This is a glimpse at Compton’s novel, thanks to Breathesgirl! Love how your mind works!
NOTE: When all else fails, dead reckoning can work. It’s an educated ‘hail Mary’ pass in the sailing world. You pretty much look, point the bow in the general direction and steer the boat.
Karin stood to one side enjoying Eric’s growing sense of unease. On the surface he appeared every bit the consummate charmer. All the irritability was below the surface and flowing through their maker’s bond. “Be careful what you wish for,” she thought.
Eric was in his fourth suit of the evening. He was being artfully posed on a large chair in the former throne room. (The large scale of the room had been explained to the humans as a private reception and ball room). The photo crew had been busy for over two hours. There were provocatively dressed models in faux office wear leaning over him with steno pads and tablets. One stood at his shoulder offering him what appeared to be a mug of warmed blood. He could hear his new publicist, Twy ranting at the shoot director. “I can’t understand what you don’t get about warming up the lighting. We all know he’s a vampire. You don’t need to make him look dead; he is dead. Get some color on those fucking lights so people can see the real Eric; the hot Eric.” She turned on her heel and held her open hand behind her. Her assistant Chloe made sure that a coffee was in that hand in under 10 seconds. Eric now knew that there were humans that were just as scary as vampires; maybe more scary.
Eric had gained public notice with an interview he had given before he headed to Connecticut. When Eric had agreed to the idea of hiding in the glare of lights and cameras Karin had called Pam for a suggestion and within an hour she had been patched through to Twy (‘pronounced ‘Twee’ darling’). Twy had a reputation as being one of the best publicists in her field. She was based in New York City and was every inch what you’d expect. Pam Ravenscroft’s name had garnered the return phone call, but Eric Northman’s name had secured the immediate acceptance of the assignment. As Karin later told Eric, “I’m not really sure who hired who.” Eric was sure Twy was costing a lot.
Eric rose that night to find that the palace had been invaded. Twy and her entourage were pure energy. She was stick thin and close to 6 feet and accentuated that fact with nose bleed stilettos and piled high hair. She ran her perfectly manicured nails over his chest and shoulder and then pushed. She turned to the slight woman behind her and started barking orders. Eric was so startled he hissed. The nasal slightly bored drawl stopped and Twy fixed him with a steely stare and a slight sneer.
“I take it you want my help, Mr. Northman. You asked for me because I am the best. From what I gather from your staff I have less than two weeks to turn you from a one hit wonder into a national sensation. If you’re not on board say it now. “ The entourage had immediately stopped their various activities and all fixed him with a stare. Eric felt like he had stumbled into a pack of hyenas and that he might be playing the part of prey.
Karin had walked in to hear the publicist’s declaration. She quickly glided forward, positioned herself between Eric and Twy and bowed. “You must be Twy. We are honored that you were willing to come on such short notice. Of course we will give you our cooperation. Pam speaks so highly of you. She tells me you are the miracle worker we need.”
Eric could barely control his laughter. He had never heard Karin make the effort to be polite, particularly to someone who was a virtual stranger. Eric retracted his fangs and bowed as well. The stick woman looked slightly mollified. She gave Eric one more look; a look that said ‘you’re on thin ice,’ and gestured to her shadow. She resumed barking her orders like there had been no interruption.
Over the next two days Eric watched Twy take on a variety of roles. She was alternately a bitch (her current mode), a mother, a seductress or a shark swimming among small fish. When she had finally rubbed Karin the wrong way long enough that the blond vampire’s fangs had descended and Eric thought he would have to intervene, Twy had taken one look, laughed and said, “Oh damn! I like you. You have balls!” and proceeded to ignore her.
Eric was reminded of the unpleasant experience of walking in a cloud of annoying gnats. Aside from Twy and her constant shadow Chloe there was the stylist, the advance person and the driver. There was also the personal photographer who was showing up for a couple of hours a day to grab informal shots of Eric ‘at home’, the biographer who was assembling a largely fictional version of Eric’s life story and the young woman whose sole function appeared to be tweeting or otherwise posting information about him.
Twy had wanted to bring on a bodyguard but Karin had nixed that suggestion. Before Twy dropped it she had made Karin prove that she was more dangerous than anyone Twy could produce. Karin had broken the arm of her adversary by way of demonstration. Twy had watched, shrugged and impassively agreed that Karin was qualified. She sniffed haughtily and worked out a compromise. Karin would provide security full time. Karin would hire and supervise additional security for any off site events. But, Karin had to promise that in addition to herself there would be no less than 2 obvious guards in full public view any time Eric was out and about. “After all,” Twy had intoned, “important people have muscle. Unimportant people make do.”
When she had been told about Eric’s interest in providing a personally guided tour to the workings of vampire society during the upcoming Summit, Twy had gone into high gear. Watching her alternate between sweet talking and intimidating had been highly instructional. Eric prided himself on bringing the right leverage to any situation. Twy took it to a whole new level.
Her first order of business had been Eric. She approached his personal routine with the precision of a surgeon. She did not shy away from any of the grittier aspects of vampire reality. She imposed a strict schedule on his donors (‘Are they feed and fucks or just feeds?’) and instituted a second level of screening to make sure that his personal habits would not be leaked beyond the doors. She had quizzed him on a variety of personal matters. She wanted information on girlfriends, (‘None? What are you? Gay?’), personal friends, business associates and casual acquaintances. She interviewed Karin and then Pam. She gathered a dossier on how they had been turned and what they had been doing since then. She asked a number of questions about Freyda. When she heard the cover story about Freyda’s death she looked right at Karin and said, “Well that’s a load of bullshit. Let’s just stick with the widower who’s moving on angle.”
Twy had staging people called in to modify Eric’s public rooms to more informal, smaller areas to create a ‘collaborative feel.’ Then she arranged for the rooms to be part of a featured article in an upcoming edition of Architecture Digest.
She tried to talk Eric into changing his hairstyle for something shorter but he declined. Now every evening as he emerged from his shower his stylist was waiting to artfully arrange his hair in business or social or informal styles. He had also had his blond hair highlighted. Karin had snapped a photo and sent it to Pam. Within hours boxes of barrettes, bobby pins and hairbands started to arrive. They were all addressed to Lady Erica.
Twy waved the photographers back and advanced on Eric. “It looks like we’re almost finished here. You can leave that suit on. You have a series of photo ops starting in about 1 hour downtown. Your driver has the addresses. I’ve already leaked your locations so you can expect maximum coverage.” She stopped for a sip of her coffee. She got a look on her face like she had tasted something sour. Chloe appeared at her elbow and took the cup just before Twy dropped it. “So, you’re sure you’re not gay? I mean it would be fine if you were. “Eric shook his head. “Fine. Whatever. Your escort for this evening will be waiting for you in the car.”
‘Escort?” Eric automatically felt for Sookie. He could feel her steady hum. “I have Karin. I don’t need escorts.”
The look on Twy’s face changed from bored to viper in a flash. “I know that you think you’re all that and you do present a nice package. But successful businessmen attract beautiful women. I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to arrange just the right level of model to accompany you tonight. I can’t get A list yet. Hell, I can barely get B list and I had to call in favors. So you will be a good boy, drape yourself like you give a shit and smile nice and wide.” Eric could feel his anger rising. “And no fangs unless you flash them in an interested way at your date.” The low-burning rage was starting to progress from simmer to low boil.
Eric could sense Karin’s rising alarm when he suddenly felt as though a thread inside him had tugged and then been pressed down hard. He actually fell back in the chair. He realized that something had changed with his connection with Sookie. Severed? No. It was there, but so faint now. He felt a moment of panic. Karin ran to him.
Twy was continuing to talk as though nothing was out of the ordinary. She was telling him how Freyda certainly would not have wanted her widower to be all alone and successful businessmen did not step out on the town with their daughters (‘No offense, Karin but sex sells. You sure can’t sell that whole maker/child thing. It sounds like incest and incest is public poison so don’t even hint at it’) She concluded with, “Your Summit is in less than a week. We need to build the right momentum walking into this.” Then she fingertip waved and walked out in a cloud of perfume and lackeys.
Karin moved closer. “What is it?”
Eric looked at her and shook his head. “I can’t feel her.” Karin nodded.
“I’ll call Sanctum. She may still be there. I’m sure it’s nothing.” Karin ran from the room. The driver appeared at the door.
“Mr. Northman? Are you ready?” Eric nodded. Throughout the evening he checked his phone. Cameras flashed. People were asking for autographs. He was aware of being shuttled from one club to the next but he was not focused on the activity. He kept probing the bond, assuring himself that she was still there even if muted. He posed with any number of people. His third stop he received a text from Karin. “Thalia has her. SS on plane to MS.” Eric felt relief. Thalia was a friend. Still he couldn’t escape a feeling of unease about this. He hoped that all was as it appeared.
The driver dropped him back at the palace around 2:30AM. Oklahoma was a conservative state when it came to serving alcohol. Clubs closed at 2AM. The girl that had been with him was dropped to another limo midway between town and the palace. She had made a number of sly comments and broad hints which Eric chose to ignore. Largely it had been professional; they smiled, he laughed and when they did make small talk it was about the weather or fashion. Eric found himself missing Pam again. He had found that the knowledge he had picked up from her about the various houses and style preferences allowed him to keep up his side of the conversation. He realized that he wasn’t current but he knew enough about their history to keep it interesting.
Karin was awaiting him in the hall. She bowed slightly. “Good night?” Eric glanced around quickly. Karin grinned. “Mistress Twy has retired for the night along with her minions.” In spite of himself Eric couldn’t help the look of relief that flashed over his face.
“Anything more?” Karin knew he was asking about Sookie. She shook her head.
“We have no direct method of communication with the kings or their households. Any message will need to travel through two to three hands.” Karin waited. Eric shook his head and turned to walk away. Karin found herself asking the question that she knew was I both their minds. “Eric? What reason would she have to alter the blood bond?”
Eric stopped. He did not turn around. “It is possible that Thalia initiated some action to mask my scent. It would be logical. “Karin didn’t say anything further so Eric resumed walking. He wished that he knew; he wished that he trusted. But his uneasiness was growing.
The only person in the circus that was the Oklahoma court of Twy that had remained immune (and under immunity) had been Sandy. She made it clear that she wanted no part in the production Eric was creating. Under threat of death Sandy made clear that all meetings they held either together or with their business partners remained outside the activities Twy orchestrated. That meant shifting much of their work to later hours. Sandy’s nose wrinkled as he walked into the offices.
“You smell like a flop house. Old body odor and stale beer. What happened to you?”
Eric shrugged, “Twy.”
Sandy shook her head. “I understand what you’re doing. I also understand why you’re not sharing your motivations. But I can guess.” Sandy flashed Eric one of her rare smiles. “You look like a pin-up boy toy. We’ll have to come up with some Chippendales name for you.”
Eric rolled his eyes but found himself smiling in return. “Please don’t mention that to Karin or Pamela. I can imagine monogrammed towels and G-strings.” Sandy motioned to the chair which Eric interpreted as her being willing to tolerate his smell. Eric found himself relaxing, truly relaxing for the first time that night. He let his head fall back. After a moment he asked, “Are you heading to Los Angeles soon?”
“Yes,” she responded. “I’m here one more night. Annubis will transport me and I’ll be in LA for preliminary talks and review of results.” When she didn’t say anything more Eric lifted his head to look at her.
“What is it?”
Sandy smiled. “Nothing. It’s always hard to be away from Las Vegas for too long. The business end of the business moves along but it’s not the same as being in the middle of it. I always feel like I’m missing something in translation.”
Eric smiled his most charming smile. “Something’s troubling you,” he stated. Then he waited. Sandy was watching him. He could see her weighing her options. Then she chose to speak.
“It appears that Felipe is going to launch a new business venture. It will be some sort of mixed martial arts franchise.”
Eric let his smile dampen. “Oh, I guess that means that you will be returning to Las Vegas then. I’ll miss you.” Eric was surprised to realize that he actually meant that.
Sandy’s look was guarded. “I’m not sure,” she said. “I found out about it through some paperwork that was sent to me. I wasn’t involved.”
Eric stilled. ‘That isn’t good,’ he thought. ‘I wonder who is behind this.’ Then, just as quickly he thought, ‘But this could be very good for me.’ He made sure he had held her gaze as he said, “I’m sure that they are just waiting for you to join them in LA. They probably want to run everything by you before any final decisions are made.” Eric could see her shoulders slump. ‘So,’ he thought, ‘It’s further than discussion and they left out their head of operations. Bad move, Felipe!’
Eric rose then. “I do need a shower.” He made sure that Sandy was looking directly at him as he told her, “I’m sure that there’s an explanation. Felipe would need to be pretty stupid to try and put together anything without you. You have a rare gift for business. I am very grateful for all your help.” And Eric bowed. He could see Sandy’s look of surprise and then gratitude. He smiled at her then and left.
As he walked to his chambers he reflected that many things were coming together as he had hoped. But he couldn’t escape a nagging at the edge of his thoughts. ‘Sookie.’
Pam was laughing so hard her sides were hurting. “I can’t believe you didn’t get me a snap when he opened the box. The logo read ‘for the princess in all of us.’” Pam shifted. “The buttercup barrettes were my favorite. And the strawberries. I bet he looked real cute!”
Karin was laughing too. “What wasn’t funny was the look on Twy’s face when she saw them. I can’t believe you’re friends with her. All she needs is a whip and a cattle prod.”
Pam wiped the tears from her eyes. “I think she has those in her trunk. Why don’t you ask her to show you? I’m sure she’ll send Chloe after them.”
“Chloe! Does that girl have any backbone? If I were her I would wait until that bitch was sleeping and then smother her with her coffee cup.”
Pam shook her head. “I can’t explain it. I figure Chloe is secretly the Dom in their relationship and that the whole public thing is just cover.” Pam pulled herself together. “Seriously, Twy is the best. No one else could have pulled this off. She had the Mistral people washing everything down twice for all the free advertising she’s promised them. Even the conference people are bending rules for her. Every attendee got an email warning them about the media presence and inviting special requests. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Well Pam, you are in LA. Isn’t hype the air they breathe out there?” Karin shook her head. “Will the club be ready?”
“Wait until you see it! It’s the best I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen a lot of clubs. We’ll be hiring extra security to police the line every night. I’ve already had people texting me for advance tickets.” Pam smiled. Felipe would have nothing to complain about. “And how are things there? I understand that Eric’s going to be a real center of attention out here.”
“There is a complication, sister.” Pam felt the mirth drain from her.
“Complication? What kind of complication? I spoke with Eric yesterday and aside from sounding harried he said everything was going well.”
Karin phrased carefully. “Did our maker feel distracted to you? A little off balance?”
Pam knew. “Sookie! Something happened when he went to see her!” Pam shook her head. “I knew it. It was charming when he was Sheriff and he ran Area 5. But now he could end up dead and all of us with him.” Pam started drumming her fingers on the table in front of her. “He told me she turned him down; wouldn’t be coming back to my territory. Was there more? I didn’t feel any anger from him but it wouldn’t be the first time he’s muted our bond.”
‘You didn’t feel anger because the reunion was just that.” Karin waited.
“Oh fuck a zombie! Back to that?” Pam paused. She realized that she wasn’t really upset about the prospect. “Did he look happy?”
“You mean did he have that ‘I’m one fucked out tomcat’ stagger? Yes. There was that. He’s been pretty well blissed out since he arrived. Until tonight.” Karin couldn’t keep her mouth from turning down. “Apparently they exchanged blood. I think he’s been keeping tabs on her through the tie. Then something happened. The tie muted or stopped; I can’t really tell. Anyway he had me calling Sanctum to check on her. “
Pam interrupted. “Is she safe?”
Karin found herself irritated. “Yes, she’s fine. Thalia was sent to fetch her to Mississippi. So we can figure more trouble to come.” Karin took an unnecessary breath. “Pam, he was distracted; truly distracted. One minute he was arguing with Twy, and the next he was rolling with a program he didn’t like because he was wasting all his brain cells thinking about her. It was worse than I’ve ever seen it. She is trouble and she is dangerous for Eric.”
Pam could hear the anger in her sister’s voice. “Karin, it is not our place to question Eric’s affection for Sookie. You know what she has been to him. He would not have gone to the lengths he did if he was not serious. If there is danger it’s because they aren’t together.”
“Pam, you aren’t here. You don’t see how he is. He has failed the king. Felipe will not take this lying down. Eric needs all his focus to find his way through this. You know our maker. He’s pledged himself to that snake so he’s going to honor his obligation. His pride won’t allow him to do otherwise. But he is in danger. This human is a danger. He needs to be done with her.”
“How can you say that?” Pam felt her own temper rising. “Sookie has gone through so much. She has been a friend. You weren’t there when she and Eric planned Victor’s ending. They are a formidable team. And they are good for each other in ways I can’t even begin to describe. You would do best to work toward finding a way to help him bring her to his side and not be spending energy criticizing. He won’t be changing his mind and if you are working against this thing you’ll end up being a bigger danger than she is.”
Karin’s voice was cold. “I understand that Sookie suffered. Maybe I understand exactly how badly she suffered better than you do. And I pledge to you right now that one day that shifter will pay. But I would be a traitor to my maker if I didn’t do everything in my power to persuade him to set her aside. She will be the death of him.”
Pam found herself worried. She would need to talk with Eric when he arrived. “Sister, I beg of you to give yourself some time. We all feel the stress and this is not the best moment to be making these decisions. At least wait until the Summit when we can talk about this together.”
Karin agreed. Pam considered that the time together at the Summit suddenly seemed less appealing than it had earlier this evening.
Karin hung up the phone. She looked out the window and thought over the conversation. It bothered her to be at odds with Pam. Sparring was one thing but this bordered on an actual fight and Karin found it disquieting. Her phone buzzed. It was a text from Pam.
“Sisters are forever. I hate fighting with you. Maybe this peace offering will bring a smile to your face.”
Karin clicked on the link and found herself looking at a review of a book. “Fuck a zombie,” she said and smiled slightly, thinking about what Pam would have said if she had heard. There was a picture of Bill Compton, but not Bill Compton. His hair was styled in bangs around his face. His fangs were just visible on his lip and he was smiling. His eyes had what was probably supposed to be some sort of sly look but it made him look slightly crazed. She flicked the screen down and found that there was a sample provided.
An exciting excerpt from Bonded by Desire…
‘The rain caressed her body as she worked her way towards where she knew he must be resting. As she stood there looking at the field of gravestones around her she could sense that he must be near. Her bosom heaved as she thought about how close she might have been to losing him forever.
Then, like an answer to her prayers a hand appeared. She was startled but she stood firm.
Shana watched as the sculpted body slowly emerged from the damp earth and felt her own body react to the sight before her. Shana’s perfect breasts ached to feel his hands on her and she felt herself leaning forward, offering herself to him. Troy grasped her ankle, pulling himself further out of the muck and further cementing her to the spot. Shana’s breath was coming in little pants; her eyes were flames of desire for the creature before her.
‘Shanna!’ he called.
She unbuttoned her dress. ‘Come here my lover and drink from me. I am yours!’ He rose then and grabbed her. They fell in a lover’s embrace. She opened her legs and beckoned him forward. ‘Take me, Troy! Claim me!’”
Karin snorted. Who talked this way? She clicked off the screen. ‘No wonder people don’t take us seriously,’ she thought, ‘with jack asses like this around!’