After listening to Thalia’s terse Greek explanation of her plans for the evening, I dismissed her from my office and looked at my bonded, who was standing nervously before me.
It was 9:58 P.M.—two minutes before Sookie’s “punishment” was to begin. As instructed, Thalia arrived with my bonded at precisely 9:55 P.M.—after having “stalled” by “taking a scenic route.” She’d been able to confirm that one vehicle with two Weres inside had followed her—Alcide’s people.
“This is not going to be pleasant,” I whispered to Sookie, even as I stroked her cheek lightly. It would be the only intimate gesture I would allow myself until after Victor and his people were dead.
“I know,” she returned. “But it won’t last long.”
“No—it won’t,” I agreed.
“Ready?” she asked me.
“No,” I returned. “I don’t want to do this part.”
“And that’s why I love you,” she smiled. “Well—one of the reasons. I also love you because you are going to do it anyway.”
“Yes—I am,” I sighed.
I was aflutter with excitement. Eric Northman would be dead by the end of the night, and Sookie Stackhouse would belong to me!
I looked around me as I sipped my second Royalty Blended.
I reveled in the fact that the tacky club was on the decline thanks to competition from my own new establishment in Area 5. I was also gratified to see that all of my people were in place. In addition to Jock, I’d planted six other vampires in the area, though they knew better than to acknowledge me beyond the usual respect afforded to a Regent.
I noticed Hank, the guard who had delivered Stacy to Compton so that she could deliver Northman’s hair, entering the bar. He gave me a short nod before taking his customary place behind me.
I smiled to myself. Counting Jock, I now had ten loyal vampires in Fangtasia and three more outside as back-up. Northman’s remaining ragtag group added up to twenty-two, though only about a half dozen of them were absolutely loyal to the Viking, according to Jock. Quite a few of the “neutral” vampires were recent transplants to Area 5; thus, they likely would feel only indifference when Northman died. Regardless—soon—any of Area 5’s subject that didn’t bow down to me would be dead just like the current sheriff.
Speaking of Northman, he blustered into the room with Sookie trailing him.
True to form, the telepath was looking more defiant than contrite, which I felt would serve my ultimate purposes well enough—though it would be hard to hide my hard-on at the site of her insolence to the Viking.
And her punishment for that defiance.
I’d contemplated inviting the weretiger for the “show,” but I’d decided that Quinn’s presence might complicate matters in Sookie’s mind. Plus, there was no need offering him up as another potential “hero.” Still—I regretted not having the tiger present. It was so fun to watch Quinn lose his composure. His ungodly purple eyes would change to yellow at the drop of a fucking hat! It was a hilarious sight!
Plus, there would have been the chance of having a “cat fight” between the tiger and the Viking. Oh well. Quinn’s absence was a relatively small disappointment—all things considered.
Similarly, it was a pity that Compton wasn’t there. It would have been fun watching him deal with Sookie’s punishment too. However, he would have likely given away his connection to me or Felipe because of his unnatural emotional attachment to the telepath.
Despite not having Quinn or Compton at Fangtasia, I knew I’d have plenty of fun. And my plans for later would be even more gratifying. After I secretly enjoyed Sookie’s ordeal—but outwardly conveyed compassion for the telepath—Northman and I would go hunting for Ms. Pelt.
I smiled to myself.
Of course, Eric had no idea that he was the one who was truly going to be hunted. My personal guards and several of my most trusted vampires would be following us. And—once Northman and I were away from “civilization”—they would move in, and Northman would be slain.
I hated to admit it, but Eric was stronger than I was—because of his age. Thus, I wouldn’t be able to deal with him alone as I would have preferred. However, I was willing to give up the death strike—if necessary—as long as Northman was gone by the end the night.
And then I would collect Sookie.
I glanced at the Viking. He seemed distracted by his bonded. That was a good thing.
Hopefully, he’d be distracted by the hunt too. Indeed, concentrating on finding Sandra Pelt, he would be vulnerable. And—between me and my six comrades—I was certain that we would be able to easily take him out, despite his thousand years. And Ms. Pelt would be the perfect pansy to frame for the “crime.”
“My bonded, Sookie Stackhouse, is present to receive punishment for defying me,” Eric announced to the crowd of vampires as soon as he’d taken his ridiculous throne.
I was also sitting on the dais—though in a less “gaudy” chair. I made sure that I was looking at Sookie with pity and compassion in my eyes.
Sadly, she wasn’t paying any attention to me. She was too busy staring daggers at Northman.
“You will kneel,” Northman told his bonded in a cold tone. “You will show me proper deference.”
Sookie jutted out her chin defiantly.
“If you don’t kneel voluntarily, I will make you strip off your clothing and then do so,” Northman said almost casually.
I grew harder just thinking about her kneeling while nude.
A tear fell down Sookie’s cheek. I wondered if it were from anger or fear. Whatever had caused it, she took to her knees before the sheriff.
“I hate you,” she muttered.
“Your feelings don’t matter, pet,” Northman said cruelly—before he apparently caused her pain through their bond. The Viking seemed extremely pleased with himself as she writhed on the floor—her face the picture of agony.
“I’m not a pet,” she seethed through her pain.
“Funny that you mention that,” Northman said before motioning toward his new second, Thalia.
The sour-faced vampiress approached the dais with a dog collar.
“Put it on,” Northman ordered his bonded after Thalia had placed the object onto the floor in front of her.
“No,” she muttered.
“Put it on, or I will strip you and whip you and then put it on you myself,” the Viking said. “Not to mention the pain I will bring you through the bond. You know that I can make you heel when I require,” he reminded with a self-satisfied look. “I believe you smart enough to recognize that you are powerless here.”
“And I believe you know that I hate you,” she reiterated, even as she moved to put on the collar.
“Your feelings truly are immaterial to me now, my lover,” Northman leered, even as he reached behind his throne and pulled out a chain. Within moments, he’d attached that object to Sookie’s collar.
“You will sit here like this with me every night for the foreseeable future,” he said steadily. “You will use your telepathy to warn me of any danger. From now on, you will not leave my sight—unless I decide to allow another vampire to enjoy you,” he added, glancing at me.
It was safe to say that I was even harder than before.
Sookie looked at her bonded with wide, horror-filled eyes. “You wouldn’t!”
“I wouldn’t have,” Eric corrected. “But then you decided that our bond didn’t suit you. So you must learn to appreciate me,” he added in a steely voice before looking around the room.
After a few moments, his eyes settled upon me. “Victor, you are my honored guest and Regent. Would you care to enjoy my bonded? I believe a fuck and a feed would do her some good.”
Surprised, I looked at Sookie, whose eyes were now on mine—and pleading.
It was time for me to be her hero. But it was hard to do so—in more than one way!
“No thank you,” I said after reminding myself that I needed to be patient and follow my plan.
Sookie looked at me with surprise and then gratitude.
It was gratifying.
“I already fed and had my fill of pleasure tonight—in anticipation of our upcoming hunt,” I added to explain my decision.
Northman, too, looked surprised at my response. “I had thought that you desired my bonded,” he leered.
“Certainly, Sookie is attractive and worthy of interest,” I returned, nodding at the woman. “But I do not want to take her by force.”
Northman shrugged. “Suit yourself,” he said, even as a commotion could be heard toward the door to the club.
I was surprised to see Desmond Cataliades there. He was flanked by one of his nieces. I’d forgotten which of the “flowers” had died and which had lived. It didn’t really matter, however.
“Demon? We are having a private,” Northman paused, “party. Do you have business here?”
“I am here to demand that you set my godchild free,” the part-demon emphasized.
“Godchild?” I asked.
“Miss Stackhouse,” he clarified.
“Explain!” Northman demanded, before I could demand the same.
“The fairy, Fintan Brigant, was Sookie’s grandfather. He was also my closest friend. He named me Sookie’s godfather.”
“What?” Sookie herself asked, clearly surprised.
“I am sorry I haven’t claimed you before,” the part-demon said compassionately as he looked down at the kneeling telepath. “However, it seemed better to cover up your lineage—until tonight,” he added, glaring at the Viking.
I could hear the rumbling of several vampires in the room as they recognized the name “Brigant.” Some of them pulled out their phones and could be seen texting. Undoubtedly, Sookie’s bloodline would be fodder for the Supe rumor mills within a few minutes—as would the demon’s “claiming” of the telepath as a goddaughter.
To his credit, Eric seemed to take the news in stride, though he was clearly surprised by it. “You are aware that Sookie is my bonded,” he emphasized.
“Yes,” Cataliades said stiffly.
“And she is also my pledged,” Eric observed.
“Yes. I know these things,” the lawyer grunted.
“Therefore, it is my right to punish her—my duty—given her disobedience of me.”
“But she is a fairy princess!” Cataliades yelled out, drawing a gasp from many of those present.
I could see that more vampires had their phones out now.
“Are you challenging my right to punish my bonded as I see fit?” Eric asked gruffly.
Mr. Cataliades took a step back—both literally and symbolically. The part-demon had no choice but to recognize a blood bond. “I ask for mercy on her behalf. The girl lacks experience. She didn’t know that her notion of breaking the bond was so forbidden in our world.”
Eric looked at the demon coldly. “Am I not already being merciful?” he asked, looking down at Sookie coldly. “I’ve not physically injured her.”
“You humiliate her by making her kneel—by making her wear a collar like a common pet! She is the granddaughter of Niall Brigant!”
Again, there was a murmur throughout the crowd. Many who didn’t know the significance of the Brigant surname had likely heard the name “Niall” before.
“I know who and what she is,” Eric snarled. “And when she acts like an animal, I will treat her like one. Thus, for the time being, she will stay on her knees next to me!”
Mr. Cataliades looked upset. “If she is physically harmed, vampire, there will be consequences,” he said before giving Sookie one last look and storming out of the bar with the “flower” in tow.
“The plot thickens,” I said to Northman once the demons were gone.
“It is nothing that I was not expecting,” Eric sighed. “Of course, I’d thought it would be Sookie’s fairy kin rather than a demon godfather who would challenge my authority over her, but,” he shrugged, “it’s of little matter who did it. Sookie is mine and will stay mine,” he said confidently—over-confidently—as he looked down at the still-kneeling blonde. It was clear that it had taken all of her resolve not to speak up when her demon godfather had been in the club.
“You should be careful not to make too many powerful enemies,” I told Northman with a smirk.
He simply shrugged and then motioned toward his second.
“Is he here?” he asked Thalia.
The vampiress nodded.
“Bubba is here?” I inquired, looking around.
“He will be ready at 11:00 P.M. as planned,” Thalia said.
Northman nodded and then looked at Jock. “Excellent. Make sure all vampires get a glass of Royalty before the show,” Northman ordered.
There was a murmur throughout the club as Jock nodded and began pouring drinks for the waitresses to distribute.
Eric sighed. “As a club owner yourself, you must be as concerned as I am that Royalty Blended is becoming more scarce.”
“Yes, it is a pity,” I said. “But that does add to its value.””
“But you indicated that you were sated when you turned down Sookie,” he frowned, looking at my goblet. “I don’t suppose you’ll want any more.”
I glanced at Sookie, who was watching me curiously from her knees. Honestly, she looked pretty damned good there.
“I will take some more—since you went to so much bother to secure it,” I said.
“Jock!” Eric yelled out. “Another goblet for the Regent.”
Within moments, the drink had been delivered to me. The other vampires now all had drinks in their hands as well.
Eric stood and looked around at the gathered crowd. “Please, I must ask that you all turn off your phones now and put them away. You know how skittish Bubba can be.”
Immediately, all of the vampires in the bar complied. The information that Bubba would be performing had already circulated among them, and none of them wanted to do anything to fuck things up.
“You know me to be a fair ruler!” Northman said with a raised voice. “Many of you admire my bonded for the help she has offered to our kind in the past. It is because of that help that I have kept her punishment mild.” He looked down at Sookie, his eyes softening a touch. “I love this woman.”
There were a few gasps throughout the room at his confession.
“But I won’t have her undermine me!” Northman’s voice stormed a second later, causing Sookie to shrink away in fear.
A moment later, his tone was measured again. “There is such a thin line between love and hate,” he said in barely a whisper—as he looked at his bonded. “You must respect me. Revere me. However, a line between us has now been forever erased,” he added significantly. “That line is trust.”
For her part, Sookie looked petrified.
“Yes!” Eric said more loudly, once again addressing all the vampires in the room. “Respect, reverence, and trust are what I require from Area 5 subjects! But,” his voice softened as he raised his glass, “in return, I offer the spoils of success! Let us drink to that—and to loyalty!” he proclaimed, looking down at the woman on her knees before him as he took a drink.
As one, everyone in the room drank immediately after him, many murmuring their appreciation as they did so.
And—with that—Bubba himself appeared on stage.
I gasped as I watched the crooner stand behind the microphone.
“Do you have a request?” Northman asked. “I’m sure that Bubba would accommodate you.”
Star-struck, I shook my head. “No. Any song Bubba chooses will be fine.”
“Singer’s choice then,” Eric said, as he nodded at Bubba.
“Thank you. Thank you—very much,” Bubba said as he began playing the first notes of “Heartbreak Hotel.”
I will admit to the fact that I felt giddy as I sat back in my seat and continued to sip my blood as I listened to Bubba sing. In fact, I’m pretty sure that my legs bounced with excitement, though I tried to hide that fact. By the time Bubba began “Don’t Be Cruel,” I felt downright light-headed.
And it was then that I realized that I was light-headed.
I looked down at my glass.
Drunk. I was drunk.
But how? I couldn’t smell it!
I looked at Northman, but there seemed to be more than one of him.
The Viking was looking back at me—his gaze cold and hard. And then triumphant. He yelled out a single word: “Now!”
It was the last word I heard.
And his sword, which seemed to appear out of nowhere, was the last thing I saw.
A/N: Thanks to those of you who are still following. For those that read the books, you’ll note that I kept one feature of the original battle against Victor: Bubba’s distraction. I always love bringing Bubba in. I also felt that the “tainted blood” strategy was appropriate, given the fact that Victor tried to use it against Eric and Pam–an event that occurs before this story started on the timeline. Given the fact that Sookie actually had pretty easy access to fairies, it would have been easy for her to get hold of their blood. Of course, she doesn’t ask Claude and Dermot for clear reasons (she doesn’t trust Claude anymore and she doesn’t want to encourage Dermot’s interest in any way). Plus, in asking Niall, she was also testing him and finding some measure of closure to their relationship.
I hope that Victor’s death was satisfactory. Of course, Eric would have liked to have “taken his time,” but given the fact that he needs to carefully control the scene and the information that “leaks” from it in order to fool Felipe, who is–after all–the bigger fish to fry.
I’ll try to get back to my two-chapters-a-week schedule: probably one midweek (Tuesday or Wednesday) and one on the weekend.
Thanks again to everyone who stuck with me.
And extra thanks to Seph and Kleannhouse–for keeping track of me as well as for your hard work on my behalf.