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
In the end, Sookie invited Jason to sit in on their interrogation of Chase Murphree. Right up to the hour before, Sookie debated including her brother. She only suggested it when Murphree’s name slipped out and Jason told her he knew the man well. “Hell, Sook, I stop by his place all the time! His wife divorced him about the same time Michele left me. We got a lot in common.”
After inviting him, Sookie started having second thoughts, but Jason pushed back, saying, “Look Sis, I know him! If Murph’s tied up in something, I’ll find out, but I can tell you, Sook. He’s not that guy. He’s not a part of the Supe community, barely acknowledges that any of this exists. Now, I’m not saying he doesn’t know about me. He knows. Shifted in front of him to make sure he knew, but he just prefers to ignore it. Bottom line, he’s just nice to everyone, no matter what side of the coffin they rise from!”
When they walked into the room where Chase Murphree was being held, Sookie hesitated. This was so different from every other interrogation she’d witnessed. Mustapha stood behind him, his arms crossed, but instead of cowering, Chase Murphree stood up and walked forward, extending his hand. “Ma’am,” he said. “I’m Chase Murphree, but you should call me Murph, everyone else does. Jason and I talked and he explained what’s going on. I got to tell you, for the life of me I can’t explain why I tore that house apart. I don’t even know those folks. And I can’t say I didn’t know what was going on. I did. I was awake the whole time, but it was as if someone else was pushing me. It’s the kind of thing that makes my heart just sick to think about.” He glanced over at Jason and nodded. “Jase says you can reach into my head and find the truth of the matter. I sure hope that’s right and I’ll do everything I can to get to the bottom of what happened. You just let me know what I need to do.”
Sookie didn’t need telepathy to feel this man’s sincerity. “Do you run surveillance cameras at the gas station already? Tapes? Video?”
“There are tapes,” the Packmaster acknowledged. “It’s old school. Mr. Murphree handed them over and we have someone going through them now.”
“From the time of the attack?” Sookie clarified.
“Maybe back to the week before,” Mustapha told her. “They run on a forty-five day cycle. Good thing we pulled them when we did or they would be been re-recorded and we’d have nothing.”
Murph was sitting back in the chair talking with Jason. “Don’t hurt at all,” Jason was saying. “This here,” and he gestured toward Hunter, “This is my second cousin, my first cousin Hadley’s boy? He’s got that shine, like Sookie did before… well before.”
“I heard that about your sister,” Murph nodded, “Folks said she could pull the thoughts right out of a person’s head.”
“Telepathy,” Hunter supplied the word.
“So, what’s my future?” Murph asked Hunter.
“Telepathy’s a different thing,” Hunter explained. “What’s important is it doesn’t hurt. For instance, I can tell you had red beans and rice for dinner and you’re worried you’ll fart.”
Murph looked first startled, and then his face broke into a large smile. “You’re sure right about that! Didn’t know I’d be having visitors, otherwise, wouldn’t have pulled that from the fridge.”
“Don’t worry,” Jason assured him, “You’re with friends. We’ll find out who did this to you.”
Sookie felt a flash of irritation. She wanted to hiss at her brother, reminding him they had no proof of this man’s innocence. She thought of Rubio sitting under house arrest, awaiting sentencing. If Chase Murphree had anything to do with it, Sookie found she was prepared to offer him up, even if it meant his death, if by doing so, she could save her friend.
‘When did I become that person?’ The question jolted her, and she found herself thinking back. She saw herself killing Murry and then Bruno, stabbing them without a moment’s hesitation. She remembered the woman who pushed down on the accelerator pedal, running over Siegbert, then throwing the vehicle in reverse and hitting him again. ‘I’ve always been that person,’ she realized, and it was a sobering thought.
“Just relax,” Hunter was saying. “You don’t even have to think about the night you trashed the vampire’s house. That’s there, but what I’m looking for is something that happened before. Can you remember where you were earlier that day? What you were doing?”
Murph’s eyes crinkled. He wasn’t a bad-looking man, and about Jason’s age, but where Jason was still lean muscle, Murph had started to run to fat. “It’s funny,” Murph said after a bit. “I do remember one morning, it had to be that week. I went to check on my truck. It was in the shop and I know I talked with Deke down at the garage. I had the loaner and I went to the gas station.”
“And was that the same day you went to the vampire house?” Hunter asked.
“I…” and Murph’s eyes wandered. “I don’t think so… I mean I was driving my own truck the night I was there and I…” and he looked at Jason. “It’s like my head’s all fuzzy. Damn, Jason! I remember just about everything about every day. I remember folks’ names. I remember my family’s birthdays. I remember all kinds of stuff, but that week? It’s like it was stolen from me!”
“It does sound like glamour,” Sookie conceded before saying, “All right, let’s get started.”
Mustapha left to check on the tapes. “If you need anything, my guys are just outside,” he told her.
With that, they settled in. Sookie stood by, offering advice while Hunter ran into one problem after another. Finally, her nephew turned to her and said, “Just do that glamour thing you do, Auntie! You know, where you go in and place something.”
“You glamour folks?” Jason’s eyebrows rose, not in a good way.
“Vampire!” Hunter laughed, but sobered when he realized neither Sookie nor Jason seemed to think it was funny.
“I am what I am, now,” Sookie sighed. Squaring her shoulders and taking an unnecessary breath, she looked into Murph’s eyes and then went deeper.
It was easier this time, the image in her head forming quickly. She was in Fran Miller’s upstairs library. There were bookcases all around her, and each book was a different thought. ‘Memories,’ she realized. She knew to walk toward the back of the room since that’s where the most current memories would be stored. The case against the farthest end didn’t have a lot of books on the shelves, and where other shelves were orderly, the ones here had gaps and books shuffled or lying on their side. ‘Like someone moved things around,’ she thought.
Almost by instinct, Sookie started to sort the books. She seemed to know which book belonged next to the other. She took her time, and the first shelf was full. Then she reached the second shelf. She had placed several books when her hand faltered. She looked at her feet to see more books. She picked these up, placing and, in some cases, re-arranging, but when she looked at her work, it was as if some unseen hand had come, mixing things and pushing books aside. ‘How?’ she asked herself, and then she picked up one of the books she’d shelved. It looked the same on the outside, but when she opened the cover, it wasn’t.
There was something there, in the pages, an alien thought. It hissed at her, almost a living thing, snapping one moment and preening the next. ‘Who are you?’ she wondered. She placed the book back in its place and watched purposefully. She wasn’t surprised when the books beside it started to move and tip, and then the book itself flipped back down to land on the floor. ‘What does it mean?’ Sookie wondered.
“Aunt Sookie!” a voice called, and then she found herself being shook. It was as if she’d awoken from a dream. She blinked and instead of the library, she was staring at Hunter’s face. Jason was behind her nephew and they both looked worried.
“You okay?” Hunter asked.
“I’m fine!” and Sookie inhaled, using the moment to assess herself and her surroundings. “Fine!” she pronounced. “What’s wrong?”
“You scared the shit out of us!” Jason scolded. “You just stood there, all glassy-eyed.”
Sookie frowned, “I didn’t think I was still that long.”
“Hours,” Hunter told her. “Hours, Aunt Sookie, and you weren’t responding when we called. I finally decided we couldn’t wait any longer.” He glanced away before asking, “Did I do wrong?”
“No,” and Sookie laid her hand against his cheek. “No, of course not, Sweetie. You were worried and you did the right thing.” She glanced at Jason, “And how’s your friend?”
“I remember things better,” Murph said for himself. “I can’t explain it, but it’s like I could feel you in there,” and then he looked away. “I’d like to go home,” he told Jason. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
Jason nodded. “Sure,” and he helped his obviously shaky friend stand.
“Wait!” Sookie called out not bothering to hide her speed. She positioned herself between Murph and the door, “Do you remember who did this to you now? Who you talked with?”
She could see she terrified Murph, and while she felt regret, she didn’t back down. “I think I do,” he finally stammered. “He came in late. No one else was there. He was dark-haired. I thought he was a vamp, although I couldn’t really tell under the lights. He walked right up to the counter. I was going to point out the TruBlood when instead he asked…” and Murph’s eyes widened and then went blank. “I don’t know,” he sighed. “I can’t remember.”
“Do you remember which day it was? What you did earlier or another any customer you saw?” Hunter pressed.
“Must have been Monday,” Murph nodded. “I’d done the payroll and put the banking envelope in the safe in back just before he came in.” Murph seemed to think about it before he nodded. “Yeah, Monday. I always do my banking on Monday.”
“Good,” Jason praised before telling Sookie, “I’m taking him home.”
“By way of Merlotte’s” Murph added with a shaky laugh. “I could use a drink!”
“Is Mustapha still around?” Sookie asked. Jason told her he’d left over an hour ago. “Errands, he said,” Jason shrugged.
Sookie pulled her phone out and texted, giving the Packmaster the timeframe for the video footage and asking for a lift back to Shreveport before turning to Hunter. “And what about you? Going with Jason?”
“No,” her nephew chuckled. “I’ll catch a ride back to Shreveport. Got a date.” Sookie wasn’t surprised, and she let Mustapha know he’d be driving two.
After Jason left, Hunter asked, “How’d you do that? I mean, there were a couple times I had this… I don’t know.. vision, I guess. Like I was standing beside you in some library.”
“You could see that?” Sookie stood straighter, considering the possibilities. “That’s what I saw!” she assured him. “It was Fran’s library, and all of that man’s thoughts…”
“Were the books,” Hunter finished. “It was weird, but good all at the same time.”
“I had no idea you could see me,” Sookie stammered.
“I don’t think I did, not exactly,” and Hunter sighed. “It was more like you pulled me to you.”
Sookie glanced at her watch. It was late, too late to find another human to experiment. “Tomorrow,” she told him. “I’ll ask Pam to grab a couple more humans and let’s see if we can do this again.”
“Fine by me,” and Hunter shifted a bit before asking, “Did you find it?”
“I’m not sure,” and Sookie’s eyes narrowed. “It was a book, but not like the other books. When I put it back in place, it was able to fall out on its own.” She thought about the shelf of thoughts. “It was more, though, it’s like it resisted. When I fixed the books around it, after a bit it moved them around too…”
“Like a spell within a spell,” Hunter mused.
“Like that,” Sookie agreed, and she grinned up at Hunter. “I think we found it, our signature!” Sookie looped her arm through Hunter’s, watching Mustapha’s approaching headlights. “And now, when we find the face that goes with that spell, we’ll figure out who’s behind this business and make him pay!”
Mustapha’s people hadn’t found an image of a vampire on the tape yet, but the Packmaster assured them they’d have photos by the time Sookie rose the next night if they were to be found. He dropped them in the parking lot and as Sookie headed for her car, she saw Heidi get out of hers. Hunter squeezed his Aunt’s arm briefly, before saying, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Thanks, again,” Sookie called after him. “I’ll let you know where we’ll meet up.”
The drive to Pam’s didn’t take long and the lights were on. “Success!” Sookie told her friend.
“You found him?” Pam asked.
“Not exactly, but I know what he’s doing and it seems a little sophisticated for a small-town vamp.” Pam settled back while Sookie called Eric, placing him on speaker phone.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this,” her mate said after Sookie described both how she found the random thought and how she was able to share it in part with Hunter.
“I didn’t think glamour could boomerang like that,” Sookie agreed.
“That’s not what I meant,” Eric corrected. “Your ability. I’ve never heard of a vampire seeing into the mind of their host so clearly. And to be able to share that with Hunter!”
“Have you always been able to do this?” Pam asked.
Sookie shook her head, “I don’t know.”
“How could you not know?” Pam pressed.
“Because I’ve never really glamoured someone before,” Sookie confessed.
“I wouldn’t call what you’re describing as glamour,” Eric purred. Sookie didn’t need to feel him through their bond. Eric was pleased and not bothering to hide it.
“Oh sure!” and Pam collapsed back into her chair, her arms crossed. “More gifts!” but Sookie could see her friend wasn’t actually upset.
“This thing with Hunter? I’d like to explore it more,” Sookie told them. “Is there any way we could get more humans to experiment with, maybe tomorrow night?”
“Of course!” Pam exclaimed. “There’s always a human or ten around who’ve been glamoured. Not sure you can throw a stone in Fangtasia without hitting one.”
“And if Mustapha can pull the image of that vamp, then what?” Sookie asked. “Is it enough to delay any decision about Rubio?”
“Yes,” Eric said after a long moment. “Yes, I think it would be wise to find this vampire first,” and Sookie felt herself relaxing. “We will find him,” Eric continued, “and when we do, he will be brought to New Orleans for questioning.”
Pam gave Sookie the thumbs up and Sookie triumphantly picked up the phone. “I’m taking you off speaker,” she told her husband. As soon as she’d left the room, she asked, “Any word from England?”
“Not yet,” Eric answered, then chuckled at Sookie’s low growl. “Soon, Lover! Thalia reports the boat’s been tracked to within a day of the coastline. The English King has agreed to place all under his protection, and that’s stopped the flow of interested parties. It’s time to come home, my wife. Do what you must tomorrow night, then take a flight home. You’re missed.”
Sookie felt that familiar tugging. She didn’t like being separated from Eric, and it had been many nights. “I take it you already have the airplane waiting,” she scolded.
“I want you in my bed,” he answered.
“I want you too,” Sookie sighed. “You know, I could go to my chamber and we could have phone sex.”
“I don’t want phone sex,” her Viking grumbled. “I want my wife with her legs wrapped around me!” and then he moderated his tone. “I am proud of you. This gift you have, it could be useful to us. Have you tried it on vampires?”
“No,” and Sookie hesitated. “I mean, I’ve never really been able to read vampires before. I think I’d know…”
“You didn’t know you had this ability until you tried,” Eric pointed out. “Still, I don’t want you to try reading vampires until you’re home. If you can, it’s best it be known to as few as possible. We can decide how to use it together.”
Sookie felt that familiar irritation she got when Eric was being high-handed, but then it dissolved. He was right. She’d had moments in her past when she’d found herself reading a vampire’s thoughts, even Eric’s, and each time, she’d recognized the danger. She had no issue in waiting until she was back in New Orleans with Eric by her side before she tried her skill in that direction. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” she promised her mate, and sending all her best feelings, disconnected the line.
The King’s proclamation that he was extending his protection to all members of Eric Northman’s retinue had the desired effect. A pair of vampires from North Carolina showed up unexpectedly at the King’s Court, requesting the honor of presenting themselves. Thalia wasn’t invited, but Edward Madden told her the story, including the voices. He was a skilled mimic and soon Thalia found herself smiling.
“We are so sorry we didn’t come to you sooner!” Edward’s voice was high and wavering. He was hunched over, his head hanging and his hands fluttering as he acted out the scene. “We thought we were only traveling through but we were so struck by the beauty of your kingdom, we lingered. We realized our mistake…”
“I’ll bet they did!” Thalia grunted.
Edward straightened, and wiped his lip. “Amazing what a little fairy blood can buy.”
“Did you kill him?” Thalia asked. She didn’t care. It was more curiosity.
“Dead fairies don’t give warm blood,” Edward shrugged.
‘Blood slave, then,’ Thalia thought. “If it’s any comfort to your King, I’m told the boat will be in harbor tonight. I’ll collect my King’s possessions and we’ll be on the plane within the hour.”
“We have that same report,” Edward chuckled. “I will say, Thalia, it’s been interesting seeing you again. I find I may miss you.”
“Don’t spend too much time worrying over it,” and Thalia flashed him a toothy grin. “If you ask nice, I can always return. Maybe to find your resting place?”
“A sweet offer,” Edward grinned. “Not that I’d flatter myself that you were truly offering your body. What would you bring to my coffin, I wonder? A stake? Fire?”
“I like you, Edward,” Thalia chuckled. “Truly, I do.” Her phone chose that moment to vibrate. It was a special rhythm, and she fought to keep her face neutral. “As much as this has been fun, I do have some patrolling to do. Perhaps you’d like to join me?”
“Perhaps not,” Edward drawled. It was raining outside and Edward was dressed in a suit. “Text me once you’ve lifted off.”
“Of course,” and Thalia bowed just a little, never letting the other vampire slip from her gaze. For his part, Edward laughed loudly, and then, in an instant, was gone.
‘Where?’ Thalia texted.
‘Yacht Club,’ returned. It gave Thalia pause. To reach the Liverpool Yacht Club, the boat had to be taken up river and through a lock. That took time. There were other docks. The harbor was large, and Thalia’s instincts started to sound alarms. Thalia trusted Nigel, and so she plotted the paths she could take to reach the Yacht Club and Rick Northman, and chose the one she felt least likely.
It took her almost fifteen minutes before she was ghosting over the fence that separated the club from its surroundings. The moon was out and the lawn glimmered dimly in the faint light. The sound of the river was nearby and Thalia could clearly hear the sounds of boats bumping against the docks and lines singing in the light breeze. As she eased around the building, she saw a cluster of people out on the docks. They were beside a sailing craft, the sails already put away. He was there, Rick Northman, with his woman and two others, a man and woman who seemed to be with Rick and Brigid. Nigel was there, too and another human she didn’t recognize.
Glancing around once more, she went to the gate that led to the docks. “I’m here,” she announced.
“About time!” Nigel grumbled. It was in the way he said it that made her relax. The group moved toward her. They were carrying bags and walking in that odd way people who have been at sea have, their gait rolling slightly.
“Hi, Thalia.” Rick Northman greeted her. He was taller than when he’d left, and much thinner. His face was bronzed under his full beard and his hair bleached almost white.
“Arseling,” Thalia growled. His woman beside him was all eyes. Her cheekbones spiked in her face and she looked exhausted. She also smelled uncomfortably Fae, more than Thalia anticipated, and the vampire found she was fighting her fangs. “Arseling’s friend,” she finally choked out.
“Are we free to go?” The couple who’d sailed with Rick and Brigid looked anxious. “We’re freezing,” the male complained.
“Go,” Thalia ordered. “I have what I came for.”
Rick turned to the other couple. “Look, Rob, I’m sorry this held you up. Take care. I have your info. I’ll text you when we land.”
“Thank you for everything,” Brigid was saying, hugging the woman and then the man.
“Take this,” Nigel was saying, handing the man, Rob, some papers. “It’s directions to the hostel. They have a room waiting for you. There’s an Uber on the way.”
“Godspeed,” the woman whispered, leaning in to kiss Nigel’s cheek.
“You make peculiar friends,” Thalia grumbled as the couple walked away.
“They’re boat people,” Nigel shrugged. “You never know.”
Thalia turned back to where Rick was standing, his arm protectively draped around Brigid’s shoulder. “Do you have everything?” she asked.
“Yes,” he told her, but his eyes were on Brigid. It was only when Brigid nodded that he nodded, too. “Yes, we’ve got everything,” and gestured at the duffle bags resting at their feet.
“Get the car,” Nigel ordered his man.
Thalia watched Nigel’s helper walking away. “You trust him?”
“Known him a long time,” Nigel shrugged. “Besides, you made peace with our Vampire King. There’s a rumor it took finding the impossible to do it. Fairy blood! Leave it to you, my friend, nothing is impossible for Thalia the Great.”
Thalia accepted Nigel’s compliments, but she couldn’t relax. Her bad feeling lingered. Asking Rick to scan the area might reveal secrets best kept hidden, but Thalia’s instincts were screaming. She would have to risk it. “And what do you think about all of this, Arseling? Are we free to go?” Thalia prayed Rick would understand and display his Sire’s cunning in answering.
Rick’s eyes widened, then narrowed. He glanced around, wide-eyed and innocent, “Yes. Like I told you before, we’re ready.” Thalia’s lips quirked. He’d done it, showing that for all he could be foolish, Rick Northman was still Eric Northman’s son. He’d understood her, scanned the area and provided an answer without betraying too much.
“Then, let’s go,” and Thalia turned. When she reached the sidewalk that led to the front of the compound, she turned back to see Nigel right behind her, but Rick was lagging behind. He was struggling to carry all the bags. Brigid chose that moment to reach for the handles of one, but Rick jerked the bags further away, almost falling over in the process.
“We don’t have all night,” Thalia scolded. Nigel just grinned but made no move to help. Rick continued his awkward walk, the bags thumping against his legs, with Brigid trailing him.
With a growl, Thalia walked back and twisted a heavy duffle from Rick’s grasp. When he didn’t protest, Thalia sneered, “What, you aren’t going to be chivalrous with me, too, Arseling? Only some women count for you?”
“Is that what you are?” Rick said low enough that she could have ignored it, but Nigel heard and laughed. He caught Thalia’s eye, and cut it off.
They rounded the building to find their car waiting. Nigel opened the door as the trunk sprang open. “Don’t be such a stranger,” he told Thalia as they watched Rick wrestle the bags into the trunk. They waited until both the young people were in the car before Nigel bowed deeply. “I know it’s unlikely, my friend, but I hope we meet again soon.”
“You are a good agent,” Thalia said by way of praise. “Your payment will be in your account tonight.”
Thalia slid in beside the driver and Nigel shut her door, patting the side of vehicle by way of farewell. Arseling and his woman were in the back seat. The smell of Brigid was even more uncomfortable in the enclosed space and Thalia purposely held her breath. “Airport,” she ordered, programming her own phone to the Anubis terminal address to make sure they were taking the fastest route.
“Better?” Rick was asking Brigid.
“Warmer,” she murmured. “How long?”
“I don’t know,” he said quietly. “Sleep, Sweetheart. I’ll wake you when we get there.”
“Thirty minutes,” Thalia told them. “Maybe a little longer with traffic.”
“It’ll be enough,” Rick said, and Thalia glanced in the back seat to see the woman was already asleep.
“Did you text your parents?” Thalia’s fingers were flying again, providing the Viking an update.
“Yes,” Rick answered, “When they boarded us. That man, Nigel, he thinks pretty highly of you.”
“He should,” Thalia growled.
They were quiet for a moment. The driver was doing well. Thalia would glamour him once they arrived. She settled back, allowing her eyes to scan the sidewalks for trouble, her fingers drumming the armrest, when Rick said, “Thank you for coming for us, Thalia.”
Thalia’s fingers paused, and then resumed. “I have done as my King requested,” she sniffed.
It was quiet for a more few streets before Rick asked, “Are you mad at me?”
“It would require too much energy,” Thalia replied, not bothering to look behind her.
“Your voice sounds strange,” Rick persisted.
“I’m not breathing,” Thalia replied, and then she did turn. “Did you know your woman is Fae?”
“Fae?” and Rick glanced wide-eyed at Brigid who was starting to lightly snore.
Thalia snorted. “Of course you didn’t! But leave it to you to walk into a city full of people and emerge with something so rare.” Rick’s fangs were peeking out from behind his lip, and Thalia decided she’d have him feed from the driver before they left. There was no telling how long he’d been without fresh blood and the flight would be long.
“So… like my Mom?” he interrupted. There was something in his tone and Thalia’s eyes flicked to the rearview mirror to see Rick’s face.
“Yes, Fae…. I said that!” Thalia snapped. Rick shifted in the back seat, and he was making the kinds of noises Thalia associated with humans in distress. “What is it?” she growled.
“So, if Brigid’s Fae, and my Mom’s Fae…” and Rick stopped talking.
“Take a turn up there,” Thalia snapped at the driver. He glanced at her as she’d meant him to, and she captured his eyes, hissing “You’ll remember nothing of this! Now, drive!” Satisfied, she turned toward the backseat, “Yes, Fae! That smell! I’m sure you noticed.”
“That’s because she’s Fae?” Rick asked. It wasn’t like him to be so dull, and Thalia shook her head. “So, she’s related to me?” and Thalia caught that tone again.
“Unlikely,” Thalia grumbled. “The Queen thinks her family are water Fae.”
“Thank God!” Rick sighed. It gave Thalia pause until she remembered how modern humans regarded familial coupling.
“You never know, Arseling,” Thalia purred. “Now that you mention it, it’s possible your Brigid could be your long-lost sister. Or maybe you’ve been fucking your niece or your cousin. Is that why they’re called ‘kissing cousins’?”
“Bitch!” Rick mumbled under his breath.
“Queen Bitch to you!” Thalia chuckled. “I wouldn’t worry. The Fae aren’t like humans. Their bloodlines run differently.” They were turning into the side road that led to the terminal. “Crane is the last name. Your Mother met them. They want your woman for breeding stock.”
“Well, they can’t have her,” Rick snarled.
“That’s what your Mother said,” Thalia replied. “She’s placed your Brigid under her formal protection.”
“She did that?” Thalia could see that idea made an impression on the young vampire. The car was gliding to a halt, so Thalia turned back around.
“Yes,” Thalia sighed. “Now, let’s make sure your Mother’s promise means something. Stay in the car until I tell you it’s safe to get out.” Thalia glided out her door, blending into the shadows around her. She expected the terminal doors as the Anubis building to be open, allowing them to drive straight through to the airstrip on the other side, but they weren’t.
Turning her head from side to side, Thalia assessed her surroundings. There was nothing; no noise nor scent out of place. The faint sound of river and ocean carried along with the whisper of traffic. Slowly, she moved toward the terminal building, keeping low, her hand gripping the handle of her long dagger. Behind her, the car door clicked open, the Arseling demonstrated why she’d given him the name. “Shit!” she hissed, angry she’d have to turn back to protect him.
She glanced to the right, and saw the neon pub sign. The door of the pub opened and she felt the air shift behind her. She rolled, but not before she was knocked to the ground, the slice of the blade bright across her neck. She registered the slick wet of blood, her eyes wide open as she struck the pavement.
She blinked, and then feet were in front of her face. “Are you okay?” Arseling asked. “He didn’t get you, did he?”
Rick was standing over her, a sword in hand. He was shaking and as Thalia rose, she saw the headless Fae lying behind her. It was the Fae’s blood that covered her. She lifted her hand to her neck, but the wound was already healing. She nudged the Fae’s head with her toe. He wasn’t true Fae. Even now, revealed in death, his ears weren’t right. “How did you know?” Thalia asked RIck. She hadn’t detected any sign of this enemy. Had Rick not intervened, she would have met her final death.
“I heard him,” Rick said, and then his hand opened and his sword clattered to the pavement, the noise unnaturally loud.
“You saved my life, Arseling,” Thalia acknowledged, lifting his sword and holding it out to him. “You’ve had this all along? How did you think you’d get it through customs?”
“Glamour,” Rick stammered, not reaching for it. “Mr. Cataliades told me it should always be with me. He taught me… He taught me…” Rick was babbling in what Thalia recognized as shock. She laid her hand on his arm, turning him back toward the car, and he walked beside her, docile as a child. “He taught me how to fight,” Rick finished. Thalia could smell tears now.
Brigid was standing beside the car, her eyes huge in her pale face. As soon as they were close, she ran toward them, “I want to go home,” she whimpered.
Thalia glanced toward the terminal. “What’s in there?” she asked Rick. When Rick didn’t respond, she poked him. “Focus, Arseling! We’re not home yet! Are there more inside?”
Rick drew a shaky breath, then squared his shoulders, closing his eyes. “No,” he said. “That was the only one like that.” They both glanced at the body that lay in the street. In this, the dead assassin wasn’t Fae, either. Had he been, he would have already crumbled to dust. Rick stared at the Anubis building, “There’s humans inside. They aren’t hurt, but they’re tied up.” His mouth fell open, but then glanced down at Brigid who was wrapped in his arms. Thalia was sure Rick meant to say something else, but decided against it.
“Let’s get your bags.” Thalia had the driver get out of the car and she spent another precious minute making sure he would remember none of this. Glancing around, she decided against asking Rick to feed from him. The boy was stressed, but it was only a matter of time before one of the pub people would spot the headless body. No, under the circumstances, Rick could make due with TruBlood until they reached New Orleans. Rick was weaving as he passed her, struggling to carry all the bags again, making Thalia growl. “Have Brigid carry something!” Thalia scolded, but Rick ignored her, stubbornly moving toward the terminal.
Before they reached the door, Thalia stopped them again, making Rick mentally check the area once more before opening the door to the Anubis building. Everything inside was as Rick described. The employees were tied up and angry, locked in their office. Fortunately, the plane was fueled and ready, and in a very few minutes the luggage was loaded and their party was walking up the few steps into the cabin.
It was warm inside, and Rick steered Brigid toward a set of seats that faced each other. “We can stretch out here,” he told her.
Thalia watched as Brigid asked Rick, “Are you okay?” She had her hand laid against his cheek, and he turned his head to kiss the palm of her hand. Thalia smelled it again, the cloying sweet of Fae, and she headed toward the back.
“How long until we’re in the air?” she asked the attendant.
“Ten minutes,” the woman told her. “Maybe fifteen. There’s some traffic tonight, but we pay the airport well. We’ll get priority on the runway.” The woman removed a bottle of warmed TruBlood from the microwave and shook it before handing it to Thalia. “Thank you for rescuing us,” she breathed. “I… well it’s the first time that’s ever happened to me.”
“And probably the last,” Thalia reassured her. “The creature that attacked you is rare. Until recently, I thought there weren’t any more left of their kind in this world.”
“All a little too exciting for me,” and the attendant smiled gamely. “I’ve really liked my job, working for Anubis, but I think this my last flight for Anubis.”
Without thinking, Thalia leaned forward, capturing the young woman’s eyes, “Then, don’t remember it.”
The woman’s eyes went slightly glassy, and then cleared before she asked in a perfectly normal voice, “Is there anything else I can get you before we take off?”
“Two more of these,” and Thalia lifted the TruBlood. “Arseling!” she called, meaning to hand Rick the bottle, when what she saw stopped her.
“I’ll get a blanket,” Rick was saying. He’d peeling off his jacket. His clothes hung on his body, his hair and whiskers looking even wilder under the cabin lights. Brigid was turned away as Rick took her jacket and laid it with his own. Brigid flipped her long braid over her shoulder and turned. The scent of Fae was overwhelming, but Rick didn’t seem to notice. He was too busy laying his hand over the pronounced bulge of her abdomen. Brigid smiled back, laying her hand over his, and Thalia knew.
“Fuck a zombie!” Thalia growled, but in that next instant, she could see Sookie Stackhouse’s face and how her Queen would react when she realized she was about to become a Grandmother. Maybe it was that thought, or the intoxicating scent of fairy, but for the second time since she’d come to England, Thalia the Great laughed as freely as any child.