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. 🙂
Three hours to Showtime and everyone bustled this way and that around the Compton property. The fading afternoon light was not keeping anyone on staff warm. However, the amount of work still needing to be completed sent most of the employees scrambling about.
Bill Compton had yet to show, I assumed it was due to last minute primping. Facial, pedicure, asshole bleaching. I chuckled, then felt bad thinking of the beautician having to deal with his nonsense. His Prima Dona status was hitting new highs among the clientele I’ve had in the past. High maintenance seemed too nice a word to describe Bill Compton.
I was on edge, always was before the first guest arrived. Damn it, I would have to return and pretend I wanted to mingle on Christmas Eve. I closed my eyes and worked my fingers in a circular pattern over my temple. This many people running around me set my empathy into a tailspin. How I wished I could be alone in my studio designing the upcoming Valentine’s Day Wedding.
This was why I had Tara, she command the events in my stead after I would discreetly vanish from the overjoyed hosts’ presence. I ensured that my job consisted of handling every behind the scenes details. Set up, arrival of guests and then I depended my contracted venders to serve, satisfy and clean up the inevitable mess.
Instead I would need to endure a whole night with Compton’s guests. I was sure they would drive me to drink with their falseness and diamonds the size of walnuts.
I blew out a breath, thinking if I was able to expand my contact list through additional high end clientele that would be a boon to the business. For that I would stomach the evening with a similar, well-practiced grin. Christmas Eve or not, I would meet and greet and quietly escape at the first possible moment.
I walked past the giant tent set up as the center of the party. Thick steel poles held up a clear plastic tent as dozens of fairy lights reached toward the center. It was a beautiful addition to the business assets and I loved using the pavilion.
The overall party would sit under a floating ceiling of twinkling lights. The dance floor was the main attraction while around the edges tables of varying size were set up. Guests could mingle, dance and still maintain a good line of sight in the dark of night. All the while heat lamps would dot the inside of the tent, keeping the coolness from biting the invitees.
I shook my head thinking of Bill’s ridiculous guest list for the size of the interior in his home. A hundred and fifty invites would easily double with a plus one. Potentially, a three to four hundred and fifty attendees could swamp his property.
As luck would have it, Bill’s property was in the middle of nowhere. Gran served as his one and only neighbor on Hummingbird Lane. I would make it a point to make sure she was not disturbed by the event tonight.
The only other occupants nearby were laid in the town cemetery located between the two properties. I highly doubted the dead would crawl out of their graves for this boring shindig.
On second thought the dead in their holiday best would be more welcome a sight to me than stuffy rich people. I laughed at the thought of the dearly decomposed dusting off their dated clothes.
The field across the road from Compton’s home would be used for parking. Bill had insistent that money was not an issue. Good thing too, because with the RSVP list completed today the final count was closer one hundred.
I giggled when I had read that final number in the office today. A decent turn out for a last-minute Christmas Eve party. To my business sending out last-minute invitations mid December was far too late for many people’s calendars.
The email I received from Bill last evening was clear that he was less than pleased to have so few RSVP and he had yet to see the final number. He assumed that because he had invited everyone that everyone would attend. Oh, well. I was responsible for running an event not demanding all invited attended.
I rolled my eyes for the eighth time tonight.
The low number of guests would mean everyone working tonight would be paid nicely and wouldn’t feel overwhelmed by a larger guest list.
I glanced over my tablet and then checked everyone’s progress. Sam Merlotte and his staff were setting up tables around the large dance floor. The DJ was checking the bass and speakers for the perfect sound. Delivery trucks and delivery staff hurried from here to there, turning Compton’s lawn into the Country Rustic Christmas Eve he requested at my urging.
Another quick double checked at my list again. Alright, everything was set here.
The tress were wrapped with fairy lights. Tables were dressed in white and burlap with large lanterns and evergreen boughs throughout. Each large lantern had multiple candles to add to the magic of the evening.
The lone Magnolia tree was the true star of the night. Fairy lights dangled from the lower branches to the cold ground, along with giant red ornaments. Adding a perfect photo-op for any of the attendees. Just another way people on social media would remember my design and request or recommend my services in the future.
Bill declined the use of a photographer, saying that his cliental preferred their privacy.
Whatever. That is what cell phones were for.
The food was prepared, the bartenders were prepping their area on the deck, which was also decorated with trays of white candles. I added cinnamon pine cones into the mix so that the smell would be subtle traveling on the cool breeze.
The evening was shaping up to be cooler, but not freezing. Always a plus when you have an outdoor event.
I needed to find Tara to hand off the last-minute details. She was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, expecting the employees to step it up several notches before Showtime. I could never stomach bossing people around the way Tara did and lucky for me I was good and soothing ruffled feathers.
I don’t know why I had a higher sensitivity to being an empath. Just like others were born with blue eyes or straight teeth, it was a mystery why I was Empathic. I would live my whole life and doubted they whys would ever be answered.
I looked through the army of service people for Tara. I needed to change out of my work clothes and into something nicer for the party. I had packed what I needed with me from home. This way I could spend time with Gran, Linda and Jason before I had to come back over.
Fashionably late was always in style. I would be able to see the parade of cars coursing through the two lane road to remind me to get a move on and not be too late.
“I hear you are an invited guest tonight, Cher.” Sam said from behind me.
Ugh, Sam Merlotte.
He was nice enough, in a guy-who-never-took-the-hint kind of way. He was desperate for attention from women. Any woman. Linda played with him, no doubt driving him nuts. He should have known better than to get involved with a Stackhouse woman.
We were dangerous.
I turned to face him, plastered a forced smile on my face.
“Hey Sam. Yeah, Mr. Compton told a few of his colleagues about the business. He offered to introduce me to some potential clients” I said.
That was as close to the truth as I wanted to share with Merlotte. Although, from mine and Bill’s previous meeting weeks ago I felt like there was an ulterior motive to seeing me again. And I didn’t like it one bit.
“Well figures,” Sam jammed his hands into his worn denim pockets in an attempt to warm his ungloved hands from the cold.
“A rich man comes along and waves his wealth around and girls can’t help but flock. I’m sure you-they, they would just jump into his bed too.” Sam scowled.
What the fuck!
My hands were on my hips before he could open his mouth again with more bullshit. His venom was radiating off him in waves and I was going to be damned to be swept away.
“You listen up good Sam Merlotte! I am your employer, we have a contract that pays you and your people very well for your services. If you have a problem with me or my business I’ll be more than happy to hire someone else. I have contacts in Hot Shot, folks who have more staff available and at a lower price than you require. The only reason I keep you around is because of Linda. And don’t think I won’t mention this to her. Even that lifeline will be cut off from you.” I threatened.
Sam’s face paled.
That was a shitty thing of him to assume about anyone, and I wasn’t about to stand here and take that kind of bullshit from the likes of Sam Merlotte.
Sam finally looked down and rubbed his hand over the back of his neck. Exhaling, he looked back up with big round puppy dog eyes.
Oh, hell no.
“I’m sorry Sookie. That was unfair. You are doing more than alright for a woman. One day, I’m sure you’ll find a man who will allow you to-.”
“One more word and you’re fired Sam.” I was furious and trying my damnedest to reign in my fury around all the curios stares from the surrounding staff.
Sam’s eyes widened at my threat. Little did he know, his days were numbered. I knew Linda loved playing with Merlotte for whatever reason, but I was done with him. Back in the day these two played their games and I was no longer going to honor Linda’s request to keep him on contract. Sam had spouted gold digger references to me for years now for no good reason other than he hated women.
I was done.
“You can go back to supervising your staff quietly or I will replace you this minute. Your choice.” I said in an even tone.
His jaw bulged as he ground his teeth together for a long moment. My stare didn’t waver from his. Sam was trying his hand at a power play and he was going to lose.
Sam looked away first and said, “I’ll head back over to see what Lafayette is doing in the kitchen.”
“You do that.” I hissed.
“Mother Fucker!” Tara stepped up beside me calling after Sam. He looked over his shoulder a moment to sneer, but kept walking toward the catering area.
“Tara, hush. Last thing I need is a mutiny before Showtime.” I stared after Sam until his tucked tail slipped inside the house. Then I turned to Tara.
“How much did you hear?” I asked.
“Everything. I love it when you show your dominate side, it’s sexy.” Tara winked. “Tell Linda to find something less stupid to fuck.”
“I’ll get right on that.” I deadpanned and rolled my eyes. Checking the clock on my phone I gasped. Time was flying and I needed to get out of here and over to Gran’s home.
“You got this, right? I need a shower and to give Gran her present before I make another appearance tonight.”
“Shoo,” Tara waved her hand my way before typing something up on her tablet. “I got this. It’s all food, booze and karaoke after this anyway.”
I laughed, I couldn’t imagine anyone at this party singing drunkenly on stage, but Christmas parties were like that. Magic and the sense of hope were in the air.
Anything could happen tonight.
I could feel this unusual anticipation building in my gut. Hope. I had no worldly reason to hope, this night was shaping up to be boring as hell. Followed by a mad scramble to get away from Bill before he asked me out again. Then I would head home and wake to another lonely Christmas day.
“This is going to be the most boring uptight Christmas Party ever, don’t let the Gran’s downhome Rustic décor fool you Tara dear.” I said, trying to believe my words. What was wrong with me? Maybe I needed a drink to take off the anxiety.
“Yeah, yeah. You said that about the Adams’ party too. Then the fruit punch was spiked and we got to see those Mormons really cut loose. Who knew their improv musical would be such a success. What was that, anyway? Joseph and his fuckin’ Amazin’ Technicolor toilet seat?”
We burst out laughing. That was a great night to lose fifty bucks to my friend.
“I’m not betting any more money with you.” I chuckled.
“Wise choice honey bun.”
“Alright, alright. I’m out. See you in an hour. Maybe.” I called over my shoulder to Tara, who mumbled something about the boss having all the perks.
I shook my head and walked the short distance to Gran’s. I decided driving to the party would be a nightmare trying to get my Jeep untangled from the stylish cars and limos. Better to park at Gran’s and walk. I could easily make my escape and miss any traffic of the other guests trying to do the same. And by all accounts I would out of there in an hour. Tops.
I hopped up the porch steps just as the sun was setting.
“Gran! Aunt Linda!” I called from the entryway.
“Back here.” Gran shouted from the kitchen.
“I’m going to get ready, be out in a bit.” I hollered back.
“See you soon darling!” Linda answered. “Wear that little black number. Sexy is in this season.” She called.
“You’ve been snooping, stay out of my closet with your no good sticky fingers.” I laughed and shut the door.
Gran kept the guest room open for anyone to be able to sleep over at a moment’s notice. I had kept a few emergency clothes here, just in case. Tonight though I was going to be wearing something a bit more sparkly than my normal work attire.
Hmm, that hope thing was springing up again. Although, it was Christmas and I loved this day. Even though it meant spending most of the evening meeting uptight potential clients.
The thing about owning your own business meant that there was never any real off time.
I showered quickly, blow drying and styling my hair. Then applied my make-up. As I exited the en-suite bathroom, the soft gold dress with cap sleeves shimmered on the bed in the lamp light of the room. I shimmied into the dress, a large black bow sat around the smallest part of my waist. It hugged every one of my curves without being too racy.
I pulled up my black thigh highs and then zipped up the Black leather thigh high boots. A very sexy look than I normally wore, but I was determined that the stocking and boots were practical for keeping the chill off me while I met everyone.
To top it all off I donned a black wool coat. My make-up was smoky, allowing my blues eyes to pop. I decided to wear a more neutral lip, not really in the mood to grab too much attention. The boots were pushing my limits as it was.
I wanted the party goers to want what I could deliver in an event, not fantasize what I could do for them privately. Ew.
“Last one Linda!” I shouted for no reason other than I was feeling a deep buzz. “You know I’m a light weight and I have people to meet soon!”
“You only made it to the Fourth Day of Christmas! Come on darling, do the Egg Nog Shooters with us.” Linda begged. Jason and Gran all held their glasses expectantly while I made up my mind.
“Fine! But whatever happens tonight is officially your fault!” I pointed my finger at Linda.
Jason laughed. “It’s Christmas Eve Sook, if you can’t get drunk with the people who love you, who can you get drunk with?” Jason said.
He had a point there or maybe it was the Drunk Gingerbread Man shot making me agree with the dimwit. Hmm, I was warm and slushy. The perfect amount of drinking before I walked over to the party. I raised my glass. By the time I walked through the cold, I would be right as rain, my game face firmly in place.
“To five Gold Rings,” Linda announced, raising her shot glass high before downing her drink.
“Ahgrghhh,” Jason spat, wiping his wrist over his mouth in disgust. “At least that one will take out that disgusting Baily’s. Two in a row Linda, you are a mean bitch!”
“Language!” Gran hiccupped. Giggling as she nestled further back into her chair.
“Wait until you get to Flaming Jesus! You wossed out last year Jacy-poo.” Linda teased.
“Did not! And don’t call me that!” Jason sat up and then stilled, gripping the edge of the piano a moment. Probably to stop himself from falling onto the rug.
“It was that damn Three Wiseman shot.” Jason shot daggers over to Linda, who was now lying lengthwise on the couch and waving her hands in the air as if orchestrating a choir. “Jim, Jack and Johnnie had no business being cooped up together.” Jason reasoned to the room.
“Yeah, yeah.” Linda taunted, waving her arm in a semi-circle above her.
Every year we got closer to doing whole set of The Twelve Days of Christmas, drinking game. It had been a Stackhouse Christmas Eve tradition since Jason and I were small. Linda was the one to introduce the ritual so many years ago. Which naturally followed by many bottles of water and the precious Hangover Cure to start our Christmas day.
I loved my crazy family.
“Oh Sookie, you are too much!” Gran exclaimed as she gushed over her brand new Kitchen aid mixer.
I discovered the bright yellow appliance with a hand-painted floral pattern around the base, I knew it would look fantastic in her kitchen. Now here was a machine guaranteed to be used every day.
“I’m glad you like it Gran.” I said, delighted to see the excitement in her eyes. I stood a bit shaky in my killer boots and went over to her favorite cushioned chair in the living room. Gran sat delighted, surrounding by shreds of red and white wrapping paper.
As I bent down to kiss her cheek, her fingers curled around my shoulders to stop me from moving out of her space. “You are amazing Sookie. I couldn’t have asked for a better grandchild. Thank you.”
“Hey, Terrific Grandson sitting right over here.” Jason said dryly from the opposite chair.
Ignoring Jason’s faux bitterness, I grinned wider at my beloved Grandmother.
“Merry Christmas Gran.”
“Yes, you did very well darling.” Linda waved her Christmas card of a snowman drinking in the woods high in the air. Amazing how art imitates life.
“Maxine Fortenberry will have everything she needs for the next two months to take care of those poor animals. Maybe in the meantime we can find them some homes.” Linda mused.
My Aunt had a heart the size of Texas, but since we were born and breed in Louisiana. I did my duty and kept my trap shut.
When my Aunt was a girl, she brought home every stray animal domestic or wild that needed her help. She hadn’t met a beast yet that wasn’t instantly under her spell. Promises of food and unconditional love and the animals followed her like the pied piper.
That is until she came home and Granddaddy, who would huff all over the house saying, ‘yet another critter’ showing up. Linda would give her daddy the very best wounded doe eyes and he would fold like laundry in a hurricane.
Now all grown up, Linda still looked out for animals. Helping out by gathering donations for local animal shelters were close to her heart.
“Merry Christmas Auntie.” I walked over to collect my kiss and hug.
“Get on over here Sook, “Jason called. “Don’t think you can just drop this bonus and ammo and leave without giving your big brother a hug.”
I smiled and went over to him. Already the alcohol was wearing thinner.
“Guess, I need to head over,” I sighed as I glanced at the time on my phone.
Seven thirty, perfect. Most people will have already arrived, started eating and dancing. Giving the host plenty of time to meet and greet his guests before I made an appearance. Walking over would take less than five minutes through the woods. Even a bit tipsy, I could do that stroll with my eyes closed.
“I don’t know how soon I’ll be back tonight. If I can get out of there sooner, then I’ll just drive home. I know I’ll be sober by then.” I said as I pulled on my jacket and zipped it up.
“Well looking like that you are in the right place to pick up a man. Please for the Love of baby Jesus and Santa don’t come back early.” Linda winked.
I rolled my eyes. No one was interested in me that way. I was strange to most folks around here and in Shreveport. Over the years I became accustomed to being alone.
My empathic side made it difficult to stay around people for long amounts of time. My family was aware but they never commented on it. Sometimes I could get some inner most thoughts. Which was fascinating, but not everyone was readable to me. Some people were like stone towers of solitude. These people always made me itch to climb over their walls, but I never did.
I often wondered if I was an alien or some other sort of touched creature masquerading as a human.
“Leave the girl be.” Gran scolded. “Being young and beautiful doesn’t mean you need a man at your beck and call.”
Linda and Jason laughed as I thanked my Gran again for the vote of confidence. My family had given up long ago on me ever bringing home a boy, but the teasing would never let up.
Blowing a kiss to everyone, I turned to begin my short walk into the night.
It was cold, probably mid-forties. The boots were a stroke of genius, I congratulated myself. I would not freeze tonight while pasting on a fake smile for everyone. By the time I made it over to the party I could heat myself up by one of the many heat lamps like a lizard and continue on about the night.
I pulled my phone out while I walked, the alcohol was lingering on the edges but I was mostly clear of any fuzziness.
No messages from Tara. Without a doubt she had everything under control at Bill’s event. I’m sure that the other employees would have more complaints about her methods in micromanaging than Tara would ever contemplate. It was wonderful to have an assistant who could handle herself in tough situations.
Tara was going to love her Christmas bonus and the January vacation to go with it. I smiled as I slipped my phone back inside my jacket pocket, imagining what she would say when she opened the envelope.
“Good evening.” I looked up freezing mid step the moment I saw him. A gorgeous blonde man was leaning against a tree, watching me.
(A/N) Well, well, well. I wonder who the gorgeous blonde man could be? 😉