when the doorbell rang. As she wasn't expecting anyone (and if it were Jason or Tara they would have simply entered using their keys) she didn't know who it could be. Opening the door she addressed the well tailored man in front of her, “Hello?”
“Miss Sookie Stackhouse?” A tall, brown haired, brown eyed man asked. He looked disgruntled and was holding a large box in his hands.
“I'm Bobby Burnham. I'm Mr. Northman's day man. He instructed me to deliver this to you, and to tell you that a car will be here to pick you up at 8pm to deliver you to the club by 9pm. Do you understand?”
Accepting the box the man rudely pushed into her hands, Sookie glared at him and had to call upon every bit of Gran's Southern genteel upbringing not to call the man out on his discourtesy. “Perfectly," she bit, "is that all?”
She caught a momentary flash of distaste on his face as he turned without another word and left. Huffing at his boorish manner, Sookie shut the door and carried the box to the kitchen table. It was sheathed in a black fabric with a huge red satin bow and a white card tucked into one of the loops of the bow. Taking the card, she opened it slowly and steeled herself for whatever Eric had written.
My Sookie,Glaring at the card, and sorely tempted to trash the box and wear whatever she damn well pleased, Sookie forced herself to take a deep breath. 'I just have to put up with him until Bill is back. I have to stay focused.' Untying the red bow, she pulled off the lid and grit her teeth as her eyes met the sight of tight red leather. Reaching inside, she pulled out a red corset, matching mini skirt and red boots and held them away from her body with a scowl. “Like hell!” she muttered.
I trust Bobby instructed you that a car will pick you up at 8pm. As you will be coming to the club several nights a week and staying until closing, I do not want you driving to and from. On the nights you work for me, a driver will always retrieve and deliver you home to ensure your safety. This is nonnegotiable.
Note: there is a dress code at my bar. I'm sure you noticed even Pam and I wear clothes befitting Fangtasia's atmosphere, and again, this is nonnegotiable. As your tastes are quite obviously not similar to what the normal clientele wear, and undoubtedly you have nothing suitable to meet Fangtasia's dress code requirements, I shall provide you with uniforms. I will supply more outfits within the week, but this will serve you for tonight.
See you soon.
'I know I made a deal with him, but he didn't say anything about a dress code and I didn't agree to one. He can just shove this where the sun don't shine for all I care, because I'm not wearing it!' Closing the box, she returned to her breakfast. She knew that blatantly disobeying Eric by not wearing the outfit he'd sent would probably piss him off, but she didn't care. She had agreed to work for him, not parade around like some whore. She'd wear whatever she damn well pleased, and if he had a problem with, it he could just fire her!
She called Sam and said that something had come up and she couldn't work tonight, and would explain everything to him tomorrow afternoon. He'd agreed and said she could take the night off, and he'd have Tara wait tables while he manned the bar solo. She knew he was going to throw a fit once he'd learned what she'd done, but she'd worry about that later. For the rest of the day, she cleaned house and tried not to think about what was going to transpire that night. She tried reading, but abandoned the effort when she realized she was unable to focus long enough to do more than reread the same paragraph over and over.
It was around noon that she remembered Jessica. Knowing the younger vampire would probably be concerned that her Maker hadn't returned, she sat down and wrote a lengthy note explaining that Bill had been taken by his Maker, and she'd made a deal with Eric to get him back. She wrote that she wouldn't be home tonight as she would have to go to Fangtasia, but she'd be here tomorrow night and would sit down with Jessica and answer any questions she might have. She also made it clear that the young vampire could call on her for anything, and she'd look after her until Bill got back. Walking across the cemetery, she entered the house via the spare key Bill had given her. Setting the note down on the floor by the closet she knew to be Bill and Jessica's resting place, she then made her way home.
Once back inside her own house she glanced at her clock and noticed it was only one in the afternoon, giving her a long stretch of time before she needed to get ready. Not wanting to be around anyone, she decided to do something she rarely did: take a nap. Eric had made it apparent she'd be at Fangtasia until closing which was around 2am, and expecting him to find a reason for keeping her there even after that time, she figured a nap was probably a good idea. Besides, she was still a little tired from the amount of blood she'd lost the night before. Crawling into bed, she set her clock for 5pm and curled up with her pillow.
When she next opened her eyes she saw that it was 4:45pm. Switching off the alarm clock, she stretched before standing and headed for her closet. She was tempted to wear her oldest, most hideous pair of sweats, but decided against it. 'I'll be pissing him off enough as it is,' she thought, as she scanned through her outfits trying to decide on what to wear. She'd already made the decision that skirts and dresses were a definite no-no around Eric. Finally, she pulled out a pair of pants and a stretchy black shirt. With her own black boots, the outfit wouldn't be too dressy, but nor would she look like white trash.
She laid her clothes out on the bed and went downstairs to eat a cold dinner of a meatloaf sandwich and a few chips. After eating, she brushed her teeth and quickly dressed. Brushing out her hair she decided to leave it down to cover her neck as a none too subtle message to Eric. It was a few minutes after six and she had two hours before the car arrived, so she curled up on the couch to watch TV. She was thankful that she was able to focus on a Lifetime movie she found, providing enough filler so time did not drag by agonizingly.
At 8pm on the dot, there was a sharp, loud knock on her door. Turning off the TV, she collected her purse, gave herself a once over in the mirror, collected the box with the hideous outfit, and opened the door. Much to her surprise standing there was Pam.
Pam eyed Sookie critically. Seeing the jeans and black top, she sneered and indicated her own clothing as she inquired, “Did Eric not provide you proper clothing like this?”
Glaring at the woman, Sookie huffed impatiently, “When I made my deal with Eric, his dress code wasn't part of the arrangement. If he has a problem with my clothes, he can just send me home, because I'm not dressing like that.”
Smirking at the defiance in the busty blonde before her, Pam replied with feathered amusement, “By all means.” Stepping back, she waited for the girl to step outside and lock the door before leading her to her 4-door BMW. It was a simple black color as she was not as flashy as Eric in her tastes.
Once they were inside and on their way, Pam let her gaze slant to the girl next to her. 'Honestly, I don't know why he's so fascinated with her. She's pretty enough, I guess, but he's had much better. Other than her talent, I see nothing extraordinary about her, and he has the use of her telepathy already. Why is he so determined to own her? What point is there in trying to maneuver her away from Bill?'
A sudden thought struck her and she mused, 'He couldn't be thinking of turning her, could he? In all his 1,000 years he has only turned me. I do not like the thought that he is so fascinated with her that he would like to make her his child. She is not suited for our life. She has not the disposition to be a vampire. I will need to observe them closely.'
Sitting stiffly beside her, Sookie was steeling herself to remain firm in her resolve about defying Eric over the clothes. 'We made no deal about me dressing like a whore. I didn't agree to it, and I don't have to do it. He can't argue with that. I'm going to put my foot down. If I keep letting him get his way, he'll think he can walk all over me. He might act like it's a deal breaker, but I doubt he'll actually end our arrangement over it.'
As Pam drove just as fast as Eric, the normal hour and a half ride was made in a little over 50 minutes. Pulling into the back of Fangtasia, Pam exited the car as she said gruffly, “Let's go, girl.”
Glowering at Pam's rudeness, Sookie shouldered her purse and grabbed the box from the back as she followed Pam's long strides towards the building. She was surprised when she passed the back entrance and headed for the front. “Uh … why are we going in this way?”
Without looking back, Pam replied coolly, “I'm on the door tonight, and need to relieve Ginger. She's not very good at the door and I don't want to waste any more time with you than necessary. Eric is inside and waiting for you.”
Following behind Pam as they reached the front entrance, Sookie ignored the stares of all the fangbangers whose thoughts were screaming at her, and watched as Pam waved Ginger aside and told her to escort Sookie to the “Master” before Ginger could resume her waitress duties.
Sookie followed after Ginger, unwilling to give Pam the courtesy of a goodbye as the vampire had apparently no regard for her. Once inside, she was hit with a wave of lust-filled, oversexed, and desperate thoughts of those within and she threw up her shields. Keeping up with Ginger, she met Eric's heated gaze over the woman's shoulder and held her head high. 'That's right, you jerk. See that I'm not some doll for you to play dress up with! I'm my own woman, buddy, and I will not be demeaned.'
Eric watched as Sookie entered behind Ginger and could barely conceal his grin. He'd known she wouldn't wear the outfit, and, as expected, she was playing right into his hands. He didn't desire to see her in trashy fangbanger apparel and had sent the outfit so that what he truly wished her to wear would be the lesser of two evils. He was delighted by her feistiness instead of outraged. He put his best scowl on his face and glared at her.
Ginger dramatically dropped to her knees and knelt at his feet and announced her arrival like a dutiful fool, as though he couldn't plainly see Sookie behind her. He dismissed her with a curt nod to return to her work. Letting his eyes trail languorously up and then down Sookie's body, he finally asked, “After 1,000 years of studying the female form, I am an excellent judge of it. Thus, I doubt the clothes are the wrong size, so why are you not in uniform?”
Thrusting the box out as if it contained some virus, Sookie replied indignantly, “When we made our agreement, we said nothing about me having to dress up like a whore. I didn't agree to it, and I won't do it. I'll wear my own clothes, thank you very much.”
Sitting back in his throne and tenting his fingers, he regarded her coolly and flicked his gaze to the proffered box before addressing her again. “We agreed that you would be working for me. As an employee at Fangtasia, it goes without saying that you are expected to comply with the dress code. Any employee at any business is expected to comply with their employer's rules. Your situation will be no different. You will dress accordingly, or you will be in violation of our agreement, and I will not deliver on my end of our bargain.”
He was correct, but unwilling to cede, Sookie argued. “It's not necessary for me to wear this, as I don't have to be where anyone can see me. I can sit in your office, and lower my shields to hear the people out here. If I do that, I won't need to wear a uniform like this,” she finished, disdainfully shaking the box she still held.
“Ah, but Sookie, you speak as though sitting in my office is an option. It is not. You will sit here,” Eric indicated the seat to his right where she had first sat the night he met her. “You will sit at my side and read the thoughts of those in my bar on the nights you are here. And as you will be so very visible, a uniform is necessary. Now you may use my office to change.”
Gritting her teeth, Sookie steeled her resolve and said, “No.”
Quirking a brow, Eric parroted, “No?”
“I won't wear this.”
He was silent for a moment letting her stew, before standing and saying, “Very well.” Taking hold of her arm he pulled her behind him towards the back office. Taking the box roughly from her hands, he tossed it to the couch where it went sliding across its leather seat. Sookie swallowed uneasily. Eric went decisively to his closet, yanked it open and pulled out a garment bag within and tossed it to her imperiously. “Then you may wear that.”
Unzipping the bag, Sookie glanced at its contents and gaped. “You just so happen to have this on hand?”
Shrugging his shoulders, he remarked provocatively, “I bought it for you to wear on a different occasion, but it will serve for tonight.”
“And what occasion would that be?”
Grinning, Eric replied, “The night you finally yield to me, of course, but I can purchase a different garment since this one will no longer be an option.” It was an easy lie. All he wanted her in when he finally claimed her was her bare skin, but she didn't need to know that.
Sookie flinched. “I don't want to wear this either. I don't see what's wrong with my clothes.”
Leaning casually against his desk, Eric regarded her for a silky pause before responding, “People come here to buy into a fantasy of what they believe our world to be.” Running his eyes up and down her delectable body once more, he said, “And your clothing does not pull that off. You will wear that or what's in the box. Or you can go home, and our deal is off.”
Exasperated, she demanded, “Are you really willing to break our deal over this?”
“I think the more pertinent question is,” he paused, his lips twisting in a travesty of a smile, “are you?”
They stared at each other for a measuring moment before she conceded with a heavy sigh. “Fine. Leave me alone and I'll change.”
Standing and making his way to the door, Eric opened it and turned back casually, “Wise of you. You'll find matching shoes in the box at the bottom of the closet. Do not delay, my Sookie, you have a job to do.”
“I'm not your anything, Eric. Remember that.” He merely laughed and left her alone. Pulling the outfit out of the bag, she blew out an angry gust of air, “This really bites.”
It didn't take her long to change, and when she was ready she checked her appearance in the mirror hanging on the back of Eric's closet door before heading out into the club once more. As she entered the main club area, her eyes met Eric's and she squared her shoulders as she made her way to him. She tried to ignore his obvious leer and ignored the hand he held out to her when she reached the dais. Sitting in the chair he'd said he wanted her sitting on, she scooted it away from him slightly and crossed her arms over her chest resignedly. She slowly let her shields down so as not to be bombarded all at once by the chaotic thoughts in the dim room.
Eric had sensed her approach the moment she'd opened his office door and turned to look as she entered the bar area. As expected, she was stunning. The dress he'd chosen was a bright crimson silk ensemble. Truthfully, he'd been collecting different outfits and lingerie sets he wanted to see Sookie in the moment he'd decided to make her his. What she didn't know, and wouldn't become aware of for awhile yet, was that she had an entire closet full of clothes at his home. When she finally yielded to him, and he succeeded in binding her to him, he would see her in the dresses, negligees, teddies and lingerie sets he'd selected for her. For now, he contented himself with seeing her in the red fuck-me pumps, and the scarlet dress he'd chosen for this evening.
He had chosen well. The bust fit tightly over her luscious breasts, pushing them up and outward so they threatened to spill forth, supported by only the narrowness of a jeweled strap that wrapped around her neck. It clung to her tight, narrow waist, the silk skirt of the dress cascading fluidly to mid-thigh, a teasing whisper against her tanned legs. With every step she took, the silk slid against her, showing off her delicious curves. His eyes narrowed. As she drew closer, her body's natural fragrance bypassed his brain to wrap around his cock and squeeze him with a knowing fist. He was instantly hard.
He held his hand out to her so he could seat her at his right, and was once again treated to a healthy dose of her feistiness as she ignored his gallant gesture to seat herself. He wanted to laugh when she scooted away from him petulantly, but refrained. Instead, he motioned for the new waitress … what was her name? Michelle? When she bowed before him he turned to Sookie and asked, “You drink a Gin and Tonic, I believe?”
Startled that he knew her drink, Sookie nodded, “Yes.”
Focusing back on the waitress, he ordered, “Get Miss Stackhouse a Gin and Tonic and be sure to attend her properly all night.”
“Yes, Master,” Richelle said huskily, and scurried off with a roll of her hips to do his bidding. She was angry that he had seated the girl at his right and seemed to be paying her every attention. Like everyone else in the bar, she'd seen the small altercation when the girl had come in, but hadn't been close enough to hear what had been said. All she knew was that the girl had been upset as had her Master, and yet the girl had not been punished in any way.
'Perhaps this girl is more of a danger to me than I thought. I'll have to keep an eye on her and make sure she knows to stay away from Eric.' Getting the drink, Richelle returned quickly and handed it to the mind reader before turning to her Master and asking, “Is there anything else I can do to be of service to you, Master?”
Unable to stifle her snort at the girl's desperation, Sookie took a sip of her drink and began focusing on the bar patrons. Truthfully, she didn't expect to find all that much. She was fairly certain that the night of the raid had been an anomaly and more than likely most nights were pretty slow. Surely, if enough nights passed where she didn't pick up anything useful, Eric might not demand her presence so often.
Eric, just as disgusted with the girl's display as Sookie, merely waved his hand to dismiss her. For the next hour and a half he remained as silent as Sookie. However, as the time passed, he could feel a rise in her tension level to the point he was able to detect a small pulse of pain in her head through the bond. Turning to look at her, he asked, “Is there a problem?”
Looking at him, clearly startled, Sookie said, “I haven't heard anything yet. Nothing you'll want to know, anyway.”
“Then why are you so tense?”
“Oh. Well, I don't usually use my handicap like this. The few times I have intentionally set out to listen to others, it's been only a few individuals and not for very long. I've spent most of my life building up my shields, not taking them down. I'm not used to this.”
This earned her a raised eyebrow. “Handicap?”
“Yeah … you know? How I hear people? My handicap.”
'She cannot possibly consider herself handicapped, can she?' He shook his head with a mixture of surprise and alarm. “You see your gift as a handicap?”
Laughing self consciously, Sookie downed the rest of her gin and tonic and watched as Eric waved the same waitress over to refresh it. As it had taken her over an hour to finish the first one, she didn't stop him.
“'Gift'? Please. 'Handicap' is putting it lightly. 'Curse' would be a better description.”
“You cannot be serious.”
Looking at Eric and seeing the dark confusion in his eyes, Sookie replied, “Let's break it down, Eric. Handicap is defined as something that hinders or is a disadvantage to somebody or something. Hearing people has made me a freak and outcast my entire life. It's prevented me from making friends, kept me from ever having a relationship before I met Bill, and ultimately led me to some of the most painful moments of my life. Not to mention that it's my handicap that has gotten your attention and landed me in this situation I now find myself in. So yes … I am completely serious.”
Eric watched tautly as Sookie turned her attention back to the vermin surrounding them and considered her words. Truthfully, he'd never given much thought to what her life was like beyond what he'd learned about her from the background check. He'd never given thought to what it must have been like for her as a child, adolescent or adult growing up in a small, undoubtedly closed minded town with her ability. 'It must have been hard for her. Yet, if her life was as desolate and unhappy as she says, how is she is as kind as she is? If she has only ever known scorn and prejudice, why would she have such care and concern for these bloodbags?'
“If people have only been cruel to you, why do you value their lives so? Why do you always insist I harm no one? Even in the Fellowship Church in Dallas, you sought to spare the lives of those that were ready to burn you alive. I cannot help but wonder why.”
She expected to find scorn or mockery when she focused on Eric again but seeing the genuine curiosity in his gaze, Sookie replied simply, “Because I choose to be better than them.”
When she once again looked away from him, Eric shook his head and remarked, “You are a strange human.”
“So I've been told.”
They lapsed into a silence again. Sookie continued to grapple with her tension silently beside him but, when he felt the pain rising to levels of discomfort in her mind, he sent a text message to Pam who arrived minutes later with a bottle of aspirin. Taking the bottle as Pam walked away, he turned to Sookie and asked uncertainly, “Will these help?”
Once again, she looked at Eric in bewilderment as she accepted the bottle. “Yes. Like I said, I'm not used to doing this. I'm used to tuning people out. Not listening in. Uh … thank you … I guess.”
He watched as she took two tablets, and set the bottle on the floor beside her chair before focusing back on the crowd. “It will get easier the more you do it.”
“I'm sure,” Sookie sighed ruefully as she watched a girl come forward with a camera, hesitantly asking to take a picture of Eric. She watched as he dismissed the girl with a sharp punctuated movement of his hand in the air. Sookie asked, “Why did you say no? Seems to me you put a lot of effort into putting yourself on display. Why are there no pictures allowed?”
Glancing at Sookie momentarily before once again regarding the vermin before them both, he replied, “Humans are allowed to take in the sight of us for a price, but no other mementos.”
“Huh … seems to me if you're doing this to make money you'd want to advertise.”
“Fangtasia is not my only source of income, nor is it my main one. It serves several purposes, but is ultimately a means to an end. Nothing more.”
“And what end is that?”
His grin was wry as he leaned down conspiratorially against her ear and murmured silkily, “I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you … or turn you.”
“I think I'd prefer ignorance. Keep your secrets,” Sookie flushed, focusing back on the crowd. Eric laughed and sat back in his chair once more. Through their bond, Eric knew Sookie was already feeling the effects of the aspirin and her head was hurting a little less.
“Wise choice,” he observed dryly.
Letting her mind focus once more, Sookie spent the next several hours ignoring the glares of all the women—and quite a few men—that projected nothing but hateful and rude things at her for the simple matter of sitting next to Eric all night. She also ignored the disgusting fantasies that practically every human in the place had running through their heads like some tawdry private peepshow. It was a little after midnight that Sookie's fishing expedition finally caught something of interest. She began to reel it in.
'I gotta find one … everything's ready…'
Focusing in the direction she was sure the thought came from, she began shifting through the morass of thoughts around her before she finally caught the silver clarion notes of the one she wanted. Closing her eyes, she tilted her head a bit and honed in.
'Need to pick a little one. They were pissed at the guy I got last time. Said the big ones were too dangerous. Just find a small one and get him alone in the parking lot. Guys are in the van with the nets and then we're out of here.'
Beside her, Eric had seen her abrupt shifting and noticed her sudden interest in the crowd. He waited silently until she turned to face him, her blue eyes electric with excitement, and asked, “Yes?”
“Remember our deal, right? You can't kill anyone?”
He raised a warning eyebrow, alert to a raw urgency building in his chest. Whatever she'd heard had to be bad enough that she felt she had to prelude with a reminder of his promise. She evidently thought he would deal with the threat physically. Eric nodded, “I remember. Now proceed.”
“See that girl over there in the schoolgirl outfit with the pigtails?”
“She's part of a team of drainers. Her friends are out in the parking lot in a van. She's supposed to lure a vampire out there to bite her, and, before he can, they'll ambush him with silver nets.”
His fangs snapping down, Eric ordered, “Go wait for me in my office.”
“Do as you're told,” he barked, as he pulled his phone from his pocket and began texting his underlings with orders. He noted that Sookie had wisely heard the firmness in his tone and obeyed him.
Five minutes later, Eric entered his office with the girl by the arm. He'd glamoured her so she was compliant. Moving to the back door, he opened it as Pam and Chow ushered in five men they'd captured from the van. Each wore the unmistakable blank look of glamouring, and thus stood perfectly still in the corner where his underlings placed them. Sookie looked decidedly uncomfortable as she shifted on the couch she was sitting on.
Taking a seat at his desk, Eric looked at Sookie and said gravely, “You have me in a precarious position, Sookie. You insist on no one being killed due to your gift, and yet these humans are responsible for the draining and final deaths of many of my kind according to the various scents of vampire blood Pam and Chow detected in their van. So tell me, Sookie, what would you have me do? I am sheriff and have obligations to my area and my race, mind you.”
He heard Pam shift behind him and knew she was annoyed he was discussing such a matter to Sookie and not simply acting, but he ignored her. He truly wanted to know what this little human would come up with.
Seeing the looks of displeasure on Pam's and Chow's face, Sookie ignored them as well, and focused on Eric. “Why don't you give them a few vials of vampire blood and send them on their way? Then—”
“Stupid human! You expect us to just—”
“Be silent, Pam!” Eric bellowed, before more gently indicating for Sookie to continue. “Go on.”
Taking a deep, steadying breath, Sookie clasped her hands tightly in her lap and suggested, “Give them some blood and send them on their way. Glamour them to go the way you want. You have vampires on the police force, right? Call and give them the license plate number and let them get pulled over. Being in the possession of V is a huge offense, right? Carries a minimum ten year penalty for anything more than a vial, if I remember correctly. Won't that take care of your problem? Gets them off the street and sends a message to other drainers. If you kill them, you'll have to cover it up and no one will know about it. No lesson learned. If no one knows about it, no one can be intimidated by what you've done.”
Leaning back in his chair, Eric smiled at Sookie. “As I said, Sookie, you are certainly a clever little thing. I will have to question them as to other drainers they might possibly know, of course, but after that I do believe your plan will do nicely.”
Sookie felt relief flood her as Eric told her to return to the main area and continue to scan for any more trouble. She knew that they would glamour the drainers like Bill had the Fellowship chauffeur that had tried to kidnap her in Dallas. They didn't need her for this.
Leaving his office, she returned to the stage and her seat. She watched as the waitress that had been serving her all night shoot daggers at her from the bar and shook her head with a tiny smile lit with her amusement. She'd easily caught the girl's thoughts all night and frankly wanted to tell the girl she was more than welcome to Eric, but frankly didn't have the energy to get into it with her. After a long hour, Pam walked up to her and said flatly, “Eric wishes to see you,” before walking off.
Making her way to the back office, Sookie was pleased to see that Eric was the only one in there and obviously he'd already finished with the drainers. Taking a seat on the couch opposite his desk, she asked, “Yes?”
“Did you hear anything else?”
“Nothing of importance. Just a bunch of nasty thoughts and delusions.”
Sighing, she said, “You have to know that quite a few of the people out there aren't quite right in the head. Most of them have Anne Rice fantasies going on. Almost every woman out there thinks you're her very own vampire prince that is going to sweep her off her feet and carry her off into the night for a happily ever after. Delusional.”
Laughing heartily, Eric confirmed, “You're right … delusional. I am no Prince Charming.”
“You're telling me.”
Now glaring at her, Eric continued, “Well, if you heard nothing else we can go over your contract and work schedule for this month.”
“You don't want me to listen in until closing?”
“I doubt there will be any more disturbances tonight, and you seem to be tired. If you wish to continue listening you may, but I thought you'd like to go home early.”
“Yes, I'd rather go home.”
Picking the contract up from his desk, Eric handed it to her. It was fairly simple, and he knew that despite her lack of formal education, she would understand it. Over the next 30 minutes he waited as she read over the eight page contract. When she'd finished the last page, and she raised her eyes and caught his, he asked, “Well?”
“That's a whole lot of writing for basically saying that I have to work for you for no less than two days a week and up to five for as long as you deem necessary, and entirely at your discretion. You make no specifications for holidays or vacation time. You can have me go anywhere to lend me out to anybody as you see fit, and, again, my only assurances are that I can't be engaged for more than a month at a time, and I get a two day notice for long distance trips that will take more than a week. Not to mention YOU would be my escort, not Bill. And I can't work for another vampire, not even Bill, without your permission. The only assurances are that no vampire under your jurisdiction can hurt me, and if I am hurt your insurance will cover the bills, and that you will provide protection and guards for me when you loan me out to other vamps. Eric, I may be new to all of this, but it doesn't take a genius to know this contract is shit. I'm not signing it.”
He'd known she wouldn't sign it, and, truthfully, he wouldn't have respected her if she had. He could always force her to sign it, surely, but that would do nothing for getting her into his bed willingly … or soon. He knew he was asking for more than she was willing to give, but he wanted to start out outrageously high so that he could negotiate her to where he wanted. “Did you perhaps notice the pay you would receive for signing this contract?”
“Yeah … $100,000 per annum, but it could be a million and I wouldn't agree. You're basically asking me to sign away my freedom to you for the rest of my life. Not. Gonna. Happen.”
Smirking, Eric leaned back in his chair. “What do you wish to change in the contract?”
“For starters, I want the right to approve or disapprove of any out of town jobs. You can't just send me around the world whenever it suits you.”
“I will agree with this stipulation unless it is a matter of life or death or at the command of my queen or the Council,” Eric said. 'Besides, soon she will be bound to me and will do as I say simply to please me.'
“You have a queen? And a Council?”
“Of course … perhaps one day you will meet her or be summoned by the Council, but for now we should stay focused on what is between us. What else do you contend with?”
“I want designated holidays off. Things like Christmas and Thanksgiving, and the option to take two weeks off during the summer.”
“Only if you pick up extra shifts to make up for time lost, and inform me of where you are going beforehand so that if an emergency comes up I can reach you. You must also be aware that, if an emergency does arise, I reserve the right to retrieve you.” He picked up a retractable pen on his desk and began to idly play with the clicker. The sound was deafening in the silence between them.
She shot him a look but he simply regarded her neutrally as he continued clicking. After considering it for a moment, Sookie decided it was fair. “Okay. I also want to be able to pick my vampire escort, as you said.”
“No.” He dropped the pen and rose, walking around his desk to lean against it now, arms folded resolutely as he pushed home his point.
“No. I will decide who will protect you when you go out of town and who will not. You will undoubtedly choose Bill, but there will be times when he is simply not enough protection. He is a young vampire and ruled almost entirely by his instincts. He will not be able to see to your protection properly because of this. In matters of security, I will always have the final say. Nonnegotiable.”
Seeing the determination in his eyes, and realizing he wouldn't budge, she conceded, “Okay. You can pick the escort, but I want to be able to bring along someone of my choosing. Bill, my brother, Sam, or anyone else I wish.”
After a moment of thought, he inclined his head, “Agreed.”
“Finally, I want to be able to work for anyone I want to, without your permission. As long as it doesn't interfere with my nights here, it should be up to me.”
Shaking his head, Eric replied, “That is where you are wrong. You are welcome to help your friends and family as you wish, but working for other vampires without my permission is not acceptable. This contract binds you to me legally and makes you part of my retinue. To the vampire world, that is important. It means that other vampires cannot kidnap you for their own uses without facing my wrath. I know you do not see it this way, but this contract actually protects you. Due to your aid in Dallas, it will not take long for more vampires to become aware of your gift and they will wish to make use of it. Once you sign this contract with me, it will put you under my formal protection, and none will try to harm or take you without facing dire consequences.”
Sookie stiffened in surprise, her voice subdued and fretful, “They could do that? They could take me like that?”
“But of course. Just because we have revealed ourselves, does not mean we are any less than what we were before. We are creatures of the night, Sookie, and we live life by our own laws. In vampire society, we take what we want if it is there for the taking. However, once you sign that contract you will no longer be fair game. I am unsure why Bill never had you sign such a contract with him to preserve your safety, but I will. Once we have agreed upon a contract and both of us have put our signature to it, I shall log it with the Council and your position in my retinue will be secure. You will formally be under my protection … and that is a powerful thing.”
Worrying the inside of her lip, Sookie mulled her situation. “Do I have a choice?”
“You can choose to agree to working for other vampires only with my permission, or you can choose to leave.”
“Some choice, but I guess I'll take it.”
Eric nodded. “Anything else?”
“Truthfully, I'm too tired to think right now. Like I said, I'm not used to lowering my shields like this and my head is killing me. Can you draw up a new contract, and have it sent to me tomorrow, and I can look at it more then?”
“Very well. For now, here is your work schedule for the month. Look over it and tell me if you have any scheduling issues, and remember I do not consider the hours you have pledged to the shifter issues. You must work those out with him on your own time.”
She shifted, her face reading exasperation as she took hold of the schedule he offered her. She noticed that he had arranged it so that one week she worked two days and the next three; always different nights to shake things up. Some nights together, some separate. There was also a note reminding her he could increase her nights to five should the need arise, as well as a reminder that he could engage her to listen to people during the day and merely report to him her findings at night. Looking at the dates she said, “Nothing comes to mind, but, again, I'm tired. I'll have to look at it more closely tomorrow after I've gotten some sleep.”
“Acceptable. I am a fair employer and will not make unfair demands of you. For now I shall escort you home … and then I believe you owe me a drink.”