Eric knew of his sister’s appointment to the Authority, but as far as her superiors were concerned she was free of blood ties to anyone. Godric had released her a half century after being turned. Like Pam, Nora was ahead of her time and dying a slow death of boredom in her human life. Her talents went unappreciated in the eyes of her human peers and her mind was wasted on domestic activities and superficial social functions.
If Nora could just stop looking down her nose at Pam she might find they had more in common than she thought. Playing peacemaker between them was futile, so the most Eric could do was referee their cage matches, both literal and figurative. For the time being their bickering was obstructing his efforts to listen to every breath and heartbeat of the human woman standing before him was saying. Sookie Stackhouse smelled of sunshine and baked goods, and she was completely unfazed by Pam and Nora’s insults being hurled back and forth. In fact, she almost seemed amused by it.
Eric never had much use – or patience – for damsels in distress. He much preferred the strong types that were smart and/or cunning enough to get themselves out of any situation. If she was under the employ of the Authority, Eric had to assume Sookie was the strong, intelligent type. She maintained her poise and professionalism, minus the slight blush and the singular jab at Pam. It was ballsy of her to insult a vampire at all, but Eric just assumed that it was because she was an asset the Authority placed a high value on so her arrogance got the better of her at times.
Although why they were sending a human to him was beyond his scope of understanding. That is until he and Sookie locked eyes. Purely on a whim he pushed his will onto her, but it was met with an iron curtain.
“You can stop, Mr. Northman. Glamour doesn’t work on me,” Sookie said. “If you keep it up you’ll only give me a headache, and trust me when I tell you, I’m no fun when I’m cranky.”
“Glamour doesn’t work on you? Why is that?” Eric asked. He had come across a very select few in his long lifetime that were resistant to his glamour, but there was always a reason for it.
“I’m a telepath,” Sookie revealed, which got Pam to lift a curious eyebrow. “I think it has something to do with brainwaves. I’m extra sensitive to them, and since you have none, I don’t hear your thoughts, just like you can’t latch onto my frequency and change my station.”
Eric mulled that over for a minute while Pam excused herself to take another incoming call. Sookie remained in the same spot while her eyes drank in her surroundings. She craned her neck, tilting her head to the side and giving Eric a better view of her throat cleavage. His fangs threatened to burst free at the sight of her jugular dancing just below her skin, but then his cockblocking sister put herself between him and Sookie.
Why did he miss Nora again?
“There are more details to discuss, but not with Pam around.” Nora’s eyes were still big, round and the same liquid pools of blue they had always been. Her hair was significantly shorter since the last time they saw each other, but that was to be expected. Vampires that were unable to adapt to fit in with society didn’t last very long.
It was shocking how many of the newly turned consented to an eternity of living, expecting things to remain the same just as their faces and bodies would do. For vampires, just the last five years alone had seen more change than the last two centuries combined. All of these new measures had been put into place to appease humans. Unknowingly they had been co-existing with vampires pretty much since the dawn of time. Of course there had been draining, frivolous murders and turnings without consent. Not all makers had the same sense of courtesy that Godric had.
Really what it came down to was that Godric didn’t want to waste his time on someone who would just meet the sun or pose a major risk to their kind. Being discovered prior to the Great Revelation was a threat all vampires were aware of. Those that put the race at risk were quickly disposed of.
“Pam can be trusted,” Eric argued.
“Perhaps, but I don’t like her,” Nora said simply.
Eric resisted the urge to roll his eyes. It occurred to him then that if Miss Stackhouse was to be his charge it meant the Authority was more than likely expecting him to house her for whatever period of time it would take to complete her investigation. It felt like there was a lot he was missing out on, but Nora was set on saying nothing further within earshot of Pam.
“Pam, you’re dismissed for the evening,” Eric said when she re-entered the room.
By the prickling in his blood he knew Pam was unhappy with the dismissal, but it wasn’t up for debate. With a huff and an unladylike finger gesture from Pam, she left the bar.
“Miss Stackhouse, would you care for a drink?” Eric offered as he stepped behind the bar to warm two Royalty Blends for himself and Nora. It was only a hair better than TruBlood, but he supposed drinking from Sookie was off the menu… for the time being.
She was a delicious creature and he was intrigued by her. He’d had a psychic once, but her scent wasn’t nearly as alluring.
“A gin and tonic would be lovely, thank you,” she said, and moved to take a seat at the bar.
Nora followed and sat beside Sookie. While the mostly synthetic bloods warmed in the microwave behind the bar, Eric mixed Sookie’s drink expertly and set it down in front of her.
“Thank you, Mr. Northman,” Sookie offered him a small smile and took a sip of her drink.
“You’re welcome. So what is so important that you couldn’t tell me in Pam’s presence?” Eric asked.
“Due to the manner of death, it’s obvious that, at the very least, the Commandment Killer is working with an accomplice. Human authorities are locked on Steve Newlin as their man, but the exsanguination of the victims without any visible physical evidence of it at the time the bodies are found suggests the work of a vampire. Of course the FBI agents assigned to the case are unaware of the healing properties we possess, but that’s besides the point. We have already questioned several high ranking officials in Texas, including Godric–”
“You saw Godric?” Eric asked, switching over to Norse. He wasn’t comfortable discussing their maker in front of Sookie.
“Yes, of course. We have seen one another several times in the last century. His relation to me as my maker has been kept secret, obviously,” Nora responded in kind. She had picked up the language quickly as a young vampire. At last count, before striking out on her own, Nora was speaking twenty-two languages. There was no telling how many others she had picked up since then.
“And yet you stay away from me,” Eric shook his head.
“Because you have an annoying habit of acting like a know-it-all,” she retorted.
“Can I really trust her?” Eric’s eyes quickly darted over to Sookie.
“I do.” Nora’s endorsement was enough for him.
She had managed to keep her ties to him and Godric secret from her employers. The Authority would have little to no qualms about using him or Godric against her should the need ever arise so it was best they knew nothing about her blood family.
“How long do you expect this investigation to take?” Eric switched back to English.
“We would like to clear things up as quickly as possible before there’s a leak in regards to the draining. So far Roman has been able to keep that detail from being released on the basis that it would only further aggravate the situation. It’s best for everyone’s safety if that doesn’t get out.”
Eric had suspected as much. Vampires in a position of power had been made aware of that detail and had been asked to turn over lists of subordinates that had suddenly gone missing around the time of the murders, or who might possess a temperament necessary to commit such acts. No such vampires resided in Area 5. Eric was well known for his leadership and hands-on approach to overseeing his territory. He was good to those who were loyal to him, and those that fucked up paid dearly for it–usually with their lives.
The only questionable vampire to maintain a residence in his area also happened to be the recently appointed king. Bill Compton had returned to his ancestral home in Bon Temps a year after the Great Revelation. Spies in the former queen’s court alerted him that Bill had been sent back to procure a human for the queen. To Eric’s knowledge Bill had been unsuccessful at completing his task, but he had remained in Bon Temps anyway up until about seven months prior. The events weren’t quite clear, but somehow Bill had been able to best the queen despite the three hundred plus years she had on him.
With the throne decidedly vacated, Bill claimed it for himself and was logged as the new regent for the state of Louisiana. Pam had thought it was a joke when Eric first told her, but it was no laughing matter. Bill Compton had somehow been able to win the throne. Then again, Sophie-Anne had bested the last king under equally mysterious circumstances so Bill taking over wasn’t the strangest thing to ever happen.
“And Sookie is to stay with me for the duration of her investigation?” Eric inquired.
Sookie smiled and said, “No, I’ll mostly be staying with my grandmother in Bon Temps.”
“Yeah, that’s my hometown,” Sookie explained. “My family has lived there since before Bon Temps was even a town. When the first Stackhouses settled there it was just barely Renard Parrish. I’m sure you already know this, but your king’s family home is next to my family’s.”
“Interesting,” Eric said as the planets all aligned. Bill had never said who he was searching for in Bon Temps, but Eric was fairly certain he now knew. Sophie-Anne was very much into collectibles, and it stood to reason that she would see Sookie as a crowning jewel. It would also explain why Bill had been unsuccessful in his mission.
Sookie had already been procured.
Somehow Eric doubted that Sookie knew about any of this, although he supposed it was possible.
“Have you arranged for daytime security for her?” Eric asked Nora.
“I’ll be fine during the day. I may not look like much, but I have ways of defending myself.” When Eric looked incredulous she continued, “Would you like a demonstration?”
“Are we talking hand to hand, because if we are, I’ll go easy on you,” Eric said in a cocky tone.
“Follow me,” Sookie said and slid off her stool.
Nora remained right where she was, while Eric followed Sookie out to the parking lot. She looked around to make sure they were alone, while Eric took up a fighting stance. It did absolutely nothing to prepare him for the waves of light that hit him and sent him flying backward into a bank of recycling bins. It felt like he’d been whacked with fifty thousand volts of electricity, and he was paralyzed for a good five minutes before he could even blink. It was five more before he could sit up.
Sookie walked over to him and said, “That was me taking it easy on you.”
“What are you?” Eric immediately asked her in a weak, shaky voice.
“Because you’re protecting me and because Nora has told me I can trust you, I’ll tell you, but this isn’t common knowledge and it’s the reason your progeny had to leave,” Sookie said as Eric struggled to get back to his feet. “I’m part fairy, and what you just got was a little dose of Light. Not enough to kill you, obviously, but enough to knock you on your ass. I don’t like doing that, so please don’t give me a reason to.”
Eric was a little stunned. Whether it was because of the dose of Light or Sookie’s revelation he wasn’t sure. Mostly he was impressed that Sookie took Nora at her word. If Sookie trusted him that should make his job that much easier in theory. However, he got the feeling that if Sookie and Nora were pals, she was probably more of a handful than her appearance would suggest.
“So that means you won’t be volunteering yourself as a midnight snack?” Eric simply couldn’t help himself.
“Mr. Northman, your reputation precedes you in many ways, but I’m here strictly on business so any thoughts you have of turning me into your personal drinking fountain are wasted.”
Her scent told another story. He knew arousal when he smelled it, and it was rolling off of Sookie in waves. He scented no other vampire on her, aside from his sister, but it wasn’t Nora’s blood he smelled. It was merely there from being in close quarters with one another. There were no marks on Sookie’s neck to indicate she belonged to another. She was unclaimed and had fae running through her veins.
In his head he tried to do the math to see how long it would take to seduce her when another smell registered in his mind.
Sookie Stackhouse was a virgin.
Bill Compton sat behind his desk in what was once Sophie-Anne’s office. The former queen of Louisiana was devious but not too bright. She was also unaware that she wasn’t really his superior. Sophie-Anne had let her crown go to her head in a number of ways and her arrogance had colored her judgment. She hadn’t suspected she was being setup by her Procurer. Bill had lured her to Bon Temps under the guise of having caught something better than the telepath she had sent him for.
Sophie-Anne traveled to Bon Temps expecting to gain custody of a full blooded fairy. For a vampire that was sunscreen personified. It was a startling discovery Bill had made himself during the first World War while he was touring Ireland. There had been so many poor, starving people back then. The country was still recovering from the Potato Famine of 1845, so the fewer mouths there were to feed, the better. Lorena, being the deranged psychopath she was, preferred preying on children.
Lorena had gone on to Belfast while Bill stayed Galway. Under a full moon, he’d stood out on the cliffs, watching waves crash against the jetties and boulders hundreds of feet below. There was temptation to fling himself over the side head first. It wouldn’t have killed him, of course, but just the symbolism of such an action… He was miserable. Bill hated his maker and despised the life she had condemned him to.
At least that was what he told himself.
He hated that his new life was such a sharp contrast to the life he’d led as a human. There were a great many nights when he longed for the warmth and simplicity of being a husband and father. Even being a Confederate soldier on a cold Virginia night would be preferable to what he had become. But then he thought of all the blood he had seen spilt.
He remembered with crystal clarity the rush it had given him. In his frenzy he remembered the vile, filthy things he and Lorena had done to one another while bathed in that blood, and if he were still human, Bill wanted to believe it would make his stomach turn.
But he couldn’t be sure.
He was loathe to admit it, but Lorena had awakened something in him–something sinister and dark. Though he despised her, he also didn’t need to hide from her; he couldn’t. She knew every dark deed that he’d done, and felt every whim that passed through him. Lorena never judged him for the horrible things he had done, both at her insistence, and of his own volition.
That night out on the cliffs he’d caught the sweetest smell on the cool ocean breeze. It was sweeter than honeysuckle on a warm Louisiana night, and Bill felt compelled to find the source. He couldn’t remember ever moving so quickly. His determination to find the cause of that smell was stronger than any bloodlust, and the fairy it had come from had him running all over Ireland trying to catch it.
Not even the impending sunrise could deter Bill from his goal. The sun was just about to come up over the horizon when the fairy let her guard down. Bill dropped in from a tree and drained her in a meadow as the sun made its appearance. He recalled the breeze on his skin and the warmth of the sunlight as the sweetest blood he’d ever tasted coated his tongue.
Divinity, ambrosia, the blood of Christ himself couldn’t have tasted better than the fairy he drained.
Even better, the blood protected him from the sun’s light. For more than two hours he had basked in the daylight, watching birds fly and children play games with rocks and marbles. He had strolled the streets of Dublin like any mortal man.
It was the last time he’d felt human.
If he could feel even a tenth of that by seducing and procuring the telepath for the queen, he would gladly take the mission. Only she had already been procured. She was in the employ of the Authority. Yet that hadn’t stopped him from trying to lure her back so that he might at least get a taste of her, but his plans always seemed to backfire.
The longer he had taken to secure the girl, the more irritating Sophie-Anne had become until finally Bill could take no more. Her get rich quick schemes were running the state into the ground, and her obsession with daywalking was slowly driving her mad. Bill felt that he was doing the vampires in Louisiana a service by ridding them of Sophie-Anne LeClerq once and for all.
In exchange Bill inherited a clusterfuck.
The finances were a total mess. Sophie-Anne had been bleeding the state way past dry. There were sun bleached skulls in the desert in better shape than his kingdom, and unlike with the human government, there were no bailout options from the Authority. The vampire race operated on a very Darwinian train of thought. The weak didn’t survive and if Bill was going to present himself as a strong regent he needed a state that was running in the black instead of the red.
If he didn’t know any better he might think Sophie-Anne had run the state into the ground on purpose just to make his first year as king one of complete misery.
“Mr. Compton, there’s a Ms. Flannigan here to see you,” Katie’s voice came over the speaker in his office.
Bill froze for just a moment, wondering what the fuck Nan wanted with him now. As far as he was concerned, he’d lived up to his end of the deal they had struck way back in the 1980’s. He had successfully infiltrated Sophie-Anne’s queendom and arranged for the assassination of the monarch. He had done what he agreed to do so what the fuck else could Nan possibly want from him now?
Just when Bill thought he was done dealing with that cunt…
He should have known it wouldn’t be that simple. Vampires liked to say that it was the two natured that couldn’t be trusted, but his own kind was plenty devious. Bill had foolishly signed on the dotted line without reading the fine print. Now Nan was making her way past his gates with her legion of vampire swat team members to make sure no one took a shot at her.
As if the AVL would crumble without her icy presence.
She had the likeability of a fire breathing cactus.
Bill closed the documents he was looking at and opened a few others to print them. He had uncovered encrypted files on Sophie-Anne’s personal laptop that detailed how she was attempting to keep her state afloat. She had been farming vampire blood out to her sheriffs with the orders to sell, sell, sell.
Nan marched into his home like she owned it and didn’t bother to wait for Bill to come out of the office to receive her. Nan waited for no one. She was always straight to the point and preferred a hit and run style of business. No time for chit chat, but that was just fine with Bill.
“This house is where tacky came to die,” Nan said dryly.
The compound was stocked with a combination of art deco stuff from the 1930’s that had an Old Hollywood appeal to it, and chintzy French furniture that could be traced back to Louis the Fourteenth. While completely overdone, the compound itself was a gold mine. Sophie-Anne had champagne taste on a PBR budget.
“I’m still cataloging and processing the assets for sale,” Bill said. “And of course, a percentage of the proceeds will be donated to the American Vampire League.”
“You can stop sucking up now,” Nan rolled her eyes. “I’m here because I’ve been informed by an inside source at headquarters that they’re investigating Sophie-Anne’s death. Apparently someone forgot that offing her was part of the plan all along. I’m working on IDing the operative they’re sending, but I just wanted to remind you of the regent retirement package should a heap of shit land on my head.”
“I seem to recall you approaching me on this deal. I did my part. If you fucked up somewhere along the way that’s hardly my problem,” Bill boldly said.
“Wrong. Mr. Compton, never underestimate the reach of my influence or the lengths I will go to. I can make the rest of your pathetic existence a fucking nightmare, and don’t think I won’t use every advantage I have at my disposal to make sure I come out of the shitstorm unscathed. Keep your head up, ears open and your fucking mouth shut.”
Bill offered an irritatingly pleasant smile and said, “I can do that. Anything else, Ms. Flannigan?”
“That’ll be all for now,” she said and spun around to go.
There was a handgun loaded with wooden bullets in his desk just begging to be fired in Nan’s direction, but it wasn’t the time for that. A time would come when all of Nan’s backroom deals would catch up to her, but tonight wasn’t the night.
Bill grabbed the papers off the printer and started to read over them. The most successful sales of vampire blood had been in Area 5, Eric Northman’s territory. But it wasn’t Eric who was doing the selling. The seller was someone by the name of Lafayette Reynolds. The name was familiar to Bill. Lafayette was a cook/bartender at Merlotte’s, and an old friend of Sookie Stackhouse.
Perhaps there was a trade to be made there. Without wasting another moment, Bill turned back to his computer and started to do some research.