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9780441019328

Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, Book 3)

Harris, Charlaine Author

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Things between cocktail waitress Sookie and her vampire boyfriend Bill seem to be going excellently (apart from the small matter of him being undead) until he leaves town for a while. A long while. Bill's sinister boss Eric has an idea of where to find him, whisking her off to Jackson, Mississippi to mingle with the under-underworld at Club Dead. When she finally catches up with the errant vampire, he is in big trouble and caught in an act of serious betrayal. This raises serious doubts as to whether she should save him or start sharpening a few stakes of her own ...

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About the Author:

Charlaine Harris lives in southern Arkansas with her husband, three children, two dogs, two ferrets, and a duck. An avid reader, mild cinemafile, and occasional weightlifter, her favourite activity is cheering her children on in various sports.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

From Club Dead

By Charlaine Harris

Club Dead copyright 2003 by Charlaine Harris

Bill was hunched over the computer when I let myself in his house. This was an all-too-familiar scenario in the past month or two. He’d torn himself away from his work when I came home, until the past couple of weeks. Now it was the keyboard that attracted him.

“Hello, sweetheart,” he said absently, his gaze riveted to the screen. An empty bottle of type O TrueBlood was on the desk beside the keyboard. At least he’d remembered to eat.

Bill, not a jeans-and-tee kind of guy, was wearing khakis and a plaid shirt in muted blue and green. His skin was glowing, and his thick dark hair smelled like Herbal Essence. He was enough to give any woman a hormonal surge. I kissed his neck, and he didn’t react. I licked his ear. Nothing.

I’d been on my feet for six hours straight at Merlotte’s Bar, and every time some customer had under-tipped, or some fool had patted my fanny, I’d reminded myself that in a short while I’d be with my boyfriend, having incredible sex and basking in his attention.

That didn’t appear to be happening.

I inhaled slowly and steadily and glared at Bill’s back. It was a wonderful back, with broad shoulders, and I had planned on seeing it bare with my nails dug into it. I had counted on that very strongly. I exhaled, slowly and steadily.

“Be with you in a minute,” Bill said. On the screen, there was a snapshot of a distinguished man with silver hair and a dark tan. He looked sort of Anthony Quinn—type sexy, and he looked powerful. Under the picture was a name, and under that was some text. “Born 1756 in Sicily,” it began. Just as I opened my mouth to comment that vampires did appear in photographs despite the legend, Bill twisted around and realized I was reading.

He hit a button and the screen went blank.

I stared at him, not quite believing what had just happened.

“Sookie,” he said, attempting a smile. His fangs were retracted, so he was totally not in the mood in which I’d hoped to find him; he wasn’t thinking of me carnally. Like all vampires, his fangs are only fully extended when he’s in the mood for the sexy kind of lust, or the feeding-and-killing kind of lust. (Sometimes, those lusts all get kind of snarled up, and you get your dead fang-bangers. But that element of danger is what attracts most fang-bangers, if you ask me.) Though I’ve been accused of being one of those pathetic creatures that hang around vampires in the hope of attracting their attention, there’s only one vampire I’m involved with (at least voluntarily) and it was the one sitting right in front of me. The one who was keeping secrets from me. The one who wasn’t nearly glad enough to see me.

“Bill,” I said coldly. Something was Up, with a capital U. And it wasn’t Bill’s libido. (Libido had just been on my Word-A-Day calendar.)

“You didn’t see what you just saw,” he said steadily. His dark brown eyes regarded me without blinking.

“Uh-huh,” I said, maybe sounding just a little sarcastic. “What are you up to?”

“I have a secret assignment.”

I didn’t know whether to laugh or stalk away in a snit. So I just raised my eyebrows and waited for more. Bill was the investigator for Area 5, a vampire division of Louisiana. Eric, the head of Area 5, had never given Bill an “assignment” that was secret from me before. In fact, I was usually an integral part of the investigation team, however unwilling I might be.

“Eric must not know. None of the Area 5 vampires can know.”

My heart sank. “So—if you’re not doing a job for Eric, who are you working for?” I knelt because my feet were so tired, and I leaned against Bill’s knees.

“The queen of Louisiana,” he said, almost in a whisper.

Because he looked so solemn, I tried to keep a straight face, but it was no use. I began to laugh, little giggles that I couldn’t suppress.

“You’re serious?” I asked, knowing he must be. Bill was almost always a serious kind of fellow. I buried my face on his thigh so he couldn’t see my amusement. I rolled my eyes up for a quick look at his face. He was looking pretty pissed.

“I am as serious as the grave,” Bill said, and he sounded so steely, I made a major effort to change my attitude.

“Okay, let me get this straight,” I said in a reasonably level tone. I sat back on the floor, cross-legged, and rested my hands on my knees. “You work for Eric, who is the boss of Area 5, but there is also a queen? Of Louisiana?”

Bill nodded.

“So the state is divided up into Areas? And she’s Eric’s superior, since he runs a business in Shreveport, which is in Area 5.”

Again with the nod. I put my hand over my face and shook my head. “So, where does she live, Baton Rouge?” The state capital seemed the obvious place.

“No, no. New Orleans, of course.”

Of course. Vampire central. You could hardly throw a rock in the Big Easy without hitting one of the undead, according to the papers (though only a real fool would do so). The tourist trade in New Orleans was booming, but it was not exactly the same crowd as before, the hard-drinking, rollicking crowd who’d filled the city to party hearty. The newer tourists were the ones who wanted to rub elbows with the undead; patronize a vampire bar, visit a vampire prostitute, watch a vampire sex show.

This was what I’d heard; I hadn’t been to New Orleans since I was little. My mother and father had taken my brother, Jason, and me. That would have been before I was seven, because that’s when they died.

Mama and Daddy died nearly twenty years before vampires had appeared on network television to announce the fact that they were actually present among us, an announcement that had followed on the Japanese development of synthetic blood that actually maintained a vampire’s life without the necessity of drinking from humans.

The United States vampire community had let the Japanese vampire clans come forth first. Then, simultaneously, in most of the nations of the world that had television—and who doesn’t these days?—the announcement had been made in hundreds of different languages, by hundreds of carefully picked personable vampires.

That night, two and half years ago, we regular old live people learned that we had always lived with monsters among us.

“But”—the burden of this announcement had been—“now we can come forward and join with you in harmony. You are in no danger from us anymore. We don’t need to drink from you to live.”

As you can imagine, this was a night of high ratings and tremendous uproar. Reaction varied sharply, depending on the nation.

The vampires in the predominantly Islamic nations had fared the worst. You don’t even want to know what happened to the undead spokesman in Syria, though perhaps the female vamp in Afghanistan died an even more horrible—and final—death. (What were they thinking, selecting a female for that particular job? Vampires could be so smart, but they sometimes didn’t seem quite in touch with the present world.)

Some nations—France, Italy, and Germany were the most notable—refused to accept vampires as equal citizens. Many—like Bosnia, Argentina, and most of the African nations—denied any status to the vampires, and declared them fair game for any bounty hunter. But America, England, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, and the Scandinavian countries adopted a more tolerant attitude.

It was hard to determine if this reaction was what the vampires had expected or not. Since they were still struggling to maintain a foothold in the stream of the living, the vampires remained very secretive about their organization and government, and what Bill was telling me now was the most I’d ever heard on the subject.

“So, the Louisiana queen of the vampires has you working on a secret project,” I said, trying to sound neutral. “And this is why you have lived at your computer every waking hour for the past few weeks.”

“Yes,” Bill said. He picked up the bottle of TrueBlood and tipped it up, but there were only a couple of drops left. He went down the hall into the small kitchen area (when he’d remodeled his old family home, he’d pretty much left out the kitchen, since he didn’t need one) and extracted another bottle from the refrigerator. I was tracking him by sound as he opened the bottle and popped it into the microwave. The microwave went off, and he reentered, shaking the bottle with his thumb over the top so there wouldn’t be any hot spots.

“So, how much more time do you have to spend on this project?” I asked—reasonably, I thought.

“As long as it takes,” he said, less reasonably. Actually, Bill sounded downright irritable.

Hmmm. Could our honeymoon be over? Of course I mean figurative honeymoon, since Bill’s a vampire and we can’t be legally married, practically anywhere in the world.

Not that he’s asked me.

“Well, if you’re so absorbed in your project, I’ll just stay away until it’s over,” I said slowly.

“That might be best,” Bill said, after a perceptible pause, and I felt like he’d socked me in the stomach. In a flash, I was on my feet and pulling my coat back over my cold-weather waitress outfit—black slacks, white boat-neck long-sl...

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