“The isolated pawn casts gloom over the entire chessboard.”—Aaron Nimzowitsch
Coby sighed softly as he saw the expression on the face of the girl that he’d loved for years. She was a picture of beauty. Her brown curls—which he could only imagine would feel like silk to his touch—flowed over her shoulders and back, though many of them were hidden underneath her graduation cap.
The Bon Temps High School graduates were arranged behind the main podium so that they were all facing the audience, which Coby was thankful for. That meant that he’d not had to take his eyes off of Emma during the entire ceremony.
Her brown eyes crackled with an enlivening sparkle, and the look of love in them set Coby’s heart ablaze. However, that look was not directed toward him, so his cheeks also flushed with jealousy.
“You okay?” Terry asked him.
“Sure,” Coby whispered to his stepdad. “It’s just a little hot in here, and I wore this,” he said casually as he pointed to his suit. In actuality, the fabric was quite light-weight fabric, but heat was a convenient excuse. “And my allergies are acting up too,” Coby added for good measure.
Terry just nodded, though there was a knowing look in his expression that concerned Coby. On more than one occasion, Terry had hinted that he thought that Coby might be interested in Emma Merlotte—the one girl in the whole county who had never been even remotely interested back. But Coby had managed to deflect any concern that Terry might have had by dating other girls or shrugging off the idea of Emma.
After all, everyone knew that she belonged to another—to the boy who was currently sitting one row ahead of him next to his perfect father and his perfect mother.
The boy who was on the receiving end of the look from Emma that Cody wanted to be his more than anything else in the world.
Hunter. Fucking. Northman.
Oh—Coby had heard all about Hunter’s so-called “bad years” when he lived with his birth father and then his birth mother, Hadley, whom he still got to see, though Coby was not privy to how or where.
Coby had never been totally “in the know” about the Northman family. He knew that Hunter and his mom both had telepathy, thus the need for Coby’s mind spell.
And, of course, he knew that Eric Northman was one of the oldest and most respected vampires in the entire country. But he had no idea of the extent of Eric’s businesses or influence.
Still, Coby remembered well the times that he’d gotten to spend with Eric over the years. That was certainly the best part about hanging out with Hunter when they were younger.
As far as Coby was concerned, Eric Northman was the coolest father anyone could have—though he did love Terry. But—seriously—how many dads could freakin’ fly?
And Hunter’s mom was light years better than his own. Sookie was always cooking something good, usually with Lafayette at her side! Coby’s own mother wouldn’t know how to boil a pot of water if someone turned on the stove burner for her, and her idea of a healthy meal was getting Merlotte’s versus McDonald’s. His stepdad was always the cook in their family.
When they’d still had a family—that is.
Plus, Sookie was just nice, and she was also incredibly supportive of Hunter, whether it be with academics or baseball or anything really. Arlene had attended none of his games after the break-up with Terry. And she’d talked about homework like it was a punishment.
Coby held in his discontented look with difficulty as he glanced at the Northmans and then at the Merlotte’s, who were all looking at Emma with intense pride.
He’d not gotten a look of pride from his mother when he graduated from high school or college. No—she’d acted like attending his graduations had been chores for her. He’d hoped that Arlene—as he was now beginning to call her both at home and in his head—would finally show her approval when he told her about his new job, but he’d seen no pride in her eyes.
Instead, he’d seen nothing by dollar signs when she’d asked what he’d be making at LePaul Industries. And then she’d gone into a long diatribe about how her car wasn’t running right and about how her roof was leaking.
And about how a good son would take care of his mother.
Coby couldn’t help but to wonder if the mother had to be “good” in order for the son to be “good.”
Coby was brought out of his musings by the most beautiful name in his world: “Emma Martha Merlotte.” He watched as she went to collect her diploma, even as she smiled up toward the area he was sitting in; however, once again, her gaze fell a row lower than his eyes.
Coby closed his eyes tightly—not even able to enjoy seeing his beloved!
Hunter fucking Northman ruined everything!
It was fucking torture to see Hunter with the life he wanted, the life Coby was owed because he’d had to endure the shitty one that had been dealt to him for long enough.
He knew that that life—the good life—would have been his life if Hunter had never come along. Oh—he didn’t think his mom would have married Eric. Nothing like that.
But Eric wouldn’t have had his attentions stolen away by Hunter. Eric had obviously wanted a son figure in his life, and Coby would have been that figure.
If not for Hunter.
Coby could still remember the time—before Hunter—when the “family” group had gathered at Merlotte’s to watch a football game. Eric had told him stories of his past and had clearly enjoyed Coby’s company. There had been promises of fishing trips and the like—and, though these activities would have included the whole group (even before Hunter came along)—Coby felt certain that Eric’s main motivation in arranging such outings would have been to find someone to fulfill his need to have a child.
Coby would have done that.
It would have been him learning woodwork and swordplay. And Hunter would have never been there to take away Emma’s attentions. Coby had liked Emma even when they were kids, despite their age difference—a difference that no longer mattered now that she was eighteen. Sure—she’d not had as many life experiences as Coby had, but he was more than willing to teach her and guide her into adulthood. He just hoped that Hunter hadn’t already stolen her virginity as well as everything else. But he figured that Sam Merlotte would have made sure that didn’t happen.
Coby inhaled sharply as Emma waved toward their little group. For one moment, her eyes touched his as her smile lit up the whole auditorium.
Coby wasn’t going to stop until he got what he deserved—the life that had been stolen from him: Hunter Northman’s life.
“You are certain that he’ll cooperate?” Andre Paul asked. He’d spent too fucking long moving into a position where he could take his revenge on Eric Northman to have everything ruined by some human.
The warlock nodded. “Yes, sir. For as long as I’ve known him, Coby has hated Hunter Northman and has been fixated on the sheriff. In fact, he seems fixated on everything related to the Northmans.
Andre narrowed his eyes. “As long as he can get me close to them, I don’t give a damn about his fixations.”
Robin Brunswick shrugged. “You have to admit the boy is intelligent in his own right—and useful. He’s going to be making your company a lot of money.”
Andre smiled. “Yes. It was quite clever how you used your spells to influence the boy to bring his research to me—and not take it to Northman. Knowing Eric, he would have started a new business around Coby Bellefleur’s formula.”
“The sheriff is quite savvy with business,” Robin remarked somewhat cautiously.
Andre looked down his nose at the warlock. He hated working with lower beings, but the warlock was clever with mind enchantments and—most importantly—easily bought.
Andre came across Robin Brunswick in his research of Area 5 nine years before. And the warlock had already been of some use. From Robin, Andre had bought a spell that would partially cover his own scent so that Northman would not be able to pick up his connection to Sophie-Anne. Andre hadn’t been particularly worried about that since Northman’s senses were not thought to be particularly acute, but he was extremely old, so Andre didn’t want to take any chances.
Andre had next used Robin to research Northman’s circle of friends since the warlock lived in Monroe, a community relatively close to Bon Temps. The innocuous-seeming Robin was able to infiltrate a circle of witches that sometimes did work for Northman. After that, Robin was useful in getting close to Arlene Fowler, a dimwitted member of the Fellowship of the Sun church. She had been part of the Northmans’ circle of friends until she joined the church following the “Second Reveal.”
The relationship between Robin and Arlene lasted only long enough to get Andre what he truly wanted—a way in.
Though Arlene had long been estranged from the Northmans, they still took interest in her children, especially Coby. The boy—unlike his mother—had recognized the “otherness” in Robin and had been excited to hear that he was a warlock. Robin had—at Andre’s request—been giving the boy mind enchantments for the better part of the last four years.
Yes—despite his status as a lower being, Robin had been useful. Using one of his mind spells, the warlock had been able to counteract—at least to a certain extent—some of the glamouring that the young man had undergone. From his spell, Robin had been able to learn that Hunter Northman was a telepath too—just like Sookie Northman.
Andre, of course, had been told about Sookie’s telepathy more than a decade before—by his maker. He stifled the urge to lower his fangs at the thought of his beautiful mistress, Sophie-Anne. He would have done anything for her, but when he’d asked her if she wanted him to secure the telepath, she’d told him, “No”—that the matter was already well in hand.
She’d asked that he stay in the Middle East, where he had several profitable businesses and where it was unknown that he was a vampire at the time. His wealth, gained from the oil business, pretty much kept his maker’s monarchy financially afloat, especially during her last years when her tastes became more and more extravagant. But Andre was happy to send her almost every penny he made. He loved her and hated to be separated from her by so much physical distance, but he understood where she most needed him.
And that was for his ability to make money for her.
Andre still remembered the pain of feeling her die; halfway around the world, he’d been awoken from his day-death from the agony of the experience.
Bill Compton had been the one to actually do the deed; Andre had found that out by bribing Nan Flanagan. And, later, Andre had learned that his maker’s death had involved the telepath Sophie-Anne had told him about; thus, Andre figured that Northman had a hand in it too.
Sadly, by the time Andre could make his move to the United States, he was too late to take his revenge upon Bill Compton.
But that just made him want to make Eric and his telepath suffer all the more!
However, much to Andre’s frustration, Eric Northman’s defenses were virtually impenetrable.
To do business in Area 5, Andre had needed to go through Northman—and that meant meeting with him personally.
Thankfully, Northman didn’t know about his connection with Sophie-Anne, and Robin had already created the potion that covered up any similarity Andre’s scent had to his maker’s. Still, Northman had been suspicious of Andre, wondering why he was choosing Shreveport to settle in, instead of New Orleans or even Baton Rouge, which were closer to his oil rigs. Andre had used the Senatorial seat coming up for election as his excuse. Louisiana—thanks in part to the profitability of the vampires in the state following a string of major hurricanes—had become quite progressive, and Andre inserted himself into the community, just as his maker had taught him.
He won the Senate seat by a landslide, becoming only the second vampire Congressman. Of course, the Vampire Act would limit him to only two terms as a Senator (so that he couldn’t serve “forever”), but Andre hoped his “business” with Northman would be completed well before then.
He steadied his resolve. He would fulfill the desires of his maker—no matter how long it took. He would secure the telepath; actually, he now planned to secure both of the telepaths. And then he would turn them—though he’d start with the woman to ensure that her telepathy stayed active after the turning. He also planned to keep Northman under silver chains forever, just so that the once mighty Viking would know that he was using—actually misusing—his “so-called” wife and child.
As if a vampire should ever befoul himself by marrying a human! By claiming a human child to the point of giving the brat his name!
To the outside world, he seemed like a champion of vampire-human-Were-shifter equality. But on the inside, he was anything but. He wanted nothing more than for the true order to be established, an order which would clearly reflect that vampires—by right—were the top of the food chain, both literally and figuratively. He planned to use his Senatorial seat to make sure that happened a little more every night.
But he had to be subtle.
He had to kiss human babies right up to the moment when he drained them dry—once humans became what they were meant to be: cattle.
“So, what now?” Robin asked, breaking Andre from his dark thoughts.
“For now, we keep using Coby Bellefleur to get information about the Northmans. And we continue to look for a vulnerability—an opportunity. The boy was invited to the shifter’s graduation party on the Northmans’ property—was he not?”
Robin nodded. “Yes. But Coby does not intend to go.”
“Why the fuck not?” Andre asked, his fangs clicking into place.
“Calm the fuck down,” Robin said, almost earning him a draining for his insolence.
Andre growled and looked ready to send the warlock into the closest wall.
Robin paused and intelligently changed his tone to one of more respect. “Andre, we aren’t even sure that Coby can get onto the Northman property any more. Remember how the protection spell would not let Arlene in after she’d become a Fellowship member? We need to find a way to covertly test whether Coby can still enter. Otherwise, his intent will be known, and the Viking will question him.”
“Haven’t you found a way to get through the barrier around the Viking’s home yet?” Andre asked impatiently.
“No,” Robin shrugged. “And I won’t either. You need to understand that. I have never before encountered the kind of magic that surrounds that place. It contains more than just human magic. There is witch magic and demon magic too—and maybe even Fae magic.”
Andre sighed. “I don’t need excuses. I want results!”
Robin spoke reasonably. “You won’t get those results by becoming impatient now, Andre. However, with Coby’s help, I think that—in time—we can get our hands on Hunter or maybe his girlfriend, whom we could use to entrap him. And, in turn, Northman and his wife. We just have to wait for an opportune time to strike.”
Andre scoffed. “I am losing patience with waiting for this opportune time you speak of,” he growled as he rose. “I will give you one more year before I look for help elsewhere. And trust me when I tell you that you will not survive past the last day of that year if I am not satisfied with the outcome of our little project,” he threatened even as he left the room.
Robin shivered. If he had known how fucking nuts Andre Paul was, he would have never taken his money—or his initial phone call, for that matter. As it was, Robin hated the fact that Coby Bellefleur would likely be a casualty of Andre’s plot to take revenge on Sheriff Northman and his kin.
Robin liked the kid—though his mother had been unbearable.
The warlock shivered. Having to date her—and to bed her—had been difficult to stomach—to say the least!
But Coby wasn’t a bad kid. Oh—he had his own obsessions, but Robin knew that those were because of a rather large chip on his shoulder.
Robin could empathize. His own family had rejected him. And, worse, they’d feared him because of the power that he’d inherited—from them!
It wasn’t his fault that that power had been latent in their bodies!
Robin sighed. He had been trying to point out the young man’s worth to Andre—beyond the plot against Northman—but when it came down to it, Robin knew that he would hide behind Coby if he had to in order to escape from Andre’s fangs.
In the end, Coby was a pawn.
And Robin liked to think of himself as a bishop.
However, what really made Robin shudder was the possibility that Sheriff Northman might learn that he was on the chessboard at all! If that happened, Robin knew that he wouldn’t last the fucking night!
He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and made a call to Coby. He needed to make sure the kid was calm and ready.
They needed to plan their next move.
A/N: Hello! I hope you enjoyed this new chapter of Earned. A lot of you commented on Coby’s obsession after the first two chapters. And a certainly agree with the fact that he is mentally unstable. But now we learn that he’s had some help in feeding his “crazy.” So Andre is going to be a part of this story. You might remember that Back & Forth began after Bill had killed Sophie-Anne. Eric actually had nothing to do with it—though he had locked up Sophie-Anne in the cage and threatened Hadley as the queen watched. Still—Andre partly blames Eric. I’m assuming that his maker told him about having Eric sell the V and about the fact that she was gonna be using Eric as a patsy with the Magister. Regardless, Eric (and his family) are the only targets Andre can find for revenge.
Just FYI, my Andre is going to be very different from the one in the books. We never saw Andre on the show, and—since this story is originally a “show” story—I am going to be taking a lot of liberties with the character. Think handsome and charismatic—much more than creepy. Robin has been a “fun” character to conceptualize too. A
As always, thanks so much to Kleannhouse and to Sephrenia–two wonderful ladies!