“Ready?” Eric asked, even as he activated his blood to block Bill’s once they were outside of the concealment spell.
“Yes,” Sookie responded.
He threw the duffle bag over his shoulder, quickly picked her up, zipped up to the roof, and took off into the graying sky. He would have just enough time to get himself into the light-tight compartment in the car and text Octavia before the sun rose.
Four hours and twenty minutes earlier
As soon as Russell hung up the phone with Talbot, the ancient king turned around and took in the form of the Viking. Eric’s posture was relaxed as he watched Sophie-Anne and an adequate-smelling human fucking in the corner of the room.
Russell glanced at the pair and then scowled. He had never much understood lesbian sex, nor had he found it even remotely entertaining. As far as he was concerned, sex without at least two cocks present was a fucking waste of time and effort! However, Sophie-Anne seemed to be enjoying herself, and anything that kept her from annoying him was welcome—much welcome.
The king chuckled. Perhaps there was something good about lesbian sex, after all.
Russell turned his attention fully to Northman as he approached the bar. He noticed that the Viking’s progeny, Pamela, was nowhere to be seen. The king licked his lips as he took in the beautiful vision before him.
Russell liked the tall blonde—even though his own tastes tended to skew toward olive skinned brunettes like his current paramour. But Northman was undeniably handsome, and his good looks weren’t the only feature on his impressive resume. Northman was all man—obviously an alpha. And Russell loved to tame an alpha—to fight with him for control in bed before ultimately fucking him senseless. Occasionally, he’d even let an alpha fuck him, and—having felt Eric’s impressive tool—Russell expected to fully enjoy all that Eric had to offer at least once before he established permanent dominance over the Viking.
However, something had been needling at Russell regarding Eric. But for the un-death of him, the ancient vampire couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Northman seemed to be completely loyal. He seemed to be accommodating. He seemed to be a more-than-worthy candidate for a lover. In short, he seemed to be perfect.
But something just felt off to Russell, especially after his phone call with Talbot. His consort had told him about the tour he’d given Eric of the mansion, as well as about the Viking’s interest in the sixteenth century Japanese erotica in the collection. Talbot was anxious to see if Eric would try some of the more adventurous three-vampire configurations depicted in one of the scrolls. However, that was not the part of the conversation that had troubled Russell. It had been a casual comment by Talbot—an aside about Eric’s interest in the Viking crown that Russell had taken from a minor king more than a thousand years before.
Something about that had raised a flicker of misgiving in Russell, but—again—he couldn’t quite figure out where his doubts regarding Northman were coming from. After all, why wouldn’t Eric be interested in an artifact from his own culture? Well-preserved things, such as that crown, were few and far between.
To set his mind as ease, Russell decided to question Eric about the crown. He carefully studied the Norseman’s expression as he mentioned the crown in casual conversation. He even offered to give the artifact to Eric at one point, but other than a flash of what seemed to be gratefulness on the Viking’s face—which was followed up by his respectful refusal and then gracious acceptance of the gift—Eric’s countenance remained steady. In fact, Eric’s blue eyes contained no signs of duplicity whatsoever. On the contrary, they held the appropriate mixture of awe and adoration that Russell was used to getting from younger vampires.
However, there was something missing from those eyes too—something that Russell was also used to seeing from lesser vampires than himself: fear.
Even Talbot’s eyes held a bit of fear when he was in Russell’s presence! However, Northman didn’t seem to be afraid of him—not even a little. And that was out of the ordinary. Perhaps it was the Viking’s lack of fear that had been giving Russell pause.
Out of the corner of his eye, Russell continued to study Eric. Of course, the Viking was only a child compared to Russell. But he was quite old compared to most other vampires—especially in the New World. And he was well known for his prowess in battle—for his audaciousness and lack of fear. Perhaps it simply wasn’t in the Viking’s nature to show any fear—even if he felt it. Or perhaps his maker’s influence accounted for the absence. By all accounts, Godric had been a competent maker—though his ending had been pathetic to say the least.
Indeed, perhaps Eric’s lack of fear was a sign of his worthiness. Or—perhaps—the Viking was arrogant. Clearly, he was interested in being the king’s lover. Eric had grown aroused by Russell’s touch in the limousine. Perhaps, the Viking did not believe there was a reason to fear. Russell grinned. He would enjoy training Eric Northman to know better. Respect and adoration were just a step away from fear—after all—and the Viking already had those for him in spades.
However, Russell still felt something nagging at him regarding the Norseman, like a word on the tip of his tongue or a memory that he couldn’t quite grab hold of.
Thus, the king followed Eric for a while once he sent him to Talbot. Three thousand years before, Russell had not risen with the ability to fly, but it was a skill that he had developed over time. And given his advanced age, Russell was much faster than the Viking. Plus, as a multi-thousand-year-old creature, his other senses were much more developed than Eric’s as well. His sense of smell, for example, was unrivaled.
Staying at the edge of his own range so that the Viking would not know that he was following, Russell trailed Eric until he was certain that the younger vampire was following his orders to the letter. Only then did he turn back.
Russell was not one to ignore his instincts, however. If his gut was telling him that something was amiss concerning Eric Northman, then it was. Perhaps, it was simple—a little white lie. Perhaps Eric was still loyal to Sophie-Anne, despite his insistence to the contrary. That sort of thing, however, was easily remedied, for Russell knew that he was much more worthy of devotion than Sophie-Anne Leclerq.
Or—perhaps—Eric was not really a lover of men. Russell had had many a vampire over the years who had sought him out for advancement or advantage—rather than because of attraction. The ancient vampire, however, did not care if this was the case. A lover was a lover in his opinion, and a reluctant lover had often been a wonderful source of amusement for the king.
Russell closed his eyes and licked his lips as his fangs clicked down. Very likely the Viking had been a novice to the pleasures of male-on-male love before his turning, and that meant that he’d been a virgin to anal sex upon his first death. The Norseman had had a male maker, and Godric had been known to dally with both genders when it came to taking lovers; thus, Eric would be “broken in” mentally. However, physically, his anatomy would have healed after each encounter he had with a man. Consequently, he would still be as tight as an unseasoned virgin. Russell grinned. Yes—a little reluctance on the part of the Viking would be a welcome diversion for the king.
With that in mind, Russell decided to put his reservations about the Viking on the back-burner—at least for the moment. However, he was not going to ignore his misgivings either. He texted Talbot and told his consort to keep an eye on the Viking. He knew that Talbot wouldn’t mind that task in the least, so the king gave his lover permission to “play” with Eric as much as he desired as long as trusted Weres or vampires were also present. Talbot loved exhibitionism, so having an audience would not be a problem for him. And—most importantly—Russell would know that his mate was safe.
That taken care of, Russell flew to Bon Temps and quickly found the telepath’s home. Unfortunately, her scent was fading—likely several days old. Russell did, however, find a fresh scent that he recognized: Debbie Pelt.
Debbie had recently joined his Were pack and had been planning to marry and breed with his Alpha male, Cooter. After a quick round of questioning and a little glamour to calm down the distraught Were-bitch, Russell learned that Debbie intended to lie in wait so that she could take her revenge for her mate’s death. She apparently blamed Miss Stackhouse for the murder; she also screeched out that Sookie was a “whore” and had stolen Alcide Herveaux’s affections from her as well. The king recognized Herveaux’s name and immediately dispatched some of his Weres to find Alcide’s father, who could be used as a useful piece of leverage over his son. Jackson Herveaux was certain to be on one of the casino boats on the Mississippi River at this time of night. And—since Russell owned most of them—the elder Herveaux would be an easy find.
Russell debated for a moment about what to do with Debbie. Killing her might be for the best. She was clearly addicted to V to the point that it impaired and depleted her already iffy mental acuity. And a rabid dog was often more liability than benefit.
The king liked for his Weres to enjoy V, and he certainly used his blood to make sure they were controlled, but he didn’t want them so dependent that their ability to function was impaired.
However, seeing the zeal in Debbie’s eyes and knowing that she was also connected to Alcide Herveaux—whom Debbie confirmed was the Were who had helped Sookie to escape—Russell decided to use the Were-bitch. After all, Cooter had seen something worthy in her, so perhaps she would be more valuable than she looked. Like Debbie, the king was also pissed off about the loss of his Alpha Were. Cooter had not been the cleverest of the Alphas who had run his pack over the millennia—not by a long shot—and, frankly, the pack had been degrading. The fiascos with Compton had been proof of that. However, Cooter’s ability to recruit new members had been surprisingly impressive.
Plus, Debbie could enter the telepath’s home. Uninvited vampires could not. Therefore, her presence gave Russell more of an advantage. Confident that Sookie would not be returning to her home that night, Russell told Debbie to continue watching the house, but ordered her to capture the telepath instead of killing her. He offered Debbie a special reward―a vial of his own blood―if she brought him the telepath in one piece. The V-addicted Were, of course, leapt at the chance, but—just to be sure—Russell glamoured Debbie so that she wouldn’t permanently damage Sookie Stackhouse. After all, a telepath was a much more valuable asset than a V-addled Were.
Leaving Sookie’s home under Debbie’s tolerably-able watch, the king returned to Fangtasia, where he’d already ordered twenty or so members of his pack to meet him. He was pleased to see that they had just arrived from Jackson and had already set up a perimeter around Fangtasia.
Unfortunately, he was also greeted by a very pissed off Sophie-Anne; in truth, Russell had almost forgotten about “his” queen and really didn’t want to deal with her complaints anymore, so he quickly arranged for her to go to one of Northman’s safe houses for the day. If Russell’s suspicions about Eric had any merit, perhaps Sophie-Anne would be killed in some snare the Viking had left behind.
One could only hope.
With that in mind, Russell had ordered a couple of his younger, weaker Weres to “escort” the queen to Eric’s most well-known address and then to Mississippi the next night. Russell smiled at the possibility of being rid of Sophie-Anne. He was still considering the pros and cons of keeping her around, but if she were assassinated by one of her own underlings, the king could play the grieving widower. In fact, he texted Talbot to tell him to begin preparations for a new “mourning” wardrobe for them both. Even if Russell ended up not killing Sophie-Anne, the new wardrobe would give his lover a welcome distraction for a while.
Once Sophie-Anne and her new “girl-toy” were out of the way, the king fed from one of the donors Eric had arranged, even as he fucked the other. It was a pleasing experience, so when he sent them away, he glamoured them to return the next night.
After feeding, Russell went back to work. He assigned some of his Weres to find and then watch Sookie’s brother and friends. He ordered a few others to join Debbie at the telepath’s home and to watch Compton’s home as well. Two others were dispatched to Alcide Herveaux’s Shreveport address, while another was sent to stake out his business.
By 4:00 a.m., all of the dispatched Weres had made contact with their subjects except for the ones who had been assigned to Tara Thornton and Alcide Herveaux. That was not surprising to the king. After all, they had been with Miss Stackhouse and Bill Compton during the escape. The ones that were sent to watch Jason Stackhouse and Lafayette Reynolds reported that the young men had just arrived at their respective homes; however, that didn’t seem unusual for either man. According to Compton’s file, Stackhouse was a “tomcat” and had likely been off fucking. And Reynolds was a known V-user; in fact, Compton had made note of many nights when the flamboyant human had not returned to his home until near dawn.
Russell’s next order of business was to assign a few of the vampires in his retinue, along with his best Were trackers, to begin searching for Bill Compton. Finding him would likely mean finding the telepath and Miss Thornton as well. Sadly, Franklin Mott, Russell’s best tracker, had not recuperated yet, but Russell didn’t imagine that Bill Compton would be much of a challenge to track down.
The king opted to stay in the basement of Fangtasia for the day and was glad to find it spotless; apparently, Northman’s child had completed her assigned task while he was gone. Russell made a mental note to compliment the vampiress on her efficiency. Perhaps, she might even be qualified to run Area 5—now that Eric was to be shifted to Area 1. However, Russell truly did have a hankering for a Fangtasia in his own area, and Northman’s progeny would be the most qualified to see to that.
Russell gave his Were guards some instructions, but the king was not too worried about security. The basement of Fangtasia had been reinforced like a bunker, and the king had examined the space very carefully to ensure that it was safe.
Fifty minutes before sunrise, however, Russell got a big surprise—in the form of Bill Compton.
Russell had just been checking in with his trackers about Compton when the Civil War veteran barged into Fangtasia, demanding to see Eric. Of course, he’d not expected to find Russell there instead.
The first thing that Russell did was to secure the younger vampire with silver and gag him in order to shut up his wailing about Eric and what a bastard he was. Compton was also blathering on about his need to “rescue” Sookie, whom he had the annoying habit of calling Sookeh. Russell had lived in the South longer than Bill had been in existence, and he’d found no accent that justified that mispronunciation.
A quick call to Talbot confirmed that the Viking had not yet arrived at the mansion, but that was not surprising, given the rate at which Eric had been flying. By Russell’s calculation, Eric would arrive no earlier than twenty eight minutes before sunrise, and it was still fifteen minutes until then. The king asked his consort to call him as soon as the Viking arrived.
Russell let Bill stew for a few more minutes before making him an offer. “I will take the gag out, Mr. Compton, but if you continue with your incoherent raving, then I will replace it with a silver one. And trust me. That will be much more unpleasant for you.”
Bill cringed and stopped trying to pull against his silver chains.
“Now. Will you be a good little boy and answer my questions? Or should you stay in silver all day and then answer them for me at nightfall? Make your decision now, Bill, for the sunrise is coming in forty minutes.”
The younger vampire looked toward the door of Fangtasia and then looked back at Russell with defeat in his eyes. He nodded in affirmation.
“Wonderful!” Russell exclaimed as he took the gag from Bill’s mouth.
“King Edgington, please. You have to let me go before Eric harms her!” Bill cried.
Russell’s fangs popped down a millisecond before he backhanded Bill. The chair securely holding the younger vampire flew across the room with Bill still attached to it.
At a leisurely pace, Russell walked over and bent down until his face was inches from Compton’s. “I ask and you answer,” the king seethed. “Other comments from you will not be tolerated! Understand?”
“Yes,” Bill answered immediately. The wild look in his eyes—the look of desperation to find Sookie—had been replaced with terror as Russell’s power literally radiated around him.
“Do not forget yourself again,” Russell warned as he righted Bill’s chair.
Not able to look into the almost-black orbs of the three-thousand-year-old vampire in front of him, Bill lowered his eyes and spoke in a stuttering voice. “I understand, your majesty.”
Immediately, Russell reestablished his previous casual posture and his fangs were put away. “Wonderful!” he exclaimed as he brought a chair toward the one Bill was chained to and then turned it around so that he was sitting in it backwards. He rested his arms over its back and enjoyed the look of intense fear on Compton’s face for a few moments. It didn’t take him long to size up his “opponent” and find him lacking. However, the young vampire was not without promise; he just needed the proper training.
“You know, young William, I enjoyed our horseback ride together the other night very much—despite the fact that you smelled of the Weres you had killed. Tell me—did you enjoy killing them?”
“Your majesty?” Bill asked, obviously confused by the topic.
“I was impressed by your display of strength,” Russell continued. “You had been pursued by my Weres for hours, yet you managed to kill several of them.” He chuckled, “And you de-eared another. As I said, it was a notable battle on your part. I could see that—despite your young age—you were tenacious and highly-motivated.”
“Thank you, your majesty,” Bill said raising his eyes a little.
Russell smiled. Indeed, Bill had demonstrated what the king would call ‘scrappiness.’
“As I said,” Russell continued casually as if Bill were not chained in silver, “our ride was enjoyable to me. You had a good seat on the horse, and such ease and grace is difficult to find these days.”
Bill’s expression continued to show his confusion over the subject matter, but he was not foolish enough to question Russell again. Instead, he spoke on the topic that Russell had raised. “In my time, your majesty, a gentleman had to ride.”
“Yes,” Russell agreed, “however, not everyone rode well.” Russell studied the younger vampire carefully for a few moments. “You think of the time of your humanity as ‘your’ time, young William? Don’t you believe that a vampire is a being of all times?”
“I never wanted to be vampire, your majesty,” Bill said quietly.
“Ah. Yes,” Russell responded. “I might have guessed that about you, especially with Lorena as your maker.”
Bill cringed a little, and his eyes took on sadness at his maker’s loss. He had hated Lorena, yet he had loved his maker too.
Russell smiled paternalistically at the younger vampire’s ambivalent reaction. “I both loved and hated my maker as well,” he smiled, “that is, before I killed him.”
Bill looked up at Russell with surprise. It was extremely uncommon for a vampire to have the strength or the capability to kill his or her own maker.
The king shrugged and continued with his previous track. “Don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy Lorena’s company—up to a certain degree. She made a good third at dinner! She and Talbot could talk about fashion and interior decorating and whatnot. It was a relief to have him entertained. Of course, I am a great believer that all this mainstreaming nonsense is only degrading our species, and it is always lovely to have like-minded individuals around me. Do you not agree?”
Bill looked up at Russell with a touch of defiance in his eyes. “I am not like-minded in that way, your majesty,” he said stiffly, though respectfully.
“Yes,” Russell smiled. “I believe that even I might be tempted to mainstream if I had a part-fairy as my primary food source.”
“Fairy, your majesty?” Bill stammered, opting to try for ignorance.
Russell’s eyes darkened and Bill shrank into his chair with fear. “Do not play dumb, William. I saw your file. It really was quite the interesting read; plus, my new wife confirmed everything to me—thanks to a little persuasion from your sheriff.”
“I—I,” Bill began.
“Never lie to me, William,” Russell said coldly. “I simply cannot abide a liar. And at my age, I do not have to.”
The threat in Russell’s words and tone was unmistakable. Bill nodded and then spoke meekly. “About Sookie, your majesty.”
“Ah yes. Let us talk about the lovely Miss Stackhouse,” Russell agreed.
“Your majesty, Eric is going to . . . ,” Bill started.
“Remember, I am the one asking questions, William,” Russell said with the deadly edge back in his voice.
Bill cowered and nodded in affirmation.
“Good,” Russell said. “Now—do you know where Sookie is right now?”
“No,” Bill answered.
“But you have a blood tie with her?”
“Yes, but it is,” he paused, “confused right now.”
“I am surprised you are not with your Sookie even now. Didn’t she perform a daring rescue of you just this very morning?” Russell asked somewhat playfully.
“Yes she did,” Bill responded.
“And she was the one who killed Lorena?” Russell asked, clearly impressed with the feisty telepath.
“Yes,” Bill answering, looking almost tortured. “I was holding Lorena down with silver, and my maker,” he paused, “welcomed death when I rejected her. But it was Sookie who staked her.”
Russell smiled. “A love triangle.” He clapped his hands gleefully. “How wonderful! A good love triangle makes life feel so,” he stopped for a moment, looking for the right word, “renewed!”
Bill shook his head sadly. “Lorena would have killed Sookie.”
“So you chose your mostly-human beloved over your maker?”
“Yes,” Bill answered, though his eyes conveyed his inner torment.
“And your Sookie risked her life to come for you and to save you?”
“What a lovely little fairy tale,” Russell commented with a mixture of sarcasm and sincerity that would have been impossible for almost anyone else to achieve. “But how did our knight in shining armor get separated from his lovely fairy?” he asked.
Bill shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “I was weakened from my ordeal. Near death.”
“Did your fairy and her confederates bury you in the ground and then leave you?” Russell asked with intrigue in his voice.
“No,” Bill said, his face a picture of excruciating pain. “We made our escape in a truck or van of some kind. I think it belonged to a Were named Herveaux. Sookie and I were alone in the back, and I was gravely injured—dead for the day. But she tried to give me her blood, and I . . . .” He stopped as red tears began to streak down his face.
“You did what vampires do,” Russell finished with a smirk on his face. “You survived.”
Bill nodded his head sorrowfully. “I could have killed her—the woman I love. I could have killed her.”
“But you didn’t,” Russell commented, grateful that the telepath was still among the living. “It must have taken remarkable control to stop yourself. You must really love her.”
Bill cried out in despair. “I did not stop. I could not stop myself! Tara and the wolf opened the van door. I was,” he wept, “not even aware of what I was doing until they interrupted. And I was about to,” he paused, “take her—against her will.”
Russell’s lips turned up into a slight smile, though he kept his gleeful expression toned down and spoke to the young vampire compassionately. “Oh Bill. How horrible for you! What happened? Did you save your love? Did you give her your blood? Did you turn her?” he finished almost sinisterly.
Bill shook his head. “No,” he said bitterly. “Tara would not let me see to Sookeh! Still weakened, I was kicked out of the van and then the wolf drove off without me.”
“Why did you not just follow, Miss Stackhouse? I have a feeling that you took enough of her blood to be healed adequately,” Russell said with glee in his eyes. In truth, the younger vampire’s guilt was making the king’s cock hard. In fact, if sunrise were not approaching, Russell might have attempted to seduce Bill before the day came.
“I could not,” Bill said. “I began to burn not long after they threw me from the van. I had to dig a resting place for myself and wait for night.”
“So this episode didn’t happen at night?” Russell asked with a menacing smile.
“No—Sookie tried to heal me during the day, your majesty.”
“So it is true?” Russell asked with wonder. “Fairy blood really allows a vampire safety in the sun for a time!”
A/N: Well—I hope that you are enjoying seeing what Russell’s been up to. Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments and reviews for the previous chapter! I’m so glad that so many people are enjoying this story!