Thalia had been very specific about what she wanted Padma to do. And—not surprisingly—it perfectly fit her skill set. Of course, Thalia—as well as Eric Northman and her charge, Sookie Stackhouse—knew exactly what the younger vampiress’s talents were. Indeed, telling them had been a condition of Padma’s employment as one of Sookie’s primary nighttime guards.
Padma’s vampire sister, Indira, had assured her that Thalia was someone she could trust—someone whose trust was well worth earning. And, of course, she knew that Indira felt an even stronger respect and allegiance for Eric Northman. Her vampire sister had initially settled in New Orleans during the 1950s, and—although she’d not disliked living in Queen Sophie-Anne’s Area, nor had she minded spending time at court from time to time—Indira craved a quieter, simpler existence. She found that in Area 5. It did not hurt that Padma and Indira’s maker, Agni, knew Eric and respected him.
Especially since their maker had found so few that he respected.
In Sanskrit, “agni” meant “fire.” And it was the name of the ancient Hindu fire god. Born in Thanjavur (in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu) around 1200 and turned about twenty-five years later, Agni’s birthdate had been marked by severe lightning, which had struck and burned down his parents’ modest dwelling. The family had survived—with Agni’s mother having to be carried out even as she was pushing to give birth to her child. Seeing the fire as some kind of sign from the gods, Agni’s parents had awarded their son with a name to reflect nature’s arson.
Agni had seemingly been born to have that name—with a fiery personality that could be lethal. He especially despised cruelty toward women, a feeling first developed as he witnessed his older sister’s ill-treatment by her husband. Agni had killed that man after he’d become a vampire. Years later, he found Indira in a similar state as his sister had been in. Many years after that, he’d interrupted Padma being beaten by her husband.
Padma could not recall what her husband had been so upset about—that time. For there had been so many other times before that—from the time that her father had married her off to a powerful man who was twenty years her senior. Padma had been but thirteen years old when she wed—only one year past her first menses. However, she’d been happy to please her family with her marriage. However, her happiness ended only a day after her wedding when her new husband struck her for the first time.
Padma automatically raised her hand to her cheek, for it was there that she had felt her husband’s first blow. He’d been brazen about his beatings, too—never choosing to hit her in places that could be hidden by clothing. No—he had been proud that the beautiful woman he possessed was marked by him with bruises and cuts. Everyone in Padma’s social sphere, including her father, knew of her beatings. But none could—or would—do anything to protect her from him.
Until her maker entered her life.
Agni killed Padma’s husband and then gave the battered young woman a choice. On the one hand, she could take her husband’s property and be reabsorbed into her father’s household. From it, she might be forced to marry again. However, even if she were not, she would never have much say in her own life. On the other hand, she could join Agni and his two children, Indira and Ravi, and live a very different kind of life than the one that she was used to.
Different had sounded pretty damned good!
And she’d never regretted her choice, nor did she regret the one which had brought her to Area 5 and put her under Thalia’s command.
As a vampire of only 304 years, Padma could not, of course, compare her strength to Thalia’s. However, Padma was certain that she could learn much from her lead if she was willing to listen, observe, and follow her elder, which was her intention.
Agni had supported her decision to stay in Area 5, just as he’d supported Indira’s. For his own part, Agni continued to live a rather nomadic life, roaming from one end of the Indian subcontinent to the other, zigzagging from one familiar haunt to the next. Ravi, too, was content to stay in familiar territory. Padma did not mind the life they had all led together in India; indeed, at times during her existence, she craved—with aching—the colors and sounds of her homeland. But, like Indira, she also had a strong desire to experience life in new places.
And unlike Agni, Padma was not without some ambition in the vampire world. Her human father—as flawed as he was in many ways—had been a respected guard to Devaraja Wodeyar II, the fourteenth maharaja of the Kingdom of Mysore. As a small child, Padma had pretended that she could one day become a guard to the maharaja too, though her gender—of course—made that fantasy impossible. As it stood now, however, Padma hoped to one day guard a worthy vampire king or queen.
To get such a position, Padma knew that she needed experience as a guard. And the endorsement of one such as Thalia would be listened to, for even the monarchs that might not like Thalia certainly respected her.
“Well?” Maria-Star asked the lovely vampiress who’d spent the last twenty minutes walking through the empty office building from which Debbie Pelt had watched Sookie have lunch with Alcide Herveaux earlier that day.
Thalia had given Padma the task of investigating the scene, for Padma had become something of a “magician” at picking up and analyzing magical scents (pun intended). So common was magic in the part of the world that she was from that Agni had encouraged his child—whose gift was already an uncommonly precise sense of smell—to make an intensive study of spell scents. Arguably, no vampire in the world had a more trained nose when it came to detecting and analyzing magic.
“Debbie Pelt stayed in her perch for at least a few hours, and no magic touched that place. And you are right that Herveaux did not enter this building. His scent came in with Debbie, likely on her clothing. The Were that performed the magic stayed down on the first floor and within a thirty-foot radius of the back door where he entered. He was no friend of Debbie Pelt’s,” Padma reported.
“How can you be sure?” Maria-Star asked.
“He used magic to cage her here,” Padma said, walking in a graceful circle of about a ten-foot diameter. “She struggled mightily against that magic.”
“How can you know that?” the Were asked, intrigued. Indeed, at times Maria-Star had a difficult time suppressing her interest in and attraction for Padma, who seemed to return her notice.
Padma smiled softly at Maria-Star, the glint in her eyes making her own returned interest even clearer. “Whenever magic is tested, it will create a slight smell—not quite a burning scent, but almost as if incense had been lit. Come,” she invited, gesturing for the Were to move closer to her.
“Here,” she said, inhaling deeply once Maria-Star was well-placed—very close to her own body.
“I can’t smell anything beyond the magic itself.”
“Concentrate at about a height of two feet,” Padma further instructed, using her hands to move the Were’s hips slightly.
Maria-Star leaned into the vampiress’s gentle touch and inhaled deeply for a moment, and then her eyes widened. “Yes. I smell a difference.”
Padma smiled. “That difference occurs in several places around this circle, though the scent of struggle is the strongest here. The spell was a confinement barrier.” She shook her head a little. “It was actually a beautiful piece of magic, designed to start larger and close in on its victim. That closing in would have led to Debbie passing out in the middle of the circle.” Again, the vampiress inhaled deeply. “You said that you scented no V at Herveaux’s home?”
“The slightest trace only,” Maria-Star answered.
“V was recently taken upstairs,” Padma stated.
“Yes,” Maria-Star agreed. “I found an empty vial up in Debbie’s little lair.”
Padma nodded. “The werefox would have been stronger after she took it—crazed even. Yet the magic here had no difficulty holding her in. The warlock who set the spell is powerful, and he too has had V recently, though not as recently as Debbie.”
“I don’t smell that!” Maria-Star said.
“The V is thread into the magic itself,” Padma shared. “I have smelled vampire essence in magic before, though such a thing is rare. The warlock who laid this spell is a strong Were, and he makes himself a stronger witch by taking V. As for why he abducted Debbie Pelt, I do not know. However, it is safe to assume that information is his goal. My best guess is that the warlock was not here for Debbie, but here to watch Sookie. I imagine that any plans he had to do so at a close range were thwarted—as soon as he noted her guard team. Perhaps, he knew about Sookie visiting the café recently and was here in case she returned. Perhaps, he has some kind of magical surveillance over this place. Perhaps, he has figured out a way to track Sookie once she is beyond the barriers of her property. Debbie was likely an interesting—but unexpected—find for him.”
Maria-Star’s eyes widened. “So there is a magical threat of some kind to Miss Stackhouse?”
Padma shrugged. “As I said, it is just a guess.”
“But it is a good one,” Maria-Star commented, only then moving away from Padma’s slight grip upon her hips.
“The warlock is arrogant and likely rather inexperienced, despite his natural ability and strength,” the vampiress shared, even as she missed the feeling of the Were’s warmth so close to her body.
“How do you know that?” Maria-Star asked.
“He did nothing to cover his tracks here, nor do I smell any magical traps of any kind. Likely, he didn’t worry in the least that you or Sookie’s other guards would pick up his scent in this place. Clearly, that was a miscalculation. The magic is fresh and contained to just this immediate area, and—if Amelia Broadway has the skill of ectoplasmic reconstruction—then finding out what occurred here, as well as what the warlock looks like—will be a simple matter.”
Maria-Star nodded her head. She had been texting as Padma had been speaking.
Not thirty seconds later, there was an answering text.
“Thalia will send Amelia.”
Padma nodded. “Have her bring a sketchpad and charcoals.”
Maria-Star looked confused for a moment. “Charcoals?”
“I draw—well,” Padma informed matter-of-factly. “And charcoal is my preferred medium. I will be able to draw the man I see during the reconstruction.”
Clearly impressed, Maria-Star texted again. “You are full of surprises.”
“So—do you need to get back to Herveaux’s home?” Padma asked the Were.
“No. Thalia scoped out Herveaux’s residence and agreed with my assessment. She left a couple of the Colonel’s people in place there. It looks like Debbie’s long gone. I found none of her possessions there, and now it seems clear that someone abducted her.”
“Then, you can keep me company until the witch arrives?” Padma questioned.
Maria-Star smirked. “You have something in mind to keep us busy?”
“I have an idea or two,” Padma flirted.
Just then, the back door opened and Bubba stepped in. “Well—howdy do, ladies!” he enthused.
Maria-Star rolled her eyes. “I thought the story of you being a cock-blocker was just an exaggeration,” she intoned under her breath.
Bubba clearly missed the remark—or, at least, its meaning.
Padma, however, was close enough to Maria-Star to chuckle at that intonation. “So—how did the tracking go, Bubba?” she asked. She’d grown quite fond of Bubba, though she could already tell that he had many limitations. However, tracking wasn’t one of them.”
“You was right, Miss Maria-Star. The trail left by Debbie and the stranger Were is real faint in the alleyway out back—just like you said it would be, but I was able to follow it a bit.”
“How far?” Maria-Star asked.
“Well—uh they went south from here for two blocks and then turned right. But that’s a more crowded street, and I lost ’em after one more block.” He shook his head apologetically. “I tried everythin’ I could think of to pick back up the scent.”
“You did fine, Bubba,” Padma said with a comforting, sweet smile before winking at Maria-Star. “Why don’t you make your way back to the farmhouse? We’ll be here for a while yet.”
“Okay, Miss Padma,” he grinned. “See ya soon.”
He left as quickly as he came.
“Now, where were we?” Padma smiled at Maria-Star, even as she walked closer to her.
“You were about to kiss me,” the Were stated matter-of-factly.
“That’s right,” Padma grinned before doing just that.
COLONEL FLOOD POV
Colonel James Flood had not been pegged as a leader when he was a small child. He had not even been the first-born in his family. Indeed, the fact that he could shift at all was viewed by the Were community as a minor miracle, given the fact that only first-borns generally shifted. Some pack members had spread the rumor that his mother had something “else” in her. Witch maybe? A smidgen of fairy blood, perhaps? However, his parents had quashed such gossip, pointing to the fact that both were from incredibly strong Were families. Indeed, the strength within his mother’s family was legendary! For good measure, his parents also made sure to cite other examples—rare as they were—of a second-born shifting.
James and his older brother Dale hadn’t learned that his parents were lying about their lineage until his mother had whispered to them on her death bed that her paternal great-grandmother was half Dae. James had been fifteen, while his brother had just turned seventeen. According to their father, the usually strong scent of the Dae had been covered up by the even stronger Were scent in their mother’s family.
However, the family had chosen to hide what they were for the sake of acceptance. Weres were generally unbending when it came to accepting outsiders—even those from neighboring Were packs. The Weres that married humans, such as Tray Dawson had once done, were often expelled from packs—or pressured to leave them due to blatant prejudice or the mistreatment of the human spouse. “Sanctioned” marriages between packs were okay—just to make sure the packs didn’t become inbred, such as the Hot Shot group had done. However, such arrangements were almost always made by pack elders. Or—if the young Weres of different packs petitioned to be married—sometimes the elders would agree if a dowry was paid from the male’s pack to the female’s, for the female was always absorbed by her husband’s pack, with her allegiances immediately changing.
In many ways, the pack mentality had stayed stuck in Medieval thinking.
Thus, a Were with demon blood would not have been looked upon favorably because of his or her so-called lack of “purity.”
James’s own body had taught him to believe differently. The Dae genes within him had allowed him to shift, after all! His DNA had given him strength because he had been of mixed blood. And his brother, Dale Avery, was even stronger than he was! Indeed, Dale was the packmaster of the group that James had grown up in: the Blood Claw pack in Pensacola, Florida. The Blood Claws were the largest group of Weres in the Southeast. And, just as their father had once done, his brother ran them with skill. He was also quite progressive when it came to how he dealt with interbreeding and women’s rights.
Dale and he had developed a strong respect for women by watching their strong mother, who had chosen a strong mate who embraced her as a true partner and whom she’d trusted enough to tell about her mixed lineage. Indeed, the colonel’s own marriage mirrored—in many ways (including his transparency about his Dae blood)—the one he’d seen from his parents.
James had considered rejoining his brother in Pensacola as his years of active duty in the Air Force waned; however, in another anomaly, he and his brother were both alphas, which was—again—not generally seen among the children of a single Were male, even when those children had different mothers and could all shift.
To Dale’s credit, he’d recognized his brother’s promise and encouraged it, rather than trying to stifle it out of jealousy. James had eventually seen his path to leadership in the military and had become a career soldier. In the Air Force, he’d excelled, rising higher in rank than another other Were ever had achieved in that branch of the service, though a few Weres had become Marine and Army generals. Obviously, one of the reasons why Weres didn’t often rise too far in rank stemmed from their “limitations” during the full moon, though Weres had certainly become experts at concealing their true natures even during deployments. Another reason for most Weres getting stuck at Sergeant or below related to their hotheadedness. To put it bluntly, Weres could be aggressive assholes, and their non-Were C.O.s didn’t take kindly to even a hint of defiance, though they loved the aggression Weres brought to any battle field. That was the reason why most Weres chose the Army or the Marines—to be on a field and facing an enemy head-on when they fought. James had chosen the Air Force because he wanted to soar above the fields.
Plus, the colonel had always been able to balance his aggressions with his intellect. Again, he speculated that this control had to do with his mixed blood.
When his Air Force career had been transitioning from combat pilot to leadership—as well as Stateside fulltime—he had used that intellect to get himself stationed at Barksdale because he knew that the Long Tooth pack of Shreveport had many military members. And he already had connections in the pack, as well as the respect of some of the pack members. Taking over from Packmaster Larrabee, who had developed a rare and debilitating heart disease (at least rare among Weres), James had earned—through battle—his right to be the packmaster of the Long Tooth pack not long after he’d been stationed to oversee Barksdale.
Yes—he’d earned his current position, fighting Patrick Furnan for the right. And kicking his ass!
And that was before anyone knew that his brother was also a well-known and well-respected packmaster. Indeed, that was why James Flood went by his mother’s maiden name and not his father’s surname. He never wanted the fact that he was of the “Avery” family to give him any advantages.
In the Air Force, he’d earned his own way. And he’d done the same with the Long Tooth pack. Few had questioned him. And he’d even been the choice of the Larrabee family, from which the packmasters of Long Tooth had come for the last three generations.
As promising as Christa Larrabee was at twelve years old, she had clearly not been old enough to vie for packmaster when James took it over. Moreover, she simply wasn’t an Alpha, and the Long Tooths still had the common and enduring prejudice among Weres against female leadership. Of course, James was trying to do something about that—to move the needle when it came to the kind of respect that the women in his pack got. Oh—they were already well-respected as mothers and pack caretakers. But some women wanted—and were suited—for leadership. Maria-Star’s excellence was going a long way toward accomplishing James’s goal to make others recognize that.
James sighed. Packmaster Larrabee, who had finally succumbed to his heart disease the year before, had been a good man, though never quite the same after the death of his son Lieutenant Jeffrey Larrabee. Flood had known the young Lieutenant—as they had gone through basic training together and were both piloting F-16s in the same squad at the time of Jeffrey’s death. Jeffrey had been Packmaster Larrabee’s only son, though he’d fathered several shifting daughters, including one with his first wife, who had died at a relatively young age. Jeffrey was the child of Packmaster Larrabee and his second wife, Christine, who still served as an honorary Matriarch of the Long Tooth pack, alongside the colonel’s wife, Maggie.
Indeed, Maggie had embraced Christine’s mentorship, for—like the colonel himself—his wife understood the value of learning from those who were strong, as well as having admirable allies.
It was that philosophy that had brought the colonel to the situation that he was currently in. Unlike other Weres, including his brother to a certain extent, the colonel had no true prejudice toward vampires. Perhaps it was because he viewed the fact that he was of mixed race as such a fundamental part of himself, while his brother had merely accepted the information with neutrality.
For James, that knowledge had affected him in different ways, including giving him a kind of empathy for vampires that Weres didn’t often have. Arguably, all vampires were of mixed race—retaining elements of humanity, even though they were changed by magic into a different type of being. Every single vampire the colonel had ever known seemed to be balancing those two sides of his or her nature. And the colonel truly respected the vampires who found appreciation and benefit from both of their lineages.
One such vampire was Eric Northman. Indeed, of all the vampires he’d known, James respected Northman the most. Not only did he run his territory with strength and fairness, but also he didn’t treat Weres—at least not the ones worthy of his respect—with the same kind of patronizing attitude that vampires were almost always guilty of.
And the colonel also empathized with Sookie Stackhouse, though he hadn’t known her for very long. Like him, she’d had to come to terms with learning that she was mixed species when she was older; indeed, she was “worse off” than he had been in a way. He’d, at least, learned about his Dae blood while he was still in his teenaged years—before he reached adulthood. According to Maria-Star, Sookie had learned about her own Fae heritage only very recently, and she was 25!
However, she’d embraced that heritage—after taking only a bit of time to accept it. Indeed, he felt a little jealous of her for being willing to let people she trusted know that she had both human and Fae blood. It made him wish that more people knew about his own dual heritage; after all, he was proud of it!
Of course, the colonel had told his wife, Maggie—before he asked her to be his bride. And their children knew. But—beyond his family—no one knew that the colonel was of mixed blood. Simply put—if they did—neither his brother nor himself would have been allowed to continue as packmasters. As much as the colonel hated that fact, it was just a truth about his kind. Pack leaders like he and his brother might have been pushing progressive ideas among their packs, but none would have listened to them if they’d known that they had Dae blood.
“You’ve got a call, James,” Maggie said, breaking the colonel from his reverie.
“Where’s Alcide?” he asked.
“Still outside, surveying the site for the new building. I’m having him draw up something for a new kennel, too.”
James smiled at his wife and pulled her into a hug. “You are one crafty woman—you know that?”
Of course, she knew that Alcide’s invitation to their home was a ruse to keep him away from his own residence as Northman and his people investigated Debbie Pelt’s whereabouts. He always kept his brilliant mate in the loop.
“You know it,” Maggie smirked.
“Is it Northman on the phone?” he asked.
Maggie nodded. “He apologized for not calling you on your cell, but he knows our landline is more secure. He also knows that your study is soundproof.”
The colonel nodded.
“What do you think is going to happen?” Maggie asked with some concern in her voice. The colonel knew that, like him, Maggie had seen promise in Alcide Herveaux. It was too bad that the young man was proving to be foolhardy.
James sighed. “I don’t know, but taking him under my wing to be my right-hand man isn’t gonna be happening anymore—no matter how much I like Jackson or how strong I think Alcide could become.”
Maggie nodded. “That ship has sailed. I just hope he gets to live through this.”
“That will depend upon the vampire on the phone,” James said, moving to leave the living room.
“Dinner will be ready in about ten minutes,” Maggie informed, giving him a slight pat on his ass as he passed her.
The colonel growled playfully. “You’ll pay for that later, woman!”
“A promise?” she asked coyly.
“A guarantee,” he returned before walking briskly to his study. He closed the door, locked it, turned on the noise-making machine that added even more security to the room, and then picked up the phone.
“Sheriff,” he greeted.
“So? Am I about to feed Alcide his last meal?” James asked, cutting right to the chase.
“From the scents in Herveaux’s home, it seems clear that Debbie has been there for a while, but not sleeping in his bed.”
“So he was giving her a place to hide out,” James sighed.
“That part is clear. Still, I think that—at least today—Debbie was stalking Herveaux as much as she was Sookie at Bob’s Diner. And it seems that she had all of her belongings in a storage locker at a city pool nearby Herveaux’s home. Thalia found them there earlier, but Debbie hasn’t returned for them. The working theory is that Herveaux thought that Debbie was leaving town, but, instead, she clearly decided to keep her self-created vendetta with Sookie alive.”
“So you think Debbie told Alcide she was leaving town?” the colonel asked hopefully.
“Perhaps. There was also the scent of magic in the abandoned office building that Debbie was using to stalk Alcide and Sookie. We had thought that Debbie might have been working with a Were-witch and, perhaps, influencing Herveaux with magic to help her. However, it now seems clear that Ms. Pelt was abducted by the warlock responsible for the magic.”
“A Were-witch?” Jack asked with concern.
“Yes. Warn your people to keep their eyes and ears open for anything suspicious on that front.”
“I know of only one Were-witch, and that is a female, Hallow Stonebrook,” Jack remarked. “A few years ago, she tried to extort my brother’s pack for a lot of money in exchange for not fucking up their businesses. Dale refused, saying that he’d rather have his pack decimated than cower to her. Once she knew she wouldn’t get her way and learned that Dale’s people were closing in on discovering her lair, she moved on. He found her to be erratic, but ultimately cowardly.”
“I have heard of her too. And I will know everything possible about her soon enough,” the vampire stated determinedly.
“I’ll contact Dale and ask him to email me his reports surrounding that time. I’ll get them to you by tomorrow night.”
“I would be grateful,” the vampire responded. “We will be there to question Alcide in thirty minutes—if that is agreeable.”
“You and Thalia?”
“No. Sookie and I will be doing the questioning, though Thalia and a few other guards will be accompanying us.”
“Currently on location in Debbie’s lair across from Bob’s Diner. A trusted witch has just arrived on site there to try to get an exact sense of what happened. Colonel, if Herveaux knew that Debbie was watching—or if he told her where Sookie would be . . . .” The vampire stopped midsentence.
“You’ll have to kill him,” the colonel stated calmly. “Yes. I know.”
“Will you and I,” the sheriff paused, “have a disagreement about that?”
“You’ll be doing what I would do if I were in your shoes and someone gave an enemy access to Maggie in any way,” James returned. “So—no. There will be no disagreement on this matter.”
“That is agreeable to hear. Still, Sookie hopes it won’t come to his death,” the vampire relayed.
There was a moment of silence. “I once thought I could trust Alcide with work—important work. At times, he has proven to be honorable and competent; at others, he has been found lacking and extremely prejudiced. Plus, he seems to have a kind of obsession with Sookie, though she has made clear that she doesn’t return his amorous feelings. If you are asking what I’d prefer, it would be a world without such a two-faced Were in it. No offense.”
“None taken,” James chuckled at the vampire’s phrasing before becoming serious again. “You still have an invitation into my home.”
“You are Were. I don’t need one,” the vampire returned with a chuckle of his own.
“And yet I am proud to continue issuing it. We’ll see you in half an hour,” the colonel added before hanging up.
A/N: Hello all! First of all, thanks to everyone who read my other story, The Journey Itself. It is now finished, so if anyone wants to check it out (who didn’t want to have to wait between chapters), I hope you will do so; it is “all human,” however, and I know that some of you don’t prefer those. Still, if you have some time and are willing to give it a chance, that would be awesome!
I hope that you enjoyed this latest chapter of The Engine. It’s so nice to be back posting this story. In this chapter, I wanted to do a couple of things—explore a couple of supporting characters and advance a couple of plot points without creating any plot holes. This Eric is cognizant of how killing Alcide might affect his relationship with the Weres, who are an important part of Sookie’s guard team, so meeting Flood is important; plus, I wanted to make sure that I depicted Eric as being very smart about his relationships to other beings. In addition, in the books, Sookie is named “friend of the pack” because she tells Alcide about the were-witch coven. Obviously, this story is not going in that direction. And—to be frank—I always wondered about that status being granted so quickly in the books, so I wanted to give Flood a backstory that would justify a feeling of “kinship” between him and Sookie. They are both of “mixed blood,” something that clearly makes both of them stronger, not weaker. This glimpse at Colonel Flood was meant to offer, in a related way, more insight into Sookie’s journey as she accepts her “mixed blood.” And I also wanted for you to get to know Padma a bit—since she’s a “Kat creation” in this story. I know that some readers don’t love my development of side characters; however, offering Padma’s perspective was also a way to convey what Sookie and Eric’s team had found out about Debbie and the witches without needing to take Eric and Sookie to the scene unnecessarily. Also, to be frank, I wanted you to get to know some of Sookie’s guards because—once the real fighting begins—it won’t seem significant if they are in danger if you don’t care about them. Moreover, I had fun giving Maria-Star a bit of a love interest, as well as offering an inside joke to book readers about Bubba’s “interrupting” abilities. I hope you liked everything! Next week, we’ll see Alcide’s interrogation.
Please leave me a comment if you have the time and/or inclination.