Sitting on my throne, I gazed out at the desperate and pathetic, attempting to earn the attention of a vampire, by turning their bodies on the dance floor in a way that was supposed to tempt us.
Even the Ronco Rotisserie Oven cooked chickens looked more appetizing.
Perhaps that was because the majority of my attention was still back at my home, on the temptress who was either sitting on my couch or searching in vain for a Slap Chop she would never find.
Not without a ladder.
I’d hidden it in the cabinet above the refrigerator, while she’d been in the bathroom, laughing over her luck in finding toilet paper.
But that memory reminded me to add another item to the list of things I needed to acquire before returning home.
I’d had no choice but to leave Sookie to deal with my condensed version of events all alone, until I could return and give her a more detailed explanation. But I had to be at the bar. I had to keep up appearances that all was well and my disappearance on a Saturday night would be noticed.
But most of all, I had to be there when either Sophie-Anne or her emissary arrived to investigate Andre’s death.
I’d received no messages from the palace, which I took as a bad sign. Either they believed I had something to do with his final death or whatever mission Compton had been sent on was more important than I had estimated.
The one thing that I admired most about the queen was that she allowed me to do my job, with little to no input from her. So long as she got her monthly tithe, she was happy to let me do things my way in my own area.
And when she wasn’t busy running the kingdom and Area One, it was no secret Sophie-Anne liked to fill her idle time seeking out rare and priceless treasures.
She was a collector.
And I’d heard rumors her pile of growing debt was in danger of going into collections.
But she was also a showoff. She liked to parade her valuables around for all to see and admire.
Had she been born in another lifetime, I had no doubt she would have starred in her own rap videos, just to have cause to flash her bling.
But her passion for exceptional and unusual items was the entire reason for Compton’s official function within her palace.
He had been her procurer.
And yet I couldn’t imagine what he could have possibly been looking to procure in my area.
Because I didn’t want to believe his mission had been to acquire the unusually exceptional little blond, whose only words after being told she would have to uproot her life and hide it away inside of mine were, “Bring home a gallon of rocky road ice cream.”
It was at the top of my shopping list.
But Sookie being their original endgame didn’t make sense. Prior to bunkering down at my house, Sookie had already effectively cutoff herself from the rest of the world. By my research and her own admission, she had no family. She had no friends. She even worked from home and it was where she did most of her shopping.
No one outside of a lifelong Bon Temps’ resident should have known who she was.
And I was still awaiting word from an elfin doctor to find out what she was.
But even if Sookie’s suspicions turned out to be true – and after witnessing Andre’s spontaneous death the night before, I could be easily convinced they were – that Sophie-Anne would have found out a true venefica resided in a Bon Temps’ farmhouse seemed implausible.
If not downright impossible.
But I was quickly learning the words ‘Sookie’ and ‘impossible’ were kissing cousins.
And acquiring a true venefica would be right up the queen’s diamond encrusted alley. I didn’t even need to wonder what she could possibly want one for.
Not when I’d already outlined her uses on my way to her home forty-eight hours earlier.
It was hard to believe only three nights ago, I had been prepared to end her life in retribution for ending the lives of four of our kind.
Two nights earlier I had been careful to avoid telling her anything useful to do with our kind.
And only twenty-fours ago I had been careless enough to invite her somewhere where she would be in the spotlight as my guest.
But in spite of our brief history, I could kick myself now for being so secretive about vampires. Even now she likely still believed herself to be immortal because she hadn’t asked how she’d been left without any signs of her attack and I hadn’t the time to explain anything to her before I’d had to leave.
How she had been at death’s door when I’d ripped her car door from its hinges.
How she would be decomposing in a shallow grave and food for the worms had I not bathed her inside and out with my blood.
How she very easily could have risen as my child two nights from now.
But someone else would have to explain to me why the only relief I felt over her heart still beating now was because had I disappeared into the ground with her for three nights, Sophie-Anne would have noticed.
And speaking of towheaded stubborn children…
I could tell from Pam’s frequent glares that she knew I was on edge, but I hadn’t the time to fill her in on everything that had transpired. She still knew nothing of Sookie – her face already cemented in her vault as Clarice – nor did Pam have any clue about her role in Compton’s and the others’ disappearances, much less Andre’s true death.
Her shock would be genuine if and when the queen arrived at our doorstep.
But as the night wore on I decided that would be the best for now. As much as I would do all that I could to protect Sookie, I wouldn’t sacrifice my child. If our ruse came to light and Pam was found to be complicit in my crimes, then she would be ended too.
Pam’s life wasn’t something I was willing to risk.
My phone buzzed in my pocket and I pulled it out to see I had a new text message from Ludwig.
L – I have questions.
Me – I am paying you for answers. You’ll have them when I stop by later on or I’ll take your head in trade.
L – Then you’ll be paying my estate because I’ll still have questions.
Putting my phone away, I glared at everyone and no one in particular. My initial cause for the blood tests had been purely for my own curiosity.
Curious to know if my curiosity would be killed by her pussy.
But now, curious didn’t begin to describe what I was.
Blue balled only covered the other half of it.
But more than my desire for her body, I found myself feeling things for which I had no name.
I admired her ability to overcome and adapt.
I abhorred the reasons for how I suspected she’d come to learn how.
That she could awaken in a pitch black room, lying beside a vampire who was dead to the world, and still have the wherewithal to tease and joke about her circumstances was truly remarkable.
And the absolute joy she’d felt when playfully ‘accepting’ my ‘proposal’ to both move in to my home and become my bride was only eclipsed by my horror.
Horrified at myself for not feeling an ounce of trepidation at the thought.
I liked the idea of having her around all of the time. I liked the idea of her being mine. Waking up with her in my bed and seeing her run around in nothing but my t-shirt wasn’t something I only wanted an occasional glimpse of.
Perhaps it was another part of her venefican allure at work.
Ludwig had better have answers or else I would return home with an elfin bobble head on my dashboard.
My eyes darted to the front door, feeling Pam’s internal startle, only seconds before Wybert made his way through it, followed by the queen and Sigebert bringing up the rear.
The humans’ only clue something was amiss were the reactions of every vampire in the building when every one of them dropped to a knee and bowed their heads.
Standing from the dais, I met them halfway across the room, but before I could mimic their poses, Wybert grunted just as Sophie-Anne whispered in a tone full of pain, “In your office.”
One of her vampire gifts was an especially strong tie to her children. I suspected she’d bonded herself to all of them before turning them, but Andre had been her first – and therefore her oldest – so I had no doubt his loss caused her excruciating pain.
I might have felt pity for her had that fuck not brought it on himself by attempting to take what was mine.
But I pushed my own contempt for him aside because now wasn’t the time to gloat.
Now was the time for damage control.
Once we were all seated in my office, the only movement made was by Sophie-Anne when she removed her sunglasses, so I could see her red rimmed and scornful eyes, while she uttered a single distressed whisper of, “Andre.”
Taking that as my cue, I put my thousand years of acting to work into looking as confused as possible, while I answered in a questioning tone, “He was here last night, inquiring about Bill Compton. When I told Andre he had checked out of my area within forty-eight hours of checking in, he declined my offer of assistance in locating Compton and left.”
The flicker of surprise behind her eyes was so slight, had I not been staring at her hard enough to see straight into her amygdala, I might have missed it.
But it told me what I needed to know.
Andre hadn’t reported back to her after leaving my bar.
So when she said nothing else, I attempted to appear as though gave an actual fuck as I asked, “Has something happened?”
Her head dropped down, with her hands catching her face, so it was Sigebert who answered me with a grunted out, “Ended. Last night.”
“He…how?” I asked, sitting up straight, much like Sookie had when it occurred to her to whistle for my keys.
Minus the taunting glee she’d worn on her face.
But I certainly felt like whistling Dixie right about then.
And even if I had, Sophie-Anne wouldn’t have been able to hear him chirping from his watery grave at the bottom of the lake I’d left his remains in.
“It was Threadgill,” she snarled, with her furious eyes meeting my own, but I could tell she wasn’t really seeing me. “Or one of de Castro’s spies. Both of them have been sniffing around my kingdom. Andre must have found what Compton had been sent here to find and he was killed for it!”
“By it,” Wybert grunted.
Andre was killed BY it…
His two grunted words made me all the more wary they were indeed speaking about Sookie. But I needed confirmation and since they were speaking freely around me, I didn’t feel as though I was speaking out of turn by asking, “Compton was in my area working on something for you?”
The sound of my voice seemed to jar her from her thoughts and she almost looked shocked to find herself in my office and sitting across from me. And it took her another long moment to decide to finally grace me with an answer.
“I have recently learned of the existence of a fairy portal in my kingdom, but not its location. Compton has spent the last few months, working his way north and methodically searching for evidence of the portal in each area. Area Five was our last hope, so if he left within forty-eight hours of arriving, then I can only conclude he’d found it.”
Her questioning ‘if’ told me she wasn’t ready to take my word at face value, so I reached down and pulled the manila folders from my bottom drawer – already prepared for this eventuality – and handed them to her saying, “Compton’s paperwork from when he checked out is on top. The others are the checkout forms from the three who departed with him.”
Like a Three-card Monte street hustle, the game was fixed.
Sophie-Anne would never find the lady she was looking for in the cards I’d laid before her.
The corner of her lip curled up in disgust as she took in the names of the others, so it was safe to assume she’d already known of Malcolm, Diane, and Liam. Their predilection for being troublesome was well known, so I threw gas onto the fire, by conjecturing, “Compton was especially close to his Maker. Even if he felt loyal to you, Lorena could have commanded him to come to her with anything he’d found. And since she has not come looking for answers about her child’s disappearance – as you have, my queen – I think it is safe to assume that Compton still exists.”
It hadn’t occurred to me until the words were tumbling out of my mouth that Lorena should have come looking for answers about Bill’s death. Even on opposite ends of the planet, I would feel it if Pam had met the true death.
I could only hope her absence from my area meant the infected twat had already been ended herself.
But whatever the reasons were, it all worked out well for me and only lent more credence to the crock of shit I was spoon feeding her.
It must have been tasty because she swallowed hard and seethed, “You’re right. That pathetic whore could be working with either Threadgill or de Castro. But whoever it is, they still have spies lurking around if they were able to kill Andre.”
She was out for blood, but my only concern was protecting what was left of Sookie’s still pumping through her body. However I couldn’t overlook the similarities in the circumstances.
Her allure was very similar to that of a fairy’s.
So I asked the only question that wouldn’t give away any knowledge I had and probed, “Why would the location of a portal leading to the Fae Realm be worth anything? As far as I know, they were all sealed after the war and can only be opened by one of their royals.”
Otherwise, if it could be so easily done, I would have already built my bar around a portal and just kept them on tap.
“It isn’t the portal,” she replied. “But what they may have left behind at the end of the war. A few years ago I came into the possession of a journal and in it, it spoke of a legend passed down by word of mouth through generations. According to the lore, the Fae were so incensed they had lost the war and were left with no other option than to return to their world, they created a weapon in secret and left it here in our world. A weapon that could easily destroy any vampire who came near it, but one that was so tempting, it would be impossible for any of us to resist. That is what Compton had been sent to find and that the weapon would be left within close proximity of the portal was our only clue.”
“And do you have any idea of what this weapon is?” I asked, while my dread built up, with me already picturing a smiling blond wearing one of my t-shirts.
“No,” she huffed. “But it must be small enough it can be transported because the lore says it can be planted in the path of any and all vampires. Unlike a bomb, it can be used again and again.”
The idea of Sookie being put into the path of any and all vampires was about to give our ruse away because I felt the growl fighting to work its way out of my chest at just the thought.
I would kill them all before they could lay a hand on her.
So I could only hope any disgust the queen saw on my face would be misconstrued as my disgust for secret fairy WMD’s. Sophie-Anne was still out for blood to avenge Andre’s death, but she was levelheaded enough to want to gather more intelligence rather than wage war against two kingdoms. Leaving me with the task of seeking out the fairy portal in the meantime, they departed my office to return to the palace.
I waited an hour – conceivably the longest hour of my existence – after their departure before leaving the bar to head to Ludwig’s office.
I needed answers.
And I might very well need to follow through on my threat to take her head if she gave me the slightest inkling she would be informing the queen about her findings.
I appeared in front of her desk without a sound and without looking up the from papers her nose was buried in, she said, “It’s about time.”
Time was something I was short of – just like patience – so she was lucky she moved as quickly as she did when she hopped off of her chair and gestured for me to follow her.
Leading me to a laboratory of some kind, she climbed up a step ladder to reach the countertop and pointed at the four petri dishes lined up side by side saying, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Each dish was labeled.
Vampire. Were. Shifter. Human.
And each dish contained a drop of blood.
Grabbing the syringe I recognized as being the one I used to take a sample of Sookie’s blood, she held the needle over the first petri dish and dispensed a single drop on top of the blood inside.
And she nearly fell from her perch in her excitement when Sookie’s blood literally ate away at the other sample, only leaving behind a small wisp of smoke.
But, according to the label, that dish had contained vampire blood and I’d already seen that little miracle in action. So when she repeated her actions with the rest of the samples and had the same results, I didn’t know what to think.
Or what to say.
But I didn’t need to because Ludwig excitedly exclaimed, “I’ve run every test I could think of on the blood in this syringe, but I can’t find a single anomaly. As far as any blood panel is concerned, this is nothing more than a run of the mill human O neg.”
And then turning to face me, she added, “But I figured you wouldn’t have asked me to run tests on it if it was and clearly it isn’t. So out with it, vampire. Where did you get this from?”
But I ignored her question and asked my own of, “Do you know of anything that would cause this type of response?”
“No,” she glared, clearly unhappy with my evasion. “Even if the sample had tested positive for traces of silver – which it hadn’t – it wouldn’t have had the same effect on the human blood sample. Whatever this is, it is deadly to every race.”
After speaking with the queen earlier, I had my doubts, but I needed the answers just the same. So I inquired, “Have you tested it on fairy blood?”
While it was a rare find, fairy blood wasn’t impossible to be had, so I wasn’t surprised to see the light bulb come on above her head, just before she climbed down her step ladder.
Walking across the room, she entered a series of numbers into the pin pad on the door to a wall safe and came back with a small vile of blood.
The fact I didn’t feel the need to snatch it from her grasp and toss it back like one of Sookie’s tequila shots spoke volumes more than I was willing to say aloud. So her verbal warning to brace myself, right before she pulled the stopper from the glass vile, was a wasted one.
Putting a single droplet in the center of a clean petri dish, she corked the vile before adding a drop of Sookie’s blood into the dish.
And we both stood there wide-eyed, watching Sookie’s blood attack it like acid, before leaving nothing behind but another wisp of smoke.
“I swear to you, Northman. Your secrets are safe with me. It’s not every day that I run across something I’ve never seen or even heard of before. I feel like Marie Curie must have felt when she first discovered polonium. You have to tell me what this is,” Ludwig pleaded, while waving the syringe of Sookie’s blood in between us.
To compare Sookie’s blood to radioactivity was a fitting simile, but I trusted Ludwig about as far as I could throw her.
However, she was small and I was strong, so I could throw her pretty far.
Only instead of answering her, I snatched the syringe from her grasp, and grabbed another petri dish.
My fangs snapped down and I pierced my fingertip on one before squeezing out a single drop into the center of the dish. Ludwig remained quietly vibrating at my side, while I repeated her test by adding a drop of Sookie’s blood to my own.
Only instead of attacking my blood – as hers had done with every other sample – it merely settled into the dish without any complaint.
Much like Sookie had settled into my life.
“How is that possible?” I heard myself asking.
Over either her blood not attacking mine or how she’d managed to invade my life so easily, was anyone’s guess.
And sounding much too cavalier for her own good, Ludwig snatched the syringe back from my hand as she replied, “I can’t answer that unless you tell me where you got this from.”
Knowing what I did about the queen’s quest, I wasn’t about to utter the word ‘venefica’ out loud, in spite of her assurances. So I gave her the only answer I was willing to, in the form of, “Someone who appears to be a run of the mill O neg human.”
She merely grumbled at my response and said, “So I suppose you allowing me to examine this run of the mill O neg human is out of the question?”
For now, at least.
“I know she is a she,” she offered, not so much taunting me as she was trying to get me to say more than I was willing to at the moment.
“And if you know me as well as you think you do, then you know to keep that and everything else you know about her to yourself.”
Already I was questioning the logic of leaving her alive, but everything I knew about the doctor told me she was loyal to her profession, and therefore her clients, above all else.
The original doctor without borders, as it were.
She wasn’t beholden to any monarchy, so she moved about autonomously as she saw fit. And I knew she didn’t particularly care for Sophie-Anne, so I didn’t think she would go running her mouth to the palace.
But thinking of mouths…
My own opened up, with the question falling from my lips before I could stop it.
“What about her other bodily fluids? Could more than just her blood be deadly?”
“I can’t know without running tests on them,” she replied and then chuckled, “But I’m guessing, if you’re asking, it’s not because you’re afraid she might spit on you.”
And when my responding glare didn’t kill her, Ludwig shrugged, “Like I said, I can’t know without running tests. But since her blood seemed to accept yours so easily, there’s no reason to think the rest of her body wouldn’t react the same.”
“How sure are you?” I asked.
More than just my hopes were up.
Patting me on the shoulder, she smiled and said, “There’s only one way to find out. But if I’m wrong, I’ll refund your payment. To your estate.”
I left the sadist’s office and made quick work of obtaining the items Sookie had requested before returning home. But my mind refused to shut down, while I completed the mind-numbing task, and only focused on one thing.
Out of everything I had seen and heard in my short time away from her, the one thing that stood out from the rest was watching how her blood had reacted to mine.
It accepted it, as though she’d issued me an invitation into her body.
I couldn’t help but wonder if it had to be a conscious decision on her part.
The others had attempted to take from her unwillingly and without invitation. And while she hadn’t offered me her blood, she had offered me her friendship.
Could it be as simple as that?
And did that mean the rest of her body would be just as inviting to the rest of mine?
I hadn’t come to any conclusions by the time I arrived back at the house and I found the center of my thoughts in the center of my kitchen. She stood there, eying me in a way that said she was up to something, but I couldn’t get a read on her mood.
My own were too jumbled to be able to make any sense of hers.
“Sookie?” I asked, as I had earlier that night in that very room.
Nor was I asking for her hand in marriage this time either.
But as she had earlier, her glee began pulsing through our blood tie, and her brow rose in challenge as she brought her hand around from behind her body.
Using it to place the Slap Chop in her grasp onto the counter.
She grinned back at me as though she didn’t have a care in the world and taunted, “Check your ego at the door, because I checked your cabinets for the hell of it, and found your hidden treasure. Check and mate, buddy.”
After the long and tense evening I’d had, staring at her bright smile now, I felt her carefree spirit lift my own. And while I knew her proclamation of finding a ‘hidden treasure’ was right.
It was also wrong.
Because the only hidden treasure I had wasn’t sitting on my countertop.
It was currently doing some god awful rendition of the song, ‘Whoomp! There it is’, in combination with a touchdown dance of sorts.
If epileptics played American football, that is.
But watching her flail around the kitchen, wearing only my t-shirt, I was no longer thinking about sinister fairytales or sadistic elfin doctors.
Instead I was singularly focused on one thing at the moment and I acted on it.
By pulling her into my arms before she could react to it and kissing her.