Eric spent most of the time left before dawn telling Pam about Thalia’s meeting with de Castro and the Authority.
“So,” Pam said excitedly after hearing the story, “in the month since Thalia has been gone, we have to assume that she’s been stalking Felipe and Victor and setting up little gifts for de Castro as well as members of the Authority and the AVL.”
Eric smirked, “Certainly de Castro―and probably enough of the Authority and the AVL to make a point if she has to.”
Pam laughed, “I wish I could have been there to see de Castro’s face. Did he hide behind his cape?” she asked gleefully.
“No—but he looked ready to,” Eric chuckled.
“What do you think he’ll do now?”
Eric chuckled, “If he has a brain at all, he will stay the fuck away from Thalia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. He was truly frightened. Of that I am certain. And he is ultimately a coward, so he will not be a nuisance again. Without Madden, he has little ambition. And many of Duncan’s friends plan to defect as well.”
“What of the sheriffs in Mississippi?” Pam asked.
“Are you interested?” Eric asked with a quirked brow.
Pam shook her head quickly. “No—I will not leave while my brother is so young.”
Eric smiled proudly at Pam.
“Most of Victor’s people,” Eric said, “which included the previous sheriffs, were with Madden in the warehouse tonight, so they are all dead. As Mississippi has four Areas, Thalia has asked Isabel, Rasul, Marcos, and me to each send someone to become sheriff. I am thinking of Clancy for the job.”
“Not Duncan?” she asked.
Eric chuckled. “I texted him as I left Thalia’s, but he is not interested in being a sheriff. And he wanted me to tell you that he—and I quote—“is longing to work with you and would not give up your presence to be a king, let alone a mere sheriff.” He showed her the text as proof.
Pam scoffed and rolled her eyes. “He’s a fucking infant, Eric. And I will be silvering him if he annoys me too much.”
Eric chuckled, knowing that Duncan and Pam being in the same zip code would make his life even more interesting—and rich.
Pam sighed ruefully. “I still wish that I had seen Thalia in action.”
“It was fucking fantastic,” Eric smirked.
Pam grinned like the Cheshire Cat, “You know, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were jealous of Thalia’s feat tonight.”
“I am,” Eric admitted, still with the smirk affixed to his face. “She managed to consolidate her power—even adding to her territory—and she put fear into the hearts of her enemies. Yet she offered the ones that could really threaten her―the Authority and the AVL―an ‘out’ which was also beneficial to her. She will leave them alone if they agree to do the same.”
Eric nodded, “For the foreseeable future—at least—especially given Kibwe’s public support. They most likely would have anyway if de Castro had not rocked the boat in the first place. I am confident that most of the Authority did not know of Felipe’s plans, and those that did are justifiably scared of Thalia now. And as for the AVL? Though they hate Thalia and miss their press-boy Compton, they will soon have a vested interest in keeping Louisiana stable.”
“The marriage legislation?” Pam asked.
“Yes,” Eric confirmed. “As of tomorrow morning, it will be officially on the docket for the fall session. And having it up for a vote is an accomplishment in and of itself. Plus, our allies in the state congress will soon be arranging for me to speak before the vote; thus, it would not be conducive for the AVL to allow for unrest in this state. I will—after all—be the first vampire to testify about human-vampire marriage in the South.”
Pam sighed. “I hope Sookie is back by then. If she were with you and spoke as well, your testimony would be much more powerful.”
Eric nodded, a faraway look in his eyes. “Sooner than September would be better.”
Pam smiled at him and reached out to pat his hand, an uncharacteristic gesture for her, “Much sooner.”
The pair was silent for a moment. “What of Quinn?” Pam asked.
Eric grinned again. “Right after the conference call ended, I sent de Castro an email requesting that the tiger’s debt to the state of Nevada be cleared and that he be allowed to move his company’s headquarters to Louisiana.”
“And?” Pam asked.
“He emailed that I could buy out the Were’s debt for 1.5 million dollars and informed me that he would allow Quinn to move his company—which he had been taking over half of the profits from—for an additional 1.5 million.”
“Ouch,” Pam said. “And?”
“And I replied that I would pay him five hundred thousand and put in a good word with Thalia. He accepted the terms immediately. He seemed quite pliable to the arrangement,” he smirked.
Pam chuckled. “I bet he was. But I am not sure if the tiger is worth even that amount.”
Eric shrugged. “Even if I take only 10% of Quinn’s profits, I will have recovered my investment in five or so years. Plus, Quinn may want to grow his company now that it will be more his.”
Pam nodded. “Eric, doesn’t this mean that Sookie can come home immediately? That the threat is over?”
“Which one?” Eric asked with a chuckle.
After a moment, he sighed and shook his head. “Since the A.P. has not informed us otherwise, I have to think that the threat she spoke of is still waiting to find us. In actuality, nothing de Castro did put me into grave danger and required Sookie’s assistance. There is,” he paused, “obviously a greater threat to come, which is why I want to earn Mr. Quinn’s support rather than coerce it from him. I am also glad that Duncan will soon be here. We will need all the help we can get if the threat is greater than the one we just faced.”
Pam shook her head, “But the Were-witch was a threat to you. If you had not had Sookie’s blood earlier, who knows what may have happened. Maybe that’s how Sookie’s magic was always destined to save you?”
Eric shook his head. “My instincts tell me that something else is coming. And even if it is not, I want Sookie to gain mastery over her powers.”
Pam sighed. “I guess you’re right.”
“I am,” Eric said with confidence. “I love her so damned much, Pam. I have tried my hardest to keep her safe, but I have failed―several times—because the dangers inherent in the supernatural world seem to be drawn to her as much as I myself am drawn to her.” He stiffened. “The Fellowship, Sophie-Anne, Russell, Queen Mab, Compton, Debbie Pelt—I don’t know where it will end.
He raked his hand through his hair. “The fucking tooth fairy might come after her next! Or the goddamned Easter Bunny might become Bunnicula like in the book Hunter loves so much! And if I cannot protect her from all of that, I need for her to do it for me.” He paused and looked at Pam with almost desperation in his eyes. “I cannot lose her.”
“I know,” she said quietly. “You won’t. I just don’t like to see you two have to face,” she paused, “separation yet again.”
Eric closed his eyes for a moment and regained his calm. “Sookie’s being in Faerie—well—it is my time being lost, not hers, and I can afford to lose it.”
Pam nodded. “And Hunter came back.”
Eric face brightened into a sincere smile. “Yes, my son returned with me, and with me, he will stay—though he will not have to lose his mother either.”
He kissed Pam on the cheek and left her in the living room. There were thirty minutes before dawn, and Eric had decided to spend them where he would feel best—watching over Hunter. He sat down in the chair next to his son’s bed. His exhausted son was still in the exact position he’d left him in earlier that night.
Another threat had come and gone, and his family—his clan—was still intact. But the gravity that held him to the earth seemed ever increasing, and Eric felt heavy.
It was Hunter’s life he had to focus on now. It was Sookie’s life he clung to through the fairy bond. It was the lives of everyone in his household that he had to try to protect.
Yes—he felt heavy. But that heaviness was a good thing too.
He sighed as he brushed his sleeping son’s brows.
With every fiber of his being, Eric knew that there would be more dangers coming at them.
And they would be worse than ever before.