When Bill’s eyes popped open, they were met by the fine silk of his coffin lid. Talbot always insisted upon the best.
Bill used his sense of smell to confirm that he was alone in his room and then unlocked his coffin. Sitting up, he took in the opulence of his accommodations. The suite on the top floor of the Pyramid of Gizeh hotel in Rhodes was a luxury few could afford—even among vampires. There were only three bedrooms in the top-floor suite of the pyramid-shaped hotel, and Bill had been granted one of them, though his was certain to be the least grand of them.
Still, the room was lush. The bed was fitted with crimson and gold linens fit for a king. There was a padded headboard that would certainly come in handy if he was able to “entertain” in the room. And there was a small sitting area. Of course, he also had his own private bathroom.
His suitcases were placed neatly on a luggage rack near the windows, which were dressed with expensive-looking drapes. He marveled for a moment at the glass that was, even then, protecting him from the last wispy rays of the sun. He’d heard that some vampires forced themselves to stay awake past the dawn just so that they could enjoy the ambient sunlight allowed in by the special windows of the hotel. Though he was embracing his vampire nature more and more each night, Bill could now understand why they’d suffer the bleeds. Even seeing the muted twilight was something to behold!
Bill smiled as he looked around his room once more. In the finest room in the suite were Russell and Talbot—of course. Sophie-Anne and, by extension, Hadley were in the second finest room. Bill couldn’t complain, however. He’d been awarded a very high honor indeed when Russell had asked him to stay in his luxurious suite with him.
Knowing that the other—older—vampires would already be up, Bill quickly prepared himself for the night, showering and then dressing in a perfectly-tailored navy blue suit.
Only the best.
In addition to attending the opening reception, Bill was to begin spreading rumors about the database he was working on. A prototype was already available, and Russell had decided that a little “teaser” would be sold to any vampire he deemed worthy. It was Bill’s job to drum up interest—so that the price charged could be exorbitant.
Russell was—Bill had quickly learned—a fucking genius when it came to money-making. Plus, he was a visionary. The same skills that made Bill an excellent glamourer also made him very good at getting information from vampires, especially the younger ones. And Russell had seen the potential in Bill’s database plan immediately, though Sophie-Anne had needed to be cajoled to see its worth.
Bill shrugged. Sophie-Anne might as well be Talbot’s pet for all the use she now served, but as long as Talbot found her amusing, Russell humored her. Thus, Bill would do the same.
Bill used his phone to check the night’s itinerary. Other than the opening reception, there was little occurring that night—only a few of the more boring conferences about vampire-human relations, topics that Russell wasn’t interested in.
The next night would carry with it some intrigue, however. The queens of Texas and Oklahoma were in a dispute over the King of New Mexico, and there was to be a trial to decide who got him.
Or whom he got—more like.
Bill smiled. Even if Talbot hadn’t been so excited about all the gossip, Bill would have been looking forward to the drama that would play out the next night.
As soon as Bill left his room to join the others in the suite’s opulent living room, Talbot screeched out, “William! You must hear the news!”
Talbot was dressed in a beautiful deep gray, three-piece suit with a red silk ascot.
Sophie-Anne, who was still dressed in only a robe, looked just as excited as Talbot did. A nude Hadley was sitting at her mistress’s feet, looking very pale—probably because Sophie-Anne rarely went a night without feeding from her. In addition—at least once a week—Talbot took a significant amount of blood from her and used it to create some kind of designer blood dish.
The sorbet the week before had been especially delicious.
Sophie-Anne was petting her pet’s hair. In truth, Hadley was looking the worse for wear these days, and Bill wondered how long she would last. Long gone was the voluptuous pink-cheeked girl with the big, almost innocent blue eyes. In her place was a human who’d accepted her role in the food chain.
Bill approved, though he felt a pang that Sookie might have suffered a similar fate—if she’d not been murdered by Northman. No—Bill thought to himself—Sookie was far worthier and more valuable than Hadley. Indeed, Russell would have kept his promise and allowed Bill to “keep” Sookie. And there would have been more control demonstrated in how much of her blood was taken! He would have made sure of that! He would never have allowed her to become as worn down as Hadley. He would never have allowed her to be displayed so vulgarly! And, though Bill would have encouraged Sookie to show deference to Russell, he wouldn’t have made her sit on her knees before him. No—he would have allowed her to sit by his side. He imagined her in one of her prim sundresses, every hair in place as she did her work for their king.
Talbot frowned. “What’s wrong, William?”
“Nothing,” Bill returned, schooling his features and pushing his fantasies about Sookie to the side. He found himself hoping that Hallow had brought some of her “illusion” potion with her.
“Well—then,” Talbot said, patting the place on the couch next to him, “come so that I can tell you the gossip.”
“Must we hear it again?” Russell drawled as he came out of the room he was sharing with his lover. Dressed in a jet black suit with a black and gray vest and a deep blue ascot, he was the epitome of kingly. In fact, he looked so powerful and rich that Bill’s fangs almost dropped.
Russell winked at him.
“William hasn’t heard,” Talbot pouted, even as Russell winked at Bill a second time. If Bill could have blushed, he would have.
It was clear that Russell was just teasing his consort. “Then by all means, you’d better tell him, darling,” the king said seriously.
“Well,” Talbot said eagerly, “it seems that King Mitchell has sent a petition to the Ancient Pythoness herself!”
“The old hag,” Russell intoned.
Talbot shot him a look to which Russell put up his hands in false surrender.
“Sorry, darling,” the king smiled. “I will not interrupt again.”
Talbot rolled his eyes. “Anyway, King Mitchell wants the whole situation to be decided by a bidding war over him. A public bidding war! Imagine that!”
“You could be the auctioneer, dear,” Russell intoned.
“Do you think they’d let me?” Talbot asked excitedly.
Russell shrugged. “Within a few days, you can do anything you wish, my love.”
“But—sadly—the trial is to be tomorrow,” Russell reminded, causing Talbot’s smile to fade.
“Didn’t King Mitchell sign an agreement to pledge with Texas?” Bill asked.
“No—it was just a verbal agreement,” Sophie-Anne piped in, much to the chagrin of the main storyteller. “Apparently, anything they had on paper has been lost,” she added somewhat evilly.
After shushing Sophie-Anne with a gesture, Talbot went on. “Usually, a verbal agreement would be enough, but King Mitchell is now saying that he told Dulcina only that he was almost certain about their match. Regardless—it’s his word against hers. Clearly, he prefers blonde to brunette,” he grinned. “At least this month.”
“Do you think that the Authority will accept his plan?” Bill asked.
“Who knows what the new Magister will do,” Talbot said with a shrug.
“I hope that they have to bid for him,” Sophie-Anne excitedly. “Seeing Freyda and Dulcina in that situation—being humiliated like that—would be marvelous!” she clapped gleefully before returning to her petting of Hadley’s hair.
“Agreed!” Talbot chimed.
“But wouldn’t one of them withdraw her claim in order to avoid the scandal?” Bill asked.
“Oh no!” Talbot exclaimed. “They hate each other too much for that!”
“So true,” Sophie-Anne added with a smirk. “Neither will give up because neither would want the other to win. And New Mexico is actually a pretty rich state.”
“And about to get richer after Mitchell earns the dowry from the queen that wins him!” Talbot laughed.
“More importantly, it is also an important political piece,” Russell remarked, joining the conversation now that the frivolous gossip was out of the way.
“How so?” Bill asked.
“Even if she survives the summit, Dulcina will be surrounded by potential threats if Mitchell aligns with Freyda,” Talbot responded.
“There’s Louisiana and Mississippi to one side,” Sophie-Anne said.
“And Felipe and Samson are our allies in Nevada and Arizona,” Russell added.
“What of Oklahoma?” Bill asked.
“I will be speaking with her later tonight,” Russell smiled. “I believe that she is like-minded enough to join our cause. Plus, we can offer her money—to help her to finance her bidding for King Mitchell.”
“What of the vampire queen of Mexico?” Bill asked.
“Zulma won’t be a problem,” Russell said. “Her allegiance can be easily bought.”
“What if Dulcina wins the bidding though? Or what if the Magister won’t go along with it?” Bill asked.
“It hardly matters. Either way, Dulcina will have to spend a lot of money to secure Mitchell, and I think that he can be turned to our side regardless. In fact, he might ultimately prefer it if Texas wins. He could get Dulcina’s money and she’d be weakened in the process. Then he could help us to eliminate her. After that, he could align with Freyda anyway, getting another fortune from her.”
“So you think he will work with us?” Bill asked.
Russell shrugged. “King Mitchell is vain and brash. His type is easy enough to deal with. But—given the fact that he’s a good fighter—it would be good to have him on our side. We will have to see.”
“I hope he does join us,” Talbot said dreamily. “He’s quite the handsome devil.”
Russell chuckled. “That’s my Talbot,” he said, bending down to kiss his lover on the cheek. “Always thinking with your cock.”
“What else is there to think with, darling?” the consort coyly replied.
Sophie-Anne rose. “Come, Hadley, let’s get ready for tonight’s reception.”
“I’ll help,” Talbot enthused, jumping to his feet. “Sophie, darling, let’s make sure that you put both Oklahoma and Texas to shame!”
As soon as they were out of the room, Russell turned to Bill. “Felipe and Bart have contacted me already, but I want you to make sure that all of their people are in place. Also, make contact with Alabama, Georgia, and Ms. Flower, and explain what I want their roles to be. I’m sure that they will be receptive, but tell them that I will happily give them an audience later if they have questions. When we go after the members of the Authority and the Ancient Pythoness, we will need them all, especially if we are to lure the other kings and queens at the summit to our side following the melee.”
“And the ones who cannot be lured?”
“We’ll kill them too,” Russell returned sinisterly.
Bill smiled at his master and went to leave the room, pleased that he was so well-trusted by Russell. In addition, he looked forward to demonstrating his importance to the two monarchs that Russell had asked him to check in with: Johnathan, the King of Alabama and Lilah, the Queen of Georgia. Plus, he would be meeting with Jade Flower, who would be killing and replacing the King of Arkansas.
Bill smiled even wider. It seemed as if all of Russell’s plans were coming together perfectly, and he was honored to be at the center of those plans.
Eric was pacing so feverishly that Sookie felt like he truly might wear a hole in the carpet, which was a shame since it was so nice. Still, she let her husband do as he needed to do as she watched him.
“I don’t like this,” he snarled.
“I know,” she said softly. “But Leonie will be with me.”
He turned to look at her and then used vampire speed to take her into his arms.
She didn’t flinch. She was used to it by now; plus, their bonds told her how nervous he was—how much he needed to touch her. To hold her.
She needed it too.
“I’ve become useless when you aren’t by my side,” he confessed.
She ran her hand down his chest. “You should see me in the daytime when you’re asleep. I’m a wreck,” she smirked.
“You’re lying,” he said with a little smirk of his own.
“Yeah,” she smiled. “And so are you. You’re anything but useless, Eric. And you know it.”
“I don’t like the thought of her telling you things without me there,” he said.
She smiled. “Now that—I believe. But you and I both know that I cannot deny a summons from the Ancient Pythoness.”
“I know,” he said with a pout.
“Plus, you are going to be busy,” she reminded.
“Monitoring the video feed,” he said with a sigh.
“Promise me that you will be careful,” he implored. “Promise me that you will come back to me.”
“What’ll I get when I do?” she asked coyly, though they both knew that her flirtatiousness was laced with trepidation.
“This,” he answered as he leaned down to kiss her breath away. “And more,” he added as she gasped in the wake of his kiss.
“I’ll hold you to that,” she panted and smiled up at him.
He kissed her one more time—though barely touching her lips this time—and then he rested his forehead to hers.
The love between them flowed between their bonds, and no words were needed. In the days following their pledging, those bonds had flourished. And—though there was no telepathic connection between them—the two didn’t need it. Their souls seemed to speak to each other in feelings so pure that they made words superfluous.
Still, Eric spoke some. “Be careful, min kära.”
“Have fun with Pam,” she returned.
“That is not the answer I was looking for,” he sighed.
“I’ll be as careful as I can be,” she promised.
“That’s not the answer I was looking for either,” he returned.
She leaned up and kissed him lightly on the lips, asking for his trust—his faith—through the bond.
The vampire—so used to being in control of everything—didn’t hesitate as he gave his wife exactly what she was looking for.
Of course she had his trust.
And she was the author of his faith.
A/N: Hello all! I hope you had a good week! Thanks to everyone who is still reading this series. And a special thanks to everyone who comments on it.
Speaking of appreciate-I want to thank everyone who voted for me in the Multi-fandom Awards. I’m very proud to report that the first story in this trilogy, Uninvited, won 2nd place in the Favorite True Blood Fanfic category! Again, many thanks to everyone who has supported this series.
Click HERE to see all the winners!