I quelled the overwhelming urge to shred everything on top of my desk, the desk included, and sat back in my chair rubbing my eyes. After a thousand years, it was quite possible I’d come down with my very first headache.
It had been just over one month since the bombing in Rhodes. One month since my then Queen, Sophie-Anne Leclerq, and most of her retinue perished in the bombing at the Pyramid of Giza.
I too would have perished had it not been for the Ancient Pythoness’ warning to take my child and leave the hotel immediately. I didn’t question her; no one ever questioned her, so I grabbed Pam and left. When we learned of the bombing upon rising the next night, I had another message waiting from the ancient oracle.
I was to become King of Louisiana and Arkansas and my refusal to do so would be to the detriment of all Vampire alike.
I felt she was being a little dramatic at the time and while I could have been king all along, it was never something I’d wanted, much less wanted to be king of two states. I’d liked my little corner of the state with just enough power and not as much hassle, but since no one questioned her (me included) I was now stuck as the King of both states.
After seeing the financial shambles Sophie-Anne had left Louisiana in – the majority of the evidence now lying on top of my desk – it was a wonder we were ever kept afloat and now I had to unfuck it all.
For two states.
With Mr. Cataliades’ death in Rhodes, I also had to go through every contract page by page to know where I stood with everything else and not only did I have to deal with that, but after the successful bombing in Rhodes, the Fellowship were gaining momentum; both in popularity and sheer audacity.
‘Churches’ were popping up all over the state and it wasn’t so long ago they’d managed to take out Russell Edgington’s Second, Betty Jo Pickard right in their own Supe Bar, Josephine’s. Before that, two vampires had been left out to burn at dawn on the lawn at another ‘church’ in Dallas, so I knew it was only a matter of time before they set sight on Louisiana as their next target.
Thanks to Katrina, we’d already been considered a weakened state, but my rule was very new and even though I was a thousand years old and a proven warrior, the sharks were circling the water – Felipe de Castro in particular – and if I showed any weakness whatsoever, he would pounce.
It was only a matter of time as it was.
It was worrisome, but not unmanageable, especially since I’d made my child Pam my Second and called an old friend to take over running Area Five for me. He would be arriving in another few weeks’ time, so until then Pam was running back and forth. On this night, she was in Shreveport (probably having dinner if I was reading our stretched bond correctly) and I’d made it clear I wasn’t receiving any visitors. I left the details of my upcoming coronation up to Pam because I needed to get the financials straightened out.
Besides, holding Court wasn’t as entertaining without Pam there to make fun of people, so I was both surprised and aggravated when I heard the knock on my office door.
I was only further enraged when the door opened before I could say anything and stood up, ready to take out my frustrations on whoever chose to disregard my orders, when I froze where I stood.
“Your Majesty,” he nodded.
A full bow from him wasn’t required due to his own royal status and while I was shocked to see him here after so many years, I was even more shocked by his ‘guest’s’ appearance.
“Niall,” I greeted formally. Gesturing to the chairs in front of my desk, I took my seat again and tried to keep my face stoic as I said, “It’s been a great many years since I’ve last seen you.”
In fact, it was at the end of the war between the Vampire and the Fae. I’d heard through the grapevine they were warring amongst themselves lately and it only made the presence at his side all the more vexing.
“It has,” he agreed.
At the sound of his voice, I finally tore my eyes from the other and took in Niall’s appearance. He was never anything but impeccably dressed, even in battle, but now the clothes he wore were tattered and ripped; smatters of blood and soot on both of them and he wasted no time in saying, “I’ve come to call in your debt.”
Niall had saved my life once, during that same Vampire/Fairy War. I’d been wounded in battle by a silver blade and while I’d managed to get away, being much younger back then, I wasn’t healing very quickly. I’d lost a lot of blood and dawn was coming, but I had no strength left to go to ground when Niall came upon me. I had been sure my final death was only moments away when, without saying a word, he’d reached down and grabbed onto my shoulder, popping me into a nearby cave where the sunlight couldn’t reach me. When I’d asked him why, he’d said it was because he’d witnessed the mercy I’d shown his own kin.
She’d been ripe with child and when I managed to disarm her, her arms immediately wrapped around her swollen belly and she turned her back on me to try and block her unborn child from the blow of my sword. In that moment she’d reminded me a little of my human wife Aude, swollen with one of our own children, and in my youth as a vampire, I had yet to master my emotions, so I had let her go.
I shook the memory from my thoughts and stared back at Niall over my steepled fingers, saying, “I’m a bit busy at the moment. If you haven’t heard, I’ve just become King of two states and Nevada is scenting blood in the water.”
My eyes were drawn back to his ‘guest’, which was more like a prisoner given the restraints on her wrists, ankles, and mouth.
I knew it was only hopeful thinking, but I asked anyway.
“Is she a snack you’ve brought for me?”
I figured she must have been one of Brendaen’s fighters if Niall was holding her as a prisoner, but I also knew they valued their females above all others since their race was slowly dying out.
“NO!” he yelled completely enraged and standing on his feet. “She is of the royal line. She is my great-granddaughter and you will show her every respect that comes with being a Brigant.”
She rolled her eyes at his side and scoffed behind her gag and I felt the corner of my lip twitch upwards before I could stop it.
“I wasn’t aware you show your familial affections by binding your relatives’ hands and feet.”
Padded cuffs were attached to her wrists and ankles with a short length of chain running between them, like you’d see in any prisoner transport in the country.
Granted, hers were a bit nicer, but the gag seemed to be a bit much, so I smirked, asking, “Why is she gagged? Does she bite?”
He glanced at her and sighed, “Sometimes…or spits, among other things.”
I had no time for cryptic fairies – royalty or not – and was just about to ask Niall what he wanted from me, when he said, “I am leaving her with you.”
“Really?” I asked excitedly.
It had been many, many years since I’d had a Fae and my fangs dropped just thinking about it.
Pam was going to be so pissed she missed out.
“Yes,” he trained his harsh gaze back on me. “I need you to protect her and keep her safe until I can return for her.”
My disappointment was obvious, but now that I knew for certain I wouldn’t be having her for dinner, I was tired of the conversation and my eyes flicked back down onto the paperwork on my desk, as I dismissed him with, “I am a King, your majesty, not a babysitter.”
My gaze was drawn back in an instant hearing, “So, you, the great Eric Northman, have no honor then?”
Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck…
My honor was something I prided myself on – not only as a vampire, but as a human man as well – so it was that same pride that made me snap out, “From who or what am I protecting her from?”
The bastard’s lip twitched up knowing he had me while he replied, “Everything, but from the Fae and Demons in particular.”
My raised eyebrow calling bullshit was enough incentive for him to elaborate a little, by admitting, “She is only one-eighth Fae, but as you know, Brendaen wants to rid the world of hybrids. He learned of my great-granddaughter’s presence within our realm and attempted to abduct her, so I need you to keep her safe while I deal with the threats there.”
Before I could say anything else, he straightened, saying, “And I am needed back there now. Just remember: Treat her like the royalty she is; keep her safe from the Fae and Demons; and no feeding on her.”
“What if she wants to be bitten?” I asked and earned myself a gag covered scoff from her.
He shook his head, saying, “She won’t.”
I could tell he was getting ready to pop from the room, so I quickly asked, “Why Demons? And why is she bound?”
He appeared as though he wanted to give her some gesture of affection, with his hand reaching out to touch her. But she flinched away from him with a glare aimed his way, so he pulled his hand back and turned to me, answering, “It was a Demon that killed her grandfather, my son Fintan, and the Demons will be looking for her, just as the Fae who are aligned with Brendaen. Trust none of them.”
His lip was back to twitching upwards when he added, “As for why she’s restrained, feel free to set her free and find out for yourself.”
And with that cryptic warning, he popped from the room.
She didn’t look especially dangerous. In fact, underneath the gag, anger, and disdain she was wearing, she was quite beautiful, but then all Fae were so it was to be expected. She stood there silently, while my eyes traveled over her body (it was a very nice body) until they finally came to rest on her eyes once more. One would think she’d have been afraid, having been left with a strange vampire, but if I had to guess, I’d say she was bored.
In the next moment her eyes locked onto mine and a look of concentration came across her face before being replaced with surprise, but then she quickly rearranged her features to once again merely look bored.
I found it odd since there weren’t many that could stand firm under a vampire’s gaze, especially from one as old and powerful as me, but when I glanced at the clock and saw there was only about an hour left until dawn, it only then occurred to me that I couldn’t just leave her in one of the vacant bedrooms in the palace.
If the threat against her was real – and I had no doubt it was if Niall chose me to be her protector as repayment for my debt – then the only safe place for her to be in the palace was in my private chambers.
It was a new addition I’d had built as soon as I became King, not willing to trust my safety in Sophie-Anne’s old resting area since she’d had a habit of taking so many pets. The walls and ceiling were five solid feet of concrete, with layers of silver and iron throughout. In addition to every security measure known to mankind, one of the most powerful witches alive warded it specifically to keep out anyone, save those who have had my blood.
Since that only consisted of my Maker and Pam, it seemed the best option at the time, but now…
Our blood was sacred. I didn’t share it with anyone, but now I would have to share it with her if I was going to keep her safe and it pissed me off.
But I’d given my word, so I stood up from the desk and threw the door open, barking out, “Come.”
My resting area consisted of three bedrooms with attached bathrooms and an open living area, so she would at least have her own room. My room required both retinal and thumbprint scans, as well as a pin code to enter, so I wasn’t worried about her trying to do me any harm while I was dead for the day and I was sure Pam had something down there she could change into. If not, she could always wear one of my shirts.
I was still striding along trying to not get too worked up over the thought of my little Fae in nothing but my shirt, when I turned around, realizing I couldn’t hear her behind me.
Because she wasn’t.
I zipped back to my office, finding her standing in the same exact spot, and my growing aggravation tinted my voice as I asked, “Do you not understand English?”
Maybe she didn’t understand English.
Niall hadn’t told me anything about her and only mentioned she’d been staying in the Fae realm.
If all she spoke was Fae, then we were shit out of luck. But I figured she might be able to answer me if she wasn’t gagged and asked, “If I remove your gag, are you going to behave?”
I remembered him saying she sometimes bit and spit, but I wasn’t necessarily opposed to her biting.
And I even a list of places on my body where her spit was more than welcome.
Seeing her nod her response told me she did understand English and it just furthered my aggravation, knowing she’d knowingly disobeyed my order. I didn’t know what I wanted to do more; snap her neck or fuck her through the wall, but I took a few steps forward and pulled the silk scarf from her mouth to get an explanation, when it hit me.
I knew Niall had the ability to mask his scent, but she clearly didn’t and all I wanted to do was fuck her and bite her and rub myself all over her.
He’d said she was only one-eighth Fae, so hopefully his scent had just transferred onto her, but if this was how she smelled all of the time, we were fucked.
She would definitely be fucked.
I didn’t wait for her to say anything and just grabbed onto the chains holding her ankles together, ripping them apart with my bare hands. She gasped above me, but I was too busy trying to contain my urges and held onto the chain that kept her wrists together, while I set off for my private quarters, dragging her along behind me.
If she said anything, I didn’t hear her and I told the guards that I wasn’t to be disturbed for the rest of the night as we passed them by. They looked shocked that I was taking her to my resting place and they were right to look that way. It wasn’t something I’d ever done, nor would I again, but in this circumstance, I had no choice.
My fangs had yet to ascend after they’d dropped earlier at the thought of my little Fae snack, so when we reached the entrance where the wards began, I pierced my fingertip and then stuck my bleeding finger into her mouth before she could comprehend what I was doing.
It wasn’t much, but it was enough that I could feel her shock and horror and for some reason, I found myself explaining, “The room is warded to keep out anyone who hasn’t had my blood.”
She still felt shocked, but her horror lessened as I continued to drag her inside. Stopping outside of Pam’s room, I took out some things for her to wear and then brought her into the next bedroom.
No one had ever used it until now, so I pulled the cuffs from her wrists and ankles, threw the clothes into her arms, and pointed at the bathroom door, ordering, “Shower.”
Her only reply was a cocked eyebrow before she let the clothes drop to the floor, so she could cross her arms across her chest, alerting me to the fact she had an even nicer body than I’d been aware of, thanks to her loose fitting clothes. She stared back at me defiantly without a hint of fear and if I wasn’t on the verge of literally fucking her to death, I might have been amused.
As it was, I was livid and only inhaling through my mouth when necessary to speak, but I realized I didn’t know her name yet either and asked, “What shall I call you? Princess Brigant, while fitting, is a bit of a mouthful.”
“A cab,” she deadpanned.
“Funny,” I deadpanned back at her and then growled, “Now get in the shower.”
She was truly testing my willpower and my patience. I didn’t have the manpower or resources to take on the Fae, as well Nevada and the Fellowship, so killing her just now wasn’t an option.
“Why?” she asked. “If I smell so damn bad, then feel free to kick my stinky ass to the curb.”
I shook my head at her foolishness, wondering what in the hell Niall was good for. You’d think, as her great-grandfather, he would at least have the common sense to warn his kin about just how tasty their kind are to vampires.
But then she didn’t have the sense to not antagonize an angry, hungry, and horny thousand year old vampire, so I decided it was time for her to learn a lesson.
Picking her up, I immediately learned why she’d been bound when her fists and feet starting flying, hitting and kicking me with all of her strength. As impressive as her set of brass balls were, I ignored her tantrum and just tossed her into the tub before turning the shower on, while she yelled every obscenity at me she could think of.
She didn’t know many, so maybe that could be her lesson from Pam.
“What is wrong with you?” she screeched.
“The more apt question is what is wrong with you? You don’t seem to know that the Fae are considered vampire crack, so you’d better hope your great-grandfather’s scent washes off or else you’re likely to find yourself drained.”
She visibly blanched at my statement, but the steam that was rising in the room only made her scent more concentrated, as though I was slowly being wrapped in a blanket of fairies, so I left her there before I ended up doing something I would later regret.
Returning to the living area, I sent a message to Pam, ordering her to return to the palace immediately.
Fangtasia had been losing money over the last couple of years, despite the crowds every night, but once we’d had no choice but to leave Long Shadow in charge, the bar began hemorrhaging cash. He’d blamed my absence from that god awful throne every night, so Pam had gone to interview replacements for us both. But now with my added Fae headache, I needed her here with me.
I left my quarters to retrieve some food for her to eat and heard the shower turn off upon my return. Within a few minutes she appeared in the room and I steeled myself before inhaling deeply, grateful to find the concentration of her scent had indeed diminished, leaving behind a nice sweet, and more importantly, bearable top note.
I was expecting more of her outrage, so I was surprised by her soft spoken request of, “Please. Let me go.”
“What is your name?” I countered.
There was no way I would be letting her go, but I needed to call her something.
“If I tell you, will you let me go?” she asked hopefully.
Her long blond hair was quickly drying in waves down her back thanks to the fire I’d lit. It was something I’d always enjoyed as a human and even though it was no longer a necessity for heat, I found the flames soothing.
Standing there, with something other than anger on her face, she was even more beautiful, but I had no need to lie to her and answered, “No.”
She’d been present when Niall spoke of the danger she was in merely for being his kin, so one would think she’d be grateful for the protection.
“You know you’d likely be killed not long after you were set free,” I warned. “Brendaen and his fighters aren’t known to show mercy. You are safe here.”
Her anger came back at full force, as she took a step forward and scoffed again, saying, “You just told me I was in danger of being drained. How am I safe here? With you?”
“Your Fae scent has lessened,” I replied. “You are in no danger here.”
I had no idea what possessed me to humor her ranting with my calm reply. But my previous statement might have very well unwittingly been a lie because if she kept challenging me, her safety was most likely in jeopardy.
Yet I continued to calmly sit there underneath her now looming stance.
I could feel the pull of dawn approaching and while her defiance admittedly amused me, I figured it was a good time for her to learn her second lesson of the night.
When to back down.
Using a burst of vampire speed, I was centimeters from her face before she could register my movement, making her gasp and take a step back, as I warned, “It would be in your best interests to behave while under my charge. As you know, time moves differently in the Fae realm, so you might be here for a while. I will treat you fairly, but I will have no problem with chaining you and leaving you in a cell until your great-grandfather returns, be it a week from now or a decade. I was merely charged with keeping you safe, not comfortable.”
She gasped again, I’d thought at the possibility of her being left shackled for years on end, until she asked, “What do you mean time moves differently in the Fae realm?”
“Just that,” I answered.
It’s not like they sent out fucking calendars, although I’d happily have her pose for Fangtasia’s calendar.
But still looking as though she was waiting for clarification, I hated myself for giving it to her by adding, “I am unclear on the details. I only know there is a difference.”
Her eyes dropped to her feet, with her hands wringing together in worry, before her gaze met mine again and she asked, “What’s today’s date?”
I was tired of being the only one who was forthcoming in this conversation and countered, “What is your name?”
But when it appeared she wasn’t going to answer, I added, “I will tell you the date if you tell me your name.”
Looking as though giving up any ground was physically painful to her, she managed to surprise me yet again, with both her acquiescence and her answer of, “Sookie.”
In all of my one thousand years, I’d never come across anyone named Sookie before and figured it to be a Fae name, but seeing she was still waiting on an answer, I responded, “It is October 30th.”
Her face fell upon hearing the date, but I also knew days tended to blend into one another when held captive.
I was curious as to how long she’d been with Niall, when she shook her head and whispered, “Five months…it only felt like weeks. Maybe a month or two.”
Five months was a blink of an eye to a creature as old as I, but I suspected time moved much more slowly in the Fae realm than here, so I prodded her for clarification by asking, “You’ve been with Niall since May then?”
“Been with?” she sneered. “I was kidnapped! Snatched right out of my life! Taken from everyone I’ve ever loved, so they’ve been left worrying themselves to death over me for five months!”
I could understand her anger, never having liked not having control over my own life, but I was still curious as to the timeline and ignored everything else she’d said in lieu of asking, “2005? You were taken by Niall in May of 2005?”
Her eyes went round when they met mine again, as she whispered out, “It…it’s…2005?”
She fainted before I could answer her.