Home > From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(10)

From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse #8)(10)
Author: Charlaine Harris

"But what if he did that to hurt you? What if he would have blamed my death on you?" I was so tired of being the object of plots that I suspected I was trying to will Eric into being the target. Another idea struck me, and I veered into it. "And how'd they find us?"

"Someone who knew we'd be driving back to Bon Temps tonight," Eric said. "Someone who knew what car I was in."

"It couldn't have been Niall," I said, and then rethought my flash of loyalty to my brand-new, self-proclaimed great-grandfather. After all, he might have been lying the whole time we were at the table. How would I know? I couldn't get in his head. The ignorance of my position felt strange to me.

But I didn't believe Niall had been lying.

"I don't think it was the fairy, either," Eric said. "But we'd better talk about it on the road. This isn't a good place for us to linger."

He was right about that. I didn't know where he'd put the body, and I realized that I didn't really care. A year ago it would have torn me up, leaving a body behind as we sped away along the interstate. Now I was just glad it was him and not me who was lying in the woods.

I was a terrible Christian and a decent survivalist.

As we drove through the dark, I pondered the chasm yawning right in front of me, waiting for me to take that extra step. I felt stranded on that brink. I found it harder and harder to stick to what was right, when what was expedient made better sense. Really, my brain told me ruthlessly, didn't I understand that Quinn had dumped me? Wouldn't he have gotten in touch if he still considered us a couple? Hadn't I always had a soft spot for Eric, who made love like a train thundering into a tunnel? Didn't I have beaucoup evidence that Eric could defend me better than anyone I knew?

I could hardly summon the energy to be shocked at myself.

If you find yourself considering who to take for a lover because of his ability to defend you, you're getting pretty close to selecting a mate because you think he has desirable traits to pass along to future generations. And if there'd been a chance I could have had Eric's child (a thought that made me shiver), he would have been at the top of the list, a list I hadn't even known I'd been compiling. I pictured myself as a female peacock looking for the male peacock with the prettiest display of tail, or a wolf waiting for the leader (strongest, smartest, bravest) of the pack to mount her.

Okay, I'd yucked myself out. I was a human woman. I tried to be a good woman. I had to find Quinn because I had committed myself to him... sort of.

No, no quibbling!

"What are you thinking about, Sookie?" Eric asked out of the darkness. "Your face has had thoughts rippling across it too fast to follow."

The fact that he could see me - not only in the dark, but while he was supposed to be watching the road - was exasperating and scary. And proof of his superiority, my inner cave-woman said.

"Eric, just get me home. I'm in emotional overload."

He didn't speak again. Maybe he was being wise, or maybe the healing was painful.

"We need to talk about this again," he said when he pulled into my driveway. He parked in front of the house, turned to me as much as he could in the little car. "Sookie, I'm hurting... Can I..." He leaned over, brushed his fingers over my neck.

At the very idea, my body betrayed me. A throbbing started down low, and that was just wrong. A person shouldn't get excited at the idea of being bitten. That's bad, right? I clenched my fists so tightly my fingernails made my palms hurt.

Now that I could see him better, now that the interior of the car was illuminated with the harsh glare of the security light, I realized that Eric was even paler than usual. As I watched, the bullet began exiting the wound, and he leaned back against his seat, his eyes shut. Millimeter by millimeter, the bullet was extruded until it dropped into my waiting hand. I remembered Eric getting me to suck out a bullet in his arm. Ha! What a fraud he'd been. The bullet would've come out on its own. My indignation made me feel more like myself.

"I think you can make it home," I said, though I felt an almost irresistible urge to lean over to him and offer my neck or my wrist. I gritted my teeth and got out of the car. "You can stop at Merlotte's and get bottled blood if you really need some."

"You're hard-hearted," Eric said, but he didn't sound truly angry or affronted.

"I am," I said, and I smiled at him. "You be careful, you hear?"

"Of course," he said. "And I'm not stopping for any policemen."

I made myself march into the house without looking back. When I was inside the front door and had shut it firmly behind me, I felt an immediate relief. Thank goodness. I'd wondered if I was going to turn around at every step I took away from him. This blood tie thing was really irritating. If I wasn't careful and vigilant, I was going to do something I'd regret.

"I am woman, hear me roar," I said.

"Gosh, what prompted that?" Amelia asked, and I jumped. She was coming down the hall from the kitchen in her nightgown and matching robe, peach with cream-colored lace trim. Everything of Amelia's was nice. She'd never sneer at anyone else's shopping habits, but she'd never wear anything from Wal-Mart, either.

"I've had a trying evening," I said. I looked down at myself. Only a little blood on the blue silk T-shirt. I'd have to soak it. "How have things gone here?"

"Octavia called me," Amelia said, and though she was trying to keep her voice steady, I could feel the anxiety coming off her in waves.

"Your mentor." I wasn't at my brightest.

"Yep, the one and only." She bent down to pick up Bob, who always seemed to be around if Amelia was upset. She held him to her chest and buried her face in his fur. "She had heard, of course. Even after Katrina and all the changes it made in her life, she has to bring up the mistake." (That was what Amelia called it - the mistake.)

"I wonder what Bob calls it," I said.

Amelia looked over Bob's head at me, and I knew instantly I'd said a tactless thing. "Sorry," I said. "I wasn't thinking. But maybe it's not too realistic to think you can get out of this without being called to account, huh?"

"You're right," she said. She didn't seem too happy about my rightness, but at least she said it. "I did wrong. I attempted something I shouldn't have, and Bob paid the price."

Wow, when Amelia decided to confess, she went whole hog.

"I'm going to have to take my licks," she said. "Maybe they'll take away my magic practice for a year. Maybe longer."

"Oh. That seems harsh," I said. In my fantasy, her mentor just scolded Amelia in front of a room full of magicians and sorcerers and witches or what-have-you, and then they transformed Bob back. He promptly forgave Amelia and told her he loved her. Since he forgave her, the rest of the assemblage did, too, and Amelia and Bob came back to my house and lived here together... for a good long while. (I wasn't too specific about that part.)

"That's the mildest punishment possible," Amelia said.

"Oh."

"You don't want to know the other possible sentences." She was right. I didn't. "Well, what mysterious errand did Eric take you on?" Amelia asked.

Amelia couldn't have tipped off anyone to our destination or route; she hadn't known where we were going. "Oh, ah, he just wanted to take me to a new restaurant in Shreveport. It had a French name. It was pretty nice."

"So, this was like a date?" I could tell she was wondering what place Quinn played in my relationship with Eric.

"Oh, no, not a date," I said, sounding unconvincing even to myself. "No guy-girl action going on. Just, you know, hanging out." Kissing. Getting shot.

"He sure is handsome," Amelia said.

"Yeah, no doubt about it. I've met some toothsome guys. Remember Claude?" I'd shown Amelia the poster that had arrived in the mail two weeks before, a blowup of the romance novel cover for which Claude had posed. She'd been impressed - what woman wouldn't be?

"Ah, I went to watch Claude strip last week." Amelia couldn't meet my eyes.

"And you didn't take me!" Claude was a very disagreeable person, especially when contrasted with his sister, Claudine, but he was beyond gorgeous. He was in the Brad Pitt stratosphere of male beauty. Of course, he was gay. Wouldn't you know it? "You went while I was at work?"

"I thought you wouldn't approve of my going," she said, ducking her head. "I mean, since you're friends with his sister. I went with Tara. JB was working. Are you mad?"

"Nah. I don't care." My friend Tara owned a dress shop, and her new husband, JB, worked at a women's exercise center. "I would like to see Claude trying to act like he was enjoying himself."

"I think he was having a good time," she said. "There's no one Claude loves better than Claude, right? So all these women looking at him and admiring him... He's not into women, but he's sure into being admired."

"True. Let's go see him together sometime."

"Okay," she said, and I could tell she was quite cheerful again. "Now, tell me what you ordered at this new fancy restaurant." So I told her. But all the while I was wishing I didn't have to keep silent about my great-grandfather. I wanted so badly to tell Amelia about Niall: how he looked, what he'd said, that I had a whole history I hadn't known. And it would take me a while to process what my grandmother had endured, to alter my picture of her in light of the facts I'd learned. And I had to rethink my unpleasant memories of my mother, too. She'd fallen for my dad like a ton of bricks, and she'd had his kids because she loved him... only to find that she didn't want to share him with them, especially with me, another female. At least, this was my new insight.

"There was more stuff," I said, a yawn splitting my jaw in two. It was very late. "But I've got to get to bed. I get any phone calls or anything?"

"That Were from Shreveport called. He wanted to talk to you, and I told him you were out for the evening and he should call you on your cell. He asked if he could meet up with you, but I said I didn't know where you were."

"Alcide," I said. "I wonder what he wanted." I figured I'd call him tomorrow.

"And some girl called. Said she'd been a waitress at Merlotte's before, and she'd seen you at the wedding last night."

"Tanya?"

"Yeah, that was her name."

"What did she want?"

"Don't know. She said she'd call back tomorrow or see you at the bar."

"Crap. I hope Sam didn't hire her to fill in or something."

"I thought I was the fill-in bargirl."

"Yeah, unless someone's quit. I warn you, Sam likes her."

"You don't?"

"She's a treacherous bitch."

"Gosh, tell me what you really think."

"No kidding, Amelia, she took a job at Merlotte's so she could spy on me for the Pelts."

"Oh, that's the one. Well, she won't spy on you again. I'll take steps."

That was a scarier thought than working with Tanya. Amelia was a strong and skillful witch, don't get me wrong, but she was also prone to attempt things beyond her experience level. Hence Bob.

"Check with me first, please," I said, and Amelia looked surprised.

"Well, sure," she said. "Now, I'm off to bed."

She made her way up the steps with Bob in her arms, and I went to my small bathroom to remove my makeup and put on my own nightgown. Amelia hadn't noticed the speckles of blood on the shirt, and I put it in the sink to soak.

What a day it had been. I'd spent time with Eric, who always rattled my chain, and I'd found a living relative, though not a human one. I'd learned a lot of stuff about my family, most of it unpleasant. I'd eaten in a fancy restaurant, though I could hardly recall the food. And finally, I'd been shot at.

When I crawled into bed, I said my prayers, trying to put Quinn at the top of the list. I thought the excitement of discovering a great-grandfather would keep me awake that night, but sleep claimed me right when I was in the middle of asking God to help me find my way through the moral morass of being party to a killing.

Chapter 6

There was a knock on the front door the next morning about an hour before I wanted to wake up. I heard it only because Bob had come into my room and jumped on my bed, where he wasn't supposed to be, settling into the space behind my knees while I lay on my side. He purred loudly, and I reached down to scratch behind his ears. I loved cats. That didn't stop me from liking dogs, too, and only the fact that I was gone so much kept me from getting a puppy. Terry Bellefleur had offered me one, but I'd wavered until his pups were gone. I wondered if Bob would mind a kitten companion. Would Amelia get jealous if I bought a female cat? I had to smile even as I snuggled deeper into the bed.

But I wasn't truly asleep, and I did hear the knock.

I muttered a few words about the person at the door, and I slid on my slippers and threw on my thin blue cotton bathrobe. The morning had a hint of chill, reminding me that despite the mild and sunny days, this was October. There were Halloweens when even a sweater was too warm, and there were Halloweens when you had to wear a light coat when you did your trick-or-treating.

I looked through the peephole and saw an elderly black woman with a halo of white hair. She was light-skinned and her features were narrow and sharp: nose, lips, eyes. She was wearing magenta lipstick and a yellow pantsuit. But she didn't seem armed or dangerous. This just goes to show how misleading first appearances can be. I opened the door.

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