Eric had to work quickly. It was already almost ten which meant the Authority was more than likely already on its way to retrieve Bill. Just because they said midnight didn’t mean they wouldn’t show up an hour early, and once he’d been taken into custody there was no guarantee they would give him back. Their only chance at pulling this off was to ensure that the queen was lulled into a false sense of security. Eric was certain he could pull it off.
He sent Sookie back to Fangtasia with Pam so it would appear as if everything was normal. Sookie had changed first, into one of the outfits that had been delivered, and the sight of her in a lacy red dress was something akin to a red flag being waved in front of a bull. Sookie had merely called it motivation for him to do a good job.
He had called it fucking torture.
Eric had laid one hell of a kiss on her before letting her go off into the night with Pam. It went unsaid that if anything unsavory happened to his bonded, the guilty parties would suffer for it. No sooner was Sookie gone than Eric was on the phone, trying to get in touch with the spoiled regent who was probably sitting in her nonsensical day room, playing lottery scratch-off tickets in the hopes of making a few bucks.
“LeClerq residence,” a female answered the phone, although whether she was vampire or human was anyone’s guess.
“Eric Northman, sheriff of Louisiana Area 5 to speak with the queen, please,” he said politely.
“One moment, Sheriff,” the woman answered and Eric was put on hold.
Some God awful musak version of a Sinatra song was being played while he waited the forty-five seconds it took for Sophie-Anne to get on the phone.
“What is it, Sheriff?” she demanded when she picked up.
“I thought you might be interested to know that the Authority is on its way to pick up Bill Compton,” Eric started.
“Good,” she said petulantly. “He tried to drain my most valuable asset. He should meet the sun for this.”
“Sookie has made a full recovery,” Eric volunteered as well. “And I was thinking there might be a better way to deal with Bill Compton than letting the Authority have all the fun.”
“And what way is that, Sheriff?” Sophie-Anne asked.
“Sookie and I have discussed this at great length… it is obvious to us both that Compton still carries a great affection for her, and he would very much like to have her for himself. Why not let him see what his failure has cost him? Sookie and I will come down to New Orleans for a reception with you where she has consented to make a sizeable donation to you.”
“You would allow me to feed from your bonded?” she asked and Eric could hear the clicking of fangs on the other end of the line.
Hook, line and sinker.
“I would allow Sookie to make a donation, Majesty. I assure you, her blood is far superior to anything you’ve had lately, unless you’ve perfected the art of luring and draining faires,” Eric told her.
Sophie-Anne mulled over this offer, and Eric could practically hear her line of thinking. Not only would she get a taste of the fairy she had been chasing for decades, but she would also get to humiliate the fool who had failed her. It was almost too good to pass up, and lucky for Eric, Sophie-Anne’s arrogance superceded her intelligence.
“I’ll call the necessary people and have the charges dropped in favor of dealing with him myself,” Sophie-Anne said, and Eric couldn’t help but grin. Were he human, he might have even fist pumped.
“Excellent, your Majesty. Sookie and I can be in New Orleans as early as the day after tomorrow,” he promised her.
“Give me a week with Compton first,” she said with a hint of evil in her tone.
It was going to be a long week for Bill.
“As you wish,” Eric agreed.
“We’ll speak again soon,” she said, and then she was gone.
Eric hung up as well, and was immediately out the door to meet Sookie and Pam at the bar.
Sookie sipped her gin and tonic, and listened to the thoughts of the humans in the room. Since she wasn’t with Eric no one seemed to be paying much attention to her. She had taken a seat at a random vacant table in the room, and she knew Pam was keeping an eye on her from her position at the door. Sookie didn’t mind it at all. So far the only one to approach her was the brunette waitress who had brought her water the night before after she’d tossed her cookies all over Eric’s office.
None of the other vampires in the room seemed to even care she was there, that is until Jessica came up to her.
“Heya, Sookie,” Jessica said uneasily. “Mind if I take a seat?”
“Of course not,” Sookie smiled, and motioned to the seat next to hers. “How’ve you been?”
“A little freaked out,” Jessica admitted. “I don’t know what’s happening with Bill, and being alone in his house is starting to get spooky. Hoyt comes over when he can, but I don’t know… it’s just not the same.”
“No one’s told you about Bill?” Sookie asked, and Jessica shook her head. “He’s here, Jessica. The Authority hasn’t come for him yet.”
“Really?” Jessica asked, her eyes wide. “Do you think Eric would let me see him?”
Sookie didn’t know what to say, but before she could even think of saying anything Pam appeared, and hauled Jessica through the employees only door. Sookie thought about following the two vampires, but decided it might be best to stay out of it. While she understood Jessica’s nervousness, seeing her Maker the way he was probably wouldn’t help. It was obvious to Sookie that Bill hadn’t been fed, and the constant exposure to silver had weakened him quite a bit. Add to that the doses of light Sookie had shot him with and whatever torture had been inflicted by Eric and Pam in the last few days, and Bill was looking nothing short of grotesque.
Sookie felt Eric approaching, but couldn’t help getting up to dance when a remake of an old Sceamin’ Jay Hawkins song started to blare over the speakers. She found a place on the dance floor after draining the remainder of her gin and tonic, and allowed herself to get absorbed into the crowd. Vampires were dancing in cages and up on platforms, some of them at normal speeds, and some moving much faster. Sookie paid them no mind, however, and just focused on the beat of the music that was playing. The song was just changing to something she didn’t recognize, but still had a good beat, when Eric came into the bar.
She didn’t look in that direction; she just kept on dancing. Sookie was careful not to get too close to anyone, but as she began to sweat her scent started to carry further into the room. She didn’t know that, of course, but it was becoming more and more difficult for the vampires in the room to control themselves. Her sweetness could be overwhelming if she wasn’t careful. There was still the extra Illumia in her system, and it was coming through loud and clear in the way she smelled, even if most vampires wouldn’t really know why she smelled so good.
Still, a good scent was a promise of good blood, and the only vampire in the bar that was going to be sinking its fangs into that little fairy hybrid swaying her hips on the dance floor was the protective Viking moving steadily in her direction. She could feel the possessiveness in his blood, which was something new to her. She had seen it in his eyes before, but to actually feel it was something entirely different. Sookie made sure her back was to Eric when his hands landed on her shoulders.
“Lover, what are you doing?” he spoke into her ear.
“Dancing,” she said casually, as if he should know better. And really, he should have.
Eric said nothing else, but instead, moved his hands to her hips and pulled her body back so it was closer to his. Sookie rested her hands on his, and continued to sway back and forth slowly in a seductive manner. She tilted her head back and when Eric looked down all he saw was the jumping of her pulse. His fangs throbbed at the sight as did something else below his waist.
Neither of them spoke about what happened after Sookie and Pam left the house, but the dance floor at Fangtasia wasn’t really the right place to have that discussion. It could wait until they were alone. Since Sookie didn’t sense anything agitating Eric other than the other vampires and fangbangers who were staring at them, she assumed everything had worked out okay.
Eventually the pressure of the fangbangers thinking in her direction started to give Sookie a headache, and she had no choice but to shut them all out. It was harder to do with the gin in her system, but she did it. Eric led her to the platform where his throne was, and she paused to see a smaller replica of his chair parked next to it. He gestured for her to sit there, and she did. The hateful and curious stares of the fangbangers were enough for Sookie to figure out what they were thinking.
Pam and Jessica appeared from the employee only area, and Sookie was concerned when she saw red streaks on Jessica’s face. The younger vampire had obviously been crying, and Sookie wondered if Jessica had been down to see Bill. She couldn’t help but feel bad for Jessica. She was practically a child to begin with, but on top of that, Jessica was still acclimating to being a vampire. Sookie couldn’t imagine being a vampire at all, but if she was in Jessica’s shoes she wouldn’t want to be left alone. God knows how long it would be before Bill came back.
Jessica shot a small smile in Sookie’s direction, but then left the club.
“What was that about?” Eric asked, leaning closer to Sookie.
“She was worried about Bill,” Sookie answered. “I think Pam took her down to see him.”
Eric nodded, but there were no other words exchanged. Any further questions or comments could potentially blow their cover, and even Sookie was well-versed enough in vampire politics to know that if anyone got wind of what they were up to it wasn’t going to end well. For that reason, more than likely, Bill was going to be kept in the dark. There was a small war going on side Sookie. Half of her thought he had the right to know what was going around him and the other half thought it served him right considering all the ways he had tried to manipulate her life.
Karma, she thought, was about to kick Bill’s ass big time.
Eric knew Sophie-Anne had kept up her end of things when midnight came and went, and there was no appearance made by the Authority. With the complaints withdrawn, it would be up to Sophie-Anne to send her guards to pick up Bill for transport back to Area 1. He hoped that Sookie wouldn’t ask what Bill was in for because Eric had a pretty good idea, and while Bill would recover from it, he was going to be in some pretty excruciating pain in the meantime. Then again, Bill had always had his Maker around to clean up his mess. This time he was on his own.
Bill hadn’t been around for some of the more brutal points in history. The Inquisition, for starters, had been particularly violent and Eric recalled some of the things he had seen only too well. For Sookie’s sake he also hoped that they weren’t forced to witness any of Bill’s punishments when they went down to New Orleans. Sookie was a strong woman, but there were some things he knew she wouldn’t handle well. Watching some of the tortures that had been devised during the Inquisition would be too much for her, and it would take days before she was herself again. Even so, the memories would haunt her and there would be no glamouring them away.
That was one facet of the plan they hadn’t considered, but he was going to need to prepare Sookie for the possibility she might see some pretty horrific things. He didn’t really want to leave anything to chance, and the last thing he needed was for Sookie to try and interfere. Getting in the way would only cause more trouble, and force Eric to punish her in front of everyone. He wouldn’t put it past the queen to try and bait Sookie into doing something unsavory that would force Eric’s hand. If she couldn’t take out her frustration over being outsmarted directly on Sookie, then she would figure out another way to make her pay.
“What’s wrong?” Sookie asked Eric as they drove home that night.
“The queen will be sending someone to pick up Bill. She’s asked for a week alone with him, no doubt to make his life hell and extremely painful. She has accepted our offer to meet her, and to bring her your donation. I’m sure we’ll get twenty-four hours notice before we’re expected in New Orleans, and I need for you to be prepared for what you might see when we get there,” Eric told her.
“Do you think she’s planning something?”
“I think there’s a possibility that the queen might not be happy about having been outsmarted, and she will try to punish you through me because of it,” Eric explained. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she tries to get a reaction out of you that forces me to punish you for it.”
Sookie looked nervous, if not a little horrified. “Punish me how?”
“Physically,” Eric said, reluctant to go into specifics. “The queen has quite the collection of whips, floggers, crops, paddles—”
“Okay, stop!” Sookie said. “I got it.”
“It will be crucial that no matter what she says or does that you do not react. I will do what I can to shield you from things, but I won’t be able to keep you from all of it,” Eric told her. “And it’s possible she might force you to watch Bill being punished as well.”
Sookie felt her stomach turn, and Eric definitely felt the increase of anxiety in their bond.
“Bill doesn’t know about any of this, does he?” she surprised him by asking.
“No. It’s best that Bill doesn’t know what’s going to happen. He’ll figure it out once we arrive in New Orleans. He won’t be expecting us there.”
“How are we going to get a stake past the queen’s guards?” Sookie asked. “Won’t we be searched for weapons when we get there?”
“That’s where your ability to still things comes in handy. You can still the guards and stash a stake in the house that we’ll pick up later on,” Eric said.
“Don’t you think they’ll notice they’ve been stilled?” Sookie pointed out.
“It’s possible, but not necessarily. We may need to practice that skill of yours,” he said.
“And my scent? Won’t they notice that too?”
Her questions were impressive. It was good to see she was thinking proactively. All of these were things that needed consideration that would need to be worked out from a tactical standpoint. Eric had no doubt, however, that they would make it work. Sookie was still a little uneasy when they pulled into the driveway, but Eric had a guaranteed way to distract her, if only for a little while, and it started with him pushing his lust for her into the bond.
Sookie’s head whipped to the left when she felt it hit her hard, and the way her thighs squeezed together told him he was having the desired effect on her.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked.
“Thinking about how easily that dress you’re wearing is going to become ribbons,” Eric said as he parked the car.
“This is brand new!” Sookie argued.
“I’ll replace it,” he turned the car off, and then in the blink of an eye he was pulling her from the passenger’s seat. “Now the big question, lover… are you wearing panties?”
Sookie gasped when his hand moved under her skirt to investigate. She was a lady, so of course she was wearing panties, but they didn’t even make it into the house. Eric tore them off and left them in the garage.
He meant business.