SATURDAY, JANUARY 15, 2005
Maria-Star had not been a fan of Alcide Herveaux for quite some time. Of course, being from the same pack and the same age, they’d known each other for all of their lives. Maria-Star would even admit to having had a bit of a crush on him—when they were around eleven or twelve—but he didn’t notice her in any kind of romantic way.
By then, the Pelts had moved into the pack, and Alcide was fixated on Debbie, who was a friend of Maria-Star’s when they were in their grade school years. Debbie, along with Sandra, who was a few years younger, had been adopted by the Pelts. And Maria-Star had bonded with the two girls because she’d lost her own parents to a horrible automobile accident when she was ten. That was when Colonel Flood, her godfather and uncle, had taken her in.
Maria-Star and the Pelt sisters had bonded over their similar losses and over their gratefulness at finding good families that had taken them in.
Despite his general ambivalence of her, Maria-Star had gotten along okay with Alcide until they were fifteen years old. As teen Weres often did, a group of friends snuck out at a full moon and tested their mettle—so to speak. Of course, all the testosterone-driven Alpha-wannabes had been keyed up to shift and spar.
The boys had laughed their asses off when Maria-Star told them that she wanted to participate in their little “tournament” too.
They’d told her that girls were supposed to “sit back, look pretty, and appreciate them.”
Maria-Star had never been one to just sit back. And—frankly—she’d not seen much from the group of males to appreciate. Plus, she figured she was as good as any of them at combat. They might be bigger, but she had a kind of natural cunning that her godfather had complimented many times. And the Colonel didn’t give empty compliments, especially not to someone he loved.
Ultimately, the male Weres had “allowed” Maria-Star to participate. Before they shifted, she’d heard the first Were that she was to spar with telling his buddies that he would “take it easy on her.” That pissed her off. However, from that little prick, she’d learned the value of having an opponent underestimate her. Altogether, she’d fought four Weres that night as she won each round in which she fought. Her last opponent of the night was Alcide.
Of all of the Weres she beat that night—and, make no mistake, she kicked all of their asses—Alcide was the one to take it the worst.
He’d disappointed her.
After she’d handed him his ass, he’d told Debbie that he hadn’t “given the fight much effort” because he knew that she was Debbie’s friend. In fact, he said that none of the guys had really made much effort to beat her because they didn’t want to “hurt her feelings” or cause her to “break a nail.”
Maria-Star knew that was bullshit!
Even by then, the fierce teen had known what it was like to fight with an opponent who was giving it his all, and Alcide had been doing everything he could think of to get the better of her—within the rules of the boys’ little tournament. Basically, anything went—as long as the wounds wouldn’t get the teens in trouble with the adults. The goal of each match was to pin one’s opponent to the ground in a position that established dominance.
Maria-Star hadn’t stopped until she had all of her opponents on their backs with her fangs at their exposed throats. She’d enjoyed the sounds of each of them whimpering for mercy below her. One of the boys had even pissed himself a little.
Winning with such dominance had been quite gratifying for Maria-Star.
It all came down to the fact that Alcide couldn’t deal with losing to a girl. In turn, Maria-Star could acknowledge that he was a good fighter, one of the best she’d ever sparred against, though they’d not fought since that long-ago night.
Still, Maria-Star had lost a lot of respect for Alcide, who was—unfortunately—ruled by a certain kind of misogyny that was still common in Long Tooth, despite her godfather’s example.
Needless to say, she was never allowed to fight in another tournament, nor was she invited to run with the others her age anymore. She’d been especially hurt when Debbie had pulled away from their friendship. And Sandra always followed Debbie’s lead.
When Alcide, Debbie, and Maria-Star were all eighteen—right after they’d all graduated from high school—the Pelts had moved to the New Orleans area and had joined a different pack. Debbie had stayed in Shreveport for a while, and she and Alcide had lived together. However, she’d never made a move to reestablish her friendship with Maria-Star, though the latter would have been open to such an overture.
“It was her loss,” Maria-Star muttered to herself.
Maria-Star recalled that Debbie had often traveled with Alcide for his work, especially to Jackson, Mississippi, where Herveaux and Son had a branch of sorts. Ultimately, Debbie began taking drugs and fucked up her life to the point that she had made herself Eric Northman’s enemy. She’d also tried to kill Maria-Star’s charge, whom the Were could tell was a good person, kind to everyone around her.
Maria-Star was determined that neither Debbie nor any other with bad intentions would ever lay a finger on her charge! Past friendship or not, Maria-Star would kill Debbie Pelt if she tried to fuck with Sookie Stackhouse!
Of course, Maria-Star—because of the gossip in the Long Tooth pack—knew that Alcide was partly responsible for fucking Debbie up. The Were shook her head. She found it crazy that someone so intent upon being Alpha in many ways was totally against fathering even one Were child to help shore-up the pack. And it wasn’t as if Colonel Flood required the males in the pack to be studs for other bitches either! The colonel was fine with men wanting to father children only with their wives.
But Alcide seemed strong in his desire not to have a two-natured child, as if being two-natured was some kind of shameful thing! Maria-Star had overheard Colonel Flood and Alcide talking about the situation one night, and—though she’d not meant to hear them and had left the area as soon as she could—she’d picked up enough to know that Alcide was uncompromising in his beliefs.
Maria-Star frowned as she recalled how Debbie had never been shy about expressing her desire to be a mother—to have a large family. She’d even talked about adopting orphan two-natured kids like the Pelts had adopted her and Sandra.
Looking back, Maria-Star found it cruel that Alcide had continuously pursued Debbie. Hell! Maria-Star remembered how—during the time of one of Debbie and Alcide’s many “break-ups”—Alcide had kicked the ass of a nice Were that had begun paying attention to Debbie.
That Were was now the owner of a plumbing company. He was married to another pack girl they’d gone to high school with and had three children with her. Maria-Star couldn’t help but to wonder what would have happened if Alcide had “let” Debbie date that guy—or any other guy that would have been interested in giving Debbie the kind of life she so richly desired.
But—no—Alcide had always been extremely territorial where Debbie was concerned. And he didn’t seem willing to let her be happy without him. In the last year or so, Maria-Star had heard that Alcide and Debbie had finally gone their separate ways—permanently. However, rumor had it that Alcide let her go more out of his need for self-preservation than his abdication of “ownership” over her.
Of course, according to Eric, some of Alcide’s motivation for “helping” Sookie in Jackson was to pretend that she was his new girlfriend—in order to make Debbie jealous. The Were scoffed. It seemed that Alcide was not over stirring up drama with Debbie, and—due to the drugs and years of mental distress over Alcide—the werefox barely resembled her pre-teen self.
Maria-Star found the whole situation off-putting and wondered if Alcide was mentally abusive by nature. What she knew of Jackson Herveaux, his deceased wife, and Alcide’s sister made her believe that Alcide’s particular character flaws didn’t come from his family.
Of course, Alcide’s actions didn’t exonerate Debbie. But they did shine some light on why she’d turned to drugs for some escape.
It was with all this in mind that she prepared to brief the team that would be traveling with Sookie that day as she went to have lunch with Alcide before continuing on to conduct the screening of Eric’s attorneys.
She’d decided to leave Warren and Onawa, along with some other Long Tooth pack members, in charge of monitoring the house, for Eric was dead for the day inside.
Since he’d been staying at the residence, more Were guards from Long Tooth had been brought into the rotation, and Amelia Broadway had even been hired to set wards to expel ill-intent around the property, with extra layers around the house itself, and even more around the master bedroom—where Eric rested for the day. She’d also added a “fire-repellant” spell, so that any occupants in the house couldn’t be burned out. But Maria-Star still wanted to leave the incredibly strong Onawa and Warren in place.
Thus, Willow and Mustapha would be traveling with Maria-Star to guard Sookie while the telepath was out.
Once the two had reported in, Maria-Star took her small crew through the logistics of the day and conveyed that they’d be taking two vehicles (she’d be riding with Sookie, and the others would travel in a vehicle behind them). And—somewhere in the mix—would be Batanya, though Maria-Star had no idea where.
Of course, neither Mustapha nor Willow knew that she was there at all!
After, telling Willow and Mustapha the basics of their itinerary, Maria-Star spoke further. “You need to know some things about Alcide Herveaux,” she began.
“He’s Jackson’s son—right?” Willow asked.
“Yes, he is. However, while I trust Jackson Herveaux, I have less confidence in Alcide Herveaux’s strength of character.”
“You think he might be a danger to Sookie?” Mustapha asked, his irises flashing yellow.
Maria-Star smirked. She liked that her team was as protective of Sookie as she was.
“Not necessarily. However, from what Miss Stackhouse has told me about her interactions with Alcide Herveaux, he was interested in pursuing a romantic connection with her at one point. That never got off the ground. However, that did not stop Herveaux from acting possessive of Miss Stackhouse. That was before she was romantically involved with Mr. Northman. But he was quite vehement in his desire to convince Miss Stackhouse that all vampires are devils and that only he was right for her,” she emphasized.
“Is that why the son hasn’t been working with the father in Herveaux and Son?” Mustapha asked perceptively.
“Precisely. Miss Stackhouse didn’t want any potential drama, especially not with the initial project that just encompassed the bedrooms,” Maria-Star responded.
“Why is Sookie meeting him then?” Mustapha asked.
“As you know, Miss Stackhouse takes friendship very seriously, and that’s what she hopes to have with Herveaux,” Maria-Star responded. “However, she was upfront and clear with me about her worries regarding Herveaux.”
Willow smiled. “She is learning how to help us to protect her better.”
Maria-Star nodded in agreement. “Yes. I also wanted to let you know that I have seen Herveaux interact with another woman he once felt possessive over. He could be brutal to any men that paid her attention. He very much had the attitude that the only correct man for Debbie Pelt was himself.”
“Wait! Debbie Pelt? As in one of the people we’ve already been briefed to be on the look-out for?” Mustapha asked.
Maria-Star nodded. Of course, she’d made up the briefing material regarding the werefox herself. She’d included all that she knew about Debbie, as well as several photographs of her and Sandra Pelt—just in case Debbie enlisted her sister in some kind of fucked up vendetta against Sookie.
“Yes. Miss Pelt and Mr. Herveaux had an equal fixation upon each other. It was Miss Pelt’s jealously over the fact that Mr. Herveaux was pretending to be romantically involved with Miss Stackhouse that compelled her to push Miss Stackhouse into the trunk that contained an injured Bill Compton,” Maria-Star reminded.
“Also,” she continued, “Miss Stackhouse has already warned Mr. Herveaux about her bond with Mr. Northman.”
“Because she was afraid that he’d fly off the handle?” Willow asked.
“Yes,” Maria-Star confirmed.
Mustapha shook his head. “I don’t like this; Sookie shouldn’t give this guy another chance at friendship. Based on what you’ve said, this Alcide character will likely try to talk her out of being with Mr. Northman—at the very least! And he might get rough about it!”
“Or manipulative,” Willow said, also clearly not liking the idea of the lunch engagement.
“Do either of you two wish to try to talk Miss Stackhouse out of the lunch?” Maria-Star asked with a smirk.
They were silent.
“I didn’t think so. Anyway, your own concerns were voiced to me yesterday by Miss Stackhouse herself. However, she’s willing to give Mr. Herveaux one chance. One only. If he begins bad-mouthing Mr. Northman or becomes overbearing, she and I have a signal, and I’ll simply get her away from him. Miss Stackhouse is trusting us to do our jobs, but she’s not going to let Herveaux get away with any shit either,” she grinned.
“What is that evil grin for?” Willow asked.
“Oh—I just heard Miss Stackhouse going over some additional ways to deal with Mr. Herveaux with Dr. Smith after their appointment this morning—when they were outside enjoying coffee. Dr. Smith suggested a good kick to the balls might be in order. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, I’ll be the one that gets to administer that kick.”
“He’s Were? How big?” Mustapha asked. “Do you want me to take care of him if things get rough?”
Maria-Star looked at her fellow guard and subordinate with cool, steady eyes, but she said nothing. After all, he could not be blamed for the fact that he’d never seen her in combat.
To his credit, Mustapha recognized his folly almost immediately; he was the one to break their stare. “Never mind, Ma’am. I didn’t mean to suggest you couldn’t handle him.”
Maria-Star gave him a little nod. “That being clarified, it would be a good idea for all of us to do a bit of training together. So far, I’ve taken Northman’s word about all of your skills, and I know that he would not exaggerate. However, it might be best if we got some first-hand experience—testing one another. Don’t you agree?”
“Good boy,” Maria-Star thought. Mustapha was not a man who would deny that she was his Alpha—even if she was female.
“That would be useful,” Mustapha said.
Maria-Star smirked. “I’ll look forward to it then. Perhaps, Thalia and Padma could be convinced to spar as well,” she posited, clearly liking that idea.
Mustapha nodded. “It would be good to hone our skills and learn to fight together, especially before we begin traveling with Sookie.
“So,” Willow said, bringing them back to the day at hand, “after we get to the diner, should I shift and watch from the sky?”
“Yes,” Maria-Star confirmed. “The same as last time. You know the signal if you see anything suspicious.”
The werehawk nodded.
“And I’ll take up position at the table right before the door to the back of the diner?” Mustapha questioned.
“Yes—just like you did when Miss Stackhouse met the demon Diantha for lunch after the last set of screenings,” Maria-Star confirmed.
“Are y’all ready?” Sookie asked, exiting her home. Shadow, of course, was on her heels. The telepath paused to set the electronic security system that had been added the week before when Jackson Herveaux’s crew had also installed light-tight shutters to the rest of the house. Generally during the day, those shutters were open. However, as soon as Sookie finished entering the security code, they all shut. Indeed, the house would be locked down until Eric rose or Sookie came back and reopened it with a retinal scan and a code that only she and Eric knew.
Maria-Star also noted that the new steel-reinforced doors that had been added as a part of the new security system would keep a Were from breaking into the house. During the next weeks, Jackson Herveaux’s crews would be reinforcing the walls of the home too, systematically placing sheets of a special alloy between the inner and outer walls of the home. This alloy, developed by a friend of Eric’s in Manhattan named Kenshin, would prevent Weres and vampires from breaking through the walls. And it would also make it much more difficult for someone to “pop” into the house. Indeed, Dr. Smith had already confirmed that she would not be able to “materialize” within the dwelling. Dr. Ludwig would be “testing” out the material and seemed to be thinking of the test as a kind of challenge. Upon being told of the addition, Batanya had kept her neutral composure and demanded a listing of the ingredients of the barrier, which Kenshin had provided for her eyes only. The next day, she’d relayed that it wouldn’t be an issue for her.
Maria-Star didn’t know how the Britlingen could be so certain; however, she was not about to challenge her assessment!
One thing was for certain: As soon as Eric decided to spend his days in the farmhouse on a more permanent basis, Sookie wanted all the layers of security she could get for him.
The Were appreciated and respected Sookie’s care for her mate. It mirrored Eric’s care for her. Maria-Star had rarely seen the phenomenon of true mates, though she’d seen some excellent marriages among the Long Tooth pack. True mates had a kind of symbiosis that the Were found beautiful, not that she would ever share that sentimental thought with anyone.
“We’re ready,” Maria-Star said to the telepath.
Sookie bent down to pet her puppy. “I wish you could come, Shadow. But I have to work today.”
“It would be better to begin acclimating him to sit with you as you work,” Maria-Star observed.
“Next time,” Sookie sighed. “I don’t want to have my attention divided when I meet with Alcide—just in case he decides to be a dick,” she added with a shake of her head. “Alcide, not Shadow.” She bent down to the puppy. “You wouldn’t be a dick—would you, Sweet boy?”
Maria-Star chuckled as the puppy wagged his tail happily.
“Onawa?” Sookie said at a slightly elevated volume. The shifter appeared from her patrol in the woods moments later. “You don’t mind looking out for Shadow—do you? I don’t want to leave him cooped up inside the house. He just ate, but we left some of his food in the shed as well.”
“I don’t mind at all,” Onawa smiled. She nodded to Maria-Star. “I’ll work with him on perimeter searches and simple tracking exercises.”
The Were nodded.
Sookie laughed. “And let him have some fun just traipsing in the woods too! He loves that!”
“I will,” Onawa laughed, before whistling for Shadow.
The smart puppy looked up at his mistress and waited for her nod of permission before bounding over to Onawa’s side.
“Well—let’s do this thing,” Sookie said, taking the keys for her new vehicle from her purse and going to the driver’s side door.
Maria-Star motioned for Willow and Mustapha to go to their own vehicle before proceeding to Sookie’s. She smirked. The telepath had insisted that she would keep driving herself places, which was something that her vampire had supported, though he’d taught her defensive—and offensive—driving tactics.
That had been a fun night to observe.
A/N: Sorry for the late post. I’ve been sick with the flu and almost forgot. Well—I don’t have enough energy to leave much of a note, but I hope you’ll leave a comment nonetheless. BTW, I really enjoyed writing from Maria-Star’s POV.
Next week’s offering will actually be an outtake of the driving lesson mentioned.