Charlaine Harris is the sole owner of these characters, and I'm just having a little fun with them.

Many thanks to my sweet friends who review as the chapter is in progress, and to my l'sistas Kristin Elizabeth and LanYap, who hold my hand, encourage me and help fix my mistakes. You are awesome!

Happy New Year! Best wishes to all for health and happiness in 2010.



He was tall, slim, and athletic, exactly what I liked in a man. His long blond hair was lighter in color on the top and sides than the darker blond hair framing his face. I wanted to brush the wind-swept, silky strands away from his face. If he was closer, I might not be able to resist. His tanned skin gave him the look of someone who worked outside. He certainly wasn't a desk jockey. I couldn't see his eyes from my booth, but I hoped they would be blue.

He walked into my bar, bringing with him the promise of something new and different. My intuition hadn't let me down tonight and I would cash in on that promise.

When I woke from my rest today, I felt a little tingle of excitement, a premonition that something good was going to happen tonight. I hadn't had that feeling in a long time. While waiting for my body to come to life, I indulged myself with fantasies of what I hoped would be in store for the evening. Maybe someone I could actually talk to would come into the bar… that would be a nice change from the "hey, babe" types that were the typical human customers. It was Saturday night, our busiest night of the week, the one most likely to bring more humans into the Silver Dollar, since the Owl could get too rowdy for someone looking for a quiet beer. We normally had a few human customers, either regulars who knew what we were and didn't care, or travelers, "roadies" as we called them, stopping at Battle Mountain on their drive across Nevada. Saturday night was the human's "night out." Folks from the outskirts came into town for entertainment and the roadies were more willing to stop for the night instead of pushing on to the next exit. If anything good was going to happen in this dusty town, I'd bet on a Saturday night.

I watched as the gorgeous stranger paid his cover charge while he glanced around the bar. He looked a little uneasy. Most of our human clientele started out that way, until we glamoured them or they got over it on their own. Our doorman and bouncer made small talk with him, and then signaled me with a wink and a smile. Our new guest probably had no idea what was in store for him tonight.

Battle Mountain was the perfect location for a vampire community. Rumors of a forthcoming announcement revealing our existence made the rounds, but it hadn't happened yet. The impending "great revelation" wouldn't really change anything here, though. We already lived amongst the locals in negotiated acceptance and secrecy. They knew we were dangerous and agreed to let us be. The few times a group of humans tried to eliminate us, their abrupt disappearance helped seal our peaceful coexistence. As long as we only fed from the willing or from the travelers, healing their fang marks and glamouring their minds into forgetting before sending them on their way, the townsfolk did nothing to "out us." It was a reasonable arrangement, and I had earned the bragging rights for setting it up.

As vampire sheriff of Area 5, I was responsible for paying tribute to the king and for resolving all vampire issues in my area. Battle Mountain wasn't exactly a vamp magnet; most of our kind were looking for a little more excitement than what this town offered. There were about thirty vamps in this area, and the problems were few. I had a reasonable relationship with the King of Nevada, since he was impressed that I had found a way for the area's vampires to live peacefully with the town's people. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished, and my "thank you" was the continued appointment as Area 5 sheriff. I suppose I was lucky that King Felipe de Castro was content and left me to run my sector without his "oversight." As long as I kept the money coming and pledged my fealty regularly, he let me be. I kept his coffers full and squashed any problems with the humans, and for the past one hundred years, this part of Nevada had been mine.

I led a quiet existence, aside from a skirmish here or there between the humans or vamps. Every so often, I grew tired of my muted existence in this town and thought of moving on, but de Castro would not even hear my petition for release from my sheriff duties. I continued to strategize ways to get out of my position, and my latest plan was to give him a special tribute, and buy my own contract so he would allow me to leave. I let myself think about that possibility for about ten seconds, since it was highly unlikely I could ever find something special enough here in Area 5. Looking outside my turf wasn't an option; encroaching on another's territory was against the law, and not my style.

My conquest for the night made his way to the bar, settling on an open bar stool right in my line of sight. I gave my bartender some time to check him out for my own protection before I moved in, and I knew it was only a matter of time before my tall stranger noticed me. That little premonition I felt upon rising encouraged me to take extra time picking out my outfit tonight. I decided on simple and elegant, selecting a black cashmere v-neck sweater with black jeans and boots over a black bra and panties. When you have a chest like mine, you can't go wrong with a v-neck. You might call it my power outfit. I looked good and I knew it, all of my "assets" being on display.

I assessed the customers at the bar and wondered if our new guest would realize all that went on in this place. Just two bar stools to the right, a female vamp was in the midst of glamouring a roadie. I watched as the human came under her thrall, while she smiled and flirted with him. It was much easier for the female vamps to feed here, since most of our travelers were men.

As owner, I started each night with a quick meeting with each of my employees. Technically, they were my minions, but I preferred to call them by the human terminology. When I arrived tonight, Bill, my bartender, was already in place behind the bar that stretched the length of the room. Not only did he serve the humans, he matched the willing donors with the vamps in the bar looking for a bite. I insisted there be no open or public feeding at the bar, so we had a special room on site just for that purpose. It was another way to promote the "don't ask, don't tell" arrangement we had with the town. Bill also served the vampire population bagged donor blood, which we called V-Juice. I purchased dark drink glasses to hide the color of the liquid, and many of the vampires were content to drink from a glass out in the bar, rather than from a neck in our playroom. I did allow glamouring on the premises, so if anyone had any questions about what was in the glass, they were glamoured into forgetting about what they saw. Bill was my eyes and ears at the bar, keeping watch over all that went down, and letting me know when I needed to step in.

Earlier in the evening, I had put Bill on alert to watch for any new customers and to listen for anything unusual from those at the bar. As he pulled out a beer for our guest, Bill glanced over at me, nodding to let me know the gorgeous blond stranger passed his cursory inspection. Another look over at Clancy, and he signaled he had no reservations about me taking this human for my own. Even though they were required to protect me as their sheriff, I appreciated how they watched over me.

Clancy was our doorman and bouncer. He collected the cover charge at the door and sized up the patrons as they entered the bar. He had connections at the local hotels and motels too. If anyone had a grasp on how many travelers checked into the local establishments tonight, he would. He might even know if any were worth watching. Like all of my employees, he was loyal and ready to fight if I needed him, but most of all, he wanted to live amongst the humans. His connections to the town's people helped us keep abreast of any impending trouble, so we could cut it off before it got out of hand. He was the poster child for coexistence.

When I spoke to Clancy earlier, he mentioned we might have some interesting prospects tonight. He had just finished collecting the cover charge from one of the female vamps living in the area. Clancy waited for her to give me a bow of respect as she passed by, before he turned to me with a dimpled smile.

Clancy knew how to flirt and I credited his Irish background; it was one of the reasons I had him at the door. He put bar patrons at ease instantly, collected their money, and had them inside for appraisal as a meal before they knew anything was different about the place. In addition to his charm, he could glamour just about anyone and was likely to sense anything out of the ordinary. He was good at his job. I smiled, recalling our earlier conversation.

I walked over to the front door, and watched Clancy as he gave me the once over as I approached. "Well, good evening, Clancy. Like what you see, do you?" I laughed. "I'm thinking we might have a busy night tonight, what do you think?"

He may have checked me out, but at least he was respectful about it. If anyone else had any intuition about tonight, it would be Clancy.

"It's a bit cold tonight, so I'm guessing we will see more outsiders than usual, and maybe a little earlier, too. The Owl is full already." He leaned over and whispered in my ear. "My girl down at the Big Chief said they were almost full by eight o'clock. She mentioned a good looking blond dude among the bunch, traveling alone." He waggled his eyebrows at me, and I laughed.

"He'll probably try to pick up some cocktail waitress at the Owl after he's lost all his money, instead of venturing down here." I shrugged. "He won't know what he's missing, right?" I waggled my eyebrows back at him. "Best get to my booth… see you later, Clancy."

Clancy knew that I was selective about my partners for feeding and fucking. I had to feed to exist, but I wasn't about to take just any old partner for a fuck. I had my own personal standards to uphold in that regard. Of course, as sheriff, I had first pick of the roadies that came to the bar, and my employees were quick to please me by pointing out the promising prospects. If my own bar had nothing to offer, I wasn't beyond going to the Owl myself to hunt. Nevertheless, I had to admit, Clancy's mention of a "good looking blond dude" had piqued my interest, so I went to my booth to watch the patrons entering the bar.

And now, that "good looking blond dude" was here, in my bar.

My personal booth afforded a good view of the bar, the door, and the dance floor. I could watch all of the patrons, making sure the vamps were behaving and the humans stayed friendly and unafraid. Sitting there for a few hours each night could get boring, but tonight that little feeling of anticipation I woke with still danced inside me, stoked by the appearance of the tall blond human. While I pondered how I would move on him, my business partner Pam appeared from the stockroom.

Pam stopped at the bar to talk with Bill, probably telling him how many more bags of V-Juice we needed to order. She glanced over at me, silently letting me know that she would be right over. Pam had been with me for the last one hundred fifty years. She was my friend, my partner, and sometimes, my pain in the ass. When her sire went to his final death 150 years ago, I adopted her as one of my own. From day one, she never gave me cause to distrust her. Like me, Pam could blend in with the humans quite nicely, and no one thought the pretty blond women were dangerous.

Pam managed the bar, while I managed the area operations. As sheriff, I used the time I spent there as a means to get to know the area vampires and humans, and I conducted a good portion of my sheriff duties from my office located in the back. Pam took care of the front of the house, and tonight she was busy. After talking to Bill, she darted over to Clancy, picked up the cash he collected from the cover charge, and then glided over to my booth. She looked me over from head to toe as if she was considering seducing me.

"Mistress, you look quite lovely tonight." She ended her words with a little growl, or was it a purr? I wasn't sure, but I took it as a compliment.

"Thanks, Pam. Looks like a decent crowd tonight. Any problems?" Pam knew I was asking if we would have enough bagged blood and traveling donors for our clientele. If we ran out, we might have "issues" with some angry vamps and I needed to know if that was a possibility.

"No problems, we're stocked. So, are you going to tell me why the sexy outfit tonight? Expecting someone?" She glanced back at the blond at the bar. Among her many talents, Pam was observant.

I gave Pam a little glare; after all, I was the sheriff and I explained as much as I cared to. "Just wanting to feel pretty tonight Pam. Don't you ever feel like that?" The look I gave her was a silent challenge – did she want to continue down this line of questioning?

"Hmm. Right, Sookie. I best get back to work. Bill might need some help at the bar tonight. I'm going to drop the money in the safe in the office. We will probably need to do that at least once more tonight."

Off she went in the direction of the office, muttering something about never having any fun. I ignored her, turning my attention back to the bar. Tall, blond, and breathing was looking at me, so I smiled at him. I heard him ask Bill who I was, and when he continued to stare at me, I waved him over. He was eager, and I held back a smile. I got a better look at him as he approached my table, and felt a little tingle of excitement at the thought of having him. If he could hold a decent conversation, we were both in for a very interesting night.

He was dressed from head to toe in denim. His blue denim shirt suited him, and brought out the color of his eyes, which were blue, just as I hoped they would be. He looked comfortable in his clothes, and he exuded a sexy confidence. The jeans he wore were tight in all the right places, and I wondered if I could send him back to the bar so I could see what they did to his backside. By the time he got to my table, I was ready to throw him on it. It had been a long time since I had seen anyone like him, and my libido awakened like it had an O-negative drip. Oh yes, tonight was turning out quite nicely.

"Please … sit." If my voice was shaky, it was only in anticipation of what was to come later. He seemed slightly unsettled too, and I thought I detected some nervousness in his voice when he introduced himself.

His name was Eric Northman.

He was sitting so close, and I couldn't stop looking at him. His face was both boyish and manly, with fine lines on his forehead, and soft stubble on his chin and cheeks. His features weren't perfect, but any imperfections only made him more interesting and unique. With an ease that surprised me, we were soon flirting. When I took his hand, I stroked the rough skin, unable to stop myself. His face might have a boyish quality, but his hands were one-hundred percent man. They were strong, hard, and huge – the kind of hands that could really hold you close… or dominate you. They were beautiful. I wanted him, and not just for one night.

I convinced him to stay in town for a few days with the prospect of a job; if I had to, I would hire him myself. Opportunities like this didn't come around here often, so I was going to make the most of it. Not only was Eric gorgeous, our conversation was flirtatious and fun. When we danced, I pressed against him, feeling our bodies against each other. I could tell he liked it as much as I did. Oh, something was coming up, all right.

While we sat at my booth, I noticed it was getting crowded at the bar. I looked around for Pam, and saw that she was down on one end of the bar serving customers, but Bill seemed to be dealing with some sort of situation on his end. I hated leaving Eric alone, not that I thought another vamp would take him, but because I didn't want to be away from him.

"Eric, I'm sorry, but I have to check something out at the bar. Can I bring you back a beer?"

"Sure Sookie. Do you need any help?" He started to follow me out of the booth, but I grabbed his big hand and stopped him. I tempered the authority in my voice when I told him to stay in the booth.

"I'll be right back, stay here."

By the time I got to the bar, it was clear that two of the area vamps were having a dispute over one of the locals, a girl named Ginger. Both vamps wanted to take her into the playroom, and Bill didn't want them to drain her. Two vamps feeding from one human spelled trouble. The girl might be willing, but I wasn't about to disturb my delicate peace with the town with an accidental draining. The two vamps, Jake and Barry, stopped talking when I approached and Bill had already glamoured Ginger into silence. She sat at the bar, still as a statue, oblivious to the drama around her. I put on my sheriff tone of voice, and let the vamps know I was displeased.

"Jake, Barry – what's going on here?" I waited for their explanation, and Jake spoke up.

"Sheriff, I saw Ginger first. She agreed to go with me, but Barry glamoured her into saying yes to him while I talked to Pam."

My voice was like ice. "Is this true Barry? Did you glamour her too?" Barry answered without looking up.

"I... Well, I didn't know at first that Jake already wanted her. Ginger didn't say anything, I thought maybe she liked… both of us." Barry's reply was quiet. He peeked up at me without raising his head, but I heard Jake snort in disgust, making me wonder if Barry was lying.

"Bill, are they telling the truth?"

"As far as I can tell, Mistress." I caught the scent of fear wafting up from the vamps, when Bill addressed me formally. I let them squirm for a few more minutes.

"Jake, Barry, my bartender is going to give you a shot of V-juice, and then I want you out of here. I don't ever want to see either one of you near Ginger again. Is that understood?"

Jake snorted again and glared at Barry. "Sheriff, she was mine first, why can't I have her? Let Barry go without."

Jake's insolence annoyed Bill. "Am I to understand you are questioning your sheriff?" Barry just sat there looking at the bar.

After giving Bill a hard glare, Jake gave in and drank his shot of V-juice, and announced, "I'm out of here."

That was exactly why I liked Bill at the bar. We could double-team the problem and get rid of it quickly.

"Bill, can you make sure that Ginger gets out of here before anyone makes a meal of her?"

"Yes, Mistress, I'll take care of it."

I glanced back at Eric. He was getting restless, and I could see that his beer was empty. I'd better get back there.

"Bill, give me a beer for my guest." I turned back to Barry. "And you better watch your step around here. I'm not happy with your behavior tonight. You wouldn't want to face any formal charges, now would you?"

"No, Sheriff." At least Barry had the good sense to keep his tongue.

I grabbed the beer from the bar and went back to my booth. Eric gave me an inquisitive look.

"Sookie, what was that about, if I might ask?"

"Just the usual Saturday night bar dispute over a girl. No harm done."

"You were really in control over there, very impressive."

"Thanks, Eric." I could see we were back to flirting. How close was it to last call? Could I last another thirty minutes? It would take that long to close up and get him in my office. In preparation for it, I tried a little glamour on him.

A nagging doubt dampened my euphoria when he didn't react to any of my attempts to glamour him while we talked. I guessed it was because we were both so excited that I couldn't get enough of his attention for my glamour to work. I wasn't about to let that stop my plan for the night from moving forward. As closing time neared and Bill announced last call, Eric ordered one final beer and I left him at the booth to check in with Bill, Pam, and Clancy.

The bar crowd was thinning out, and Bill asked, "Sookie, do you want us to stay for a while?" He looked over my shoulder at Eric.

"I only need Clancy to stay, just in case. I shouldn't have any problems glamouring him when I get him alone. Pam and Bill, you can go once you're done."

Bill handed me the moneybag, and I played with the bar receipts for a few minutes while I planned the rest of my night. I was definitely going to feed, but was I ready to fuck? It had been a long time since I had talked and danced with a human and I needed more than an easy lay. That little nagging doubt hadn't gone away, and I had better play it right if I wanted him tomorrow night as well. I grabbed the bag and went back to my booth.

"Eric, I have to put this money in the safe. Do you want to come back to the office with me?" He slid out of the booth without hesitation and I grew excited at the prospect of tasting his blood soon. I couldn't get the moneybag in the safe fast enough.

He sat on the couch in my office, waiting for me when I turned around. Even after spending most of the evening with him, I couldn't keep my eyes off him. I sat down next to him, and without a word, he tangled his hand in my hair. I savored the feel of his large hand cradling my head. It felt so good to be held like that. Even though I was a vampire for the last 500 years, I was still a woman, and I reveled in how he made me feel so small and protected with that gesture. I wanted, no, I needed him to hold me like a woman.

He pulled me to him, brushing his lips against mine, and I forgot about feeding. His lips were firm but his kisses were tender, and they rippled through my body, causing sensations I had long forgotten. He deepened his kisses, his lips strong, and his tongue caressed my lips and explored my mouth. My brain couldn't form any practical thoughts except to imprint the feel of his kisses. My tongue answered his, dipping in and out of his mouth. If we stopped, it was only to get closer to each other, and the sounds of pleasure rumbling from us was the most beautiful background music.

It took all my will power to keep my fangs retracted, the feel of his mouth on mine only made me want him more. Our lips were red and swollen from kissing. I couldn't keep my mouth from his throat any longer. I sucked and nibbled on him, bringing his blood to the surface of his skin. He nuzzled mine in return and forgot what I was doing while I reveled in his mouth on my skin. While he was busy giving me a hickey, I let my fangs come down, and I scraped them on his skin. He groaned, but didn't stop me and I wondered if he had known what I was all along. When I couldn't take any more, I slid my fangs into his neck as gently as I could, and he groaned in pleasure. When he held my head against him with those beautiful hands, I couldn't stop myself from drinking. His taste was exquisite, warm, and sweet, with hints of flavor I couldn't identify. His blood was an intoxicating elixir and I kept drawing on the bite without mercy until I felt him sag in my arms. Coming to my senses, I pushed back the exhilaration of feeding so I could glamour him. His eyes were glassy and he teetered as if he was about to black out, which is just what he did a moment later. I breathed a sigh of relief that I hadn't drained him while I savored the vestiges of his sweet blood in my mouth.

I licked the bite marks, and then healed the holes in his neck with a drop of my blood. It was always the first thing I did after feeding. No sense in tempting fate, getting caught with a human with fang marks. I checked his pulse, it was slow, but evident, and I went out to find Clancy. He was sitting at the bar, watching television. As soon as he heard me, he got up from his seat.

"Clancy, I'm going to need your help." He silenced the TV, and came around the bar.

"What's up, Sookie? Trouble?"

"Don't think so. He's passed out in the office. I didn't get a chance to glamour him. Can you find out his room and get him back there?"

"Sure, give me a minute to make a call, get my truck, and I'll be back to get him."

"Thanks." I went to find my own coat and check on Eric. He was still out cold, but didn't look like he was in any distress. Once we got him in his room, I would be in the clear. Whether he came back to the Silver Bar tomorrow night remained to be seen. I could only hope.

As I sat with him on the couch waiting for Clancy, I marveled at his physique, his beauty and remembered how he made me feel when he flirted with me. He was magnificent. I wondered what sort of vampire he might be. My fangs ran down at the thought. Oh no, I wasn't about to let him get away from me. I stroked my hand through his hair and held his big hand in mine.

In a short time, Clancy had Eric in his truck. It was a short distance to the Big Chief Motel. Clancy's friend had given him a master key, and we opened Room 22. I pulled down the covers and Clancy placed him on the bed.

"Want me to try to glamour him, Sookie?"

I looked at Eric, lying so peacefully on the bed. I knew I wanted him to come back to the bar, and I wanted him to do it without being glamoured.

"No, Clancy. Let's get out of here."

I slipped off Eric's boots, and resisted the urge to crawl into bed to hold him. I pulled the blanket over him and kissed his cheek. I then took one last look at my Eric before closing the door. I would see him tomorrow night and I would accept nothing less. After all, I was Sookie Stackhouse, vampire sheriff of Area 5.

Will Eric come back or will he get the heck out of town? Just press the green button and let me know what you think – it's easy!