OCTOBER 29, 2009
Sookie fought a gasp as she entered the large lobby of the Pyramid of Gizeh hotel and looked toward the concierge desk. But her gasp wasn’t because of the grandness of the space, though it was beautiful.
She halted her progress immediately and—thankfully—the Weres with her did too. She slowly turned around. Obviously, something had changed in Russell’s entourage’s schedule that Rasul hadn’t been able to inform them about.
“Trouble,” she mouthed, giving one of the Weres a significant look.
Russell’s people weren’t supposed to have arrived until several hours later that day—after Eric and all of their other vampire allies were safely inside the light-tight suites in which Octavia and Amelia had already placed concealment spells.
As planned, Brady was at the front desk of the hotel—looking as charming as ever. And as cool.
But Debbie Pelt being at the desk arguing with him was not a part of the plan!
“Big trouble,” she mouthed more than whispered to the three Weres with her, even as she subtly motioned toward the desk, which was—thankfully—still thirty feet from where they stood. Luckily, the Were in charge, who Sookie knew from his head was named Henry, seemed to “get” immediately that the woman at the front desk was an unwelcome variable. He nodded and then rolled the coffin he’d been pushing off to the side. The other two Weres followed with the second coffin as Sookie went with them and pretended to be looking for something in her purse, all the while carefully keeping her back turned to Debbie.
Sookie tried to calm herself, telling herself that there was no reason for Debbie to recognize her now that her back was turned. Sookie was back to being a brunette and she was using one of her Fae gifts to conceal her scent. The Weres with her were not from Mississippi or Louisiana, so Debbie wouldn’t recognize them. And—at least for the moment—Eric’s coffin was well out of range of Debbie’s ability to smell him since he had on Octavia’s potion to cover his scent. However, if Debbie got close enough, the potion’s capabilities would be tested.
The Telepath put herself into Brady’s familiar head so that she could hear his conversation with Debbie. Her hearing was better than ever, given the fact that she’d had a good deal of Eric’s blood, but it still wasn’t quite good enough to pick up everything they were saying from across the large, crowded lobby.
“Miss Pelt,” Brady said congenially, “we were not aware that anyone from King Edgington’s party would be arriving before 8:00 p.m. tonight.”
Debbie scoffed. “The king has sent me—and a few others—to make sure that everything is up to snuff in advance of his arrival,” she responded in an unpleasant, haughty tone.
Through Brady’s eyes, Sookie could see that Debbie was dressed in expensive clothing—though she still managed to look cheap.
“Yes—you said that already,” Brady said evenly, “but that doesn’t change the fact that King Edgington’s rooms were not due to be prepared until at least 5:00 p.m. as per his day-person’s specifications. We are working—even now—to expedite their readiness. Perhaps I could escort you to the lounge where you could enjoy some refreshments as you wait—on the house, of course?”
Debbie growled. “No! I will oversee the preparations to my king’s rooms myself!”
“Debbie!” a sharply put together human woman said as she walked up to the counter. “What are you doing? I asked that you wait with the luggage as I arranged for our early arrival.”
Sookie tried to breathe normally as she moved her focus in order to listen to the thoughts of the human who’d joined Debbie at the counter. Jennifer Rigans, who Sookie quickly learned was Russell’s day-woman, had been instructed to come early in order to make sure Russell’s quarters were secure. Overall, she had instructions from Russell which matched Debbie’s; however, the two women’s thoughts were very different in nature. While Debbie’s were frenetic and full of aggression, Jennifer’s thoughts were calm and efficient.
“Jonathan?” the woman said to Brady, as she read the nametag that the Were was wearing.
“Yes,” Brady responded.
“Good afternoon. My name is Jennifer Rigans.”
“Of course, King Edgington’s day-person. I was just explaining to your associate that the king’s rooms were scheduled to be prepared by early this evening in anticipation of the arrival time we’d been told. Of course, as soon as I discovered that some of the king’s entourage had come early, I immediately arranged for our staff to reprioritize their duties. As you can imagine, there are many royal arrivals today and tomorrow. However, I believe that I can have Russell’s suite as well as the rest of the rooms for his entourage ready for your inspection within the hour.”
“Is there a problem here?” an attractive man asked as he joined Brady.
Slipping into his head, Sookie learned that he was Lance Johnston, the Were owner of the Pyramid of Gizeh hotel.
“Yeah,” Debbie said aggressively. “Your lackey fucked up our reservation!”
Lance looked at Brady for an explanation.
“Ms. Rigans and Ms. Pelt arrived early,” Brady explained professionally. “King Edgington’s party wasn’t slated to arrive until 5:00 p.m., so the rooms haven’t been prepared yet. I have re-tasked a team to get them ready as soon as possible.”
Lance’s thoughts told Sookie that he was pleased with Brady’s actions, as well as his job performance in general.
“And I was just about to tell him ‘thank you,'” Jennifer said evenly, though she was looking at Debbie like the Were was a misbehaving child.
“Russell made clear that I was to make sure the rooms were safe for him,” Debbie snarled.
“And so you will,” Jennifer said firmly. “However, we are arriving unexpectedly and must give the hotel staff sufficient time to make accommodations for the change in our itinerary.”
Sookie slipped back into Jennifer’s mind.
“Russell wanted for us to arrive unexpectedly,” Debbie seethed, “so that we could catch any of his potential enemies off-guard.”
Jennifer sighed. Sookie could tell from her thoughts that the woman did not care for Debbie Pelt in the least: in fact, the words “overstepping bitch” had been on the tip of Jennifer’s tongue several times during the last few minutes. However, Jennifer was clearly loyal to her master and good at her job, so she was determined to maintain her professional demeanor despite having to work with the unpleasant Were.
Sookie probed further into Jennifer’s mind as she’d been training to do with Leonie. She couldn’t read a mind like an open book yet, but she could explore thoughts below the surface level. As long as Jennifer was thinking about Russell and/or her work, Sookie could delve into her related memories.
According to Jennifer’s thoughts, Russell had sent her and several other Weres of his employ, as well as the witch, Hallow, to conduct a sweep of the entire hotel before the three-thousand-year-old king’s arrival that evening. Hallow, who was with the other Weres, was to place protective spells around Russell’s, Felipe de Castro’s, and Bartlett Crowe’s suites before their arrival. Quickly, Sookie texted Amelia in order to make sure that Octavia’s and her magic wouldn’t be detected by the Weres or the witch once they began their sweep of the hotel.
Moments later, she received a text back which told her not to worry.
“I should be allowed in Russell’s room now,” Debbie sulked.
Moving back to the Were-bitch’s head, Sookie could tell that Debbie was high—but already anxious for more V. In fact, no amount of V seemed to be enough for her now. Sookie almost felt sorry for her. Almost.
Obviously used to dealing with the demands of Supernaturals, Lance gave Brady a look of commiseration—which Debbie scoffed at.
“May I escort you and your party to the lounge so that you can have refreshments while you wait?” Lance asked Jennifer.
“Yes,” Jennifer said, “that would be lovely.”
“Text me as soon as the rooms are ready,” Lance said to Brady.
“Of course,” Brady responded.
Debbie stayed in place when Jennifer and the hotel owner began walking away from the counter. Thankfully, they weren’t walking in Sookie’s direction. Debbie growled at Brady, posturing as if she were ready to shift and fight him. Sookie could see Brady through Debbie’s eyes. He’d maintained his calm countenance, though Sookie knew he was likely fighting a smirk.
“Come, Debbie,” Jennifer ordered as if she knew she was speaking to a mutt.
The Were growled a little more, but—thankfully—followed Russell’s day-person and Lance.
Once they were in the lounge, Sookie turned around to face the desk. Brady gave her a little nod to tell her to approach. Back in Jennifer’s thoughts, Sookie could tell that Debbie could no longer see the lobby from where they were. Sookie “read” a text through Jennifer’s eyes, telling her that the other three Weres and Hallow were commencing their search; they would be starting in the underground parking garage, which had several levels. Sookie let out a sigh of relief, knowing she’d have time to get Eric to their room before they got to the lobby level.
As Sookie approached the front desk, she made sure that the coffin containing Eric was close to her. “Hello,” she said, trying to keep the anxiety from her tone, “I’m Janet Smith, Queen Thalia’s day-person. I am here to check in her and her consort.”
Brady nodded, and he quickly pushed a couple of buttons on his computer before grabbing a packet with the hotel suite’s room keys. “Of course, the suite for Queen Thalia and her consort is prepared. I will escort you up myself,” Brady said as he signaled another concierge to take his place.
Lance Johnston was an excellent owner/manager, and he ran his business in a way that was catered to Supernaturals. Thus, there were plenty of concierges ready to offer personal attention—especially given the fact that dozens of vampire monarchs and their entourages were being catered to. Luckily—Lance could also be glamoured. Duncan had done the job himself, glamouring Lance to hire Brady—aka Jonathan Jones—as a concierge. Hell—he likely would have hired him anyway, given the size of the summit and the need for good help; it went without saying that Brady’s resume was stellar—and completely verifiable, though also completely fake. He’d been on the job for two weeks, and between his mother and himself, they’d managed to get control of all of the hotel’s computerized systems. They’d already programed the facial recognition software in the hotel to not recognize either Eric or Sookie, but the group still walked with quickened paces toward the elevators. None of them wanted to take any chances of Sookie’s being recognized, especially since Russell’s people were already in the building.
As soon as the elevator doors shut, Sookie let out a small sigh of relief and put her hand on the coffin holding Eric. Brady squeezed her shoulder comfortingly before putting a keycard into a slot and pushing the button for the 22nd floor.
“So that it doesn’t stop,” he explained with a wink.
Sookie nodded gratefully and glanced around the spacious elevator. It easily accommodated her, Brady, three Were guards, and two large coffins. The second coffin contained both Thalia and Bubba. Sookie hadn’t yet met the couple, but she knew that Eric trusted Thalia, and Bubba—who was Elvis!—was an essential aspect of Eric’s plan.
Of course, Sookie was anxious to meet the King of Rock and Roll, but her anxiousness to be safely in the suite outweighed her anticipation as the elevator took them to the 22nd floor, the lowest floor that was vampire-safe. Russell would be on the 40th floor, the highest in the pyramid-shaped structure. That whole floor was one large suite; the 39th and 38th floors seemed to be filled with Russell’s friends and allies, including Felipe de Castro and Bartlett Crowe. And Brady had found out that a small army of Russell’s Weres would also be staying nearby—in an old warehouse that had been rented by William T. Compton.
The group exited the elevator quickly, but not suspiciously so. Still—they were in their suite only three minutes after they’d left the front desk. As the main door to the suite was closed, Sookie let out an even bigger sigh of relief.
“Debbie fucking Pelt! That was not funny,” she said, her voice ragged with fear that had been waiting to catch up with her.
“Sorry, Sook,” Brady apologized. “But Debbie walked in less than a minute before you did, and the vehicle she and Jennifer Rigans arrived in wasn’t one that we had flagged as Russell’s.”
“It’s okay,” Sookie said, calming herself. “Right?” she asked for confirmation.
“Yes—it is,” Brady assured. “But I’m going to get back down there to keep an eye on things.”
“Wait,” Sookie said, stopping him. “There are three other Weres and Hallow with Jennifer and Debbie. They are planning to do a sweep of the entire hotel.”
“I’ll contact our witches,” Brady said, opening his phone.
“I already did,” Sookie said.
“You are worrying me, Sookie,” Brady chuckled.
“You are starting to think like Eric.”
Sookie rolled her eyes. “The Weres and witch came in a silver sedan and are starting in the parking garage below the hotel,” she informed.
“Thanks. I’m have Mom sniff them out,” Brady said, winking at Sookie.
“Pam—they could recognize her scent if they got close enough to her location. She’s got the potion on, but if they got within ten feet of her . . . .”
Brady nodded. “We’ll be careful. I won’t let her be brought in until Debbie and Russell’s day-woman are in Russell’s suite and others are out of the way,” he assured before leaving the room.
Sookie breathed yet another sigh of relief.
“So—where should we put them?” one of the Weres asked.
Sookie looked at him and reached out her hand. “Thank you for helping us. I’m Sookie Northman—by the way. Sorry I didn’t do this before,” she shrugged somewhat apologetically, “too nervous.”
Of course, she hadn’t been too nervous to delve into their brains thoroughly before giving her name—which was the real reason why she’d held off on the introductions.
The Were smiled and shook her hand. “Henry Jiles.”
“Hello, Tray Dawson,” one of the other Weres nodded in her direction.
“Mustapha Khan,” the third one said with a little wave. “I’m chief of security for Queen Thalia.”
“And Tray and I will be you and your vampire’s guards while you’re here,” Henry said. “Eric the Northman?”
Sookie smirked. “You’ve heard of him?”
“Who hasn’t?” Tray said under his breath.
Sookie smiled at the Weres. She and Eric had been told about Henry and Tray by Brady, so she knew they were trustworthy. Plus, their thoughts had confirmed this. And Eric had apparently known Mustapha for years. In fact, he’d helped the wayward Were find his place with the Queen of Wyoming and the King of Rock-and-Roll after Mustapha had run into some trouble with the Shreveport pack.
“You can put Thalia and Elv—I mean Bubba—in the biggest room,” Sookie instructed. “And just put Eric in the other one with the ensuite bathroom.”
“Will do,” Henry said, getting to work.
Sookie took a moment to take in the suite. It was the definition of luxury. The floors were made of a very light—almost white—wood, and there were beige textured area rugs placed to delineate two separate seating areas—one of them with a fireplace and piano! There was a dining room with a long enough table to seat ten. There was also a kitchen—bigger than the one in her home in Bon Temps!
Most of the furnishings were light brown—though two of the chairs in one of the seating areas were dark orange in color. The chairs complemented a piece of modern art on one of the walls and a couple of throw pillows on a cream-colored couch. Dark ocean blue drapes added the only other color to the room. They were wide open and Sookie gasped at the view of the city from the specially treated windows.
Eric had told her that all of the windows on the vampire floors of the hotel had been made with a “new” kind of glass that allowed for some light to pass through—but kept out the rays that affected vampires. The effect was to make it seem as if it were dusk outside instead of noon.
The vampires were moved into the rooms quickly; despite the unexpected presence of Debbie Pelt, Sookie hoped that the other vampires in their “army” arrived just as safely as she and Eric had.
Just to be safe, she found some wood to knock on.
If all went according to plan, Duncan and Pam would be the next two to arrive and would be coming in a single coffin, even as Isabel and her brother Miguelito were traveling in another single coffin. They would all be with the Queen of Texas’s party, which was—conveniently enough—also staying on the 22nd floor. Right across the hall, in fact. Pam and Duncan would be brought to “Thalia’s” suite, and Pam would be staying in one of the five rooms there. Sookie wasn’t sure where Duncan was staying, but she figured that it was with Klymene somewhere.
Because of a spy in Roman’s ranks, Russell had learned that Duncan was Eric’s brother. And Duncan had been the target of several failed assassination attempts during the past weeks, but he’d laughed them off the last time Eric spoke to him about them. Between the information Rasul had been able to provide and the help he was getting from the Ancient Pythoness, Duncan had been able to thwart the threats against him. In fact, he seemed to be encouraging them in order to keep Russell and his minions “busy.”
Tray and Henry, who were the “captains” of Eric’s Were force, would be staying in the fourth bedroom of their suite. They would be rotating their sleep schedules so that one of them would be on duty at all times. Mustapha would have the fifth room of the large suite.
Sookie was somewhat nervous that they didn’t have more guards in the room, but—given the fact that Thalia wasn’t messed with—for a variety of reasons, including the fact that she kept Bubba, who was universally regarded, out of trouble—more guards would have seemed suspicious for her.
Sookie made herself relax a little. The wards put in place by Octavia and Amelia would do the job of concealing their presence—as long as they were in the suite. And that was their best defense against being found out by Russell or his people.
“Well—I’m going to go get some shut eye,” Tray said after sharing a quiet word with Henry.
“Would you mind helping me get Bubba and Thalia into bed first?” Mustapha asked. “Bubba gets a little freaked out if he wakes up in a coffin.”
“Sure,” Tray agreed, following the other Were into Thalia and Bubba’s room.
Sookie sat down heavily onto one of the orange chairs. It was even more comfortable than it had looked.
“It is okay,” Henry assured. “No one knows you’re here.” He went over to the kitchen and took two bottles of water out of the refrigerator. Then he sat on the couch opposite Sookie after handing her one of the waters.
“Thank you,” Sookie smiled. “Thank you—so much—for helping us.”
Given her practice and the increased power of her telepathy because of her and Eric’s bonds, she was able to read the Were’s thoughts like a human’s. Henry was helping them because Russell’s Weres had once decimated the pack that his father had led. Henry was an honorable man, a good leader, and a lethal Were—a good person to have on their side.
Henry nodded. “You’re welcome. In truth, I’m glad to be able to right some past wrongs.”
Sookie nodded, acknowledging the Were’s motivation. “And the others with you? They are all loyal? You only brought the ones from the list you got from Klymene?” she asked, though she felt a little bad about it. Henry had no idea she was a telepath, but she and Eric both thought it was essential that they confirm that Henry had followed Klymene’s instructions to the letter.
“Yes,” Henry answered without hesitation.
Sookie heard only honesty from his thoughts as his mind went through the Weres who had come with him. Because of Jennifer Rigans’s thoughts, Sookie now knew that Russell’s Were force was larger than Henry’s; she just hoped that the Werebears on their side would make up for the difference. Sookie was still monitoring the people that Henry was thinking about when two familiar faces popped into his head.
“Alcide! Tara!” Sookie exclaimed.