Charlaine Harris owns the characters, I'm just borrowing them.

Many thanks to Kristin Elizabeth, LanYap, Mischievousmaya, and Pixiegiggles for helping me whip this story into shape … I am in their debt.

This story was started as a birthday offering for the wonderfully talented FarDareisMai2.

A quick glance at the map told me that if I didn't get off the interstate now, I'd be in the car for at least another hour. The decision made, I followed the exit ramp off the highway into the Nevada desert, dodging sagebrush and tumbleweeds rolling across the road in the waning light. There wasn't another car in sight, but that didn't bother me; I was used to being alone. Driving along, road signs told me that Battle Mountain had a casino, motels, and bars, all on a single street in town. The Big Chief Motel was at one end of the street, quite a distance from the casinos and bars. It was perfect.

The red lights from the Owl Club down the street cast an eerie glow through the dusty fog that swirled through the town, swaying street signs and traffic lights in its wake. I didn't see a single person, anywhere. Something about the place reminded me of that old TV show, the Twilight Zone. Maybe it was the black and white "Welcome to Battle Mountain" sign that did it.

I checked into the hotel and headed toward the Owl on foot. To my disappointment, I started hearing the thoughts of the people inside the buildings as I walked along the strip. For as long as I could remember, I was able to hear people's thoughts. Instead of learning how to block it out, I chose to avoid it and live a solitary life. It suited me. When I needed companionship, I could put up with the noise in small doses. Mostly, I just liked the quiet of living and working alone.

I was close to the Owl when I spotted another bar down a side street, in a strip mall. The script lettering on the door declared it "The Silver Dollar" bar. It looked more like my type of place. I wondered if it was open, though, since I didn't "hear" any heads inside. Actually, there was a strange sort of empty feeling in my head. What the heck? I was hungry and thirsty, so I shook it off and pushed through the door.

The bar was crowded but something inside seemed a little … off. No one seemed to mind that it was as cold and dark inside as it was outside. Okay, this was creepy, but thirst won out and I found an empty bar stool. Maybe I was in the Twilight Zone or something, because I felt strangely comfortable in this spooky town. I ignored the fact that I could only hear a few thoughts drifting around me instead of what I normally would hear from a crowd this size. Why ruin a good thing? While I waited for my beer, I scanned the room, my eyes immediately drawn to a beautiful blonde sitting at a booth near the dance floor. I watched as bar patrons stopped at her table, nodding as if paying their respects.

"Who is that?" I asked the bartender with a toss of my head in the blonde's direction, sitting sideways on the stool so I could talk to him while watching her.

He glanced over at the woman, who was now looking in my direction. "That's the boss lady, Sookie Stackhouse. Do you want to meet her?" He said with a sly smile.

I looked over at the blonde again and she smiled at me. Man, she was sweet. I couldn't take my eyes off her. I had been pursued by many women in my day, but I just knew she was different. She made a gesture with two fingers, calling me over to her. Without hesitation, I threw a twenty dollar bill on the bar, grabbed my beer and made my way to her table.

My telepathy came in handy at times like these, allowing me to listen in on a girl's thoughts for those important first impressions, but for some reason, I couldn't pick up any thoughts from her. I was standing at her table and she was talking to me before I even had a chance to think about that.

"Please … sit." Her voice was soft and sweet.

I slid into the booth beside her. She had perfect skin – pale and unblemished. Her light makeup and pink lipstick gave her an ethereal look. The tips of the silky smooth blonde locks curled on her shoulders and the black V-neck sweater she wore accentuated her ample chest. She was even more beautiful up close.

"Hi, I'm Eric. Eric Northman." I found my voice and put my hand out to her. I noticed her skin was cool and dry. I wondered if the rest of her body felt the same.

"Pleased to meet you, Eric. I'm Sookie. I haven't seen you in my bar before. Just passing through?"

"This is your bar?" I dodged the other question – maybe I would be staying longer than just tonight.

"Yes. I like the night life, you might say. What do you do, Eric?"

"Manual labor, mostly. I'm on my way to Wyoming for work. I hear there are some sheep ranchers looking for workmen."

"Too bad. I was hoping you'd be staying in Battle Mountain with us for a bit." She smiled coquettishly as her eyes raked over me. "There might be some work for you here … could I tempt you to reconsider?"

Why not? What's the difference between a hick town in Wyoming and one in Nevada? One solitary job was just like any other. Plus, if I stayed here, and played my cards right, I might even get laid.

"I would consider staying if I could get work. I only take jobs where I can work by myself. You know of anything like that? I am good with my hands." I winked at her, flirting.

"I can see those are worker's hands." she replied, eying my hands appreciatively. "I could make a few calls, if you would like. I know some people that might need help."

She took my hands in hers, brushing her fingertips on the rough underside. She was definitely flirting with me, too.

"Great. I'll stick around for a few days to see if anything comes up."

We sat in silence for a few minutes, until someone fed the jukebox and Sookie started swaying to the music. When a slow number came on, she asked, "Would you like to dance, Eric?"

I wasn't much of a dancer, but there was no way I turning her down. When I stood, she slid out of the booth with me and let me lead her to the dance floor. Even though I was taller, she curled against me on the crowded dance floor. Oh yeah, I wasn't going to leave town anytime soon, not with this little beauty within reach.

The evening flew by; we talked and danced, with only a few short interruptions, when Sookie went over to the bar to talk to her employees, while I remained at the booth. She was obviously in charge, and that just made me more intrigued. Soon, it was last call and I made sure I ordered another beer as an excuse to stick around as long as possible. I nursed that beer, waiting for Sookie to finish closing up the bar and calculating how I was going to get her alone. Cash bag in hand, she came back to the booth and asked if I wanted to go to her office while she put the money away. Hell, yes.

I followed Sookie down a dim hallway and into a small office. She placed the money in the safe while I watched from my seat on the couch. The next instant, she joined me there. I reached out and finally stroked the silky hair I had longed to touch all night. I gently pulled her to me and brushed my lips against hers, gauging her readiness. When she didn't pull away, I teased her tongue with mine, and soon we were making out like a couple of horny teenagers. My lips went to her cool throat, licking and searching for her hot spots, and then she did the same to me. Her teeth scraped my neck, and I felta sharpness that was both scary and exciting. I didn't want her to stop, and when she broke skin and sucked, the jagged sting of pleasure rippled through me, wiping all other thoughts from my head. Whatever she was doing, I liked it … a lot. Don't stop. I held her to my neck until the dizziness set in. She lifted her mouth from my neck and smiled at me. I caught a glimpse of sharp fangs framed by her blood red mouth just as everything went black.