“You are early,” I said to Victor as he approached my throne, where I’d been nonchalantly playing with my phone.
The Regent had three guards—aka paid goons—in tow. I’d seen them with Victor before. Their combined ages didn’t approach mine, so I didn’t see them as a threat to my plans. However, that didn’t stop me from judging Victor for always needing an “entourage” with him—and for having to pay them to be there.
The asshole had no idea what loyalty truly meant.
“Your club seems quite empty,” he remarked as he gestured around him.
I smiled congenially. “I opted to close Fangtasia to the public tonight due to,” I paused, “upcoming events.”
He nodded. “Ah—of course. So—what are your plans for Miss Stackhouse?”
To cherish her.
To find even more ways to make her mine.
To build a solid and happy life with her.
To keep her safe.
To make her my queen.
I had so many plans.
“That will depend upon her level of cooperation,” I said enigmatically to the vampire I hated.
Victor looked toward the entrance of the club and waved over a human female.
“Come!” he yelled in a tone of voice most often used for calling dogs.
The approaching blonde looked to be about twenty years old and smelled tolerable. Before Sookie, she would have tempted me. After Sookie? Well—she smelled like pigswill.
“A new pet?” I asked Victor diplomatically.
He chuckled. “No. A gift. I brought her for you. I thought you might enjoy a,” he paused and smirked, “subservient meal. And a compliant fuck,” he added.
I kept my countenance even—despite the fact that I wanted to behead the smarmy bastard right then and there.
“You are too kind,” I nodded in deference and then looked around the room as if for the first time that night. “I am sorry, but—obviously—I have no donors here tonight. The waitresses are generally compliant,” I said, looking at the three human servers who were there that night. “And I did order two cases of Royalty Blended for the occasion.”
“Royalty Blended?” Victor asked, licking his lips. “That would be acceptable.”
I looked over at Jock. “Prepare a goblet for Victor immediately,” I ordered.
“Yes, Royalty blended is a treat,” Victor added somewhat excitedly as he watched my bartender—his spy—retrieve one of the “fancy” goblets from the top shelf behind the bar.
Pam had insisted upon the goblets—for when we had pretentious guests. She used to be hard-pressed to control her amusement when Andre would be served TrueBlood in one.
Ah—the good old days!
To be sure, I found Royalty Blended to be more tolerable than TrueBlood, but it was still not as good as human blood, and it was nothing compared to my bonded’s nectar. However, because it was expensive and somewhat rare, Royalty Blended was favored by pompous, affected status-seekers like Victor. And that fact worked right into my plans.
“I have other treats planned for tonight as well,” I said.
“In addition to our Miss Stackhouse’s punishment?” he asked, clearly trying to goad me with the word “our.”
“Yes,” I responded. “I believe that you enjoy Bubba’s singing?”
Victor perked right up. “You have convinced Bubba to perform?” he asked.
I nodded. “I promised there would be only vampires here tonight—besides the waitresses and Sookie, of course. But their presence won’t bother Bubba because he is familiar with them. And, of course, the waitresses will be glamoured not to react to Bubba. He may sing only one or two songs before he discombobulates,” I commented with a wave of my hand, “but it is something.”
“Yes. A rare treat, indeed,” Victor agreed, though he was trying to sound casual. However, his excitement was palatable.
Just then, Jock delivered the goblet of Royalty Blended to Victor.
“We shall all have a toast when Bubba begins to perform,” I announced loudly to those who had already gathered in the club. An appreciative murmur was heard.
I looked at Victor. “You should, of course, feel free to partake in as much as you wish, Regent,” I said with a nod.
“Thank you,” he nodded back. “And you should partake of your own meal,” Victor said, gesturing toward the woman he’d brought.
Clearly, he was testing me.
I grinned as I rose from my seat. “I believe I will,” I said before taking the woman’s hand and leading her back to my office. I closed the door and had her trapped in my glamour a moment later. “What are your instructions?” I growled.
“To have sex with you. To give you blood. To make sure I leave with at least one strand of your hair—even if I have to pull it out,” she said mindlessly.
“And after that?” I asked.
“I’m to deliver the hair to a vampire named Bill Compton,” she conveyed.
I sighed deeply. “Sit on the couch and take off your panties. Masturbate until I say otherwise.”
Immediately, she complied, and I went into my small bathroom. The problem of getting the woman’s scent of arousal on me would be easily solved, but I had to get mine on her as well. I closed the door of my bathroom enough so that the woman couldn’t see me, and—with a sigh—I pulled out my cock.
I closed my eyes and thought of my bonded, imagining that it was her hand that stroked up and down along my cock. It lurched in my hand.
I imagined Sookie sinking to her knees before me, her blue eyes getting darker and darker with lust as she licked the head of my cock and then teased me by gently kissing and nibbling along my shaft. I imagined her doing that until I begged her to take me into her mouth. My bonded had not had much practice in fellatio, but—what she lacked in experience—she made up for in enthusiasm. She seemed to know just how to work me with her tongue, and she wasn’t afraid to use her teeth—but just a little. The effect was almost like a tickle along my cock.
But the best part of being blown by my bonded was what she could do with her tongue. She’d tighten her lips around me, and her warm, wet tongue would practically cradle the part of my cock she could fit into her mouth.
And she always seemed greedy to fit more.
“Mmmm,” I moaned, increasing the pace of my hand and gripping my shaft tighter.
I thought about Sookie moaning and humming around my cock. I thought about reaching the point when I could no longer be patient—the point when I would pull her to her feet, put her up onto the sink edge, and drive into her. I moaned louder, thinking of my bonded’s tight, warm pussy embracing my cock.
I imagined the noises she would be making. My name—she always panted my name. And she grunted and moaned unintelligible sounds and curses as she reached for her own pleasure. Gods, I loved her noises!
In a haze of fantasy, I felt myself getting close to release and quickly grabbed a towel. Even before I’d come down from my Sookie-inspired masturbatory session, however, I was interrupted, by the woman in the other room reaching her own climax.
I grabbed another towel and scowled as I went to “finish” what Victor had made me start. I was looking forward to the night when I wouldn’t have to answer to anyone!
Ten minutes later, I led the donor out of my office.
She had been glamoured to believe that we’d fucked, and she had a new set of fang marks on her. Thinking about Sookie’s instructions the night before, I’d choked down a few swallows of semi-decent A-positive to make sure that I was as strong as possible, even though doing so was like torture.
I’d ripped a few pieces of my own hair out and entwined it into her fingers before making sure that the obligatory “fluid transfer” occurred.
I grimaced—just thankful that Sookie didn’t have a supernatural sense of smell. It was bad enough that I had to smell like I’d had sex with the woman!
As least, I reconciled myself with the idea that—even if Sookie could smell the evidence of a fluid exchange—she would be able to feel through our strengthened bond that I’d done nothing with the woman.
Except set up a scene.
Sookie and I had wondered how Victor was going to go about getting a sample of my hair to give to the witches. And now we knew.
It was almost a clever ploy on his part—but a little predictable.
Of course, the spell that the witches intended to brew would be about as effectual as one of the many phony elixirs that were sold around the world in the 1800s. Come to think of it—I bet that Compton had fallen for some of those “cure-alls” during his human lifetime.
Speaking of falling for a ruse . . . .
I made sure I had a self-satisfied smirk on my face as I walked the young woman back into the main bar.
“You didn’t tell me that you’d secured a hell-cat for me,” I remarked as I sat onto my throne. Victor had taken up the seat I’d placed next to it for the night.
From the corner of my eye, I saw that he was inhaling deeply to check for “evidence” of sex.
Luckily, his expression immediately relaxed as he determined that I must have fucked and fed from the woman. In fact, only one of those things was the truth.
“Hell-cat? Do tell,” Victor leered.
“Oh—this one likes it rough,” I said, winking at the woman. She didn’t even have the grace to blush. “She’s especially into hair pulling,” I grinned.
“I wouldn’t think that you’d mind such a thing,” Victor remarked, a slightly nervous edge to his tone.
“Oh—I don’t,” I stated. “It’s just that I’m usually the one doing the pulling.”
“Would you like to go again?” the woman asked shamelessly as she licked her lips. “You could pull my hair all you want.”
Well—I had glamoured her to believe that I was the best she’d ever had.
“No!” Victor said quickly.
“No?” I asked innocently.
Victor composed himself. “Well—you said yourself that tonight was for vampires only. Other than your bonded, of course. And it is approaching 10:00 P.M.,” he added.
“True,” I said evenly.
“So Stacy here should be on her way.” Victor waved to one of his men. “Make sure she gets where she needs to go, and then return immediately.”
“Stacy,” I said as if glad to have learned her name, “it was a pleasure. I hope that you will visit Fangtasia on another night,” I lied.
“Yeah,” she grinned dreamily before Victor’s goon grabbed her arm and led her out the door.
I glanced at Victor and thought about my plans for the next few hours.
It would be good riddance—indeed.
But the trouble with plans—especially those that involved killing one’s Regent—was that there was almost always an unpleasant part to them.
Especially with a vampire like Victor, a direct attack wouldn’t be prudent. To defeat him, I would need Victor’s help; I’d need him to let his guard down.
Victor would need to think that he was in the ascendancy, on the way to a victory of his own. And—when he did—he would be vulnerable.
Before that, I would have to make myself vulnerable by placing the most important thing in my life—Sookie—before him on a golden platter!
And that meant that my plan could backfire.
However, I was counting on Victor’s patience and his “Bond villain persona”—for lack of a better description. Victor was known for enjoying his conquests—for reveling in dragging out any time he spent “punishing” them.
In fact, Victor had been “punishing” me for months—torturing me with endless paperwork and hoops to jump through. He knew that his passive aggressive attacks on me would provoke me much worse than a direct assault, so he’d taken great pleasure in them.
But I was determined to get the last laugh. But to do that, I would have to risk everything.
I’d spent the car ride to Shreveport telling Thalia what she needed to know about my and Eric’s plan—and what we needed her to do.
Luckily, she seemed up for the challenge.
Supes and bloodlust—I should have known.
Thalia drove even more quickly—and recklessly—than Eric did.
However, she’d slowed down as we’d approached Shreveport—likely so that we wouldn’t arrive too soon.
As if she were the mind reader, she looked at me in the rearview mirror. “We are to arrive at Fangtasia at 9:55 P.M.,” she stated. “Not a moment before.”
“Okay—um—that gives me time to broach Plan B with you,” I said, mustering my courage.
“Plan B?” she asked.
“If Eric dies, he wants you to take me—to bond with me,” I said, my voice catching on each word as I quite literally winced at the possibility of Eric dying.
“He has progeny. Why not them?” Thalia asked.
I sighed, recalling Eric’s words from the night before. “Eric loves his children, but he thinks Pam’s too young to protect me. Plus, she has a new child of her own. And—as for Karin? Well, they’ve been estranged.” I took a deep breath. “He trusts your strength, and I trust that you would have no personal interest in me.”
“You helped to decide on Plan B?” she asked with a bit of amusement in her tone.
“Just the ‘who.’ I didn’t want to discuss Plan B at all. I didn’t want to imagine the need for it,” I said honestly—and a little stubbornly.
“If Eric dies, I will leave this area—and likely this continent,” she returned. “At least for a while.”
I nodded. “Okay. I won’t give you any argument—or trouble.”
She rolled her eyes. “Of course, you will be trouble. But a human companion can have benefits too,” she contemplated.
“Eric made me promise that I would,” I paused, “follow your lead.”
There was silence for a moment as the ancient vampiress seemed to be mulling over the request.
“You will be barely seen and almost never heard in my nights,” she said with surety. “But I will take you on, and I will endeavor to place us into a situation that will ensure your safety. But—make no mistake—I am not a social animal. You and I would not be friends. You would live your life during the day. I would live a separate one at night. But I would give you my protection when needed. Would this arrangement be acceptable?”
“Yes. Thank you,” I whispered.
“You will live a life under the radar,” she said sternly. “Understand that before giving me your choice.”
“I agree,” I said. Honestly, I knew that under the radar was exactly where I’d want to be if Eric wasn’t alive. In fact, a very large part of me wondered if I would survive without him.
Eric seemed confident that I would live through the breaking of our bond, but I wondered if I could survive the broken heart that his dying would create within me. I thought of Gran and how sad she’d been after Grandpa Mitchell had died. I couldn’t help but to wonder if she would have succumbed to her own broken heart if she’d not had Jason and me to see to. Of course, there was also the Fintan factor. Had her relationship with him made a difference in her love for Grandpa Mitchell?
Now that I had Eric—really had him—I doubted that I could ever agree to be with another man, even if I had a motive like getting pregnant. That thought made me realize just how different Gran and I were—not that I judged her. Actually, I sort of admired her: to be willing to go that far to have children—to be a mother. I’d certainly never felt compelled to be a mother to that degree—if at all.
I sighed and looked out the window, the blurred image of the trees in the night—ironically enough—making my thoughts sharper. In that moment, I knew that I didn’t want to be a mother. I could be one. I even felt that I would make a good one. But the freedom of not being one—the freedom from the worry that having a possibly telepathic child in the Supe world would bring—was enough to make me certain of my decision.
I found myself smiling a little.
And I could see that relieved smile in the reflection of the car window.
“You are happy,” Thalia remarked, scrutinizing me from the front seat.
I shrugged. “Not about the thought of Plan B,” I clarified. “But I am happy. And I’m confident in the life I’ve chosen with Eric.”
She nodded. “Confidence and peace within one’s self is a hard-won thing,” she said sagely. “You will make Eric a good companion.”
I smiled. “Thank you.”
We were silent for a few moments.
“When will Desmond Cataliades provide the distraction?” she asked, obviously ready to turn the conversation back to the night’s plans as we drew closer to our destination.
“About 10:45 P.M.,” I responded.
She nodded and seemed to be making mental calculations.
I was certain that Desmond and Diantha would provide just the distraction that Eric wanted. And, of course, I would need to do my part too—affecting just the right mixture of righteous indignation and resignation at my punishment.
“Bubba will begin performing at 11:00 P.M.,” I added.
Again, she seemed to be making some calculations.
“The fairy blood?” Thalia asked.
I pulled it from my purse and handed it up to her. She quickly pocketed it.
“Niall said that it can’t be smelled, but you should check it to be sure,” I said, before handing her a vial of clear liquid as well. “This is the potion Amelia made up to cover the scent of the Fae blood. Use this if Niall’s magic isn’t doing the job.”
“You doubt your great-grandfather?” she asked, somewhat surprised and somewhat amused.
“Was that a rhetorical question?” I intoned.
Thalia laughed as if I’d just told the funniest joke in creation. It was the first time I’d heard the noise from her. I immediately wished that I hadn’t.
Thalia looked at me in the rearview mirror. “All questions should be rhetorical—don’t you think?” she commented, before chuckling darkly.
Not knowing what to say, I didn’t answer, a fact which caused her to laugh again.
“Um,” I started when she’d finally stopped laughing, “do you think Jock will be a problem?” It wasn’t a rhetorical question. Luckily, she answered.
“No—as soon as the demons enter, I will have him go to the storeroom to get the second case of Royalty Blended. At that time, I will lace the appropriate glasses.”
“How will you make sure that the right people get the right glasses?” I asked.
“I will glamour the waitresses as needed,” she said simply.
“How? When?” I asked.
She rolled her eyes. “Surely you have realized that older vampires do not have to voice their desires when they glamour,” she said drolly.
I frowned. Come to think of it, I did know that. Eric had, after all, tried to use glamour on me the first time he’d seen me. I’d felt it against my thoughts. And he’d not said a word.
“When does that ability kick in?” I asked.
She shrugged. “For all vampires, it is different, but it is uncommon to see one younger than eight hundred or so with the ability to glamour in such a way. It is called ‘pushing’ actually. And most vampires—even older ones—continue to voice their desires during glamour. It’s a habit that is hard to break—I suppose. But don’t worry. Especially in the weak-minded—and trust me when I tell you that most of the Fangtasia waitresses are that—it is easy to ‘push.'”
“So you’ll just push them to give the tainted glasses to Victor’s people,” I commented.
“Indeed—and those whom I suspect are his spies,” she added.
I frowned. “Spies? You mean—like Jock? There are more?”
She nodded. “Fifteen vampires have checked in to Area 5 since the takeover. Some are Eric’s allies, whom he’s asked to come to the area for additional support. A few are innocuous—relocating here for completely innocent reasons. But half a dozen are Victor’s people.”
“Eric told you that?” I asked.
She chuckled. “The Norseman is wise, and I do respect him—but I trust my own judgment when it comes to determining a friend from a foe.”
“So you told him—about the spies?” I asked.
She shook her head. “Why would I need to?”
“Does he know about them?” I asked, suddenly concerned.
“That is a rhetorical question!” she exclaimed, laughing loudly. “You are quite funny! Plan B might not be such a hardship, after all—though I’d prefer it if the Norseman lived.”
Again, Thalia’s laughter was a scary sound, but I felt like she was conveying—although somewhat creepily—that Eric didn’t need her help knowing what Victor was up to.
Given the fact that she was controlling the distribution of the Fae blood—and, therefore, who would likely die that night—I decided not to tell her that my question hadn’t been rhetorical.
“Would you become a sheriff for Eric?” I asked. “If he becomes king?”
Her laughter died immediately, and she looked at me through the rearview mirror again.
“That is a rhetorical question too,” she stated flatly.
“Okay,” I responded. “Eric figured that would be the case.” Clearly, her answer was a resounding “no.”
Thalia looked over her shoulder at me.
“I will step in whenever necessary to protect Eric and you from outside enemies. But I enjoy my solitary life too much to give it up,” she shared.
I smiled at her. “Bon Temps is very solitary. And I won’t be using my house there for the foreseeable future. Would you like to use it?” I asked her.
“I thought your fairy kin lived there,” she commented.
“Not any more. And—with Amelia’s magic—only people I invite can get in. I’ve already uninvited Claude and Dermot—and Niall after his visit earlier,” I conveyed.
She frowned. “You are really offering to make me your tenant?”
I chuckled. “No. I wouldn’t expect rent. You could make one of the rooms light-tight if you wanted. And you could upgrade the security if you didn’t trust Amelia’s spell—though I think it’s probably pretty good. Honestly, I hate to think of the old place not having anyone living in it, and I can’t think of anyone better to do that,” I offered sincerely.
“I have already agreed to help you. You cannot bribe me to become sheriff with the promise of a secluded residence,” she scowled.
I almost choked on my laughter. “My old house is hardly a good bribe! I just thought it might suit you.”
The vampiress contemplated for a minute.
“Anyway—you have already agreed to Plan B, and that’s a whole lot! I owe you for that.”
She scoffed. “That won’t be needed.”
“I hope not,” I sighed, looking out the window again. “Thank you, Thalia. For everything,” I told her.
She shrugged. “Victor Madden is inferior to Eric. So is de Castro.”
I shook my head and smiled. For Thalia, choices seemed to be quite easy. I would have envied her if my own choices hadn’t been becoming more and more easier during the last couple of days.
As always, many thanks to Sephrenia and Kleannhouse. In fact, there’s a new banner this week: Stacy. I was picturing a blond Sookie-like actress, and I know that many authors actually feature Elisha Cuthbert as their Sookie, so she made sense to me.