I didn’t know what to expect. I stuck close to Eric as we made our way to the hotel on foot. Pam was taking point with the team patrolling the backside of the hotel. I was unfamiliar with all of the other vampires and I wanted to keep it that way. When we reached the room where I was sure Hadley was the other vampires went ahead of me. Without warning Eric kicked in the door.
I heard Hadley scream, followed by the cursing of the werewolves in the room. The other vamps preceded me inside. By the time I walked in there was a battle royal going on. Some of the Rogues had started to shift, which was interesting. I stood there transfixed for a moment until a Rogue that had been successful in shifting snapped its sharp teeth at me. I jumped as it stalked closer, but it was yanked away from me by Eric, who was already battling another Rogue.
“Thank you,” I said, but didn’t think he heard me.
I turned my attention to finding Hadley, who was bound, gagged and blindfolded, huddled in a whimpering ball on the floor in the corner of the room. I dodged the brawl to get to her, if only to make sure her baby wasn’t harmed. I remembered what I had been told about my talisman protecting me when I needed it and hoped that was true. Lord knew I was in way over my head. I took off the blindfold that Hadley was wearing and as soon as she saw me she both freaked out and calmed down.
“Sookie? My God, how did you find me? How did-”
“It’s a long story, but I’m gonna get you out of here,” I promised her. “Are there more of them hiding somewhere?”
I was mentally counting eight Rogues, but just in case I was wrong…
“I think the rest of ’em are looking for Coltrane. Tiberius won’t give up until they have him,” she said while I tried to work the knots loose in her bindings.
“I don’t think they’re gonna find him, Hadley,” I said, and much to my surprise she started crying.
“Sookie he might be my baby’s daddy,” she informed me.
I didn’t have the patience to explain that we had seen each other recently. I was too busy trying to make sure she didn’t get hurt. Thankfully the vamps outnumbered the Rogues. The fight was brutal, but in the end the vampires prevailed. There were several injuries, some of them rather grotesque-looking. Luckily they healed quickly.
“Eric?” I called out when I couldn’t get the ties off Hadley’s wrists.
I looked behind me to see that he had a solid hold on one of the Rogues and he was fangs deep in its neck. I froze, unable to move or look away. It was obvious the Rogue wasn’t experiencing any of the pleasure I did when Eric bit me. Clearly Eric didn’t show the same gentility and sweetness to others that he showed me, but it was hard to believe the Eric I knew was capable of such violence and cruelty. I understood it was necessary for survival in his world.
His fangs were his best defense against a creature that was much stronger than the average human. When the Rogue went limp Eric finally pulled back. There was blood all around his mouth and there was a nasty gash on his neck. My instincts had me running across the room to check his injury. He dropped the unconscious werewolf on the nearby bed and when I reached him there was fire in his eyes.
“Eric, your neck,” I reached up to touch him, but he stepped back.
“Don’t,” he said in a strained tone. “Bloodlust. If you touch me I’ll want to bite you and fuck you, and I won’t care that we aren’t alone.”
I pulled my hand back. Eric had explained to me that vampires didn’t have much use for modesty, which made sense, but I wasn’t a vampire. There would be no bloodlust fucking in front of his friends, let alone my cousin.
“So then I guess offering you my blood is a bad idea?” I wagered.
“Later,” he said with a hint of warning in his voice.
It sent shivers down my spine, and before I could get too carried away thinking about all the things he could do to me, I was called back to reality by Hadley behind me.
“Hadley is unharmed, but I can’t get her restraints off,” I told him.
Eric followed me over to where Hadley was and removed the restraints with easy. I helped her to her feet and put my hands on her expanded belly. I felt a little kick against my palm and couldn’t help smiling.
“He’s okay,” I said with relief.
“How’d you know it’s a boy?” Hadley asked.
“Lucky guess,” I said quickly.
Hadley hugged me hard and I hugged her back. It was entirely possible that was the last time I’d ever see her, and as angry as I was at her, she was still my family. I said a silent prayer on her behalf, hoping that someone was listening and would take it to heart that she needed guidance and protection. As much as I loved Hadley I couldn’t be her keeper. I had a life of my own to live and being her keeper would be a full-time job. Not to mention, she was an adult. For her son’s sake I prayed that she would make better choices in the future.
“Who’s your beau?” Hadley asked, looking to Eric.
“What makes you think he’s my beau?”
“Oh come on, Sookie,” she rolled her eyes. “I see the way he’s all tensed up, ready to fight for you.”
I looked at Eric, and sure enough there was tension in his arms and his jaw. His ancient eyes scanned the room, surveying the damage and taking stock to ensure none of the Rogues got up to start round two. I dropped my shields to see how many of them had survived the fight and the only one that had was already being secured by one of the area four vampires.
“He’s cute, Sook,” Hadley added quietly. “Nice backside on that one.”
“Hadley!” I said, an unexpected wave of possessiveness hitting me. My gaze caught Eric’s and a small smile played at his lips.
Was he amused by my possessiveness, or Hadley’s attraction to him? Probably both knowing Eric.
She excused herself to go to the bathroom and Eric came over to stand next to me.
“Gervaise will handle the disposal of the Rogues in this area,” he informed me. “He’ll keep the live one for questioning to see if their source can be identified. Our job is done here once we return Hadley to her house.”
I nodded and asked, “What about the Rogues searching for Coltrane?”
“They will be detained and Pam and I will interrogate them.”
I knew what that meant, and once again I had the Mrs. Soprano feeling. The less I knew about his methods of getting someone to talk, the better. For the time being it had been decider the fewer people who knew about my ability, the better. About the only thing I had on my side was that my omnipresent First Sire was keeping an eye on me. I wondered what sort of retribution would be sought if I was injured at the hands of another.
Honestly, I didn’t want to find out.
Hadley came back from the bathroom and the vampires took turns going in to get cleaner up. Gervaise arrived to take control of the scene and dictate what should be done with the dead Rogues. He had stayed behind with a third team so they could go where they were needed.
It wasn’t long before Eric, Pam, Hadley and I were on our way. Pam sat in the back of the car with Hadley just in case there was trouble and she needed a shield. I hoped that wasn’t the case. I’d had enough violence for one night.
“You smell almost as good as your cousin,” Pam said to Hadley. “I’ve never had fairy snatch before.”
“Pam!” I admonished, and Eric barked something in another language.
“It’s okay, Sookie, I’ve been with women before,” Hadley said. Of course she completely missed the reason why Eric and I were pissed off at Pam just then. “But what’s she talking about with the fairy stuff?”
Okay, maybe Hadley was a little more observant than I gave her credit for.
Eric growled at my side. Hadley had already been glamoured several times. I didn’t know what that could mean for her in the long run, but it didn’t seem like a good idea to keep messing with her memories like that.
Of course now we had no choice. Letting Hadley walk around with this information seemed like a bad idea given her propensity for disappearing without warning. God knew who she’d get involved with if she took off again. If that happened I hoped she would leave her child with Remy, but that was out of my hands.
“Nothing, Hadley. Pam’s just a little touched in the head,” I said, and Pam snickered behind me in the backseat. It beat having to explain our crazy family tree with all of its mystical branches.
And because Hadley and Jason had similar attention spans, she didn’t harp on the topic the way I would have.
Thankfully Remy didn’t seem to be home when we got to Hadley’s house. Eric told Pam to go on to meet up with the other vampires back in area five to assist with wrangling the Rogues. I got out of the car to walk Hadley to her door.
“Y’all wanna come in?” Hadley asked.
“We can’t stay. This is the last time we’re going to see each other for a while, Hadley,” I told her.
“How’s Gran?” she asked. “And what about Jason?”
“Gran and Jason are fine. Jason’s the same as he ever was and Gran’s getting ready to take a trip with some friends. We’re all good and I want to keep it that way. The last time you got in touch with Gran you broke her heart, Hadley.” She tried to argue, but I was on a roll and I didn’t want to hear her excuses, not after everything is been through to save her life. There was nothing she could say that would change the way I felt about her. Gran might not give up on family, but she was a better woman than me. I continued, “She gave you money she didn’t have and you never even said thank you. We all have bad things happen to us, but you never think of anyone’s pain but your own. I’m not going to let you hurt Gran like that again.”
It was high handed of me to let Eric glamour her but it was in everyone’s best interest. Without the safety net of Gran being there to clean up her messes maybe Hadley would make better choices.
“I never meant to hurt her,” she said sincerely.
“I hope that’s true, I really do.”
“It is, she insisted. I know I don’t always do right, but I love Gran, just like I love you and Jase.”
“I love you too, Hadley. That’s why this has to be goodbye,” I said, and looked to Eric.
“Hadley, look at me,” he said.
She hesitated for a moment, but when her eyes met his they glazed over. I felt a little something in my heart break at what I was doing to her, and I didn’t stick around to listen to what Eric said to her. I got back in the car and waited for him with guilty tears running down my cheeks. I might have been doing the right thing, but that didn’t mean I liked it.
When Eric got back to the car after he was finished glamouring Hadley I was still crying. He put his hand on my knee and said, “It’s for the best, Sookie.”
“I know,” I nodded, but kept crying.
I spent the next twenty or so minutes a complete wreck. Eric and the other vampires had their own reasons for getting involved in all this mess with the Rogues, and there was a part of me that was grateful Hadley hadn’t been killed just for being an associate of theirs. Since I couldn’t read Eric’s mind I didn’t know what he was thinking about just then.
Lucky for me I had a boyfriend that didn’t feel the need to fill the silence we were sharing with meaningless chatter. It was nice being able to just be with him.
We were about halfway back when I broke the silence by asking, “You said something about bloodlust before. What is that?”
“Bloodlust is a state in which vampires have a very hard time controlling their urges, which are basically telling them to feed and fuck everything they can get their fangs into.”
“Oh. Does that happen a lot?”
“After a fight, yes,” he said.
“Would you have zero control?”
“I’ve succumb to it a handful of times. Pam and I were in St. Petersburg for Bloody Sunday. It was quite the experience.”
“You know on one hand I’m curious about that and on the other I’m not sure I want to know,” I told him.
“After tonight, I’m thinking you probably don’t want to hear any war stories.”
“War stories or horror stories?”
“Is there a difference?” he shot me a little smirk.
“No, I suppose not,” I sighed.
“Are you coming back to my house or should I drop you in Bon Temps?” he asked.
We were riding in the shiny new SUV he had purchased for me. When I told Gran what he’d done her reaction was mixed. Etiquette demanded that I say thank you because it was rude to refuse a gift. On the other hand, I knew Gran’s independent spirit prickled the same as mine did. Eric’s gift was extremely generous but just like when I bought my first car, I wanted the sense of accomplishment that came along with buying a new car on my own.
My pride made me feel like the car was charity instead of a gift, and I was fully capable of taking care of myself. I knew from previous talks with Eric that he probably hadn’t even notice the missing twenty-something thousand dollars, and when I had confronted him on the matter he had confirmed my thoughts. In fact, he had insisted he would do more for me if I allowed him to.
“What good is all this money if I can’t spend it?” he’d asked me.
As she usually did, Gran had the final say in the matter, and had played peacemaker between Eric and me by suggesting a trade. I would keep the car on the condition that I read the minds of Eric’s many human employees to make sure they weren’t disloyal to him. In addition to the club he owned, there were several other businesses including a financial planning firm, a technology development group and several casinos. All of his businesses were profitable, but relied on the honesty and loyalty of his employees.
Unfortunately, in this instance, I couldn’t read other vampires. I’d learned that all vampires living in Eric’s area had sworn allegiance to him, as was protocol for their kind. Because Eric offered so many jobs and paid his staff well, there was practically a waiting list to receive residency approval in his area.
It seemed my boyfriend was always in demand.
“I need to get back to job searching. I can’t stay a lady of leisure forever,” I said. “I should probably go home.”
“You know if you would just let me put you on my payroll as a special consultant that would take care of everything. We could say this is a company car, and then you would have a steady income and health insurance.”
It was a good offer, one that was almost too good to be true.
“And what if we breakup again?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t fire you because our personal relationship failed,” he said.
“You don’t think it would be awkward to work together every day after breaking up?”
“I could arrange for you to report your findings to someone else, or we could limit our communications to email, but I’m not a child, Sookie. I think we’re both mature enough to be professional.”
There was something about being on Eric’s payroll that didn’t sit right with me as long as I was his girlfriend. This wasn’t the first time Eric had made this proposal to me.
“I would pay you well for your services, plus you would be allotted a perk most of my female employees would kill for,” he said with a wink.
I smiled in spite of myself. Our relationship wasn’t in the balance if I said no, and honestly the job might be good for me. It would offer me the opportunity to get paid to experiment with the gift I’d been given. On top of that I would be providing a service Eric couldn’t get just anywhere. This was a job I was uniquely qualified for.
“Well when you put it that way, how can I say no?” I smiled at him. “But I’m going to need to sample this special perk you speak of.”
“Consider it done.”
“We need to talk numbers when you’re done with the Rogues.”
“You want to negotiate with me?” Eric looked amused.
“Absolutely. You’re the one who taught me not to settle for less than I deserve,” I reminded him.
“Then we’ll negotiate after sundown tomorrow.”
I nodded my agreement and I spent the rest of the drive back to Eric’s house with a smile on my face.