“Sookie, I’m not sure Eric will approve of this,” Pam said, standing back to take in my diaphanous blue costume, complete with jingling coin belt and beaded foot jewelry.
“If I have to perform in this ridiculous show, then I plan to do it my way,” I huffed at her, turning to catch a view of myself in the three full length mirrors she had set up for our fitting.
“I’m right then, and you haven’t told him what you are planning?”
“I wanted it to be a surprise.”
“Oh, well, congratulations, then. He is definitely going to be surprised.”
“You’re just worried he will blame you,” I scoffed at her. “After all this ridiculous talent contest for all the pets at court was your brain child.”
“It was supposed to be fun, an amusement for the King. What you are planning will incite a fucking riot!”
“Oh, it will not. Stop being such a drama queen!” Her fangs came down then, not surprising or frightening me anymore, like it used to do. I had been at court for over a month now, and every time I turned around some vampire was dropping fang over one thing or another. They came down when they are angry, when they were horny, and sometimes when they were bored. No, especially, when they were bored, and wanted to see a human jump and shake with fear.
The trick was, as far as I could tell, to show no fear. It was a thin line between not showing fear, and being disrespectful, but I thought I had figured out how to dance on that edge and not bleed. It was a show, just like I had thought it would be. Everything here was a show, and I planned to give them one tomorrow night that would not be soon forgotten.
Would Eric hate it? I turned and looked at myself again. Yes, part of him would, but the bigger part of him would love it.
After removing my costume, I headed back to our quarters in the King’s New Orleans mansion, it was late, and I needed a nap before Eric came home from a hard day being security chief. So far, he had thwarted two assassination attempts on the King, one of which he was sure Sophie Anne had been behind, and the other was an emissary from the kingdom of Nevada, who, according to Eric had been on a fishing expedition for the monarchy there.
Russell had been generous in his praise of Eric, and had trumpeted his affections loudly for all the court to hear. Since our return, Eric had proved a stabilizing influence on the wobbly sanity of the vampire king, first by cementing his loyalty with our confession of my telepathy, and then with his prowess as a warrior to be reckoned with, when it came to protecting his king.
The Newlins had never been found, and Russell refused to speak of their fate to Eric, but no more wolf attacks had been in the news, and things seemed to be settling down as the nights passed for us. After the show tomorrow night, we were supposed to travel with the king back to Mississippi, for Lorena’s trial.
Eric was unsure why the Magister had left this so long. Normally, when a charge was made, execution of vampire justice was swift and cold. The fact that this had taken over a month caused him some frustration. Me as well, if I were being honest. I wanted her dead and gone once and for all. A part of me would be in knots until Eric told me once and for all that this was resolved.
Lost in my own thoughts about Lorena, I missed Sophie Anne’s vampire speed approach until she was planted directly in front of me. “Hello, Sookie,” she purred at me, undressing me with her eyes. I curtseyed and dropped my gaze to the floor.
“Majesty,” I replied, acknowledging her, while I searched for Eric’s location in our vampire bond. He was already headed in this direction. I let him feel my discomfort, and was delighted when I felt him speed up.
“We’re leaving tonight for Mississippi,” she announced to me, as my cousin Hadley appeared behind her, dragging a suit case. “Perhaps you would care to come on ahead with us?”
“I appreciate the offer, Majesty, but I am needed here. I will be traveling with Eric.” She sniffed in contempt.
“Ah, yes, Eric. Where is he I wonder? Never far from your side is he?”
“No, I am not, Majesty,” Eric’s cold voice cut through the air just as he arrived beside me. It was amazing to me how having him near always made things feel better. “Is there something we can do for you, Sophie Anne?” he asked, his tone conveying clearly how little respect he had for her.
“I was just offering your pet a girl’s night out, Eric. I thought she might be tired of driving stick.” My eyes flicked to Hadley, who had the decency to blush.
*I need to talk to you, Sookie*
I dropped my eyes, while nodding my head slightly to let her know I had heard her. I had been shocked to find her here when we had first arrived, and then once that had passed I had begun to figure out why Sophie Anne was so interested me, and just who had told her of my ability to read minds.
Eric had advised me to steer clear of her when I had told him what I thought had happened. Since I wanted to punch her stupid big mouth more than anything in the world, I had taken his advice and kept mostly to myself, when I was not with him or Pam. This was the closest I had been to her since then.
*I told her about that thing you do. I didn’t know she would come after you.*
Not for the first time I wished I could project my thoughts as well as receive those of others. I wanted more than anything to tell Hadley exactly what I thought of her.
*She’s madder than a wet hen that you told Russell what you can do. I think she was planning something, but you messed it up.*
Good, I thought to myself, I am so glad I could fuck up her life just as she had mine.
*Be careful, Sookie. She’s angry now. She’ll hurt you if she can. You and your vampire. Do you love him?*
That caught me off guard. It wasn’t at all like Hadley to wonder about such things. I kept my head down so that she could not read my feelings for Eric in my eyes.
*I thought Sophie Anne loved me, Sookie, but she didn’t.*
She sounded so bitter, that I was almost tempted to look up and see her face, but I kept my head down.
*She wanted you, not me. Just like Gran, and just like Uncle Bart, it’s always about you, Sookie.*
I staggered back as her thoughts rocked into me, giving me a clear image of something I never ever wanted to see. Eric caught me just before I hit the floor.
“Sookie?” His voice was cold, but I felt him wrap himself around me in our bond, holding me in the same warm embrace of strange love he had given me in the yard the night we finished bonding. When I didn’t answer him verbally, he swept me up into his arms and turned back to the Queen.
“If there is nothing else you require, my pet seems to have taken ill. I would see to her care.”
“Oh, of course, do that. I would hate for anything to happen to her.”
*She’s gonna get you, Sookie. I’m gonna help her.*
I clung tighter to Eric, and shut out Hadley’s poisonous thoughts as he took me back to our quarters.
I held her while she shook in my arms, trying to find the patience I needed to not demand that she tell me right now what was wrong. I had learned that she would tell me, if I could just give her the time to marshal her thoughts. It was incredibly difficult to feel her being ripped apart, and not be able to do anything but wait.
I shook my head as I rocked her, my mind going back to the night of our final bonding. Something else had happened that night. It was all a blur even now. I remembered the strange woman in the bar, her scent and what it did to me, and how I had turned to Sookie to help me soothe the beast that had awakened inside me. Only, the woman seemed to have had the effect on Sookie.
She was demanding in her love for me that night, tearing and rending my flesh in a way that only amped me further into the madness of lust and love that seemed to swirl around me like an elixir. She had burned me, I could still feel her hands on my back, though there was no visible mark to see. Then she had burned through me, in a burst of light so bright and pure that it hurt my eyes.
I had thought I was going to die in her arms, and I could think of no better place, no other place I would rather be. When I surrendered to her, and the sensation, I felt a sense of peace that I had not experienced in over a thousand years. We had stayed there, locked together in body and soul, fucking the night away, because I could not get enough of her. The feel of her on my hands, the taste of her on my tongue, the sensation of her moving around me. Whatever the light had been, it had made me whole again.
The next night when I asked her, she had told me of the maenad, and the first time she had seen the light come from her hands. I wanted to be angry that she had told me before, but couldn’t find it within me. I was still in a state of euphoria that superseded any other emotion I might have. Even now, weeks later, I could barely stand to leave her side for more than a moment. I only wanted to be with her, forever.
I had been secretly making plans for our escape from this mad house, even as I played the part assigned to me. I doubted Russell would ever let us go, but had not completely abandoned the notion that I would win enough of his respect to be granted exile from his court. Failing that, plan B was to take her and run. I had my people working on purchasing the things we needed to live out what time she had together. Then, whatever was left of me would return to Russell, and face whatever punishment he saw fit.
As plans go, it was horrible, but I could not stand to see her here, breathing danger like air, death in every molecule. More than anything I needed to keep her safe. It was the only thing that mattered to me now. It was also why her pain was tearing at me as much as it was her. I was about to ask when she whispered to me in the dark.
“Hadley told me that the Queen is angry that we shared my secret with Russell, and she plans to hurt us both because of it.”
“She can try,” I growled back. I sensed there was more she had to say, and made myself quiet down and wait.
“Hadley hates me because…” I held her tighter, feeling like a lash had landed on my back when she sobbed. Then feeling like a thousand had hit as she told me what Hadley had told her and why. Sadly, it was an all too familiar tale. A trusted family member, a horrible breach of trust that forever changes the child and the way they see the world.
“This is why she told the Queen of your telepathy?” She turned in my arms, wiping the tears off her face.
“That’s the really fucked up part. She told the Queen because she wanted to be special. Instead,” I finished for her.
“It only made the Queen want you, and not her.”
“Exactly. She said that it was always about me, even with Bart, he had taken her, but told her it was only because he couldn’t have me.” I wanted to say that I would make Bart pay for his twisted nature and his mind games, but that would not reassure her. There would be time for that later.
“I think Bill killed Bart.” I came up short.
“You told Bill?”
“Yeah, it all came out eventually. I felt terrible when I realized Bill had killed him, but I think that was more about Bill than anything else. I hated Bart, with everything that’s in me, but I didn’t want to drag all that up again. I wanted to leave it in the past, and Bill seemed to hate being a killer. It was so completely fucked up that he would murder Bart, bringing up something that neither of us really wanted to think about.”
It was the first thing I had ever heard that made me think that odious simpering vampire had perhaps actually loved her. It must have been so hard to love the thing you had been sent to destroy. In another time and place I would have laughed out loud, long and hard about the fucked up mess that Compton had gotten himself into with the woman in my arms. However, this was not the time or the place to let that emotion run free.
“You think it’s funny?” she asked, making me cringe inwardly. I was still getting used to having a voyeur in my mind. My thoughts, my emotions, everything that had been mine was now ours. I could hurt her, and never utter a word.
“Ironic,” I finally answered. “He was sent to retrieve you, but wound up caring for you. It’s an odd sensation that I can’t imagine.” She pushed back from me a little, her eyes flashing.
“Really? You love me, but have brought me here, and you can’t imagine it, even a little?” I could swear my supernatural ears picked up the sound of Compton laughing his ass off in the great beyond. Her anger faded as soon as it had bloomed. “It’s best not to make fun of the dead. Something ill always comes of it,” she chastised me, as she settled back into my arms. “It’s all the past now, at least for me. Hadley is much more damaged by what happened..”
“If it’s in the past, why are you so upset, Sookie?”
“Because they plan to hurt you, Eric.” The dark room was suddenly filled with a small warm light that I could feel in her hands that were resting on my back, in the exact spots they had burned me in her yard. “I will never let them hurt you,” she swore, almost seeming to have fangs of her own, such was the ferociousness of her pledge.
The same drugged sense of euphoria that had taken me in her yard, came back, in a wave stronger than ever, making me want her, making me need her more than blood. I pounced on her before she could say anything else, and we lost ourselves in the love we shared, leaving everything else on the outside of our world made for two.
“I am curious to see what your pet has planned for us, Eric.” Russell looked positively gleeful as he sat on his throne facing the stage. Pam had orchestrated ten acts from among the pet elite at Court. There were roughly twenty five revered pets in residence here, all tied to high ranking members of Russell’s entourage. Not all of them had been up to Pam’s standards, and so had not made the cut.
I was surprised that so few had been selected. In order to be a pet, there had to be something outstanding about the human that drew the vampire to offer this elevated status. Otherwise, they were afforded no such luxuries that came with the title of pet, and were left in the donor pool, to be selected at random for feeding by the vampire court.
The status afforded a pet included fine clothes, luxurious living quarters, their own credit cards and cars. It was the life of a trophy wife, in almost every way, and they served but one master, providing their blood and favors exclusively to that vampire. Sookie had balked a little when I explained the ruse we must maintain, but had calmed down when I reassured her that as my bonded she was so much more than her title of pet would convey.
She was co-conspirator, she was my lover, and she was my soul. The last had calmed her at first, and then sent her off into worry again. If anyone found out how truly we were tied together, she being the most vulnerable between us, that presented an entirely new set of risks. She had vowed then to do nothing that would compromise the illusion of being my pet. Any mistake would show our hand, and make us vulnerable in place we could not afford to be.
“I am as well, Majesty. She insisted it be a surprise, and so would tell me nothing of what she intended, beyond the fact that it was a dance.” Russell glanced at the stage, where Yvetta, my former lover was strutting herself around a silver pole with her breasts exposed.
She had found her way here when I had closed Fangtasia down, becoming the pet of a vampire named Mickey. Mickey’s job was to oversee the wolves that Russell kept stabled in the guest house, despite my advice to disband them. I could see the bruise on Yvetta’s high cheekbone that spoke plainly of Mickey’s care. He might be ideal when it came to handling Cooter and his rowdy bunch, but not when it came to caring for a high strung Estonian.
Sookie had been in a state when she had seen her for the first time, no doubt recalling her visit to Fangtasia’s basement on the balmy summer night that Bill had been taken. I cringed inwardly at my stupid display. I had tried to tell her I wanted her then, but I suppose making the argument while my dick was dripping with another woman’s come had not been the smartest course to take.
Apparently, Yvetta had not been able to stop thinking of me, until Sookie had casually pointed out that, yes indeed, I was a good lover, and that I was her lover now. Since then Yvetta was all glares when it came to Sookie, but still all smiles when it came to me. I had no ill will for Yvetta, but wished she had found herself in another court, shaking her assets.
“Some would say that’s a tough act to follow,” Russell commented provocatively, waiting to see if I would rise to the bait.
“There will always be women,” I responded. “Rarely is there a woman.” Russell sat back with a smirk.
“Few know the difference.” In that moment I had the strangest sense of déjà vu. I had said those words before. No, wait, I had said, wherever I am there will always be women. I had said that the night I died. I felt Sookie’s invisible hand prints tingle on my back. A moment later, her blonde head peeked out from behind the curtains, her eyes seeking mine.
I held her gaze, stone faced as I sent her love through our bond. She flashed me a smile, and ducked back behind the curtain as Yvetta wrapped up her dance, ending with a perfect split on the stage, before scissoring her legs around, and flipping her lithe frame upright. Applause exploded through the room as the vampires and various guests rose to their feet, catcalling her for an encore. Pam stepped out before she could take up their invitation, clapping enthusiastically herself.
Still haven’t scratched that itch, I thought as she smiled around her lowered fangs. I remained standing at Russell’s right hand, my eyes searching the crowd around us for any dangers. The fact that Sophie Anne had left already did nothing to put me at ease. If she was planning something, it was only logical that she would distance herself from it as much as possible.
My eyes landed on the dark glossy mane of a tall woman who looked familiar to me. I was staring at the back of her head when Pam announced Sookie’s act. The room fell silent, all eyes trained on the stage, except the woman. Her eyes turned to me, with a wink and smile, before she took her seat again and looked at Sookie.
I saw Sookie, dressed as a belly dancer in dark blue with a veil on her face, her long hair down, swaying around her luscious hips that were wrapped in gold coin belts that jingled with her ever move. There were drums pounding out a slow sensuous beat that she kept time with, as she moved first across the stage and then down into the audience, never missing a beat.
There had been drums that night, before the battle, a thousand years ago. We had celebrated late into the night, bragging on how many enemies we planned to kill the next day. I had slipped away to relieve myself when I saw her at the edge of the woods, beckoning to me.
I had fucked her against a tree, drunk with mead and high on battle adrenaline, her long dark hair falling back as she cried out her pleasure. She looked at me, and winked as I came inside her.
She looked at me and winked in Merlotte’s.
She looked at me and winked as Sookie took the stage.
I sought her out again, taking a step from Russell’s side, intent on finding this woman who had fucked me the night before I died in Godric’s arms. She couldn’t really here now could she? Had she really been there then? I had dismissed it as a dream by the time I got back to the fire that night, but it had been her face I saw when I spoke of there always being women.
She was no longer seated where she had been. Quickly, I looked for her in the crowd, noticing that Sookie was moving faster as the speed of the drums increased. She had everyone enthralled with her movements, fangs were down everywhere. I felt a moment of pride, and then a wave of dread. I would have to fight every one of them off of her.
As she moved closer to the dais, her eyes locked with mine, her hips calling to me, making me hard and pressing me to take her right here in front of them all to show them that she was mine! I took a step toward her, but saw something moving out of the corner of my eye, that halted my steps.
It was the gorgeous brunette, coming up an isle toward the dais where the king sat, just as bewitched by Sookie as everyone else was. I stepped out to meet the brunette, prepared to capture or end her as her own intentions were revealed toward my king. She stopped and winked at me again.
Sookie, sensing that something was wrong, dropped her dance and came toward us. The brunette’s eyes never left mine, and I heard her voice in my mind.
*I see you remember, at last.*
Sookie growled behind me, still moving even as the world lit up around me, a blinding flash of light that made everything in my vision fade. The last thing I heard was Sookie calling to me as our bond stretched out and the world as I knew it faded away.