Sookie claimed she understood when – in spite of us finally having the house to ourselves – Godric and I immediately went to work on digging into everything we could find out about Russell Edgington.
Even if there was some stomping up the stairs involved.
Not that I would have ever pointed it out.
It didn’t take a genius to know that while I might – for all intents and purposes – die for the day, that wouldn’t stop her from killing me anyway.
My girl was nothing but resourceful.
It was one of many things I both knew and loved about her.
But Russell was a different story. Not only did I not love him – or even like him – but aside from the cursory information on his legitimate business dealings that could be found through any Google search, nothing could be found about his private dealings.
Not even through a Godric search.
No phone records.
No personal financial statements.
Not even a fucking twitter account.
But the fact that there wasn’t anything there was a clue itself, only solidifying the idea he had something to hide.
After he disappeared from the limelight in the early 80’s, it was like he no longer existed at all.
He’d gone dark. Completely off the grid.
As Kardashian as he’d been once upon a time, it was an impressive feat.
His businesses themselves were run by a board – not unlike my own – but it was a privately held company where mine was public.
Not only because it had been a sound business decision, but because there was a time my ego had gotten a boost at the thought there were people out there, buying and trading in Eric Northman.
I liked being a hot commodity.
And admittedly, a part of me still liked it.
But because of my ego, my corporation was required to file quarterly earnings reports – among other things – with the Securities Exchange Commission. The information was available to the shareholders and public at large.
By keeping his company private, Edgington wasn’t held to those same rules. He didn’t have any stockholders to answer to, so he didn’t have to make any disclosures to the SEC.
But he also didn’t have the added advantage of selling stock or bonds in his company to raise capital. So finding the thinnest of financial lines that led through various shell companies before it made its way back to him, had been like solving P versus NP.
I’d already solved the other unsolvable Millennium Prize Problems, but nobody likes a know-it-all, so they could just figure them out for themselves.
By then, we’d been at it for nearly four days straight.
By ‘we’, I meant me and Godric.
Everyone else had been off doing their own thing. But having sequestered myself away in the deep recesses of my mind, I hadn’t been too sure of just what ‘doing their own thing’ entailed and was surprised when I looked up from the screen to find I was all alone.
It only took a moment of using my newly enhanced hearing to figure out everyone else was up on the main level of the house, but just as I sprinted up the stairs and rounded the corner of the room to let them all in on my not-so-little find, I was distracted.
By lions and tigers and bears.
“Oh fuck,” Sookie whispered, unwittingly finishing my thought with her eyes glued to the TV screen, showing the larger than life wild animals that were prowling down Sunset Boulevard.
Six in total, there were two of each kind, stalking down the street as though they were looking for something.
I doubted it was Noah and his ark.
The fact they really were larger than normal animals of the same breed could have been an optical illusion, if you didn’t have a little something extra in your blood – and in your brain, really – that allowed you to do the calculations to figure out their true size, based off of the known variables they walked by.
Like the standard height to width ratios of commercial storefront entrances. The width of the sidewalk itself or the height of the streetlamps.
Knowing all of those known variables and applying them to the height and width of each of the animals could give you their approximate size.
Or you could just take a lucky guess, which was what Jake did when he marveled in disbelief, “That tiger is bigger than that Ford Focus! I don’t think that’s normal.”
Like the wolves, these beasts were bigger than their genetic counterparts, so it could only mean one thing.
“Shit just got real,” Jake mumbled.
Maybe the powers of his enhanced blood had grown to give him telepathy?
But before I could figure out whether or not I would want him to be able to read my thoughts, shit got exceptionally loud when he bellowed from less than two feet in front of me, “ERIC!”
Cuffing him up the backside of his head for making my ears rings, I snarled, “What, you douchebag?”
“Oh…oww,” he whined, rubbing the back of his head before turning to see me standing there. “There you are.”
“Exceptionally perceptive,” I snarked, with an eye roll. “That’s you.”
“Momma always said I was the best,” he grinned.
“That’s not what she told me last night,” Alcide chuckled, causing Jake to fly at him.
“ENOUGH!” John growled, calling an end to what would have likely become an epic slap war, and turning to me – the only other adult male in the room – he said, “I think we should head on over there.”
“Agreed,” I nodded and sped to my room to get changed.
Russell was still in the back of my mind, but the Wizard of Oz flashback on steroids had the majority of my attention for the moment. I couldn’t imagine what their purpose was for being there, other than to instill fear in the public.
Hopefully our presence would counteract some of that fear.
Speeding back into the room, the guys were right behind me, now dressed in their own disguises, when I stopped short feeling a bolt of lust coming from Sookie.
She did so love the sight of me in leather.
Meeting her eyes, I couldn’t find the willpower to make my feet move forward. There were lions and tigers and bears to deal with, but now all I wanted to do was fuck.
And bite, given the way my fangs snapped down.
Fanning herself for a brief moment, she then used that same hand to wave me away as she said, “You had your chance, but chose your iMac over me. What is it with you vampires and apples anyway?”
I knew she was teasing. Her tone, her expression, and our blood tie all told me that she was, but it still stung a little.
Because – in a way – it was true.
But it was her words that got my feet to carry me forward, so I could sweep her up in my arms and whisper against her lips, “When this is all over I’m taking you far away from here. Just you and me. No WiFi. No electricity. Nothing.”
“Promises, promises,” she smiled before she kissed me in a way that had me forgetting all about Ringling’s on Roids, until John repeated his earlier order.
“Enough,” he said, using a much more subdued tone.
Proving I wasn’t the only one who was afraid of Sookie.
The house wasn’t all that far from Sunset Boulevard. Getting there was even faster when you didn’t have pesky things like traffic and red lights to contend with, but since I was the only one who could fly, the guys all had to run.
They still got there nearly at the same time as me.
I didn’t know how long they’d been prowling down the street, but their presence had already drawn the attention of another kind of predator indigenous to L.A.
Like the red carpet we’d rescued Sookie from, there were cameras everywhere and I knew there was no way Godric would be able to keep our images from being broadcasted to the world. I could only hope our disguises would hold up to the scrutiny.
But I let all of my focus narrow down to the newest threats we were up against as the guys and I rounded the corner and came to a stop in the middle of the street facing them.
A silence descended over the crowd. Why people would willingly stand around when there were wild animals stalking down the street was beyond me.
It wasn’t like they were an innocent bunch of squirrels.
Something they proved – and the crowd proved they finally understood the danger, with a few letting out small screams – seeing the two bears stand up on their hind legs and roar in our direction.
“What’s that, you say Yogi?” Jake taunted, with his eyes scanning them all. And then answering for him, he added, “Why, I don’t think you are smarter than the average bear. But I do think you’d look great sprawled out in front of my fireplace.”
“Dude,” Alcide cut in. “Don’t skin him. Stuff him and stand him in a corner next to the couch. He can hold our beers when we’re playing Xbox.”
John and I were flanking them on either side, the stoic bookends to their fuckery. I had a feeling he wasn’t admonishing them for cutting up because, if anything, it kept the pack focused on us and not the innocent bystanders.
I hadn’t taken my eyes off of any of them, so it was easy to see the recognition coming from theirs, staring back at us.
They’d understood every word the guys had said.
Which was the likely explanation for why one of the lions – both males, given their full manes – roared in protest.
However, it didn’t explain why Alcide lifted Jake by his hips high above his head and asked, “Who’s your daddy?”
At least, not until Jake shouted out his answer of, “Mufasa!”
Their little schtick was getting a few laughs from the crowd, but our little Mexican standoff was on pause because they weren’t charging at us, so we weren’t charging at them.
But all it took was seeing the two tigers leaning back on their haunches, preparing to launch at us for Alcide to bring Jake down, with his feet planting against Al’s thighs, and Jake saying, “Three…two…one…Liftoff!”
Then launching himself up into the air off of Al’s legs, Jake flew at the group, singing, “Rocket man, burning out his fuse up here alone.”
Well, we couldn’t have that.
Taking off just behind him, the three of us flew at the pack, with Alcide catching one of the tigers in midair and simultaneously chiding Jake with, “Elton John? You’re such a pussy!”
Snapping the tiger’s neck, he let it drop to the ground, just as Jake wrestled the other one into a chokehold using his legs wrapped around its neck and said, “Takes one to know one.”
The dead tiger quickly morphed into the form of a man – much to the crowd’s dismay – but Al wasted no time in running over to help John in his fight against the two lions.
Which left the bears to me.
Even regular grizzlies were huge, so going up against those two fuckers was like battling giants. But not wanting to admit their size gave me any pause, I flew at the larger of the two and grabbed onto him from behind. Still standing on his hind legs, I perched on his back piggyback style and taunted, “You should have stayed in Jellystone Park. Ranger Smith isn’t nearly as deadly as I am.”
With his only warning given, I sunk my teeth into the side of his neck, but the thick fur made it so I couldn’t get through to his skin in my first attempt and instead I was forced to spit out what equated to a hairball.
But rather than experience that for a second time, I grabbed one of the silver coated daggers I had strapped to my legs and sunk it into his jugular, ripping the flesh away with the serrated edge as I tore it from his skin.
His huge paws had already made a few swipes at my back, with his claws shredding the leather coat that covered me. But like my fangs, his claws hadn’t been able to do much damage before my stab to his throat caused him to topple to the ground with a gurgling roar.
He wasn’t quite dead, but he was rapidly approaching it and no longer a threat. So I turned towards the second bear and sneered with my fangs on display, “It’s your turn Boo Boo.”
Still standing several feet away, at his gargantuan size he only needed to gallop once in order to reach me. But Jake was on him before the bear saw him coming and said, “Hey Boo Boo! Let’s go get us a pic-a-nic basket!”
Rearing back up onto his hind legs, he unsuccessfully tried to throw Jake off of his back and his shouted, “Yee haw!” only made Boo Boo redouble his efforts.
But with his chest exposed and his arms reaching up behind him, trying to grab onto Jake, it was easy for me to dart forward with my bloody dagger still in my grip and plunge it into his heart.
Tearing it from his chest, I stabbed him again to make sure the job was done before turning to get a read on John and Al’s fight against the lions. But seeing the street now covered by the bodies of dead men – ones that didn’t include John or Alcide – I breathed an unnecessary sigh of relief.
And I inhaled another unnecessary but completely involuntary breath hearing Godric’s voice coming over the earpieces we all wore as he warned, “Wolves have breached the perimeter fence. The silver spray has slowed them down, but they’re still approaching the house.”
Forgetting all about the six not-quite human carcasses we shouldn’t have left behind, all four of us took off at superhuman speed back to the house. So singularly focused on getting to Sookie, I thought nothing of launching into the sky from the middle of Sunset Boulevard.
A stunt that the video footage of would quickly go viral.
My one word needed no explanation and Godric replied, “She’s locked herself into the panic room.”
We were still a few minutes out, but it felt like she was lightyears away when he added, “Eric. They’ve penetrated the house.”
After the first attack by the wolves at the house, the fence hadn’t been the only addition I’d made to the layers of security at the house. The doors and windows had been replaced with carbon copies in appearance only. The substitutions were touted as being impenetrable and were a hot commodity among the one percenters.
Because only the one percenters could afford their cost.
But their claims of being impenetrable were obviously false.
But genetically produced werewolves had probably never been a part of their quality assurance tests.
That didn’t mean I wouldn’t be leaving them a scathing review on their website later on.
But when we’d repaired the walls, additional layers of security had been added throughout the entire house, to include pocket doors that could act as a barricade and turn the house into a maze, directing whoever was caught up inside to wherever we wanted them to go.
Something Godric took the initiative of utilizing when his tone took on a deadliness I’d never heard coming from him before when he said, “I have them trapped in separate hallways on the lower level.”
Knowing they could go through the walls if they thought to, I did my best to increase my already redlined speed and arrived only moments later. The front door was still intact, but they’d pushed their way in by taking the doorframe with it.
The entrance to the panic room was hidden along the back wall of my bedroom closet, so my feet carried me in that direction when I was forced to come to a stop by the first pocket door along the way.
Thinking I would have a pissed off wolf or two to contend with, I readied myself and commanded, “Open the door.”
Godric did as I’d ordered, but seeing the two dead men lying on the floor, I was left dumbstruck. There wasn’t a mark on either one of their bodies to indicate how they’d been killed and I wondered for a moment if maybe they’d been given a different serum – one the War Maker had enhanced to pop out his puppies at a faster rate – and that was the cause for their sudden demise.
My only response seeing them was a whispered, “How?”
Rhetorical in my mind, the guys had just come in behind me and repeated my question in varying degrees with various, “Huh?”, “The fuck?”, and “What happened?”
But it was Godric who set us all straight and gave me mixed emotions, consisting of both the willies and pride, when he answered, “I killed them.”
So I repeated my question – no longer rhetorical – and asked, “How?”
“The vents,” he responded. “I reversed the house’s central air system, using the air ducts to pull the oxygen from the enclosure. The doors acted as a hermetic seal, so they suffocated.”
No one said anything for a long moment, but it was Jake who spoke up first, saying, “Uhh…I thought robot guys weren’t supposed to hurt humans.”
With the inflection in his tone, it was almost posed as a question.
One Godric chose to answer by saying, “They aren’t human.”
Technically, he was correct.
And, technically, Asimov’s Laws were never a part of his original programming. He’d been programmed to learn, not unlike a human child would.
A genius of a human child, but like a human nonetheless, which was why he now used contractions when he spoke.
He’d learned how by listening to everyone else speaking around him.
Being confined to cyberspace, in my mind there had been no reason to add them.
How could he hurt anyone if he didn’t exist outside of a computer network?
Well, he showed me.
Even so, I found I wasn’t all that concerned anymore when he reinforced the idea ‘Like Maker/like AI brainchild’, by saying, “I won’t let anyone hurt Sookie.”
And that was good enough for me.