Thanks to our now strengthened connection, I’d been keeping tabs on Sookie’s emotions ever since I’d given her my blood again. It was the only way I could stomach letting her out of my sight and it was what made me go to her, feeling her fear and apprehension spike through our bond.
I found her in the kitchen with her phone at her ear and thanks to my heightened hearing I clearly heard her when she asked, “Darth Victor? Is that you?”
“Sookie?” I asked, since her eyes were frozen to the floor and she didn’t appear to have noticed me enter the room.
But she must have heard me because her eyes darted to meet mine, as she covered the mouthpiece on her phone and whispered, “It’s the Wolf Whisperer. He wants to talk to you.”
The scalpel I still held in my hand bent with my fingers clenching into a fist, so I checked my strength and whispered for Godric to trace the call as I pulled off my latex gloves. Walking towards her, I took it from her hand and calmly said, “I’m going to kill you for hurting her.”
It wasn’t an empty threat.
“Eric,” he laughed, which sounded weird as fuck thanks to whatever he was using to disguise his voice. “I’m sure you’ll try, but I’m hoping you’ll change your mind when you hear what I have to say.”
“I doubt it.”
Seriously doubted it.
“Ahh…” his altered voice teased across the line. “But you haven’t even heard my offer.”
It was creepy as hell to feel like I was talking to a real life Sith Lord because Sookie hadn’t been off the mark in calling him Darth anything.
But in actuality, she hadn’t called him Darth Anything.
She’d called him Darth Victor.
And I wished like hell she really was telepathic because then I could mentally ask her if she’d forgotten to tell me Victor had been her captor.
But even after everything she’d been put through in the last twenty-four hours, I knew her well enough to know that Sookie didn’t forget any detail. It just wasn’t something she was capable of.
I knew – in part – thanks to her perfect recall about every woman she’d been forced to drag to the curb thanks to me.
She certainly would have told me if Victor had been the one to kidnap her.
Her ‘fuck’ filled diatribe would have been so blue, she would have easily passed for Smurfette.
But if her suspicions were correct, then it was an edge I couldn’t afford to give up by giving away too much too soon, so I asked, “And what is it you’re offering me?”
His head on a platter would be the only offer I would entertain.
“I knew you were a practical man,” he chuckled. “But I also know you are an egotist above all. So what I am offering you is a merger of sorts.”
The only merger I wanted was my fist merging with his head.
In the growing silence – because I also doubted that was the merger he was offering – he went on to say, “I want us to combine forces. My army of wolves is much larger than the four of you. I know that you are different than the other three you surround yourself with, but you’ve obviously made strides in your research. Strides my own scientists have failed to make. Wolves, you see, tend to be very…animalistic. No matter how small or large the pack may be, there’s an intrinsic need for there to be an Alpha. And when you have so many wolves, who were each selected for their tactical and leadership traits, there can be some discord. And now, thanks to you and your group, the pack is…let’s just say…restless without their leader.”
Furnan was my guess as to who had been leading the pack.
But his dramatic pause came to an end when he chuckled darkly, “It’s all very messy. Nonetheless, the advancements you’ve made seem to have bypassed the need for them to transform. I would much rather have an army of men, with all of the strength and speed and none of the fur. They would blend in with the humans so much more easily.”
He paused again, but knowing Godric was still working on tracing the call, rather than telling him to fuck off and hanging up, I attempted to draw out our conversation by asking, “Why in the hell would I want to combine forces with you?”
“Because,” he answered. “Your pragmatism is only outweighed by your egotism. Combine the two, as I want our forces to combine, and just imagine all that we could do together.”
Something was tickling at the back of my mind. Something about our conversation was off – more than just him being off his rocker – but before I could even begin to dissect what it was, he quickly said, “Think about my offer and I’ll get back to you.”
The line went dead a second later and Godric answered the question on the tip of my tongue before I could even pose it.
“The call was disconnected before I could complete the trace.” But before I could crush the phone in my hand, he added, “However I was able to pinpoint the area in which the call originated in. Las Vegas, Nevada.”
“Las Vegas?” Sookie asked. “Why? Because Siegfried and Roy are out of the business now, someone thought to jump on stage and the Twilight bandwagon by bringing wolves into the mix?”
While Sookie went back to cooking breakfast for everyone, I tried to nail down what it was that had been bothering me about the conversation. But when she started snarking about Victor stealing from Stephenie Meyers’ universe, it dawned on me.
“It wasn’t Victor.”
“What do you mean?” she asked, turning to face me with a spatula in her hand. And then waving it in my direction, she added, “How do you know?”
“Because,” I explained. “Victor would know I wouldn’t want any part in overthrowing any government, much less our own. We fought about it right before I fired him on the night I was attacked down in the lab. He was pissed I gave my work away to John for free and refused to negotiate some ridiculously expensive government contract. Victor knows me well enough to know that I wouldn’t agree to anything like their proposal.”
And remembering the circumstances surrounding the last time I saw Victor, I added, “He knew me well enough to go after you, didn’t he? Even if he’d been in The Authority’s back pocket all along, he’s not in their upper ranks. He wouldn’t have been embezzling money from Northman Inc. if he was.”
“Well then who?” she asked.
Who would benefit from the chaos their revelation would cause?
Who would benefit from the resulting fear of the general population?
Who would benefit from governments around the world attempting to protect themselves from an opponent they wouldn’t see coming until it was too late?
“Godric!” I barked and without waiting for a response, I ordered, “Search through the files of every weapons manufacturer across the globe. Cross reference them with mercenaries for hire. Tactical response outfits. Go through their invoices and see who’s been preparing for a war that didn’t exist until now and figure out who’s paying for it all.”
It was the only logical conclusion. The wolves had initially attacked the world financial summit. The only ones who would benefit from something like that would be those who would be paid – handsomely – to defend against the threat they represented.
And as any first year Business major would tell you, you had to spend money in order to make money.
The caller had said he had an army of wolves at his disposal. They could be solicited by any government willing to pay through the nose to defeat a new formidable enemy no one had ever gone up against before, not realizing they’d taken that very same enemy in until it was too late.
The fox would already be in the hen house.
To find the mongrels, we would have to look for their master. A master at the art of war.
A War Maker.
“So, tell me again,” Jake sighed. “What does Vegas have to do with war, other than it being a card game kids play?”
“Besides it being where the call came in from?” Alcide huffed in aggravation. “Where else in the country are large amounts of cash exchanging hands? With a little slight-of-hand, anybody with a little knowhow and a lot of chutzpah can skim enough cash from the top to fund an army.”
“Dude,” Jake laughed. “Did you just say chutzpah? You sound like the old biddies my grandma plays bingo with.”
And then adopting the persona of an old woman, he hunched over and wagged his finger in Al’s face, saying, “Oy veh, what a meshugana.”
While John and Sookie chuckled at the ensuing slap war – which had a lot more oomph now that their DNA had a lot more oomph – I did my best to ignore them and attempted to concentrate on the multiple screens in front of me.
It had been four days since the phone call. Four days of combing through records and invoices and names and bank accounts, trying to suss out who the war maker could be. What Al had said was true – Yiddish or otherwise – because Las Vegas was a cash cow.
And it was easy enough to milk.
But finding the leaky udders was proving to be more difficult than I’d expected. Because it was largely a cash operation, avoiding a paper trail would be easily done if you knew what you were doing.
And if that was the way The Authority was funding their group, then they undoubtedly knew what they were doing.
But numbers were my thing. Mathematical formulas were my bread and butter.
My comfort zone.
When the rest of my life equated to chaos, I could always find solace in a mathematical equation.
It was my mind’s version of slipping on an old pair of comfortable slippers.
But this one wasn’t fitting right and it was slowly driving me mad. I knew the answers were right there in front of me and yet I couldn’t see them.
It was like being on the edge of an orgasm, without ever falling over.
It was maddening.
And it was making me mad.
I was so focused on my task that I didn’t realize the room had emptied until I looked up, feeling Sookie’s hands grip my shoulders and begin to massage them from behind.
While I didn’t need a massage in my new state of being, that didn’t mean I didn’t her touch wouldn’t relieve my tension.
I always felt better when she was touching me.
It felt like a lifetime ago, instead of mere days, when I’d been planning to fly off to somewhere private with Sookie so we could reconnect.
Soulfully. Carnally. Biblically.
Take your pick.
But with everything that had happened since then, we’d barely had five minutes alone together.
It was something I hoped to rectify soon.
I vowed to myself, when everything was said and done, I would whisk her away to a deserted island. Just me and her.
I’d buy one if I had to.
And wondering how long we had now, but suspecting it wouldn’t be very much, I leaned back into her hands and rubbed my eyes more out of habit than need, as I asked, “Where is everyone?”
“I kicked them out.”
I mimicked the smile I could hear in her tone and just enjoyed the feel of her hands kneading my shoulders, while I said, “It’s good to know I’m still your favorite.”
Jake was a close second though.
Third, if you counted Godric.
“If that’s what makes you feel better,” she teased and then wrapping her arms around me from behind, she hugged my back to her chest and said, “Dumb it down for me.”
“Dumb what down for you?”
I was her favorite. She knew it. I knew it.
No explanation was necessary.
“Whatever’s kept you in a trance for the last ninety-six hours,” she replied and gestured towards the computer screen.
So I did.
I told her everything I was looking into. Between me and Godric it was more than a little humiliating that neither one of us had found any viable leads.
There was an overabundance of weapons manufacturers and arms dealers, spanning the globe and the less reputable ones weren’t known for keeping records of their illegal sales.
And while Las Vegas was known for its excess, that could also be said about the money makers. No single one stood out above the rest, saying, ‘Me! Me! I’m the megalomaniac hell bent on world domination!’
“Ahh,” she sighed against my back when I was through venting, “So what you’re saying is, it’s like a Bermuda Blowseph.”
“A Bermuda what?” I asked, wondering if somehow our blood bond signals hadn’t gotten crossed somewhere along the way.
Bermuda had been considered and then tossed from my mental list of vacation venues.
“A Bermuda Blowseph,” she repeated with a soft giggle. “It’s what they call it when you go down on someone the size of a small moon. You know, searching through all of the layers of fat, while trying to find the goods.”
“Gross,” I laughed. “But essentially, yes.”
It felt good just being with her again, proving we could even keep all of our clothes on and I was still perfectly happy just to be near her.
And after a long stretch of silence, with me closing my eyes and just trying clear my head in my little Sookie-bubble, she eventually spoke up and asked, “What if it’s a red herring?”
“What if what’s a red herring?”
I was so mentally exhausted by that point that she would need to dumb it down for me.
“All of it,” she replied and let go of me to move around to my side.
But not ready to give up the feel of her body against mine just yet, I reached over and pulled her into my lap, while she explained, “He’s not exactly a stand up kinda guy, so why are we even believing him? His army of mutts might very well be a litter of puppies. He knows where you are. He knows there are only four of you, so why aren’t they here, lifting their legs and pissing everywhere? We saw for ourselves on that video it took two weeks for Furnan to go Jacob Black, but the guys’ change only took three days.”
Then turning in my lap to face me, she said, “They want what you have, Eric. But they don’t have the manpower to take it from you.”
And she wanted me to dumb it down for her.
Grabbing her face in my hands, I brought my lips to her own and whispered, “You are a brilliant mother fucker.”
“That is so going on my next order of business cards,” she giggled into my mouth.
Before my tongue swept into hers and effectively brought her laughter to a halt.
Not only was Sookie brilliant, she was also flexible and somehow managed to move her leg in between our bodies until she was straddling me.
I’d tell her to put that on her business cards too, but it was no one’s business but my own as to how flexible she was.
I hadn’t fed from her in the days since her attack by the wolves. She’d lost a lot of blood and I hadn’t wanted to deplete her body any more than it already was. But bagged blood, while nourishing, just wasn’t the same.
So it wasn’t any surprise when my fangs snapped down, but as I attempted to pull back from our kiss, Sookie’s hands held onto my head, while her tongue slowly traced along each of my extended teeth.
It was the first time she’d done something like that. While her tongue had grazed them in passing before, now she went about it methodically – purposefully – and I was surprised at how much it affected me. Just as much as if she’d been suckling from somewhere lower on my body.
And a part of me wondered if that made me a literal dickface.
But I supposed it was better than a Bermuda Blowseph.
I still didn’t know where any of the guys were or when they would be back. But I didn’t let that stop me from putting my hands on her hips and helping her along in dry humping me until we either started a friction fire or put one out with our cum.
But just as I started seeing stars trying to form behind my eyes, she pulled back and gasped out, “Riverboats!”
Was ‘riverboats’ just another way of saying she was going to cum? Like a river? From my boat?
In that moment, I was decidedly not a genius.
“Riverboats!” she repeated and then dumbed it down for me even further by adding, “My Gran used to go gambling on riverboats, with her little church group. What that had to do with Christ, other than praying to him to roll a seven, I don’t know. But riverboats are like little puppies to the movers and shakers in Las Vegas. I’m sure to the tyrannically challenged, that might stick in their craw a little. Especially one who used to love the limelight and then disappeared from it altogether. So how oddly coincidental was it that I just ran into the owner of one not too long ago?”
And locking her eyes onto my own, she added, “One who was very interested in what you’ve been up to lately.”
Now that the lust had cleared from my head – mostly from one, not so much from the other – she didn’t need to say his name for me to know who she was talking about.
I’d heard him myself when I was stalking her outside of the charity event on the night Victor had kidnapped her.
He owned a small fleet of gambling riverboats and he’d never met a camera flash that he didn’t like all through the late 70’s and early 80’s.
But could he really be the War Maker?