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.
That day as Sookie rested, tales unfolded across her mind. She saw Hunter lying in Heidi’s arms as she comforted him. She saw Pam dancing with Indira, but Indira turning from her. She saw Rick running to the graveyard nearby, screaming. It was a jumble of images, each unique and yet, at the same time, disconnected. She saw Thalia wandering through a maze of tall, dark boxes, the moon high overhead and she felt the moment of Thalia’s death. For a moment, she was Thalia, staring at a bright neon sign for Old Bertie’s Pub as her spirit subsided with each pulse of blood from her severed body.
“No!” and Sookie sat bolt upright, her eyes open. It was disorienting. The blinds were down so she knew it was still day. She knew she was too young to be awake during these hours, and yet she was. Beside her, Eric stirred, her panic calling to him. She tried to speak, but her mouth didn’t want to work.
“Lover?” Eric asked. His speech was slurred and his eyes were heavy.
It was too much, the call of the sun, and Sookie barely slipped her hand in his before the day reclaimed her.
When her eyes next opened, it was to find Eric sitting in the chair beside her. “What was it you saw?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she answered.
“We will feed,” and Eric stood, walking toward the door. He was naked, and Sookie growled so loudly he turned. “You will be clearer once you feed!” he insisted.
“I will be pissed if you don’t put on a pair of pants!” Sookie scolded.
It wasn’t his usual indulgent grin. Instead, Eric snarled, “You are too human, Sookie! You are vampire! Embrace your nature!”
“Shove my nature and cover your assets!” Sookie snarled back, letting fang drop as she grabbed her robe, only hesitating to throw jeans as her husband. “Mine!” she hissed in case he didn’t get the point.
She could feel his pout. She was already feeding by the time he came downstairs. Mustapha had managed things as he always did and there were two donors awaiting their rising. Eric struck, never releasing Sookie’s eyes, letting her know with each mouthful how foolish he found her. “Go ahead!” Sookie snipped. “You knew who you were marrying! Don’t act like it’s all some big surprise now!”
“The surprise is your unwillingness to evolve,” Eric growled.
“And you wouldn’t have me any other way!” and Sookie sauntered toward him, sashaying her hips and pouring on her accent. “Well, I do declare, Mr. Northman! You’d rue the day I ever changed so much my Gran wouldn’t recognize my manners! I’m one sweet Southern Belle and you’re lucky to have me!”
Eric lifted his head, retracted his fangs, and after one more moment, grinned. “You are original,” he conceded.
The donors were paid and sent on their way. Sookie and Eric curled up on the porch swing, and Eric pushed them with his toe, setting them to rocking before saying, “So, tell me about your dream. Was it like before? People you knew?”
“And things I didn’t,” and Sookie told him what she remembered. When she reached the part about Thalia, Eric didn’t hesitate. He rushed inside, returning with his phone, his fingers already flying. After a minute, he flashed her Thalia’s reply.
“I don’t know that word,” Sookie scowled.
Eric’s expression didn’t change as he answered, “Better you don’t. It might ruin your reputation for Southern Belle-ness.”
When he sat back down, Sookie laid her head against his shoulder. “They were so vivid! I could have been standing right there, watching each thing I saw unfold.”
Eric thought for a minute. “If there were only some way to know if these are prophecies. We know Hunter and Heidi are together. Can you recall something they said? Anything about where they were? Something that would tag the time?”
“You think I’m having visions?” Sookie asked.
“It’s possible,” and Eric asked again, “Was there anything that jumped out at you? Something we could ask them about?”
Sookie thought it through again, but what she recalled of her nephew and the tracker was more an image than a situation. “We could ask Pam about Indira,” Sookie volunteered. “I had the distinct impression Indira was breaking things off.”
“Difficult to verify,” Eric frowned. “If it hasn’t happened yet, saying it aloud could cause it.”
“It could be I’m just dreaming,” Sookie shrugged. “I used to have some doozies, particularly when I’d been drinking vampire blood.”
“But, those dreams were about having sex with me,” and Eric leaned down to nip her ear. “These seem different.” He straightened, staring into the woods. “Dreams don’t call you from your day rest. They don’t wake me. Maybe it’s being here, in this place.”
“But, I had these kinds of dreams before,” Sookie countered. “There was that dream about Rick and Brigid.” Sookie’s eyes drifted back to the land around her before saying, “They do seem stronger, though.”
Assizes was scheduled for this evening. Eric and Sookie would sit in judgment, then leave for Indira’s Area. As Eric packed their bags, Sookie couldn’t help walking through the house once more. She was in the kitchen, staring at the old outline of the cast iron skillet on the wall when Eric found her. “You’re sure you don’t wish to return here?” he asked.
“No,” Sookie assured him. “There are good memories here, but I meant what I said. Home is you,” and turning, she took his hand and led the way to the car.
Rubio had freed the humans, so tonight the complaints were between Supernaturals. They’d heard a business dispute and another involving a prior claim to a companion when Jason Stackhouse walked in the door. Sookie was surprised how quickly she registered his presence. She’d never realized that on some level, she’d always known his scent, but now, seeing him for the first time as vampire, she knew it. There was no question of holding back. “Excuse me,” she said aloud, and found herself moving quickly to where Jason stood in the crowd gathered near the bar.
“Hi, Sis,” he said shyly. It hurt Sookie’s heart to see the lines on his face and the silver weaving through his bright blond curls.
“Jase,” she answered, feeling the blood pooling in her eyes, and then they were hugging as they once had, when she was his little sister and he was telling her he’d always take care of her. He didn’t even flinch and Sookie felt that most of all.
“I’ve missed you,” she sniffled.
“No, you haven’t,” he teased. “You’ve stayed away because I was a butthead and I don’t blame you none.”
It was Sookie who stepped back first. “Still being a butthead?” she asked.
“Most days,” and he smiled that wonderful, lop-sided smile she remembered.
“Hi, Uncle Jason,” Hunter had walked over to where they stood. Sookie hadn’t seen him earlier, but from how he smelled, she knew what had delayed her nephew’s arrival.
It was a sweet moment, having the remaining human members of her family together. Behind her, another case was coming forward. “I have to rejoin Eric,” she told her brother. “and we’re leaving tonight for Area Four. Can I call you?”
“You know where I’m at,” Jason assured her. “Same number. Some things just don’t change.”
“Come on, Uncle,” and Hunter offered Jason a drink, but her brother turned it down.
“No, I just come here to see my little sister. Done what I came to do,” he told them. “Now, don’t go on being a stranger!” he scolded Sookie, and opened his arms to her again. She knew how she felt, cold, dead, but she didn’t hesitate, reveling in the warmth he provided.
“I’ll have him checked out,” Eric whispered when she resumed her chair.
“Don’t be silly!” Sookie snapped automatically, but then reconsidered. “Yes, I suppose that would be wise.”
Eric didn’t say anything more, but he found her hand, kissing her fingers as he turned his full attention back to the story the vampire was telling about her human neighbor harassing her.
That night, they drove the miles to Indira’s Area. There were still a few hours to dawn and the road stretched out before them, lined with trees shining under the full moon. “Probably better Hunter decided to stay behind,” Sookie mused.
“Yes, I think we’ve had enough excitement for one visit,” Eric answered. Pam and Hunter together started well: pranks and laughter, but at some point, one or the other crossed a line, and then it wasn’t fun.
“They are inventive,” but Sookie’s mind was on her brother. It occurred to her that had she not been turned, she’d be wearing her age more firmly. Of course, Jason had led a harder life than her, more drinking and late nights. Sookie knew her face carried laugh lines and there was a certain looseness to the skin under her arm that never went away, but other than that she still looked like that young woman who spent hours tanning in her backyard. “If I’d never been turned, would you have stayed with me until the end?” she asked her mate.
She felt that quick flick that let her know Eric was actually thinking about it. It was one of the things she appreciated about him. He rarely gave her the easy answer. “Yes,” he said after a bit. “We would have found our ends together.”
Sookie felt her tears welling again. “Is that what you think will happen to Peter and Karin?” she asked.
He wasn’t looking at her, but he didn’t hesitate, “Yes.”
It hurt Sookie’s heart. She knew what this would mean for Eric, but then, to her surprise, she realized that part of the pain she felt was for herself as well. “How do you stand it?” she asked. “Knowing that those you love will be gone?”
“I remind myself that all things change,” he answered. “Some by choice, but most because it is the way of things.” He was far from her, buried in his memories. “It is a great gift to continue,” he said quietly, “but at the same time, it is a great burden.” He glanced her way, “The trick is to find some new thing every day to remind yourself there is always more to discover.”
It was the first time Sookie felt that being vampire came with a sense of responsibility. She hadn’t thought about it in those terms before and it felt as though a weight had descended upon her. “Forever,” she whispered. She’d said the word, meaning her being with Eric, but now, it encompassed so much more.
Pam was already out the door when they pulled into Indira’s driveway. “I wondered if you’d beat the dawn,” she teased.
There was an offer of donors, but they refused, claiming the need to settle into their room. “Sookie is dreaming,” Eric told Pam in passing.
“I knew it!” and Pam stamped her foot. “Of course, you’d get a gift!”
“I don’t know if I’d call it a gift,” Sookie frowned.
“I don’t get to dream!” Pam pointed out. “Frankly, I’ve never heard of any vampire dreaming!”
“More like nightmares,” Sookie told her. “I don’t think you’re missing anything.”
“Could be clairvoyance,” Eric added.
“Not helping!” and Sookie turned to swat him, but her husband gracefully avoided her.
“Assizes will be crowded,” Indira interrupted. “It’s nothing big, just many little things. It makes me uneasy.”
Eric quickly pivoted back to business, “What do you sense?”
“That we are seeing symptoms and not a cause,” Indira told him. Sookie wondered if Eric would dismiss his Sheriff’s instincts. He’d banished Indira before for what he considered poor judgement, but this time he didn’t. Instead, he demonstrated the willingness to allow his retinue the opportunity to redeem themselves. It was a quality that demanded and received loyalty.
“I will watch from the sidelines tonight,” he told Indira. “Sometimes, it’s in the whispers you find truth.”
Sookie took the ruler’s seat placed beside Indira’s and Pam took a position standing behind them as vampires, Weres, and humans shuffled forward. More than once, Sookie wished Hunter was with them. She knew her cousin’s failure to detect glamour had damaged his effectiveness in Eric’s eyes. They had heard back from Mr. Cataliades but the answer wasn’t helpful. He suggested that Hunter’s demon capabilities were stronger than his Fae spark, making his telepathy stronger, but his ability to truly read people less. ‘Hard to say if that will change,’ the demon informed them. Sookie refused to accept it and resolved to spend time working with Hunter on their return to New Orleans.
The last of the complaints was being brought forward when there was a murmur across the crowd. Pam automatically checked her phone. “Fuck a zombie!” she swore. When Sookie turned, Pam explained. “Tania’s finally dead. She was taken down by Pennsylvania. They aren’t claiming the kingdom and Tania’s Second will fight to take her place.”
“Fuck a zombie!” Sookie echoed.
“Resume!” Indira commanded, but Sookie could see the Sheriff was equally shaken by the news. Sookie looked across the room, meeting Eric’s eyes. She yearned to walk away from this place, going somewhere far from prying ears where her politically savvy husband could give her answers. These past years had seemed so calm, almost idyllic, compared to the deep unease she now felt. It was as though she could see the hint of darkness all around her, her senses moving toward panic as she wondered from which direction the attack would come.
“I authorize your use of glamour,” Indira said beside her, and Sookie realized she’d missed the rest of the proceeding. “Adjourned!”
Pam’s hand came down on her shoulder, offering comfort. “Guess it’s a good thing Rick got out of Boston when he did.”
“Do you think the Cranes had anything to do with it?” Sookie asked. It seemed far-fetched, but Elizabeth’s sneering face came too easily to mind.
“No.” Indira said it with such finality that Sookie felt assured. “Tania was in debt. She made promises she couldn’t keep. Those she failed have been threatening her since Karin’s departure. It was just a matter of time.”
“Still…” and then Eric was there, taking her hands in his own. “I can’t stop thinking about it,” she told him. “I feel we are all in such danger.” As she said it, Sookie remembered the dream, looking at the world fading through Thalia’s dying eyes. “You’re sure Thalia will be careful?”
Pam started, “Thalia?”
Eric raised his eyebrows, looking around the room toward the few outsiders who lingered, chatting. Understanding, they retreated further into the residence where they were sure there would be no eavesdroppers.
“Sookie’s dream,” Eric explained, and then recounted what Sookie told him. Sookie had little more to add, but with each word, her dread grew. Still, once he’d finished, Pam’s reaction wasn’t what Sookie expected. Instead of looking worried, Pam laughed.
“You warned her, right?” Pam asked, and when Eric confirmed it, Pam shook her head. “Leave it to Thalia! Liverpool! Not my favorite place, but she must be having the time of her life!”
“I saw her die,” Sookie said quickly.
“And now, Thalia’s warned,” Pam shrugged. She turned to Eric, “Sounds like the old days, doesn’t it?”
Eric was grinning, but Sookie wasn’t fooled. She’d felt his fear when she’d first told him her dream. “She will be setting her traps, weaving her nets,” Eric said.
“Watching Thalia hunt is a thing of beauty…” Pam gushed.
“We all stand in awe of her prowess,” Indira echoed.
Pam’s enthusiasm was hard to resist. “I learned more from her in one night than in… well, years.” Most times, Pam looked mild. It was a deception, of course. Pam Ravenscroft was anything but demure, but now, she didn’t bother to hide her fierce nature. Her fangs dropped and her eyes hardened. “I pity the creature who thinks they can get the better of Thalia!”
“But, who would be going after her?” Sookie asked.
“No one who’s smart,” Pam sniffed, “but she’s there to retrieve Baby Fang and his pet.” Pam glanced toward Eric, “My guess is there will be at least one party who could give her some fun.”
“Cranes,” Sookie guessed. “But, how would they even know where to look? It took us a while.”
“Don’t underestimate the power of money and ambition.” Eric seemed lost in thought. “What worries me is they might not be the only ones interested in causing problems. This business with Russell Edgington, the rumors and lies…”
“Holding your progeny would be a good way to gain power over you,” Indira nodded.
Sookie’s fangs dropped. “He better not!” she hissed. “I waltzed into his Palace and took what was mine before. I could do it again!”
“What was yours?” It was swift, the stab of jealousy, and Sookie couldn’t help gasping.
“That’s not what I meant!” she protested. She knew Eric understood, but she also knew she’d be proving it later.
With one last arched eyebrow, Eric turned back toward Pam, “Which would be exactly what he hopes. Were he to take Rick, he would mean it to throw us off balance, to demonstrate that our ability to protect our own has waned.”
“We should go to Liverpool and scoop them up the minute they step off that boat,” and Sookie was on her feet. “How long would it take…”
“We must not do that.” It was said with such finality that Sookie felt as if she’d been struck. She opened her mouth to protest, but Eric lifted his hand. “If we leave our kingdom, it will not be our kingdom on our return. It’s not just us, Älskade, there’s our Sheriffs, our vassals. This wouldn’t be a Summit. It would be viewed as something else, and if I’m right, it could trigger a takeover.”
“You don’t know that!” Sookie protested.
“We are strong! Karin’s here, and me!” Pam protested. “Let them come!”
“There are too many variables, too much we don’t know,” Eric answered. “We don’t know if there is danger, but we know all our Areas face troubles. We don’t know which face our enemy wears, but we can name more than one. Making any move now would be dangerous.” He moved toward Sookie until she was forced to look up to him. “Until we know more, we must act as though our troubles are small. Our wayward son has gone off on a small adventure. We’ve sent a trusted lieutenant to bring him back. We make no move toward preparing for war. We do not alter our plans. We handle each day as any vampire living in peaceful time would, allowing our lives to continue as they always have. We show no worry, no weakness.”
“He’s right,” and Pam nodded before asking, “What do we hear from our spies?”
“Not enough,” Eric conceded. “Russell is talking to many of the rulers, both in Amun and Moshup. Even Zeus is hearing from him. Our allies are uneasy. The talk from the humans about new regulations restricting our ability to use turning is fueling old suspicions. There are protests. Like here, vampires are feeling targeted.”
“And threatened vampires prefer to strike first,” Pam sighed.
“Well, I don’t think anyone’s getting news out of Chester,” Sookie said, thinking through the possibilities. “Peter knew, but Sarah didn’t, which means most folks outside of Professor West’s immediate circle wouldn’t.”
“His boss would,” Eric pointed out.
“He’d have to let them know he meant to travel,” Pam agreed.
“But, any time strangers show up in Chester these days, the town watch is all over them,” Sookie countered.
“Unless they take the time to make their appearance look ordinary,” Eric pushed back.
“I’d show up saying I was a parent checking out the schools for my kids,” Pam shrugged.
“Or appear as an artist or tourist,” Indira added.
“Not every vampire is as clumsy as those your Sarah Chandler described,” and Eric sat down. “We must assume Rick’s destination will not remain secret. Thalia’s been warned. She will know what to do.”
“And if their boat arrives during day?” Sookie asked.
Eric grinned, “Don’t underestimate Thalia. She knows her business. The United States isn’t the only place where vampires have allies.”
“I wish we knew where he was,” Sookie sighed. “I wish we knew he was okay.”
“In another week, it will have been thirty days. There’s been no reports of large storms. The true watch can begin in earnest,” Eric soothed her. “For now, we protect him best by reaching out to our friends and enemies. We listen to our spies and we make sure that you continue your work with the humans, showing them how friendly we are.”
Sookie nodded, thinking of their interview in Fangtasia. “Why did you say that?” she asked. “Why did you tell them you didn’t know how Rick was made. We know. It’s something any older vampire can do.”
“But, not many vampires are old enough,” Eric pointed out. “What’s more, it’s a capability that’s only available to males. I know it sounds like a gift, Sookie, and for us it was, but for most, it’s another reason to feel jealous.”
“And a reason for humans to try to restrict us,” Indira added.
Pam was nodding, “Until more vampires procreate this way, it’s best not to be too enthusiastic. It’s never safe to be the first one to have something.”
“Possessive,” Indira chimed in. “It’s at the heart of why we fight with each other.”
“I know you’re right,” Sookie sighed, “but somehow I don’t think pretending Rick’s something he’s not is going to make things any easier.”
“I always thought there was something more to it,” Sybill’s voice rose, getting that screechy quality that set Russell’s nerves on edge.
Swallowing his revulsion, Russell soothed, “As usual, your instincts were right, my dear.”
“Of course, my instincts were right!” she shrieked. “You don’t last as long as I do without good instincts!”
Russell struggled to keep the sneer from his face. What you were thinking had a tendency of translating over the phone, and today he and the Alabama Queen were allies, so he needed to sound that way. “And I, for one, am grateful.”
“Can’t explain it?” Sybill continued. “Can’t explain it! He could but he won’t! You were right!” and her voice dropped just a touch. “It was witchcraft, just as you said!”
“I was sure when that woman managed to get into my Palace without being seen. That explanation of how she killed Lorena never made sense. Now, though…” and Russell waited.
“I hate witches!” Sybill growled. Russell knew she did. Of all the monarchs, Alabama was the most superstitious. She blamed witches for every setback she faced. If her businesses failed, it was witches. If her lover left her, witches. If the sun failed to shine, she claimed the witches had it out for her and urged her fellow monarchs to purge them as she claimed to have done from her kingdom.
Most listened to Sybill with half an ear, but the key was they listened. For all she was vain and silly, Sybill was still Queen, and that carried weight. “I feel powerless,” Russell told her. “I am next door to them. If I try to do something about this, I’ll be his next takeover. I can’t condemn my vassals. It’s too dangerous.”
“No one would expect you to sacrifice yourself,” Sybill assured him. “Anyone with eyes could see they’ve been in league with those harpies for years. I’ll bet Northman used them to help him sneak back into Louisiana.” The Viking hadn’t. Stan Davis had said on more than one occasion that he’d supplied the transport that took Eric Northman from Texas to New Orleans, allowing the Viking to stage his takeover from Felipe de Castro.
“It’s possible there was some influence,” Russell conceded. “After all, his Queen was living with the New England witch by then.”
“She sure got what she wanted,” Sybill agreed. There was a sloshing sound, letting Russell know Alabama was in her bath. “I’m speaking with Trevor this evening. He thinks I’m being silly, but after that interview, I can’t see how he could disagree with me. The Viking as much as admitted it.”
Trevor was the King of North Carolina. Russell’s lips tilted. This was what he’d hoped. Only yesterday, he’d sent the anonymous tip, identifying Northman’s spy to Trevor. He wondered if Northman knew and hoped he didn’t. Far better that all bad things converge at once. It was only when the Viking’s world was turning to shit that he’d seen Eric Northman fail. Russell intended to see if those circumstances could yield gold again.
“If that brat is really some devil’s spawn, who knows how dangerous he could be!” Sybill was continuing.
“Just his existence has caused trouble,” Russell observed. “Ever since he was made, things have started to turn against us. We thought mainstreaming would establish our place, but now, because of that creature, we’re a breath away from being legislated out of existence!”
“As if we really could procreate like humans!” Sybill screeched. “We’re dead! What part of that don’t they understand?” Sybill was growling. She seemed to have heaved herself from her bath and was walking, her feet making wet sounds. “But, of course, this suits their purpose! Sookie Stackhouse and her pointy-hatted friends! They kill us off, and in the end, the only vampires left are theirs!”
It didn’t make any kind of sense, but Russell could tell Sybill believed it. He resolved that after Northman fell, the next kingdom he’d topple would be Sybill’s. “Rick, that spawn of theirs will become a rallying point.” Russell made himself sound tentative, as though he was almost afraid of his words.
“We can’t let that happen!” Sybill bit back. “But how?”
“He’s out of their kingdom,” Russell reminded her. “He’s run away or some such thing.”
“Out from under their protection,” Sybill hissed, a confederate now. “Oh, if only we knew where he was!”
“But we do!” Russell told her. “I have a little bird, and he told me…” and Russell shared what his spy had told him, trusting the Alabama Queen to do the rest.
Thalia ghosted along the tall stacks of containers. There was a certain flavor to the scent of the sea here you didn’t find anywhere else. It smelled of brine shrimp and cold water. Not like Louisiana. Louisiana always smelled of mud. Thalia expected that was because of the Mississippi River. There was river here, too, but it wasn’t the same.
She stopped under the stack where she knew someone was standing high above. Shaking her head, she looked up, slowly, letting the watcher know how little she thought of their skills. “You are so arrogant!” the voice from above hissed.
“I’d have thought you’d have learned more by now,” Thalia answered. The twenty feet was an easy jump, no more than two stories. “You received my message?”
“It’s traditional to petition in person,” the dark vampire scolded.
“When have I ever been traditional?” and Thalia graced her watcher with a toothy grin.
Her visitor gifted her with a curled lip, “I see you’re still doing the Viking’s bidding.”
“I choose, as you well know,” and Thalia stood her ground until the vampire beside her finally nodded. “So, how are you doing, Edward?”
“Well,” and the vampire turned so they stood shoulder to shoulder. “Busy,” he added. “Lots of visitors these days.”
It was the way he said it. “Before I arrived?” Thalia asked.
“Some, but mostly since,” Edward told her.
“From where?” and Thalia listened to the list Edward spun off. There were visitors from Spain and Italy. Thalia discounted those. They would know of the Viking and his progeny, but there would be little political advantage to interfering and aside from the vampire beside her, no one had reason to hold a blood offense against Northman. It was those coming from the United States that sparked Thalia’s caution. “How many of these visitors were expected?” Thalia asked.
“I enjoy how you trust me,” Edward sniffed.
“We understand each other,” Thalia replied. “Your brother’s death was his own doing. You know this.”
“Victor was foolish to join Felipe de Castro’s retinue,” and Edward crossed his arms. “Still, the identity of those involved in his assassination has remained a mystery,”
“Blame De Castro,” Thalia growled. “He should have given more oversight. Instead, he encouraged your brother to indulge his worst instincts. You know who and what Victor was, and how he grew enemies.”
“In time, he would have learned restraint,” Edward sighed again.
“As you did,” Thalia nodded. “As did we all.”
“Besides,” and Edward swept a hand as if to wipe away memories, “It’s not the ones who have come here officially that should concern you. It’s the ones slipping across our borders.”
“Are there?” Thalia asked.
“Rumors,” Edward answered. “Some who have come and some who are coming.”
Thalia thought of the text she’d received from Eric, telling her of Sookie’s dream. It seemed a foolish thing to consider, but Thalia had learned to trust the Viking’s instincts. Something told him his mate’s dreams weren’t foolish, and so Thalia would take them seriously, too. “How are you monitoring these days?” she asked.
Edward glanced at her, “The usual. Watchers at airports. Manifests.”
“Why not just hack systems for the information you need?” Thalia asked. “Buy access to lists?” Edward gave her that look she’d seen too often. Vampires lived in this world, but resisted its technology. “Relying on eye witnesses is unreliable,” she pressed. “You can’t be sure you don’t miss something. Their computer systems don’t lie.”
“It’s beneath us,” Edward sniffed. “We are more than that.”
“That’s the kind of thinking that will earn you a stake,” Thalia hissed. She glared at Edward. She was sure he suspected her of being complicit in his brother’s death. She was also sure that on some level, Edward Madden didn’t care. Edward and Victor were true brothers, turned at the same time, but they proved the old adage that siblings could be entirely different from each other. Where Victor was mean and grasping, Edward was more out-going and thoughtful. What they did share was arrogance. All Thalia had to do was make sure Edward’s face wasn’t rubbed in the facts and they could continue getting along. “I’ll be doing what’s needed to watch my own back,” she warned him. “If you stumble across me and think I’m over-stepping, just say it.”
“Maybe I’ll deliver that message with a stake,” Edward groused.
“Your King wouldn’t like that,” and Thalia smiled again, allowing her fangs to drop, “And admit it, your friend would miss you.”
“I’ll tell the King you’re here,” Edward sneered, ignoring Thalia’s jibe, and in an instant, he was gone. It was his skill, his ability to move so quickly. Thalia waited a moment, then pulled out her phone. Once upon a time, she’d been as skilled an assassin as Karin the Slaughterer and this had been her prime hunting ground. It was one of the good things about vampires, the only way you lost a contact was through final death. Kings and their retinues came and went, but those who supplied the rich and famous stayed forever.
“Been a long time since I’ve heard from you,” the familiar voice answered. “Who’s the job?”
“It’s more of a search and rescue mission,” Thalia answered. “How’ve you been, Nigel?”
“Prospering,” he answered. “Always someone who wants to kill someone. I expect you’re here to collect Northman’s whelp.”
Thalia fought back her surprise. “I expect I am,” she replied. “Although not from here. Just using Liverpool as a base.”
“If you say so,” and Thalia knew any pretense at secrecy was wasted.
“How widespread is this?” she asked.
“Might as well have it flashed over the telly,” Nigel told her. “Not common knowledge with those who don’t care, but there’s a certain type that’s very interested and they know everything. They know when the kid left, the name of the boat, and where he’s headed.” Her contact chuckled, “Of course, now that I know you’re involved, I expect there may be some that think twice.”
“Bring it on,” Thalia growled, and then, “Thanks.” She hunched down, sitting in a posture she’d learned from Eric Northman, her arms resting on her knees, balanced forward on her toes, and thought. Edward certainly knew this information and should have shared it with her. He hadn’t. She wondered if her détente with the King here was still in place. That would be her first order of business. Second would be setting up her own tracking network. Liverpool was a big place. The boat could make harbor at any number of moorings. Sookie’s contact mentioned a yacht club, which made sense, but they would likely contact the Liverpool pilots, alerting that particular network to their presence before entering the harbor. If Thalia could get information from them, it could give her an edge of minutes, maybe even an hour, letting her reach Northman’s progeny first.
‘And until then, I need to send a message to anyone who thinks they’ll hunt these grounds unmolested,’ Thalia thought, and for that, she’d need information. Sighing, she dialed Nigel again.