Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Sookie swayed as she stood, her back to Eric. She held out her sword, determined to meet the next vampire who rushed toward either of them. In her head she could see Eric’s drawn face as he leaned against the house. She had seen Angie’s blade stab his shoulder and the blood that had flowed so freely, but she couldn’t think about that right now. ‘I’m ready,’ she thought, but she wasn’t sure whether she was ready to continue fighting or to die. With the number of pale faces she’d seen in the tree line around their house she figured it was probably both.
As she looked for enemies, she couldn’t make sense of the starlight glow she saw moving through the trees. Shifting from side to side, her eyes flicking to her left and then to her right, she kept waiting for the attack that didn’t come. Instead, the pale faces were gone, replaced by a thin fog that seemed to be lit from within. Sookie could still hear the sounds of fighting as though she were standing right next to it. The sounds of steel against steel rang brightly and there were the grunts and shouts of warriors engaged in battle. She heard it again, the thin, ghostly horn, so light on the air that as soon as the sound stopped, she wondered if she’d imagined it.
“Eric?” she said out loud.
“It seems your relatives have decided to get involved after all,” Eric said from behind her. Although she could feel him, Sookie’s nerves were stretched taut, jittery with the adrenaline surging through her. Eric was pushing her calm, but when he placed his hand on her shoulder she still jumped, her heart almost leaping from her chest. It was enough to jolt her into action.
Turning her head, she asked, “Are you okay?”
“Tis but a flesh wound,” Eric quipped, quoting from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. They had watched the movie many months ago and Eric found it hilarious. He had a tendency to sneak phrases from the film into conversations and he loved it when the reaction was puzzled silence.
Sookie swept her eyes over the tree line one more time, but there was no movement and now, even the weird fog seemed to have dissipated. Deciding it was safe, she took the couple steps toward the house, and leaned her sword against the foundation before reaching for Eric’s shirt, “Let me see,” she bossed.
“I just need blood, Lover,” Eric protested and he pushed her grasping fingers away from him. Sookie noticed he kept watch over her head, his hand never loosening its grip from his sword.
“You think they’ll come again?” she asked.
“No,” Eric replied. “I think it’s finished.”
“Well, fine then,” Sookie sniffed and reached for his shirt again. Eric tried to intercept her hand, but Sookie wasn’t having it. She pushed his hand aside and when he tried to capture her fingers, she slapped at him. Trusting him to guard her back, she pulled at his shirt finally reaching into the hole made by the blade and ripping. “Stop!” Eric hissed. “I can’t keep watch and fend you off. I do believe the immediate danger is over, but we should wait before tending our wounds.”
“Sorry,” Sookie mumbled, “You’re right,” and as she turned aside, she could see Jane lying in the driveway. “It was all so fast,” she said out loud.
“I think we have survived it,” Eric agreed, “but I believe we owe the Prince a great debt.”
As though he heard his name, Niall appeared on the edge of the woods. He walked toward them, his long, pale hair and clothing seemed to float on a breeze they couldn’t feel. He was bathed in light, but that didn’t hide the blood on his long, curved sword nor the dark color that stained his sword arm to the elbow.
“Greetings, Granddaughter,” he smiled at Sookie. Walking directly toward her, he didn’t stop until he had her in his arms and he kissed her lips. It was as though life itself had blown into her, and Sookie felt a new, invigorating energy rush through her veins. Even her hair seemed to lift at the roots, and Sookie noticed how the Prince looked fierce but somehow happier than he usually did. “You are uninjured?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” Sookie rocked back a little on her heels. Niall’s eyes were always intriguing, but tonight they seemed to glow with a deep, mysterious green that spoke of dark places and quick water. “But Eric…”
The Prince’s gaze rose to the Viking standing behind her, “Yes, I can see you were struck.” The Prince stepped away from Sookie and then turned toward Eric.
Almost every time Sookie saw her Grandfather touch Eric, it was restricted to shaking hands. On one memorable occasion, shortly after she and Eric were joined in Nebraska, her Grandfather had rather woodenly embraced the vampire but, for the most part, Niall kept his distance. Sookie figured it was because Fae were like catnip to vampires. The scent of Fae blood was like chumming the water in shark alley when vampires were around, and even though Niall was good at cloaking his scent, why would he take chances? But now Niall placed his hands on Eric’s shoulders, and then he pulled the vampire forward. Before Sookie could even think about what she was seeing, her Grandfather kissed Eric full on the mouth, and Sookie could feel Eric’s surprise, which was quickly replaced by the same energy and sense of well-being she had just experienced. “My blessings upon you!” the Prince said brightly, before glancing back toward the woods.
“There are still problems, unrest in other parts of your kingdom, Northman,” Niall said. “My people have had such an enjoyable evening here they are reluctant to stop. Unless you have any objection, we would like to continue our hunt.”
“No,” Eric was watching the Prince carefully, “No objections.” Sookie could feel that Eric was shocked by the Prince’s behavior, but he was holding it back, trying to be polite.
“Wonderful!” the Prince laughed. Turning back to Sookie, he said, “I will return later this evening. I have missed you, Granddaughter! I am so glad you called. Perhaps we could have some tea?”
“Sure,” Sookie shrugged, not exactly sure what to make of any of this. The Prince winked and then his smile turned distinctly feral. Sookie shuddered just a bit as she caught a glimpse of razor teeth and cruel eyes, lurking just under the handsome façade her Grandfather wore so easily, and then he was gone.
Sookie was about to ask Eric what he made of this development when she saw Owen coming out of the woods, supporting Charles. Charles was limping. “I’ll call Doctor Ludwig,” Eric said quietly, “And Sookie?” he added, “I could use a blood if you could manage it. I am hurting.”
“You can feed from me,” Sookie offered.
Eric smiled, “I fed from you upon rising, Lover. If I feed from you again your head will hurt, which means my head will hurt. Whole blood would be good.”
“I didn’t know you felt that.” Although there was no reason for it, Sookie felt ashamed. Pausing on her way up the porch stairs, she helped Charles to sit down. “I’ll bring you some water,” she said, patting the Were on the shoulder and moving inside.
Grabbing a tray, Sookie warmed up bottles of blood and pulled out bottles of water. ‘Think about the microwave,’ she told herself. ‘Think about filling ice cube trays.’ Second by second, she occupied herself by focusing on small things so she wouldn’t have to think about how she’d almost died or how she’d just killed again. “Maybe Heidi and Bubba are out front,” she said out loud, and the sound of her voice in the empty kitchen felt comforting. When the last bottle was ready, Sookie said, “Well, let’s get on out there,” and walked toward her front door.
The door was wide open now, and the screen door was propped open, too. Sookie glanced at the heaps of empty clothes lying in her front yard and then turned her eyes to Doctor Ludwig who was leaning over Charles’ leg. Looking up, the doctor said, “You weren’t hurt.” She didn’t ask it, she stated it, and Sookie nodded before moving to Owen, who was hunched over on the deck chair.
When Owen started to stand, Sookie shook her head. “You just sit,” she told the guard. “You’ve done enough for one night.” Handing him a water, she moved further down the porch where Heidi and Bubba were sitting on the wicker set. Heidi was rubbing her arm. She took the blood and whispered her thanks. Bubba was a mess, blood crusted on the side of his face. It looked as though Bubba had taken a head wound.
When she offered the once famous vampire warmed blood, he declined, “None for me! I’m feeling a little better now. Some fella was pushing me, and another must have snuck up behind me because the next thing I knew I was on the ground!”
“They were real tricky,” Sookie agreed.
“Real cowards!” Bubba replied hotly. “Should have been willing to fight me man to man and not sneak around to backstab me!”
“Well, we got the drop on them in the end!” Sookie assured him.
“Yup,” Bubba smiled, “We sure did!”
Heidi glanced to the yard. Sookie followed her gaze and realized Jane’s body was now gone. It had crumbled back into dust, her clothes the only reminder of where she fell. “Why don’t I get something to gather her remains,” Sookie said. “Any idea who might wish her dust?”
Heidi shook her head, “Her Maker was gone and I don’t believe she had any brothers or sisters of the blood.”
Doctor Ludwig glanced up from her bandaging, “You’ll want to contact Phoebe Golden,” she told Sookie. “Phoebe thought the world of Jane. She’ll be real sorry to get this news.”
“Felipe de Castro will pay!” Heidi hissed. The tracker’s face was angry and Sookie could see that anger reflected in the faces of the others.
It was the first time Sookie had really put it together. She looked at Eric who was in the process of dialing his phone. “That’s right, isn’t it?” she said to him. “That slimy son of a bitch tried to take us over again! That bastard!” and all the fear and worry and adrenaline seemed to coalesce into a single bubble of rage. “I swear, Eric! I’m going to fly out there myself and gut that cape-wearing, pencil dick, bug fucker, once and for all!”
Eric laughed and the sound was truly joyful, “And I would pay to watch that, my Lover, but first, let’s make sure our Sheriffs have survived.” Eric glanced around him, taking a moment to look in the eyes of each of their surviving defenders. It was as if he passed each of them a promise, a pledge, and Sookie felt the strength of his leadership. He finished by laying his hand on Charles’ shoulder.
“I’m fine, Majesty,” his guard assured him. Eric nodded and then walked up the remaining porch stairs.
“I’ll come with you,” Sookie told him. Wrapping their arms around each other, they walked into the living room, and sat down on the couch. Sookie realized just touching Eric made her feel better, and she could tell he felt the same.
He was all business as he made his first call. He spoke in his odd, hissing vampire speak. It was fast and low but for some reason she didn’t have trouble following him. He was speaking with Indira. She, Nabila, and a number of others had been pinned inside Fangtasia. The vampires outside had been trying to set the place on fire. Mustapha and Warren had been positioned on a rooftop some distance away, picking off attackers effectively enough that their attackers hadn’t made much progress. Nabila was getting ready to stage a charge out the door to see if they could throw their attackers back when the Fae arrived. One minute there were vampires pounding against the walls and breaking glass, the next minute, there was a loud hissing, and then the screaming started. “I think they were eating them,” Indira told Eric.
Sookie shuddered. She thought Indira might be right.
“The Prince has been busy,” Eric was looking apologetic and Sookie realized he thought she was uncomfortable thinking he was leaving her out.
“Look,” Sookie smiled, “I’m going to get you another blood. Make your calls. I’m going to get outside and see if there’s anything else I can do to help.”
Eric grabbed her hand as she started to rise and pulled her toward him, “You were very good tonight,” he told her, “a true warrior!”
“I’d rather be a true ‘nothing is happening, so let’s wear our jammies and watch Dancing with the Stars’ gal,” Sookie replied. She picked up a wooden box from a side table that had some carving on it and a latch.
“We can be boring tomorrow,” Eric teased her. Sookie touched his cheek and he nodded. She knew he was watching her all the way to the door.
Charles was up and moving when Sookie stepped back outside. “The Fae showed up at Fangtasia,” Sookie told everyone. “Sounds like folks over there are all right.”
“That’s a relief!” Heidi smiled. Together they walked to the pile of clothes that marked where Jane had fallen. Sookie opened the small box and together they scooped as much dust as they could from the ground. Heidi sifted until she found Jane’s fangs and added them to the box.
“Thierry and Thomas will be sad to hear of this loss,” Charles said, “Jane was a lot of fun.”
Owen was helping Charles limp toward the guesthouse. “She sure got into some trouble in New Orleans,” Owen added, and he and Charles exchanged a look.
Sookie offered to go to the guesthouse to help the Weres but they declined. Looking back at Jane’s remains, Sookie said, “I guess I never knew her all that well. Mostly I knew her from here and she was pretty focused on the whole research end of things.” Sookie thought about how she hadn’t much liked the Jane who followed her around with a clipboard and made her feel like a test subject.
“You’ll want to start looking for a replacement for the clinic.” Amy Ludwig had walked over to stand beside them. When Sookie stood up, the small doctor grabbed the telepath’s wrist. Sookie figured Amy was timing her pulse. The doctor kept talking, “The reproductive clinic is a real money-maker, and lots of Weres are depending on it being around. You have a pretty big stake in the place. I can make inquiries if you’d like.”
“That would be great,” Sookie replied and then she waited for Amy to release her. When Amy kept holding onto her wrist and frowning, Sookie asked, “Anything wrong?”
“You’re sure you feel all right?” and Amy gave her an odd look.
Sookie snatched back her hand, figuring the palm licking was coming next, “Well, aside from being pretty shook up, sure. After all, it’s been a busy night. Not every day you have a bunch of vampires show up, aiming to turn you into shish kabob, and then you get rescued by your very own Fairy Grandfather. It’s kind of a lot for a country girl to take in.”
“I see your brush with eternity hasn’t improved your manners,” Amy scowled.
“Back at ya!” Sookie gave her best Jason Stackhouse lopsided grin, and then she gulped. It hit her again how closely they had all come to death and Sookie glanced at the house. It struck her that life still had a way of feeling mighty short, even for immortals.
“First time I’ve ever heard of the Fae doing something like this,” Heidi shook her head, “First time I’ve heard of the Fae doing much of anything.”
“It is going to cause some talk,” Doctor Ludwig gave Sookie a direct look.
Sookie couldn’t think about it right now. “Why don’t y’all come on into the house?” Sookie said, changing the subject, “I think the excitement is over for one night.”
Heidi and Doctor Ludwig started toward the house, but Bubba shook his head. “If it’s all the same to you, Miss Sookie, I’m going to just sit out here on the porch for a while,” he told her. “I want to look at the woods and think about how pretty they looked, all lit up like they were.”
Sookie nodded and was heading through the door when a voice called from the tree line, “Look what I found.” It was Mr. Cataliades. The demon was wearing something that looked like karate clothes and he was carrying a woman. Sookie moved down the stairs and into the yard to meet him.
“Who is she?” Sookie asked him.
“She is a witch,” the attorney told Sookie. “She was tethered to a tree at the edge of your property. She’s been knocked around.”
“Well, bring her on inside,” Sookie touched Mr. Cataliades’ arm, “Amy is here. And you?” Sookie looked a little more closely at Mr. C. His outfit under other circumstances would have had her giggling, but it was hard to laugh when you knew you were looking at someone else’s blood. He had a sword, too, but he’d tucked it through his belt and it struck his legs when he walked.
“I escaped unharmed,” the attorney said mildly. “Your attackers were too busy watching in front of them to consider the danger that would come from behind. We took them all by surprise,” and Sookie realized he had come with the Fae. He glanced at Sookie before he started walking up the stairs. “You will want to retrieve and clean your sword before the Prince arrives,” and he glanced at where Fintan’s sword leaned against the house.
Sookie broke off to do as he suggested, then said, “I wonder where Angie found so many vampires. I think I counted fifteen, maybe twenty,” Sookie sniffed.
“There were more,” the demon told her, “and not all were vampires. Angie wasn’t taking chances.”
As they walked inside, Sookie glanced into the living room. Eric had another bottle of blood in front of him. He was leaning forward, his elbows on his knees, and his forehead was in his hand. He was intent on his conversation, but Sookie couldn’t feel anything terrible from him so she figured no bad news. Mr. Cataliades carried the witch all the way to the family room and Amy got out of her chair to take a look at her. After a few minutes, the woman moaned and then her eyes opened. She looked around with some panic and Amy said, “Hold your water, magic caster! You’re among friends now.”
“What’s your name?” Sookie asked. She couldn’t imagine Angie had done much smiling so Sookie tried to make sure her own was extra bright. For some reason, the telepath thought about the pile of clothes that had been Angie still lying in the yard.
“Meredith,” the woman whispered. “You’re the telepath they wanted to kill.”
“Sookie Northman,” the telepath nodded, “Yup, still walking.”
“So you won,” Meredith nodded, “My sisters said you would.”
Amy looked at Sookie over the witch’s head, “She’ll be fine,” and the doctor walked into the kitchen and returned with a sandwich and a glass of water, which she set on the table near the witch. “Eat something and you’ll feel more like yourself.”
“I didn’t think you knew how to use a kitchen,” Sookie couldn’t help smiling at the Doctor.
“I have many skills,” Amy sneered, “including knowing when to go, and that’s now!” and with a flash, the doctor was gone.
Sookie felt the pinch of panic and decided being busy was best. There were glasses to fill and blood to be heated. There was hot tea to be made for Mr. Cataliades, and all of a sudden it felt as though the floor fell out from under her. As if he knew, and maybe he did, Eric was behind her. He helped her onto one of the stools and he called Heidi who took things to carry into the family room. Eric poured the hot water into the pot himself and Mr. Cataliades walked in to retrieve his own tray. “I’m sorry,” Sookie mumbled.
“For what?” Eric smiled at her. “For fighting harder than any of us and then taking care of everyone when the battle was over? You are my strength,” he told her, and Sookie heard him say, ‘You are the heart of me.’ It was very clear, though Sookie knew Eric hadn’t said it aloud. She didn’t hear vampires’ thoughts often, but it did happen, particularly during times of great stress, so Sookie didn’t make much of it. “Do you need to go upstairs and rest?” he asked her.
“No,” Sookie shook her head. “If I go upstairs, I know I’ll just think about things, and that’ll be worse.”
“Then come,” Eric told her and together they joined the others in the family room. Eric took her hand and steered them both to an open armchair. He sat down and pulled Sookie into his lap. It was a public display of affection they didn’t do often, but Sookie was grateful. Even through their clothing, touching him made her feel better. Eric looked around, “Owen and Charles?”
“They went back to the guesthouse,” Heidi told him.
Eric nodded and then he told all of them what he learned. “Karin and Thomas are on their way to join us here. There were a good number of vampires and others who were sent to destroy them. Karin has collected IDs and fangs and they found a large car carrier that was fitted to transport coffins nearby. The vampires crossed state lines during the day looking like cargo. I suspect we will find similar transports near the other Areas.”
“What I don’t understand is how the Fae knew to be here,” Heidi asked.
“The Prince was alerted by the Queen that help was needed,” Mr. Cataliades said smoothly. Sookie stared at him and she thought the attorney looked a little uncomfortable. “He has had watchers in place since you left him your voice mail.”
“Why didn’t he just call me back?” Sookie asked.
“You will need to ask him that question yourself,” Mr. Cataliades replied. He said it in a kindly way but the way he looked away convinced her. There was something else going on and when Niall returned, she was going to figure it out. Turning, she asked “What about Rubio?”
“Rubio and Palomino defeated their enemies at first rising. It was Rubio’s call earlier tonight that alerted all of us all to the danger and I intend to reward him for it,” Eric nodded. “The New Orleans palace was under siege. They had the palace circled and they were killing vampires in the street. There were humans, tourists in the area.” Eric shifted under her, “Max told me that the Fae appeared there. They made no effort to hide themselves and they were filmed by many.”
“They have never wanted to mainstream!” Sookie exclaimed. “They have gone to all kinds of trouble to keep themselves secret. Why would they do this now?” and she looked at Mr. Cataliades.
The attorney didn’t meet her eye, but then he looked as if he’d made a decision, “The Prince will be able to best explain, but I believe Niall was most worried about you. He was distraught over recent events, Rhodes, and your loss.” Eric tightened his arm around her and Sookie leaned back, taking comfort from the feel of his long body beneath her own. “He may feel that he owes you protection and more,” and the attorney glanced away again.
“So, you’re all back then?” Sookie asked.
“I do believe Tamsin will be available to resume lessons, if that’s what you wish,” and Mr. Cataliades smiled tightly.
“I told Max to have a statement made that the events tonight were part of a movie being filmed around the palace,” Eric provided. “He will tell the humans it was a dress rehearsal or a concept piece for some science fiction film. Humans enjoy Hollywood illusions. They will be happy to believe that what they saw was only play-acting.”
“I don’t know,” Sookie shook her head. “Humans in New Orleans believe all kinds of things. They are thrilled to have their Vampire King and they already have their Voodoo Queen. You may find it’s not so easy getting them to give up the idea that there are more Supernaturals around than they knew.”
“That’s Niall’s problem,” Eric said shortly.
“They will say you are the one,” the witch named Meredith said. Everyone looked at her and she continued, “Everyone helps you, don’t they? Weres, vampires… you have an alliance with us and now? Even the Fae are willing to pick up their swords for you. Who would ever dare stand against you now?”
“I will call Octavia Fant,” Eric told her. “In the meantime, there is room in our guesthouse for you.”
“I’d like to call my family?” Meredith asked as Heidi helped her to stand. The tracker handed the witch a phone and together they moved toward the door.
“I have some things I need to do as well,” Mr. Cataliades rose and bowed. “But I will be back tomorrow night. I am sure there will be a great deal to discuss.”
When they were alone, Eric said, “I can feel your exhaustion.”
“And I can feel yours,” Sookie answered back. “Of course, yours feels more like you’re just pissed off at the world, but you can’t fool me!” She turned so she was sitting more sideways. She looked up into his face and asked, “You going to call Felipe?”
Eric grinned, “Should I tell him your new names for him?”
“No!” Sookie exclaimed, “I want to do that myself!” They laughed and then Sookie laid her hand over the place Angie had stabbed him. “He probably already knows; don’t you think?”
“He will have felt her fall,” Eric shrugged, “but he isn’t likely to know the outcome. From what I was told every invader sent here is no more. Your relatives are thorough. Felipe’s restitution bill will be costly.”
“He’ll have to pay off Makers?” Sookie frowned.
“If he ordered them to come, then yes, he would owe their Makers payment. There were many vampires here, more than I thought he could command. It is possible some were mercenaries he hired. He wouldn’t owe for them.”
“Well, why don’t we find out?” Sookie asked.
Eric grinned, “You are ready to call him, Lover?”
“Damn straight I am!” and Sookie grinned back.
Eric pulled out his phone and hit a few buttons, then hit the speaker feature so they could both listen to the dial tone. The phone rang several times and Sookie was just resigning herself to leaving a voicemail when Felipe’s familiar voice answered. “Northman? This is not a good time.”
“Why is that, Felipe?” Eric asked. Sookie was surprised. She realized there were several things she expected the Nevada King to say, but this was not one of them.
“Something has happened to my progeny, Angie,” Felipe answered. “I have been trying to contact her but her phone rolls to voice mail.”
“I’m not surprised,” Eric’s voice was cold. “In fact, if you were to reach her I think you’d find the conversation a bit one-sided.”
“You have seen her?” Felipe sounded anxious, almost pleased, “Did you see what happened? I felt something. I know she was injured.”
“You can cut the crap!” Sookie huffed “You know she came here to take us over, and let me tell you, it didn’t go too well for your side!”
There was a long pause before Felipe said, “She was there? In Louisiana?” His voice sounded strained, almost broken, and Sookie felt a slim thread of doubt begin to form.
“Of course she was here,” Eric didn’t sound as if he shared Sookie’s concerns. “She was standing in my front yard surrounded by more muscle than she could have afforded on her own. It wasn’t her only force. She had people all over my territories, targeting my Sheriffs. I’m sure this all sounds familiar… well, except for the outcome.”
There was another pause and then Felipe said, “I have no reason to doubt what you are telling me, but I had no part in it. Angie told me she was headed to New York. She has been a regular visitor there to oversee the club franchise I co-own with your Pamela and Misha. Is she… is she finally dead?” The Nevada King said the last softly and Sookie found she was starting to believe Felipe de Castro.
“Your progeny is no more. Her dust is here,” Eric confirmed.
Felipe made a choking sound and Sookie suddenly spoke up, offering to send him Angie’s fangs. Eric shot her an annoyed look, but Felipe was saying, “Thank you,” and it sounded as if he was crying. Later, thinking about it, Sookie thought it was because her own heart had been so recently broken that she found herself feeling so sympathetic toward the Nevada King. Eric wasn’t having any of it. He squeezed her hand and when she turned to him, her eyes soft, he grimaced, and shook his head.
“You are very convincing,” Eric said sarcastically, “but you forget, I know how this game is played. You deny you know anything about it. You throw all the blame on your wayward progeny which allows you to deny my demands for restitution. In addition, you can then deny any demands from the surviving Makers of those who were led here, and believe me, that bill will be large. You’re a bastard, and I know your darling wouldn’t have done this on her own. Angie just wasn’t that smart!” and Eric finished with a growl.
“I can’t argue about this right now,” Felipe was making a choking noise. He really did sound as if he was devastated, but Sookie could see Eric wasn’t buying it. “I agree with you. She wouldn’t have thought to do something so ambitious without someone pushing her. My Angie wanted more and I know she was frustrated. When she returned from New York the last time I was worried. She was staying with your progeny and the King in their home…” and Sookie could feel Eric’s anger twist, “When Angie came back she was full of ideas and desires. She wanted something of her own and she was no longer happy with handling my many businesses. I did not feel her ready to handle a regency and I told her so. I hate to think…” and there was some sort of shuffling on Felipe’s end before he exclaimed, “Oh, Angie!”
Sookie poked the mute button, “Do you think it’s possible he didn’t know?”
“No,” Eric snarled. “He knew. He may have done it with New York’s knowledge, or he may just be casting doubt to cause problems between Pamela and myself,” and Eric poked the button to open the line again. “Your progeny was acting unlawfully. She was your responsibility. You can expect to hear from my attorney,” and Eric ended the connection.
“So now you know,” the tall, broad-shouldered man said
“Yes,” Felipe nodded. “Go through Angie’s emails and texts. See if you can find anything there that implicates either me or New York, and…” and Felipe stopped himself. He realized he had almost called this new business partner ‘Horst.’ Felipe had been fond of Horst and he found there were still times like this when he missed him. Looking at this newest vampire, Dieter was his name, Felipe realized there was a physical resemblance to Horst. ‘It’s just a coincidence,’ he told himself. ‘The important thing is Dieter’s smart, strong, talented, and I enjoy his company.’
“Should I destroy what I find?” Dieter was asking.
“Anything that points to me, yes. Anything that could point to New York, no. I think it’s time we did a good turn for our friend in the East,” and Felipe smiled.
Dieter left the night-blooming garden and Felipe stretched back on the soft suede chaise. He breathed in the perfume of the blooms and reveled in the fine mist the watering system let out at regular intervals. The water coated his skin and then evaporated in the dry, desert air. The pain he experienced at the moment of Angie’s final death had been less crippling than he expected. He did feel a moment of regret, and then, unexpectedly, he felt a moment of relief. He had made Angie all those many years ago on a whim and when he was a different vampire. Felipe realized that were he faced with the same set of circumstances today, he would probably allow Angie to die rather than turn her. It made thinking about her loss easier. Felipe thought of the men and vampires who now surrounded him. Dieter was fitting in and stepping up nicely. There was a human as well, Carson, who was rising through the ranks in the casino business. Felipe wondered if it was time to create another progeny.
Felipe closed his eyes, clearing his mind, and just existing in the moment. This scheme of Angie’s had been far-fetched, but he had to admire the initiative she took. She had liquidated all her assets to hire her crew. Using car carriers to sneak the vampires across state lines had been unexpectedly clever of her. Had she been successful, Felipe would have reimbursed her, but now there would be no money trail connecting him to what was sounding like a debacle.
Felipe thought of Misha and a growl formed in his throat. Felipe had asked Angie several times, but she never openly acknowledged the New York King’s part in her sudden interest in taking over Louisiana. She didn’t need to. She was his progeny and he knew her better in some ways than she knew herself. It was in the way her eyes cut away from his or her shoulder hitched. That smirking troll had wound Angie up and then sent her toddling along so he could have his Pam freed from the inconvenience of Eric Northman. Felipe trusted that there would be something in the correspondence between them; something that could create that crease of doubt. All he had to do was find that crack and the rest would follow.
“You should call Thalia,” Sookie said.
Eric’s eyebrow rose, “Why did you think of her first, Lover?”
Sookie remembered the look Thalia had given Eric when she found out the vampire could read her mind. In that moment, Sookie realized Thalia saw Eric as her own, and it made her feel differently about the small vampire. “I wouldn’t want her hearing about this from someone else,” she told her husband. “She deserves to hear you lived from you.”
Eric tilted his head, and she could see him thinking about whether or not to get his explanation by dipping into her head, but then he decided against it. “Thalia will be with the Kings in Indianapolis. She texted me that she and Thierry were driving there next. They are following New York’s minion. She said the hacker found a photo of him pumping gas in Pennsylvania,” and Eric laughed. “Thalia managed to anger Sandy Seacrest. I received a text from her as well, complaining.” When Sookie looked curious, Eric continued, “From what I can gather Sandy wanted Thalia to browbeat her husband, but Thalia gave them both more than they asked for, and now the Kings are sending a vampire police unit to live in Kansas. I don’t believe Sandy will try to use Thalia again.”
“I can’t imagine anyone thinking they’d be able to pull one over on Thalia,” Sookie shook her head. “You don’t think Sandy will try to get some sort of revenge, do you?”
Eric laughed out loud, “No, Lover. Sandy Seacrest is smart enough to accept the lesson she has learned and be grateful for the experience. Most that try to use Thalia do not survive long.” Eric glanced at his phone again.
“More calls to make?” Sookie asked.
“Many more,” Eric nodded. “There are the Amun monarchs, and then the Packmasters who weren’t here. I still owe Octavia Fant a call and…”
“I’ll tell you what,” Sookie stood up, “I’m getting a bottle of water and another blood for you and we can split it up. You take Amun and I can handle the rest.” Sookie walked into the kitchen. She noticed her hand was shaking just a little. She was tired and starting to get that thin, stressed feeling that came with the aftermath of fear. ‘Hold it together,’ she told herself. ‘Get through the next couple hours and it will all be over.’
“It seems unbelievable that De Castro would be so stupid!” Russell was shaking his head. “After Rhodes? How would he think a takeover would go unnoticed? The Viking is famous. The people of New Orleans love him!”
Twy nodded, “It’s true. The video of Eric and Sookie taking their Second Line parade through the Old Quarter when they got married is still getting hits and it’s been well over a year. They are arguably the most successful vampire couple in the world.”
Bartlett was smiling indulgently at his progeny. “Isn’t she wonderful?” he asked Thalia again, and then not waiting for an answer, asked, “Where is Thierry? He was here earlier and then he disappeared.”
“Trying to get Nabila to respond,” Thalia shook her head. “He knows she was there. He tells me he has no hope but he’s been frantic since the news started.”
“Look at this,” Twy interrupted. She turned on the television and then hit the buttons that allowed her to bring the image on her notepad onto the large flat screen. They all watched in growing wonder as the video shot by some person in New Orleans showed in clear, high definition a Fae fighting with a vampire. They both wielded swords and they were revealed in all their snarling, feral glory. It was savage and, yet, at the same time, beautiful. Both were masters and their movements looked choreographed.
“This can’t be good,” Bartlett shook his head.
“I never would have thought Niall would allow this,” Thalia couldn’t hide the shock she was feeling. “I am sure he will have the images removed soon. He has that kind of influence.”
“The explanation coming from the New Orleans palace is that this was a movie thing,” Twy told them, her eyes scanning the device in her hands.
“Smart,” Russell said, but none of them could pull their eyes away as the Fae sliced through the vampire. They watched the vampire fall in a quick rush of blood and almost just as quickly turn to dust. The Fae turned toward the person filming and snarled, revealing a mouthful of pointed teeth. The video ended abruptly.
“It’s already had over 70,000 hits and it’s only been up a few hours,” Twy told them.
“They never wanted to mainstream,” Thalia said to no one in particular.
“It would appear something has changed,” Russell observed.
“You are looking very tired, Sookie, and I am not surprised. I should have waited until tomorrow to come and see you.” Niall was in his cool, light-colored suit again. He had his cane under his hand and his long, white hair was neatly pulled back and secured with a band low on his neck.
Sookie wished she had taken the time to go upstairs and shower now, but she and Eric had been busy making calls and answering emails. They knew it was only a few hours before dawn. Heidi had returned to gather IDs from those in the yard and the piles of clothing were now in garbage bags. Sookie had run outside to collect Angie’s fangs. She figured it wouldn’t hurt to send them to Felipe, either as a keepsake or a warning. She had been rinsing out bottles when she realized there was someone standing near her and she turned to find Niall.
“You are also looking drawn, my boy,” her Grandfather looked kindly at Eric, “But fighting as you did tonight, that is to be expected.” The Prince was sitting in the armchair. Sookie had made tea and it was sitting poured and ready in front of him. There was a lot Sookie wanted to ask, but first she wanted to see her Grandfather drink something she’d made for him. It was a lesson she wasn’t likely to forget.
As if sensing her thoughts, or perhaps he just read them, Niall picked up his cup and holding her eyes with his own, sipped several times. “There!” he said. “And a fine cup of tea it is. Very refreshing for an evening such as this.”
“So,” Sookie bit her lip, “everyone has headed back to Nebraska?”
“Yes,” Niall smiled. “Everyone has returned through the portal. There were a couple of casualties, but it was a wonderful evening, one we will sing about for some time to come.”
“Why did you fight for me?” Eric asked. The Viking’s tone was blunt but Niall just looked amused.
“Because we have a contract,” the Prince replied reasonably. “I am bound to defend you and yours from any enemies, as you are bound to defend me.”
Eric’s eyes narrowed and a low hiss started in his chest. Sookie laid her hand on her husband’s arm, “I guess what we’re wondering is why you decided that our being married was enough.” She reached over to take Eric’s hand in hers before she said, “I mean, if we were still expecting, this would make more sense. There would be that blood tie and…”
“I am sorry for your recent loss,” the Prince interrupted. “I am sure it was difficult, but you have moved ahead, and I am most pleased for you.”
Sookie felt there was something she was missing, and Eric’s hiss was transforming into a growl. “I don’t think I know what you mean, Grandfather,” Sookie plastered her Crazy Sookie smile in place. She was stressed but it never did to not be polite with the Prince.
“I mean you have replaced that child with another,” the Prince said in his most reasonable tone. “You are already starting to manifest the scent of a mother, Sookie. It is most appealing. I am so pleased for both of you.” The Prince picked up his tea cup again and just before sipping, turned to Eric who was no longer growling, “Surely you noticed?” he asked.
Eric became vampire still beside her. Sookie ran over what the Prince had just said in her head, and then she did it again. Finally, taking a couple of quick breaths, she said, “I don’t mean to be unpleasant, but I think you’re wrong, Grandfather! I assure you we know what’s involved and there’s been no opportunity. Frankly, I’m not sure we’ll try again any time soon. This was…”
Eric moved then, taking her hand before he turned to more fully face the Prince, “She smells more Fae.”
“Of course,” the Prince smiled. “She is carrying. It is common. The smell won’t become any more pronounced than it is now if that’s what you’re worried about. Once Sookie is able to smell it herself, she will be able to isolate it and mask it. I am so pleased for both of you! A magic child. At last!”
What the Prince was saying started to sink in. “I’m pregnant.” Sookie didn’t ask. She felt her stomach fall and she felt nauseous. “How?”
“Well,” the Prince shrugged, “I would assume the usual way,” and he stood up. “I can see I have upset you, and it has been a long night. I will return tomorrow evening after you’ve had time to talk about this. You are looking skeptical,” he said to Eric. “You can ask your Doctor Ludwig to confirm it. She will be able to now.” The Prince walked around the table and leaned over to kiss Sookie’s cheek. “My blessings to you, Granddaughter. You have made me very happy, and I assure you, you have the protection of the Fae. Nothing will happen to any of you.”
He reached over and stroked Eric’s cheek as well, saying, “Northman! Who would have thought that you would become such a delightful relative!” As he walked toward the kitchen, Niall paused to say, “If you are feeling up to it, Viking, we could play chess tomorrow night.” When the Prince walked from the room Sookie felt the moment he stepped from their place into another.
Eric and Sookie sat on the couch, side by side, for a long time. After what could have been an hour, Eric said, “Dawn comes.”
Sookie nodded and together they stood, and hand in hand climbed the stairs that led to their bed chamber.