“Do you like it?” Sookie asked.
She was sitting at the window, where the light-tight shades had just risen. Her brown eyes were locked into his blues, boring into him like lasers.
“Yes,” he said honestly.
“So you like redheads?” Sookie chuckled, dragging her fingers through her now copper-colored hair.
He met her chuckle with one of his own. “I have enjoyed a few over the years—yes. But blondes and brunettes can be lovely too. And you are striking with any color on your head.”
“You don’t have a preference?” she asked as she continued to comb through her still-damp hair. “For me?”
“Blonde,” Eric said, sitting up in the bed. “I don’t like you having to look different than you are.”
Sookie half-smiled and half-smirked. “Well, that’s the point of dying it, right? To look different?”
Eric chuckled, got up from the bed, and came over to kiss her newly changed hair and then her lips. “I’ll take a shower, and then we should go.”
Sookie nodded and bit her lip. “Everything’s packed except for your bag.”
He gave her another kiss, this one slower and more passionate. She lost herself in it for a few moments.
Sookie panted as he pulled away. “Take your shower.”
Eric backed away and nodded. “I’ll be quick. And we’ll finish that later.”
“I’ll be waiting,” she smiled flirtingly.
He zipped into the bathroom. Sookie tidied the bed and folded their quilt to take with them. She thought about her last twenty-four hours in Taos with fondness. After Leonie had left, Elina and Kuruk had stayed for a couple of hours. After dinner, Sookie had enjoyed a nice chat with Elina by the fire while Eric spent time with Kuruk. Sookie didn’t ask what they did, but when they came back inside, Kuruk looked slightly the worse for wear. However, she picked up from Kuruk’s mind that Eric was kind of his hero now, so she figured the young Werebear was okay.
After that, Eric had made good on his promise to have his way with her. Given the fact that she had been tired from a long day with Claudine and Leonie, Eric was very gentle when they had sex that night, and Sookie tingled from the memory of his touch. He’d not drunk from her; instead, he’d given her a few sips of his blood so that she could recharge faster. They’d been careful not to make an exchange that would finish their vampire bond, but drinking from him—and having him drink from her—was still extremely pleasurable for both of them.
They’d talked a little about her training with Claudine, and then Eric had told her about some of the things he’d talked about with Leonie before they’d made their plans for the next night. Sookie had fallen into an exhausted sleep at about 4:00 a.m.
Sookie had woken up at around noon when she “heard” thoughts come into her range. She’d realized that, while she and Eric had been traveling, she would be woken up by any thoughts that her subconscious mind picked up as out of the ordinary. She’d also been learning how to keep her telepathy “turned on” all the time without having to really think about it or concentrate on the specific thoughts that were within her range. Thus far, she’d only been able to do it in the less densely populated places they’d visited, but she could feel herself gaining more and more control over her ability. Her gift.
And she’d also been gaining more confidence—in herself.
The Fae book didn’t say much about her telepathy—probably because hers was different from other fairies’—but Eric and she continued to work on it together.
The thoughts that she’d heard approaching had belonged to Elina and her daughter Onawa, whom Sookie had been a little nervous to meet—since she and Eric had once had sex.
Onawa had been just as beautiful as she was in Elina’s head, but other than a very brief flash of a memory about Eric and her time together, the Werebear didn’t think about the vampire. She was excited about her own children, and Sookie could tell that she loved her husband deeply. While Sookie had visited with Elina, Onawa had driven the Prius into town and bought some supplies before filling the car with gasoline. Included in those supplies were quite a few new items of clothing since Sookie and Eric were headed into the mountains again once they got to California. Sookie smiled a little as she thought about the snow that would soon be in the California mountains. She hoped it fell before she had to leave them.
Onawa had also brought food enough to last a few days and a fresh case of TrueBlood for Eric.
After saying goodbye to her new friends in the afternoon, Sookie had ordered some furniture and supplies to be delivered to their final destination in Mammoth Lakes, California. And then she had taken a shower and dyed her hair again since the most dangerous leg of their trip was coming up. Part of Sookie just wished that they could stay in Taos, and she’d spoken with Eric about it the night before. However, in California, fewer people would know where they were, and his house there was even more secure than the Taos cabin. It also had the added benefit of being in a state with heavily patrolled borders.
The plan was for Eric to drive them to Gallup, New Mexico, which was close to the Arizona border. That leg of the drive would take them almost five hours. Eric had a small safe house outside of Gallup, but he didn’t intend for them to use it during the day. Instead, they would stay there only for the rest of the night. Eric would glamour a human to fill up their car, and at first dawn, Sookie was to begin the almost six-hour trip across the state of Arizona. Given that Arizona was allied with Nevada—since the king was Felipe de Castro’s child—the less time they were in that state, the better. Plus, according to Eric, the Were population in Arizona was quite high, and most were on the king’s payroll. Sookie would be driving on one of the main thoroughfares through the state, Interstate 40, and her goal was to stop as little as possible before getting to the next safe house on the route, which was in Needles, California. She and Eric would not spend much time there either, however. Though in California, Needles was practically on the Nevada border, so as soon as nightfall came, Eric would be driving them to the place that they’d call home for the next month, a cabin outside of Mammoth Lakes.
Sookie was anxious, but excited too. Traveling had been fun in a lot of ways, but she was looking forward to settling someplace for at least a little while. They would also be using the large concealment spell from Octavia to cover the house there. It wouldn’t work for their full time there, but it would last long enough to give them a good start.
“What the fuck are you talking about, Victor? Have you found Northman or not?” Russell yelled impatiently into the phone.
Bill woke up from his day-sleep and found himself with a fuming Russell and an irritated-looking Talbot. Both of them were naked—just as he was. And both of them had blood on them—just as he did.
Even as Talbot tried to comfort Russell by rubbing the elder vampire’s arm, Bill rose from the other side of Talbot after kissing his shoulder and gesturing that he was going to go shower.
Bill was—in truth—just as impatient as Russell to find Eric, but he had learned that it was best to be out of sight when Russell was in one of his fouler moods. Talbot was the only one that Russell didn’t lash out at. Bill had learned that the hard way when Russell had flung him across the room in his anger after a phone call from Nan Flanagan.
Unfortunately, the lead in Houston had been more trouble than it was worth. Victor and Russell had discovered that Eric had indeed been at a safe house there just a night or two before their arrival; the freshness of his scent had proven that, but the Viking hadn’t left a trail. And now the Authority—instead of Victor—was watching the property. Russell seemed to trust Nan to do a good job, and, for some reason, she was giving him nightly reports—not that Bill was supposed to know that. However, the other Authority representative was a nuisance.
Bill turned on the water and looked in the mirror. There was caked blood on his chest from the human that he had shared with his lovers the night before. He had chosen the young sacrifice because of her physical resemblance to Sookie, and Russell had allowed him to glamour and fuck her before she was drained. From the back, she’d looked almost exactly like Sookie, save a small tattoo on her left shoulder. But that was easily ignored. However, she’d not smelled anything like Sookie, and she’d certainly not tasted like her, but she had sated Bill’s lust and bloodlust for the short-term.
Moreover, her death had led to more pleasurable activities for Bill with Russell and Talbot. Bill sighed as he thought of his two lovers. During the past he may have felt shame for the relationship they shared, but Russell had been tutoring him in many arts, including the art of love with other men.
And Bill did love his mentor. In fact, in a short time, he’d come to love him very much. And Russell valued Bill as he had never been valued before, entrusting him with finding their long-term donors but also helping him to understand so much more about the way the world could be—ought to be.
Russell had taught him that humans were like locusts, something that Bill couldn’t really argue with once he’d heard Russell’s logic. It was an undeniable truth that humans were using up the earth’s natural resources and destroying the environment at a fast rate. Russell actually loved the concept of “humanity” very much—as it turned out. He simply wanted to take things back to a less complicated time—a more genteel time.
A time before humanity had become its own worst enemy.
That was why the human population needed to be thinned out and herded. Some modern technology would be kept for the benefit of vampires; however, humans needed to take a step backward—to a simpler time in their evolution.
Bill smiled as he thought about his own childhood, growing up on his family’s little plantation. Because it was the South and his family had some wealth, they’d had slaves, about ten in all. But his family had treated their slaves well, and many of them had families of their own. Bill recalled that the Stackhouses were poorer and didn’t have slaves, but his family had not looked down on Sookie’s ancestors. On the contrary, he remembered his father giving the Stackhouse family an old plow on one occasion. Yes—Bill thought—Russell was right. In the past, humans had been a much more civil race—before technology had made them unfeeling.
Bill had—with Russell’s permission—continued to dig into Sookie’s family line, but he’d found nothing new to go on. Sadly, the Stackhouses had been dying out since three out of the four Stackhouse children had died before having children in Bill’s own generation. The two eldest sons had died in Gettysburg. The daughter, who had been a friend of Caroline’s, had died of a fever. The youngest son was the only one who had continued the family line, and it had dwindled ever since. In fact, only two people remained: the absolutely useless Jason Stackhouse, who smelled only slightly better than a full-blooded human, and Hadley.
Bill smiled a little. Hadley had proven to be an excellent addition to Talbot’s cuisine designs. And Sophie-Anne had—surprisingly—turned out to be a delightful dinner companion as well.
As soon as the queen had accepted the hierarchy of Russell’s kingdom, things had begun to run smoothly. Plus, Sophie-Anne had learned that Russell was more than happy to do all of the work in Louisiana and Mississippi. The queen had always preferred leisure anyway, and she often stayed in her wing of the Russell’s mansion for hours on end, playing Yahtzee or her new favorite, Jenga. She did join the main household for a formal dinner every night, however, and was always dressed to the nines. Bill enjoyed the pageantry of it all.
As a bonus, the enmity between Talbot and Sophie-Anne had been very short-lived. Talbot had come to love the queen being around since he now had a woman to help dress up, and Sophie-Anne was—undeniably—a beautiful woman. She and Talbot were found giggling together many nights a week as they planned her wardrobe for Rhodes and gossiped about kings and queens from other states.
“William dear!” Talbot’s voice came from the bedroom. Done with his shower anyway, Bill quickly turned off the water and wrapped a towel around his waist. Russell was nowhere to be seen as Bill entered the bedroom. But that wasn’t a surprise. The king often liked to have a quick snack when he first rose and then he enjoyed washing off in a lake on the property. He said it reminded him of his younger days.
“Yes?” Bill asked the Greek.
“You’re dripping,” Talbot said in mock outrage.
Bill smiled. He had learned quickly about the things that Talbot truly valued and the things that he liked to replace often. “Then you will just have to get a new area rug,” the Southern gent said.
“You are a darling,” Talbot returned giddily, getting up from the bed and approaching Bill. He gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Russell is in a tizzy. And Felipe has refused to visit me because of it.” He sighed. “Oh well. Victor is following a lead in Arizona and will be staying with Felipe’s child Sampson. Have you met him?”
Bill shook his head. He was not sure whether Talbot was talking about Sampson or Felipe, but since he’d met neither, it didn’t matter.
“Oh—Sampson will be at Rhodes, but do not get your hopes up. He is pretty to look at but is into women now.” Talbot rolled his eyes. “But Russell and I used to have fun with him. Anyway, I must go to Sophie’s fitting tonight. She wishes to have my feedback regarding her ball gown. Would you be a dear and make sure the room next door is cleaned—and the sheets in here, too.”
“Of course,” Bill said with a smile. In addition to the regular donors in the house, Bill had learned soon after he’d taken up residence in the mansion that Talbot and Russell drained humans several times a week. At first, Bill had staunchly disapproved of this. But Russell had taught Bill that thinning out less worthy humans from herd was actually a service to them and to the world at large. And—when Bill was ready—Russell and Talbot had let him join in on their fun. Now, Bill was also the one in charge of picking the humans to be sacrificed, and he had found that there were many useless or degenerate humans that really ought not to be allowed to live.
In Sophie-Anne’s court, he’d procured only the best humans, and—in Russell’s—he still found some humans who were worthy of becoming regular donors, but there were others that added nothing to the world—except for their blood. The woman they’d had the night before was one such human. She’d had no education and no job, and she had been living off of the government—a sponge on the earth.
“You are a godsend!” Talbot said as he went into the bathroom and started the shower water before poking his head back out the door. “Oh—and Russell is in such a terrible mood that it would be good to bring in another human this evening. You know Russell’s favorite kind, and make sure he’s pretty and untouched by men so that Russell can have his fun with him,” Talbot said with a wave of his hands. “We can feed before sleeping in the morning. You know how sleeping amidst a kill helps to calm Russell.”
Bill nodded. He was yet to be completely comfortable when they went to their day-death bathed in blood, but it did seem to relax his patron and teacher, for it reminded Russell of his own youth as a vampire.
“I shall procure two—one dark for him and one blond for you.”
“You will spoil us, darling,” Talbot said joyfully, “but after that call from Victor, Russell could use a little spoiling.”
“What happened?” Bill asked.
“The usual,” Talbot said as he got into the shower. He continued speaking over the sound of the water, and with his enhanced hearing, Bill had no trouble hearing him. “Each night, Victor thinks he has a new clue, but each morning, it has turned out to be nothing.”
“What of the lead from Arizona?” Bill asked.
“That lead may not even have been for Northman specifically,” Talbot said with an exasperated air. “One of Sampson’s Weres thought that he smelled a vampire and then saw a suspicious woman.”
Bill walked into the bathroom to continue the conversation and to enjoy the view. “A woman?”
“Yes,” Talbot said as he turned off the water and got out of the shower. Bill’s eyes swept admiringly over his body. Talbot continued. “The Were thought he saw,” the vampire paused for a moment as he carefully chose his words, “a woman who was associated with Eric in the past. That occurred in Kingman, Arizona, which is near the California border. And then the Were thought he smelled a fairy.”
“Why would he think the situation involved Eric? Who was the woman?” Bill asked.
“I don’t know,” Talbot said, though Bill had a feeling the Greek was lying.
Talbot went on, “But I am almost certain the Were was mistaken, though Victor is going to check out the lead more fully. The Were thought the woman was returning to a car, but then she seemed to spot him and turned away. When the Were looked more closely at the car, he realized it had been custom-built to transport a vampire, and as he got closer, he smelled one of us inside.” He sighed. “Though why Victor is so certain that it was Northman is beyond me!”
“What of the woman?” Bill asked with interest. “Did the Were capture her?”
“No,” Talbot said with irritation. “He was completely useless! After she saw the incompetent Were, the woman retreated back into the little café she’d been in. The Were decided to wait for her.”
“Well—the Were picked up a delicious scent coming from inside the café. He went in to investigate, but he couldn’t track the scent. And when he came back out, the car was gone. Luckily, he’d taken down the car’s license plate number, and some of Felipe’s men arrived about the same time as well—since Felipe was making a visit to his Sampson. Anyway, they were able to find the car and tracked it south. Apparently, there was quite a pursuit for a while,” Talbot said wistfully. “Victor does not know all the details, but most of the Weres were killed in a confrontation.”
“Really?” Bill asked.
“Indeed. Apparently, the delicious scent was a fairy—given the state of the scene that was left behind.”
“So the fairy got away?” Bill asked with disappointment. “I assume the vampire did as well?”
Talbot nodded. “Yes. And such a shame about the fairy escaping. I’ve never had one before, and the lone survivor of the incident, the Weretiger Quinn, is saying that he thinks she was a full-blooded fairy! Anyway, Victor thinks the whole episode is somehow related to Eric; you know how he is with his ‘instincts.'” Talbot rolled his eyes and used air quotes as he spoke.
“But why would a fairy be with Eric? Why would any fairy be with a vampire?”
“My point—exactly!” Talbot exclaimed as he dried his body and continued to vent his frustrations. Even as he did, the Greek made certain that he was moving slowly enough so that Bill could appreciate his body. Russell’s anxiety had made him anxious too, and he knew that Bill could please him for the short-term. Both he and Bill preferred to let Russell be the “top” when it came to sex, but when they were alone, Talbot was able to be the top, which he enjoyed with the younger vampire. It was a nice change.
As Talbot continued his complaints about Victor in a muddle of Greek and English, Bill watched the older vampire with growing lust. Bill couldn’t really understand what Talbot was saying, but the older vampire’s words were fueling his passion, which was—in turn—fueling his own. Bill was just about to give Talbot’s mouth something to do other than to curse when he heard the word “Sookie” in Talbot’s rant.
“Sookie!” Bill exclaimed. “What of Sookie? Does Victor think that this fairy in Arizona has something to do with Sookie?” Bill asked. “Could Eric have found some of her kin?”
“Victor is grasping at straws, William. He is trying to placate Russell since he’s found very little as of yet,” Talbot said dismissively. “It wasn’t even Victor that found the Houston home; it was the demon—who passed along information about Eric’s holdings to Russell. Victor hasn’t really done anything, so I don’t see why he cannot just come here and play with us,” Talbot pouted.
“Perhaps I should go to Arizona,” Bill said with a desperate twinge to his tone. “I could help. I was most familiar with Sookie’s scent, and any fairy kin of hers might smell similarly.”
Talbot placed his hands on Bill’s cheeks to calm the younger vampire. He now wished he’d never let the name “Sookie” slip from his mouth—despite the fact that the Were who’d first sighted the woman had said that she looked like Sookie Stackhouse. But that was impossible! She was dead. Plus, Quinn had later given a different description of the woman. Regardless, Bill always became inflamed—and not in a good way—when she was mentioned.
“Victor has learned to recognize Miss Stackhouse’s scent from being in her home,” Talbot said soothingly, “and I believe all this is much ado about nothing, but if Victor requires you, I am certain he will call. Victor knows of your value, but right now, you are needed most with Russell and myself. Rhodes is coming up, and Russell wishes for you to help with security. Plus, he wants to go over your brilliant database idea with you and see what you have already done with it. As you know, he hopes that you will have a preview version that could be sold in Rhodes.” Talbot leaned forward and lightly kissed Bill’s lips. “And right now, I need you to keep me company for a little while,” he said seductively.
Bill nodded, placated for the moment and happy to be receiving Talbot’s attentions and appreciation as the older vampire rubbed Bill’s growing member through the towel. Yes—Bill thought to himself—Talbot was right; Victor was likely off on another wild goose chase. And if Victor did come across a scent that was close to Sookie’s, then Bill was certain he’d be called in to help with the investigation. After all, he was now a valued member of Russell’s inner circle. In fact, Bill was even privy to the fact that his king, as well as Felipe de Castro and Bartlett Crowe, had big plans for making the United States a nation that all vampires would envy. And he had recently even been told about the Sanguinistas, a group which believed in vampire superiority. Russell didn’t really care for the growing group—since it was based on what he called “mystical nonsense”—but the king was certain he could use them to his own advantage.
Talbot purred, “William, would you help me dry myself, darling? There are a few spots I cannot reach, and my own towel is too wet.”
Bill watched Talbot drop his towel onto the floor and licked his lips as he gazed at the older vampire’s beautiful cock. Bill smiled, loosened his own towel, and let it fall to the floor as well.
“You are beautiful,” Bill said as he took in Talbot’s smooth body.
“Show me how beautiful you think I am,” Talbot said as Bill sank to his knees before the king’s consort. Within minutes, they had both forgotten about the mysterious fairy scent which had been detected fifteen hundred miles away.
A/N: Well—Bill’s such a slimy McSlimington that I feel like I need a shower now. So—to clarify—Talbot and Bill were talking about what befell Sookie/Eric after the short scene w/ Sookie at the beginning of the chapter. I’ll be unraveling the actual events through flashback in the next several chapters.
Anyway, thanks for reading! All questions about what Talbot and Bill are talking about and what happened to our favorite couple will be answered soon-ish-ly.