1. to want (something that you do not have) very much
2. to wish for earnestly; covet an award
3. to desire (what belongs to another) inordinately or culpably
All told, Area 5 had thirty-one permanent vampire residents and twelve who were living there on a temporary or trial basis. The number was rather large, given the size of the area and the lack of a major city to draw in tourists. However, Russell soon determined that Eric Northman had been quite a draw in and of himself.
As sheriff, Eric had been fair and disciplined. He’d aided many of the vampires of Area 5 in their business ventures and in settling into the post-Great Revelation world. In return, he asked his people but two things: to “show” themselves at Fangtasia at least twice per month and to pay their tithes accurately and on time. Most of the vampires had no compunction about doing these tasks. And Northman seemed to offer a fair alternative if vampires did not want to fulfill his first requirement. For instance, a few of the vampires who had maintained the secrecy of their vampirism had gotten out of the Fangtasia requirement by doubling their tithes or performing other services. Most of the vampires, however, enjoyed the “buffet” of humans that Fangtasia offered to them, so they frequented the vampire bar more than twice per month, which Eric encouraged with other kinds of incentives.
However—no matter how much the vampires of Area 5 might have respected Northman—and even been loyal to him—vampires were pragmatic creatures when it came down to brass tacks. They had to be. Thus, none of them questioned the three-thousand-year old who told them that the winds of change had come.
Still, despite their cooperation, each of the Area 5 vampires received a bit of torture—just a touch in most cases, to ensure that they had nothing to hide. Many years before, Russell had discovered that just a little silvering was enough to loosen most lips, and it was actually quite easy to tell the vampires who knew more than they initially told.
The king had called in quite a few of his own people; however, when Victor Madden arrived, the torturing/questioning really picked up. Russell spared only two of Area 5’s vampires from a taste of the affliction: Bill and his progeny, Jessica, who was mainstreaming with a human man. Russell thought that was a waste, but allowed the lovely redhead to return to her human unharmed—a fact that was much appreciated by Bill. However, Russell also gave Jessica a standing invitation to come to his Mississippi mansion. Bill had appreciated that gesture as well.
Though he was an isolationist at heart, the king was kept abreast of all the interesting gossip by Talbot, who had heard from Lorena that Bill had been forced by the Magister to turn a young human. The turning had been Bill’s punishment for killing a vampire in order to save his pet. Russell now realized that the “pet” in the story was Sookie.
Thinking about this, Russell was even happier that he’d killed the Magister. The thought of a random human getting turned to punish a vampire infuriated him. It wasn’t that he had any objection to turning humans against their will. Hell—he’d never given any of his own children a choice! What he did object to was the fact that the human’s worthiness had not been established beforehand. In Russell’s opinion, only the most exceptional humans ought to be gifted with vampirism. Russell had been disgusted by the new crop of vampires that had sprung up after the Great Revelation—so much so that he’d been responsible for killing quite a few unworthy ones himself. Luckily, he sensed some promise in young Jessica, and—though there did not seem to be great affection between her and her maker—they seemed cordial enough.
No. As boring as it had been, the torture of the vampires of Area 5 had been routine, and Russell had not made them suffer long. After all, the king did not want to alienate them! He wanted only to get all the information he could about Eric and his progeny, who was also nowhere to be found. Because of Victor’s efficiency, most of the area’s vampires were let go after only ten minutes of “vigorous questioning.”
To ensure that their allegiance would begin shifting, Russell had even made sure that each vampire had a nice donor to help with his or her healing, which was easy given the fact that many fangbangers had shown up to Fangtasia that night since the club had been scheduled to be open. Russell simply had the humans glamoured to sit quietly in a section of the club where they waited for the vampires to come to feed. He even found a young blonde that he set aside for himself—along with Kenneth and Domitri, both of whom had been glamoured to return to the club that night.
The only “problems” came when a couple of staunch mainstreamers refused Russell’s offerings. Now—the king was all for the “appearance” of mainstreaming at times; it was practical, after all. But he couldn’t abide “true” mainstreamers. He didn’t trust them, for in his opinion they weren’t “real” vampires! However, those two “radicals” were easily convinced to partake when Russell threatened their un-dead lives. As further punishment, he ordered them to attend supervised feedings in Jackson every week for the next year.
He’d drum the silly notion of pure mainstreaming out of their heads, or he’d put the pathetic creatures out of their miseries.
Russell smiled and took a moment to study the various elements around the club. It really was a good bar, and he did plan to franchise it—after he destroyed the original, that is. As he waited for Victor to finish up, he sent some photos of the club and emailed a few other ideas to his day-woman, Jennifer.
Of all the vampires of Area 5, it turned out that only Chow knew anything of use, which was to be expected given the fact that the Asian vampire was a partner in Fangtasia with Eric and Pam. Russell knew that Victor would leave Chow under silver a little longer than the others, but it probably wasn’t really necessary. After only one swipe with Victor’s silver paring knife, the Asian vampire had been very forthcoming with what he knew.
After he’d finished questioning Chow, Victor led Russell to the bar’s safe, which was in Northman’s office.
“What is the combination?” Russell asked. “Can significance be found in the numbers?”
Victor chuckled. “Well—there is certainly a message in the combination,” he said as he entered the code. “It’s an alpha-numeric keypad, and the combination is F-U-C-K-Y-O-U.”
Russell laughed as well. “The Viking does have a bit of style. I have to grant him that.”
Victor nodded in agreement as he began to look at the items in the safe.
“What is in there?” Russell asked with curiosity.
“Some deeds—including the one to this business and a few homes that we already knew about,” Victor said as he thumbed through the documents he’d found. He placed them on the desk for Russell to peruse. “And I’d guess about fifty thousand dollars,” he added as he stacked five bundles of bills next to the documents. “And this,” he said as he held up a small data storage device.
The king motioned for Victor to use Northman’s computer to check the contents of the device.
After a few minutes of browsing, Victor spoke, “For the most part, it seems to be accounting records for Fangtasia.”
“Email those to my day-woman,” Russell directed, “and make sure you tell her to check them carefully for spyware.”
Victor nodded and did as Russell had bid.
“Is there anything else?” the king asked.
“Yes. There seem to be some recorded video feeds.”
“Let me see,” Russell responded as he motioned for Victor to get up.
Victor rose, and Russell took his place in Northman’s chair. The king opened the first and then the second and then the third video file. His grin widened a little with each one he opened. They all showed video surveillance which included Sookie Stackhouse.
Russell chuckled with glee.
“Who is that?” Victor asked from over his shoulder.
“A rare commodity. Is she yours?”
“Why? Are you hoping to take her for yourself?” Russell asked, looking back at Felipe’s second in command. Victor was cut from the same cloth as his king—determined and clever, but slightly more reckless. If Russell had to guess, he’d venture that Felipe would have to kill Victor for treason in a century or so—unless the ambitious vampire were given a nice distraction, such as his own state or two to rule.
“She is lovely,” Victor observed, leaning forward. “Is that Compton feeding her his blood?”
“Yes,” Russell responded. “Young William has started a bond with the telepath.”
“Ah—so she has already been claimed,” Victor said with regret. “Do you intend to take her from him?”
“No,” Russell answered, shaking his head. “If she is Compton’s, then she is mine already. Right now, my focus is on recovering her. It is very likely that she is with your objective—Northman.”
“Interesting,” Victor mused. “Does he wish to claim the telepath?”
Russell paused the footage. “I am uncertain of the Viking’s ultimate designs for the woman,” the king mused. “But I intend to find them out.”
Victor nodded. “If he took her, he has a reason. Perhaps he has a vendetta against Compton?”
“I know that there is no love lost between them,” Russell mused. “And if the Viking can control Miss Stackhouse’s telepathy, she could be a great asset to him.” The king kept to himself the fact that Sookie’s Fae blood likely made her taste divine, which would be good enough reason in and of itself to keep her around. But neither Victor nor Felipe needed to know everything. Too many knew that Sookie was Fae as it was.
“I want you to go to this address,” Russell ordered as he pointed to one of the deeds. “It is the only one I did not know about before tonight.”
Victor scanned the piece of paper and nodded in affirmation.
“I do not think the Viking would have left behind an obvious trail, but there may be something useful there,” Russell observed. “And be cautious. Northman could have left behind booby traps.”
Victor smiled. “I will enjoy playing this game with the Viking—I think.”
“Just see that we are the ultimate winners,” Russell responded, his eyebrow raised.
“A quarry has never evaded me for long,” Victor said matter-of-factly. Russell knew that the younger vampire was not boasting. He was simply reporting fact.
“Oh,” Russell said, as Victor moved to leave, “tell William to join me here. I’d like to view these videos with him.”
Victor chuckled and winked at Russell before leaving the room.
Russell noticed that Bill was practically steaming with rage as they watched the first clip.
“That was the first time I brought her to Fangtasia,” Bill said through clenched teeth.
“Northman seemed intrigued by her,” Russell observed.
“Yes—he was,” came Bill’s clipped response.
“Well—she is lovely. Tell me—did you claim her that night?”
Bill nodded. “I told Eric that she was mine!”
“What is going on here?” the king asked as he looked back at the video.
“Sookie heard an undercover policeman thinking about a raid. She informed us that a vampire was feeding illegally on the premises, so we left the club.”
“So that is how Northman learned of your Sookie’s gift?” Russell asked.
Bill nodded. “Unfortunately. I should have emphasized that she should conceal her telepathy,” he said with regret.
“Water under the bridge, young William,” Russell comforted as he started the second video. “And what goes on here?” the king asked.
“Eric demanded that I bring Sookie to Fangtasia in order to help him find a thief.”
“And here?” Russell asked as he watched an exchange between Eric and Sookie, which ended with Eric smirking and nodding as if in agreement.
Bill contemplated for a moment. “That must have been when Sookie agreed to work for Eric in the future, but only if he promised to turn over any human perpetrators to human authorities.”
“And he assented to that arrangement?” Russell asked with interest.
“Yes,” Bill responded, shifting from one foot to the other.
“Curious,” the king remarked. “Oh—and this is where you protected Sookie from the thief,” Russell observed as Bill staked Longshadow with a wooden beer tap.
“Yes. Sookie’s safety should have been better accounted for,” Bill sulked.
Russell paused the video. “Yes,” he agreed, even though his eyes weren’t focused on Bill or Sookie. His eyes were trained on Eric, whose posture seemed to convey nonchalance and boredom at the situation. However, the king’s eyes missed nothing. While Northman’s hands were in his pockets, it was clear to Russell that the Viking was grasping something in his left pocket. The king kept his eyes fixed on that pocket. The object looked to be about three inches long, so it most definitely couldn’t have been his own cock that Eric had been holding! Russell smirked to himself. No—the Viking had been gripping something else. Could it have been a small stake? If Bill hadn’t acted, would have Eric killed Longshadow? Certainly, the situation seemed dire with the raging vampire looming over Miss Stackhouse; however, Russell knew that someone of Eric’s age could have stopped Longshadow ten or twelve times before he actually made contact with Sookie’s flesh. Hell! Eric wouldn’t have even needed a stake; he could have easily ripped Longshadow’s head off!
No. It was likely that Eric knew—or at least suspected—that Longshadow was behind the theft before he had Sookie question his employees. The lack of surprise on the Viking’s face was indication of that. Indeed, Eric had probably set up the entire meeting in order to find out Bill’s level of devotion for Sookie. Or, perhaps, the Viking had hoped that Bill would take care of the Longhadow issue so that he wouldn’t have to get his hands dirty. Killing another vampire was always a messy affair, especially if that vampire’s maker was still living. Or, the Viking might even have anticipated that Bill’s punishment would have been harsher—either the true death or several years imprisonment. Either scenario would have given the Viking free access to his very own telepath.
Russell went to the next clip. “Ah,” he said, “are these wounds from the maenad attack you wrote about in your file?”
“Yes,” Bill said as he watched Sookie being tended to by Dr. Ludwig.
“And Northman called Ludwig?” Russell asked.
“I hear her going rate is quite hefty,” the king observed.
“Eric owed her, and my blood wasn’t working,” Bill said sulkily.
“Yes—that was in the report too,” Russell responded evenly.
The king noticed that William adjusted his crotch when he watched himself feeding Sookie. However, the younger vampire was soon growling. According to the video’s timestamp, ten minutes after all the vampires had left Sookie alone with a human woman to watch over her, Eric returned to the room with a basin of water and several towels. Soon after, the human woman left the room.
“The Norseman cares for your woman,” Russell observed as they watched Eric carefully cleaning the dried blood from Sookie’s face and back.
“He is taking advantage of her unconscious state to touch what is mine!” Bill growled through clenched teeth.
“Indeed,” Russell returned as he took note of Eric’s tender and respectful touch. “Has Eric had Sookie’s blood?” he asked.
Bill stiffened. “No. At least he hadn’t up until last night. Now—I do not know.” He shook his head angrily. “But Eric is a monster, so he likely has!”
Russell nodded. He wondered if Bill was right. The Viking could have tasted the dried blood instead of cleaning it with a rag. Hell—while she was unconscious, he could have done a lot worse to Sookie Stackhouse.
The next clip was quite short. It showed a woman in a lavender dress walking through the bar. Her face became clear in the next spliced piece as it showed her walking out four minutes later, according to the time stamp on the video.
“That was the night I was abducted,” Bill reported. “I bought Sookie that dress,” he added wistfully. “I had asked her to marry me that night.”
“How did Miss Stackhouse respond?” Russell asked with curiosity.
“She was overwhelmed and took a few moments alone to consider her reply,” Bill said a little dejectedly. “I was taken while she was gone.”
“Ah,” Russell noted, “a woman often needs a moment at such a time.” He paused the video and pointed to Sookie’s left hand, upon which was a flash of light.
Bill immediately beamed at the sight.
“I believe that is your answer, William,” Russell said, looking over at the youngling. “She is wearing the ring you gave her—correct?”
“Yes!” Bill triumphed, his smile widening. “She must have suspected Eric of taking me. She looks angry.”
“Yes, your southern belle obviously came here on the night you disappeared with the purpose of confronting Eric. She showed much bravery in her search for you.” Silently, Russell was also noting the fact that the little telepath seemed to have no fear of Eric.
The final clip was time-stamped the very next night. In it, Sookie had come in with Jessica, who left the room with Pam a few minutes later. Eric and Sookie spoke for a while, and the king wished more than anything that there was audio for this part. Bill tensed next to him. The conversation between Eric and Sookie seemed emotional—heartfelt.
Eventually the two of them sat down and spoke together for a few more minutes, during which time Sookie seemed to be pleading with the Viking. Eric’s countenance became troubled as he watched her. If Russell had to guess based upon Eric’s body language, he would say that the Viking was bothered by Sookie’s crying. After the telepath left with Jessica, Eric seemed lost in his thoughts for several minutes. His eyes were unblinking as he continued to sit at the table where Sookie and he had been. Finally, he rose and brought both fists down onto the table, breaking it into two clean pieces with his blow. It was there that the video ended.
“Quite an interesting story,” Russell mused. “It seems that your Sookie sought out Eric’s help in her search for you.”
“Perhaps,” Bill responded stiffly.
“I believe these videos demonstrate that the Norseman wants what is yours very badly,” the king mused.
“I agree,” Bill gritted out.
“That is good for us,” Russell remarked, his three-thousand-year-old mind speeding through several scenarios. “Eric will likely want to keep your Sookie with him, but I have confidence that you will eventually be able to track her. Or—if the Viking continues to elude us—we will have the aid of my witch once she arrives. She will eliminate whoever is helping Eric with magic, and then you will be able to track her for sure! And, when you find her, we will have them both.”
“What of the dream-weaving?” Bill asked. “I do not want Sookie to be with Eric a moment longer than is necessary!” he yelled, his body shaking.
Russell celebrated the fact that Bill would now believe that it was his idea to continue weaving dreams. “You may keep sending the woven dreams, young William,” he assured. “I too want Miss Stackhouse away from the Northman. As long as he has her, he can use her telepathy to evade us. I am just noting another strategy—my witch’s arrival in a week or so—if we cannot draw her from Eric’s side before then. Meanwhile, you must keep yourself calm,” he said somewhat sternly.
“I will, your majesty. I,” Bill paused, “apologize for my passion.”
“It is quite understandable,” Russell responded, his tone now soothing.
“It’s just that these videos prove Eric’s obsession with Sookie! It proves that he is a danger to her!”
Russell nodded as if he concurred with the younger vampire. In truth, the king thought that the only obsession regarding Sookie Stackhouse was Bill’s.
On the other hand, there was something about the interactions between the telepath and the Viking that suggested something other than obsession. As a stronger vampire—especially as Bill’s sheriff—Eric could have bypassed Bill’s claim and easily taken Sookie as his own. Russell hypothesized that if Eric’s interest was obsessive, he would have done just that.
No—there was much more than obsession in Eric’s actions.
In all of his own interactions with Eric, Russell had never noticed the kinds of reactions that the telepath triggered from him in the videos. Especially in the clips showing them alone, he saw that the Viking seemed to be letting his guard down. In them, the Norseman’s emotions could be seen—at least to a certain extent—even in the somewhat grainy video footage.
Russell understood Eric a little more now. A vampire—at least the kind that lived a long life—was, by necessity, cautious regarding his or her emotions. Indeed, there were very few beings that Russell had shared his true emotions with during his long life. Talbot and Nan were the only ones now living who had seen the “real” Russell. And, to the king, the ability to let down his guard was a gift beyond money or power—because it was rarer than both.
It was truly beyond measure.
However, even with Talbot and Nan, Russell held things back out of necessity. A power structure had to be maintained between sire and progeny, and vampire nature had to be taken into account.
With humans, holding back was not necessary. And—through time—Russell had glamoured quite a few humans to be his confidants. Of course, he had always killed them once his craving for closeness had been slaked. After all, he was practical above all else.
Russell knew the signs. With Sookie Stackhouse, Eric seemed to be on the verge of opening himself—of trusting her. Russell wondered what the implications of that would be for the vampire in question—and for the telepath. After all, Sookie could not be glamoured into silence regarding any confidences Eric told to her.
Russell marveled over the possibility of being able share oneself with someone like Sookie Stackhouse—someone who could not be glamoured, someone who held no fear of him. The king couldn’t help but to be envious of the Norseman.
To trust completely.
To give oneself fully.
To receive acceptance.
Such things would offer grace. Such things would be a luxury Russell had not enjoyed in three millennia.
What a coveted gift!
“William, why don’t you go and check on Chow—to make sure he’s restored after his session with Victor? I would also like for you to propose the idea of his running a copy of Fangtasia for me in Jackson.” Russell looked up at Bill. “I trust that you can make Chow see that it is in his best interests to work with me.”
“Yes, your majesty,” Bill said with a bow before leaving the office.
As soon as the youngling was gone, Russell rewound the footage to once again study the video of Eric washing Sookie’s healed wounds. The Viking’s expression was—for lack of a better word—peaceful, as if no other moment in time had ever brought him as much contentment as the one that he was in. There was nothing predatory about his movements—nothing possessive. Though she was unconscious throughout Northman’s care of her, Russell noted that at one point Sookie seemed to lean into the Viking’s touch. He paused the video and looked at Eric’s face in that moment. There was surprise there and something else: joy.
The ancient vampire skipped the next clip and re-watched Sookie and Eric’s interaction as the vampire leaned against a table and earnestly said something to the telepath. Russell could not see the Viking’s eyes because of the angle of the video, but he could see the telepath’s reaction: surprise. No—it was wonder.
Finally, he re-watched the part of the video where Eric was contemplating something after the fairy left Fangtasia—the last video on the data device. Eric seemed to be angry, and Russell wondered if it was because of the emotions Sookie was able to stir in him—to draw from him.
“Yes,” the king said with a wicked smile. “She makes him feel. He cares for her. And he hates himself for it!” He chuckled malevolently. “And he will soon hate her for it too!”
Russell watched the Viking bash the table in two and wondered how long Eric would allow the telepath to live if he ever did fully confide in her—if he ever did let her “see” him.
Russell did not think it would be long.
How could Eric possibly let Sookie live if she learned of the deepest parts of him?
However—by the same twisted irony—how long could Eric hold back from taking advantage of the most precious gift that a vampire could receive: someone both cared for and worthy of trust?
Russell could only begin to understand the paradox of Eric’s situation.
Eric would confide in her. He would become vulnerable. And, then, he would have to kill what had made him vulnerable in order to survive.
The ancient vampire sighed. He hoped that Bill’s dream-weaving would work sooner rather than later. If not, the telepath would be lost to the Viking’s self-preservation impulse. Yes—it was only a matter of time before Eric’s practicality trumped his longing for connection.
Sookie’s value as a telepath aside, a vampire could not allow a person to live if he or she had been witness to the vampire’s weaknesses. And if Russell’s instincts were right, Sookie had been or soon would be a witness to Eric Northman’s. And Russell had seen that the Viking was too wise and crafty to let that stand.
Russell pocketed the data drive and grabbed the cash. He tossed the money to Dane as he left Northman’s office and instructed his new Alpha to add it to the coffers of the pack. Russell had found over the years that it was good for morale to allow the Weres to share in the spoils of a fight. And they had lost many important members of their rank in recent days.
In fact, with that in mind, Russell rethought his earlier actions regarding the stalwart mainstreamers.
“Dane,” the monarch said, getting the attention of his alpha again.
“Your majesty,” the Were responded deferentially.
“Those two vampires who initially refused to feed from the humans earlier—do you remember them?”
“Yes,” Dane responded.
Russell nodded. “Good. Have four of your strongest go get them tomorrow night. Have them told that I wish to see them, and when the vampires let their guards down, have your men bind them in silver. And then share their blood with your pack. I’ll let you decide how to allot the blood and whether or not to keep the vampires alive,” he added.
Dane bowed and looked at his ruler with gratitude. “Thank you, your majesty.”
Russell smiled and patted the young Were on the back. Indeed, it might have been a blessing in disguise for Cooter to be killed. Dane seemed to understand his place much better—and he was a lot less volatile.
The king left the Alpha to make arrangements and went back into the bar.
“So,” Russell said to Chow, who was sitting in a booth with Bill, “are you willing to participate in my business venture?”
“Yes, your majesty,” Chow said immediately. “I accept your kind offer.”
“And will I have your loyalty as Northman did?” Russell asked, looking at the Asian vampire through narrowed eyes.
“No,” Chow responded, his own eyes laced with fear and awe—just what Russell loved to see. “You will have more of my allegiance than the Norseman.”
Russell smiled and nodded at the vampire. “You are around 200 years old—correct?” he asked.
“Yes,” Chow responded. “Two hundred and four.”
“It is good to see that you have learned to be practical during your centuries,” Russell smirked.
“I have learned math, your majesty,” Chow responded. “You are three times Eric’s age. And I intend to live many more centuries.”
Russell chuckled. “I like you, Chow. You will report to my day-woman, Jennifer Rigans in Jackson tomorrow before dawn to begin planning my Fangtasia.”
Chow bowed. “Of course, your majesty.”
Russell’s phone rang just as the Asian vampire left the bar.
“Victor,” Russell answered, recognizing the number.
“I have good news,” Victor said.
“What have you found?” the king asked.
“One of your vampires called me right after I left there. He’d discovered the trail of Northman’s progeny, but was having trouble following, so I joined him.”
“What did you find?” Russell asked with anticipation.
“Her trail led to another home in the same neighborhood as her primary residence. That home was seemingly uninhabited.”
“Was she there?”
“No—her trail disappeared completely,” Victor reported. “However, I found something outside the home.”
“What?” Russell asked.
“Right where her trail came to an abrupt end, I found a pouch that contained a small trace of magic.”
“Make sure the magic is preserved,” Russell ordered.
“It has already been done,” Victor assured.
“Good. If you are done there, proceed to Northman’s residence.”
“I’m already on my way,” Victor said before hanging up.
With only a couple of hours left before sunrise, Russell wanted Victor to continue trying to gets clues regarding Eric’s location or destination. The king would have liked to have spent the rest of the night enjoying Victor’s kinkier side, but it was best to keep his borrowed bloodhound on task.
“Good news?” Bill asked from the booth where he still sat.
“Yes—despite the fact that Northman’s progeny’s trail cannot be followed any further, a small trace of magic was found at her residence; it will likely be enough for Hallow to use to discover the witch aiding the Norseman.”
Bill smiled. “That is good news indeed.”
“Any progress with your tie with Sookie?” Russell asked.
The younger vampire’s features deflated. “No. I know that she is alive, and I know that she is still sleeping, but I remain unable to infiltrate her dreams.”
“We will find her,” Russell assured. “It is only a matter of time.”
With Fangtasia cleared out except for his own people, the king decided to spend the rest of the night at the club since it would be one of Sookie’s likelier destinations if Bill’s dream-weaving worked the next day. He briefly considered going to Bill’s home—in case Sookie went there—but it was decrepit and shabby, and he certainly wasn’t prepared to sleep in the dirt. Hell no! Now that his business for the evening had been completed, Russell intended to take his time enjoying the only three donors left at Fangtasia: Kenneth, Domitri, and the sweet-faced blond man who had caught his eye earlier.
The king looked at Kenneth and licked his lips. The man’s blood was quite tasty, and though he was not to Russell’s taste otherwise, his body was well-formed. Russell had already decided that he would take Kenneth with him to Jackson—as a gift for Talbot, who was always looking for a culinary find.
Remembering his mate, Russell quickly called Talbot, who complained for several minutes that Sophie-Anne had arrived at the mansion earlier that night in a foul temper.
That was no surprise!
The king was just glad that he’d not had to deal with her. Apparently, however, Sophie-Anne had calmed down when she saw the luxury of the wing Russell had decided would be for her private use so that she would not be in his hair all the time. Her wing had its own entrance and staff. Being reunited with Hadley had also seemed to help lift the queen’s mood. Moreover, Talbot had sent Sophie-Anne a bowl of the blood sorbet he’d been perfecting. After that, her complaints had stopped. Russell smiled and praised the inventiveness of his beloved consort in taking care of his annoying new “wife.”
As he spoke on the phone, Russell kept an eye on Bill, who was sipping on a TrueBlood and staring at Kenneth with desire in his eyes.
“Does he interest you?” Russell asked Bill, after his call with Talbot ended.
Bill looked slightly embarrassed. “His scent is excellent, your majesty. Is he part demon?”
Russell nodded. “Yes—just the right amount to add a nice bouquet to his blood—don’t you think? But the flavor is not overpowering. I enjoyed him last night.” Russell looked closely at the younger vampire. “I would like for you to enjoy him with me tonight.”
Bill looked down at the bottle in his hands. “TrueBlood is fine, your majesty. As I said before, I do not wish to be unfaithful to Sookie. And she would see it as cheating if I fed from another.”
“But you fed from me,” Russell reminded seductively.
Bill shivered. “Yes, and your blood is amazing, your majesty. But that was only to help us find Sookie.”
“Please,” the king responded in a gentle tone, “you must call me Russell—unless we are in a formal situation.”
Bill’s face brightened. “You honor me,” he paused, “Russell.”
The elder vampire smiled. “Consider something for a moment, William. If you subsist only on TrueBlood, how will you have the strength to weave dreams for your Sookie? It is,” he paused, “just a thought, but you might consider partaking of human blood, in addition to mine—but only until your beloved returns to you. After all, we will all need to be at our best to get her back from Northman as soon as possible.”
Bill looked at his bottle a bit doubtfully. “You make a compelling point, your majesty,” he said softly.
“And,” Russell continued, “I hate to bring this up, but I feel that I must so that you are prepared for all possibilities.” The king took on a paternal air. “You know of Northman’s reputation—his ability to seduce,” Russell added as if the words pained him.
“Yes,” Bill returned, his hands shaking a bit.
“And one could not blame your Sookie if she succumbed—if she was succumbing even now,” Russell continued. “After all, he has forced his blood into her. And he could be using that blood right as we speak—manipulating her into,” he paused, “accepting his advances. There is no way to know for sure.”
Russell held in his smile as the bottle of TrueBlood shattered under the pressure of Bill’s grip. “I will feed,” Bill said, cold anger clear in his tone.
“You are making the right decision,” Russell encouraged as he motioned for the three donors to follow him. He led them and his new protégé to the basement.
A/N: Thanks so much for all the wonderful comments about the last chapter! Most of you seem to be enjoying the king’s POV. And I appreciate the debate over at my WordPress regarding whether Bill had a hand in Adele’s murder. It’s definitely something to think about.
The chapter you just read was one of my favorites to write. I loved trying to figure out what Russell would say if he could “see” Eric and Sookie’s history to a certain extent. When I write, the characters kind of “talk in my brain,” and I was so interested by how right Russell is about Eric’s feelings toward Sookie—and also about how wrong he is too. I hope everyone liked reading the chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Magpie Tales brought up an excellent point over on ff.net: “The only thing that struck me was if Bill was that good at his job, that good at manipulating people, why doesn’t he realize that Russell is playing him? Bill caved pretty quickly in the earlier chapter with Russell too, but I put that down to fear. As I’m reading their interactions I keep wondering what Bill is up to, and is he playing Russell too. Or maybe Russell’s power is mesmerizing … ooh. Russell’s blood. That could be what’s making Bill so malleable.” I do think that Magpie’s theories are right on: Russell’s blood and experience are both too much for Bill (in a similar way that Bill’s blood and experience were too much for Sookie—turnabout is fair play). However, I also think that Bill wants to hear what Russell is saying—that he’s best at manipulation when it comes to himself. Bill wants to be both the hero and the martyr in his own story (I have a brother like that, so I guess you could say that I sort of base Bill off of him). I also think that Bill is full of hubris. (That was clear in how he interacted with Eric.) I think that Bill believes he’s above being manipulated. And—of course—I think he’s scared of Russell, but also feels honored and “justified” in a sense that Russell has deemed him worthy to take under his wing.
Anyway, thanks Magpie Tales for the wonderful, thought-provoking comment!