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Wedded Bliss Or Something Like It

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Wedded Bliss or Something Like It ~ Chapter One

Bill

Bill was happy to be home, the business trip of a week had unexpectedly turned into two and he was ready for some downtime. He entered the house and keyed in the alarm code before heading upstairs. He was a little surprised that Sookie wasn’t up to greet him but as he started up the staircase, he quickly discovered why. The unmistakable smell of a small child was everywhere. While Bill was holding onto a tiny bit of hope that Sookie would be waiting in the bedroom to spring some erotic delight upon him, he wasn’t the least bit surprised to hear the sound of deep sleep in Sookie’s breathing.

With a smile he went straight to the walk-in and put his bags down. As Sookie was so soundly asleep, he switched on the light and opened his luggage. He put the things that needed to be laundered down the clothes chute, and added two of his suits that needed dry cleaning to the pile stacked to go on the settee. He changed into a pair of sleep pants and pulled a soft and well-worn tee shirt over his head and stepped back into the bedroom. He walked soundlessly to the side of the bed and gazed down at his wife of a little more than five years. He reached out and softly ran his fingers down the side of her face, before leaning down to tenderly kiss her temple.

A broad smile played across his face… there was no doubt about it, Sookie smelled of crayons and peanut butter and the distinct essence of an active child prone to blitz attack hugs and sticky hands kisses. Bill left the bedroom and headed downstairs to get a TruBlood and seeing as Sookie was asleep, decided he may as well get some of his work out of the way so he’d have more time for Sookie later. He went to the kitchen and out of habit, flipped the light switch.

As expected, there was a new finger-paint picture done in vivid colors attached to the door of the fridge, held in place by a daisy shaped magnet, Sookie had obviously helped guide Colton’s little hand for it was inscribed in crayon, “For Uncle Bill” within a finger-paint heart. Or maybe it was a race track? Bill wasn’t sure but it didn’t matter, he knew it was another piece of artwork destined for the scrap book Sookie so lovingly kept.

The microwave beeped and he took out his TruBlood, tipped it a couple times before he tossed the special venting cap into the trash and walked to his office. Not long after, Bill was deeply immersed in his paperwork. After Nan had met the True Death at the hands of The Authority, a little over four years ago, (for reasons Bill neither knew nor did he want to know) the reins of her job had become his. It had started out well, but it was more difficult than it appeared.

Hence the schedule going from a week then turning into two, entire nights at home spent on video conferencing, conference calls, multiple appointments and appearances... talk about endless! The paperwork and reports seemed to multiply like caged rabbits. He was surprised when his arms began to feel as heavy as lead and eyes gritty. Glancing at his desk clock confirmed what he already knew… dawn was only a few moments away. He shut everything down, left the office, stopped in the kitchen to deposit the glass bottles in the recycling bin and then headed to bed. Sookie was still sound asleep and snoring lightly.

He hadn’t expected to work through the night, but he was quite glad that he had, he would be able to spend tonight with Sookie without interruption, and that would make her very happy. He slid between the sheets and slipped close to her, gently wrapping her in his embrace. Who did he think he was kidding? Having an uninterrupted night would make both of them very happy! Sookie moved slightly, nestling into him and as he closed his eyes to rest for the day, he was already looking forward to the night.

 

Sookie

Sookie woke contentedly in Bill’s arms, even though there was a little guilt in the mix. She’d tried to stay awake until Bill got home but after spending five full days with an active four year old, she was lucky she’d made it as far as the bed to begin with! With Annie still in Shreveport handling the transition of her bank being sold to a larger banking corporation and Jason down with strep throat, Sookie invited Colton to come and stay with her for a couple days.

It wasn’t much of a decision on Jason’s part. The mere thought of more than five minutes of not having to speak or being able to take a nap without his son lying next to him asking if it was time to get up yet, roughly every thirty seconds, made Sookie’s offer a no-brainer.

Besides, Sookie had a huge house with lots of tiled and wood floors and she let Colton race his remote controlled cars and trucks as fast as he wanted. Much like his father, Colton often felt the need for speed, and his cars and trucks suffered more than their fair share of mishaps, which seemed to have increased amazingly once Uncle Hoyt bought him a remote controlled ambulance for his birthday!

Sookie was impressed at the manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination Colton had developed and it was getting better all the time. Colton had even taught Sookie how to drive them, and he was sweet enough to tell her that she did okay, but probably not as good as him because of being a girl. But his ultimate delight in staying at Bill and Sookie’s was that he was also an utterly, fearless fish-child and his Aunt Sookie had a pool!

It also couldn’t have been made any safer for him. There was a special locking and alarm system built into the fencing around the pool with no way for him to get there unobserved or unaccompanied. Colton was good in the water and he knew the rules were very important and never to be disobeyed… but he was also a small child and as such Bill and Sookie had spared no expense for an automated, wood-slatted pool cover which took a special key to expose the motor housing to roll it back from over the pool water. It wasn’t just the third line of defense to guard against accidents with Colton in mind… it also prevented the occasional snake or small alligator from taking a dip. There was nothing more unnerving than getting ready to dive into your pool only to discover a four foot long alligator swimming in the shallow end!

The water moccasin had been the most dangerous however, after which they installed a special heavy duty screening buried into the ground and attached upwards to a height of two feet. The exclusive design bowed outward from the fencing. The angle was such that no snake could navigate it. At a certain point, any snake would simply drop back on the ground. The premise was simple really, gravity worked.

Incorporated into the overall design of the fence, it didn’t look like a safety feature, but rather a lovely part of the fence and they hadn’t been troubled since. While it brought Sookie a great deal of peace of mind, it didn’t stop her from taking a very good look around first before she entered the pool area though.

She and Colton had spent about five hours a day in the pool. Between waterproof, 90 sunblock and the overhead vampire-friendly pool shade that let in the light but kept out the UV rays, they’d turned their fingers into raisins and loved every minute of it. With the help of Mac and Ali in Hawaii, Sookie had become a very good swimmer and as such, they’d built the pool here in Bon Temps. Sookie marveled over Colton’s unabashed joy of the water. He never reacted to his face going under the water, in fact, loved nothing more than diving to the bottom for extra-large, brightly colored coins he would beg her to throw.

Even at his age, he was a strong swimmer and hadn’t doggie paddled since he was about three. Jason was convinced that Colton would be his generations’, Michael Phelps and there were times when she agreed. He thought he was grown up enough for her to throw the coins in deeper water, but all of the adults involved disagreed. So he had to make due with retrieving the coins in water that was shallow enough to stand in. On occasion Jason would toss one in water just a little over his head, but only when he was within arm’s reach of his boy; Jason dearly loved his son but also knew accidents happened in the blink of an eye, so he took no foolish risks.

This year the Compton’s and their loved ones were doing Christmas in Hawaii again. It had been a couple years since they all went. They hadn’t told Colton, mainly because he would drive them all insane. In all likelihood, they wouldn’t tell him until they were on the plane! He was going to have two surprises, they were going to let him go in the ocean and Mac and Ali were going to teach him how to play with a boogie board in the beach surf. It was going to be fun, no doubt. Tara and Mike would be coming, as was Sam and possibly his girlfriend of eighteen months, Amy. (Beth had left Bon Temps for a seriously important dream job in Miami and long distance dating hadn’t worked out for them) Sookie was also ecstatic that she’d finally convinced Terry and Arlene to come too… of course the package also included Coby who wasn’t quite close enough to being a teenager that he thought it wouldn’t be cool.

It didn’t hurt that Colton worshiped Coby. Lisa would be coming two days after the rest would arrive because of finals. Lisa would be entering her sophomore year at U of L in a couple of weeks. No one could have foreseen the change the oil spill in the Gulf had affected Lisa. She finished high school with honors, and then enrolled in Geosciences at University of Louisiana Lafayette.

She was well on her way to her degree of Environmental Geology which dealt with many facets of every imaginable subject within her major. She was also minoring in Petroleum Geology, which schooled her in the possibilities, solutions and prevention of drilling accidents and a host of every subject therein. She was an honor student with a full-ride scholarship, as well as a monthly stipend, a car and a credit card for any and all necessities.

When Lisa had been applying for scholarships, she hadn’t remembered the Loudermilk-Hale Northern Louisiana Foundation, but she was the first recipient and it was truly a godsend! Arlene had her suspicions about the background of the Foundation, but she never asked Sookie about it, outright. Sookie was glad because she knew if Arlene asked; she’d tell her friend they were behind it and she didn’t want Arlene to be uncomfortable.

Sookie talked with Lisa quite often and had insisted she join them in Hawaii. Lisa told Sookie that her roommate Mary Catherine would be staying alone at school over the break and Lisa didn’t want her to spend it alone. Sookie had met Cat, as she liked to be called, during their freshman year.

Cat had been placed in foster care after her junkie father had left for places unknown and her mother had died of AIDS from sharing needles on the streets. When she was in high school her GPA was a perfect 4.0 and she had shown impressive test scores for college. Her age of only 16 however, necessitated that she be placed in the care of a court appointed guardian. It was a less of an ideal situation, but at least she had access to grants and scholarships for college.

Sookie loved spur of the moment visits to the campus to take both girls shopping and out for dinner. Lisa had brought Cat home with her for barbeques and parties Sookie and Bill had from time to time and it only took a few months before Cat felt more relaxed around all of the Bon Temps family.

When Sookie learned Cat would be alone over the winter break, she’d called and talked to the Cat’s guardian. Sookie had gotten the impression that the woman was relieved she didn’t have to deal with the girl and that was just plain sad. Sookie had shown up at the school a couple days later and told them they would both be coming to Hawaii for the holidays. When Sookie had explained it all to Bill, he agreed it was a wonderful idea. He also wondered how long it would be before she would want them to become Cat’s guardians.

XxXxX

Sookie smiled as she waited for the coffee to finish brewing and thought about the doubts Jason had had about his capability to be a good dad. Soon after Colton was born, Jason nearly turned himself inside out with fear he’d either do something wrong or worse, not do something he should the right way. Annie was marvelous with Jason, even telling Sookie that she had more trouble with calming Jason than the baby!

Sookie had grown to love Annie like a sister, she was an incredible mother and a calming influence (and thank the lord, at times was the voice of reason to some idiocy of one kind or another in Jason’s thought processes!) but she managed to gently teach Jason and assure him he was a capable and wonderful father. They had a good life together, Sookie was secretly sad that Jason had not married Annie, but she knew if and when it happened, Jason had to make his own call.

Sookie was just glad that Annie deeply loved Jason and thankfully didn’t care if they were married or not. All she cared about were her ‘boys’ and making sure she told them and showed them every day how much she loved them. Even on the days when the ‘boys’ made up a new sport called, ‘Muddy Belly Flops’ or some equally messy game… those were the days she also thanked God for bleach!

Sookie took her first cup of coffee of the day and went out onto the deck to drink it in the sunshine. She had plenty to get done today yet she was also feeling decadently lazy. So she let the sun warm her and the coffee wake her and ran down her list deciding what she would or wouldn’t do. After a quick mental calculation or two she had her day planned. She was going to drink a lot more coffee, finish a report for work and send it to Joe and then she was going to shower and head to Merlotte’s for lunch. She finished her coffee and went inside; she poured another cup and carried it to her office.

Sookie loved her office; Bill had surprised her with it on her birthday a year ago. It was bright and cheery, with comfortable furniture, a wall covered with an amazing array of photos of family and friends in all shapes and sizes. None of the picture frames matched exactly nor did the room give the impression of a distinctive décor.

Among her absolute favorites were pictures Bill had either acquired from friends of her parents and grandparents and even copies of the ones Sookie had dug up in Shreveport of Bill, his wife and children. He’d gone so far as to have two of Colton’s first drawings professionally framed.  They were little more than squiggles really, but having them hung there was just pure, unadulterated Sookie.

On the many shelves there was a pair of cut-glass candlesticks that had been her great-great-grandmothers, sitting alongside a Cajun Mardi Gras mask that Sookie had bought at a yard sale just because she liked it. Not to mention a jeweled Faberge egg, from Bob (Bill refused to tell her what it was insured for) that sat beside a plaster circle with Colton’s handprint from when he turned two. Another favorite was a heart shaped suncatcher-prism crystal that shared one of the window panes with the lovely beveled glass, hanging suncatcher with the pressed forget-me-nots from Gustav.

There was a bookshelf full of books, everything from romances to mysteries, some true crime, some guides to identifying Louisiana flora and fauna. A few fairy tale books (a gag gift from Sam after Rose had explained to her how bloodthirsty and cruel real fairies actually were!) at least they’d come in handy when Colton was a toddler! A number of books about the Civil War, Hawaii and books she’d bought from places they’d visited on various trips. There was one shelf that had a door that flipped up and you needed a key to open it. The books held there were for special eyes only and even Tara had never asked her why.

Bill had bought her desk at a flea market, it was handmade and certainly had age, it had been painted white at some point but had been scuffed, dented and chipped over the years and while most would have refinished it, if not passing it up completely, Bill knew his wife. He just washed away years of grime from neglect and the stain of nicotine, then had it fitted with a glass top. Not surprisingly, Sookie loved it and thought it was beautiful and moments later made love to Bill on top of it once assured they couldn’t break the glass.

Now Sookie sat down and turned her laptop on. Bill had made her a credenza that matched the desk; he’d worked hard to make it appear to be the same age on the outside. Inside there was quite a difference. Shelves held printers, a copier and scanner as well as a fax machine, a secure, dedicated phone line and the best Wi-Fi secure connection money could buy. To say that Sookie’s office connections were state-of-the-art was an understatement. Sookie’s equipment was of a quality the government didn’t have access to yet!

Sookie hadn’t remained a private consultant after her Joining Ritual to Bill. Bob wouldn’t hear of it, he wanted her in his company as one of his special employees. So, she had filled a number of niches within Louisiana Mutual Insurance Company and also in Garth & Associates. While she wasn’t the average executive, she had made a name for herself and had become LMIC’s lead Insurance Fraud Investigator, and chose to remain as such, which in most other companies, was unheard of. Then again, most executives spent their careers climbing the corporate ladder. That had never been Sookie’s goal.

While as impressive as that was in a company as large as LMIC, she was also highly regarded for her willingness to be among the Crisis Response Field Teams. She didn’t think twice about heading out into the field, in times of extreme need. She was well known for being on-scene of a tornado or some storm devastated community, and when she and her team got there, they hit the ground running.

Her team worked with efficiency and compassion. First and foremost, she saw to it that those people that had lost all, got the help they required, when they needed it most. And there were times when not everyone she gave comfort to was a LMIC customer. She was highly regarded among her peers and her team learned early on she was smart, dependable and fiercely loyal when it was called for, be it an issue regarding an LMIC insured customer or another team member.

Mr. Garth was not surprised by this in the least, he’d often wondered how much of the praise she garnered would have differed if she’d been doing the job without her ‘gift’. He found it interesting that none of her peers thought it the least bit strange that even though she had the coveted, ‘corner office’, she thought nothing of slogging around putting herself at risk, in the middle of utter devastation to help others. He eventually decided that even without her unique ability, she wouldn’t have done things any differently.

When Sookie saw need, she gave all she could. In actuality, she had set a fine example and others in LMIC were following suit, more and more department heads and managers were helping either in the field or coordinating relief efforts. Mr. Garth could not have loved her more if he had tried.

Sadly, her devotion aside, she did have a specific job she had to fulfill and it wasn’t always easy. There were those that played the numbers game and over the last five years Sookie had discovered crooked adjusters and contractors and claimants from the start. She had come to despise being assigned a case for fear it would uncover yet another dishonest employee.

As was exactly the case here. Mel Burclaw had worked for Louisiana Mutual Insurance Company for almost 30 years. He’d also been padding claim amounts, filing non-existent claims and getting hefty kickbacks from contractors for the last ten.

This was exactly the kind of thing that made Sookie sick to her stomach, as she was this very moment. Trying her hardest to explain the issue, and discern a possible motive behind the greed and a recommendation for a possible solution. Without really being aware of it, she opened her desk drawer and shook a couple of antacid tablets into her hand then popped them in her mouth.

Sookie would have been quite surprised to know that while Bill hadn’t said anything to her, he’d noticed the taste of them in her blood more and more. It had him thinking about a lot of different things, foremost being her need for them in the first place. Sookie had no idea that her husband was growing concerned about how her work was affecting her and she would have been stunned at her husband’s thoughts about working as of late. Sookie sighed, deleted a paragraph and considered a more favorable description of what she’d learned.

The truth of the matter was that Mr. Burclaw had always liked a challenge. Which led to a foray into gambling… it was a little exciting and he won some small amounts and it seemed a harmless enough diversion. But much like countless others before him, the euphoria didn’t last. He began to lose, and then he tried to recover by placing larger bets and as was inevitable, quickly got in over his head.

He hid the issue from his wife and daughters, scrambling to find funds, certain that the next bet would pay off big and then he’d never place another bet again for the rest of his life! But the ‘sure thing’ was a complete bust and unbeknownst to his wife, he used part of his daughter’s college fund to cover heavy losses. He used more to get ahead and from there his downward spiral gained speed.

With his oldest girl starting her junior year in high school, he became desperate, so he padded a claim and made sure the contractor that took the job was one known as not being opposed to a little number massaging. Soon Burclaw began replacing his ill-gotten gains to hide the truth from his wife, but was unable to pass up the easy way to get his hands on some extra funds for his, ‘One Last Bet’ but he’d screwed up big time and he could no longer juggle the running chainsaws his life had become.

His world began collapsing around him and once Sookie finished this report, it would collapse for good. Sookie had mined all the sordid details from his head and dutifully recorded them in her numerous notes. And here she sat… trying to keep her feelings out of it, while every word she typed seemed to add weight to her shoulders and sadness in her heart. What he’d done was wrong obviously, he’d been stupidly careless and ridiculously blind to the inevitable truth of his addiction. Yet Sookie felt he shouldn’t be terminated but possibly counseled and get back to his original and former, upstanding community member.

But even as Sookie wrote her last section of the report, an opportunity that Mr. Garth extended only to her… she asked for leniency and a second chance, even though she knew in her heart that Burclaw had gone too far. There had been an exposé in the Shreveport press in which the reporter alleged possible connections between crooked contractors and insurance companies, including some that worked regularly with LMIC. The assertion had set everyone on edge and Joe actually instructed her to not try and reach out to Bob on her own.

That was probably the thing that alarmed her most. Well, not alarmed per se, but saddened. She knew in her heart of hearts that Burclaw would receive no mercy for any of his crimes. No one cast dispersions or sullied one of Garth and Associates and their various Divisions. She knew Joe would do his job to make certain LMIC and their reputation remained intact, and the exposé would quietly go away. Sookie sighed and was sure of at least one thing, because Bob allowed her alone that last paragraph; she knew Mel Burclaw’s daughters would receive generous scholarships to attend college when they graduated.

Even sitting in her bright and cheerful office, surrounded by the things that lifted her spirits with every glance… after she spellchecked the report and sent it on its way, she couldn’t help but feel a little chill. She swung around in her chair and gazed out the nearly floor to ceiling windows and listened to the buzz of the insects and watched a hummingbird hover to drink the nectar of one of the many gorgeous blooms she could smell from her chair. When the tiny bird zipped away, Sookie stood and stretched, turned her computer off and left her office.

She went to the pool house and changed into her suit before diving into the deep end and swimming laps to try and clear her head. This Burclaw business had upset her more than usual and she didn’t know why.

With every stroke she pushed herself harder, slicing through the water as if she were going for the gold… her tears were swallowed by the pool and with each lap she grew almost angry, grew frustrated, she pushed off the wall again and again before feeling her arms growing heavier and heavier, until finally she stopped and clung to the side of the pool, barely able to pull herself out of the water. She sat at the edge of the pool, gasping for breath, muscles shaking… considering a decision and trying to figure out a way to make the impossible work out.

With shaky legs she stood and walked over to a deck chair, grabbing the towel and wrapping it around herself before dropping into the chair. She had to figure out how to talk it over with Bill before she even considered for a moment talking to Joe or even Bob about what she wanted to do.

In a way it was quite simple. She wanted to quit her job. Then she laughed out loud and then couldn’t stop… yeah, that would go over like a lead balloon! No, quitting her job would never happen, She had always thought that these books she read and TV shows plot about people ‘burning out’ in their jobs was just that… a plot or a story! She’d come to realize that there really was something to it.

She flopped back onto the warm cushions and wished she was in Hawaii. If she wanted to be she could… she could be there by sunset with a good tailwind. She had gone on her own once, the first couple of days were nice but after three days she came home. Without Bill there it held no magic. Of course, there had been more than a time or two when there had been absolute mayhem in Hawaii when Sookie had declared a girl’s week at a moment’s notice! Those had been some kind of fabulous fun!  The ladies had taken to the lush tropic life with a gusto, unlimited sun, fun and no money worries had made it a trip they longed for all year round! Sookie had thought that rather than annually, maybe they should do them at least twice a year!

After awhile, she got up and headed upstairs, her muscles were quivering a little but her swimming had made her other plan of the day an absolute necessity… she was starving and one of Lafayette’s burgers and sweet potato fries was the only thing that could possibly satisfy her needs!


 

Merlotte’s

Sookie walked into Merlotte’s to a frenzied flurry of hugs and ‘How are ya’s?’ but because it was nearly lunch straight up and already, busy everybody went back to their work quickly.  Sam steered her back to his office with his arm draped casually across her shoulders. She sat in his leather guest chair and he slumped into his desk chair and gave her that same, friendly Sam Merlotte grin. She grinned back just as broadly and said, “How are things going, Sam? Jeez, the only waitresses I knew were Arlene and Holly!”

Sam nodded a bit and gave a little shrug of his shoulders, “I know I tell you this every time I see you but the place really ain’t the same without you Sookie. But you’re looking pretty fine I’ve gotta say, guess marriage agrees with ya’ huh. How’s Bill?”

Sookie didn’t miss the lightest of light, tone of melancholy in his voice. She often felt the same way when she drove into the parking lot, laughing at herself when she automatically parked in the employee section of the lot just as she had today! She missed Merlotte’s but she covered well and told Sam about Bill’s latest trip and where she’d been before that.

“How’s Jason feeling? He looked pretty rough the last time I saw him.”

Sookie answered with a smile, “He’s better, I had Colton for the last few days, I swear Sam, he grows at least four inches taller every time I see him! He’s a handful but he’s a good kid and I love him to pieces.”

They talked for about ten minutes before it became obvious the place was filling up and they left Sam’s office. The lunch hour was in full swing and Sookie took a seat at the bar rather than take up a table when it was so busy. She reached over and took the bar’s food ticket pad and wrote her order down then walked up to the pass and clipped it to the wheel. She said hello to Big John and Lafayette leaned forward to air-kiss her cheeks. He told her he’d give her a holler when her order was up.

Sam poured her a sweet tea and she sat there and did a little daydreaming. She had so many good memories there. Times when she been working or had just been there with friends. Sookie looked around Merlotte’s and realized as many people that were there and she greeted, there was almost an equal number that she didn’t know at all. There was one table full of Renard Parish road crew workers and she didn’t recognize a one of them!

Andy Bellefluer walked in and gave her a nod and a smile, something she would not have seen years ago. She smiled back and laughed a little to herself, Andy had taken a while to come around to accepting what she was. He hadn’t ever been nasty to her on purpose, but once she helped him nail a serial rapist and then later a number of other criminals over the years… he ceased to dismiss her when she gave him information.

Andy sat in one of the booths and was joined a moment later by the District Attorney and a new, up and coming Assistant DA. About three years ago, Bud Dearborn had been killed by a drunken Fred Jenkins as he was doing about 80 mph when Fred slammed into Bud’s prowler. That, ironically enough, was parked behind a car he’d just pulled over because of a suspected DUI, lights flashing and all.

The driver of the other car was also killed from the crushing impact. Bud had died instantly and Andy had been named sheriff. The department had moved on but it hadn’t been easy. Andy saw to it that the DA at the time lost his job. He had tried (unsuccessfully) to get the serial rapist a plea deal, not to mention all the other deals that Bud and Andy both had suspected were being paid for under the table. It had been a banner kind of day when he lost the election. Sookie had been very glad too, she’d always thought of that DA as one big weenie too.

The new DA was a no-nonsense woman in her late fifties; her hair was black as night and her eyes so light blue, that in certain lighting, they seemed almost silver. She used to joke that her mother was a Siberian Huskie. Because Sookie was aware that she was a shifter, it made for quite the inside joke. Her eyes came in handy though as they could be disconcerting and more than one witness had been rattled enough to tell the truth under their unwavering gaze!

Like Andy, she believed that too much plea bargaining was the sign of a weak judicial system and a green light for criminals to do pretty much what they pleased, knowing that in this Parish, you didn’t have to worry about heavy penalty. That’s how it had been but certainly wasn’t any longer! Petty crimes were down by 70%, property crimes were down nearly 40%, and violent crimes almost by half.

Lafayette called out to her and she got up and fetched her order. She sat back down, her stomach growled and her mouth watered as she dug in to one of the best burgers in all of Renard Parish. Sookie was surprised when Jane Bodehouse walked in and sat next to her. First because Sookie actually didn’t recognize Jane until she spoke and second because she’d heard Jane had quit drinking so this was the last place she would have expected to see her.

They exchanged hellos and she ordered a Lafayette burger with hush puppies and with a wink, ordered double bourbon on the rocks. Sam poured her a sweet tea with extra ice and clipped her order to the big wheel at the pass. While Sookie finished her lunch, Jane explained that after sneaking her car keys away from her son one night, she tried driving to Shorty’s only to roll her car after swerving to miss a deer that had jumped into the road. She’d come to a stop far enough away from the road that she wasn’t discovered until nine hours later.

She explained to Sookie that she’d taken a good hard look at things, even as she laughed a little and said, “You’re kinda forced to look at things differently when you’re hanging upside down in a seatbelt that won’t release.” She told Sookie about the treatment center she made her son take her to the moment she left the hospital. She’d been sober for almost three years, was working at Super-Save-a-Bunch in the housewares department.

Sookie finished up her lunch and when Jane’s was ready; Sookie congratulated her again and told her she was proud of her accomplishment. To Sookie’s surprise Jane gave her a big hug and then apologized to her for all the headaches she’d caused Sookie over the years. Realizing that part of Jane’s process was making amends, Sookie thanked her and hugged her right back.

Sookie had hoped to talk more with Sam but the beer truck had shown up early and even though things were slowing down, it would be a while before he’d be free. Arlene came over and chatted for just a bit as most of her tables were taken care of for the moment or empty. “Are you sure you don’t need me to bring nuthin’ on Saturday?” Arlene asked Sookie, referring to the get-together Bill and Sookie were having on Saturday night.

“Well, if you really want to, I’d surely love to have some of your pecan apple fluff desert!” Sookie said with a wide grin.

“Done!” Arlene said and added, “I think Lisa’ll be home with Cat, a’course that’s okay, right?”

Sookie gave her a hug and said, “That’s perfect, I’ve gotta run… tell Terry I said hey and I’ll see y’all this weekend! Bye Sam!” Sookie called out as Sam carried a case of beer down the hall toward the walk-in cooler.

“See ya’ Sook!”

Sookie left the bar and as she walked to her car she made a mental note to check with Bill to see if Steve, Christa and Alex would be coming. She thought Lisa had a little crush on Steve, and she couldn’t blame her, he reminded her a little of Bill! As she drove out of the parking lot, she had no idea how many things would change before that Saturday night.


 

Together at Last

Bill smiled before he opened his eyes. He could smell the perfume he bought for Sookie for Christmas and that meant she was near. He opened his eyes and his smile widened She stood halfway between the closet and the bed, she wore a long, dark emerald satin gown. Her blond hair was a cascade of soft, wavy curls and her makeup was done in such a way it made her eyes look luminescent, warm and inviting. Bill was reminded of Veronica Lake and in an instant, he stood before her. She looked up at him from beneath her long, thick lashes, “I’m hoping you’re going to forgive me for not welcoming you home last night the way a wife should.”

Bill face lit up and he chuckled lightly as he swept her up in his arms, “Well… if I’m not mistaken, you’ve never been big on the idea of playing the old fashioned wifely roles.” He leaned forward to bump his forehead to hers.

“Agreed, but there are some roles I just love to play, interested in figuring out which one?” She brushed his lips with a kiss, and issued forth a tiny sigh as she lifted her lips from his.

“Oh, my sweet good girl…” He kissed her tenderly, then deepened the kiss as he turned toward the bed.

“A request?”

“Certainly.”

“Please try not to rip this off, I absolutely love it…”

“Oh no, sweetness… this will never be ripped, you’re far too gorgeous in it.”

“Good, but…”

“Oh don’t worry my darling… I’ll love you just as much out of it as I do with you in it.”

“I knew there was a reason I stay married to you…”

It wasn’t long before they showed each other again and again all the other reasons they’d stayed married as well.


 
 

The Conversation

Bill and Sookie lay in the gazebo on the chaise, “Sookie, I’m not trying to be insulting, but I’ve noticed for a while now that you’ve been… unsettled and well, stressed. Have you talked to Joe or Bob about how you’re feeling?”

“Well, it’s all I’ve been think…, hey, what did you mean noticing? Noticing what?” Sookie leaned up and propped herself up on her elbow.

“Simple answer? You’ve been eating antacids like they’re candy.” Her mouth dropped open in surprise, before she could ask he gave her fingers a light squeeze and said, “I can taste them in your blood.”

“Oh… of course you would.” Then she sighed and said, “I’ve been trying to find a way to bring it up, and I’ve tried to figure out a way to open up about it but… I chicken out. Don’t give me that look! I’m not as brave as you think all the time.”

Bill just gave her a smile and said lightly, “Oh Sookie, if you were as brave as you make most people think you are, you wouldn’t need me for anything. It’s one of the many reasons I love you so much.” He kissed her forehead lightly. “Back to the issue at hand… have you given any thought to just taking a leave, or a sabbatical of sorts?”

“I would think that Bob would certainly understand your feelings… Sookie, he knows how tenderhearted you are.” His words were gentle and kind, and even if Sookie had been having raging PMS, she couldn’t find fault in his words.

Sookie dropped her head back down on Bill’s chest and sighed deeply, “I know that and he would… a part of the problem is that, well, what else am I going to do? Bob wouldn’t hesitate to let me leave completely if I had a mind to but I don’t think Sam would rehire me and besides, I’m too old to go back to that!” She could hear Bill’s laugh from inside his chest. “Besides, you’re gone all the time so that would be even worse… being here or Shreveport by myself with nothing to do day after day… I’d go nuts in under a month.” She sighed again.  

After a long pause Bill quietly said, “What if you don’t have to be alone that much?” He heard in tiny intake of breath, and just a bit of a bump in her heartbeat.

She slowly raised her head from his chest as he put his hand behind his head. When their eyes met and she took in his grin her eyes grew large in surprise. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that I too, am very tired of one week trips turning into two or more and a flight home diverted halfway through to attend a meeting or a public appearance because some new fire needs to be put out.” He gave her one of his biggest smiles, “Actually, I’ve been considering approaching my,” for all intents and purposes, ah,” he cleared his throat comically, “father-in-law and asking him to get me out of the stranglehold this job has become.”

Sookie sat up with a speed that surprised Bill and her mouth dropped open in complete shock. “Wait… do you mean, I mean… wh-what do you mean?” she stuttered incredulously. Sookie’s mind whirled with confusion; a statement like this just wasn’t her Bill!

Bill sat up and put his arms around her, and laughing pulled her back down so they lay on their sides face to face. A quick kiss and he brushed back a strand of her hair. “Sookie, I never asked for Nan’s job, as a matter of fact, if you’ll remember,” he kissed the tip of her nose; “I was working a job we were both happy with. Then I started doing this, and you started to fill your time with more cases…”

“And it led us to here… married…”

“Happily married,” Bill interjected.

“Happily married, yet unhappily apart far too often.” Sookie answered.

“Exactly.” Bill’s traced his fingers down the side of Sookie’s face and said quietly, “Sookie, I don’t want to be apart so much anymore. I want my wife to be within my reach, and not just by way of my cellphone.”

“Tell me more…” She said as she reached for the buttons on Bill’s jeans. “But later, okay?”

“You’ve convinced me, my darling.” And lifted his hips to help his wife with her active hands.


 
 

The Plan

Sookie was pacing the floor in the Shreveport apartment. She was doing her level best to keep her breathing deep and even, tamping down her anxiety with every step. She was doing a pretty good job of it and she was happy knowing her tension and fears wouldn’t be affecting Bill. After discussing ideas at length, over the course of a couple of days, they’d decided on a three-step game plan.

First, she would speak to Bob and tell him what she was hoping they could do. Sookie hadn’t been the least bit surprised when Bob had given her his complete and unconditional blessing. What surprised her was how enormously relieved she felt!

Second, Bill had made a special appointment with his superiors at the AVL and explained that in many of his travels for them, he’d learned there were a surprising number of ‘juvenile’ and older vampires out there struggling with their ability to cope with their relatively new life or out-of-the-coffin circumstances. He had discovered some because their actions had been media nightmares and he’d had to be a spin doctor of the highest magnitude.

On more than one occasion, Bill had become acutely aware that many of the newer-made vampire’s mistakes or issues; could have been prevented had they had access to a more experienced vampire for counsel. The more he reflected on it, the more convinced he became it was a much needed service. His bosses at the AVL hadn’t been as convinced and basically dismissed the idea out of hand. Their response had been simply, that it was the Maker’s responsibility. But there were too many vampires that had been released by their makers without enough knowledge or the makers hadn’t been that good to begin with.

The third and final step dealt with the alternative, should the AVL be uninterested in Bill’s proposal. Therefore, Bill had met with Mr. Garth, explained his reasoning and what it was he wanted to achieve. Bob had been highly receptive to helping Bill get what he wanted. He agreed and not only told Bill he would ensure the AVL and The Authority understood this was to be done, he told Bill he would cover any and all expenses, including all the air travel, accommodations and anything else Bill would need to help as many vampires he could.

Bob also loved the idea of Sookie being able to travel with Bill all over the world. In fact, he couldn’t have been happier, even when Sookie told him she would work a case for him whenever necessary. Which of course, he would only allow Sookie to do if it was absolutely imperative and they happened to be home.

The only drawback was that it was up to Bill to meet with high-ranking members of the AVL, along with two chancellors from The Authority to both resign and explain what he would be doing. Bob would back Bill up, but the initial resignation was Bill’s alone and it was the reason Sookie was pacing. Technically, all of this was for the most part a moot point. Bill wanted to leave the AVL to start his own business. With both Bob and Sookie wanting the same thing, it was pretty much a done deal.

Even though she had been doing a good job keeping her cool, she still worried. Sookie knew just how tricky it could be when The Authority was involved. Bob being who and what he was wouldn’t make much difference if some hothead at the meeting staked her husband because they didn’t like being forced to do something because of Mr. Garth!

When her phone rang she jumped and yelped. It was Bill. Oh shit, it was much, much too soon for him to know the outcome! Sookie had never felt so conflicted in her entire life. While every fiber of her being was screaming at her to answer the phone, she instead stood utterly frozen, staring at the phone like she’d never seen it before. And while it felt like it had been ringing for hours, she opened the call with a push of a button before the second ring finished. However, her hello was practically a whisper and if there had been anyone other than a vampire on the other end, they wouldn’t have heard her.

“Sookie?” Bill asked, his voice sounding as normal as any other conversation that passed between them.

“Yes?” She could not form another word.

“Sweetheart, why don’t you give Greg a call and see if he could fly tomorrow, I think a nice long weekend at Halé Nohea  is just the thing we need, and we can stay longer if you like.”

Bill’s suggestion of them going to their, “Home of Loveliness” as they’d named it; in Hawaii was a truly mind blowing suggestion to say the least. “You mean they’re letting you step away? Oh baby! That’s incredible! When will you be home?” Sookie spun around when she heard the key in the lock and by the time he entered the apartment, she was already throwing herself into his waiting arms. Sookie squealed with delight and Bill spun her around with her feet flying in the air.

She peppered him with kisses and his chuckle was deep and genuine. He stopped turning and Sookie’s legs wrapped around his waist. He smoothed her hair from around face, tucking a few strands behind her ears and kissed her softly before moving his head back to smile and say, “Well, I don’t believe things could have gone any smoother… of course between my father-in-law and his princess paving the way, it gave them little choice in the matter.”

Her smile was one of Bill’s favorites and his alone, and the joyous emotions washing over him in waves was like a drug, with his hand on the back of her head, he kissed her again sweetly, her heavy, silky hair, slippery beneath his fingers and the feel of it flooded his mind with desire. The kiss slowly ended and he looked into her eyes. Wordlessly, she let her legs drop back to the floor and in doing so tilted her head back to look into her husband’s mesmerizing blue eyes.

She smiled and slid her hand into his and wordlessly turned to walk to their bedroom, Bill following behind. Once in the room and standing beside their big bed, Sookie let go of his hand and stood before him, he reached forward and began to unbutton her blouse. One by one he undid the small mother-of-pearl buttons and then slowly rubbed his thumbs across her collarbones as he slipped it from her shoulders.

Bill put one hand in the small of her back and pressing very lightly, moved closer to her. He tilted his head and brushed kisses on her forehead and then her cheeks as his capable hands unclipped her bra. He slipped it off and dropped it at their feet, then he whispered, “Undress me darling.”

With a slow and steady smile she whispered, “Gladly… but shouldn’t be calling me Princess?”

Bill rolled his eyes slightly as they continued their erotic dance, fingers slid across bare skin, lips brushed against lips, tongues touched and inflamed; soft sighs marked the progress as their bodies eventually found their way to their bed. Names were mere whispers of love and tenderness, as passion grew and they became one… the hunger and desire only flourished more intensely and when they reached the pinnacle of their wanting, they crashed together and it was glorious and all-consuming and as they slipped into a soft slumber… their bodies entangled and sated, and both contemplated the new phases their lives now held.

XxXxX

Bill and Sookie were under the dome watching the ocean roll up and down their beach, discussing the parameters of just what Bill would be doing. “What do you think would be a good starting point? Do you think the AVL will make things difficult for you?” Sookie asked. Bill was dealing with a somewhat rare circumstance and it was frustrating him. Even though he had the go-ahead, the funding and the ability… he was struggling with an acceptable strategy to promote his service. Thus far the best approach discussed had seemed to be a referral system, but Bill wasn’t sure of that path.

“Well, it’s not exactly as cut and dried as I’d like it to be. Yes, there are those in the AVL and I would speculate in The Authority that feel this plan should never been approved. But I don’t think they would deliberately cause problems. But I have to agree with some of my former co-workers. How do you go about announcing there is a service for troubled vampires? The public as a whole would probably become quite unnerved to think there are mentally unstable vampires out there.” Bill said evenly, but Sookie could tell her husband had his doubts. It was why she didn’t laugh at the word, ‘unstable’. Sookie had known more than one unstable vampire in her years with Bill.

They were silent for a bit, watching the waves, both thinking about how best to proceed. Bill held Sookie’s hand and he brought it to his lips and kissed the back of it. “Sweetheart, I know you’ve got something on your mind… would you like to tell me what it is?”

Sookie muttered, “Damn blood bonds.” But she was smiling as she said it; she squeezed his hand and spoke further. “Bill, what if you did treat this as a commercial venture? It’s a service, right? Hire a business consultant. Wouldn’t that be the best way to start?”

“Sookie, I think I can handle the business without a consultant, I think that would just over complicate things, but why do you think that would help?” Bill loved the fact that he could counter a statement like that with Sookie without the conversation turning into a battle royale. Well, most of the time… Sookie still had plenty of hot-headed moments and the two of them were capable of some pretty wicked fights, but happily, this wasn’t one of those times.

Sookie sat up and turned to face Bill more directly. Just as she started to speak the timer chimed and she said with a smile, “Why don’t you head up and I’ll be there in a minute.” She stood and pulled Bill to his feet. He kissed the crown of her head and agreed and they walked to the stairs still holding hands.

On the second level, they separated and Sookie went to the kitchen, she put a TruBlood in the microwave and then opened the fridge to discover Ali had already prepared a plate of freshly sliced fruits and cheeses. Sookie smiled, not the least bit surprised. She poured herself a glass of sparkling water, poured Bill’s TruBlood into a glass then placed everything on a tray and headed to the master suite.

XxXxX

Sookie and Bill were sitting cross-legged on their bed as they discussed the matter at hand. Bill held his hand up to give Sookie a slice of strawberry. She bit into it moving forward because he’d pulled it back ever so slightly. “Bill!” she exclaimed, with a smile, he brought his hand closer to her and carefully placed the rest of the slice at her lips.

As she took it from him and began to chew, he said, “I just don’t know if an advertising campaign would be well received.” His expression was serious and he picked up a piece of pineapple, lifting it with a questioning look in Sookie’s direction but she shook her head no and swallowed the last of the strawberry. He put the pineapple back on the plate and Sookie took a deep breath in and Bill feared she was getting angry.

Sookie released the breath like a sigh and said, “Babe, I’m just not explaining myself clearly,” Bill was about to object but she held up a hand and then continued. “I’m thinking more along the lines of gentle, well, that’s probably not the best word, oh okay, I know… discreet! I didn’t mean that you consider a showy media blitz but more like some of those commercials like they have for other vampire things… like the Hepatitis D things.”

The light clicked in his mind, of course, he thought to himself. If it wasn’t so late in the day his thinking wouldn’t have been so muddled. She was right, a few well done and subtle advertisements and of course, in the right venue, would really work to his advantage. He suddenly realized Sookie was touching him and her voice sounded far away. Even though he tried to concentrate on it, it slipped away from him and his mind quieted in an instant.

Sookie had seen Bill’s eyes begin to droop and she could tell he was on the verge of going out for the day. She pulled the plate aside and carefully turned him so when he laid back, he would be in a comfortable position. It didn’t take long and just as she managed to pivot him on the bed, his deepest need to rest claimed him and he was out. Sookie took the plate and their glasses and put them on the nightstand.

Her first thought was to exit the suite and get a few things done, but nothing earth-shattering came to mind. She looked at Bill, he was so handsome and she loved him more than words could describe… the debate was over. She got into bed beside him and even at rest, when he felt her near him; his arms pulled her into his embrace and before long she slept too.

XxXxX

That evening the Akaknai family were guests for dinner. Sookie and Ali had done the cooking, with Sookie surprising the hell out of Bill with a dish she made just for him. It certainly wasn’t the first time she’d made him something special, but she’d used donor blood and that was a rarity!

The conversation was light and happy; Kalani had just been commissioned to do a large piece for the lobby of a major hotel in the middle of a significant remodeling project. Mac and Ali’s grandmother Puanani had been released from the hospital two days before, so it was a celebration of sorts. She’d been having cardiac episodes and her heart was not beating with a proper rhythm. After consulting with one of the world’s best cardiologist, (not surprisingly, a very good friend of Bob’s) he’d implanted a state-of-the-art pacemaker and she was feeling better than she had in years.

Over the years, Puanani and Sookie had grown quite close; she had become a calming source of love and affection for Sookie. Even though she wasn’t nearly as old as Gran had been, she was enough like Gran to feel a kinship. Puanani had a great love for Sookie as well, how could she not? Sookie was so earnest in her thoughts and the things she did, both little and big. She had to admit, Sookie’s husband had been a little intimidating to her at first, but she quickly recognized the love he held for Sookie and of course, Sookie was madly in love with him!

If there was one thing that Puanani was more grateful for than anything else, was Sookie and Bill’s generosity had allowed them the means to pass along traditions that would have easily been lost. Kalani had been able to teach an eager Mac how to carve, how to bring the wood alive and bring forth the spirit of the animal under his hands. In under a year, it became obvious that Mac had the gift and talent of his grandfather, and it had brought great joy to them all. He had carved a graceful pair of dolphins, side by side, so close they were almost one and had given it to Bill and Sookie on their fifth wedding anniversary.

The Compton’s had genuinely loved it and asked if he would mind if they kept it in their master suite. Sookie worried that Mac would think they didn’t like it and wanted it to be hidden away, but Mac thought it was a great honor and assured them of that happily.

Sookie and Bill had placed it front and center in their sitting room along with other treasures they had collected over the years. There was a large hunk of volcanic glass, the obsidian so dark it seemed so much more than simply black. Scattered throughout the suite were pictures everywhere. Among Sookie’s absolute favorites were the ones of her and Bill together on the beach. There were photos of all the friends and family that had ever stayed there, and Sookie especially loved the ones of Colton and the first time he felt the surf on his feet!

After dinner they all sat out on the balcony and visited for about an hour before the grandparents bid them all goodnight. Mac and Ali stayed an hour or two longer, both fascinated by Bill’s new business venture, so to speak. Ali had been curious about the details and being too polite to ask, Sookie gave Bill a small nod and he supplied them with some of the more ‘knowable’ aspects of the plan.

After they left, Bill helped Sookie carry in the glasses and cups from the deck and neither were surprised to see the dining room and kitchen sparkling clean. Sookie put the dishes in the dishwasher as Bill handed them to her and she added the soap and turned it on. When she turned, Bill took her in his arms and kissed her, his tongue seeking hers and they stood there in the quiet kitchen a moment longer. Bill broke the kiss and looked into his wife’s dark chocolate eyes.

“Anything in particular you would like to do my darling?” He placed a sweet and gentle kiss on the tip of her nose.

“Let’s go up and make a fire.” She smiled and he chuckled and with his arm across her shoulder they headed to the master suite and their private balcony. Bill started a fire and as he did Sookie made herself comfortable on the many large lounging cushions. Even after more than five years, Sookie still marveled at the colors that danced within the flame as the salt in the wood burned.

Bill joined her and gave her a kiss and said, “Is that going to be the only fire I’ll be starting tonight?” His blue eyes sparkled mischievously.

Sookie’s smile was just a little coy and flirty when she said, “Well, only if you are very, very good.” She giggled then as Bill tickled her ribs a little before they lay back against the cushions, her head on his shoulder and looked up into the sky so full of stars Sookie couldn’t help but feel insignificant in comparison.

They lay there silently for a little while and then Sookie asked him if he’d given anymore thought to what he might do to promote of his services. Bill nodded a little and said, “I have, and I think your suggestion of doing them as almost this side of a PSA is definitely the way to go.”

Sookie frowned slightly and said, “PSA?”

“Public Service Announcement” Bill answered.

“Oh… is that what they’re called? I didn’t know that!” she exclaimed.

“Well, most PSAs are done at no cost because…”

“They are a public service etc…” she finished.

“Yes, I can gear them toward that style, being discreet and low-key, but I’d have to pay for the advertisements myself of course.”

“How come?” Sookie thought that what Bill was going to do was certainly something that should be a PSA.

“Without the backing of the AVL…” he didn’t need to finish the sentence.

The two of them talked quietly about different strategies for a few minutes and then Sookie said, “You know what you need? You need some big names to bring this to the forefront. Didn’t you tell me once that, I don’t know… um, somebody like Jim Morrison was turned? There’s got to be a lot of big name vampires out there that would really make others sit up and take notice!”

“I agree darling, except sadly, it would likely be noticed more by humans and such. Most of the vampire community as a whole is aware of the celebrities and famous names that have lived the life of a vampire for many years.”

Sookie sat up so she could look at her husband as she spoke. “Still… maybe it wouldn’t hurt to talk to some of them anyway, right? Some of them must have struggled terribly when they were turned, especially those turned so long ago that they had only their makers for information… for, for instructions, don’t you think?” her voice and manner full of enthusiasm and earnestness.

Bill reached up and cupped the side of Sookie’s face, “You never cease to amaze my love.” She pressed her face into his hand slightly and Bill’s fingers slipped to cup the back of her head, as he whispered, “Sweetheart… I want to be inside you.”

Sookie’s face glowed when she whispered back, “I guess it’s time to start that other fire then.”

In one fluid movement, Sookie found herself on her back, Bill’s face above her. “Sookie, tell me what you want.”

With her hands behind his neck she said breathily, “I want you to undress me slowly, I want you to kiss my skin and touch my body with the softest of touches…”

Bill’s eyes snapped with blue fire as Sookie whispered her wants and needs and it wasn’t long before her words caused him to moan with desire for her… too long to fulfill each directive. After an almost agonizingly slow pace, Bill got what he wanted, slipping inside her slick velvet warmth and it was obvious Sookie’s own words had enflamed her as well. They moved together, a slow, sensual dance, their passion growing with each moment that passed. When Sookie’s release loomed it was Bill’s turn to tell her what he wanted, “Come for me darling…”

She did and she didn’t go alone. 

XxXxX

Sookie was in her office looking out across the ocean and talking logistics with Rose. “What is the best way to buy advertising air time? Do I need a media consultant?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t think so, unless…” Rose paused before saying, “Although that may not be such a bad idea if Bill will be taking this internationally as well.”

“Oh crap! I never gave that a thought! I wonder if Bill has.” Sookie thought for a moment then added, “I’m sure he has so let me ask you this…”

After another half hour on the phone with Rose and then close to two hours researching through various media specialty firms suggested by Rose, Sookie was looking forward to Bill waking so she could share all the information she’d gathered. Being ever the smartass, she did a Power Point presentation to show him, knowing it would make him groan but admittedly it would be the fastest way to school him in all she’d learned.

Once done, she made her way to the kitchen and fixed herself a salad and wandered out onto the balcony. She sat in a chaise in the sun, enjoying a cool breeze coming off the water and ate. She thought about how different her sun exposure was these days. She had a healthy glow for certain, but she didn’t spend nearly as much time beneath the sun as she used to. Partly because she began noticing little creases around her eyes and mouth. Granted, they could be worse… and as she chewed a biter of her lunch she wondered what she’d look like if she wasn’t routinely taking Bill’s blood now and again.

She swallowed and paused, then was quite shocked to discover she no longer had an appetite. Wow. Where did that wet blanket come from? She sat back and thought hard about a truth she did her best to skirt around.

She was aging. Plain and simple. She was human and that was how it worked. But as hard as she tried to tamp it down, a fear kept creeping back up and into her subconscious. She couldn’t pretend it didn’t matter… it did. She had no doubt that Bill’s love would be eternal, but when would it change? When she looked like she was an older relative of his? When she looked old enough to be his mother?

She set the bowl on the table next to the chair and quickly descended the stairs to the beach. She walked to the water’s edge, pulling off her shirt and shorts and dropping them onto the sand and ran into the surf wearing one of her favorite swimsuits that had been hidden beneath her clothes. She dove in and after a few hard strokes was beyond the whitewater and contented herself to just swimming easily while letting her mind concentrate on nothing other than the pulse of the ocean and the beating of her heart.

XxXxX

As expected, Bill had groaned and complained loudly when she readied her presentation for him, but he’d also pulled her down onto his lap and kissed her deeply and thanked her sincerely too. They talked for an hour afterward before going outside to take a swim in the surf. Sookie loved to swim at night, but wisely never did it on her own. Swimming with her own personal shark repellant beside her was another story altogether.

After she’d become a stronger swimmer, Mac and Ali had taken her snorkeling, she didn’t like that it was something she and Bill would never do together. Still, taking in the beauty of the fish and sea life sans Bill she discovered a creative side of herself she’d never imagined, underwater photography. He was amazed at her pictures and wasn’t lost to the fact that it was her way of showing him more of her world and in return he gave her the ocean at night.

She’d learned to scuba and with the help of a scuba diving tow sled with high powered spot lights, Bill showed her an ocean she’d never dreamed of. It was on one of their night dives that she saw her first tiger shark, and it was coming straight for her. It scared her half to death before it turned itself on a dime and fled from Bill has he put his arms around her to keep her from panicking. Over the years, she cherished their nights in and on the ocean and could still remember the first time Bill had ever gotten her in the water in what seemed like a lifetime ago.

Tonight the moon was full and bright and as Bill floated on the water, she lay astride him and they talked quietly about the options before being surprised by a breaching humpback whale about 70 yards away. It was so sudden and explosive that Sookie slipped off Bill but he grabbed her before she could go under. While a vampire could instantly turn away the occasional shark or two without fail, it seemed they had no effect on something as majestic as a whale.

It unnerved Sookie a little too much and in a few moments they were walking up the beach to the outdoor shower to wash off the salt water. When they returned to the master suite Sookie’s cell phone beeped alerting her to a waiting message, followed almost immediately by Bill’s heralding the same.

Sookie listened to hers, one was from Jason to let her know he discovered a family of raccoons living in the loft area of the garage when he was there to return the brush cutter and he’d get someone to take care of them before they did too much damage and the other was from Rose asking her to have Bill call Joe when he had the time. By the time Sookie finished listening and deleting her messages, she turned to see Bill jotting things down on a pad of paper by the bed. When he spoke she realized he was actually on a call and a moment later he hung up and turned to her with a slight smile.

“What?” she asked when she saw the look on Bill’s face.

“It would appear I have my first client, how do you feel about taking a trip to Alaska?”

 

To be continued...