Eric’s thoughts about his wife were interrupted by a cell phone ring that came from Claude’s pocket.
Quickly, the fairy answered the phone.
“Yes?” Claude asked tensely, knowing that he’d only be getting a call if there was trouble.
Eric could make out the tone of voice but not the language being spoken by the person speaking to Claude. The fairy asked a question in the same language, got an answer, and then hung up.
Immediately, the fairy stood up.
“What is it?” Eric asked.
“My mother,” Claude answered, “Mab. A small force of hers is trying to breach the ‘in-between’ place.” The fairy looked a little confused.
“What?” Eric asked.
“She cannot hope to succeed,” Claude said with some bewilderment. “No one can get in by an attack. And even if that were possible, the magic protecting the pool would prevent her from using it.”
“Sookie?” Eric asked.
“She is fine,” Claude said. “She was still with Niall in his village when I left earlier, and only seconds have passed for them since I came here today.”
“Maybe Mab intends to set a trap for when Sookie and Niall return,” Eric posited.
Claude contemplated for a moment before shaking his head. “Going against my father directly like that would be suicide,” Claude said. “But I should probably go back to make sure she is subdued.”
“Yes,” Eric agreed. “Just in case. But take care; the trap may be for you.”
Claude nodded. “I will. You?” Claude asked. “I can take you back to the house and then go.”
“I’ll be fine. I have my meeting with Clancy, and Pam is here, along with the protection wards around the office.”
“Wait,” Eric said. He went to the closet in his office and typed a code into a key pad. He slid open a panel. Inside was a cache of weapons. “The firearms have iron bullets; could you use those?” the vampire asked.
“Yes,” Claude said, “but can I take this instead?” He was eyeing an iron sword with and ivory handle. “And those?” He gestured toward a pair a gloves.
Eric threw him the gloves and—once Claude had put them on—the sword.
“Good luck, Tanu,” Eric said with a smile.
“I will keep you informed, Brother,” Claude said.
“Just keep our girl safe.”
“I will,” he promised as he popped back to the pool.
The sight that met Claude was a surprise. His guards at the “in-between place” had obviously vanquished their enemies already. However, that was not the part that surprised him.
No—what surprised him most was that his mother was among the captured group. She generally let others do her dirty work.
“Finally,” Mab said in her cackling voice. “I was beginning to think you’d never get here. Wherever have you been, my child?”
Claude looked at her in confusion and asked a question of his own. “Why would you attack this place? The pool is protected from you, and the magic of this place weakens you. Surely you knew that.”
Mab smiled. “Of course. But what must a mother do to visit her only remaining son?” she asked with both mockery and venom.
“What do you want?” Claude asked. “Surely you know that it is well within my right to kill you now that you have once again broken your treaty with Father by coming here.”
Mab scoffed. “Niall is a fool who is destroying this world.” A look of disgust fell upon her face. “He is polluting our kind by allowing the hybrids to settle as equals with the full-blooded!”
Claude shook his head. “You make no sense! It was you who brought the hybrids here against their will. It was you who wished to breed them.”
“Yes,” Mab hissed. “It was me, so the stock of the pregnant ones belongs to me by right. All of those hybrid whores that conceived are carrying Water Fae. I have come here to claim them.”
Thinking of Hadley and tiny Adele, Claude growled.
Mab laughed cruelly. “Oh—this is rich, dear son,” she derided. “I can hear from your thoughts that you are in love with the hybrid Hadley.” Her eyes narrowed. “Give her, her child, and the other Water Fae children to me, and you can take your place at my side,” she said, her tone becoming almost seductive. “You could have your Hadley. And she would make you many lovely children after she gives birth to Joren’s legacy. I will let Hadley live if you join me.”
Claude shook his head, “Your words are as poison! And you truly are insane if you think that any of those children will ever belong to you. If Father does not stop you, I will.”
“Their fathers have rights too, dear child,” Mab hissed.
“No!” Claude said forcefully. “The fairies that raped those women have no rights, nor do you!”
“If they were raped, then they never wanted the children. Why not give them to me after they are born?” Mab tried.
Claude shook his head. “You will not get your hooks into those innocent children, Mother. Not while I draw breath.”
Mab glared at him. “You have always been such a disappointment, Claude. You cling to your father and jump to his will. Think about it for a moment. By my side, you would be prince of both the Sky Fae and the Water Fae. You would be my right hand. And together we could conquer Niall. He would fall without you.” She smiled evilly. “And after that, all Fae would fall into line.”
She paused and tried to give him a sincere look. “There would be no war, dear son. There would be no strife. Imagine it! All of our people would be united—at long last.”
Claude shook his head. “Tyranny under your will is no life for our people, Mother. You should know by now that I will never join you.”
Mab’s smile turned maniacal. “Then you will die with my other enemies.” She looked around. “Where is dear Sookie? I had so hoped to see her.”
Claude growled again. “You will leave her alone.”
Mab managed to clap her hands together gleefully despite being held by the guards. “You care for her too!” She laughed sickly. “You really think your ‘Tanah’ will defeat me?” she mocked.
Claude strengthened his shields, trying to keep his mother outside of his thoughts. She had always been especially gifted at breaking into others’ minds, however.
She tilted her head to the side as if studying him, “You have chosen strange company as of late, my son. It goes to show that you have been listening too much to your father.”
Claude shook his head. “I have been choosing my company for myself for a very long time. And as you know, the first company that I rejected was yours!”
She scoffed. “You would choose riffraff over your own mother, boy. It is a disgrace! I was hoping that you could be reasonable, but I see my hopes are for nothing! Call your goons off of my people, and we will be on our way.”
Claude looked at her skeptically. “Why did you really come here? Surely, you did not think that I would be willing to listen to your nonsense about the children?”
“She came with this,” one of Claude’s guards said, as his handed Claude a vial of liquid.
“What is it?” Claude asked.
Mab laughed maniacally.
Claude delved into her head with all the power he could muster even though he knew it would likely hurt her. Though his mother was stealthier in the way she stole thoughts, he had the ability to be more brutal; it was the product of the mixing of Sky Fae and Water Fae within him.
He pulled out of her head when he got his answer. “How the hell did you get vampire blood, and why the fuck do you want to force Sookie to drink it?”
Mab laughed heartily, the insanity clear in her eyes. “Such colorful language,” she said sarcastically. “How very,” she paused, “human of you—or did you learn that from the vampire who has turned your dear little Sookie into a whore?”
Rage filled Claude. As he stepped toward his mother, however, she gave a quick order to her guards, and immediately, all of them slumped over dead.
Claude’s eyes widened.
“I will see you soon, my son, and even your ‘Tanah’ will not be able to stop me, for she will be dead!” Mab screeched.
With that, Mab disappeared.
Claude stared into the space she had been for a few moments as he thought about the magic spells protecting the “in-between place.” He looked at one of his still-shocked guards.
“Tell me exactly what happened. How did she come to be here?”
The guard regained his composure quickly. “Her people were trying to get through the defenses. Ours surrounded them, and they were captured. We decided to bring them here for you to deal with since Niall made clear that he was not to be disturbed.”
“You brought them into this place?” Claude asked.
“Yes,” the guard confirmed.
Claude breathed a sigh of relief. The protection spell in the “in-between place” worked to keep enemies from entering in battle, but once they had been captured, his people were able to bring them inside the spell’s barriers. Getting captured had obviously been Mab’s plan all along—as had sacrificing her guards and using magic to leave. Unfortunately the spells protecting the “in-between” place did not prevent that from occurring.
Suddenly, Claude realized that his mother’s ‘visit’ had been nothing more than a diversion. In that same moment, he heard Sookie as if she were screaming in his head. She was worried; no, that wasn’t strong enough. She was panicked and fearful for Eric’s safety. Claude ran to the pool so that he could check on the vampire. The image he saw chilled his blood.
Claude quickly ascertained that there was nothing he could do to help the vampire.
“I’m sorry, Tanah,” he whispered as he popped himself to the edge of the “in-between place,” crossed the border into Faerie, and then popped himself to Niall’s home.
“I have failed you.”
Distracted by the situation with Mab, Eric had had a difficult time concentrating on his meeting with Clancy; however, he took much comfort in the fact that the fairy had assured him that Sookie was not being threatened. Even so, he still worried about his wife and his fairy kin.
His business done, Eric said a quick goodbye to Pam, who was staying behind to finish some paperwork. Knowing that the flight home would take him a little more than twenty-five minutes, he took off into the night.
It was a new moon and the sky was black.
Eric heard and smelled the threat before he saw it, his keen senses once again working to try to ensure his survival. As soon as he recognized the scent of his enemy, he flew as fast as he could toward the protective barriers around his home.
When he realized that he’d never make it in time, he spent some of his energy to alert Pam through their bond—a kind of alert that would signal her to seek immediate safety and make sure the others in their little family were doing the same.
Then he marshaled all of this remaining energy and tapped into the power of the fairy bond so that he could move even faster.
But he knew it would not be fast enough.