SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13 • 8:45 p.m. (a few minutes after the previous chapter ends)
“Andre, I strongly suggest that you do nothing to alter my master’s plans,” Bill said warningly, even as he looked at Appius somewhat pensively.
The elder had been enjoying a blowjob from Bill, even as a recently-fed Alexei took Bill from behind when Andre’s phone call had interrupted the trio of their fun. Thus, Bill could tell that Appius was already annoyed.
And an annoyed Appius was never a good thing for those in his close proximity.
The plan—before the queen’s eldest child called—had been to enjoy themselves until 10:00 p.m. before meeting Hallow and her people at the plantation where they’d made their temporary lair. There, plans would be solidified and Debbie Pelt prepared for deployment.
However, Andre had just thrown a large wrench into that plan.
“We cannot move forward tonight!” Andre said in a hushed voice—though all in the room could hear him over the phone. Appius was looking on with great interest and growing anger, even as Alexei pouted that their carnal pleasures had been paused.
“No,” Bill said simply. “The plan will move forward without alteration.”
“But my queen is in danger tonight!” Andre said adamantly. “There is to be an assassination attempt! I must focus solely upon my queen’s protection tonight! Even if the initial attempt is stopped, I don’t believe that she’ll be safe from Threadgill or his people. I don’t trust that Arkansas bastard!” he hissed.
Appius gave a slight shake of his head.
“My master does not agree to the delay,” Bill inflexibly. “We will go forward with the plan—as already decided.”
“No!” Andre returned sharply. “I won’t risk my queen! And—as much as I hate to admit it—Northman is a good asset for protecting her tonight since she intends to move forward with the ball. I will convince Northman to stay on tomorrow night as well, and you can move against him and his telepath, then.”
Appius looked angry enough to explode.
“My master will have our situation resolved tonight,” Bill emphasized, even as he tried to keep his own anger at a minimum, despite Andre insinuating that Sookie belonging to Eric.
“Not possible!” Andre said obstinately. “You can wait for Northman and his telepath for one more night!”
Reaching his own breaking point, Bill hissed. “She is not his!”
Before Andre could say more, the phone was yanked from Bill’s hand.
“You dare to say ‘no’ and ‘not possible’ to me!” Appius stormed into the receiver.
“Oh—uh—please,” Andre stammered, likely quivering despite the fact that he was well away from the raging vampire. Both Bill and Alexei shrank back into their seats due to the energy flowing from the elder vampire. And Alexei reached out to take his “brother’s” hand for comfort.
“I meant no disrespect,” Andre continued in a conciliatory tone. “It is just that I need to keep my focus on the queen tonight. Any distractions could give Threadgill the opportunity to harm her. You must understand!”
“No!” Appius returned, his voice full of malice. “I mustn’t do anything at your behest, boy! However, you must jump whenever I tell you to jump and how high I tell you to jump whenever I call upon you to do so. If you do not, then the weak King of Arkansas will be the least of your worries! I will kill your dear maker myself!”
“Please,” Andre said, his voice entreating the older vampire. “I am not backing out of our plan—just delaying it.”
“Desperation sounds good in your tone,” Appius retorted coldly. “And you should be desperate. It is now fully up to you to decide whether I will be a friend to your maker or leave this state in ruins.”
“Please,” Andre gasped.
“There will be no delays,” Appius said.
Frantic, Andre tried a different approach. “More vampires than expected from Area 5 are due to be here soon. And—uh—one of Northman’s group is a computer specialist. I’ve learned that she can monitor all the camera feeds, bypassing even my own security protocols. I—uh—can no longer guarantee your secret entrance.”
“Secrecy was your idea, boy! Not mine!” Appius growled. “In fact, I have a mind to ring the goddamned doorbell and demand what is mine in your queen’s home!”
“But—uh—the ball. You were to capture Sookie and then Eric and then take them away from here!” Andre returned in a hushed whisper.
“Why would I want to leave when there is a party to be attended?” Appius asked coldly. “Are you saying I would not be welcome to it?”
“I—uh,” Andre stammered.
“Are you saying that a ball would not be the perfect chance for me to meet your maker?” Appius taunted.
“It’s not that we wouldn’t welcome you,” Andre responded carefully. “But on a different night, you could be more of the focus—as it should be. The respect—and the spotlight—would be on you only.”
“I could be the focus of all of tonight!” Appius warned. “You know what, Andre? I find that I am no longer certain of your loyalty. You will meet me at the witch’s residence at 10:30 so that I can ascertain whether or not you are worthy to remain my ally.”
“But I cannot. I—uh—must be by the queen’s side tonight!” Andre answered. “I must help her to defeat Jade Flower. I must protect her.”
Appius growled forebodingly. “What you must do is to attend to me when I wish and as I wish—if you wish for your queen to be left alive at the end of my stay in Louisiana. Be at the witch’s residence at 10:30!” he yelled before hanging up the phone.
For a moment, the ancient looked almost as tired as his did angry, and Bill longed to reach out for him—to comfort him. But he didn’t dare. He could sense Appius’s volatility, his desire to hurt someone.
After a moment, however, the elder vampire’s face returned to a more neutral expression.
“It is somewhat understandable—even admirable—that Andre has so much loyalty for his maker,” Appius mused as he sat back into his chair and gestured for Alexei to move to sit upon his lap. The youngest vampire in the group quickly moved to sit with his sire. Though all three of them were still naked, Appius’s embrace of Alexei was not sexual in nature. Clearly, he was seeking out the touch of his child to calm himself and the rattled young one.
“Yes. Loyalty to one’s maker is paramount,” Bill agreed in a soft voice.
“I do not like being crossed,” the elder said firmly.
“None should cross one such as you, Master,” Bill soothed.
“Andre will learn to know better,” Appius said definitively. “And I will give him that chance.”
“Very generous,” Bill voiced.
Appius shrugged. “Andre could still be useful. Indeed, if he proves loyal to me—even as his maker is in danger—that would say a lot about how hospitable he will be while we sojourn in Louisiana. I might even kill the Arkansas king tonight and hand the state to his maker if I am pleased enough. However, if I sense hesitation within Andre, I will be very unhappy indeed.”
“Very unhappy,” the elder reiterated in almost a whisper. “Perhaps, killing someone will make me feel better!”
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13 • 8:53 p.m.
Vampires could not hyperventilate, but—if they could—Andre would have been doing so.
“Where did it go wrong?” he muttered to himself as he hurried toward the queen’s office. It seemed like he’d been doing a lot of that so far that night—hurrying. After the meeting with Peter, he’d vamped to his chambers so that he could privately call Bill. And now he had to rush to continue the charade of the negotiations between Sophie-Anne and Peter. If he were human, he would have been out of breath; even as a vampire, however, he found himself uncharacteristically rattled.
The King of Arkansas was due in Sophie-Anne’s office at 9:00 p.m. to go through the charade of final marriage negotiations, and Jade would be in the fucking room!
“Why can’t we just kill her then?” he growled softly.
He scoffed. Oh, yes! It was that fucking Threadgill’s fault! He wanted to see proof of Jade’s duplicity. And Sophie-Anne had gone along with it. After the contract was signed, everyone was going to pretend to do just as Jade expected. However, a trap would be laid for her. When Jade made her move, the king would see his undeniable proof and then work with the queen to stop his second-in-command.
If Jade—for some reason—did not act, then the king intended to question his lieutenant—with Andre present—after the ball.
Meanwhile, everyone was just trusting that Threadgill wouldn’t tell Jade all about the knowledge the telepath had gleaned!
“Fucking test,” Andre muttered.
Indeed, he felt as if he were the one being tested in that moment. If only Appius could have been reasonable! Tonight was no longer optimal for him to go through with his plan, not when the Arkansas vampires were clearly such a threat. But it seemed certain that the elder vampire would not wait even a single night to have the telepath and Northman in his grips.
Once again, Andre scoffed. Why—suddenly—had all of his careful planning come to nothing.
Bill. Fucking. Compton!
Yes—Andre knew whom to blame. Bill was the one who had thought bringing Appius into the mix was such a good idea because it would ensure Eric’s maximum punishment. And it still might. However, in the meantime, Andre now had to figure out how to deal with an ancient vampire who could not be made to see reason!
Andre paused for a moment as he reached the corridor outside of the queen’s office. As usual, Sigebert was guarding any door that would lead to their maker.
Andre knew what he had to do, but time would be tight. He would go through the charade of the negotiations and then protect his queen from Jade. And then he had to make haste to get to Hallow’s lair before 10:30 p.m.
There, in person, Appius might be convinced to see that a single night’s delay was not a huge loss. Yes—Andre had been the one to initially sell the night of the Valentine’s Ball as the perfect opportunity for taking the telepath from Northman. And Appius had liked the drama of it all! However, now Andre would simply have to sell a different night.
After all, couldn’t Appius simply call Eric to him—at any time? Wouldn’t that be easier for all? Without Eric, the telepath would be easy enough to grab. The Pelt woman wouldn’t need to be a loose cannon in the situation.
Yes, Appius could be made to see reason. Then, Andre could rush back to the queen’s residence in time to ensure that Threadgill and his other Arkansas vampires didn’t make any other moves against Sophie-Anne that night.
He had to protect her.
“You are troubled, brother,” Sigebert said, his accent thicker than Wybert’s. Both of the Saxons were much more intelligent than most of the world gave them credit for; however, Sigebert’s greatest asset was his battle skills. Andre, generally, was the best strategist among his siblings, while Wybert was a kind of middle point between them. Sigebert was also the most emotionless of the three “brothers”; additionally, he was the least likely to question Sophie-Anne or even offer his opinion. On the other hand, Andre tended to be the most passionate and was always ready with an opinion. Again, Wybert was in the middle.
And, of course, Sophie-Anne understood her children’s skills and weaknesses very well, which was why Sigebert would always be her first line of defense since he was the fiercest warrior—and the coolest under pressure—out of all of those whom she’d sired.
“It is the Arkansas situation,” Andre deflected Sigebert’s words, before going into the office. He was surprised to see that no one else was there yet.
“Where are Wybert and Hadley? Cataliades?” he asked.
“I’ve asked for a delay until 9:10 for the meeting with Peter. They will come a couple of minutes before that. I wanted,” the queen paused, “a moment alone with you.”
“Are you considering backing out of the marriage contract?” he asked hopefully.
She shook her head. “No. I know that disappoints you, but my decision is firm on that one.”
“I still think Threadgill means to betray you. Miss Stackhouse could very well be incorrect about his not being involved,” Andre said cautiously.
“I will not leave my back exposed to my enemies,” Sophie-Anne returned. “You should know me well enough to know that.” She moved so that she was standing right in front of him.
With the gentlest of touches, she stroked his cheek. “Did you forget that I always have a care for my own safety and the safety of my children? Did you forget that this state—and all of the power that comes from being queen—could be lost to me, and I would still be able to go on as long as I have my family?”
“Of course, I did not forget, Your Majesty,” Andre said as he leaned into the touch of his maker. “It is my job to make sure that you retain all that you have—and that you add to it.”
Sophie-Anne’s eyes narrowed a bit, studying her child closely. “Jade seemed quite loyal to Peter—did she not? Yet she seems to believe that she knows better than her own king!”
“Solum lamia fidelissima sunt, et in illis quae facimus, fac nobis,” Andre recited the oft-repeated Latin saying. Translated roughly, it meant, “The only trustworthy vampires are the ones we make—and the ones that make us.”
“That is not always true,” Sophie-Anne said softly.
“It is where you are concerned, for you are our beloved sire,” Andre vowed, though his voice wavered just a little.
“I have always thought that I could trust you more than any other.” She stroked his cheek again. “I know that you love me, Andre. I feel that profoundly. Do you feel my love for you?”
“Yes, my maker,” Andre gasped as Sophie-Anne let him experience all of her affection through their bond.
“I know that you wish to protect me.”
“I need to,” he said.
She nodded and smiled slightly. “You feel the need, my child, and I am honored by your devotion. But you must have no doubt that I can protect myself and you. I want to protect you, too.”
“I know,” he whispered.
“We have always protected one another—ever since I made you,” Sophie-Anne said, leaning upward to kiss him softly on the lips. “You have been my rock, and I have had faith that you would always do what is best for us and our family. Now, I worry.”
“Worry?” he asked, his voice pitched slightly higher than usual.
“I worry that you may believe you know better than I do—better than your own maker. I worry that you have been working around me in a misguided attempt to strengthen me. Not unlike Jade is doing to Peter,” the queen added, barely loud enough for Andre to hear her.
“I would never harm you,” Andre averred.
“I fear you already have,” Sophie-Anne responded, her tone hardening. “Please tell me if I am correct, Andre. Tell me so that trust is not fully lost between us.”
“I do not know what you are talking about. Despite my dislike of the alliance with Arkansas, I have taken no steps to stop it,” Andre promised.
“Promise me that you do not mean to take the telepath for your own,” the queen said sharply, moving the topic in a direction Andre wasn’t prepared for.
He backed a little away from his maker. “I don’t!”
“But you did intend to take her—didn’t you?” Sophie-Anne retorted sagely.
Andre looked down for a moment. A thousand thoughts were swirling in his head. And when he looked back up at his maker, he even considered telling her everything involving Bill Compton, Appius Livius Ocella, and the witches.
But there was still time to fix things!
So, he decided to be honest—but only up to a point.
“I did covet the telepath for your sake,” he admitted. “And I did contemplate taking her from Northman, bonding with her, and then presenting her to you as a gift. However, I have rethought that plan.”
“And you can now promise me that you intend no such thing? That you have no involvement in such a scheme?” Sophie-Anne asked.
“I promise,” Andre said, making sure that—in that moment—he had a tight rein upon the emotions he allowed to filter into his bond with his maker. He let her feel his devotion to her, but not his lack of straightforwardness.
Sophie-Anne gave him an almost imperceptible nod. “Do not forget who is the maker and who is the child between us,” she said firmly. “You know well that I did not wish for Sookie to be bound in such a way.” She sighed loudly. “I do, however, feel that some of this is my fault. My desire to play matchmaker with Sookie—and to put Bill Compton into her life to be a perfect suitor who could bring her to my court in a bubble of love—may be at the root of your desire to tie her to me and to yourself. But tasking Bill to romance her was not what I should have done.”
“I agree,” Andre responded. Indeed, he still thought that he should have been tasked with bringing Sookie to court upon first knowledge of her.
“Your way would not have been better,” she said somewhat wearily, having guessed his current thoughts. “Having seen Sookie and Eric together, there can be no doubt that they are as they should be. I want no more thoughts of separating them.”
“No thoughts,” Andre said softly.
There was a knock at the door.
“One moment!” Sophie-Anne called out, sensing that it was Wybert and Hadley waiting to enter.
She looked at Andre closely. “If Bill Compton has designs upon Miss Stackhouse, I want you to end them—even if that means ending Compton. Do you understand?”
“Compton?” Andre asked. “Isn’t he out of the country?”
“End his scheme!” the queen said firmly, even as her fangs descended. She had Andre’s back against the wall and she was holding him by the throat before she’d finished her sentence.
“My queen,” Andre gasped in pain.
“I need you tonight, Andre. I know that—at least—I can trust you to help me deal with this Jade business. But tomorrow night, you will feel my wrath for misleading me and for trying to maneuver situations around my wishes—just because you believe you know better than your maker! Do you know better?!” she yelled.
“No,” Andre responded, shaking his head as much as he could.
“Remember you don’t!” Sophie-Anne said before dropping him.
Slowly, Andre stood up.
“Don’t lie to me again, Andre. And make sure that Compton is not an issue!” she ordered as she turned to go open the door for Wybert and Hadley, even as her oldest child smoothed out his suit. “And don’t disappoint me.”
“I won’t,” he said softly, shame clear in his tone.
She looked back at him, her features softening again. “Tomorrow night—we will figure out where to go from here. And we will begin to heal our rift—together—my love.”
He was full of regret. But he would not disappoint his maker. He would find a way to protect her from whatever was to come. And he would earn her trust again—even if he had to find a way to kill Appius Livius Ocella himself. Even if he would have to continue to endure Northman’s position in the state.
“I will not disappoint you again, my queen,” he vowed as Sophie-Anne turned the door handle.
Andre stood up straight as his brother and new sister entered the room, followed close at hand by Desmond Cataliades, King Threadgill, Jade Flower, Jennifer Cater, and Alcander Kiriakidis.
It was showtime.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this chapter! I found myself so intrigued by Andre and Sophie-Anne’s relationship. This is a maker who loves and counts on her child—probably too much. Indeed, their relationship in the books seemed almost like partners since they were close in age. Not surprisingly, in a “brotherly way,” Andre is protective of her, and she has trusted him for so long it is difficult of for her to let go of that trust. I saw this chapter as her giving him one last chance to make things right. But I also wanted to point out some lack of vision on her part. She doesn’t understand how big of a scheme Andre has found himself in because she thinks that Bill is the main vampire in that scheme. She has no idea that Appius is now pulling Bill’s strings. Andre could have chosen to tell her that—and to mitigate the damage. Her main mistake—I think—is in not commanding him to tell her everything. She truly wants him to do the right thing on his own. Andre’s fatal flaw is in not being able to admit that he doesn’t know what’s best for her and the kingdom. They are both being obstinate here in their own ways. Anyway—I had so much fun with this confrontation.
Please leave me a comment if you have the time and/or inclination!
All the best,
P.S. For those of you who are waiting (im)patiently for the action to heat up, I’m sorry you’ve been frustrated. Sometimes, I pace my stories like television episodes-with a lot of scenes that ultimately fuel a main plot. I can promise that next week’s chapter is the start of a quickening of the pace. Thanks to everyone still handing in with this story.