Sookie watched as I shrugged into a blazer. It wasn’t one of the newer or nicer ones I owned. I needed to dress good enough to receive Sophie-Anne, but not in something that I was attached to. I could feel Sookie’s worry rolling off her. She was worried for me. She had been feeling that way ever since Fangtasia burned down. That night she had made love to me, and she had not stopped her careful attentions ever since, always touching me in a loving way, making sure I had what I needed when I needed it, going above and beyond anything I had ever expected from her. She did this because she thought I was under a lot of stress. She was right, and I felt mad and guilty as hell for not being able to show her another face.
“I love you,” she said. She was sitting on the bed dangling her legs. I wished I had time to make love to her before leaving, but I had to meet with Sophie-Anne and she would be arriving shortly. Nevertheless I closed the gap between my wife and me trying to, at least, not frown.
“I love you too, beautiful. What’s on your mind?” I asked her, taking her hands and drawing circles on her palms with my thumbs.
“Other than thinking you look stressed enough to get a heart attack, nothing,” she said and smiled. Perhaps if I’d been human I would have been in danger of a heart attack. So many things happening at once, so many threats against my wife and child, and my inability to keep her safe myself had me very, very worried. Constantly worried.
“Perhaps it is time for me to consider giving up my post as sheriff,” I said looking into her eyes for her reaction. She immediately frowned and took a breath, about to speak. She closed her mouth and did it again, but remained silent, still searching my eyes. “I mean it,” I said, guessing her argument.
“I have no doubt that you mean it, but I always thought you enjoyed your political office,” she argued anyway.
I smiled. “There are more important things right now.” I put my hand on her cheek. I had eternity ahead of me, but Sookie and Idony were fixed marks in my history and their time on Earth was finite. I couldn’t count on either of them wanting to join me, not while Sookie needed to remain human for our baby’s sake, and Idony had not even been born.
“Would you consider being a king someday?” Sookie asked me, although she already knew my answer to that.
“Maybe someday, but not anytime soon. The higher I am, the harder I can fall, and I don’t want to expose you in that manner. I only want to keep you safe, my love. I see what my choices have done and…” I stopped talking. Once again I felt incredibly guilty for the things I’d put Sookie through. She was shaking her head adamantly.
“No, Eric. Every choice you made led us to this point, so don’t regret anything. I’ll always support you in whatever you decide, but I don’t want you to later feel that we,” she pointed at her belly, “kept you from doing what you wanted.”
“Of course not Sookie,” I said immediately, because she had been my best supporter, other than Pam. “I have to go, but we will talk,” I said and kissed her lips. “How is my baby?” I asked when I pulled away.
“She’s asleep,” Sookie answered, rubbing the top of her abdomen. I put my hand on hers and silently asked Freyja to watch over them.
“Eric, so nice to see you. How is Sookie?” Sophie-Anne asked kissing my cheeks as if we were on a social call. A warehouse loomed in the very near distance. It was the same abandoned warehouse where Hallow had kept Sookie. The fairies had remembered.
“Sookie is doing well, thank you for asking,” I said and bowed, kiss or no kiss. She was still my Queen.
“They tell me nowadays you can know the gender of the child while it is still in its mother’s womb. Is that right?” she asked. We started walking towards the warehouse.
“That is right, but we don’t know it yet,” I answered, unwilling to part with that information at this particular time. Sophie-Anne would find out soon enough.
Sophie-Anne had brought Sigebert and Andre, as well as Rasul and Melanie who were scouting the area. I had asked Thalia and Godric to join me. As old as they were they had the most control over their nature, and they would be able to resist the scent of fairies. This was the first time I had asked Godric to work for me, and he had accepted now that his child had been a vampire for about eight months. She could stand a night without her maker.
We entered the warehouse and met with Niall who was dressed in his full prince regalia. He was probably trying to upstage Sophie-Anne who was wearing her usual tailored suit. Niall always carried his staff, but tonight he was also wearing a white silk suit, a dark red velvet cape, and a thin golden crown on his head. When he smiled I could see a slight resemblance to Sookie.
“Good evening, your majesty,” Niall said to Sophie-Anne and nodded. That was as low as he would go for her.
“Prince Niall, it is always a pleasure to see you, although it would have been better in different circumstances,” Sophie-Anne said and nodded as well.
“Of course, Queen Sophie-Anne. Now if you will permit me, I must greet my great-grandson,” said Niall looking at me. “Eric, I trust all is well.”
“Yes, your highness,” I nodded, not wanting to go lower for fear of upsetting my Queen. Besides, Niall was family, not my ruler. “Sookie sends her love,” I said, almost feeling the words choke me on exit. She had actually said something different altogether, but I decided it would be safe to edit her message. She was upset over the casino that the fairies wanted for taking care of the mess.
“Yes, I know Eír is looking forward to seeing her again,” Niall said and winked. Eír was the demigoddess of healing and sister of Freyja. Niall had mentioned she helped the Brigant family, and that she would help when the time came. I always thought he meant when it was Sookie’s time to give birth. I didn’t know Eír had already seen Sookie.
“Again?” I asked before I could stop myself.
Niall looked at me curiously before answering. “Of course,” he said, but didn’t elaborate, and I did not have time to think about it further. A low growl from somewhere inside the warehouse drew our attention away from Niall.
“Neave and Lochlan have been very busy all day long with the three vampires from Nevada,” Niall explained. He wasn’t smiling, but he seemed to want to.
“What have they found?” asked Sophie-Anne.
“They have not asked any questions yet. They patiently waited for your arrival,” said Niall. I heard someone shift uncomfortably behind us, and guessed it was Andre.
“What are the terms?” Sophie-Anne asked, quickly getting to the point.
Niall finally gave into his smile and enumerated the terms of his involvement. They shook hands on them and he said he had to leave. Upon his departure he took away the magic that masked the fairy scent from Neave and Lochlan, and it hit all of us at the same time. My gums began to itch but I managed to keep my fangs retracted. Sophie-Anne, being younger, simply let hers drop first before reining in her control.
“Let’s get this show on the road,” she said, sounding about as excited as I was at the prospect of seeing Neave and Lochlan tear somebody to pieces.
We walked to the other end of the warehouse slowly, adjusting our senses. The smell of old blood was very strong. What Niall said was true: Neave and Lochlan had been having their fun with Victor, Bruno, and Corinna. They probably did not let the vampires sleep. One look at Victor confirmed it. He was hanging limply from chains tethered to the exposed beams of the tall ceiling, and looked to be asleep. The other two vampires were bound to chairs with chains made of silver. All the chains were made of silver.
Neave approached us, looking at me and licking her fingers clean of blood. The gesture was oddly arousing and repugnant at the same time. Her fairy scent was intoxicating, her body was scintillating, but the things she was capable of made me ill at ease. She nevertheless approached me to within a couple of inches, her body so close I could feel its warmth. She caressed my face with her wet fingers, and I couldn’t stop my fangs from lengthening. My nostrils flared, taking in more of her scent and almost giving in to my desire. Thalia pulled me and got in front of me, baring her fangs at Neave in a threatening way. I had never been so glad to have given Thalia a raise when the Queen had suggested it. She effectively kept me from ravaging Neave.
“I was only teasing,” said the fairy and giggled.
“Get on with it, already. Prince Niall said you’re my employees until I dismiss you, so get to work,” Sophie-Anne barked.
Neave shrugged one shoulder and unsheathed a blade. It was about ten inches long, slightly curved, with an ivory hilt and a shiny silver blade. While Lochlan was having his fun cutting Corinna’s expensive braids one by one from her head, Neave roused Victor by hitting the broad side of the blade against his cheek. Victor shrieked loudly as the silver made contact with what was, up to that point, flawless clean skin.
“Why did you come to Louisiana?” Neave asked in her sexiest voice. She truly enjoyed her work. When Victor didn’t answer she began massaging his groin. “Answer me, Victor. We all want to know,” she said, now using a sing-song tone. What would come next would be unpleasant if Victor chose not to answer.
“My king sent me,” he croaked and went limp again, letting the weight of his body be carried by the chains.
“What was the ultimate purpose?” she asked. We all watched as she cut a gash on Victor’s other cheek. The sudden smell of fresh blood combined with the fairy scent sent all of us reeling. I was still trying my best not to steal Neave and fuck her and drain her. Thalia and Godric must have seen it in my face and came to stand slightly before me. They were each at least twice my age, and there was no way I could have escaped them to reach the fairy. I was so lost, trying my best to keep control, that I did not pay attention to the Queen’s entourage. Sigebert was the youngest among us, but he was kept in check with Sophie-Anne’s mental abilities. Andre had more freedom from her. He was the one who started moving slowly closer to Neave. He reminded me of a stink bug Sookie had found inside the house, and how it had moved towards the light so she could catch it.
Sookie and Idony need me to be in control. I cannot hurt them this way. I could lose everything
, I said to myself, still watching as Andre approached Neave. She was watching him out of the corner of her eye. Suddenly Neave turned on him, so quickly that she was nothing but a blur to my own eyes. She resumed her position beside Victor, leaving Andre wondering what had just happened to him.
The brunette beauty held Andre’s dismembered hand by two dainty fingers like a cup of tea. She dropped the hand like a soiled handkerchief. Andre looked at the stump where his hand used to be and screamed. I turned to Sophie-Anne who merely rolled her eyes. Apparently she had been trying to control Andre, and he had refused to listen to her. Rasul and Melanie burst inside the warehouse, not needing any direction other than the sight of Andre holding his bleeding arm. They moved swiftly and got him out of the warehouse.
“Neave, stop mutilating my staff and get on with it,” Sophie-Anne said in a bored tone, but I knew her better. She was seething mad.
Neave turned to Victor, whose eyes were now open and taking in everything that was happening. His eyes followed Neave’s movements with fear and a hint of loathing. “I haven’t heard an answer from you about the ultimate purpose of your being in Louisiana,” she said, giving Victor one more chance.
Victor knew he would die that night. He could only hope it would be swift and painless if he answered the questions quickly. “King Felipe wanted me to either harm the telepath Sookie Stackhouse, or try to bring her to Nevada. All the monarchs in the south would demand Sophie-Anne’s death for her carelessness, and he could take over Louisiana and Arkansas.”
“Did you get the Fellowship involved?” Lochlan asked this time. He had moved over to Bruno, examining one of his arms as if deciding whether to bite it and how it would taste.
“I got the Fellowship involved so nobody would suspect,” Victor answered. Corinna was crying at the loss of her hair. That was the least of her problems. Bruno whimpered when he saw Lochlan pull a blade very similar to Neave’s. The screams made even Sigebert cringe when Lochlan decided that, instead of biting Bruno’s arm, he was going to carve intricate patterns on it with his silver blade.
“Neave, let me ask him the questions and you can go ahead and do what you need to do if he doesn’t answer,” Sophie-Anne said, not daring to move from her spot. She asked Victor for Felipe’s weaknesses, his defenses, how to gain control of his compound, everything Victor knew about how to bring Felipe down. Once she was satisfied, Sophie-Anne gave the final command to dispose of Victor, Bruno, and Corinna. I was sure they were thankful that their torture would soon be over.
Neave began with Victor, who was sniveling as he watched her face turn into a jubilant mask. She placed a finger over her lips, shushing him. Victor froze and stopped making any kind of noise, his face a mask of fear. The fairy took hold of his head with both hands and placed the sole of her stiletto boot on his chest. Then she did a perfect back flip, ripping his head free from his shoulders. She stuck the landing as we all watched the body begin to flake immediately.
“I trust you will take care of the other two without my supervision,” Sophie-Anne said to Lochlan, the only one paying attention. Neave was busy examining the head in her hands.
“Yes, your majesty,” Lochlan answered.
I almost ran out the door. It took everything out of me to actually walk out rather than run, but I could only go as fast as Sophie-Anne was going. Once outside she walked directly to where Rasul and Melanie were taking care of Andre.
“Didn’t I tell you it was a bad idea for you to come here? This is what you get for wanting to prove me wrong! Once again, I’m proven right,” she chastised Andre. I was sure her outburst against him in front of us hurt him more than the loss of his hand.
She turned to me, still very mad. “Sookie is safe, correct?”
“Yes, your majesty. She is always accompanied by Gladiola and Diantha, or by Pam and me.”
“Very good. I’m going after Felipe and I want you at your post and at your best in case I need you to handle a sudden influx of people. When is the baby due?” she asked, moving chess pieces in her head.
“At the end of September.”
“Very well. The coup shouldn’t take that long. We should be done with all this by the end of July. I’m sorry they thought Sookie was a good target for their plan. I really am, Eric. If you need anything to help you ensure her safety, go ahead and call Mr. Cataliades. I don’t want her to end up a pawn like my poor Hadley,” Sophie-Anne said, revealing a part of herself I seldom got to see, but one I admired.
“Thank you, your majesty.”
“Should I even ask?” Sookie said. She had heard me come in the house and had joined me in our bedroom. I hadn’t wanted to interrupt her. She had been enjoying a movie with Glad and Diantha in the den. I told Sookie that it could wait, but she was adamant that it could not.
“It would be better if you didn’t,” I answered her and saw her frown. She was hurt, so I had to explain. “Neave and Lochlan were merciless. They even attacked Andre.” I told Sookie the information they had gathered, and what Sophie-Anne was going to do now. I left out what the fairies had done to obtain the information, and my own moments of weakness. That would only hurt her, and nothing had happened anyway.
“So now what?” she asked. She was asking the question with regards to us.
“Now we wait on the Queen’s next item of business for me. She wants me to remain here doing my job. I suspect she might want me to become regent in Nevada eventually,” I said and shrugged, letting Sookie know that it wasn’t a big deal.
“Regent, as in the person in charge of Nevada?” she asked to clarify. I nodded and her eyes widened. “I thought you didn’t want that,” she pointed out in a small voice. I wasn’t sure what she was thinking exactly.
“I don’t know, now. I suppose I’m jumping the gun, as they say, since the Queen hasn’t said anything and it’s only conjecture.”
“Oh, okay,” Sookie said, not convinced. I could understand her confusion. I was vacillating, and I’d seldom been that way in front of her. I was weighing options, pros and cons, thinking of both the small and big pictures, keeping in mind the very near future as well as the not so near. Just as Sophie-Anne had been moving chess pieces inside her head, so was I. The only difference was our motives: Sophie-Anne wanted power. I only wanted my family beside me, so I had to find the best way to accomplish that.