Club Dead Chapter Six

We were silent in the elevator. As Alcide unlocked his apartment, I leaned against the wall. I was a mess: tired, conflicted, and agitated by the fracas with the biker and Debbie's vandalism.

I felt like apologizing, but I didn't know what for.

’’Good night,’’ I said, at the door to my room. ’’Oh, here. Thanks.’’ I shrugged out of his coat and held it out to him. He hung it over the back of one of the bar stools at the eat-in counter.

’’Need help with your zipper?’’ he asked.

’’It would be great if you could get it started.’’ I turned my back to him. He'd zipped it up the last couple of inches when I was getting dressed, and I appreciated his thinking of this before he vanished into his room.

I felt his big fingers against my back, and the little hiss of the zipper. Then something unexpected happened;I felt him touch me again.

I shivered all over as his fingers trailed down my skin.

I didn't know what to do.

I didn't know what I wanted to do.

I made myself rum to face him. His face was as uncertain as mine.

’’Worst possible time,’’ I said. ’’You're on the rebound. I'm looking for my boyfriend;granted, he's my unfaithful boyfriend, but still ...’’

’’Bad timing,’’ he agreed, and his hands settled on my shoulders. Then he bent down and kissed me. It took about a half a second for my arms to go around his waist and his tongue to slide into my mouth. He kissed soft. I wanted to run my fingers through his hair and find out how broad his chest was and if his butt was really as high and round as it looked in his pants ... oh, hell. I gently pushed back.

’’Bad timing,’’ I said. I flushed, realizing that with my dress half unzipped, Alcide could see my bra and the tops of my bosom easily. Well, it was good I had a pretty bra on.

’’Oh, God,’’ he said, having gotten an eyeful. He made a supreme effort and squeezed those green eyes shut. ’’Bad timing,’’ he agreed again. ’’Though I can hope that, real soon, it might seem like better timing.’’

I smiled. ’’Who knows?’’ I said, and stepped back into my room while I could still make myself move in that direction. After shutting the door gently, I hung up the red dress, pleased it still looked good and unstained. The sleeves were a disaster, with greasy fingerprints and a little blood on them. I sighed regretfully.

I'd have to flit from door to door to use the bathroom. I didn't want to be a tease, and my robe was definitely short, nylon, and pink. So I scooted, because I could hear Alcide rummaging around in the kitchen. What with one thing and another, I was in the little bathroom for a while. When I came out, all the lights in the apartment were off except the one in my bedroom. I closed the shades, feeling a little silly doing so since no other building on the block was five stories high. I put on my pink nightgown, and crawled in the bed to read a chapter of my romance by way of calming down. It was the one where the heroine finally beds the hero, so it didn't work too well, but I did stop thinking about the biker's skin burning from contact with the goblin, and about Debbie's malicious narrow face. And about the idea of Bill being tortured.

The love scene (actually, the se* scene) steered my mind more toward Alcide's warm mouth.

I switched off the bedside lamp after I'd put my bookmark in my book. I snuggled down in the bed and piled the covers high on top of me, and felt - finally - warm and safe.

Someone knocked at my window.

I let out a little shriek. Then, figuring who it must be, I yanked on my robe, belted it, and opened the shades.

Sure enough, Eric was floating just outside. I switched on the lamp again, and struggled with the unfamiliar window.

’’What the hell do you want?’’ I was saying, as Alcide dashed into the room.

I barely spared him a glance over my shoulder. ’’You better leave me alone and let me get some sleep,’’ I told Eric, not caring if I sounded like an old scold, ’’and you better stop showing up outside places in the middle of the night and expecting me to let you in!’’

’’Sookie, let me in,’’ Eric said.

’’No! Well, actually, this is Alcide's place. Alcide, what you want to do?’’

I turned to look at him for the first time, and tried not to let my mouth fall open. Alcide slept in those long drawstring pants, period. Whoa. If he'd been shirtless thirty minutes before, the timing might have seemed just perfect.

’’What do you want, Eric?’’ Alcide asked, much more calmly than I had done.

’’We need to talk,’’ Eric said, sounding impatient.

’’If I let him in now, can I rescind it?’’ Alcide asked me.

’’Sure.’’ I grinned at Eric. ’’Any moment, you can rescind it.’’

’’Okay. You can come in, Eric.’’ Alcide took the screen off the window, and Eric slid in feetfirst. I eased the window shut behind him. Now I was cold again. There was gooseflesh all over Alcide's chest, too, and his nipples ... I forced myself to keep an eye on Eric.

Eric gave both of us a sharp look, his blue eyes as brilliant as sapphires in the lamplight. ’’What have you found out, Sookie?’’

’’The vampires here do have him.’’

Eric's eyes may have widened a little, but that was his only reaction. He appeared to be thinking intently.

’’Isn't it a little dangerous for you to be on Edgington's turf, unannounced?’’ Alcide asked. He was doing his leaning-against-the-wall thing again. He and Eric were both big men and the room really seemed crowded all of a sudden. Maybe their egos were using up all the oxygen.

’’Oh, yes,’’ Eric said. ’’Very dangerous.’’ He smiled radiantly.

I wondered if they'd notice if I went back to bed. I yawned. Two pairs of eyes swung to focus on me. ’’Anything else you need, Eric?’’ I asked.

’’Do you have anything else to report?’’

’’Yes, they've tortured him.’’

’’Then they won't let him go.’’

Of course not. You wouldn't let loose a vampire you'd tortured. You'd be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life. I hadn't thought that through, but I could see its truth.

’’You're going to attack?’’ I wanted to be nowhere around Jackson when that happened.

’’Let me think on it,’’ Eric said. ’’You are going back to the bar tomorrow night?’’

’’Yes, Russell invited us specifically.’’

’’Sookie attracted his attention tonight,’’ Alcide said.

’’But that's perfect!’’ Eric said. ’’Tomorrow night, sit with the Edgington crew and pick their brains, Sookie.’’

’’Well, that would never have occurred to me, Eric,’’ I said, wonderingly. ’’Gosh, I'm glad you woke me up tonight to explain that to me.’’

’’No problem,’’ Eric said. ’’Anytime you want me to wake you up, Sookie, you have only to say.’’

I sighed. ’’Go away, Eric. Good night again, Alcide.’’

Alcide straightened, waiting for Eric to go back out the window. Eric waited for Alcide to leave.

’’I rescind your invitation into my apartment,’’ Alcide said, and abruptly Eric walked to the window, reopened it, and launched himself out. He was scowling. Once outside, he regained his composure and smiled at us, waving as he vanished downward.

Alcide slammed the window shut and let the blinds back down.

’’No, there are lots of men who don't like me at all,’’ I told him. He'd been easy to read that time, all right.

He gave me an odd look. ’’Is that so?’’

’’Yes, it is.’’

’’If you say so.’’

’’Most people, regular people, that is ... they think I'm nuts.’’

’’Is that right?’’

’’Yes, that's right! And it makes them very nervous to have me serve them.’’

He began laughing, a reaction that was so far from what I had intended that I had no idea what to say next.

He left the room, still more or less chuckling to himself.

Well, that had been weird. I turned out the lamp and took off the robe, tossing it across the foot of the bed. I snuggled between the sheets again, the blanket and spread pulled up to my chin. It was cold and bleak outside, but here I was, finally, warm and safe and alone. Really, really alone.


The next morning, Alcide was already gone when I got up. Construction and surveying people get going early, naturally, and I was used to sleeping late because of my job at the bar and because I hung around with a vampire. If I wanted to spend time with Bill, it had to be at night, obviously.

There was a note propped up on the coffeepot. I had a slight headache since I am not used to alcohol and I'd had two drinks the night before - the headache was not quite a hangover, but I wasn't my normal cheerful self, either. I squinted at the tiny printing.

’’Running errands. Make yourself at home. I'll be back in the afternoon.’’

For a minute I felt disappointed and deflated. Then I got a hold of myself. It wasn't like he'd called me up and scheduled this as a romantic weekend, or like we really knew each other. Alcide had had my company foisted on him. I shrugged, and poured myself a cup of coffee. I made some toast and turned on the news. After I'd watched one cycle of CNN headlines, I decided to shower. I took my time. What else was there to do?

I was in danger of experiencing an almost unknown state - boredom.

At home, there was always something to do, though it might not be something I particularly enjoyed. If you have a house, there's always some little job waiting for your attention. And when I was in Bon Temps, there was the library to go to, or the dollar store, or the grocery. Since I'd taken up with Bill, I'd also been running errands for him that could only be done in the daytime when offices were open.

As Bill crossed my mind, I was plucking a stray hair from my eyebrow line, leaning over the sink to peer in the bathroom mirror. I had to lay down the tweezers and sit on the edge of the tub. My feelings for Bill were so confused and conflicting, I had no hope of sorting them out anytime soon. But knowing he was in pain, in trouble, and I didn't know how to find him - that was a lot to bear. I had never supposed that our romance would go smoothly. It was an interspecies relationship, after all. And Bill was a lot older than me. But this aching chasm I felt now that he was gone - that, I hadn't ever imagined.

I pulled on some jeans and a sweater and made my bed. I lined up all my makeup in the bathroom I was using, and hung the towel just so. I would have straightened up Alcide's room if I hadn't felt it would be sort of impertinent to handle his things. So I read a few chapters of my book, and then decided I simply could not sit in the apartment any longer.

I left a note for Alcide telling him I was taking a walk, and then I rode down in the elevator with a man in casual clothes, lugging a golf bag. I refrained from saying, ’’Going to play golf?’’ and confined myself to mentioning that it was a good day to be outside. It was bright and sunny, clear as a bell, and probably in the fifties. It was a happy day, with all the Christmas decorations looking bright in the sun, and lots of shopping traffic.

I wondered if Bill would be home for Christmas. I wondered if Bill could go to church with me on Christmas Eve, or if he would. I thought of the new Skil saw I'd gotten Jason;I'd had it on layaway at Sears in Monroe for months, and just picked it up a week ago. I had gotten a toy for each of Arlene's kids, and a sweater for Arlene. I really didn't have anyone else to buy a gift for, and that was pathetic. I decided I'd get Sam a CD this year. The idea cheered me. I love to give presents. This would have been my first Christmas with a boyfriend ...

Oh, hell, I'd come full cycle, just like Headline News.

’’Sookie!’’ called a voice.

Startled out of my dreary round of thoughts, I looked around to see that Janice was waving at me out of the door of her shop, on the other side of the street. I'd unconsciously walked the direction I knew. I waved back at her.

’’Come on over!’’ she said.

I went down to the corner and crossed with the light. The shop was busy, and Jarvis and Corinne had their hands full with customers.

’’Christmas parties tonight,’’ Janice explained, while her hands were busy rolling up a young matron's black shoulder-length hair. ’’We're not usually open after noon on Saturdays.’’ The young woman, whose hands were decorated with an impressive set of diamond rings, kept riffling through a copy of Southern Living while Janice worked on her head.

’’Does this sound good?’’ she asked Janice. ’’Ginger meatballs?’’ One glowing fingernail pointed to the recipe.

’’Kind of oriental?’’ Janice asked.

’’Um, sort of.’’ She read the recipe intently. ’’No one else would be serving them,’’ she muttered. ’’You could stick toothpicks in 'em.’’

’’Sookie, what are you doing today?’’ Janice asked, when she was sure her customer was thinking about ground beef.

’’Just hanging out,’’ I said. I shrugged. ’’Your brother's out running errands, his note said.’’

’’He left you a note to tell you what he was doing? Girl, you should be proud. That man hasn't set pen to paper since high school.’’ She gave me a sideways look and grinned. ’’You all have a good time last night?’’

I thought it over. ’’Ah, it was okay,’’ I said hesitantly. The dancing had been fun, anyway.

Janice burst out laughing. ’’If you have to think about it that hard, it must not have been a perfect evening.’’

’’Well, no,’’ I admitted. ’’There was like a little fight in the bar, and a man had to be evicted. And then, Debbie was there.’’

’’How did her engagement party go?’’

’’There was quite a crowd at her table,’’ I said. ’’But she came over after a while and asked a lot of questions.’’ I smiled reminiscently. ’’She sure didn't like seeing Alcide with someone else!’’

Janice laughed again.

’’Who got engaged?’’ asked her customer, having decided against the recipe.

’’Oh, Debbie Pelt? Used to go with my brother?’’ Janice said.

’’I know her,’’ said the black-haired woman, pleasure in her voice. ’’She used to date your brother, Alcide? And now she's marrying someone else?’’

’’Marrying Charles Clausen,’’ Janice said, nodding gravely. ’’You know him?’’

’’Sure I do! We went to high school together. He's marrying Debbie Pelt? Well, better him than your brother,’’ Black Hair said confidentially.

’’I'd already figured that out,’’ Janice said. ’’You know something I don't know, though?’’

’’That Debbie, she's into some weird stuff,’’ Black Hair said, raising her eyebrows to mark deep significance.

’’Like what?’’ I asked, hardly breathing as I waited to hear what would come out. Could it be that this woman actually knew about shape-shifting, about werewolves? My eyes met Janice's and I saw the same apprehension in them.

Janice knew about her brother. She knew about his world.

And she knew I did, too.

’’Devil worship, they say,’’ Black Hair said. ’’Witchcraft.’’

We both gaped at her reflection in the mirror. She had gotten the reaction she'd been looking for. She gave a satisfied nod. Devil worship and witchcraft weren't synonymous, but I wasn't going to argue with this woman;this was the wrong time and place.

’’Yes, ma'am, that's what I hear. At every full moon, she and some friends of hers go out in the woods and do stuff. No one seems to know exactly what,’’ she admitted.

Janice and I exhaled simultaneously.

’’Oh, my goodness,’’ I said weakly.

’’Then my brother's well out of a relationship with her. We don't hold with such doings,’’ Janice said righteously.

’’Of course not,’’ I agreed.

We didn't meet each other's eyes.

After that little passage, I made motions about leaving, but Janice asked me what I was wearing that night.

’’Oh, it's kind of a champagne color,’’ I said. ’’Kind of a shiny beige.’’

’’Then the red nails won't do,’’ Janice said. ’’Corinne!’’

Despite all my protests, I left the shop with bronze finger- and toenails, and Jarvis worked on my hair again. I tried to pay Janice, but the most she would let me do was tip her employees.

’’I've never been pampered so much in my life,’’ I told her.

’’What do you do, Sookie?’’ Somehow that hadn't come up the day before.

’’I'm a barmaid,’’ I said.

’’That is a change from Debbie,’’ Janice said. She looked thoughtful.

’’Oh, yeah? What does Debbie do?’’

’’She's a legal assistant.’’

Debbie definitely had an educational edge. I'd never been able to manage college;financially, it would have been rough, though I could've found a way, I guess. But my disability had made it hard enough to get out of high school. A telepathic teenager has an extremely hard time of it, let me tell you. And I had so little control then. Every day had been full of dramas - the dramas of other kids. Trying to concentrate on listening in class, taking tests in a roomful of buzzing brains ... the only thing I'd ever excelled in was homework.

Janice didn't seem to be too concerned that I was a barmaid, which was an occupation not guaranteed to impress the families of those you dated.

I had to remind myself all over again that this setup with Alcide was a temporary arrangement he'd never asked for, and that after I'd discovered Bill's whereabouts - right, Sookie, remember Bill, your boyfriend? - I'd never see Alcide again. Oh, he might drop into Merlotte's, if he felt like getting off the interstate on his way from Shreveport to Jackson, but that would be all.

Janice was genuinely hoping I would be a permanent member of her family. That was so nice of her. I liked her a lot. I almost found myself wishing that Alcide really liked me, that there was a real chance of Janice being my sister-in-law.

They say there's no harm in daydreaming, but there is.

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