For a dedicated reader, who has for years supported and encouraged my writing.
May you always be the heroine of your own story, heavenstomurgatroid98.
Summary: Sookie is going nowhere fast in the two-stoplight town of Bon Temps. She knows she is capable of so much more, so she takes a leap and trades in her bar apron for a calculator. Soon her new desk job in Dallas lands her smack in the middle of a case of corporate fraud. Sookie’s clever accounting skills bring her much-deserved praise, but that isn’t the only ability her boss notices.
Rated: T for language
Characters: Sookie, Godric, Eric, Niall Brigant, Isabel Beaumont
Chapters: 1/1 [COMPLETE]
I threw my pen down in frustration and cussed under my breath at the stack of paperwork. Not that there was anyone to hear me; it was well past five and the office was abandoned. No matter how many times I cross-checked the numbers, the totals just would not add up. I liked my job at Godfrey & Associates. I really didn’t want to disappoint my new boss. It might be an entry-level accounting position, but this glittering glass skyscraper in downtown Dallas was a heck of a big step up from the backwater town of Bon Temps where I grew up. If someone had told me a year ago that I, Sookie Stackhouse, would be trading in my grease-stained waitressing apron and orthopedic sneakers for a staple of skirt suits and kitten-heeled pumps, I would have laughed at such a crazy pipe dream.
Pinch me, because here I was! The short order cook at Merlotte’s Grill, Lafayette, had been desperate to escape our tiny hometown. When the local paper ran a story about work opportunities in Dallas, he packed up and moved right on out. Three months later he called and convinced me to interview with his new company. The timing couldn’t have been better. My Gran had passed a while back and with only a skirt-chasing, troublemaker of a brother around, there wasn’t much to keep me from trying something new. Apart from waitressing at Merlotte’s, I had a bit of experience helping the owner, Sam, tally receipts and do the books. I didn’t think Sam was too keen on seeing me go, but he gave me a glowing reference that I’m positive helped get me the job.
Godfrey & Associates was a massive research corporation. It mostly focused on medical research and development, but it was hard to pinpoint exactly what they did upstairs since there was a lot of security and the various departments were kept separate. There was definitely an active laboratory on one of the floors, and I often saw folks in white coats taking cartloads of thick plastic bags to the big biohazard dumpster out back.
Whatever they did, it involved a butt-ton of money. That’s why I was starting to freak. Our invoices to Xing Lu Plastic Co. were almost $18 million less than what they were charging us. Either I couldn’t add or something screwy was going on. I had better figure it out quick or I would be kissing this job – and all the freebie manicures that it came with – goodbye. The company was real progressive, with flexible work hour policies and all sorts of services on site for its employees. “Like Google,” Lafayette had explained, although I wasn’t really sure what that meant at the time. Lafayette worked in the staff cafeteria, which was really a fancy restaurant that served only nutritious, organic food. The company also boasted a huge gym, a meditation room, a childcare center, a spa, and salon. I’d be lying if I didn’t say the latter was really what caught my attention initially, although I was disappointed to learn they did not have tanning beds. It turned out that dosing their workers with UV rays was not exactly part of the company’s mission statement to support human health. But super discounted haircuts and free nails? Count me in. Hence why I was still sitting here at almost 8pm, pissed off at the pile of paper on my desk and begging for divine intervention.
Sighing, I pulled out a thick stack of the original order forms and began to meticulously comb through the numbers. It would be several more spreadsheet documents and far too many hours before I would begin to understand.
At 10am the following morning I looked like something a cat had puked up on the front step. I managed to get about three hours of sleep, but there was no hiding the bags under my eyes. My supervisor Theresa could be a major bitch on wheels. Her pouf of shocking, radioactive red hair was hard enough to take seriously, but if her claws came out today I doubted whether I’d be able to hold my tongue. It was bad of me, but I let my mental feelers creep out just enough to hear a little of what was going through her head. Using my telepathic curse always made me feel guilty, especially when I deployed it for my own gain. But sometimes I just couldn’t help it. Theresa was at her desk, humming some awful Miley Cyrus song to herself. I guess now was as good a time as any.
“Theresa, can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Yah? Watcha need, hon?” She snapped her gum at me impatiently.
“Well, I was working on the Xing Lu account and it seems they have made…,” I hesitated, trying to be diplomatic “…an error in their own books. They’ve overbilled us by almost $18 million dollars.”
“Huh. How do you figure?” She didn’t try to hide her disbelief. Theresa oozed superiority to anyone who stood around her long enough to listen, so I tried not to take it personally. She might have grown up in some hoity-toity gated community in the Dallas suburbs, but she sure wasn’t a lady. I took a deep breath and channeled the good southern manners my Gran had taught me. “I went through all the serial codes of billed items. There are exactly 42 entries that are repeated in their paperwork – mostly twice, but a couple are triple billed.” Who knew what the items really were. Everything here was invoiced in indecipherable, unique billing codes – codes which had kept me up half the night. Whatever they were, they were 42 very expensive thingies.
“Shit. Okay, give me that, I’ll send up the report. Good work, newbie.” She forced a smile through gritted teeth. I probably wouldn’t get much, or any, credit for the discovery, which is why I’d just given her a copy of a boiled-down overview instead of the detailed originals I’d tucked safely away in my files. I was determined to ask for a raise at my annual review in six months.
Almost a week went by before I heard anything about the find. I was coming back up from the café, still laughing to myself about a dirty joke Lafayette had told me over the salad bar, when Theresa practically dragged me out of the elevator car. She pulled me aside in the hallway.
“Girl!” she squealed, as though we were suddenly best friends. “I can’t even believe it. You don’t have plans tonight, right? Of course not, silly me.” She always managed to drape even the most innocuous of comments in an insult.
“No, ma’am. You know me – solitary Sookie.”
She snorted an ugly laugh and continued. “Listen, that business with the billing has got them downright giddy upstairs. I can’t tell you how happy they were. The boss wants to meet with you!”
“Oh. Huh. Well I’m glad I could help out. What does Admin want with me?”
“No, silly! The big boss. Mr. Godfrey wants to thank you himself!”
I’d never met the CEO. As far as I knew, no one in our department had. Unlike most of the bigwig suits you saw around town, Mr. Godfrey was so low profile that he’d spun quite a shroud of mystery and intrigue about him. In fact, I’d only ever seen a picture of him in our promotional material.
“Oh wow,” I said, stunned.
“I know, right! You know, he’s supposedly like, really young and hot. And rich. I guess his dad gave him the family business or something? Nobody really knows.”
“Hmm. Well, when am I supposed to meet with him?”
“That’s just it. I guess he could only fit you in his big ‘ole CEO schedule tonight. Somebody will take you up at nine.”
“PM?” I exclaimed in disbelief. Two late nights in less than a week. If I kept it up I was going to catch a cold. Lord knew what sorts of things they were growing in petri dishes here. I made a mental note to take a vitamin.
“Yeah. And girl, just between you and me, I’d think about popping in to see Darlene after five. You could use a facial and a blowout.”
My hand twitched. Somebody really needed to slap this woman. No wonder she ran through husbands like most women ran through hosiery. “Thanks, Theresa. I’ll do that.”
By the time that five o’clock rolled around, I was staring nervously at my scuffed patent leather pumps wondering whether I had time to zip across town and get something nicer to wear, but I knew in my heart of hearts I couldn’t afford it. As Gran used to say “thrift comes too late when you find it at the bottom of your purse.” I’d already used my starting bonus to get the modest work wardrobe I needed. If I tucked into my savings now, I’d never be able to buy a car.
At exactly ten minutes to nine, a huge hulking security guard found me at my desk and grunted that I was to follow him. I quickly closed the game of solitaire I was embroiled in and followed the guy to the elevators. He had a squiggly mind and I couldn’t really read his thoughts, only discern his emotions. I’d noticed there were more folks like that around here, but I chalked it up to being in a city. He withdrew a security card from his jacket and tapped it against the reader to access the top floor. Every floor above the 4th required a special pass and visitors had to be escorted. I couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous. I was anxious to make a good impression and the nice massage I’d gotten earlier at the spa had long ago worn off.
The doors drew back to reveal a tasteful parlor with rich wood paneling and plush midnight blue carpeting. The guard left me in a sitting area attended by an elegant, dark-haired secretary. At least that is what I thought she was. Her desk was devoid of anything save an intercom and a sleek, flatscreen monitor. Eyeing her expensive-looking white linen skirt suit, I wondered if she wasn’t more of a manager. That outfit cost a few more zeros than any normal administrative assistant earned in a month and she must have some seriously good docs to have such perfect porcelain skin.
“Miss Stackhouse, my name is Isabel Beaumont. He’ll see you shortly.” The woman smiled kindly.
“Thank you. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Beaumont.”
“Can I offer you anything while you wait? Water or juice?” Despite her pin-neat and glamorous appearance, she radiated a sort of motherly vibe.
“No ma’am, I’m fine.” A Valium wouldn’t hurt, I added silently. She turned back to her computer and left me to my own anxious thoughts. I was surprised that I couldn’t hear her mind. It was a silent void. That was a first.
Thankfully, the buzzer on her desk hummed after several minutes. “Right this way.” Isabelle opened the large door adjoining the foyer where we were sat. Inside, a young man looked up from his desk with a delightful smile. It was warm and sparkling and he stood immediately to welcome me.
“Miss Sookie Stackhouse! Please, do come in.” He drew closer and shook my hand, then offered me a seat. At this close range, I was entirely thrown off for a moment. He wasn’t just handsome. He was gorgeous. And young. He didn’t look a day over 23.
“Mr. Godfrey, it is such an honor to make your acquaintance.”
“The pleasure is all mine,” he said calmly, his gray green eyes piercing me straight to…well, straight to my panties. I couldn’t help but stare at the full, erotic bow that composed the arches of his mouth as he spoke.
“I apologize for the late hour. Most of our business these days is exclusively with Asia, so we keep rather unconventional hours.”
I mumbled something about it being no trouble. We made polite small chat. He asked me how I was settling into Dallas and how I found big city life. It surprised me that he seemed interested in my hometown and wanted to know more about Shreveport as well.
“Well, Shreveport is the most urban thing around for a hundred miles. The city was always a big treat when my Gran took us kids there to see a movie or to check out the Christmas displays in the department store windows. Macy’s always had those animated bunnies and snowmen. You know the kind?”
Animated rodents? What was wrong with me! Mr. Godfrey smiled affably at my rambling. I always talked too much when nervous. He wanted to know more about Shreveport’s economy. “I don’t really know much about business opportunities there,” I apologized, feeling inane.
He gracefully changed the subject. “So, Ms. Stackhouse. You have saved us quite a lot of money. For that I am much obliged. Tell me how you discovered the attempted theft.”
“Wow, it was really fraud?” I blurted out. “I mean, I guess I just hoped it was an error.”
“No one makes $18 million dollar errors.”
“No, I suppose not. I guess I’m just always hoping for the best and bracing for the worse.”
“A solid philosophy,” the young man nodded. He was so oddly composed and formal for someone who was a few years younger than me. Even his speech, which lilted delicately with a slight accent, seemed a mismatch to his youthful appearance. It must be difficult to hold such a high position of authority and be so devastatingly hot. People never bothered to look past the pretty packaging to appreciate a person’s untold depths. How well I knew.
I proceeded to recount how I traced the bookkeeping discrepancies and he listened closely, pausing to ask for a few details here and there. “I am impressed. We value attention to detail in this company. Tell me, what would be your ideal job?”
Swooning in his arms? Making a small army of babies with him? Cheese and rice, Sookie. Clean it up! In my distraction, I pushed my mental feelers at him, hoping to figure out if he had a specific answer in mind. I was stunned when, for the second time in my life, they hit a solid void.
Mr. Godfrey furrowed his brow quizzically, then rose to fuss with some papers on his desk.
“I ask, Ms. Stackhouse, because I suspect – now much more so than before – that you may be grossly underemployed given your skillset.” He paused, narrowing his almond-shaped eyes and I felt a pressure in my forehead. “I’m curious. Do you consider yourself a good judge of character?”
His question threw me. Had he felt me try to read him? I shuddered in horror. Impossible, I told myself. No one knew about my disability unless I accidently spoke to their thoughts instead of their voice – and I’d gotten pretty good at avoiding that mistake during my years of waitressing.
“Um, I do my best. That’s kind of a tricky question.”
“Well, in my experience most people aren’t straightforward. Even someone with the best of intentions and a heart of gold usually has something they regret.”
“Indeed. Perhaps you wouldn’t mind sitting in on my next meeting then? You can help me determine whether the rep from Xing Lu who has come to explain their ‘billing discrepancy’ as you so politely called it, is well-intentioned or not.”
“Certainly. What would you like me to do?”
“Just listen in,” he said, a slight smile playing at the seductive corners of his mouth.
He pressed the intercom. “Have Stan bring in Mr. Zhou.”
A moment later a large, rugged man in cowboy boots came in with a very nervous looking businessman. My eyes widened when Mr. Godfrey began speaking in what I presumed was very rapid Mandarin. He nodded at me and I took a seat next to the gentleman.
“Mr. Zhou, forgive my directness but I am not one to waste time. We are one of your largest clients at present, no?”
“Yes, Mr. Godfrey, we are very honored that you choose to do business with Xing Lu.”
“Our contract is valued at $1.9 billion USD per year, correct?”
“And there are…” He flipped rather dramatically through a stack of files. “…literally hundreds of other medical-grade plastics manufacturers that we could work with, yes?”
“We have many competitors, sir.”
“Then would you like to explain to me and my intrepid accountant here why you would risk losing such an important contract over a puny 18 million dollars?”
“I can assure you that was not our intention.”
“Then assure me, Mr. Zhou.” Mr. Godfrey glanced at me briefly, then back at the quivering man before him. He might be young, but the CEO who was presently leaning over his desk on planted fists emanated nothing but an air of complete and total power.
“We have fully investigated the error and taken measures that duplicates cannot be entered into the system in the future.”
“That’s all? What’s to stop you from further padding your bills in other ways? I do not like greed, Mr. Zhou. It is in poor taste.”
He stammered a little, caught unawares by Mr. Godfrey’s no-nonsense question. I focused on the representative but it was difficult to pick through his mind since I couldn’t understand the words he was thinking. Taking a gamble, I placed my fingertips on the back of his hand. Physical contact helped magnify the images and emotions running through people’s heads. “What I think Mr. Godfrey is trying to say is that downstairs in accounting, we would have a hard time telling if ya’ll decided to get a bit more creative with your books. Where exactly did the error happen?”
An image of a man behind a desk yelling at Zhou popped into his head. He was even more afraid then than he was now. It didn’t match up with what came out of his mouth.
“Miss, it was a bad accountant.” He jerked his hand away from mine, but not before an image of a different man crying and being escorted from a building with a box in tow sprung up in his thoughts. The memory conveyed a sense of shame and innocence. My guess was that was the accountant.
“I see. Well, I hope you find a qualified replacement,” I offered.
Zhou nodded and pulled at his sweaty collar.
“Send me a full report on the software modifications you’ve made by tomorrow evening, Mr. Zhou, and anything else you think will help make your case. Our people will be in touch with you regarding our decision to proceed. Goodnight.” He dismissed the man without further ado. Once the representative was deposited in the elevator, Mr. Godfrey returned to me.
“I’m sorry for interrupting. I just thought maybe he’d respond better to someone he felt less threatened by.”
“Do you find me threatening?”
I bit back a laugh. “Well, you did pretty much suggest that you could cancel your contract with him.”
He smiled. “Yes, I did. How would you advise me to proceed?”
“What? Oh goodness, I couldn’t possibly tell you. So many people could lose their jobs!”
“True. But the same could be said if I allowed mismanagement to undermine us.”
“Errr, fair enough.”
“What did you make of him?”
“He’s covering for his boss.”
“You sound sure. Why?”
I shrugged. “Just a hunch.” I scrambled to come up with an explanation. “No desk jockey is going to see a dime of that extra cash unless they are really smart, which they weren’t or they would have covered their tracks better. My guess is that it was somebody higher up.”
“That’s very astute. Almost like you read his mind.”
I blushed hard at his suggestion. “Well, that’s not likely, Mr. Godfrey.”
He stepped out from his desk, entirely focused on me. “No, not likely. Very rare indeed. Tell me, Ms. Stackhouse, are you a telepath?” His eyes unfixed and bore into me. Again, I felt a weird, tingling pressure build in my head from his gaze.
“I don’t believe in that kind of thing.”
He tilted his head, slightly taken aback. “You must be thirsty. Have a cup of coffee,” he said, more a command than an offer, still staring relentlessly at me.
“Oh, thank you, but no. If I drink caffeine this late I’ll get all jittery and won’t be able to sleep.”
If he looked somewhat confused before, Mr. Godfrey now looked utterly astonished. He stepped closer and took a deep breath. “My, my. What do we have here?”
“Excuse me?” The excited, predatory gleam in his eyes made me uneasy. I might not have been able to read his mind, but I’d dealt with more than my fair share of creeps. I knew perfectly well what that look meant. I may be a small town girl, but sexual harassment was not acceptable. “I think I should be on my way, Mr. Godfrey,” I said firmly and stood to leave.
He shifted, blocking my path. “How did you know they fired the accountant?”
“What?” My mind raced back over our conversation.
“Zhou didn’t say that anyone had been fired for the incident, yet you knew. You said ‘I hope you find a qualified replacement’.”
“Fudge,” was all I could say.
“You can trust me with your secret. I keep quite a few myself, as it happens.”
I took a long time before responding. With a single word, I admitted to something I had never uttered to another soul. “Yes,” I whispered.
“What am I thinking right now?”
“I can’t read you, Mr. Godfrey, or Ms. Beaumont. You’re both blank. I’ve never encountered that.”
He seemed relieved. “You’re lucky that’s the case. Please, call me Godric.”
He laughed softly. “Godfrey is a pseudonym. Sounds more American. Better for business.”
“Oh. Well, please call me Sookie. Where are you originally from?”
“Europe. How would you like to do more of what you did tonight, Sookie? Reading people to help the business? That is an extremely valuable talent.”
“How valuable?” I asked rather less politely than I intended.
“Well, I haven’t met another telepath in…ages. So name your price. I see you aren’t married. Should I speak to your father about securing your services?”
“My father? He’s dead, sir, but I’m a grown lady. I can negotiate for myself, thank you very much.” Godric leaned toward me and inhaled again, his nostrils gently flaring. He furrowed his brow and licked his lips.
“Another guardian in your family, then? Perhaps a grandparent?”
“They’re all dead. You might be a foreigner, mister, but that’s not how we do things here, not even in the south. We even let women own property too, you know.”
Godric straightened and his look of confusion transformed into amazement. He covered his luscious mouth with two fingers. “You have no idea, do you?” He said something in another language and, shaking his head in surprise, went to the intercom. Leaning casually against the desk, he buzzed Isabel in the other room. “Isa, can you get Niall Brigant on the phone for me, preferably sometime tonight? Tell him that if necessary, I am willing take a daytime call. It is extremely urgent.”
“Yes, sir,” she said.
Godric turned his attention back to me. “Look, Sookie. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to have met you. I know it is getting late so I’ll let you be on your way, but think about what you might like in return for the use your gift. Shall we meet tomorrow evening? Same time?”
“Sure. Thanks. I guess I’ll be seeing you.”
To my shock, he whisked my hand to his mouth and ghosted a chaste kiss upon my knuckles, whispering, “Until then, Ms. Sookie Stackhouse.” My heart skipped a beat at those handsome sea-colored eyes looking up at me under long, sweetly curled fringes of lash.
The image stayed in my mind well into the night.
The cell phone beeped shrilly, vibrating and flashing brightly again and again next to his ear. When Godric had gone to ground that morning, he had purposefully turned it up as loud as it would go. Even well over two thousand years old, he was still a very sleepy vampire during daylight hours.
And also a rather grumpy one. “Hrrmmmph,” he creaked, answering the call.
“Wake up, Godric.”
Damn him. The prince of the Fae, Niall Brigant, was an old acquaintance and sometime ally, sometime enemy. At the present, they were once again on good terms. It didn’t mean, however, that the old bastard wouldn’t enjoy the jibe of giving him the bleeds. He had known Niall would gleefully accept his offer to wake him in the middle of the day. Godric looked at the clock. It was almost high noon, when the pull of the sun would affect him the most. Jerk.
“Brigant. Thanks for returning my call.” He clicked on the bedside lamp in his underground lair. Like the house above, it was appointed in the muted colors and clean, modern design that he had adopted as his preferred style for the past forty years or so. Forcing himself out of bed, he paced around, trying to get his head in the present. He wouldn’t bleed too badly, not at this age, but it still was a challenge to shake off the grogginess.
“Well, vampire? What do you need?”
“It’s more what have you lost? I found a halfling wandering around my building this evening who has no idea that she’s fae nor what her rights are with regard to her most unusual of talents.”
“I suspected that might be the reason for your call. Things have been…busy these days in Faerie. I haven’t had time to properly meet my great granddaughter.”
If Godric had needed air, he would have gagged on his own tongue. As it was, he froze completely. Virtually nothing caught him by surprise anymore, yet this was the second time in less than 24 hours that he had been utterly stunned out of his own skin. Getting his full attention was difficult enough. The vision of beauty that came bouncing into his office smelling of sunshine and sex incarnate had certainly managed to pique his interest. Not that he would ever indulge it; he never drank from his own employees on principle. That was just poor form. But when he realized that the Stackhouse woman clearly bore traces of fae blood, was telepathic, and that she could not be glamoured to boot, he had to feed off his own wrist to regain control after she left. But that was all the indiscretion he was willing to admit.
This new information, however, was beyond the pale. Nevermind how few fae were actually left on this side of the veil. A damned royal Sky Fae –indeed one of the very few living Brigant female descendants in direct succession to the throne – was now skipping about not just in his territory but under his very roof! And she had been flitting about under his progeny’s nose for most of her life! It was too much to process.
He heard Niall laughing on the far end of the line. His amusement annoyed Godric immensely. “Why was I not informed of her presence earlier? She is walking around completely unprotected, with no idea what she is or the grave dangers she faces. It must be explained to her.”
“Are you a risk to her?”
His annoyance turned to anger and it radiated off him in hot waves. “Of course not! I am offended that you would ask. If I didn’t already know how clueless she was, I would suspect you had sent her here yourself as a spy. As it stands, I’m beginning to think you’ve plotted to have her arrive unsuspecting under the long reach of my authority for her protection.” He hadn’t raised his soft voice, but it was clear Godric’s usual calm demeanor was beginning to crack. It was evidence of how the situation truly rattled him. There was too much that hung in the balance at present.
“Well then I suppose that settles it. She’ll be in good hands until I can send someone.”
“She doesn’t know anything about the supernatural. What do you expect me to tell her?”
“Talk to the demon lawyer Desmond Cataliades. He can fill you in on the details. Unless there’s anything else, I’ll let you get back to your beauty sleep.”
“Niall, wait,” he responded, but the Fae Prince had already hung up. He was one of the few beings willing and able to defy Godric so disrespectfully. Niall did it because he could. Gods damn the maddening man. Groaning, Godric went to the spacious bathroom vanity and washed his face and ears of the little trickles of blood that had started to work their way out. A minute later, once he had collapsed back in bed, not bothering to crawl under the deliciously soft cotton sheets, his accursed phone began to ring again. He would have ignored it, but it was his one and only progeny, Eric.
He answered it, eyes still closed. “What is going on?” Eric asked rapidly, avoiding any niceties.
Vampires had little need for phone etiquette in general, but after a thousand years of ups and downs with his child, there was just simply no need for formalities at all. Unfortunately, they were in a bit of a down period at present, which laced the call with added tension.
“Why do I feel you awake at midday?” Eric was obviously peeved at the rollercoaster of emotions he had picked up in their bond.
“It’s fine. I’ve just discovered I’m babysitting a Fae princess for Niall.”
“You have got to be fucking kidding me.”
“Are you okay? Do you want me to come? Just say the word,” he said with that same eagerness that was Eric’s and Eric’s alone.
“I’ll be fine.”
“Eric, please. How many times do I have to ask you to stop calling me that?”
“I forget. Tell me again.” Godric sighed in annoyance, pinching his brow. “Better yet, you could punish me,” his child said.
Godric could practically feel Eric waggling his eyebrows suggestively wherever he was in Tokyo. “I’m going to go back to bed.”
“Okay. Let me know how it goes.”
“I miss you.”
“Miss you too,” he responded automatically, concealing just how much it pained him to be apart from his beloved child. They were planning to reveal their kind to the world. In the long decades of planning this epic project demanded, they had grown adrift during their separation.
“Puss och kram, min lilla gubbe [Kisses and hugs, my little man].” Eric sent his love to his maker and hung up. Godric threw the phone into the pitch black of the room, not caring where it landed or if it smashed, and passed out, determined to rest peacefully until dusk.
I would be lying if I hadn’t thought of Godric just about all day long. Sitting at my workstation, I typed mindlessly into one of my spreadsheets and caught myself drifting off into another sordid and entirely unseemly fantasy about my boss. My boss. I repeated it like a mantra, hoping to pound my dirty thoughts away with that important detail, only to find myself coming full circle and discovering that I was yet again thinking about getting pounded by my boss, details be damned. Good Lord.
Thankfully my presence was not required in any meetings today. Because the company was so amenable to flexible schedules, I had come in late knowing that I would be working until nine, at which time I would clock out and rendez-vous with my dashing, sexy, so-off-limits Boss with a capital B.
I did not know what was crazier: that I had actually directly admitted my disability to someone for the first time or that Godric had called it ‘a gift’ and seemed to think I could make absurd demands on anyone who wanted to use it. It was this latter thought that had me somewhat worried. I had spent the better part of this morning at my breakfast table making a list outlining the limited ways I was willing to use my telepathy. More difficult was deciding just precisely what to ask in return. I had tried – much to my embarrassment – to search for professional telepathy rates online, but all I found were phony psychics who charged $1 a minute on pay-per-call phonelines to make up nonsense about the future. In any case, I wasn’t a psychic, I was a telepath. Big difference.
At quarter to nine, the giant security guard with the squiggly mind showed up to take me upstairs. As the elevator dinged, announcing each passing floor, I felt the knot of anxiety grow in my tummy. I was completely blown away when the doors pulled open to reveal Godric standing at the elevator bay, hand casually in the pocket of his pale grey suit, waiting for my arrival. My knees instantly wanted to turn into Jell-O.
“Evening, Sookie. Shall we?” He escorted me to the comfortable chairs in his office and Isabel brought me a cup of herb tea. I was thankful I had something to hold other than the hem of my skirt, which I probably would have worried at nervously until it unraveled. That I had been given a decaffeinated drink was not lost on me. Godric had paid close attention to what I had said.
“So have you thought more about my offer?” he asked.
“I have. I’m interested, but I do have a few reservations.”
“Naturally. Tell me what you need.”
I swallowed. Oh, there were a number of things I needed from him right now. It didn’t help that he was in a crisp, white dress shirt with the top button undone. It revealed a mysterious blue tattoo underneath the obscene column of his exposed throat. It also didn’t help matters that he was currently slipping off his dress shoes and curling his legs under him in his chair in a completely charming and disarming manner. He ran a hand through his shining, golden brown coif of hair and I wanted to melt on the spot.
“I don’t want to leave my job in accounting,” I declared, gathering my wits. “It’s the only thing I’ll be able to put on my resume and I’m not keen on abandoning a job I just started six months ago.”
“I must tell you that there are certain circles where your telepathy services should be at the top of your resume and the only thing on it. I prefer that you work exclusively up here with me, Isabel, and our other co-owner who is based temporarily in Tokyo. Your job title will be innocuous enough such that no one will question it, nor will they fail to recognize your importance within this company. Your job title will be innocuous enough that no one will question it. How does ‘Executive Communications Manager’ sound?”
“That sounds great. You should know that it is physically and mentally tiring for me to listen closely to people. I doubt I could work a full 40-hour week.”
“That is not a problem. We can limit your listening hours to say, no more than three times a week with a guaranteed day off following an active day. We’ll have a trial period to see how long you feel comfortable working at a single stretch. Let’s start by, say, four hours with a twenty minute break after two hours?”
“That sounds reasonable.”
“You’re already on our health plan, so we should talk salary and benefits. First off, I am embarrassed that you’re only being paid $38,000 a year. How do you afford your mortgage?”
“Oh. But even then, car payments must be a pitiable stretch.”
“I take the bus.”
“Oh, Sookie!” Godric seemed truly upset.
“No offense, I know you’ve probably grown up under different circumstances, but it’s what regular folks do, sir. It’s not a big deal. I left my old car in Bon Temps because I knew it wouldn’t make it here. Commuting on the bus isn’t so bad. It gives me time to read.”
“The circumstances I grew up in are unimaginably different from anything you might be thinking, so feel free to disabuse yourself of whatever you had in mind. But this situation will be remedied immediately. Name your price.”
“Well, I suppose since it will only be part time, how about $20 an hour?”
Godric laughed. “Out of the question.”
“Oh, gosh. I’m so sorry! Is $15 too unreasonable?”
“Sookie, dearest,” he said, shaking his head in mirth. “I am prepared to literally give you the moon for what you can do and you are sitting there talking down a salaried job into an hourly wage slave position. What am I going to do with you?”
“I’m sorry. I honestly don’t know what to say.”
“Isabel?” he asked through the cracked office door. She materialized almost instantly. “How much do I pay you?”
“For this job?”
“Just this one,” he replied.
“About $12.5 million before taxes, plus stock options, a six figure annual bonus, and a Black Card for clothing and travel costs.”
“He gets the same, although he usually manages to lose his bonus doing something incredibly stupid.”
Godric turned back to me. I had gone sheet white. “As you can see, you’re going to need to rethink your numbers a bit. Would a comparable package work for you?”
“What’s a Black Card?” I managed to squeak out.
“Oh, my dear,” Isabel clapped her hands with in excitement. “It’s the only truly unlimited credit card – by invitation only. You whip out that precious and the store clerks scramble. But the best part is that Godric foots the bill. He is very, very generous.”
My mouth was hanging open. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the kind of money she was talking about, let alone the thought of that sort of wealth coming my way.
“Honestly, the real money is in the stock options,” Godric said. “If the company succeeds – and we will – we are all going to be staggeringly, disgustingly rich.”
“Succeed?” I asked, wondering if they were cooking up some miracle drug in the labs.
“Yes, Sookie. We are working on several innovations that are going to change the world as we know it. These are exciting times. You understand that you’ll have to sign an iron-clad non-disclosure agreement regarding anything you may learn during your work with us. And I am going to have to insist that you accept some special security precautions. I’m also going to need you to adjust to our evening schedule, although there may occasionally be work for you during the day.”
“I have to admit I’m a little weirded out by the corporate shadiness. I don’t even know what we do here. Pardon, but, it’s nothing sordid, is it?”
“I can assure you that our business is a fundamentally humanitarian endeavor. We are not in this game to exploit people. Quite the opposite. We are trying to right the wrongs of history.”
“Take your pick,” he said impassively. Godric flicked his hand, dismissing Isabel. Once we were alone, he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Do we have a deal?”
I chewed my cheek nervously. “We have a deal.” We shook on it, but he didn’t return my hand. Instead he clasped it between his strong, cool palms for a long moment. It was strangely intimate and thrilling. I felt a tickling at the back of my neck, but nothing like the pressure I’d experienced before. Godric looked determined, as if he wanted to communicate something to me. Finally, he let me go. “Have you ever wondered where your telepathy comes from?”
“I dunno. It’s just a really weird quirk.”
“Surely you must have wondered if there were other creatures out there with similar supernatural gifts?”
“Like what? Aliens? The Lochness monster?”
He shook his head. “You really don’t appreciate how special your ability is, do you? Sookie, all life forms have a kind of magic, but some are more magical than others. I am sorry that it falls on me to tell you these things. Your family, for reasons I do not fully understand, has chosen to keep you in the dark about your own lineage.”
“My lineage? I think we are mostly Irish with a bit of German dashed in there.”
This amused him. “Irish, to be sure, of a sort. You are Fae. Sky fae, to be precise.”
“You are part fairy. I spoke with your great grandfather yesterday when I realized you were not aware of your origins.”
“I told you. My family is all dead except my brother.”
“No, they aren’t. They just live in a different realm. And you’re not just any fae. You are a princess in the royal House of Brigant.”
I snorted. He sounded like a cheesy show on the Sci-Fi channel. “Right. I’m a princess.”
“A fairy freaking princess.”
Godric looked a little annoyed. “Yes.”
“Get outta here. I suppose next you’ll tell me you’re a leprechaun!”
“No.” He drew in a breath. “I am vampire.”
“Right,” I said, still laughing. Godric sat stock still, unmoving. “You’re a vampire. As in capes and crypts and coffins and fangs.”
The last thing I remember was hearing a snicking sound and seeing two deadly sharp teeth drop in his mouth before the world went black, spun sideways, and I passed out.
Cool fingers brushed over my temple and the smoky, dulcet tones of a calm voice called me back to consciousness. “Sookie?”
My eyes fluttered open to meet a very concerned Godric hovering over me. “Where…where am I?” I was on a couch in some sort of library.
“We’re in my study. It’s next to my office. You fainted.”
“You…Oh my god, you’re a – !”
“Calm down. You’re perfectly safe with me.”
“But you…Do you bite people?”
“I require very little blood these days. I am well over two thousand years old.”
“Get the fuck out!” My hand flew to my mouth, shocked that I had dropped the F-bomb in front of my boss and someone claiming to be older than Jesus Christ.
“I apologize. I should have gone about that differently. This company – our work here – we are developing blood substitutes so that vampires can finally come out of the shadows. If we are visible to humans and can prove we are not a threat, then we will be held accountable to them and they to us.”
“I thought fairies were like little people with pointy ears and wings.” Godric smirked. Obviously they were not. “Will they come out too?”
“No, I doubt very much that they will. They are the most secretive of all supernatural creatures and this realm has become too polluted for pure fairy to live here for any substantial length of time. Even a mostly human hybrid such as yourself is unbelievably rare. Your scent took me by surprise.”
“So you were sniffing me!”
“I apologize. Vampires use all of our heightened faculties to understand the world around us, including our sense of smell.”
“What else is there?”
“Elves and gnomes are cousins to your people, but they too have fled. Trolls were sadly lost to the ages. They were a gentle, misunderstood kind. Some of the old gods still roam this world, but they do not reveal themselves. There are werewolves and other two-natured beings still among us.”
It was too much to process. “I can’t believe I’m a fairy.”
“And a fairy princess to boot. We should celebrate. May I take you to dinner this evening?”
I balked. “You realize I’m not hearing that the same as you, right?”
Godric chuckled and the laughter shined in his eyes. The truth was in his eyes, I realized. They were ancient and knowing and relieved. He was relieved to have met her, pleased to have a change of pace in what was apparently a very long life.
Though he could not read minds himself, it was almost as if he had. “Come, Ms. Stackhouse. Let us toast to what I hope will be a fruitful and very long collaboration. We have a lot of work to do.”
He stood and extended his hand. After a split second of deliberation, I took it. He brushed my knuckles with a kiss and his sea green eyes reassured me. I would never regret this promotion.
“Will you tell me more about this great-grandfather fairy of mine?” I asked, excited about the prospect of having more kin.
“Of course. I will tell you all that I know, though it will take many, many years. Would you like that?”
“More than anything,” I said, somehow knowing his offer ran deeper than the simple words he used.
“And I should tell you of my son, Eric. He will join us soon and I know he is looking forward to making your acquaintance.”
“You have a boy?”
“No. I have a thousand year old Viking progeny,” he corrected. “And now I have a fairy princess.” I twined my arm in the crook of his proffered elbow and he pressed the elevator button for the basement.
A/N: Please leave a comment if you have a moment! I love to hear from you! xx, Melusine