(A/N) Merry Christmas! This will be a short multi-chapter Christmas story featuring our favorite Viking and a Sookie we’ve never seen before. Don’t be afraid, but this is my first AU/OOC that I “knowingly” wrote. And I sincerely hope you enjoy it! Thank you to my awesome BETA, Kleannhouse for helping me. (((HUGS))) to her! As always this is a HEA story.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Southern Vampires Mysteries by Charlaine Harris or HBO’s True Blood, created by Alan Ball. However, this story and the AU/OOC I’m playing with are mine. 🙂
It was Christmastime.
The holiday came around every year. Yet somehow, left everyone who celebrated in a state of excited panic.
My business was not immune to this chaos. In fact, when I took over the family business a few years ago, I should have renamed it: Chaos by Stackhouse. However, I felt that re-branding would send the wrong message to my faithful clientele.
I inherited my Aunt Linda’s party planning company, aptly named Occasions. Five years before she had been diagnosed with a rare type of brain tumor. The doctors were concerned about cancer, but Linda beat the odds by getting one eye removed followed by radiation.
And boom, no more cancer.
Since then, my Aunt Linda practiced the art of being the unobtrusive CEO.
The good news about taking over my family’s established business of thirty-five years is that Linda had a trail of happy clients. All willing to spread the word by mouth. Eliminating the need for advertising.
Here in Shreveport, Louisiana roots ran deep. Our customers and their guests shared the names of frazzled CEO’s or housewives, as most people refer to the women who command their household. Giving the company and never-ending stream of people to cater too.
Most folks never batted an eye when I took hold of the reins. After a few solo gigs the rave reviews increased the business. I had attended a design school and had a natural eye for what looked just right for any occasion. Birthdays, Graduations, Weddings, Baby Showers and of course, Christmas and New Year’s galas were high in demand. A wait list stretched in advance. I always kept a spot open for a last-minute client, willing to pay.
Better to keep employees busy and not over worked especially during the Christmas season.
Our competition had been, Extremely Elegant Events (EEE). I never considered them a true rival since they charged through the nose and had a more displeasing disposition with their clients. Who quickly became my clients. Go figure that the good people of the South wanted someone with Southern roots and manners decorating their events. (EEE) moved out of the area soon after word spread about their terrible customer service.
So here I was, driving toward the small town of Bon Temps. A township I never cared to live in again. Aunt Linda was raised by her mama, my Gran. On the old family farm near the small city cemetery. I had lived just a few miles from Gran when I was little. Then, my parents moved us to Shreveport. My daddy had gotten, in his words, a great job opportunity and wanted more for my brother and I than small town living.
The home just down from Gran’s on Hummingbird Lane was now a monstrosity. At one point I remembered the old Compton homestead as a rundown Plantation farmhouse from a by-gone era. Old Jesse Compton had passed some years back and shortly afterward his long-lost kin claimed the land and started to renovate the farmhouse. I had never met William Compton, Jesse’s kin. In fact, no one in Bon Temps had.
Folks speculated endlessly over the new owner and his plans for the property. When the reality that the new architecture was not a cruel joke, people were not shy with their complaints.
As I parked my Jeep Grand Cherokee I took a nice long look at the house before stepping out and climbing the porch steps. I barely recognized the structure from my youth.
Once a white washed Colonial with a beat up porch sat a Romanesque style domicile. It did not fit the area whatsoever. The style was fine, beautiful even if done right. This house however, was not. With my design eyes focused, I could tell where the architect and the owner differed.
More stone and brick were added to the exterior to give the structure a foreboding appearance. I shook off the chills that ran down my spine. I wrapped my arms around my waist to keep in the warmth. Only an hour after sunset in Northern Louisiana the air was crisp and cold.
The time of day didn’t bother me in the least. Most folks needed to meet with me after business hours to cement a plan for their upcoming events. Also, if the party happened to be in their homes I could tour the area. Taking notes and pictures of what needed to be handled.
A moment later a small man answered. Well, small in the sense that I was 5’5 and in heels looking right into his face. The truth was that short men weren’t attractive to me, tall ones were. Not that I had any experience with being attracted to the opposite sex. I liked men, that was my preference, but I had yet to find anyone who turned my head like that.
Plastering on my business smile, I found yet another man who didn’t wave my flag. The short man had dark brown hair and civil war style sideburns. That style was a bit of a surprise, considering the remodel of the house. If this was the owner his sense of style was all over the place.
Additional judgment of the Henley shirt and khaki pants had me rolling on the ground of my mind in bursts of laughter. This guy had money and dressed like a seventies throwback. He had already managed to give me the creeps before ever introducing himself…
And then he smiled.
A cold attempt that never touched his eyes.
“Miss Stackhouse, thank you for being on time. I am William Compton, please come in.” He spoke in an accent that was an interesting mix of the South and Britain?
“Thank you, Mr. Compton.” I nodded and stepped inside. After Mr. Compton shut the door he directed me toward the parlor.
“Please call me Bill, Miss Stackhouse. Would you like some refreshments?” Bill inquired.
Bill had an air about him. A cold-hearted snob with the personality of an old boot. So far, he had been polite and so I would be as well. After all, this was a business meeting. Not a date. Ugh, the idea of being around his company almost made me gag.
I held back, barely.
“Water, please.” Bill frowned and headed toward what I guessed was the kitchen.
Was he unhappy with my choice of beverage or was it that I accepted his invitation for refreshments. Either way, I made a mental note that this client is difficult. He had Prima Dona written all over him.
Tara was not going to be happy if Bill was the dramatic sort. As my assistant Tara was not much for customer service, therefore I tried to keep the clients and my best friend at a fair distance.
Bill returned and handed me a warm bottle of water.
“How are renovations going?” I asked while I dug out the tablet from my messenger bag. Perhaps there was a refrigeration problem that needed an expert to handle before the party was to happen. In no way should any guest be given a warm bottle of water. Unless they requested it.
Bill smiled wide. Yes, he was a Prima Dona. Lucky for me vain men were easy to handle. Give them some praise and they swooned all over you for more. Exhausting, but I knew this meeting would not take more than fifteen minutes to iron out.
“Very well, I recently came into some success with my business and was finally able to make this house everything I had always wished it could be. A castle, something formidable.” Bill said.
“You didn’t care for the original home? Did you visit your Uncle or Grandfather before he passed? I apologize, I’m not clear on your relation to Jessie Compton.” I said.
His eyes narrowed slightly as he spoke, “Not at all. I am a distant relation of Jesse Compton. Closer to a Nephew I suppose. Since no other living Compton’s beside me exist, the property reverted to me.”
Like I cared a wink about his lineage. I had just never heard of him from Gran, and she was the town butterfly. Gran was also heavily involved with the towns’ Historical group, Descendants of the Glorious Dead. I know I would have remembered if she had said anything about this weirdo who now sat across from me.
“Alrighty-then.” I said and looked down to open the right program for taking notes. My moves also gave me a moment to wipe the “you’re an asshole” off my face. I needed to get this initial meet over with so I could get the hell out of here. “You want to have a Christmas Eve party. How many guests do you expect to RSVP from your invite list?”
Bill leaned forward, resting his forearms on his thighs. “I expect everyone I believe worthy to attend. One hundred and fifty invitees plus a guest of their choosing will be here on the 24th of December.”
One hundred and fifty was a ridiculous number for such a space. The Gothic style temple I sat in was once a Queen Anne Style Plantation home. Large, but not big enough for the event Bill envisioned.
At any moment, I was sure a vampire would come skulking down the stairs after having just feasted on an unsuspecting virgin.
I choked on my water as I laughed hard in my mind over the ridiculous image. Swallow I assured Bill I was fine. I was going to have to use every skill I possessed tonight to make Bill see reason to his amount of guests attending.
“Bill, I understand you want to share your good fortune with your nearest and dearest, but the email you sent to my office detailed the square footage of your home. I’m afraid the number of people you are inviting would be far too many. Making your guests feel cramped and unlikely to stay and enjoy what you have planned.” Bill listened and rubbed his finger over his jaw to think it all over.
“Keep in mind that not every invitee will attend. In my experience, most folks receive multiple-party requests for Christmas Eve.” I soothed.
“These are not just any people, Miss Stackhouse.” Bill snapped. Oh, he wanted the permission to call me by my first name. Well, suck it Bill. That ain’t ever gonna happen.
“These are…clients and potential clients to the business I run. You see, a few feathers were ruffled with my website’s launch and I need this event to go off without a hitch.” Bill demanded. “Every invite I send is imperative those people attend. I would hope that your company would also be an enticement to get my guests to come here for the evening.”
He was using my company as part of his “sorry campaign”, I should pull the plug on this event. Bill was not worth this hassle. Who knows what enemies he made with his ruffling up feathers.
I took a deep breath to stop the unforgivable words from bursting through my teeth.
Linda’s advice came through my head, Give the clients what they want. Even if they are living on the seventh floor of a five-story building.
All right, let’s try another strategy. I swiped through my tablet to the outdoor Christmas display I had done when Linda was still the face of the company.
Tables dressed with white cloth and burlap, wooden chairs, enough fairy lights to tie up an army of real fairies, outdoor heaters, and candles added to a very Rustic Christmas party. This particular party even had a few small bonfires. It was quite the hit.
“What do you think about having the event outdoors?” I said handing the device for Bill to examine. He took it and swiped through the screens of the past event. “We can still transform the indoors as well, but the main party will be held outside. The bar and catering service can be set up in the main floor of your home. While your yard will hold a dance floor, seating arrangements for those who want to eat, mingle and relax. Ensuring you can have smaller private areas and still have one large party.”
“No bonfires!” Bill interpreted with a snarl.
I stared in disbelief for a moment, allowing my silence to convey how rude his behavior was. Which he finally understood by looking back to the tablet before quietly saying, “I just don’t see the reason for so many open flames. What if something catches on fire?”
“Not a problem, Bill. We will use large outdoor heaters instead. The small clusters of seating for the comfort of your guests can still be arranged. The humidity isn’t much of a concern for catching the forest on fire. Do you expect to have children attending?” I asked.
“Certainly not! This is an event for adults, not children.” Bill sneered.
So Bill hated kids. Not unheard of in the confirmed bachelor sort. He was handsome enough to have a girlfriend, surely his new-found fortune would attract any number of woman. Probably gold diggers based on his manners.
However to me, his behavior was outlandish and brass. Short, arrogant men were the worst.
I needed to move on to the next topic before taking a hasty retreat. I usually waived fees due to the fact that we were already in December while trying to plan this event. I found that the practice made my clients more respectable. In this case, a discount wouldn’t change Bill’s manners and therefore, we were going to need every penny to deal with him.
“Okay. The list and your requests were sent to my office today. I can have a local restaurant cater and tend the bar that evening. There is also the option for a band or a DJ. Do you have any thoughts?”
“A DJ. As you showed me here a dance floor will built around the back of my house and the catering will be set up inside.” Bill tapped his foot a moment. “Yes, an outdoor event sounds perfect. Enough privacy for any business my guests which to attend to.”
Well, at least he wasn’t worried about the potential for low temperatures that evening.
“Excellent, I’ll get started and then send you the plan for your approval in two days. As well as the estimate for costs. I will need your approval as soon as possible. Christmas Eve is in three weeks so my staff will need that time to prepare for the event.”
“Very well.” Bill handed back the tablet to me and then stared a moment. It was strange, the air around him changed and I felt a slight headache before I shook my head to try and clear the spider web feeling that came over me.
I needed to leave. If I needed to see Bill again I would bring Jason with me. Big brothers are great at warding off weirdos. Client or not.
“Sookie,” Bill’s voice rasped. “You want to stay for a little longer with me.” He rose from his seat in the armchair to sit right next to me on the sofa. He was over me in a moment, pushing me back into the cushion all the while keeping eye contact. It was dizzying.
What fresh hell is this? Did he put something in my drink, is that why it was warm?
This demanding client is now making a move on me by telling me I want to stay?
I pushed against a surprised Bill, who moved out of my space with raised eyebrows. I stood up quickly and stepped away from a bewildered Bill on the sofa.
“No, I do not Mr. Compton! What the hell is wrong with you! Good evening.” He looked stunned as if I had crossed a line he had never seen before. Probably the line where he intimidated women into his bed. Creepster!
I didn’t care. I grabbed for my bag and tablet from the end of the sofa and all but ran for the front door. Slamming it behind me I headed straight for my beloved jeep.
Once inside I hit the door locks. Not that I expected Captain Creepy to follow me outside, but better safe than sorry. I peeled out of his driveway, sending a spray of gravel on the grass. I hoped to hell some of it landed on the glass windows and cracked them.
It was rude on my part, but so was he. I was contemplating the very real desire I had to email Bill Compton and let him know that he could find himself another planner for his event.
Ha! Good luck. Everyone would be booked and Bill would be fucked.
I rolled my eyes at myself and took a deep breath. I wouldn’t do that. I wanted to, but I wouldn’t. First of all, the commission I would receive was substantial. And now I was even surer my estimate would include the “asshole tax”. Besides, if I did cancel every local contact I had would be out the potential business as well. They all needed the work, especially with the holiday’s right around the corner.
Damn it, a Christmas Eve party at Compton’s was still on.
Easing off the accelerator as I peeked over to see that Gran’s lights were on. She would ring my neck if I didn’t drop by and say hello.
I pulled into the new smooth driveway. Jason and I took it upon ourselves to see that Gran’s home was updated when any problems on the old farmhouse arose.
I parked and made my way up to the porch, just as I reached for the screen door I felt as if someone was watching me. I looked out over the lawn and toward the woods and froze.
The hair sprang from my neck as a chill ran through my body. I would have sworn on Gran’s prehistoric afghan that someone was watching me.