Nautical Note: A confluence is the coming together of separate streams. Our story will progress with several of our actors meeting. New directions will start to change the course of their lives.
Felipe leaned back, his eyes fixed on the line where the far side of the wall met the ceiling. His hand absently stroked the hair of the woman whose mouth was busy sucking his cock. Her tongue tip provided just the right pressure along the dorsal vein. Up. Down. Tickle just under the edge of tip. She moaned and he tightened his hold on her hair. She stilled and their eyes met. He shook his head, cautioning her with his eyes.
Felipe had found that his planning was best done when his mind was totally relaxed. It was during these moments that his thoughts were freed to make connections and see possibilities. The sensation of having his cock massaged by a warm mouth put him in that half dream state. The key was finding just the right degree of stimulation without going too far. Once the need for release was triggered, his ability to free form thought ended. Sometimes he needed hours to work through everything. When that happened, he would just switch out the girls. Humans just didn’t have the stamina needed for him to work through complex concerns, but the warmth of their mouths and tongues was just not replaceable. Weres ran too hot. Vampires were too cold. Felipe let his eyes drift back to the angle on the far wall as the woman settled back into the soothing rhythm. ‘Yes,” Felipe thought. “Humans are just right.”
The session with the shifter had proven somewhat enlightening. Of course, there had been the usual screaming and cursing. Blood had been drawn and wounds inflicted. Felipe had always found Merlotte to be fairly dependable even if lacking in imagination.
Felipe had known when he found Merlotte’s marker that the shifter would be resentful of having the debt transferred. But then the idiot had made his feelings so apparent. The shifter’s anger and disappointment had been like a book; written all over his face. Felipe hadn’t been able to restrain himself and had impetuously added a year to the debt as a condition of sparing Merlotte’s life.
Still, the reports had been regular and checked out as fairly accurate. That is until Victor.
On reflection, sending Victor so far away with no clear checks and balances may have been a miscalculation. Profits had plummeted. There was trouble. Victor assured him the issue was Northman feeding discontent and undermining everything Victor tried to do. Turned out the worm in the apple was Madden which wasn’t really a surprise. Felipe had hoped that Victor’s ambition would manifest in pragmatic solutions. Instead the absolute power had corrupted absolutely. Victor had become small and grasping; paranoid and self-destructive. When it came right down to it, Northman and his followers had done Felipe a service.
But during all this unrest, there had been nothing in Merlotte’s reports to alert Nevada to the situation. Had Victor not been ended when he was Felipe may have found himself facing a reverse takeover. After listening to the whining and whimpering yesterday, Felipe was confident that the shifter’s hatred for the Viking either caused him to not see conditions that were adverse to Northman, or caused him to deliberately ignore them. Either was an issue. If the King were to continue to use Merlotte’s services, it could not be in close connection with Northman.
Eric Northman. What to do?
Both Victor and Merlotte had painted a picture of Northman and his attachment to Louisiana. Felipe could understand the attraction of sitting in a small, backwater province where you were virtual King without having to deal with the myriad of distractions that came with actually holding the position. Felipe found himself wondering if Northman’s only hold back to making the try for the role had been his maker’s continued existence.
Appius Livius Ocella. Felipe found his lip curling. It was difficult not to be impressed with the old Roman. To stand in his presence was to feel his power; his age. Appius may not have held the title of king, but he had been a giant among them nonetheless. A flawed giant.
Felipe could never think of a future where Appius would have continued. The post-Revelation world was simply too revealing. Someone somewhere would have decided that the Roman was interesting and the dots may have started connecting. There would be inquiries and more disappearances. These older vampires were all the same; just kill and bury your problems. They just couldn’t wrap their behavior around Facebook and YouTube and Instant Messaging. Felipe didn’t doubt that a crisis would come; a collision of worlds and values. When that day arrived, Felipe intended to be at the forefront in taking over North America. Humans would fall in line as weres and witches already did. They would understand the natural superiority of vampires as the apex on the food chain. A little judicious glamouring and the job would be done.
But, like all great change, it would need to be handled carefully. There needed to be an affirmative effort in placing the right people in the right places. That was what made Felipe’s involvement in the entertainment area so attractive. When people were enjoying themselves they became relaxed; more open. And everyone liked to enjoy themselves; the rich and the mighty as much as the regular and pedestrian. In some ways, the rich and the mighty needed the release of entertainment even more. Felipe liked to think that he nourished relationships during those moments. Sometimes people with influence turned out to have vulnerabilities; proclivities that they had trouble expressing in their regular lives; things about themselves that might prove embarrassing if others knew. It was those cracks that Felipe most liked to discover and exploit. As far as the King was concerned, it was all an investment in a better future. And what did vampires have to look forward to but more and more future?
He tapped the cheek of the woman in his lap. She was clearly tiring. He glanced toward the door. “Another,” he said.
While the woman rose from her knees, he leaned over and picked up the goblet of blood. He could have fed, but that triggered too much emotion. Better to wait.
He thought about Pam Ravenscroft. She had proven herself a worthy sheriff. She and her partner had managed to morph a small bar into a national chain. The revenues from the Fangtasia operation were nothing like the take from his gaming houses, or the pit fights, but they were positive and growing. The reputational value of the Fangtasia franchise was also worth noting. She was attracting the right kind of clientele; celebrities and influencers that could be of help in furthering Felipe’s vision.
Felipe considered his treatment of the vampire. He had been considerate, if distant. No punishments or overtly hostile actions. The sheriff of Area 5 would have no reason to undermine him due to recent actions.
A handsome youth settled himself before the king. He lightly ran his fingers up the ruler’s thighs and smiled with slanting sloe eyes. Felipe smiled at him, and ran his fingers over the man’s cheek. “Tan hermosa,” Felipe murmured. The youth dropped his face to the king’s lap and started.
Felipe’s fingers drifted back to the seat of the couch. ‘And now young Pamela has done something very wrong. She has allowed my telepath to be damaged.’ Felipe smiled.
Felipe’s mind drifted back to the information he’d gleaned from Merlotte. Based on what the shifter had given them, there had been some question of the telepath even being alive. Merlotte had tried to stage arson and use it to cover up her death. Horst had had that piece of information checked on the internet. Sure enough a short piece had appeared on a local blog site talking about the loss of the long time residence. From the look of the picture the fire had been intense. All you could see was a fireman in the foreground and a charred hole behind.
The other piece of value he had gained from the interrogation had been the intensity of the Queen of Oklahoma’s involvement in all of this.
Freyda. What a waste of beautiful packaging. He had intervened in her dispute with Northman over the marriage because it suited him. He needed Northman out of the picture. He had an idea that Oklahoma would be interested when he’d aimed that damned Roman, Appius, toward her kingdom. The Queen was vain and pretentious. The Viking was a head-turner and carried some reputation. It hadn’t been any stretch at all to see that she would walk down the path he created. He had anticipated that Northman would resist. He had underestimated the strength of that resistance.
There had been a suggestion that the source of the Viking’s lack of cooperation had been his attachment to the telepath; his emotional attachment. Of course, that was just foolish and anyone who knew vampire could not think that for a moment. It was something else; his loss of independence and sovereignty. But now, there was no maker to stand between the Viking and a crown. There was only a contract to an unpredictable and unreliable Queen.
Knowing what he knew now, Felipe knew that the terms of the contract had been violated. If the details were to come to light, the Viking would be free. Free to kill the Queen. Free to return to Louisiana. Maybe even free to challenge him for rule over his growing kingdom.
Of course, the source of that knowledge was currently recovering in a guest suite here in the King’s palace. Once he had been satisfied he knew all there was to know, Felipe had had the shifter healed. It never did to reward loyalty with death. It sent a bad message. Merlotte had shown bad judgment in not telling Felipe about his deal with Freyda. He had shown worse judgment in trying to harm Felipe’s asset. And now he’d been punished. All good.
The king looked back at the sight of the beauty in his lap. He appreciated the way the youth’s black hair hung along his jaw; the purity of his profile. ‘Yes,’ Felipe thought, ‘I can see the pieces fall into place.’ He grabbed the man’s hair, stopping his motion. “Come beauty,” he said, offering his hand. “Let us find somewhere more comfortable for your knees.”
Later that night Felipe asked Horst to join him for a call he needed to make to the Queen of Oklahoma. There had been a series of individuals who had answered, acknowledged him and then passed him along before he heard Freyda’s voice.
“Felipe! I didn’t know you were calling tonight! What an unexpected pleasure it is.” Her voice sounded happy, but the King thought he could detect an undercurrent of annoyance.
“Freyda, it is always a pleasure to hear your voice as well. There is something about the cadence of your speech that always reminds me of home. How are things for you, my fiery friend? Is the Viking heeling well for you?” Felipe already knew the answer. He could almost see the sneer on the face of the Queen.
“He is the same.”
“Oh, my lovely one. You mustn’t be angry with him. He lived his own life by his own rules for a long time. He would have continued, a pampered fish controlling his own pond. Sophie-Ann had indulged him too long. Time has a way of grinding down all the sharp corners. You are so young to this life. You will come to know the power of patience.”
He could hear the effect in her words as she responded. “Thank goodness for you. No one else takes the time to talk with me the way you do. It’s not like I had anyone to help me through all this. I was vampire and then I was just on my own.”
Felipe found himself gritting his teeth. It was hard to maintain the smile on his face. Did she think he was stupid? Like the black widow she was, she had killed everyone around her to gain her throne. Had she been bright she would have made a play to join herself to Nevada and himself. But she was too greedy. She wanted to stand alone. And now she was pretending affection when he had evidence that she had betrayed his interests.
Felipe continued. “Yes. Patience is a hard virtue to learn. So easy to not look at the consequences of actions when opportunities present. Wouldn’t you agree, Freyda?”
There was no response. ‘Yes,’ Felipe thought. ‘That has her attention.’ Felipe continued. “I have an unexpected guest who appeared at my gate from Louisiana. Can you guess who that might be?”
The other end of the phone was silent. Felipe took that as his cue. “Yes, Sam Merlotte appeared here. He had quite the tale to tell. Of course, I don’t blame you for taking advantage of the situation. I can guess how difficult these years have been. But using him to punish a human gives her too much credit, don’t you think? No one could ever suggest that anyone, including Eric Northman, would prefer a simple, backwoods blood bag over you.”
“What are you going to do with Merlotte?” She might as well have just asked him what he intended to do with her.
“Freyda, if it came out that you had a hand in harming the girl, the contract would be void. I would be hard pressed to stop any punishment that might be suggested.” He paused, letting that sink in. “But we both know that Northman is far better there than elsewhere. I’ll tell you what. Why don’t I come see you? We can spend some time riding your horses and planning out how to use this situation to our best advantage. “
He could hear the relief in her voice. “Oh, Felipe! That would be wonderful. It would be too nice to have a familiar, friendly face around. Just let me know when you think you can make some time for me.”
Felipe looked at Horst. Horst’s fangs had descended. “Why, I think that Horst, Angie and I could be there in two weeks. Would that give you enough time to arrange things?”
“Of course! I’ll have my day people confirm everything with Angie. Thank you Felipe!” They spent a few more minutes talking about smaller concerns, and then they hung up. As soon as the call was ended, Horst hissed.
“The bitch. She admits she betrayed you! If this were to come out, you would be glossed with her dishonor. You are party to the contract. She knows this!”
“Calm, Horst. I agree. She has proven that she can’t be trusted. But did we ever think she could be?” Felipe shook his head. “Arrange transport for the three of us to Shreveport. Contact the lovely sheriff Ravenscroft and let her know to expect us in two days. Then confirm our transport to Oklahoma. Make sure we have accommodations in the palace. I don’t want the inconvenience of traveling back and forth. And Horst,” Felipe looked sharply at his enforcer. “Make sure that Sam Merlotte doesn’t meet with any unexpected accidents. He may have a part to play later.”
Horst smiled and left to get arrangements underway.
Pam looked at the people assembled in her office. The investigation into the fire that had destroyed the house on Hummingbird Lane had been ruled an accident by the local police. That was because they didn’t have the melted piece of metal that was sitting on the edge of Pam’s desk.
“Well, if there is anything to be thankful about here, it’s that Pam found Sookie and got her out of the house before someone triggered this thing.” Alcide gestured toward the device.
“Someone?” Jason Stackhouse’s voice rose. “Someone? We know who the son of a bitch was! Who else had access? Who’s missing? When we catch that bastard, Merlotte, I’m going to kill him.” Jason half rose as his anger took hold of him.
Pam gestured to Stackhouse that he should sink back into his chair. Jason shot her a level look. “And it’s hard to be grateful,” he continued, “When it’s vampire shit that got her in harm’s way to begin with.”
Pam hissed. “Oh, you’ve been such a good brother? Where the hell have you been? You didn’t see her. She was a bag of bones in a bruised skin sack. Where was your good protection?”
Maxwell launched himself between them. “Let’s take this down a notch. We are all on the same side.” Alcide had been in the process of rising, clearly supporting Stackhouse. The gesture said clearly that Alcide and Jason were weres together. Although Jason was a panther and Alcide a wolf, pack mentality meant two-natured came first.
Jason shook his head, like he was clearing cobwebs. “Yeah. You’re right. I should have been there for her. But I got sucked in just like everyone else.” He sank back into the chair. He hung his head, clasping his hands between his knees. “I saw how thin she looked. She just smiled and told me she needed to lose some weight. I could see that there were days at lunch she was limping a little. She’d just tell me she had strained something. She’d just keep going, smiling and chatting like nothing was wrong.” He looked up at Pam. “I’m sorry. I am beholden to you. She’d be dead now if it weren’t for you.”
Pam nodded. “I was as guilty. When she married Sam she asked Karin and I to stay away. It never occurred to me to look too closely.” Pam thought back on the events of those days. “Karin was closer to her then; at least physically. She mentioned she had concerns. I just didn’t follow up.” Pam remembered the evening Karin had come to see her. She had been worried about Sookie marrying Sam.
“You don’t see her at night, Pam. She sits on the porch swing alone staring into the sky. Even when she is with the shifter it’s like she is waiting for someone else.” Pam had refused to discuss it with her sister. Pam remembered the confusion and conflict she had felt about the relationship between her maker and Sookie. At first it had been a good source of entertainment; something to use to tease Eric. He had never failed to rise to the bait. But eventually Pam had to accept that there was something else there; something unexpected. Eric Northman was obsessed with the telepath. He could not do anything; make any move without including her in his calculations. She had become a part of him. And Pam had resented that.
By the time Eric left for Oklahoma, Pam had been clear that Eric had intended to make Sookie his blood bonded in every way. He had intended to bring her to his side, placing her above both Karin and herself. He was prepared to do all this and Sookie had never once acknowledged him; acknowledged his feelings for her. Even now Pam couldn’t help but feel sorrow and conflict over the injustice of this. Eric Northman was a great vampire. He deserved every accolade and honor. But he was willing to bring himself low all for the sake of a woman who never appreciated him and the sacrifices he made for her.
And yet, Pam had to acknowledge that there was an inevitability about them. With all the fighting and laughing and tragic misunderstandings, they were simply meant to be. And now, the telepath was missing. Pam knew that Thalia was at the bottom of it. Ludwig had told her about the vampire’s arrival. Everyone knew that Thalia had great loyalty to the Viking and his progeny. Dr. Ludwig had assumed that Pam was involved. What’s more, she had been grateful to have the telepath out of the hospital and on her way. If there was one thing every supernatural appreciated it was that Sookie Stackhouse attracted trouble.
Jason spoke again, interrupting Pam’s thoughts. “I have to ask. If she was looking so bad, why didn’t you heal her? I mean, you gave her blood before.”
Alcide started. What Jason was asking was a deeply personal and borderline insulting question. “It doesn’t work like that Jason.” The face of Miriam, her deceased beloved, came into Pam’s mind’s eye. “Our blood can heal wounds. We can cause broken bones to mend. But we can’t cure dread disease. Starvation. Lupus. Diabetes. Cancer.” Pam paused, looking toward Maxwell. “Our blood can help the person with the pain or give them a little more strength to endure. But our blood can’t cure.”
Jason looked away. After a moment, he looked at the device again. “Any idea where that thing came from? Sure doesn’t look like something Sam could build in the shed.”
Alcide took a deep breath. “I think he got it from Jannalyn.” The gazes of those seated shifted to Alcide, waiting for him to continue. “After she was executed, we searched her property. She had put aside quite the arsenal. There were a couple trigger devices with mechanisms that fired off on a phone call. This could be something from one of those.”
Jason nodded. “I just don’t get it. Why would Sam Merlotte have done something so low down and dirty?”
But there were no answers.
Shreveport – Two Days Later
“You honor us with your visit, Majesty.” Pam bowed low. Maxwell, Indira, and Palomino bowed behind her. While vampires were moving to the area, attracted by jobs and Pam’s reputation, Pam had decided to keep the group interacting with de Castro small and manageable. If things went badly, she knew she could trust these three to pick up the pieces and provide some stability for those under her protection in Area 5. If things went well, it was good for de Castro to have some acquaintance with those Pam meant to recommend for advancement.
“The pleasure is all mine, Sheriff Ravenscroft. Please,” he gestured toward the office. “Would there be an opportunity to sit and talk?” Felipe glanced at Angie. “Do you think you can find something to entertain yourself while Pam and I chat?” Angie smiled. No one believed it was a request.
Pam waved toward the back hallway. Felipe walked first. Horst and Maxwell trailed behind. When they got to the door, Felipe turned to Horst. “Good friend, it is rather close in there. Do you mind?” Horst nodded and turned back to the club. Maxwell glanced at Pam. “Please,” continued Felipe, “If you would like your business partner to join us, he is most welcome.”
Pam found herself relaxing. If Felipe had meant to end her he would not have allowed her to have Maxwell in the same space. It was a message and Pam was hoping she was reading it correctly. Pam nodded to Maxwell and they both followed Felipe into the office.
Once they were settled and glasses of Royalty served, Felipe opened their conversation. “First, let me congratulate you both on the remarkable success of Fangtasia. Sandy Seacrest sings your praises at every opportunity. I saw the spot on television myself. All those celebrities attending your New York opening. It must have been most gratifying.” Felipe smiled, looking every inch the pleased and indulgent boss.
“Thank you, majesty. We have been grateful for your support and guidance. I am personally pleased to have your approval.” Pam inclined her head in a properly respectful way. Felipe found himself warming to her. She had been trained well. This was all promising.
“Of course, the business with Sookie Stackhouse, my telepath, was disappointing.” He waited. When Pam and Maxwell continued to watch him, their faces carefully neutral, the King continued. “Although I have had no assignments for her recently, she is an asset to my kingdom and was under your protection.”
Pam nodded. She was not sure where this was headed. Felipe didn’t look overly concerned. He sipped his blood and could have been talking about stock prices or the weather. She realized he was deliberately waiting this time.
After a long stretch, she offered, “I was fortunate to find her when I did. Her home caught fire shortly after she was removed to the hospital. Had I not, she would have died.” She could see Maxwell vibrating with anxiety in the chair across the way. She hoped that her glance and calm manner would help him get hold of himself.
“Of course,” de Castro said, his fingers tapping against his glass, “now she’s missing altogether.” He looked at Maxwell, smiling. “But, there is no question about your involvement in that development. Thalia has ever been unpredictable. I have inquiries to determine where she spirited our Ms. Stackhouse.” Felipe smiled again. “I would never go against her myself. Her reputation is well deserved. When I do find her, I will need to bring her before a tribunal.” Then he laughed. “Could you see Thalia in the fighting pits? She would be magnificent. We would all make a fortune!” Pam and Maxwell smiled tightly in return.
The king shifted forward, setting his goblet on the table. “But what I have to discuss does have to do with your maker.” He waited, allowing the statement to sink in. “I have come into some information recently, which would impact the contract between your maker and the Queen of Oklahoma if it were to come to light. As the Viking’s beloved child, I thought it best to bring it to your attention first.“ Felipe could see he had the full attention of both vampires. He sat back and continued.
“If I were to make this public, it could damage the relationship; the trust between your maker and Freyda. I would not want to create strife between married partners.”
“What kind of information would do something like that?” Pam asked carefully.
“Why, that Freyda had violated the terms of the contract. One could say that she broke the most important condition.” And he waited again. Pam now knew her role in this.
“And, what would that condition have been, Majesty?”
“Why, the condition to leave the Stackhouse woman in peace, my dear Pamela.”