From inside the house, Pam was happy to feel an emotion from Eric that he wasn’t trying to suppress. When she had allowed herself to check on him during the previous month, she’d felt mainly his pain and his dogged determination to keep Sookie alive at all costs—even if that cost was his own life.
Before the episode with Sookie, Pam had kept her bond with Eric opened—well, at least partially opened. She’d most often felt his meticulous attempts to compartmentalize every single emotion that he had―except for his emotions regarding Hunter. And even those were housed in the corners of his mind when the child wasn’t awake. Pam knew that her maker had been trying to empty himself out so that he wouldn’t feel, but she also knew that he’d not been succeeding—not by a long shot.
Ironically, those times Eric had spent with Hunter before Sookie had called to him had become the worst times for her in regards to experiencing the emotions of her maker. Because he was trying to allow some of his emotions to come to the forefront—even as he was pushing most of his emotions away—Eric’s mind felt to her like a puzzle where the pieces didn’t quite fit. And her stubborn maker was continuously trying to force them into place. It had been fucking painful for Pam—even with the bond dampened down. She could only imagine how difficult it had been for her highly emotional maker to deny his feelings like that, and she hadn’t been exaggerating when she’d told him that he was ripping himself apart.
Now, one particular emotion was pouring from Eric, and in Pam’s mind, it was the fucking appropriate one―anger.
His preparations in the workshop finished to his satisfaction, Eric strode into the house like a Viking of old, taking large steps. He listened carefully to see if he could hear any listening devices or cameras whirring, but he did not. He’d look at the technology Bill was using later, but he imagined that it was dormant until activated or until set off by nearby motion or sound. And now Eric intended to use Bill’s own surveillance equipment against him.
He zipped upstairs to Hunter’s side at vampire speed and looked down at the sleeping child. His anger cooled for a moment, and he allowed his affection for the boy to really fill him for the very first time.
He now recognized that he didn’t just love Hunter. He loved the child as a son—his son. And he intended to protect him no matter what it took, even if he had to become king to do it. He brushed aside the boy’s unruly bangs tenderly. Then he left the room, glancing at a smirking Batanya even as he dialed Thalia’s number.
She answered on the first ring and without greeting. Eric asked, “Will you hold to your offer?”
The vampiress said only, “It’s about goddamn time,” and then she hung up. He knew what she would be coming; knowing her, she was probably already on her way.
Eric thought about his wife and now―indeed―his son, and he knew what he had to do. The steps and nuances of a plan were filling into his mind even then. He factored in variables and possibilities, moving around his chess pieces in his mind.
Eric heard and smelled Jesus and Lafayette arrive as he was walking downstairs. He listened to Pam’s performance—as well as the whirring from Bill’s activated surveillance equipment—and then chuckled a bit as his vampire daughter dragged the two witches inside to try to save Eric’s life. As it turned out, she’d managed two tears during her performance.
Pam entered the living room and did a little curtsy as Miranda clapped for her. The vampiress deadpanned, “I really should have gotten a Tony Award, you know.”
Eric chuckled again and then looked around the living room where everyone had settled. He knew that all of the people in that room would die to protect Hunter. He also knew that Batanya would be able to hear them from upstairs. He closed his eyes and listened to Hunter’s steady, even breathing; he needed to make sure that the boy was sleeping soundly. Satisfied that his human child wouldn’t hear them, Eric began, “Compton intends to come here tomorrow evening, kill everyone he finds, and take Hunter.”
There were several gasps from around the room, but Eric continued. “I do not know for sure how long he’s had them in place, but Bill has installed listening and video surveillance equipment on Lafayette’s car and Jason’s truck. These devices switch on when there is motion or sound to pick up. I heard them clearly when Lafayette and Jesus arrived and when Pam spoke to them outside just now. I am, however, certain that they were not here before Sookie called me to aid her and I was forced down into the cubby.”
Eric continued, “However, Bill knows that I have been incapacitated, and as of today, he has confirmed that Hunter is here. He also knows that Hadley and Sookie are both in the fairy realm. Due to my incapacitation and Hunter’s presence, Bill has chosen tomorrow night to attack.”
Lafayette spoke, gesturing between himself and Jesus, “We talked about Hadley bein’ in the fairy world with Sook just two days ago. I know we hadn’t talked ‘bout that in the car before then.” He paused, “But we have talked ‘bout you not bein’ well—we’ve talked ‘bout that a lot lately.”
“Sorry, Eric,” Jesus said quietly. “We didn’t know, and I needed to . . . ,” his voice trailed off.
Eric shook his head. “It is not your fault. I should have foreseen the possibility of this kind of thing, but there is still time to make things right.” He looked at Lafayette, Jesus, and Jason in turn. “You are all important members of this family, and it is my responsibility to make sure that you are all secure. It is I who have failed.”
Jesus smiled in relief―and not just because Eric was not angry. No—Jesus had been greatly relieved when Pam had called him the night before—to let him know that Eric was better. Jesus respected the vampire. Truth be told, he thought of Eric as his friend. No—that wasn’t quite accurate. He thought of the vampire as his closest friend besides his beloved. Jesus wasn’t quite sure why, but the vampire felt like a ‘real’ brother to him. That’s why Lafayette and Jesus had been talking about Eric so much. Jesus had needed to discuss his fears of losing his vampire friend. Jesus took a deep breath. “Let’s use this all against Bill. Let’s deal with him once and for all.”
Eric nodded to his brujo friend. “Yes—let’s. If I were to speculate, I would say that the surveillance equipment is relatively new—put into place around three or four days ago. Jessica and Jason heard Bill and Lillith speaking of it for the first time tonight, and I think he would have been able to confirm Hunter’s presence much sooner had it been in use longer.”
Lafayette spoke, “Okay, what’s the plan for finally gettin’ that bitch?”
Eric answered evenly, “Bill intends to kidnap and glamour Jason to use him to get inside the house. Once in here, Bill intends to kill me, which he feels will be easy given my state.” Eric paused. “It would have been easy before yesterday.” He looked around the room again and then continued, “Then Bill intends to kidnap Hunter, and his plans for Hunter once he does that are even sicker and more twisted than his intentions for Sookie once were.”
Eric gave everyone a moment to absorb his words and then went on, “As Bill takes care of me and Hunter, he intends for thirty humans that he’s hired―along with several mercenary vampires and Lillith―to kill anyone else who is here.” He paused. “As for my intentions―well I plan to stop him and kill him before he can harm anyone in this household.”
“Fuckin’ A,” Jason said, sitting up straight in his chair and slapping his own knee.
Eric nodded to Jason and then looked at Miranda. “You must protect your cub,” Eric said, gesturing toward her growing belly. “For what is to come, you may wish to be gone from here tomorrow night.”
Miranda shook her head and looked at Eric meaningfully. “I will help you protect your cub first, Eric. Ludwig says that I am as strong as ever, and Jesus’s spell is protecting the baby from trauma, so I’m good.”
In support of and with obvious pride for his mate, Jarod walked to stand behind Miranda.
Eric nodded gratefully to them both.
“All right,” Eric said, his voice icy. “Pam, I need you to go now and quickly retrieve my tools and weapons from the basement of Fangtasia. Go by the back door, and do not be seen at Fangtasia. Oh—and Pam—feel free to bring your special tools as well, if you wish.”
Pam smiled wickedly. “Oh I definitely wish.” She bowed and was out of the house like a bullet shot from a gun.
Eric looked at Jesus and Lafayette. “I will need you both here tomorrow night. I will try to keep you from danger, but at a certain point, I will need for the protection spell around this house to be dropped.”
Jesus looked at Eric in surprise, “But why? Wouldn’t it be better to leave it up so that no one who intends harm can cross onto the property?”
Eric nodded. His voice and his eyes were cold, hard, blue steel. “Generally, you’d be right―but I aim to be up to no good tomorrow night. And I mean to have someone inside the barrier that definitely intends to harm both Hunter and myself. And I don’t want him to go flying out of the barrier before I’m ready for him to.”
Five hours later, Eric was almost ready. He had planned for every contingency that he could imagine. He had every ally that he need activated.
He was ready―except for one thing. As he stared down at a peacefully sleeping Hunter, he didn’t know what to say to his child. He brushed Hunter’s bangs from his forehead. Should he tell the boy the truth? Should he simply hide Hunter away? One thing he knew for sure was that Bill Compton would not lay a hand on his son, not a fucking fingertip.
He nodded to Batanya in the hall. She had been watching over Hunter closely. He knew that even if he failed to stop Compton for some reason, the vampire king would fall on Batanya’s sword.
Eric gently picked up Hunter and took him to his own bedroom. Jessica and Pam were closely monitoring Bill for any changes to his plans, but Eric wanted Hunter to be close to his side either way. Odin and the kitten both looked momentarily perturbed at the interruption to their sleep but dutifully padded along after the vampire and his child.
Eric put Hunter onto Sookie’s side of the bed and tucked the covers around him. He looked at the photograph of Sookie and Gran by the bed and spoke in a light voice, “I will not fail you this time, min kära. I will protect this child even as I failed to protect you. I swear it.”
Eric watched over Hunter until it was about half an hour until sunrise. Then he gently woke up the boy.
“Uncle Eric?” Hunter asked groggily.
“Yes, Hunter,” Eric said. “I have to tell you some things, and I need you to be the smár rekkr I know you to be as you hear them.”
Hearing the serious tone in Eric’s voice, Hunter wiped the sleep from his eyes and sat up. “Is it about Mommy? Or are you sick again?” he asked nervously.
Eric shook his head. He sighed. “No, Hunter. Tomorrow night, a bad vampire is going to try to come into this house and hurt us, but I want you to know that I’m going to fight him and to stop him from doing that.”
Hunter’s eyes widened in nervousness, but he spoke bravely, “I can help you, Uncle Eric.”
Eric smiled proudly down at his boy, “Yes, Hunter. I will need your help. First, I will need you to stay inside the house tomorrow during the day and do everything that Miranda tells you to do.”
“Okay,” Hunter said in a somewhat anxious voice.
“Good―an hour before it gets dark, you, Batanya, and Miranda are going to go to the cubby and lock yourselves in.” Eric knew that the Cubby was the safest place in the house and could be locked down so that no mortal or vampire could breech it. Eric continued, “I need you to make sure that Miranda’s baby stays safe, okay? So if anyone comes down there, I want you to protect them, Hunter.”
The little boy nodded but then asked, “But how can I?”
Eric smiled, “I need to you use your ability and listen. If anybody bad comes near the cubby, you are to warn Miranda and Batanya, okay? That way they will be ready to fight. It is very important that you listen really well with your ability Hunter. Especially if it’s a void—a vampire you don’t know—trying to get in, I want you to warn Miranda and Batanya right away.”
The boy nodded and Eric pulled him into a hug.
“I’m scared, Uncle Eric,” Hunter said in a little voice.
“I know,” Eric said as he looked at his son and ruffled his bangs, “but a little fear is fine, Hunter. However, you must also have confidence that we will win against this bad vampire. You must have confidence that I will protect you. And even more―you must have confidence in your own abilities and do what you can to put them to best use when you face your foes. That is what my father taught me, Hunter.”
Hunter nodded and buried his head into Eric’s chest again. Eric continued speaking as he rocked Hunter a bit, “I will come to you right after the battle has been won tomorrow night, Hunter.”
Eric felt the child nod again.
“Until then, you will be safe with your guards.”
“Okay,” Hunter said, looking at Eric with deep trust in his brown eyes.
Eric tucked Hunter in again and then lay down on his own side of the bed. “I’m very proud of you, Hunter,” the vampire said as he leaned over to kiss the boy on his forehead. As Eric watched Hunter drift into sleep again, he went over his plan once again. It would have risks, but if all went well, the reward would be knowing that Hunter was safe.