Six Months Later…
I turned off the monitor on my computer and pushed back from my desk. In less than twenty-four hours we were leaving for a summit being held in Rhodes. From what Eric told me the summit’s purpose was to get a whole bunch of vampire business handled at once, including charges against vampires that couldn’t be handled on a state level. That is to say the Ancient Pythoness would be in attendance to act as judge and jury, and hand down sentences.
The last six months had been a bit crazy for me. In that time I’d met a lot of vampires and made a lot of allies. I’d discovered some bad apples that could have caused some serious problems for the vampire they were associated with. The hard part for me was accepting that I was potentially sending people to their deaths, but as Eric explained, the people in question knew what they were getting involved with, and knew the penalty for dishonesty, theft, betrayal or treason of any kind. If they were foolish enough to cross a vampire, they deserved whatever was coming to them.
Of course if a person was doing right and following the rules, they had nothing to worry about. No vampire wanted to find bad apples in their bushel, and I think that was mostly because then it would mean they’d been fooled or outsmarted. It was absolutely a matter of pride and I quickly discovered most vampires possessed an air of superiority. I didn’t buy into that for a minute, and any vampire that tried to power trip me, or intimidate me was quickly reminded of two things.
First that they had come to me, and they had asked for my help. Second that I was under the protection of one of the oldest and most powerful vampires in North America. And it was unknown to everyone, including Eric, but I most often had a fae security detail as well. My fairy attendant was always shrouded to mask their appearance and scent. I could see him or her, but no one else could. It was good to know I had the backup of my extended mystical family.
I grabbed my purse and the carrying case for my laptop before walking out of my office. Eric had provided an office space for me in one of his corporate offices in downtown Shreveport. He wasn’t kidding about his small empire of businesses. Most of the employees working from that office oversaw the finances and human resources type stuff. A staff of accountants maintained the budget and ensured the taxes were all paid up on the regular. The human resources team kept up to date with the benefits bestowed to all of Eric’s employees, as well as tracking disciplinary issues.
“Leaving early, Sookie?” Emily, one of the HR coordinators asked.
“Yep. I’ll be back next week.”
“Enjoy your trip,” she said with a smile.
I liked Emily. She was definitely attracted to Eric, as were most of the women who worked for him, but she was also married so I had nothing to worry about with her. On top of that I knew I was the only one in Eric’s life that way. I trusted him to behave himself around other women. There were no more trips to the orgy room at the club unless I was with him, and we still didn’t participate any more than we had on our first trip down there.
We’d dabbled a bit in D/s stuff, but we weren’t living a 24/7 relationship. We were too busy with work and in preparation for the summit to get too bogged down in D/s stuff. The agenda for the summit had been released three weeks prior and Russell Edgington’s trial was going to be taking place at the summit. There was also some big announcement that was going to be made.
As I rode the elevator down to the parking garage I remembered the conversation I had with Eric the day I went to the cabin where the Rogues were…
“I have to tell you something and you might be mad at me for this, but I’m not sorry and I don’t regret doing it,” I said while Eric and I were lying in bed together.
“Do tell,” he responded, his fingers running down my side.
“I went out to the cabin today to try and read the Rogues,” I confessed, and Eric’s fingers stopped moving. “I didn’t go inside. Claudine showed up and talked me out of it. She did go into the cabin and do some sort of fairy version of a Jedi mind trick or something though, because I was able to see the vampire that’s been supplying the Rogues. I got a name.”
“What was the name?”
“Russell. He was speaking German,” I told him, and tried my best to repeat the phrases I’d heard in the memories of the unconscious Rogues.
“That’s German alright,” he said as he sat up. Eric reached over to grab his phone off the nightstand.
“Do you know who that is?”
“Dark hair, thin, dark eyes in a designer suit?”
“Yeah, I think so. I didn’t get a really clear image of the guy,” I admitted.
“It sounds to me like Russell Edgington might be the culprit.” He sounded troubled as he dialed a number.
“Is that bad?”
“He’s the king of Mississippi.”
The only person Eric had been able to report Russell to was the Ancient Pythoness. It was a conversation I overheard but didn’t understand since it was in ancient Greek. The matter was to be heard at the summit. Eric had kept the Rogues alive and a representative of the Pythoness had been sent to basically depose them.
Thanks to Callisto’s visit to Delphi, the Ancient Pythoness knew who I was and she was also aware of my gift. As a result, she had personally requested my presence at the summit. Eric had been planning to bring me along anyway so it worked out. I was anxious to meet her.
Down in the parking garage I got into my car and dug my phone out of my purse to leave Eric a message in case I wasn’t home by sundown. Our flight was scheduled to leave at around noon the next day, that way we would arrive in Rhodes right around sunset. Eric, Pam and I were flying on a private plane so there was no need to worry about curious airline staff asking questions. We would be staying at the Pyramind of Gizeh hotel in the heart of downtown Rhodes.
But first I needed to stop at Walmart for a few last minute travel things. Eric had insisted on funding the wardrobe I needed for the summit, since there was some fancy ball on the last night of the gathering. I’d found a blood red strapless gown with a draped ruffle skirt and a slight train on the back. It was gorgeous and I’d managed to keep it a secret from Eric by keeping it hidden at Gran’s house. I wanted to surprise him and even though Eric said he was looking forward to being surprised, I also knew he wasn’t above snooping around my closet to get a peek.
All I had told him was that the dress was red, and that seemed to be enough to satisfy him for the moment.
I pulled into the Walmart parking lot a few minutes later and parked in a space a little further back from all the other cars. I didn’t mind the walk and it would limit the chances of my car being damaged. Inside the store it was the same as usual… screaming kids, frustrated mothers, elderly women browsing the clearance racks and teenage girls hoping not to get pinched for shoplifting tubes of lipstick or bottles of nail polish. Eric had all of the supplies already for making the hotel room light tight so I didn’t need to worry about that.
My list of things I needed mostly had to do with toiletries since I didn’t think taking full size bottles of shampoo and conditioner was necessary. I also grabbed a bag of miniature peanut butter cups, a new book and a slow cooker I’d been wanting for a while but hadn’t bought yet. Since I was the only one eating in our house but I could afford to do it, I made lunch for the entire office usually twice a week. If the crock pot I bought worked as well as I’d read it would, I’d come back for another one after the trip to keep in the kitchen at the office.
I was browsing through the entertainment section of the store when I caught sight of someone familiar. Stealthily, I moved a little closer to get a better look and my heart stopped for a second to see Remy standing there. He was looking at flat screen televisions and there was a baby’s car seat attached to the cart in front of him. Immediately I went looking around for Hadley, thinking she couldn’t be too far away.
I hadn’t seen her since the night she was rescued from the hotel room. Gran and I had sent an anonymous gift to their house at Christmastime, and it was obvious it had been received and accepted because the blanket Gran had made for her first great grandchild was draped over the baby. I moved up alongside Remy to get a look at Hadley’s son, and gasped at what I saw.
He was perfect.
My gasping got Remy’s attention and he turned his head toward mine. “Oh, sorry,” I apologized. “He just looks like a little angel.”
“Oh, uh, thank you,” Remy said, clearly not having the slightest clue who I was. I dropped my shields, hoping to find out how things were going.
He is an angel. Too bad his mother’s not here to see it.
I held in the gasp that wanted out. Hadley was gone?
What the sparkly fuck was that about?
“How old is he?” I asked, wanting to reach out and touch his little curled up fist.
“Just under sixteen weeks,” Remy said with a hint of pride in his voice.
“Awww, well, he looks like a real sweetheart.”
“He always does when he’s asleep,” Remy chuckled.
The baby started to move a little bit and for a moment I hoped he would open his eyes, but he didn’t. He found a comfy position and settled in again. He was the spitting image of his mother when she was a baby and I wondered if Remy knew that. He’d gone back to looking at televisions and after a few more seconds of staring at Hadley’s son, I decided to keep moving. Sticking around and asking questions about the baby would only make me look like a prospective kidnapper, interested in selling the child on the black market or something.
I was curious about where Hadley had gone, and a part of me was most definitely angry with her for abandoning her child. On the other hand, it might just be the best thing for both of them. Regardless of how much Hadley claimed to love her child, there was always going to be a part of her that would be looking for something more. She wanted to be loved and while her son would come to love eventually, babies were selfish creatures in the beginning and took a lot more than they gave. I should have known that being a mother would only be fun for Hadley in the beginning.
All the same I dug out my cell phone and when Remy had his back turned I snuck over, as close as I dared, and snapped a picture of the sleeping baby. Gran deserved to know her great grandson had been born and was healthy. The jury was still out on whether or not I’d tell her Hadley had gone missing. If I told her she’d just start searching and I got the feeling that if Hadley went so far as to abandon her baby, she didn’t really want to be found. Selfish or not, that couldn’t have been easy for her to do.
Okay, so maybe I just hoped it wouldn’t be easy for her to do that. Lord knows I’d never be able to.
I found all of the things on my list and hoped for one more glimpse of the baby before leaving the store, but no such luck. The good thing was, I supposed, was that I knew where Remy lived. Even if he had moved out of that house to keep Hadley from just re-inserting herself into his life, Eric had connections to some pretty excellent private investigators and we knew enough of Remy’s personal information to be able to track him down. At the moment I was interested in getting one such investigator to dig up whatever info they could on Hadley’s disappearance, as well as finding out whatever was possible about the baby. I could try to narrow down his date of birth based on what I was told, but there were any number of hospitals he could have been born in almost sixteen weeks ago.
Not to mention, vampires were much better at getting information out of people sometimes. There had to be a connection somewhere that would be willing to do a favor, or there had to be a debt that could be called in. It struck me then just how much time I was spending around supernaturals. The human side of me prickled a little, while the other part that was so immersed in vampire culture was a little proud.
I had a sneaking suspicion Eric would be proud, too.
I knew Eric wouldn’t be up quite yet when I got home so I went to the kitchen to set up my new slow cooker. As soon as we got back I was going to try it out. Heck, if I liked it enough I’d buy one for Gran as well. My job could be stressful, at times, but it was worth it. The best perk was being able to do things for Gran that I knew she couldn’t do on her own and I suddenly understood why Eric had been so generous with me in the beginning. He had seen me struggling to make it as a waitress and his gifts hadn’t been about rubbing my nose in my lack of financial standing, but in sharing what he had with someone who needed it.
So far I’d replaced Gran’s water heater, had the plumbing updated and the front porch replaced since the boards were starting to rot. I didn’t need one of them breaking underneath her while she was sweeping one day. Hip replacement surgery would be a bitch for her to recover from. I’d also made a generous donation in Gran’s name to the Descendants of the Glorious dead that allowed the entire club to take a fully paid trip to Gettysburg, as well as purchase some kind of software that would help them track their ancestry a little bit better.
All in all, things were looking up. Life was going very well, which I admit, made me a little nervous. Karma, balance… whatever you want to call it, always had a way of making sure there was a little rain to combat your sunshine so I assumed it was only a matter of time before shit hit the fan again but at least I was in a better position to deal with it. I went down to my old bedroom where I had my bags for the summit mostly packed, and added my last minute purchases to my suitcases. I’d picked up my gown from Gran’s the night before. Eric was handling some last minute vampire business that I didn’t need to be there for, and I hadn’t told him I was going to Gran’s. If he’d peeked at the dress I didn’t know anything about it but I hoped that he hadn’t.
I was just about done packing when I decided to run up to the playroom and grab a few little things that might make for an interesting trip. Even at a thousand-years-old there was no better way to get my man to relax than with sex and I was sure the summit would have its tense moments. It had been a while since the last time we’d played. There simply hadn’t been enough time for it. Don’t get me wrong, Eric and I were fucking every chance we got, but play sessions took much more time and required we be home at the same time, and that wasn’t always the case.
Still, as I stood in the doorway I remembered the first time Eric had brought me up here. I remembered how nervous, excited and even a little scared I was about what I was getting myself into. The part of me that had needed to experience submission wasn’t as loud anymore. The voice was still there and I still enjoyed taking a walk on the wild side from time to time, but I didn’t feel that same need as I had before. It probably helped knowing that my relationship with Eric didn’t depend on being his sub. We did just fine without it, although I doubted I would ever complain about him catching me unawares from behind and using me as he saw fit.
There was something to be said for turning off my mind and letting him call all the shots, knowing that as long as I followed his directions it would result in fantastic pleasure for both of us. A look out the windows told me sunset wasn’t too far off, and while I was browsing through the toy collection (and it had become my responsibility to ensure the toys were all cleaned up and put away after we played with them) that I felt the void of Eric’s mind make its presence known in my head. He wouldn’t be able to leave the room quite yet, but that was a good thing.
Without a second thought I stripped off my clothes, folded them neatly and stacked them up on a small table by the bed in the back of the room. There were things Eric and I needed to discuss, but it could wait. Just as the sun was sinking the last little bit below the horizon, I knelt down at the center of the room to wait for Eric. I knew he’d come find me, and I also knew that by finding me naked, on my knees, he would know what I wanted.
It would be a gift for the both of us.