Home > Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11)(8)

Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11)(8)
Author: Charlaine Harris

I preferred to think of it as having a more evolved sense of privacy.

Finally, Pam and Eric came into the living room, and Immanuel and I sat forward on the edge of our seats, not knowing what to expect. Though the two vampires were expressionless, their defensive body language let me know that they were ashamed of their loss of control.

They'd begun healing already, I noticed with some envy. Eric's hair was disheveled and one shirt sleeve was torn off. Pam's dress was ripped, and she was carrying her shoes because she'd broken a heel.

Eric opened his mouth to speak, but I jumped in first.

"I don't know what that was about," I said, "but I'm too tired to care. You two are liable for anything you broke, and I want you to leave this house right now. I'll rescind your invitation, if I have to."

Eric looked rebellious. I was sure he'd planned on spending the night at my place. This night, though, that was not gonna happen.

I'd seen headlights coming up the drive, and I was sure Claude and Dermot were here. I couldn't have fairies and vampires in the same house at the same time. Both were strong and ferocious, but vampires literally found fairies irresistible, like cats and catnip. I wasn't up to another struggle.

"Out the front door," I said, when they didn't move immediately. "Shoo! Thanks for the haircut, Immanuel. Eric, I appreciate your thinking about my hair care needs." (I might have said this with more than a touch of sarcasm.) "It would have been nice if you had thought a little longer before you trashed my kitchen."

Without more ado, Pam beckoned to Immanuel, and they went out the door together, Immanuel looking very faintly amused. Pam gave me a long look as she passed me. I knew it was meant to be significant, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out what she was trying to tell me.

Eric said, "I would hold you while you sleep. Were you hurt? I'm sorry." He seemed oddly nonplussed.

At another time I would have accepted this rare apology, but not tonight. "You need to go home now, Eric. We'll talk when you can control yourself."

That was a huge rebuke to a vampire, and his back stiffened. For a moment I thought I'd have another fight on my hands. But Eric stepped out the front door, finally. When he was on the porch, he said, "I'll talk to you soon, my wife." I shrugged. Whatever. I was too tired and too aggravated to summon up any kind of loving expression. I think Eric got in the car with Pam and the hairdresser for the drive back to Shreveport. Possibly he was too battered to fly. What the hell was up with Pam and Eric?

I tried to tell myself it was not my problem, but I had a sinking feeling that it really, really was.

Claude and Dermot came in the back a moment later, ostentatiously sniffing the air.

"The smell of smoke and vampires," Claude said, with a pronounced rolling of the eyes. "And your kitchen looks like a bear came in search of honey."

"I don't know how you stand it," Dermot said. "They smell bitter and sweet at the same time. I don't know if I like it or hate it." He held his hand over his nose dramatically. "And do I detect a trace of burned hair?"

"Fellas, chill," I said wearily. I gave them the condensed version of the firebombing at Merlotte's and the fighting in my kitchen. "So just give me a hug and let me go to bed without any more vampire comments," I said.

"Do you want us to sleep with you, Niece?" Dermot asked, in the flowery way of the old fae, the ones who didn't spend that much time with humans. The nearness of one fairy to another is both healing and soothing. Even with as little fairy blood as I had, I found the proximity of both Claude and Dermot comforting. I hadn't realized that when I'd first met Claude and his sister Claudine, but the longer I'd known them and the more they'd touched me, the better I'd felt when they were near. When my great-grandfather Niall had embraced me, I'd felt sheer love. And no matter what Niall had done, or how dubious his decisions were, I felt that love all over again when I was near him. I had a moment's regret that I might not ever see Niall again, but I just didn't have any remaining emotional energy. "Thanks, Dermot. But I think I better fall into bed by myself tonight. You guys sleep well."

"And you, too, Sookie," Claude told me. Dermot's courtesy was rubbing off on my grumpy cousin.

I woke in the morning to the sound of knocking at the door. Rumple-headed and bleary, I dragged myself through the living room and looked through the peephole. Sam.

I opened the door and yawned in his face. "Sam, what can I do for you? Come on in."

His glance flickered over the crowded living room, and I could see him struggling with a smile. "Aren't we still going to Shreveport?" he asked.

"Oh my gosh!" Suddenly I felt more awake. "My last thought when I fell asleep last night was that you wouldn't be able to go because of the fire at the bar. You can? You want to?"

"Yep. The fire marshal talked to my insurance company, and they've started the paperwork. In the meantime, Danny and I hauled out the burned table and the chairs, Terry's been working on the floor, and Antoine's been checking that the kitchen's in good shape. I've already made sure we've got more fire extinguishers ready to go." For a long moment, his smile faltered. "If I have any customers to serve. People aren't likely to want to come to Merlotte's if they think they might get incinerated."

I didn't exactly blame folks for worrying about that. We hadn't needed the incident of the night before, not at all. It might hasten the decline of Sam's business.

"So they need to catch whoever did it," I said, trying to sound positive. "Then people will know it's safe to come back, and we'll be busy again."

Claude came downstairs then, giving us Surly. "Noisy down here," he muttered as he passed on his way to the hall bathroom. Even slouching around in rumpled jeans, Claude walked with a grace that drew attention to his beauty. Sam gave an unconscious sigh and shook his head slightly as his eyes followed Claude, gliding down the hall as though he had ball bearings in his hip joints.

"Hey," I said, after I heard the bathroom door shut. "Sam! He doesn't have anything on you."

"Some guys," Sam began, looking abashed, and then he stopped. "Aw, forget it."

I couldn't, of course, not when I could tell directly from Sam's brain that he was--not exactly envious, but rueful, about Claude's physical attraction, though Sam knew as well as anyone that Claude was a pain in the butt.

I've been reading men's minds for years, and they're more like women than you would think, really, unless you're talking trucks. I started to tell Sam that he was plenty attractive, that women in the bar mooned over him more than he thought; but in the end, I kept my mouth shut. I had to let Sam have the privacy of his own thoughts. Because of his shifter nature, most of what was in Sam's head remained in Sam's head . . . more or less. I could get the odd thought, the general mood, but seldom anything more specific.

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