A/N: I am having my incarnation of the character of Isabel quote her television self from Season 2 of True Blood. This is a good time to remind everyone that I own nothing related to TB or SVM.
As Eric addressed the few complaints between vampires and Supes that needed his attention, he felt extremely grateful for both of the women in his life.
Pam had―even more skillfully than he could have hoped for, given his almost complete absence from his sheriff duties for more than two weeks―managed to keep his schedule light and was currently expediting matters even more by exacting the punishment on two vampires who had carelessly fed from an under-aged human. His keen hearing picked up on both the screams of the two young vampires, who were currently getting silvered, as well as the taunting words of his child.
The main woman in his life now―his bonded and soon-to-be bride―had also been delighting him through their bond for most of the evening. Her emotions were sling-shotting between nervous and eager, elated and content, and euphoric and determined. And under all of her fleeting feelings was her love for him, humming in the background, never wavering.
As he listened to the mundane details of a business dispute between two vampires, he found himself wondering what each of Sookie’s spikes in emotion had meant. If he were brutally honest with himself―and he had been a lot lately―he would admit to the world that he missed Sookie terribly, right from the moment she was out of his sight. He missed being with her to personally decipher what all her changes in emotions indicated.
Earlier in the evening, he had felt a mixture of intense joy, love, and surprise from her, and he guessed that was from when she saw her ring for the first time. He had debated waiting to give the ring to her in person after their pledging, but for a reason he couldn’t name, he wanted it on her finger when she handed him the dagger. A ring was, after all, a symbol that she would understand well. The dagger, in many ways, was for him; the ring was for her.
Still, he wished that he had had a chance to give it to Sookie himself at the safe house, but he’d been running late already, even before she called him back to her. Of course, he hadn’t minded her call; his first priority would always be his bonded. Plus, he hadn’t been joking with Sookie earlier: he was the fucking sheriff, and anyone that wanted to see him was on his fucking time as far as he was concerned.
However, he knew that if he’d been the one to give her the ring, she would have looked up at him with those beautiful doe eyes of hers and would have had an expression on her face that fucking compelled him to make love to her right then and there. The thousand-year-old vampire certainly understood the limits to his own control, and sometimes he just couldn’t fucking resist taking his bonded. Her body called to him during his every waking moment, but sometimes it fucking screamed; at those times, there was no way for him to abstain from burying himself into her. And if he had taken her at the safe house, he wouldn’t have had time to properly worship her beautiful body if they were to complete the pledging that night as well. It was a fucking quandary―a Catch-22―as far as he was concerned, and in the end, he had ordered Pam to include the Tiffany’s box and the earrings he’d had made with Sookie’s other packages.
He regretted, however, missing the look on her face when she first saw the ring. He imagined her beautiful brown eyes glistening.
He thought back to the day that he’d first seen Sookie’s ring. He certainly had not been intending to buy her one. After all, he hadn’t even acknowledged―let alone admitted―his feelings for her when he got it. To this day, he couldn’t put a finger on what had compelled him.
Pam had been looking through a Tiffany’s catalogue of vintage pieces that were to be sold at a special auction. And as Pam had shown him the tenth piece she wanted him to bid on for her, he’d seen the ring, and a fleeting thought of Sookie had immediately come to him. By the time the auction took place two days later, that thought had wormed its way into Eric to the extent that he couldn’t help but bid on the ring. He arranged for Bobby to buy it at whatever price was necessary, and after a while, he could no longer picture Sookie’s hand without the ring gracing it.
It was right after Dallas that he’d arranged for the inscription, and Pam had stumbled upon it the night Sookie and Jessica had come to Fangtasia looking for information about the tattoo they’d found on the Were.
He’d come into his office after Sookie had left that night to find Pam sitting at his desk with the Tiffany’s box on top of it. She’d looked at him like he was going insane. Very aware that the rediscovery of the location of the tattooed Weres might lead to his final death, Eric had said only, “Make sure she gets that if something happens to me.”
Pam had said, “I saw this in the Tiffany’s auction catalogue, Eric. You must have gotten it weeks ago.”
Eric had nodded and left the office without another word. He’d gone to his cabin that night and had thought about the very different ring that was then in residence on Sookie’s finger. It was the ring Bill had given to her, a pretty solitaire diamond on a gold band. It had been slipping around on Sookie’s finger, and Eric had wondered how the hell Bill hadn’t gotten the fucking size right. “He’s a vampire for fuck’s sake!” Eric said to himself. And a vampire’s vision and sense of proportion were perfect when it came to judging the sizes of things. Even if Bill’s vision was as deficient as his other senses, he’d had plenty of time to study Sookie’s finger and get it the fuck right!
That incorrectly-sized ring, more than anything else, had annoyed Eric that night. Plus the ring had been ordinary―expensive, but ordinary. He had thought about how Sookie deserved something beyond that. He’d stayed up until the bleeds started that morning, wondering what the hell he was going to do about Sookie Stackhouse and feeling guilty for having lied to her. He’d gone to her the next night as soon as he’d risen and told her as much of the truth as he could at the time.
Eric shook himself out of his memories as the vampires in front of him finally shut the fuck up. Just as he was preparing to hand down his judgment, he felt a particularly sharp spike of happiness from Sookie. He told the vampires to wait as he texted her. He managed to keep his countenance business-like and bored through the whole exchange with his beloved, and then he finished up with the vampires.
Next was his meeting with the new Werewolf pack leader of the area. He smirked as Tray Dawson walked into his office and sat down across from his desk without a word.
“I see you took my advice, Dawson,” Eric began.
“Let’s just say―I thought over what you said and realized that there was no other alpha worthy of the position.”
Eric nodded. “I assume the pack will no longer actively detach itself from vampire business, nor will it interfere with it.”
Tray nodded, “May I assume the same?”
“Of course. Just so you know, the Werelioness, Miranda Stevenson, and her partner Jarod Campbell, who is a shifter, will be in my area providing protection for Sookie Stackhouse for the foreseeable future.”
There was a pause. “You really care about that woman, don’t you?”
“She is my bonded mate, and tonight she is pledging herself to me by vampire rite.”
Tray looked at Eric squarely for a moment and then nodded. “I still hope to find my mate one day. You are lucky to have found yours.”
Eric chuckled, “I hope it takes you less time than it did me.”
Tray chuckled as well, “So do I.” There was a pause. “Ms. Stevenson is well-known among all Weres; the pack will invite her and her partner to run with us at the full moon.”
Eric bowed his head a bit, “Miranda will appreciate the invitation.” He reached down in his desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of fifty-year-old Dalmore single malt scotch. “Congratulations are in order for both of us tonight,” Eric said as he handed Tray the bottle.
“Shit, Northman,” Tray said smiling. “You know I’m just as happy with a bottle of Jim Beam.”
Eric chuckled, “Then grab a bottle of that too on your way out. And sell the Dalmore on eBay.”
Tray laughed as he stood up. “I might just do that, Northman! You start wearing that helmet yet?”
“You get that Volvo?”
The two nodded at each other, and Tray left.
Eric shifted through a bit of paperwork on his desk as he waited for his next appointment, Isabel. The female vampire arrived with an extremely smug expression on her face.
“All is in place, Eric,” she said, her accent prominent. “Rasul and Thalia will be here within the half hour, and my people have formed a perimeter with some of yours just in case the king decides to do anything unexpected.”
“Very good,” Eric said, trying to ignore her expression.
She waited for a few seconds before speaking in a teasing voice, “‘How does Bill Compton feel about your interest in Sookie?’”
Eric smirked at her. “Just like in Dallas, I have very little concern over what Bill Compton feels.”
Isabel chuckled, “It seems your interest in Sookie has changed, however.”
“No―my willingness to share that interest with vampires that do not know how to mind their own business is all that has changed.”
Isabel laughed, “Oh Eric―it is a pleasure to see you be the one who is bitten for a change.”
Eric smirked, “Fine. I admit it. I love Sookie, and I will protect her with all that I have. She is the most important thing to me.”
“You know―I could have told you all this in Dallas especially after the way she stood up for Godric. I could see how you were looking at her then.” Isabel sobered, “Godric would have approved of her as well, you know. He often told me that he wished for your happiness―wished for you to move beyond your quest for vengeance.”
Eric nodded, “You―also―were very important to Godric.”
The two vampires let the silence sit between them for a moment as they thought of Godric.
Finally, Isabel spoke, “I will go take my position before Bill’s spy arrives.” With that, she left the office.
About five minutes before his appointment with Lillith, Eric called Pam to him. She was at his side in moments. “Have fun?”
Pam looked at the fingernails, “Always. I do so enjoy my work.”
Eric smiled at his child, “If Sookie’s reactions this evening are any indication of the quality of your other work, then I guess I’ll be getting you those limited-edition Louboutins you’ve been begging for.”
“I think you will enjoy her outfit no matter what she chooses, but I have my money on the red one.”
Eric perked up, “You know I like red.”
Pam winked and then went into the bar area to collect Lillith, who had presented herself as they had expected―a vampire who wanted to relocate to the area and who was hoping to find work at Fangtasia.
Pam was pleasantly surprised by Lillith, very pleasantly surprised. She was about 5’9” and had the body of a runway model. Her hair was deep brown and her eyes matched it. Pam was going to enjoy the role that Eric had suggested she play―that of a child whose maker had basically deserted her for a mere human. “Well hello,” Pam said. “Aren’t you pretty as a picture―a very, very delectable picture.”
Lillith bristled a bit before returning Pam’s smile. Pam led her back to Eric’s office. “This is Lillith,” Pam purred as she walked into the office. “Isn’t she a dish.”
Eric couldn’t even muster a look of interest at the beautiful vampire who had just entered his office. When first hearing of Bill’s plan on the Friday before, he’d thought for about a second that he might try to play along―at least ostensibly. He knew that he would be able to convince Bill’s spy that her plan of seduction was working, but one thought of Sookie had caused him to disregard that idea.
It wasn’t that he thought Sookie would suspect him of infidelity. However, Eric found that he couldn’t fathom the idea of even feigning interest in someone other than his bonded. He chuckled to himself as he thought of Sookie’s possessive reaction the evening before. No―there would be no playacting on his part.
He looked up at Lillith and could see her beauty clearly, but it meant nothing to him.
“Sheriff Northman,” Lillith said, her voice oozing seductive charm, “I have been told that you are fair and generous, and I would like the opportunity to serve a,” she paused and looked at him enticingly, “useful capacity for you in any way you would have me.”
Eric sighed dismissively, grateful that he could leave the seducing part up to Pam, “Miss Jansen is it?”
“Yes,” she answered.
Eric continued with an indifferent air, “Your previous sheriff gave you an adequate recommendation. You may settle in the area. Will that be all?”
Lillith looked a little flustered and then tried again, “Thank you, sheriff. I was hoping to find work here. I have some dancing experience, and I am a certified bartender. I could give you a private audition if you wish.”
“Pamela,” Eric said. “Miss Jansen seems to be well-suited for the opening we have at the bar. Get her settled. That will be all.” Eric literally couldn’t stand the innuendo in Lillith’s voice anymore. Pam could deal with her.
Pam led Lillith out of the office, her hand poised dangerously close to the brunette’s ass.
“I had heard he was more . . .” Lillith began as they walked back into the bar.
“Oh he was, to be sure,” Pam interrupted and rolled her eyes, “but now he’s pussy whipped over a human woman.” Pam snorted, playing her part perfectly.
“He’s with a human?” Lillith tried to ask casually.
“Yes, a little blond number and the bane in my fucking existence,” Pam complained.
“Do tell,” Lillith pushed.
“What do you think of pillow talk?” Pam leered as she slowly dragged her perfectly manicured finger from Lillith’s neck to the top of her plunging bodice.
“Sounds nice,” Lillith said, though Pam could tell from her eyes that she wasn’t really enthusiastic. Pam knew that in a matter of fifteen minutes, she could have Lillith squirming under her in ecstasy―and much more satisfied than ‘ten-minute Bill’ was making her.
Pam laughed to herself as she thought about her new nickname for King Compton. Meanwhile, Lillith brought her hand to settle on Pam’s and was managing to give her a seductive look.
Pam smiled to herself as she imagined all the sex she’d soon be having with the beautiful vampiress in front of her. She’d have to thank her maker later for letting her take over the task of “being seduced.”
Pam cooed, “Why don’t you stick around tonight, doll? I could show you around the place. Plus, there’s a tedious little gathering to celebrate the new sheriffs in the state in a little while. I’m sure I’d be much more entertained with you here.”
Lillith smiled, a tinge of triumph momentarily meeting her eyes. “Sounds nice,” she said casually. “Let me just make a quick call, and I’ll be right back.”
Pam ran her fingertips over the side of Lillith’s breasts as the brunette smiled a bit uncomfortably and walked away. Pam grinned after her and went back to Eric’s office. She closed the door behind her. Eric looked up and raised a brow.
“She’s staying for the party, of course. It’s just lucky for you that Lorena’s taste in women was obviously better than her taste in men. If I had to be seduced by a female equivalent of ‘ten-minute Bill,’ you would have owed me the entire spring line of Gucci.”
Eric smiled indulgently and then dangerously, “You laid it on a bit thick, don’t you think, Pamela? Pussy whipped?”
Pam laughed, “Don’t worry, she’ll soon be eating out of my hand―and other places too.”
“I’ve no doubts,” Eric smirked. “Let’s get out there. The guests will be arriving soon. After all the sheriffs are here and the human donors you have arranged are settled, I want you back here monitoring the surveillance at Compton’s. I want to know what our little Miss Jansen is reporting to him.”
About an hour into the party, there was no sign of Bill, and Eric was beginning to wonder if he should just go ahead and call for Sookie. Lillith had been trying to ingratiate herself with both Pam and―when Pam went back to the office―himself. And he was frankly annoyed. He was also anxious to see Sookie, whose excitement and anxiousness were spinning through the bond.
Eric reached down for his phone after it signaled a text from Pam and excused himself from the group he’d been talking to in order to go talk to his child.
“He’s been waiting to see if Sookie was going to show up,” Pam said after Eric had closed the door. After the whole Sophie-Anne debacle, he had made his office soundproof, and he checked it several times a day for listening devices. Luckily for him, his ears could pick up the minute transmission signals of all surveillance monitors currently available, even the next-generation models he had placed in Bill’s home. Not for the first time, he was grateful to have gotten such a useful gift when he’d been made vampire. He was even more grateful that he’d never found another vampire with such acute senses as his, with the possible exception of his grand-sire.
Pam continued, “Lillith has called him a couple of times, and they are now pretty confident that Sookie is not going to be here. Apparently, they had two plans. If she was here, he was going to behave all forlorn and martyr-like to try to garner her sympathy. According to what I heard, he was going to act like he had accepted her choice, but he’s made clear to Lillith that they are still going to move toward his ultimate goal of getting you out of the way. He is certain that you are just a phase for Sookie and that she will come running to him once you are out of the picture.”
“Lovely,” Eric deadpanned. “And what is plan #2?”
“Well, since they believe Sookie will not be here, Bill’s gathered up some lovely donors to bring along with him―chosen especially for the occasion based on their resemblance to Sookie. He hopes to tempt you with them since Lillith’s charms don’t seem to be working. And if that doesn’t work, at least he’ll be able to lord them over you for the evening. You should have heard his reaction when Lillith reported the part about you not showing any interest in her; I could almost hear the wind rushing out of his sails. He’s asked her to keep trying, certain that any fidelity you are attempting to maintain with Sookie will be short-lived. Meanwhile, she is to get close to me and seduce me if necessary.”
“I wonder if she will accomplish her task,” Eric mused sarcastically.
Pam licked her lips. “It’s a mystery,” she deadpanned.
“Very well,” Eric said, turning to the door. “Continue monitoring for a few more minutes to make sure they don’t change their plans, and then join me in the bar so that Lillith will get out of my face. After Bill arrives, wait ten minutes, and then signal Miranda.
More than an hour and a half after the invitation had indicated, Bill finally arrived, flanked by several human guards and donors―all of whom were very pretty and blonde.
Despite his rising derision for Bill, Eric was pleased that he had decided to honor the gathering with his presence. It suited Eric’s desire to pledge in front of Bill, and hopefully, it would put an end to Compton’s illusions that Eric and Sookie were a temporary pairing. Even if it didn’t, however, Bill would be much less inclined to act on his desire for Sookie if the repercussions of interfering with a pledged couple loomed over his head.
Eric was even less impressed by the vampire who had been placed as his sovereign than he’d been before. After all, Eric had pretty much single-handedly prevented Bill’s death and used his own connections to buttress Bill’s dying monarchy. And the thing that annoyed Eric more than anything else was that he wanted only to control his own little corner of the world in peace. He was an extremely efficient sheriff with a reputation for using the perfect balance of brutality and fairness when dealing with his people. In other words, any king should be trying to hold onto him as an asset, rather than secretly planning to kill him.
Eric had put aside his personal distaste of Sophie-Anne to serve her loyally for many years, and he was willing to serve Bill too. He was certain that Rasul, Isabel, and even Thalia would do the same. But he was almost as certain that Bill would continue his obsession with Sookie and the vendetta against him―and that, Eric would not stand for.
Moreover, by showing up so late, Bill was signaling to all of his sheriffs that he felt himself above them. This slight had not escaped the notice of the other sheriffs either, though all of them―Thalia included―greeted Bill respectfully with bows.
Bill spoke, his accent full with what Eric had come to know was false gentility, “Sheriffs, it is a pleasure to see you again. Or in your case, Rasul, to finally meet you. I’m sure that we will be able to reestablish Louisiana as one of the richest and most welcoming states for our kind. And to celebrate this, I have brought each of you a gift. He gestured toward the four blonde donors behind him.” Bill’s eyes met Eric’s in challenge; turning down a gift from a monarch could be considered an insult, a fact that Bill intended to take advantage of. “Eric, as you are our host, you may have the first selection of the beauties behind me.”
Eric bowed. Fortunately he had been playing the game of vampire politics almost a thousand years longer than Bill. “My liege, you honor me, but I see you have brought only four donors with you. I will relinquish my gift so that you may enjoy her.” He kept his head bowed in apparent supplication, and the other sheriffs played along, applauding Eric’s seeming generosity.
Bill looked visibly put-out for a few moments and then bowed back slightly to Eric and grabbed the blonde closest to him. The other sheriffs each selected a donor, and everyone moved further into the bar.
“I assume it is fine to feed in here tonight?” Bill asked sharply.
“Indeed, your majesty. Fangtasia is closed, and the area has been secured. There are no prying eyes.”
Bill immediately sat down, put his donor on his lap, and then glared in Eric’s direction.
Eric nodded slightly to Bill and looked across the room to see Pam sending a text, and his sense of anticipation welled. Compton could do as many annoying things as he wanted to tonight; the important thing was that his bonded would soon be on her way to him.