30 MINUTES BEFORE SUNRISE
I had been everywhere on the list of places that King Felipe had emailed me—all of Eric’s known residences and businesses. Hell—I had been to Fangtasia, a cesspool I generally tried to avoid, twice.
But there was no sign of Eric.
And no sign of Sookie.
Palomino, one of the newer vampires in Area 5, was frustratingly and typically clueless in providing information about where either of the no-longer-bonded pair was. She knew only that, after the battle which had killed Regent Madden, Eric had suffered some kind of fit and was “removed” by Maxwell Lee, information which had led me to search for that vampire as well.
But to no fucking avail!
I growled as I—for the second time that night—left the residence that Eric had reported to King Felipe as his main home.
It figured that Eric had lied to the king, withholding the location of many of his properties. Of course—and by contrast—I had disclosed all of my demographic information to my king.
As Eric should have too!
But Eric Northman did not know how to properly respect his monarch! Or Sookie. Or anyone else, for that matter. Except for himself, undoubtedly. That much was abundantly clear.
I smiled to myself. I hoped that Eric would suffer greatly at Felipe’s hands for his insolence—before the Viking was made to go to Oklahoma with Freyda.
I smiled a little wider. Yes—once Eric was out of the way in Oklahoma and cavorting with Freyda, Sookie would lose any lingering positive feelings she might have for the soon-to-be-ex-sheriff of Area 5.
But—still—that nice thought did not help my current situation, for I knew that Felipe would not accept failure amiably. An hour before, I had managed to track down Sookie’s cellphone, which had been abandoned in a nondescript car on a dirt road. The only scents in the vehicle belonged to Sookie and Thalia. Initially, I had hoped that Sookie’s scent would “tell” me that Eric was no longer in her blood, but she smelled of him—as usual. Of course, once I thought about it, I realized that she would have been in the car when the witches’ spell was enacted, so that meant the smell of Eric’s blood in her would have lingered. I did, however, pick up a slight scent of magic, which was heartening.
I inhaled sharply to try to find my own scent lingering where Sookie had been, but—alas—I could not pick it up. I was not surprised, but I frowned, nonetheless. Sadly, it had become extremely difficult for me to pick up any trace of myself in Sookie’s scent during the past several months—even when Sookie and I were in the same room together.
I hoped that that inconvenience would change very soon.
The abandoned car had been almost exactly equidistant between Shreveport and Bon Temps. And Sookie’s phone itself offered me no clues. It had been crushed. So had its SIM card.
With nowhere else to search, I decided to go to Sookie’s home.
I parked at my own home and then ran to Sookie’s. As soon as I was at the tree-line, I was reminded of the potency of the witches’ protection spell. In fact, it seemed even more potent than before, and as soon as I stepped foot onto the mowed grass, I felt extremely uncomfortable. I quickly dialed Amelia Broadway, who answered on the first ring.
“Bill? Have you found her?” she asked, sounding upset and concerned. “Please say that you’ve got her and that she’s safe!”
I was impressed that the witch seemed to care so much about my soon-to-be bonded. “No,” I told Sookie’s friend. “I have searched tirelessly since I left you, but Northman knew better than to hide her in any of his publically known safe-houses. I am at Sookie’s home now. Tell me: is there a way to breech your spell? It is difficult for me to even take a step onto Stackhouse property.”
“Oh—um—the spell wasn’t mature last night,” Amelia offered. “It would have gained power during the day. I would invite you through the spell, but it won’t recognize me as living there anymore. Only Sookie can invite you through. Or—uh—her fairy relatives—since they are officially living there.”
“There is little chance of them inviting me in,” I said with some disgust. Sookie’s fairy relatives—though they smelled delicious—had outstayed their welcome in my view. Many a night, I had been forced to postpone a visit to Sookie because her fairy relatives were there and would have “been uncomfortable because of my presence!”
As if being silver-poisoned by fairies had not made me uncomfortable around their kind too!
I shook my head. Sookie’s devotion to her family was admirable, but I was looking forward to her getting her priorities straight.
In truth, I was looking forward to being Sookie’s primary priority again.
As she had remained mine.
As the witch continued hemming and hawing (and then practically bragging) about her security spell and how it was designed to make people uncomfortable on Sookie’s property—more and more so as they approached the house—I did just that. I took one uncomfortable, angst-filled step after another until I was about ten feet from the porch. And then I could go no farther.
“I cannot smell anything beyond the porch steps now!” I grunted with frustration, making the witch stop her prattling. Finally! “Not even the scent of full-blooded fairies!”
“Oh—that’s the spell too!” she said with an odd mixture of triumph and apology. “She—uh—Sookie was—uh—hoping to cover up any traces of her fairy kin from outsiders—you know strange Supes? On account of the fact that some vampires are—uh—less civilized and all. And her kin—uh—smell, for lack of a better word.”
I sighed. As if the witch needed to tell me that the scent of Fae was intoxicating for vampires and—to a lesser extent—other Supernaturals. “There is a light on inside the house. I am going to hang up and call the house phone. Eric made sure that Sookie’s cell phone was destroyed.”
“Please. Please call me if you find Sookie! Please let me know she’s safe!” Amelia entreated.
“If I have time before sunrise,” I said gruffly before hanging up the phone and lamenting the fact that the witch had not been able to help me at all. I had been hoping that there would be a way to counteract the spell. Sookie might have been right in asking the witches for a better protection and privacy mechanism around her home—especially given what she had suffered—but, at this point, the spell was working against me.
And, therefore, it was working against Sookie too.
I called the house phone and could not even hear it ringing! Clearly, the witches’ spell was designed to impede all senses except sight!
I focused on the light coming from the living room, trying my best to see anything through the window. But nothing but a shadow moving at the far end of the room had been visible to me for the five minutes since I had stepped onto the property.
And then—suddenly—the door opened.
“Sookie!” I yelled out. “Invite me in!”
Unfortunately, the voice that greeted me was not my beloved, and the individual who walked onto the porch was much shorter than Sookie.
“Thalia?” I asked.
The enigmatic and extremely unpleasant vampiress cackled. “For as long as I remember. And that is a very long time, Billy boy. Tell me—what are you doing here?”
“I am here for Sookeh!” I said insistently.
“Sookeh?” Thalia smirked. “I do not happen to know a Sookeh.”
I scoffed. “Sookie!” I exaggerated the “correct” pronunciation with some difficulty. Why people made fun of the way I enunciated my former and future woman’s name was beyond me! After all, vowels were pronounced differently in various regions of the country. And I happened to think that the “traditional” Southern style of speaking was lovely. Moreover, I was sure that Sookie agreed.
“So you can say her name properly,” Thalia chuckled. “What a surprise!”
“Where is she?!” I demanded.
“Unavailable for a visit,” Thalia remarked.
“Is she in there?” I asked.
“This is her home,” the vampiress said as if the answer to my question were obvious.
“Why are you allowed in there?” I asked.
“She invited me. In fact, I am Miss Stackhouse’s new tenant.”
“What about the fairies?” I demanded.
“What about them?” she asked with a smirk.
I glared at her, but she answered with only an eye roll.
“Where are they?” I follow-up.
“Fine,” she said as if placating a child, “if you most know, they decided to move away for their own good.”
“What do you mean?”
She rolled her eyes again.
“If you were a fairy, would you want to live here if the Northman was angry enough at the owner of the house to punish her in public?” She paused almost dramatically. “And/or to kill her?”
“Kill her?” I asked with concern.
“I have heard talk of Miss Stackhouse being turned,” Thalia said offhandedly.
My fangs clicked into place, but Thalia only laughed.
“I want to see Sookeh! Immediately!” I yelled.
“And yet I am certain that you are used to disappointment, Billy boy,” the elder vampiress grinned.
“I demand it!”
“Oh—do you?” she asked, her own fangs popping down, though her grin did not go away.
“In the name of King Felipe!” I tried.
“Oh really?” she sneered. “Care to call the king and confirm that?”
I recoiled a bit, realizing I had overplayed my hand.
“So Eric has made you Sookeh’s watchdog?” I mocked, deflecting to a slightly different topic.
“And here I thought you had made a breakthrough on your pronunciation.” She sighed loudly, even as she smirked. “But you have clearly regressed to calling ‘Sookie’—’Sookeh.’ Seriously, Billy boy, more than a century and a half old, yet you still have not figured out the vowels in your own birth country? Please promise me that you will never—ever—try Chinese!”
“Sookie!” I yelled out—both to “correct” my pronunciation for Thalia’s benefit and to try to draw out my beloved. Even if I could only see her at her window, I would be comforted, given the fact that the witches’ damnable spell was so effective!
“Better!” Thalia chuckled. “But you might just want to call her ‘Miss Stackhouse’—so that you do not risk errors in the future.”
I growled at the petite vampiress. “Get her for me now! She cares for me. And I care for her!”
“Clearly,” she said, rolling her eyes yet again, making me wonder if she were channeling Pam. “But you will have to do your caring another night. Sookie,” she emphasized the pronunciation, “is under the weather.”
“Why? If Northman hurt her . . . ,” I started.
“What? You will do what? Yell ineffectively into the night?” Thalia asked, gesturing toward the yard and then the sky. “Bill, go home before you stop amusing me. Miss Stackhouse is not yours. She belongs to the sheriff.”
I sneered. “He caused her harm tonight. And he will cause her only more harm in the future.”
“Not my business,” she said casually. “And certainly not yours.”
“Tell her I am here. I am sure she would want to see me,” I tried.
Thalia shook her head. “Miss Stackhouse is asleep, and I will not be waking her. She is tired from the events of the night—as you yourself intimated that she would be. My sheriff has charged me with seeing to her safety and comfort. Waking her up would be counterproductive to at least half of that charge—do you not think?” she added sarcastically.
“I want to see her tomorrow night then,” I insisted. “I have the right to . . . .”
Thalia’s eyebrow rose almost comically. “You have no rights here, Compton.”
I glared at her. “As Sookeh’s—Sookie’s—friend, I have every right to make sure she is safe.”
“I will pass your request along to Sheriff Northman—when I next see him.”
“Sookeh should be able to determine whom she sees!” I argued with passion.
Thalia glanced over my shoulder toward the east. “Your argument is going to have to wait, isn’t it, Billy boy?” she asked condescendingly.
Unfortunately, the bitch was right. Even as she reminded me that sunrise was approaching quickly, I felt the orb’s encroachment like a tap on the back.
“The king,” I said, even as I took a step back, a step toward the safety of my home and my resting place.
“What about the caped clusterfuck?” Thalia asked with challenge in her tone.
“You should show His Royal Highness respect,” I growled.
“Respect is earned,” Thalia said simply. “I had hoped that he would be more worthy than Sophie-Anne, but . . . .” Her voice trailed off.
“You are the king’s subject,” I seethed.
“I am subject to myself,” she said definitively.
“What about Northman? You are now his second!” I declared, glaring at the vampiress. Very little made me as angry as a lack of respect toward a superior. That was why I disliked Northman so much. He had never shown proper reverence for the chain of command.
Ironically, because Northman was my immediate superior, my giving information to Victor and Felipe might have been seen as a betrayal of my sheriff. However, a king and his appointed regent most certainly trumped any allegiance I might have had to Northman. One would have thought that a vampiress of Thalia’s age would have learned how to choose her loyalties more wisely. Sadly, some vampires simply never figured out that tact and political dexterity were the keys to civilization.
For her sake, I hoped that Thalia quickly—and finally—learned that lesson. Aligning with Northman at this point was not wise, given the fact that he would soon be going to Oklahoma.
“Your king,” I emphasized, “will be in Louisiana tomorrow night to investigate Victor’s murder. He will expect his telepath to be present when he does. In fact,” I paused, wondering how far I should push Thalia and then deciding that—given the situation—I should push a little harder, “he wanted me to check on Sookeh—Sookie. Indeed, he wanted me to escort her to Fangtasia tomorrow night.”
“I wonder that Felipe would ask you to make sure that Miss Stackhouse is in audience, rather than her bonded, pledged master,” Thalia responded tauntingly.
“Thalia, you would do well to help me complete the king’s task. You must know that the winds of change are already blowing in Area 5. That was true even before Victor died. Eric will soon be in Oklahoma, and there will be new leadership in both Area 1 and Area 5. If you help me, I will make sure that King Felipe knows of your cooperation. With your age, you could be integral in the revised power structure of Louisiana. Or it could be insured that you were left alone by that power,” I added, gauging Thalia’s reaction to my words.
Her face was inscrutable. However, since her previous scorn was no longer to be seen, I took that as a good sign.
“It is almost sunrise, Bill,” she said. “You had best get to ground.”
She turned to go inside, but paused at the door.
“I have been told to keep Sookie here,” she said in almost a whisper. “Weres will be doing the same tomorrow.” She glanced over her shoulder, and I thought I saw something akin to pity in her eyes for a moment. “In truth, I fear for the woman. And I have never been one to sit on my hands as a woman was abused. Come back tomorrow at sunset. I will make sure that Sookie knows you want to see her. But whether or not she does see you will be her choice.”
“Thank you,” I told the ancient as she disappeared into the house.
I was dialing the king even before I arrived home.
“Compton, you had better have good news for me,” Felipe said.
“I do,” I stated. “I know where Sookie is. She is not with me yet, but I will be seeing her at sunset tomorrow night. I am sure that I will have her in custody not long after that.”
“Good,” the king said. “Contact me as soon as she is secure and you can confirm the status of her and Northman’s bond.”
“Yes sir,” I said right before Felipe hung up.
I quickly climbed down into what Sookie had always called my “cubby” and locked the hatch so that I would be secure during the day.
As dawn took me, I was thinking about how the next night would change everything.
A/N: Hello, I hope that you enjoyed this chapter. To me, Bill was a little “touched in the head”–both in the books and the show. He always seemed to believe he was superior–morally and otherwise–no matter what his actions were. Of course, we never “heard” his thoughts or got a POV from him in the books, but it was not difficult to imagine him misinterpreting everything so that it fit his personal views of the world.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this and will comment if you have the time and inclination.
Many thanks to two wonderful women: Kleannhouse & Sephrenia!