When Eric awoke the next night the first thing he felt was Sookie’s anger. Waves of rage sweeping through their tie. His fangs snapped down, and he rose quickly going to his bag and dressing at vamp speed concerned that something was wrong. He entered her room through the connecting door, and passed through without glancing. He could tell she was somewhere in the house but not that close. Following the tie he located her in what appeared to be her office and she was not alone.
He stopped at the door, calmed somewhat to see her in no immediate danger, and unsure of his place since they had not discussed his duties yet, he felt uncertain how to proceed. She had her back to him and the other man in the room who was standing at the front of her large dark wooden desk shifting from foot to foot, clearly wanting to leave but not able to manage it for some reason. Hesitantly, not having noticed Eric yet, he spoke to her back.
“Your majesty, what shall I tell the King of Mississippi with regard to his proposal?” She crossed her arms defensively in front of her chest. He heard her take a calming breath, seeking to quell the rage that still rolled over her in waves. She dropped her head a moment and then stood tall and straight before turning to face him. He saw her register his presence by the door and she gave slight nod in his direction before she answered.
“You may tell His Highness that his offer is appreciated but the answer is no. I will not be marrying Claude, and before you even start there is nothing he can do to change my mind.” The man squirmed uncomfortably, clearing having more to say but unsure how to convey it.
“But, the time to choose a mat-“, she cut him off.
“Is none of your concern, nor is it his. You may go now.” She nodded her head in the direction of the door, curtly, indicating this audience was over. Turning on his heel he found himself face to face with a mountain of Eric, who looked down at him coldly. Taking a long hard look, the man gasped.
“Vampire!” He said it like he might have said “dog shit” had he discovered it on the bottom of his shoe and Eric drew himself up taller to look way down at the man before him, who barely came to his shoulder. In a flash, Sookie was there in front of Eric.
“You are in my house, Preston. If you want to leave it with your person intact you will speak to those you find it with respect!” She pushed forward into his space, and into his face. “Is that clear?” she asked through clenched teeth. For a moment Eric saw contempt shine in his eyes and then he remembered to mask it as he made a mocking bow to her and scurried from the room. She stood there for a moment, her back to Eric. She was so angry she was shaking. He wanted to move closer to her and steady her, but again was unsure. They had been very close last night, but that did not tell him where he stood today in this unknown monarchy. So, he waited.
Finally, after several minutes she turned to him and smiled a little as she looked up into his eyes. “You better get used to that. I chose you because you are the most fearsome warrior known to all supernaturals. That will only exacerbate their resentment of you. There has never been any love lost between fairy and vampire through the eons.”
He smirked at her, “Fortune favors the bold, or so I hear.” She fought it for a moment and then gave into the smile.
“Yes, I heard that somewhere recently as well.” Moving around the desk she sat motioning him to take a seat on this side of the desk. Once he was comfortable she leaned forward steepling her fingers as she spoke. “You know I wanted you here to be my enforcer.” He nodded. “That will encompass much before we are done I think, but right now it will mostly be about shuffling off would be suitors and marriage proposals I have no interest in whatsoever. Currently I am being pursued by Mississippi, Texas and Nevada to consolidate kingdoms and produce a royal heir. Preston is an emissary for Mississippi, King Claude Crane. Do you know of him?”
“Some. He is known for his ruthlessness with his subjects and his state. Fantastically obsessed with himself and his fortune, I believe.” She smirked then, nodding slightly.
“Yes, Claude is certainly in love with himself, and with my fortune as well it would seem.” Eric looked around the room and assessed it to have been decorated with a budget that would support a small third world country for a year, maybe two. Apparently, Oklahoma had something to covet. Something besides it’s queen. “I understand that you yourself are quite wealthy in your own right, so you have some head for finance and understanding in these matters?” He nodded, wondering where this was going. “Good. You won’t be stealing the good silver then, I take it?” He felt her humor at teasing him and smiled back. She had told him she knew he was a man of honor last night, her teasing about missing silverware was her avoiding what was really on her mind. He waited patiently. She cleared her throat and looked down at her hands.
“I suspect they plan to kidnap me.” He leaned forward suddenly very interested in what she was about to say. “No, I know they plan to do just that. I heard Preston just now confirm what I had already deduced.”
“What does that gain them?” Now he understood the rage he had felt from her on awakening.
“Timing is everything. I told you last night, when I enter the mating cycle I will be at my weakest. My magic will be unreliable at best, and I will be at the mercy of those around me. If they have me during that time they could…” she hesitated her face showing her fear and disgust, as he felt the tension roll through her. “They could impregnate me, forcing The Bonding and the marriage and merger would be fait accompli.” He felt his own anger then at someone forcing her against her will. An image of her last night in the storm came to mind, she was wild and unbroken. He wanted her to stay that way.
“What can I do?” She looked at him, her eyes for a moment showing her fear and then it was gone.
“For now, I want you to be with me when I travel at night, as my body guard. I want you to familiarize yourself with my routines, and the people around me and consult with me like this. I want you to help me see what I might be missing.”
“I can protect you physically, of that there is no doubt, but…what could I tell you that your telepathy would not?” She leaned back then, resting in her chair.
“Telepathy is my go to move. I worry that I have become so dependent on just that one talent that I might miss something obvious if I weren’t so dependent on it. My gift is only as good as what they are thinking in that moment. It tells me nothing of the nature of a person, of what they might be capable of. I need a strategist, someone to take me beyond the moment and into what will likely pass. I need time to prepare.”
“You predicted the impending kidnapping,” he pressed, feeling there was more she was not saying as to her reasoning.
“Yes, but what did I miss in seeking to confirm that suspicion? There could be spies in my house that have learned to circumnavigate my go to move. It’s not unheard of. Also, there is much to running Oklahoma, and as I approach the mating time I find myself distracted and listless, unable to focus. Preston had been thinking he should take me tonight, until he turned around and faced Mount Viking in my office.”
“And what did he think then?”
“Oh, shit?” Eric laughed suspecting there was some truth in her statement.
“Why a vampire?” he was very interested in this answer.
“Because no fairy can be trusted.”
“Why me?” he was most interested in this answer.
“Bedtime stories.” He raised an eyebrow but she only smiled and stood. “I need to change and we need to go.”
“I have to be at the orphanage at seven for a visit with the children and then we have a charity ball at nine. Did you find your tuxedo?” She was already moving out the door and toward the stairs, presumably to change. He followed. He had a feeling he would be doing that a lot.
His Armani tuxedo was hanging in her room. When they entered she handed it to him and moved to the closet, leaving a trail of clothes behind her. Taking in his black jeans, wife beater and leather jacket she said, “What you have on now will be sufficient for the orphanage, we will change when we arrive at the hotel. I have a suite there waiting.” He watched her cover her exquisite body with jeans and a red sweater that hugged her ample bosom tightly, accentuating her curves perfectly. Again, flashes of last night crossed his mind and he wondered if they would be like that again, soon. Ever.
“Yes,” she answered, moving toward the mirror to check her hair. It was already up in a French twist, ready he would guess for the formal event later that evening. She looked at him in the mirror. “I still have time to want before I need.” His body reacted to that statement as though she had caressed him with her hand. And I had the gaul to ask her what was in this for me. “No, you had the right to ask, Eric. You came here under a command from your Maker. Specifically, ‘To serve at the whim of Oklahoma until she releases you.’ I told him how to word it. He thought it was to enslave you, so Appius was more than willing to grant my boon in wording. I knew it was because I reserved the right to free you the moment you arrived and offer you a choice.” She turned to face him then, moving closer and raising her hand to his cheek. “I am so glad you chose to stay. For more reasons than you will likely ever know, I am so very glad.”
Because she had granted him access to feel her emotions he knew beyond a doubt that everything she said was true. It warmed him in some new way, some way that was more intimate than anything they had shared so far, and they had shared quite a bit.
“Yes, we have shared a good deal already. More than you know.” Eyebrow up again, he took her hand in his, his thumb rubbing the back of her hand gently asking for more information. Her eyes closed slightly at this touch and she smiled before leaning up to kiss his other cheek softly. “Oh, ok. That thunderstorm ride? It was number three on my bucket list.”
“To fuck in the middle of a thunderstorm was number three on your bucket list?” Wicked flashed in her eyes again.
“No. Fucking YOU in a thunderstorm was number three on my bucket list.” She held his gaze a moment letting him feel her mischievous nature as well her honesty and then left the room.
He gave himself a minute to process that revelation, and then ran out at vamp speed to catch her as she reached the bottom of the steps.
Just as their feet touched the marble of the foyer they were surrounded by her royal guards. The asshole from the car last night approached him. “I see you survived after all.” Barely, Eric thought, hoping she would hear and knowing the asshole would not. She was all business now though, his soft teasing Sookie put away, somewhere safe he hoped, because the woman who stood before him was all Queen.
“John, you will not address Eric in this manner, again. Ever. His function here is to serve me in the capacity I see fit, as is yours. The difference you need to remember is that I asked him here. You came with the place.” The guard nodded, attempting to look trite for his Queen but in Eric’s eyes he didn’t quite pull it off. Fucking fairies, he thought.
“Eric, this is John Quinn, the head of my Sky Fae Warriors.” Eric inclined his head slightly, wondering why this asshole had not been in her office when Preston visited earlier to protect his Queen. Then he remembered her saying that fairies couldn’t be trusted. “John, Eric is my new personal guard, answerable only to me, and you should treat him and his requests with the same respect that you do mine.” The large muscular fairy before him sputtered with indignation.
“You want me to answer to a vampire!” She stepped in closer and stared him down, though she was foot shorter than him. Eric saw her eyes light up from inside and glow as she reached out a tiny hand and brought Quinn to his knees. She waited for him to meet her gaze again before she released him.
“I don’t want to have this conversation again.” She walked away without looking back, head held regally as she swept through the front door of her house and out toward the car waiting to take them to the first their destinations for the evening. Both Eric’s eyebrows were completely lost in his hairline as he thought about what he had seen and experienced in his short time so far in Oklahoma.
So, far nothing had been as he expected.
It had been unimaginably perfect. He took his seat in the car beside Sookie and closed the door before looking over at her trying to figure how this tiny form could hold so many women. Before he could speak she turned to him, flashed him her best Sookie smile and leaned over to whisper in his ear.
“Now, what was that about fucking fairies?”