TWENTY HOURS LATER
Eric had managed to keep his end of their maker-child bond closed off for most of the time they’d been apart, but Pam had felt him one time per night—though the time would vary. She figured that he would let her feel him so that she would know that he was alive, but he never left their bond open long enough for her to get a “fix” on his location.
Thus—Pam had to be satisfied with little flashes of her maker’s nightly feelings, but all those vignettes together were a mosaic forming a larger picture that came more and more into focus each day: Eric Northman was in love. The frustration, the hurt, and the powerlessness that had dominated his feelings during the weeks before had now been replaced by his contentment, focus, and love.
However, one emotion had been at the center of his feelings every night since Pam had left his side: acceptance.
Though that acceptance had come in different forms.
“What are you smiling about, Miss Pam?” Bubba asked her.
The vampiress turned to look at her favorite of her two companions. She’d come to appreciate both Thalia and Bubba during the month that she’d been with them. However, it was—surprisingly—the gentle-souled, supposedly brain-damaged vampire that she had the best time conversing with. Thalia had “warmed up” to her a bit, but the fierce queen kept her sentences to eight words or less. Pam knew. She’d been counting.
“The concept of acceptance,” Pam answered.
“Mama told me that to love someone was to accept them the way they were,” the ex-singer said sagely before his face darkened. “I remember tryin’ to hide myself in the things I drank into my human body. I didn’t like myself then—didn’t accept myself then.”
Pam smiled softly at the vampire. “I know, Bubba. But you accept the way you are now.” The vampiress had come to learn that the reason Bubba didn’t like being reminded of who he’d been as a human wasn’t out of regret for his humanity. It was because he had truly learned how to accept his new state—despite the circumstances surrounding his turning. Bubba had—at long last—found contentment. In fact, he loved his existence. And Thalia loved and accepted him. In turn, he did the same for her.
Pam thought it was fucking beautiful—though she’d never admit her sentimentality to anyone.
“So—uh—what about acceptance were you thinkin’ about, Miss Pam?” Bubba asked as he sat next to the vampiress. She watched him pick a few pieces of cat fur from a chip at the end of one of his fingernails. She held in her chuckle as she contemplated Bubba’s “odd” eating habits.
“My maker has finally accepted that he is in love,” Pam reported, not feeling the need to hide that fact from her host. “Over the last weeks, I’ve felt him accept that he was in deep shit. I’ve felt him accept that he cared about someone. I’ve felt him accept that some things were beyond his control. I’ve felt him accept that he didn’t always need to be in control. And—now, tonight—I feel that he’s truly accepted love.”
Bubba smiled widely. “That’s a good thing. I remember the night I met my Thalia; I took a shine to her right away. But I had to wait a while before she took one back.” He chuckled. “I’m sure glad she came ’round.”
Pam smiled, but her expression fell a little.
“What’s wrong?” Bubba asked.
“I am trying to figure out if I can accept the changes in my maker.” She shook her head. “He sent me here, so I know that something major must be happening to him—some danger he is trying to protect me from. But each night when I feel him, it is his feelings for someone else that dominate his emotions. And I can’t help but to wonder why my maker isn’t focused entirely on getting himself out of whatever shit he’s in.”
“And you are jealous,” Thalia stated flatly as she entered the living room of her “estate.” Despite the fact that she was a vampire queen, Thalia was the opposite of ostentatious. She was satisfied to live in a secluded cabin, which was heavily warded. Shifters and Weres patrolled the borders of her property, but they were stationed outside the wards. Pam had learned that all of the two-natured in Thalia’s employ were what one might call “lone wolves,” those who didn’t much care for the society of others, but whom were loyal to someone who deserved it. Chief among them was a Were named Mustapha Khan, whom Pam had known many years before as KeShawn Johnson. Eric had sent Mustapha in Thalia’s direction the decade before when he’d had a run-in with some corrupt vampires. Pam didn’t know the details, but she’d heard that Victor Madden was involved, and that vampire was pure bastard.
“I’m guessin’ that Miss Pam just wants to make sure Mister Eric doesn’t come to no harm,” Bubba said diplomatically.
Pam scoffed. “You’re both right,” she admitted. She knew that the only person who could influence Eric to feel as he did was Sookie Stackhouse, and Pam could admit that she was jealous of her to a certain extent. For so many years, Pam had felt her maker’s affection for only two beings: Godric and herself. But what he felt now—for Sookie—was light years beyond that.
“You still have your place with him,” Thalia said knowingly as she sat down next to Bubba and snuggled into his side. The sight of the warrior showing such affection for her mate still caught Pam off guard at times.
Bubba turned his head and kissed Thalia’s forehead, a smile of contentment washing over his face. He turned back to Pam. “Oh—is that all it is?” He grinned brightly. “Well, of course, your maker still wants you to be ’round, Miss Pam! That’s why he sent you here!” He shook his head as if Pam’s jealously was a silly notion. “Why—it’s not like you’re in love with Mister Eric—are you?”
Pam shook her head distastefully. “Not like that. I do not think I would like to be in love like that.”
Thalia snuggled into the side of her chosen king a little further. “The day may come,” she said.
Pam looked a little skeptical. “If it does, I might just have to stake myself.”
Bubba chuckled. “Oh, Miss Pam, I’m so glad Mister Eric sent you here for a while. You tell the funniest jokes I think I’ve ever done heard!”
Pam stifled the urge to roll her eyes. After all, Bubba was being sincere. And he did get a kick out of her sarcasm. She looked at Thalia. “Do you know anything about his plans?”
The queen shook her head. “Not Yet. I wait for word.”
Pam sighed and handed Bubba the nail file she’d been using to make sure her own manicure was perfect.
Bubba looked at her in confusion.
“To get the chips out,” Pam instructed, “so you don’t get any more cat hair stuck in your fingernails.”
“Why—thank you very kindly, Miss Pam!” Bubba said with a delighted smile.
“Are you certain your information is correct?” Russell asked.
“Yes. Absolutely,” Bartlett returned. “The Ancient Pythoness will be in Rhodes.”
Russell sat back in his chair—a self-satisfied look on his face. “Do you know her purpose for going?”
“No—but my guess is that the situation between Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico has something to do with it,” Bartlett reported.
Russell chuckled. “Attempted regicide will do that.” At first he’d been skeptical to hear that Dulcina, the Queen of Texas, and Mitchell, the king of New Mexico, had had a falling out. But—then—it became clear that Freyda of Oklahoma had put her hat in the ring for the New Mexico king, too. Rumor had it that Freyda had arranged for her rival to be assassinated the week before. However—unfortunately—the wooden bullet had hit one of Dulcina’s guards instead of the queen herself. Russell found that a shame—really. He figured that Freyda would swiftly become an ally to him once the winds of change were in the air. That bitch had no loyalty, but her self-preservation skills were excellent; thus, she would quickly align herself with whomever she thought was most powerful.
“It would have been useful to have the Queen of Texas out of the way,” Bartlett commented.
“Indeed,” Russell agreed. “Dulcina is beloved by her people—and she is the stronger for it, despite the fact that she isn’t particularly old. And—even more inconvenient—she is not easily manipulated. But we shall take care of her soon enough.”
Bartlett made a sound of agreement. “Yes. Her and any others that stand in your way, my liege.”
At Bartlett’s words, Russell did some quick planning in his head. It was a poorly-concealed secret that certain monarchs favored the Authority more than others. Dulcina was a strong supporter of it, as were Edwin and Agnes, the king and queen of California, Oregon, and Washington. It was also a poorly-concealed secret that the Ancient Pythoness was a supporter of the Authority, and she passed information along to its Guardian. That was why no one had the balls to go against Roman in any organized way. After all, when a future-teller was an ally to a ruling body, defeating that body was difficult to say the least. But, if the Ancient Pythoness could be done away with, then that would be a game-changer.
Hallow had long ago made Russell and his confederates talismans designed to ensure that their actions would be obscured from supernatural powers. Russell had commissioned that veryexpensiveproject for one reason only: so that he could fly under Pythia’s radar. Truth be told, he hated the bitch. She would disappear for centuries at a time—only popping up when she felt the need to remind vampires that she should be “revered.”
Russell had never revered the old bag. In his opinion, she was a fucking cheater! She had done nothing to earn the fear and respect she garnered, except tell her minions how to avoid certain future events she’d “seen.” Russell hated the very idea of someone being able to know the future. He hated—even more—the notion that his carefully laid plans could be destroyed by such a being. Russell didn’t like the thought of anyone fucking with his future! He fucking owned the future!
The ancient king was older than Pythia. And—because of the talismans—she wouldn’t know of his plans. And, once she was dead, the Authority would be easy to bring down.
“I think I will be going to Rhodes—after all.”
“I thought you might,” Bartlett said. “How is your project of finding the Northman coming?”
Russell scoffed. “Now that I have bigger fish to fry, I intend to put Northman on the back-burner for a while.” In truth, Russell was frustrated. A car smelling of Northman and an unknown fairy had been left in a parking garage in de Castro’s own goddamned casino! The unknown fairy had exited the fucking car, waved at the cameras, and then ‘popped’ away! How the Northman had managed to join forces with a fairy was beyond Russell. But the Viking seemed lucky in that way—first with the Stackhouse girl and now with someone who smelled infinity more delicious. Hell—Victor had apparently cum in his pants when he’d investigated the car—just from the scent the fairy had left behind!
But Northman and his delicious friend could wait. Russell had eternity to deal with them, after all.
“I believe that we should interpret the Ancient Pythoness’s appearance as a sign for us to move forward more quickly,” the ancient vampire said.
“I thought you might, my liege.”
“We will eliminate her, the Authority, and all the monarchs who might oppose us at Rhodes.”
“Just tell me what you wish me to do, my liege. My sword is yours.”
“You know, most women would be very angry at a man who yelled out another woman’s name during sex,” Hallow said with a wry smile.
Bill grunted and withdrew his cock from the witch’s soaked vagina. Now that she looked like herself again, he was much less excited to be inside of her. In fact, he felt a little disgusted with himself.
“Most women would be unable to use magic to look like another woman,” he returned.
Exhausted, Bill fell to the bed next to Hallow, who turned to her side to better regard her vampire lover. “So I take it you enjoyed the spell?”
He sighed as sorrow filled his eyes. “I did, but . . . .”
“The illusion never lasts,” he said with another sigh. “Your magic may be able to let me think you are my beloved Sookeh for a few minutes, but you’re not her.”
“Then why did you ask me to use the potion again?” Hallow asked curiously, even as she hid her amusement over Bill’s mispronunciation. Truth be told, he pronounced her name more like “holloh” than “Hallow.” But that just amused the witch all the more.
Because of an old potion that the old witch, Octavia, had shared with her—she was able to make herself appear to be the one Bill desired most.
At least until he orgasmed.
Hallow had used the potion with him three times so far, and the vampire seemed more desperate to repeat it with each “taste” he got of “Sookie.”
“I miss her,” Bill said in an agonized tone.
“Of course you do,” Hallow cooed with false sympathy. It wasn’t that she didn’t enjoy the sex with Compton. She did. In fact, she always made a point to get “friendly” with a vampire in any court she was in—given her insatiable sex drive. Weres no longer satisfied her desires, and humans were even more useless. She enjoyed Bill more than many of her other lovers because he was almost violent in his search for his own physical gratification. Luckily, that was just the kind of lover Hallow preferred.
The kind she needed.
And it didn’t hurt that he amused her to no end. He pretended to be a Southern gentleman, but he was far from it! And his obsession with the now-dead fairy hybrid was hilarious to the witch. She considered herself lucky that she’d found the illusion spell at the old witch’s New Orleans shop. Of course, such spells were useless to those who weren’t truly magical. But Hallow had more magic in her pinkie finger than most covens had altogether.
Thinking about the elderly witch, Hallow asked, “So—has Russell arranged things so that you can glamour Octavia Fant?”
Bill scoffed. The idea that he’d not been able to do it upon first meeting her pissed him off to no end. “Yes—finally. I should have just done it when we went into her shop.”
“Now, Bill, you could see the symbol that indicated she belonged to a demon just as well as I could. If you would have glamoured her, the demon would have been able to tell.”
“But Octavia is only a human.”
“She’s also a relatively skilled witch,” Hallow commented. “Nothing compared to me—but her little shop was,” she paused, “quaint.”
Bill rolled out of bed. “Well then—let’s go to her quaint little shop and get this over with. He glanced at the clock. We are to meet her and her demon husband at 9:30 p.m.”
Hallow pouted. “Why do I have to go?”
“Russell wants you there to ensure that the witch doesn’t use magic to avoid my glamour.”
Hallow scoffed. “She’s not that powerful.”
“Doesn’t matter. Russell wants you there, so you’ll be there,” Bill responded firmly.
Hallow sighed. “Fine. Let’s get this over with so that we can return and,” she licked her lips, “enjoy more time together.”
“No!” he said firmly. “Talbot wants me back in Jackson tonight.”
Hallow frowned. “Maybe I can return with you.”
Bill sighed. “You and I both know that wouldn’t be a good idea. Russell is not pleased that you have been unable to help locate Northman or his bitch of a progeny.”
Hallow shrugged. “That’s not my fault.”
“Regardless. Once Octavia has been glamoured to ensure that she knows nothing, Russell plans to order you to Vegas to follow up on the fairy scent there—since you are no longer of use to him here.”
Hallow frowned. “Your king thinks he can order me?” she said angrily.
Bill shot Hallow a look of concern. “It’s best not to cross him—you know.”
Hallow sighed. “Perhaps I could convince him that I need you with me. After all, you have some expertise regarding fairies—don’t you?”
Bill nodded and smiled back. “Yes. I do. And I would like the chance to investigate the scent in that car—to see if it resembles Sookeh.”
Hallow smiled mischievously. “Speaking of resembling Sookie, perhaps I could get more of the illusion potion while we’re at Octavia’s shop tonight.”
Bill’s expression showed his mixed feelings. On the one hand, he felt almost like Sookie was back with him when Hallow took the potion. On the other, he felt that much more desolate when its effects wore off.
As if reading his mind Hallow purred. “And this time, I’ll be sure to get more than before—so that I can be her for many nights to come.”
Bill’s fangs clicked into the place and he looked at Hallow lustfully.
“I thought we needed to go meet the witch,” Hallow purred.
“We do,” Bill said. “But first, I’m going to fuck you against that wall,” he added, pointing with both his finger and his cock.
A/N: Yep, Billy Boy’s quite the creep in this fic. I always feel dirty after writing him; he deserves Hallow, in my opinion. Just to be clear, the potion Hallow is using makes her look like Sookie, but not sound or smell like her. (That might be important information for later.) I hope that you enjoyed your glimpse into some of the other chess pieces moving on the board.