About twenty minutes after the sun had gone down, Eric, Jesus, and Lafayette were still in Sam’s office, waiting for the status of the bond to change.
Eric raised his head sharply.
“You got somethin’?” Lafayette asked, breaking the silence that had existed between them for the last forty minutes as he and Jesus had been pouring over their magic books while Eric tried to access his bond with Sookie every few minutes.
“It’s not Sookie,” Eric said. “I smell Bill. He’s just pulling up in the parking lot now, and he will smell that I am here. He cannot know of Sookie’s disappearance. If he learns of it, he will either deter us or try to use the situation to his advance to take her for himself. Either way, I have no time for him.”
Lafayette sprang into action, “Well, that bitch don’t need to know nothin’, that’s fo’ mother fuckin’ sure! Let’s go, and follow my lead.”
Jesus and Eric were a bit taken aback for a brief moment, but both followed Lafayette as he led them into the bar and to an open pool table. He threw a few balls on the table along with the cue ball, and he grabbed two discarded beer mugs left by some previous customers, handing one to Jesus. He motioned to Sam, who was at the bar, and looked significantly at the front door just as it opened and Bill entered with one of his human bodyguards.
Eric had picked up on Lafayette’s idea, had handed Jesus a pool cue, and had one in his hand as well, even before Bill walked in.
Everything had happened so quickly that the few people eating in the main bar area barely noticed.
As soon as he knew that even Bill was in earshot, Eric said in a bored tone, “Really, gentlemen, it would be impossible for you to beat me, even though I am giving you two turns for my every one. I do not know why you demanded a rematch.”
Sam, by this time, had called Holly over to him and had a new pitcher of beer on a tray already. The microwave dinged, and he placed a blood on the tray as well and silently motioned for her to take the drinks to the pool table.
Holly picked up the tray and carried it over even as Bill walked at human pace toward the back of the bar.
Eric took the blood from Holly and looked at it disdainfully, playing the part he’d determined was necessary. He looked right at Lafayette. “We must really change the stakes. Buying a round of drinks for the winner―especially when my prize is this shit―is not quite stimulating my desire to win.”
“Well, you can feel free to lose whenever you wants to, bitch,” Lafayette snapped playfully as he used the new pitcher to fill up the two fresh and frosty mugs that Sam had also sent over. “Meanwhile, I believes that it’s my shot!” He took the cue from Jesus’s hands and approached the table, lining up to hit a striped ball since there were three times as many of those still on the table.
By this time, Bill had stepped up to the pool table and was looking suspiciously at the group. Just then, Eric’s phone buzzed, and he picked it up. There was a text from Pam, saying, “Have hooked up with Jarod. Just checked surveillance. Bill is on his way to you. He somehow knows Sookie never came home after her shift.”
Eric looked up nonchalantly and put the phone back into his pocket. “My king,” he said with a slight bow in Bill’s direction. “Would you care to join the game? A bit of real competition after these humans would be welcome.”
“Fuck,” Lafayette said under his breath dramatically as he missed his shot.
Bill shook his head. “Thank you, but no, sheriff. I wonder that you are here and not at Fangtasia.”
“Ah,” Eric said shrugging his shoulders. “I have decided to pass the responsibility of the bar to Chow and Pam for the most part. I will, of course,” he nodded to Bill again, “continue my sheriff duties and will even be able to devote more time to them now.”
Bill looked at the three even more suspiciously. “Then, I would think that you would wish to spend the evening with Sookie―celebrating the pledging.” He almost spit out the words.
“Indeed,” Eric said rolling his eyes toward Lafayette and Jesus. “That would have been my preference, but Sookie insisted that we have,” he paused, looking at Lafayette. “What did she call it?”
“Male bonding time,” Lafayette supplied, without missing a beat.
“Indeed,” Eric said again with obvious displeasure.
“And where is Sookie this evening?” Bill asked, looking around. “Not working, I see.”
“No,” Eric said, sighing dramatically as if for an audience. “Sadly―for me, that is―my child has taken Sookie shopping with my gold card. Of course, I know that Sookie alone would not do damage to my finances, but since Pamela is with her, I’m slightly concerned.” He winked at Lafayette.
Jesus grinned as if he didn’t have a care in the world, “Sookie called that part female bonding, right?”
“Indeed,” Eric said yet again, this time scoffing.
Bill looked completely nonplussed. He’d been hoping to find Sookie at the shifter’s bar this evening, preferably with Eric nowhere in sight. Instead, he had found Eric making nice with Sookie’s friends, something he’d never been able to succeed in doing no matter how hard he’d tried to ingratiate himself into their circle. His only consolation was the fact that Eric looked so bored.
“Well, sheriff, I’ll leave you to your male bonding,” he sneered. “Please give Sookie my regards.”
Eric bowed a bit as Bill turned to walk away. The few patrons who had gathered in Merlotte’s after their work shifts for a quick dinner and beer or to watch the football game had become accustomed to Vampire Bill during the past year or so. Even they could sense the tension in the Civil War veteran as he turned and began to walk out of the bar.
Eric, on the other hand, continued to look nonchalant as he sunk the only solid ball that had made its way onto the table with a seemingly impossible shot. As Bill neared the entrance, he spoke again for his benefit, “Really, gentlemen, perhaps we should find another activity if we are to continue this bonding ritual my wife seems so hell-bent that we perform.”
“Well―the football game starts in a little while,” Jesus supplied helpfully.
Eric scoffed, “American football? Only the Viking team―I believe it is from Minnesota―interests me.”
Still playing their parts to perfection, Lafayette and Jesus both chuckled at this.
Through the corner of his eye, Eric saw Bill glance back once in their direction as he exited. Smelling that Bill was still right outside, probably spying through the window, Eric lined up the eight ball, sank it in the side pocket, and then continued his bored banter, “Care for another game, gentlemen?” Eric turned his back to the entrance and looked at the two witches significantly so that they would know that Bill could still most likely see them, if not hear them.
Jesus said, “Why not. This time, we will go first.” He began to pull all the balls out and put them on the table to rack them. Eric sat on a stool as if it were the throne at Fangtasia and picked up his phone, seemingly ignoring the actions of the two humans with him―or, in other words, behaving exactly as Bill would expect him to.
Lafayette laughed, “Well, it looks like we owe you another blood.”
Eric looked up at Lafayette and continued the act. “What joy is mine,” he said sarcastically as he downed the one he’d been given a few minutes before.
The balls racked, Jesus took the cue from Lafayette and lined up for his break. As soon as the balls stopped spinning on the table, Eric stood. His expression turned from detached to tense in a millisecond. “He is gone,” he said quietly, motioning toward the door. “And Sookie is waking up. She is frightened.”
“Can you find her?” Jesus asked in a low voice.
“Yes, the signal is weak, but I can follow it as long as she is not drugged again.”
“I need you two to drive toward Monroe. That’s the general direction that I feel her in. I just texted Miranda and Pam, and they are also on their way there. They will contact you if they are able to figure out a likely location where Debbie took Sookie.”
Eric had been in agony the past ninety seconds after the bond had reactivated, as he’d waited for Bill to be far enough away for him to leave Merlotte’s undetected. The limo Bill arrived in was just past Eric’s hearing, so he knew that he could now go without the notice of the king. Without another word, he zipped at vampire speed to the back door of the bar and took off into the night sky, sending all of his love and assurance through the bond.