Club Dead Chapter Ten

There was quite a crowd in the bedroom, I noticed. Eric had gotten me situated on the bed, which was so high, I might need a stepstool to get down. But it would be convenient for the healing, I had heard Russell comment, and I was beginning to worry about what constituted ’’the healing.’’ The last time I'd been involved in a vampire ’’healing,’’ the treatment had been what you might call nontraditional.

’’What's gonna happen?’’ I asked Eric, who was standing at the side of the bed on my left, non-wounded, side.

But it was the vampire who had taken his place to my right who answered. He had a long, horsy face, and his blond eyebrows and eyelashes were almost invisible against his pallor. His bare chest was hairless, too. He was wearing a pair of pants, which I suspected were vinyl. Even in the winter, they must be, um, unbreathing. I wouldn't like to peel those suckers off. This vamp's saving grace was his lovely straight pale hair, the color of white corn.

’’Miss Stackhouse, this is Ray Don,’’ Russell said.

’’How de do.’’ Good manners would make you welcome anywhere, my gran had always told me.

’’Pleased to meet you,’’ he responded correctly. He had been raised right, too, though no telling when that had been. ’’I'm not going to ask you how you're doing, cause I can see you got a great big hole in your side.’’

’’Kind of ironic, isn't it, that it was the human that got staked,’’ I said socially. I hoped I would see that doctor again, because I sure wanted to ask him what he'd given me. It was worth its weight in gold.

Ray Don gave me a dubious look, and I realized I'd just shot out of his comfort zone, conversationally. Maybe I could give Ray Don a Word of the Day calendar, like Arlene gave me every Christmas.

’’I'll tell you what's going to happen, Sookie,’’ Eric said. ’’You know, when we start to feed and our fangs come out, they release a little anticoagulant?’’


’’And when we are ready to finish feeding, the fangs release a little coagulant and a little trace of the, the - ’’

’’Stuff that helps you all heal so fast?’’

’’Yes, exactly.’’

’’So, Ray Don is going to what?’’

’’Ray Don, his nest mates say, has an extra supply of all these chemicals in his body. This is his talent.’’

Ray Don beamed at me. He was proud of that.

’’So he will start the process on a volunteer, and when he has fed, he will begin cleaning your wound and healing it.’’

What Eric had left out of this narrative was that at some point during this process, the stake was going to have to come out, and that no drug in the world could keep that from hurting like a son of a bitch. I realized that in one of my few moments of clarity.

’’Okay,’’ I said. ’’Let's get the show on the road.’’

The volunteer turned out to be a thin blond human teenager, who was no taller than me and probably no wider in the shoulders. He seemed to be quite willing. Ray Don gave him a big kiss before he bit him, which I could have done without, since I'm not into public displays of carnal affection. (When I say ’’big,’’ I don't mean a loud smack, but the intense, moaning, tonsil-sucking kind.) When that was done, to both their satisfactions, Blondie inclined his head to one side, and the taller Ray Don sank his fangs in. There was much cleaving, and much panting - and even to drug-addled me, Ray Don's vinyl pants didn't leave enough to the imagination.

Eric watched without apparent reaction. Vampires seem, as a whole, to be extremely tolerant of any se*ual preference;I guess there aren't that many taboos when you've been alive a few hundred years.

When Ray Don drew back from Blondie and turned to face the bed, he had a bloody mouth. My euphoria evaporated as Eric instantly sat on the bed and pinned my shoulders. The Big Bad Thing was coming.

’’Look at me,’’ he demanded. ’’Look at me, Sookie.’’

I felt the bed indent, and I assumed Ray Don was kneeling beside it and leaning over to my wound.

There was a jar in the torn flesh of my side that jolted me down to the marrow of my bones. I felt the blood leave my face and felt hysteria bubbling up my throat like my blood was leaving the wound.

’’Don't, Sookie! Look at me!’’ Eric said urgently.

I looked down to see that Ray Don had grabbed the stake.

Next he would ...

I screamed over and over, until I didn't have the energy. I met Eric's eyes as I felt Ray Don's mouth sucking at the wound. Eric was holding my hands, and I was digging my nails into him like we were doing something else. He won't mind, I thought, as I realized I'd drawn blood.

And sure enough, he didn't. ’’Let go,’’ he advised me, and I loosened my grip on his hands. ’’No, not of me,’’ he said, smiling. ’’You can hold on to me as long as you want. Let go of the pain, Sookie. Let go. You need to drift away.’’

It was the first time I had relinquished my will to someone else. As I looked at him, it became easy, and I retreated from the suffering and uncertainty of this strange place.

The next thing I knew, I was awake. I was tucked in the bed, lying on my back, my formerly beautiful dress removed. I was still wearing my beige lace underwear, which was good. Eric was in the bed with me, which was not. He was really making a habit of this. He was lying on his side, his arm draped over me, one leg thrown over mine. His hair was tangled with my hair, and the strands were almost indistinguishable, the color was so similar. I contemplated that for a while, in a sort of misty, drifting state.

Eric was having downtime. He was in that absolutely immobile state into which vampires retreat when they have nothing else to do. It refreshes them, I think, reduces the wear and tear of the world that ceaselessly passes them by, year after year, full of war and famine and inventions that they must learn how to master, changing mores and conventions and styles that they must adopt in order to fit in. I pulled down the covers to check out my side. I was still in pain, but it was greatly reduced. There was a large circle of scar tissue on the site of the wound. It was hot and shiny and red and somehow glossy.

’’It's much better,’’ Eric said, and I gasped. I hadn't felt him rouse from his suspended animation.

Eric was wearing silk boxers. I would have figured him for a Jockey man.

’’Thank you, Eric.’’ I didn't care for how shaky I sounded, but an obligation is an obligation.

’’For what?’’ His hand gently stroked my stomach.

’’For standing by me in the club. For coming here with me. For not leaving me alone with all these people.’’

’’How grateful are you?’’ he whispered, his mouth hovering over mine. His eyes were very alert now, and his gaze was boring into mine.

’’That kind of ruins it, when you say something like that,’’ I said, trying to keep my voice gentle. ’’You shouldn't want me to have se* with you just because I owe you.’’

’’I don't really care why you have se* with me, as long as you do it,’’ he said, equally gently. His mouth was on mine then. Try as I might to stay detached, I wasn't too successful. For one thing, Eric had had hundreds of years to practice his kissing technique, and he'd used them to good advantage. I snuck my hands up to his shoulders, and I am ashamed to say I responded. As sore and tired as my body was, it wanted what it wanted, and my mind and will were running far behind. Eric seemed to have six hands, and they were everywhere, encouraging my body to have its way. A finger slid under the elastic of my (minimal) panties, and glided right into me.

I made a noise, and it was not a noise of rejection. The finger began moving in a wonderful rhythm. Eric's mouth seemed bent on sucking my tongue down his throat. My hands were enjoying the smooth skin and the muscles that worked underneath it.

Then the window flew open, and Bubba crawled in.

’’Miss Sookie! Mr. Eric! I tracked you down!’’ Bubba was proud.

’’Oh, good for you, Bubba,’’ Eric said, ending the kiss. I clamped my hand on his wrist, and pulled his hand away. He allowed me to do it. I am nowhere near as strong as the weakest vampire.

’’Bubba, have you been here the whole time? Here in Jackson?’’ I asked, once I had some wits in my head. It was a good thing Bubba had come in, though Eric didn't think so.

’’Mr. Eric told me to stick with you,’’ Bubba said simply. He settled into a low chair tastefully upholstered in flowered material. He had a dark lock of hair falling over his forehead, and he was wearing a gold ring on every finger. ’’You get hurt bad at that club, Miss Sookie?’’

’’It's a lot better now,’’ I said.

’’I'm sorry I didn't do my job, but that little critter guarding the door wouldn't let me in. He didn't seem to know who I was, if you can believe that.’’

Since Bubba himself hardly remembered who he was, and had a real fit when he did, maybe it wasn't too surprising that a goblin wouldn't be current on American popular music.

’’But I saw Mr. Eric carrying you out, so I followed you.’’

’’Thank you, Bubba. That was real smart.’’

He smiled, in a slack and dim sort of way. ’’Miss Sookie, what you doing in bed with Mr. Eric if Bill is your boyfriend?’’

’’That's a real good question, Bubba,’’ I said. I tried to sit up, but I couldn't do it. I made a little pain sound, and Eric cursed in another language.

’’I am going to give her blood, Bubba,’’ Eric said. ’’Let me tell you what I need you to do.’’

’’Sure,’’ Bubba said agreeably.

’’Since you got over the wall and into the house without being caught, I need you to search this estate. We think Bill is here somewhere. They are keeping him prisoner. Don't try to free him. This is an order. Come back here and tell us when you have found him. If they see you, don't run. Just don't say anything. Nothing. Not about me, or Sookie, or Bill. Nothing more than, 'Hi, my name is Bubba.'’’

’’Hi, my name is Bubba.’’


’’Hi, my name is Bubba.’’

’’Yes. That's fine. Now, you sneak, and you be quiet and invisible.’’

Bubba smiled at us. ’’Yes, Mr. Eric. But after that, I gotta go find me some food. I'm mighty hungry.’’

’’Okay, Bubba. Go search now.’’

Bubba scrambled back out the window, which was on the second story. I wondered how he was going to get to the ground, but if he'd gotten into the window, I was sure he could get out of it.

’’Sookie,’’ Eric said, right in my ear. ’’We could have a long argument about you taking my blood, and I know everything you would say. But the fact is, dawn is coming. I don't know if you will be allowed to stay the day here or not. I will have to find shelter, here or elsewhere. I want you strong and able to defend yourself;at least able to move quickly.’’

’’I know Bill is here,’’ I said, after I'd thought this over for a moment. ’’And no matter what we almost just did - thank God for Bubba - I need to find Bill. The best time to get him out of here would be while all you vampires are asleep. Can he move at all during the daytime?’’

’’If he knows he is in great danger, he may be able to stagger,’’ Eric said, slowly and thoughtfully. ’’Now I am even more sure you will need my blood, because you need strength. He will need to be covered thoroughly. You will need to take the blanket off this bed;it's thick. How will you get him out of here?’’

’’That's where you come in,’’ I said. ’’After we do this blood thing, you need to go get me a car - a car with a great big trunk, like a Lincoln or a Caddy. And you need to get the keys to me. And you'll need to sleep somewhere else. You don't want to be here when they wake up and find their prisoner is gone.’’ Eric's hand was resting quietly on my stomach, and we were still wrapped up together in the bedding. But the situation felt completely different.

’’Sookie, where will you take him?’’

’’An underground place,’’ I said uncertainly. ’’Hey, maybe Alcide's parking garage! That's better than being out in the open.’’

Eric sat up against the headboard. The silk boxers were royal blue. He spread his legs and I could see up the leg hole. Oh, Lord. I had to close my eyes. He laughed.

’’Sit up with your back against my chest, Sookie. That will make you more comfortable.’’

He carefully eased me up against him, my back to his chest, and wrapped his arms around me. It was like leaning against a firm, cool, pillow. His right arm vanished, and I heard a little crunch sound. Then his wrist appeared in front of my face, blood running from the two wounds in his skin.

’’This will cure you of everything,’’ Eric said.

I hesitated, then derided myself for my foolish hesitation. I knew that the more of Eric's blood I had in me, the more he would know me. I knew that it would give him some kind of power over me. I knew that I would be stronger for a long time, and given how old Eric was, I would be very strong. I would heal, and I would feel wonderful. I would be more attractive. This was why vampires were preyed upon by Drainers, humans who worked in teams to capture vamps, chain them with silver, and drain their blood into vials, which sold for varying sums on the black market. Two hundred dollars had been the going price for one vial last year;God knows what Eric's blood would bring, since he was so old. Proving that provenance would definitely be a problem for the Drainer. Draining was an extremely hazardous occupation, and it was also extremely illegal.

Eric was giving me a great gift.

I have never been what you would call squeamish, thank goodness. I closed my mouth over the little wounds, and I sucked.

Eric moaned, and I could tell quickly that he was once again pleased to be in such close contact. He began to move a little, and there wasn't a lot I could do about it. His left arm was keeping me firmly clamped against him, and his right arm was, after all, feeding me. It was still hard not to be icked out by the process. But Eric was definitely having a good time, and since with every pull I felt better, it was hard to argue with myself that this was a bad thing to be doing. I tried not to think, and I tried not to move myself in response. I remembered the time I'd taken Bill's blood because I needed extra strength, and I remembered Bill's reaction.

Eric pressed against me even harder, and suddenly he said, ’’Ohhhhh,’’ and relaxed all over. I felt wetness against my back, and I took one deep, last draw. Eric groaned again, a deep and guttural sound, and his mouth trailed down the side of my neck.

’’Don't bite me,’’ I said. I was holding on to the remnants of my sanity with difficulty. What had excited me, I told myself, was my memory of Bill;his reaction when I'd bitten him, his intense arousal. Eric just happened to be here. I couldn't have se* with a vampire, especially Eric, just because I found him attractive - not when there would be such dire consequences. I was just too strung out to enumerate those consequences to myself. I was an adult, I told myself sternly;true adults don't have se* just because the other person is skilled and pretty.

Eric's fangs scraped my shoulder.

I launched myself out of that bed like a rocket. Intending to locate a bathroom, I flung open the door to find the short brunette vampire, the one with the curly hair, standing just outside, his left arm draped with clothes, his right raised to knock.

’’Well, look at you,’’ he said, smiling. And he certainly was looking. He burned his candle at both ends, apparently.

’’You needed to talk to me?’’ I leaned against the door frame, doing my best to look wan and frail.

’’Yes, after we cut your beautiful dress off, Russell figured you'd need some clothes. I happened to have these in my closet, and since we're the same height ...’’

’’Oh,’’ I said faintly. I'd never shared clothes with a guy. ’’Well, thank you so much. This is very kind of you.’’ And it was. He'd brought some sweats (powder blue) and socks, and a silk bathrobe, and even some fresh panties. I didn't want to think about that too closely.

’’You seem better,’’ the small man said. His eyes were admiring, but not in any real personal way. Maybe I'd overestimated my charms.

’’I am very shaky,’’ I said quietly. ’’I was up because I was on my way to the bathroom.’’

Curly's brown eyes flared, and I could tell he was looking at Eric over my shoulder. This view definitely was more to his taste, and his smile became frankly inviting. ’’Leif, would you like to share my coffin today?’’ he asked, practically batting his eyelashes.

I didn't dare turn to look at Eric. There was a patch on my back that was still wet. I was suddenly disgusted with myself. I'd had thoughts about Alcide, and more than had thoughts about Eric. I was not pleased with my moral fiber. It was no excuse that I knew Bill had been unfaithful to me, or at least it wasn't much of an excuse. It was probably also not an excuse that being with Bill had accustomed me to regular, spectacular se*. Or not much of an excuse.

It was time to pull my moral socks up and behave myself. Just deciding that made me feel better.

’’I have to run an errand for Sookie,’’ Eric was telling the curly-haired vamp. ’’I am not sure I'll return before daybreak, but if I do, you can be sure I'll seek you out.’’ Eric was flirting back. While all this repartee was flying around me, I pulled on the silk robe, which was black and pink and white, all flowers. It was really outstanding. Curly spared me a glance, and seemed more interested than he had when I'd just appeared in my undies.

’’Yum,’’ he said simply.

’’Again, thanks,’’ I said. ’’Could you tell me where the nearest bathroom is?’’

He pointed down the hall to a half-open door.

’’Excuse me,’’ I said to both of them, and reminded myself to walk slowly and carefully, as if I was still in pain, as I made my way down the hall. Past the bathroom, by maybe two doors, I could see the head of the staircase. Okay, I knew the way out now. That was actually a comfort.

The bathroom was just a regular old bathroom. It was full of the stuff that usually clutters bathrooms: hair dryers, hot curlers, deodorant, shampoo, styling gel. Some makeup. Brushes and combs and razors.

Though the counter was clean and orderly, it was apparent several people shared the room. I was willing to bet Russell Edgington's personal bathroom looked nothing like this one. I found some bobby pins and secured my hair on top of my head, and I took the quickest shower on record. Since my hair had just been washed that morning, which now seemed years ago and took forever to dry besides, I was glad to skip it in favor of scrubbing my skin vigorously with the scented soap in the built-in dish. There were clean towels in the closet, which was a relief.

I was back in the bedroom within fifteen minutes. Curly was gone, Eric was dressed, and Bubba was back.

Eric did not say one word about the embarrassing incident that had taken place between us. He eyed the robe appreciatively but silently.

’’Bubba has scoped out the territory, Sookie,’’ Eric said, clearly quoting.

Bubba was smiling his slightly lopsided smile. He was pleased with himself. ’’Miss Sookie, I found Bill,’’ he said triumphantly. ’’He ain't in such good shape, but he's alive.’’

I sank into a chair with no forewarning. I was just lucky it was behind me. My back was still straight - but all of a sudden, I was sitting instead of standing. It was one more strange sensation in a night full of them.

When I was able to think of anything else, I noticed vaguely that Eric's expression was a bewildering blend of things: pleasure, regret, anger, satisfaction. Bubba just looked happy.

’’Where is he?’’ My voice didn't even sound like my own.

’’There's a big building in back of here, like a four-car garage, but it's got apartments on top of it and a room to the side.’’

Russell liked to keep his help handy.

’’Are there other buildings? Could I get confused?’’

’’There's a swimming pool, Miss Sookie, and it's got a little building right by it for people to change into their bathing suits. And there's a great big toolshed, I think that's what it's for, but it's separate from the garage.’’

Eric said, ’’What part of the garage is he being kept in?’’

Bubba said, ’’The room to the right side. I think maybe the garage used to be stables, and the room is where they kept the saddles and stuff. It isn't too big.’’

’’How many are in there with him?’’ Eric was asking some good questions. I could not get over Bubba's assurance that Bill was still alive and that I was very close to him.

’’They got three in there right now, Mr. Eric, two men and one woman. All three are vamps. She's the one with the knife.’’

I shrank inside myself. ’’Knife,’’ I said.

’’Yes'm, she's cut him up pretty bad.’’

This was no time to falter. I'd been priding myself on my lack of squeamishness earlier. This was the moment to prove I'd been telling the truth to myself.

’’He's held out this long,’’ I said.

’’He has,’’ Eric agreed. ’’Sookie, I will go to get a car. I'll try to park it back there by the stables.’’

’’Do you think they'll let you back in?’’

’’If I take Bernard with me.’’


’’The little one.’’ Eric smiled at me, and his own smile was a little lopsided.

’’You mean ... Oh, if you take Curly with you, they'll let you back in because he lives here?’’

’’Yes. But I may have to stay here. With him.’’

’’You couldn't, ah, get out of it?’’

’’Maybe, maybe not. I don't want to be caught here, rising, when they discover Bill is gone, and you with him.’’

’’Miss Sookie, they'll put werewolves to guarding him during the day.’’

We both looked at Bubba simultaneously.

’’Those werewolves that have been on your trail? They'll be guarding Bill when the vamps go to sleep.’’

’’But tonight is the full moon,’’ I said. ’’They'll be worn out when it's their turn to take over. If they show up at all.’’

Eric looked at me with some surprise. ’’You're right, Sookie. This is the best opportunity we're going to get.’’

We talked it over some more;perhaps I could act very weak and hole up in the house, waiting for a human ally of Eric's to arrive from Shreveport. Eric said he would call the minute he got out of the immediate area, on his cell phone.

Eric said, ’’Maybe Alcide could lend a hand tomorrow morning.’’

I have to admit, I was tempted by the idea of calling him in again. Alcide was big and tough and competent, and something hidden and weak in me suggested that surely Alcide would be able to manage everything better than I would. But my conscience gave an enormous twinge. Alcide, I argued, could not be involved further. He'd done his job. He had to deal with these people in a business way, and it would ruin him if Russell figured out his part in the escape of Bill Compton.

We couldn't spend any more time in discussion, because it lacked only two hours until dawn. With a lot of details still loose, Eric went to find Curly - Bernard - and coyly request his company on an errand to obtain a car I assumed he intended to rent, and what car rental place would be open at this hour was a mystery to me, but Eric didn't seem to anticipate any trouble. I tried to dismiss my doubts from my mind. Bubba agreed to go over Russell's wall again, as he'd entered, and find a place to go to ground for the day. Only the fact that this was the night of the full moon had saved Bubba's life, Eric said, and I was willing to believe it. The vampire guarding the gate might be good, but he couldn't be everywhere.

My job was to play weak until day, when the vampires would retire, and then somehow get Bill out of the stable and into the trunk of the car Eric would provide. They'd have no reason to stop me from leaving.

’’This is maybe the worst plan I have ever heard,’’ Eric said.

’’You got that right, but it's all we have.’’

’’You'll do great, Miss Sookie,’’ Bubba told me encouragingly.

That's what I needed, a positive attitude. ’’Thank you, Bubba,’’ I said, trying to sound as grateful as I felt. I was energized by Eric's blood. I felt like my eyes were shooting sparks and my hair was floating around my head in a electric halo.

’’Don't get too carried away,’’ Eric advised. He reminded me that this was a common problem with people who ingested black-market vampire blood. They attempted crazy things since they felt so strong, so invincible, and sometimes they just weren't up to the attempted feat - like the guy who tried to fight a whole gang at once, or the woman who took on an oncoming train. I took a deep breath, trying to impress his warning on my brain. What I wanted to do was lean out the window and see if I could crawl up the wall to the roof. Wow, Eric's blood was awesome. That was a word I'd never used before, but it was accurate. I'd never realized what a difference there would be between taking Bill's blood and taking Eric's.

There was a knock at the door, and we all looked at it as if we could see through it.

In an amazingly short time, Bubba was out the window, Eric was sitting in the chair by the bed, and I was in the bed trying to look weak and shaky.

’’Come in,’’ Eric called in a hushed voice, as befitted the companion of someone recuperating from a terrible wound.

It was Curly - that is, Bernard. Bernard was wearing jeans and a dark red sweater, and he looked good enough to eat. I closed my eyes and gave myself a stern lecture. The blood infusion had made me very lively.

’’How is she doing?’’ Bernard asked, almost whispering. ’’Her color is better.’’

’’Still in pain, but healing, thanks to the generosity of your king.’’

’’He was glad to do it,’’ Bernard said courteously. ’’But he will be, ah, best pleased if she can leave on her own tomorrow morning. He is sure by then her boyfriend will be back at his apartment after he has enjoyed the moon tonight. I hope this doesn't seem too brusque?’’

’’No, I can understand his concern,’’ Eric said, being polite right back.

Apparently, Russell was afraid that I would stay for several days, cashing in on my act of heroism. Russell, unused to having human female houseguests, wanted me to go back to Alcide, when he was sure Alcide would be able to see after me. Russell was a little uneasy about an unknown woman wandering around his compound during the day, when he and all his retinue would be in their deep sleep.

Russell was quite right to worry about this.

’’Then I'll go get her a car and park it in the area to the rear of the house, and she can drive herself out tomorrow. If you can arrange that she'll have safe passage through the front gates - I assume they are guarded during the day? - I will have fulfilled my obligation to my friend Alcide.’’

’’That sounds very reasonable,’’ Bernard said, giving me a fraction of the smile he was aiming at Eric. I didn't return it. I closed my eyes wearily. ’’I'll leave word at the gate when we go. My car okay? It's just a little old egg-beater, but it'll get us to ... where did you want to go?’’

’’I'll tell you when we're on the road. It's close to the home of a friend of mine. He knows a man who'll loan me the car for a day or two.’’

Well, he'd found a way to obtain a car without a paper trail. Good.

I felt movement to my left. Eric bent over me. I knew it was Eric, because his blood inside me informed me so. This was really scary, and this was why Bill had warned me against taking blood from any vampire other than him. Too late. Rock and a hard place.

He kissed my cheek in a chaste, friend-of-the-boyfriend way. ’’Sookie,’’ he said very quietly. ’’Can you hear me?’’

I nodded just a trifle.

’’Good. Listen, I am going to get you a car. I'll leave the keys up here by the bed when I get back. In the morning, you need to drive out of here and back to Alcide's. Do you understand?’’

I nodded again. ’’Bye,’’ I said, trying to make my voice drowsy. ’’Thank you.’’

’’My pleasure,’’ he said, and I heard the edge in his voice. With an effort, I kept my face straight.

It's hard to credit, but I actually fell asleep after they left. Bubba had evidently obeyed, and gone over the fence to arrange shelter for the day. The mansion became very quiet as the night's revelries drew to a close. I supposed the werewolves were off having their last howl somewhere. As I was drifting off, I wondered how the other shape-shifters had fared. What did they do with their clothes? Tonight's drama at Club Dead had been a fluke;I was sure they had a normal procedure. I wondered where Alcide was. Maybe he had caught that son of a bitch Newlin.

I woke up when I heard the chink of keys.

’’I'm back,’’ Eric said. His voice was very quiet, and I had to open my eyes a little to make sure he was actually there. ’’It's a white Lincoln. I parked out by the garage;there wasn't room inside, which is a real pity. They wouldn't let me get any closer to confirm what Bubba said. Are you hearing me?’’

I nodded.

’’Good luck.’’ Eric hesitated. ’’If I can disentangle myself, I'll meet you in the parking garage at first dark tonight. If you aren't there, I'll go back to Shreveport.’’

I opened my eyes. The room was dark, still;I could see Eric's skin glowing. Mine was, too. That scared the tar out of me. I had just stopped glowing from taking Bill's blood (in an emergency situation), when here came another crisis, and now I was shining like a disco ball. Life around vampires was just one continuous emergency, I decided.

’’We'll talk later,’’ Eric said ominously.

’’Thanks for the car,’’ I said.

Eric looked down at me. He seemed to have a hickey on his neck. I opened my mouth, and then shut it again. Better not to comment.

’’I don't like having feelings,’’ Eric said coldly, and he left.

That was a tough exit line to top.

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