Tray tensed immediately. “What is the condition of my pack member?”
“Stable. He will heal fully within a week or two,” Eric said.
“And the vampire?” Tray asked.
“She is being held under silver in the basement of Fangtasia. Pam has secured her and is awaiting our decision. Apparently, your pack member went to Fangtasia this evening and spent quite a bit of time with this vampire. According to Pam, the two danced suggestively for a while and looked to be headed for much more; Pam herself heard the boy agree to allow the vampire to feed from him, and the two went to a back room, where such things are,” he paused and glanced at Sookie, “indulged if they are consensual. However, the Were tried to back out once the vampiress began. She did not heed his rejection, which was clearly made and witnessed by others in the back room. She fed from him anyway. The encounter turned,” Eric paused again, “violent after that.”
Again, Eric was comforted by Sookie’s hand in his; he was extremely grateful for the strength she was sending him through the bond. In all his years as sheriff, he’d handled many conflicts, but now that he had a partner—a helpmeet—he felt that his burden of deciding the fates of others was tempered by her support. He continued, “Apparently, the boy is only eighteen and used a fake I.D. to enter the bar; the vampiress is young as well―both in human and in vampire years.
“And the Werewolf will be okay? You’re sure?” Tray clarified.
“Yes, Pam immediately arranged for Ludwig, and she is caring for him at her clinic. He required a transfusion, but she had Were blood on hand. She has also repaired the arterial damage in his neck; luckily, though the vampire’s bite was deep and the flesh was torn, the Were did not bleed out before Ludwig got to him.” Eric paused. “However, Pam had to give the boy a bit of her own blood to keep him alive until Ludwig arrived.”
Tray looked at Eric with surprise. “Why would she do that? Pam does not seem the type to go around saving the lives of Weres.”
Eric looked at Sookie. “Pam did as she felt I would want, given the identities of both the Were and the vampire.”
Tray looked at Eric questioningly.
“Dawson,” Eric continued with a sigh, “the boy’s name is Steven Dawson. I believe he is your nephew.”
“Fuck!” Tray exclaimed. He continued introspectively, “Stupid kid is always stickin’ his nose into shit it shouldn’t be in—literally. Ever since his dad left, he won’t listen to a damned thing my sister and I say.” He looked at Eric, “And Pam saved his life?”
Eric nodded, “She ensured that he would live until Ludwig arrived, but gave him no more blood than was absolutely necessary.”
Tray nodded and was quiet for a moment.
“Perhaps, this will be the boy’s wake-up call; perhaps, he will be less reckless now,” Eric offered.
The Were nodded but then looked at Eric a bit aggressively. “What will be done to the vampire?” Tray asked, a bit of a growl in his voice.
Eric looked down at Sookie, who leaned into him in silent support. Through her gesture, she was telling him that she trusted whatever he had to do.
Eric sent gratitude and love through their bond. “Generally, the vampire in question would be tortured with silver and forced to pay restitution and medical expenses. He or she would also have to leave Area 5 immediately, or a sentence of a year in a silver-lined coffin would be given.”
“You said generally, Northman,” Tray perceived. “What makes this case not so general?”
Eric squeezed Sookie’s hand. “The guilty vampire is the king’s child.”
“Jessica?” Sookie questioned, with shock in her voice.
“Yes,” Eric looked down at her with regret, feeling through the bond that this news was upsetting his wife. “I’m afraid so.”
“I see,” Tray said, his voice turning cold. “The king will want to bury this―to hide it.”
Eric shook his head. “I will not allow that. Plus, there were several witnesses in that room. The humans have been glamoured and the situation contained, but there were three vampires—vampires loyal to me—who witnessed the attack. And the boy came to the club with another Were, who helped the vampires contain the scene. Bill will not be able to cover up this situation without my help, and I won’t give it―unless that is what we all decide to do here.”
“Talk to me,” Tray said, perceiving that Eric had a resolution in mind.
Eric looked down at Sookie and then back at Tray. “The vampiress, Jessica Hamby, is not lacking in potential; however, Bill is a poor maker and has never really disciplined her, nor has he taught her control. In the last year, she seemed to be settling down—her own innate ethical code governing her behavior—but recently, according to Pam, she has become unruly. She is beautiful and has had plenty of willing people to feed from until tonight, but this problem has been escalating for a while. She has become more and more brazen, probably looking for attention from her maker. She is—after all—still a child in a great many ways.” He sighed. “Pam tried to warn the girl to calm down last week, but apparently, she did not listen. And her maker has done nothing to monitor or curb her―despite a formal warning from Pam, who reminded him about a scare the girl had last year with a trucker she had accidentally killed. According to what Pam texted me this evening, her warning went out to Bill last week, but he has done nothing to stop the escalation of her behavior. Apparently, he has been,” Eric scoffed, “too busy planning schemes against my bonded and me.”
Sookie looked up at Eric in surprise. “Jessica killed someone last year?”
“I am almost positive she did,” Eric nodded. “She spoke about it to Pam only in hypotheticals, but it was clear to Pam that the girl had lost control and accidentally killed a human. It was not hard to put two and two together to guess what had happened, but there was no direct proof. I kept an eye on Jessica for several months after you disappeared last year to make sure that there were no more incidents, but she seemed to be settling down with a human and was—during all the time that I had her watched—exclusively feeding from him. I informed Bill about my suspicions concerning the trucker, but without evidence, I could do nothing else at the time. And Bill refused to believe that my misgivings concerning the girl had any merit whatsoever.”
Tray looked at Eric sharply, “Doesn’t this prove that she needs a stricter punishment—or to be put to death?”
Eric felt Sookie stiffen next to him at Tray’s words. “Generally I would agree with you,” he began. “However, Jessica became vampire against her will and was a rebellious teen upon her making as well. Bill did try to have Pam and myself take care of her at first as a favor.” Eric looked a little contrite. “But she was so rebellious that only a maker’s command could have curbed her. I was hoping that—given more contact with the girl—Bill would provide that. Also,” he looked down guiltily at Sookie, “when it became clear that Bill didn’t want Jessica because he didn’t want Sookie to know about her, I admit I was not upset to bring her to him.” He sighed and the vampire bond flooded with hesitation from Eric. “I admit that I wanted waves to be started between you and Bill, min kära.”
Eric was extremely grateful that he felt no anger from Sookie through the bond in that moment.
Instead, Sookie grasped his hand harder. “Those were waves that Bill allowed because he wasn’t truthful to me, but those waves helped me to understand that my relationship with him was always treadin’ water. I don’t like that you used Jessica, but Bill was the one ultimately responsible for her.”
Gratefulness flooded the bond from Eric’s end as he continued, “Even so—I am partly to blame for her not learning how to be a successful vampire, I’m afraid.” Eric turned his gaze back to Tray. “And that is another reason why I would like to try an unusual option for Jessica’s punishment.”
“Can’t Bill feel her pain because of the silver? Or her anxiety?” Sookie asked.
“He has, perhaps, muted the bond between them,” Eric responded. “All vampires have this ability to a certain extent, and some can shut off a bond completely.”
Sookie felt a jolt of sadness from her vampire bond with her husband, and she knew that Eric was thinking about how Godric had done the same to him. She squeezed his hand in silent comfort.
Eric continued, “Or Jessica might be stifling her own feelings, afraid of the trouble she is in. To this point, Pam has put her under silver to keep her secured, but that silver is not touching her flesh, so she is not being burned by it—only weakened.”
“Oh,” Sookie sounded.
“What do you propose we do?” Tray asked.
“If you agree, I will offer a slightly alternative punishment than the norm. Jessica will still have to face a punishment by silver. I can do nothing less than that.” He looked down at Sookie with regret, but his wife nodded in understanding. She hated the thought of Jessica being silvered, but she somehow knew that Eric would do as little as he could get away with regarding Jessica’s torture.
Eric continued, “Since Jessica is under five vampire years of age, her maker is responsible for the medical bills. Substantial restitution will also be required from Compton. I suggest this money go toward a college fund for the boy if he is going to continue his education. If not, perhaps it can be invested into some kind of business venture to keep him busy.”
Tray nodded and spoke introspectively. “That sounds like a good idea. Steven’s not one for school, but I can bring him into the motorcycle repair shop. He’s always liked my bikes, and now that I have pack duties, I could use the help. The restitution money could be used to give him a small salary until he gets his shit together. Ideally, he could become my partner in the shop after a while. That is something my sister and I talked about in the past—especially after his father left—but I couldn’t afford to take him on before.”
Eric nodded, “This is the part that is different—the part I am asking you to agree to. I think that Bill would fight us if I attempted to banish Jessica from Area 5, and I feel that she lacks the discipline to stay away anyway.” He sighed. “Like I said before, she lacks control, but I have seen her potential myself. If she had the right guidance, she might become quite formidable.”
“What do you suggest?” Tray asked.
“Pam,” Eric said simply. “She has grown a certain fondness for Jessica. Her desire to protect the girl is certainly one of the reasons why she saved your nephew’s life until Ludwig had time to get to him.” He paused and looked at Sookie. “If I ask her to, Pam will take over Jessica’s parentage―so to speak. Of course, Bill would have to agree to this and basically give up dominion over his child.” Eric looked back at Tray. “But the king may see this as a somewhat welcome opportunity.”
“Yes,” Sookie agreed, looking at Tray. “Bill never really wanted to be a maker.”
“But he may now disagree—on principle—because I am involved. He may see this as a power-play by me to take away another thing he sees as his,” Eric started.
“When you just want to help Jessica,” Sookie finished his thought.
“Yes,” Eric confirmed. “But she cannot stay in Area 5 if she remains uncontrolled. She will eventually do something that I cannot cover from human eyes, and this state cannot afford to have a scandal right now—not so soon after the Marnie situation.” Eric felt apprehension from Sookie and sent comfort through the bond. “Those who are publically exposed of such actions as hers tonight are being killed at the order of the Authority. Bill has carried out several such executions himself.”
“And if Jessica had attacked a human and not a Were, she would definitely be executed, right?” Sookie asked in a whisper.
“Yes,” Eric confirmed. “I would not be able to do anything about that, and if Bill resisted, his kingship would certainly be vulnerable again as well.”
“So,” Tray clarified, “you will silver her as punishment for the crime, her maker will pay a substantial restitution, and Pam will make sure that she stays in line from now on?”
“Yes―if the king agrees,” Eric nodded.
“And if he doesn’t?” Sookie asked.
Eric sighed, “Then I will be forced to banish her, and she will most likely get herself killed soon enough, or she will return to Area 5 without permission, and I will have to sentence her to the coffin for a year. And that—I am certain—would destroy her.”
“And what if the king doesn’t allow the banishment?” Tray asked with narrowed eyes.
“Then I will have to turn the matter over to the Authority for arbitration, and they would most likely kill the girl―just to see if Bill resists. There are still people who would like to see the leadership of the state change, and this would give them a new opportunity to do just that.”
“Son of a bitch. Stupid, stupid Jessica,” Sookie said under her breath.
“Indeed,” Eric agreed with a slight smile to his mate.
Tray exhaled loudly, “Your compromise is agreeable, Northman.” He smiled a bit, “I wonder if the king would be more willing to accept the plan if it seemed to come from me as much or even more than it was coming from you. After all, I am packmaster now. Perhaps, if I argued for an even stricter sentence, he would see your solution as the best thing for all involved.”
Sookie smiled at Tray. “Eric, I like where Tray is goin’ here. You know that Bill likes to feel like he’s the one in control. Maybe we can make him think he is.”
Eric nodded, “That would be ideal. Very well―let’s give it a try.”
Tray moved to leave the office. “I’m gonna call my sister, and I’ll meet you and the king outside in a few minutes―okay? Perhaps you should get him warmed up, and I’ll join in when the moment is just right,” Tray said wickedly.
As soon as Tray had closed the door, Eric had Sookie pulled into a kiss. “Min kavaljer,” he moaned into her mouth as he made her breathless.
She looked up at him with heavy lids and a question in her eyes when he released her.
He chuckled, “It means something like ‘partner’—my beautiful partner in crime. You are so beautiful when you are acting as my partner―my true mate.”
“Right back at you,” she chuckled too. “I like that name―you know. It sounds kind of like ‘cavalier.’”
He kissed her nose gently and then looked at her seriously. “Do you wish to do the next part with me, Sookie? You could stay inside with Miranda and Bubba if you wish. It might get,” he paused, “unpleasant with Bill.”
“Hell yes―I’m doin’ this with you!” she insisted passionately. “We’re partners, remember? You just said it yourself.”
He smiled, “I will remember—always.”
Eric gave Miranda a meaningful look as Sookie and he returned into the bar. With a slight nod of his head, he signaled toward the back door. The Werelioness immediately rose and took Jarod with her, excusing them both from the group for a while. When Jesus looked at Sookie in question, she gave him a reassuring nod, so the brujo went back to the conversation he was having with Terry.
Sookie gripped Eric’s hand tightly as they approached Bill’s table. Selah was sitting next to him in the booth and giggling as if he’d just said the funniest thing in the world.
“I’m sorry to interrupt you,” Eric said, nodding deferentially to his king, “but something has come to my attention that I must speak to you about immediately.”
“Go ahead,” Bill said without looking up. Sookie’s frustration over Bill’s rude behavior rose, but she kept herself in check. She just wished that Bill would pull his head out of his ass so that he could recognize what a wonderful asset he had in a sheriff like her husband. But Bill’s jealousy prevented him from doing that. She couldn’t help but to shake her head a bit sadly.
“It is something I would rather speak to you about in private,” Eric said. “It involves something Jessica has done.”
Bill looked up at Eric with concern, and Sookie could see Selah’s worry at Bill’s reaction to the mention of another woman; she also heard insecure thoughts pouring from the beautiful brunette’s mind. The loudest thought was Selah’s concern that she would be inadequate in satisfying Bill sexually, especially compared to women like Sookie. She thought that lower class women were likely less inhibited in bed because they had less self-respect; Selah vowed to herself to allow Bill to do with her body whatever he wanted so that she could hold onto him.
Sookie quickly raised her shields to keep out Selah’s thoughts. Sookie couldn’t help but to feel sorry for the woman; according to Pam’s earlier text, Bill was merely using Selah to try to make her jealous. Part of Sookie wanted to warn Selah before Bill also used her for sex and blood, but Sookie intuited that the brunette wouldn’t listen to her. Sookie sighed. Selah’s superior and judgmental attitude seemed to stem directly from her own self-doubts. Sookie just hoped that Selah wouldn’t be hurt too badly by Bill.
Bill looked back at Selah reassuringly, making Sookie hope for a moment that his intentions toward the woman had changed. Maybe if Bill could find another person to love, he would leave Eric and her alone.
Bill spoke softly to his date though he kept one eye on Sookie, “Jessica is my vampire child, so I had better see what is wrong. Will you be alright here for a few moments?”
The relief clear on her face, the brunette nodded, “Of course. I’ll be right here.”
“Shall we go outside?” Eric asked, gesturing toward the door with a long stroke of his arm.
Bill nodded, got out of the booth, and spoke grumpily, “Fine.”