It had been a year.
A fucking year.
A whole fucking year of my two hundred year sentence had come to pass. I knew because my insipid queen was planning an anniversary party to mark the occasion. I’d just as soon celebrate by marking her skin, fileting it from her body with a silver knife, and using all the care of Doctor Mengele himself, while I made paper dolls in her likeness with her hide.
After all, she was my queen and my wife. She deserved nothing but my best efforts.
We were still playing our game and for now it was at the non-tortuous phase, physically at least. It was my turn to pretend I would heel – mostly – and she would pretend I wouldn’t rip her head from her shoulders at any given moment. She’d made me pay, of course, for my disobedience in her dungeon by declaring my fealty to long dead queens, boxes of cereal, and Fae hybrids. Poorly hiding her fear and pretending she held any power over me from behind her guards and the silver chains that kept me from acting rashly and ending her prematurely. But she knew she could only push me so far before I pushed back, so she wisely refrained from doing so whenever we were in the presence of others.
Just who was supposed to be training who?
In all of her wisdom she’d decided to let me out of the dungeons two weeks earlier, pretending to be merciful, while imposing her asinine restrictions on me. I could feed from donors, but not fuck them. My movements were supervised by her guards and I was allowed no privacy, so I could not speak freely with any of the spies I had reporting back to me on what was going on in Louisiana. It was my punishment for disobeying her. But in reality she needed to allow me to heal in order to show both the guests in her kingdom and her subjects that I heeled. She’d already run her mouth at our ceremony, inviting everyone in attendance to her palace a year from then to show off our powerful alliance. By canceling now, it would make her lose face. Make her appear even weaker than they already suspected her to be. A weakness already evident in her unrelenting pursuit of obtaining me as her enforcer by compelling me to comply with my dead maker’s brokered deal.
That fucker Felipe was probably brokering bets at that very moment on who would end up dead by the end of the night.
And had it been even six months earlier, I would’ve bet the house it would be Freyda’s death at Sookie’s hand. Back when I still held out hope she would return. But just like physical pain, hope diminishes over time as well. And while I could not stop my mind from retreating back to her – my blond inner demon – when the pain and fatigue had taken its toll on my body, my conscious self no longer held out any hope she would come to me. I would’ve put my treasonous plans on hold for her if she had. Made sure she was safely hidden away, while fueling myself with her mere presence alone. Caution would’ve taken precedence over the reckless abandonment my now shortened fuse threatened to detonate the ticking time bomb counting down within me at any given moment. I would have redoubled my efforts at keeping my head, while planning to take the queen’s from her, so I could return to Sookie and glory in our victory together. But if she hadn’t come to see reason – hadn’t changed her mind by now – then I knew she never would.
Admittedly, that stung more than anything Freyda could have done to me.
When I could direct my own thoughts my memories replayed on a reel, highlighting our time together, both good and bad. When I looked at them objectively, I could certainly appreciate her countless selfless actions. But – objectively – while I might not have always said the words, the fuck if I hadn’t shown her with my actions how much she fucking meant to me.
I staked another vampire when all her bangs-with-fangs boyfriend did was watch while she was attacked.
I covered her body with my own and took a bullet for her in Dallas, when at the time – or so I thought – all I wanted to do was fuck her.
Club Dead. Russell’s mansion. That fucking trunk.
Even without my memories, I ran straight for her. Dove in front of her, taking the shot from that Were bitch’s gun that would’ve taken her life.
New Orleans where that whore’s family kidnapped her along with that giant endangered pit pussy tiger.
New Orleans where any number of vampires would’ve taken her life in that ballroom had it not been for me and my sword.
And even when our state was under attack. My monarch’s death all but assured and a takeover was imminent, I went straight to her.
Granted, intermingled in those times, she too had saved me. In Rhodes. In that fucking shifter’s parking lot when Sigebert was filming the pilot of his new reality show – When Saxons Attack.
But…fuck. Did none of it matter?
Did I not matter?
Had anything ever mattered to her at all?
Her yearlong absence was proof enough I supposed. It was my own foolishness for believing I could have something like love.
Yes. I’d been a fool all along, but I would be a fool no longer.
One day soon I would end Freyda for my own need for retribution.
One day soon after I would shove Felipe’s ridiculous Count Chocula cape down his throat and drown him in a giant bowl of the sugared cereal bobbing in liquid silver.
In the days beyond that I would leave Sookie be. Let her waste away in her backwoods town, while she lived in the land of DNA denial and made trips to PetSmart to buy her beloved’s anniversary gifts.
One day in the very distant future, I would forget Sookie Stackhouse ever existed.
“You will not embarrass me tonight, Eric.”
The sound of my queen intruded on my pretend precognition. I could only imagine if I’d been forced to hear her voice for the entire two hundred year sentence, by the end of it my balls would have taken up permanent residence in my throat to hide from the chill inducing screech of it.
Taking more time than was necessary to put on my cuff links – a part of my costume for the masquerade that was our anniversary celebration tonight – I made her await my response until I was through.
“I won’t,” I eventually replied, but my ambiguous tone left her wondering if it was a statement or a question.
Glancing over, I did nothing to hide my smirk while she hid her dismay behind red painted lips and a diamond choker.
“You won’t,” she said, with her eyes boring into mine, but she too sounded ambiguous.
Only a year and already we were sounding alike. Before you know it we would be one of those couples who wore matching hibiscus printed luau shirts everyone laughed at.
Pam would certainly laugh. We both would and then I would dance with each of my children on Freyda’s exploded remains.
The twist would do nicely on a Freyda lubricated marble floor.
I smiled not only at the thought, but at Freyda’s growing panic seeing it form. She tried to hide it from me. Attempted to bury it underneath her couture gown and lacquered nails, but she could put it on a rover destined for Mars and I would still see it.
I had excellent eyesight.
So I slid my arms into the tuxedo jacket and buttoned the front as I strode towards the door, taking control of our conversation as a warning for her to behave by ordering, “Come. We shouldn’t be late for our own party.”
Her foot lifted and took one step before she caught on, but she still heeled and marched ahead of me, hissing, “Remember your place, royal consort.”
“Of course, my queen,” I chuckled darkly. “Behind you and to your left, if I’m not mistaken.”
And that would be her biggest mistake.
Putting me in her blind spot.
While the party was formal, the occasion was not, so we were announced to the room and then expected to mingle with the guests. I hoped to be able to speak with one of my spies regarding my month long absence of news about Louisiana, but I had two of Freyda’s guards shadowing my every step.
I took up a spot near the side of the room and grabbed a glass of Royalty Blend from one of the passing waiters, looking for my opening to ditch them when Felipe de Castro of all people sauntered up to me. Putting my own disdain for the monarch on a Mars-bound rover, I nodded deeply, as was dictated by our stations, and acknowledged, “Felipe.” Seeing the ridiculous cape he’d adorned himself with, I couldn’t stop myself from adding, “Love the cape. General Mills, if I’m not mistaken?”
He looked genuinely confused by my comment and didn’t respond. It seemed no one around me had a sense of humor and I quashed the thought over who I knew would’ve spit her drink out hearing my red carpet question.
Fucking blond demon would sit on my shoulder for all of eternity.
Instead, he narrowed his eyes up at me and said, “The telepath is missing. I don’t suppose you have any idea of where she’s gone to?”
“What?” I asked, nearly spitting out my own drink, and added in rapid succession, “What do you mean she’s missing? How long has she been gone? Where’s Karin? She should’ve been watching over her until tonight.”
No matter how bitterly angry I was at her – no matter what I tried to tell myself I would do once freed from my silver ball and chain – I couldn’t stand the thought of Sookie being hurt. It was like reliving the ordeal of her kidnapping all over again. Only this time I didn’t have the benefit of a blood bond to feel her pain and use it to draw it away from her. I couldn’t track her location. I couldn’t even leave the fucking palace to go and look for her.
In my millennia long existence, I’d never felt more helpless and I hated myself for caring about her wellbeing at all.
Felipe studied my reaction before saying, “She hasn’t been seen in a month. Pam has turned up nothing in Area Five, nor have the remaining sheriffs in the state. Your other child claims the telepath was gone when she arrived to watch over her at sunset and the shifter she was living with had already moved out. He has been glamoured by another vampire in my retinue whose gift works strongly against their kind and he has no knowledge of her whereabouts. Nor do her friends or her family have a clue as to where she is. So I ask you again, Northman. Do you know where my telepath is?”
The goblet in my hand shattered hearing him call my Sookie his anything. But I stayed my hands from doing any more damage. If I attacked him now, I would have no chance of mounting my own search and rescue. As it was, my mind was already making a list of possible suspects.
He had certainly made no secret of his desire to have Sookie all to himself. If the shifter had moved out, but Sookie had still scorned his advances, he may have been desperate enough to have taken her.
Why wouldn’t he when he’d taken her body against her will once already?
My fangs snapped down at the memory of what I’d found in that trunk in Jackson, but I forced myself to focus on who else might be suspect.
He’d staked Andre for her. She’d already shown her tolerance for the two-natured by shacking up with one. Would he have expected the same treatment if he’d come calling when he’d learned there was a vacancy in her dog house?
And thinking of dogs – could it be the wolf?
Herveaux had long been straddling the fence, with Sookie on one side and his pack obligations on the other. Could he have decided to throw caution to the wind and finally grown into the set of balls he’d been born with? For all I knew he’d met his obligation by impregnating one of the bitches in his pack and was free to pursue her. It wasn’t as though I’d had any reason to have my spies keep up with his goings on. He could’ve taken her back to Jackson, hoping there would be a new collar from PetSmart in his anniversary future.
Or had it been the shifter?
Felipe had said he’d been glamoured, but I knew all too well how difficult it was to try and glamour the two-natured. Even if the Kreskin vampire in Felipe’s retinue had the power needed, if he hadn’t asked the right questions, the dog could’ve still been hiding something from them. To know for sure it would require a telepath to read his thoughts.
And the only one I knew of was the reason I would need her.
My gut churned over the last possibility. The thought of one other nameless and faceless foe who could have been responsible for Sookie’s disappearance.
Niall had supposedly sealed the portals between our two worlds, but he’d already shown his dereliction of door duty by allowing his insane grandson access to the human realm. If he had been one of the bouncers at Fangtasia’s door, I would have fired him and then set him on fire for his incompetence. So what if he’d allowed another through the portal? What if Niall had been defeated in their civil war and he’d lost power over their realm, allowing his successor to do as he pleased? To eradicate every Brigant in existence? What if there had been a water fae left in this realm – loyal to Brendaen – who had been hidden in the shadows all along, biding his time and waiting for the right moment to exact vengeance? No one but Sookie believed her to be human. Ignorance of her species wouldn’t be a plausible defense. A water fae wouldn’t grant her absolution for her misguided beliefs.
My jaw sawed back and forth, with my need to rend and tear whoever was responsible growing rapidly. When I could no longer stand still, I took to pacing back and forth under Felipe’s watchful gaze, with my mind working through my immediate and rapid departure. Fuck them all if they thought I would stay there, upholding the terms of our contract when they’d already broken the most important clause.
Sookie would remain safe and untouched for the rest of her life.
It wasn’t hearing my name that halted my manic steps.
It was the voice attached to it.
My hand attached itself to Compton’s throat before my eyes were even able to take in his colonial cocksucking countenance. And my countenance for him was at an all-time low.
“Where. Is. Sookie?” I hissed into his shocked face.
His hands fruitlessly struggled against my grasp, while I struggled with my own urge to rip his throat out.
I didn’t want to have to wait for him to heal in order to get my answers.
“You took her,” he accused, with the air left in his lungs. “I know you did. When I last spoke to her she claimed you were still hers. She went missing the very next day and I’ve been searching for her here ever since. I know you’ve hidden her. I know you had a hand in her disappearance!”
Felipe snarled, fully prepared to believe I’d reneged on our deal. But I was fresh out of fucks to give and ignored him, tightening my grip on my lover’s traitor’s throat, while my heart tightened hearing she’d claimed me to him as recently as four weeks earlier. I didn’t know what to make of it, considering she could’ve very well said it to hurt him. Spoken out of anger as she was prone to do. I would have no way of knowing if she meant it without hearing it straight from the hybrid’s mouth, so I seethed, “Do I smell like Sookie? Her sex? Her blood? Even if I had last drunk from her a month ago, you would still be able to smell it on me.”
And there was no question, had I seen her a month ago I would have partaken in at least one – if not both – of those things.
Sookie and I were pros at having makeup sex.
But the thought of anyone else defiling her – taking from her what hadn’t freely been given, just as he had done once upon a time – was the final straw.
My shortened fuse was officially at the end of its wick.
Taking a hold of his shoulder with my other hand, I pulled until his head detached from his body, all the while staring into his frightened eyes as I said, “For your betrayal of my bonded.”
His body exploded into tiny little Bill bits, with everyone in attendance staring wide-eyed at me. So I preened, with my toothy snarl on display for all to see, and turned to Felipe saying, “I hope you didn’t have high odds on Bill making it through the night. I’d hate for you to lose your cape in paying out the bets.”
Although I was fresh out of fucks to give, Felipe seemed to be carrying one or two of his own and he snarled at me in return, hissing, “You dare to speak to me that way? I am a king!”
His shortened stature and my nonexistent fuse made it easy for me to loom over him as I snarled, “But you are not my king. You made sure of that by pimping me out to Oklahoma. Now why don’t you run off and find the other two amigos before I take your head and mount it on top of my Christmas tree.”
While I wanted to turn the ballroom into a bloodbath, a takeover was the last thing I had the time for now. I’d made no progress in securing my own army. I’d counted only four spies of my own in the room. Felipe hadn’t been stupid enough to bring any with him who could’ve still been loyal to me. The five of us alone couldn’t mount a winning offensive, but it made no difference. My only thought was getting out of there and hunting down those who held my bonded.
I didn’t need my blood in her body for her title to still hold true.
I could hear the stunned guards at my back now moving forward, so I grabbed the sword from Felipe’s side and cleared the area surrounding me with one twirling swing. And those who didn’t get out of my way lost whatever appendages were left in my hokey pokey circle when I turned myself around.
A left foot in. A right hand out.
Where the fuck was Sookie? She would be crying with laughter if she could hear my mental song.
But instead she was likely crying for a wholly different reason.
And I would sooth away her tears with the blood of her captors.
“Eric!” Freyda screeched as she ran towards me, but wisely stayed back far enough out of my reach, knowing she didn’t want to hokey pokey with me. “Stand down!”
Having gotten his voice back, even if he was now minus his sword, Felipe turned on her and yelled, “This is the way you run your kingdom? You allow your boy toy to wreak havoc and act insubordinately towards a king? He killed one of my retinue without provocation! I demand retribution for his actions!”
While the two of them compared the size of their dicks, my eyes darted around the room looking for my escape.
After all, I was out of fucks to give and they still seemed to have plenty they were hell bent on throwing around.
But I was afraid I was already out of time. I had no idea where Sookie was. If she even still lived. I needed to get back to Louisiana. Back to my children and the remaining vampires I could trust to have my back, while I searched for her. I would leave no stone unturned. No human home would remain standing on its foundation if I had any cause to believe she was trapped inside. I would search for her until the time came when time itself worked against me and I knew without a doubt she would have been dead from her age alone.
The vampires in attendance were watching the royal spectacle before them, with the rapt attention all gossip whoring supernaturals made no point in hiding. Little did any of us know, the party was just getting started.
“I apologize for arriving late, but Pam assured me it was fashionable.”
Again, it wasn’t the words that got my attention.
It was the voice attached to them.
With the crowd having circled our fray like buzzards at a roadkill buffet, a large portion of the dance floor had been emptied. Large enough for the unexpected arrival of the numerous Royal Fae Guards who had teleported into the room to have taken up an offensive formation and flanking those at the front of the spear.
The blond demon no longer sat on my shoulder because she’d placed herself front and center at the tip of the spear.