Leonie had traveled with Sookie to the warehouse for one reason and one reason only: so that she could teleport Sookie and herself back to the hotel—and into the safety of Octavia’s wards—in a mere second.
Though Sookie had become better at teleportation, she was no expert by any means, and she was not confident in traveling very far. Plus, teleporting invariably taxed her energy, and Sookie would need all that she could get that night.
Brady, who was “working” the evening shift as concierge at the hotel, would be returning to the hotel with Henry once they’d prepped Henry’s pack.
As soon as Leonie and Sookie were back in the hotel suite, they both breathed a sigh of relief. The trip to see Tara and Alcide had been a calculated risk, but Sookie didn’t regret her choice to take that risk. Being with Eric had helped her to learn when to trust her instincts—and when to question her impulses. And she’d also learned to cover her bases so that her instincts wouldn’t lead her or the ones she loved into unnecessary trouble.
In the living room of the suite, Maggie, Brady’s mother, was sitting with Tray; they were having coffee. Sookie looked at their cups longingly.
Maggie chuckled, her rich voice vibrating with amusement. “There’s more coffee in the kitchen, hon.”
Sookie had met Maggie two days before, and the Were reminded her a little of Gran, though Maggie was younger than Gran had been—or seemed to be younger. In truth, Were age still mystified Sookie a bit, though she did know that Weres tended to stay healthy and live longer than humans. Regardless, Sookie hadn’t asked Maggie how old she was; after all, one didn’t ask such things of a lady.
As she’d been masquerading as a maid in the hotel, Maggie had managed to install several surveillance devices that piggy-backed off of the hotel’s own system. She also had supplemented that system, filling in blank spots that allowed them to fully surveil Russell’s movements—and the movements of his allies—once he left his suite. Unfortunately, monitoring him in that suite was impossible. In addition, when the time was right, Maggie and Brady would be able to take over the entire hotel computer system.
“So—anything happen while we were gone?” Sookie asked as she sat down in one of the room’s comfortable chairs.
“Nothing unexpected,” Maggie responded as she scrolled through some screens on one of her laptops.
“And Russell’s Weres?” Sookie asked.
“Most of them are still at the motel they’re occupying,” Tray indicated. “We heard Russell’s Alpha say that he’d be meeting with a few of their people in the lobby—to give them instructions—in about an hour. In addition to him, we’ve seen about six other Weres guarding Russell’s suite.”
Mustapha walked into the room and headed straight for the coffee. “It’s a shame we can’t just go in there and stake Russell during the daytime,” he said coolly.
“Damned right!” Sookie agreed.
Maggie chuckled at Sookie. “Blood-thirsty. I bet the Viking loves that about you.”
“And that,” Maggie added, gesturing toward Sookie’s visible burst of embarrassment.
The blonde rolled her eyes but chuckled along with Maggie and Leonie, who seemed delighted with the mother of her current lover.
“So?” Sookie inquired, returning to the serious subject at hand, though the levity of the group was helping her to keep her stress levels down.
Tray quickly caught on that she wanted to get back on topic. “So—because of Maggie’s skillfulness, we have Russell’s Weres under surveillance at intermittent points between their motel and here, and they won’t be able to slip through unseen. We’ll wait to see where they position themselves tonight and then move our people in right behind them. Chances are, they’ll try to use more than one service entrance in order to breech the building.”
“Once things get going, Brady, Tray, and the Werebears will deal with Russell’s Alpha and the others already in the hotel. And—of course—I intend to kick a little ass too,” Maggie grinned.
“Why wait to learn where Russell’s Weres will try to enter?” Sookie asked. “If Russell’s Alpha is meeting with some of his people, then I should be close so that I can listen in.”
Maggie, Tray, and Mustapha shared a look.
“We thought of that,” Maggie said honestly, “but the Alpha spoke of the meeting outside of Russell’s suite, so we were able to overhear his phone call. Debbie Pelt is insisting on going to the meeting with the Alpha. And we don’t want to risk her seeing you.”
“Even better,” Sookie said with a smile. “Just get me as close as possible to the lobby—maybe directly above it on the second floor? Then I can lock onto Debbie’s mind since I’ll recognize it. I won’t even need to be close.”
As Maggie started doing something on her computer, Tray spoke up with concern. “I still don’t like the thought of you out of the suite for too long.” He looked at Leonie. “You’re a telepath—right? Could you listen in on them?”
“I must be careful to conceal myself too,” the fairy responded. “My appearance is known to our enemies because I was seen by de Castro’s cameras in Las Vegas when I took Eric and Sookie’s vehicle to Felipe’s casino’s parking garage. I showed myself so that no one would suspect that Sookie was still alive—that she was the fairy who was helping Eric. Plus, I believe that a Were would feel it if I were trying to read his thoughts. My telepathy is different from Sookie’s in that way.”
“What’s that?” Mustapha asked, touching his forehead.
“Me. See?” Leonie said.
Tray’s expression showed his disappointment and his concern for Sookie as he looked back at her.
“How close do you need to be in order to read them accurately? Could you do it from here?” Mustapha asked Sookie.
“There are so many people between here and the lobby that I would likely miss them or, at least, lose some of their thoughts,” Sookie replied frankly.
Just then, Henry and Brady came into the room. After they were caught up on the situation, both of them agreed that Sookie’s plan to listen from the floor right above the lobby was a good one, and Maggie quickly set up the cameras in the areas where Sookie would be walking so that the images would loop. And, of course, Sookie’s face wouldn’t register with the hotel’s recognition software even if she were seen.
Having set up the video feeds, Maggie went to her cart and pulled out a maid’s uniform like the one she wore.
All eyes moved to Maggie.
“What?” the older Werewolf asked. “Always be prepared for every contingency.” She moved over to her son and popped him lightly on the cheek. “I taught you that.”
She handed the uniform to Sookie and gestured toward her cart. “Sookie and I will go down to the second floor. Several rooms are empty and ready for cleaning. Via computer, I’ve just assigned myself to that task. Sookie can listen from whichever of the empties works best for her, and I’ll guard her.”
“Ah, Mom, you’re the best,” Brady grinned as he gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.
She brushed him off. “I know I am.”
Sookie giggled at the mother-son interaction in front of her. And she let herself—for just a moment—wish that she could have had something similar with her own mother. But then she tried to brush that regret aside. Gran had been wonderful. Certainly, their relationship had been different from the one she might have shared with her mother—in a perfect world, that is. Gran had come from a generation that believed in propriety and manners—not that there was anything wrong with that. But Sookie had always felt bad—for lack of a better word—that she couldn’t fulfill her grandmother’s very traditional wishes for her life: marrying, having babies, and taking care of her own home.
“I’ll just go change. I’ll be right back,” Sookie said with a forced smile—one she’d rarely used since her time at Merlotte’s. Having her shields up, she didn’t realize that Leonie was following her until she almost shut the door on her.
“Um—did you need the bathroom?” Sookie asked. She still wasn’t sure if fairies went to the bathroom like humans did, but Leonie ate more than any other person Sookie had ever met. She couldn’t help but to giggle a little as she pondered whether fairies had magic colons of some kind.
Before she could get too wrapped up in her contemplations, however, Leonie had her wrapped up in a warm hug.
“Huh?” Sookie asked with a laugh as she hugged the fairy back.
“You looked sad in there—for a moment—and then you smiled in a way that didn’t include your eyes,” Leonie explained, letting Sookie go. “I am doing my best to adhere to your wishes that I don’t try to check into your mind. But I can give you a hug—when it looks like you need one. That is not against the rules—is it?”
Sookie felt her eyes warming with quickly-brought-on tears. “No,” she whispered, as she pulled Leonie back into an embrace.
“Thanks,” Sookie said after a few moments.
Leonie softly stroked Sookie’s hair. “I am not your mother—or even your grandmother or great-grandmother—though I think of myself as your kin. I suppose I always have—ever since Finn told Niall and me about Adele and his human family.” She sighed, but then chuckled a little. “And, of course, it is best that I’m not your family by blood—since it turns out that Eric is actually my kin by blood. Though in fairy culture, it is still common for cousins and other distant kin to marry, it is out of fashion in human culture—I believe.”
“Yes,” Sookie agreed.
Leonie sighed. “Sookie, we may all die tonight. And I just want you to know that meeting you—getting to know you . . . .” She paused for a moment, clearly emotional. “Well, as you know, my own daughter, Magallen, died long ago. And, with the Claudes, I’m a grandmother—not that they are allowed to call me such—but my behavior toward them reflects that. You see—I never wanted to try to replace their mother, so I kept that line very clear. But—with you—well . . . .” Again the fairy paused. “Of course, I don’t want to replace your mother or your grandmother either, but you feel very much like a daughter to me, and I care for you deeply, Sookie. And I am proud of you as a mother would be proud of a child. No matter what is to come, I wanted you to know that.”
With each of Leonie’s words, more and more tears fell from Sookie’s eyes. “Thank you,” she said after a few moments of trying to compose herself. “Thank you—Mother.”
Leonie hugged Sookie so tightly that the hybrid grunted, but she didn’t hold back either.
Finally, the fairy broke the hug and smiled at Sookie. She spoke quietly, as if telling a secret. “You have trained hard, Dearest. But there is much more to you than your powers and your magic. There is your goodness and your faith. Without them, you would not have ever offered your light to the Viking.”
“He is good too,” Sookie whispered.
“Yes. And it was his faith that accepted your light. I wish—now—that I had defied Niall and been a part of your life long before I was. I hope that—after tonight—I will remain a part of it for a long time to come.”
“Me too,” Sookie said, sniffling.
“You will do well tonight,” Leonie said confidently. “And we will succeed.”
“I hope so,” Sookie responded quietly.
“Hope is more powerful than any sword or blast of energy. Remember that if the battle seems lost.”
Sookie nodded as Leonie leaned in to kiss Sookie’s forehead.
“You should get ready so that you can listen to Russell’s Weres,” Leonie said. “The Werewolves will protect you. I must go collect Claude now; he’d be very angry if he missed the fight.”
Sookie reached out and hugged Leonie once more—quickly and tightly. “See you soon, Mother,” she whispered.
It was Leonie who brushed away tears as she popped out of the room.
“V! Russell’s V!” Debbie thought, knowing that she’d be getting some that night, likely directly from the vein. Oh—her so-called pack-master judged her for her cravings. Debbie was sure of that. But she didn’t give a fuck! As long as Russell wanted to keep her around, she’d be around. And as long as he fed her his blood, she would be loyal.
Even as Debbie exited the elevator with Dane, however, she felt the Alpha’s disapproval. In another life, she might have tried to seduce him, but she was done pursuing men. Her heart was too broken. After that bitch—Sookie Stackhouse—had caused her Coot to die at the hands of her former lover, Alcide, Debbie just didn’t see the point of love.
Now—lust. That was another thing altogether.
She felt herself getting a little wet at the thought of Alcide. Alcide! Despite all of his betrayals in the past, he was a Were she could go for fucking right about then! She shook herself from that thought. Alcide was long gone—all because of Sookie Stackhouse.
As always, Debbie regretted that it hadn’t been her claws and fangs to be the cause of that bitch’s painful demise. However, she was comforted somewhat, knowing that she’d been killed—likely drained—by a vampire.
“Why Russell wanted you here, I’ll never know,” Dane muttered as he led them to a secluded corner of the lounge.
“You should be nice to me,” Debbie purred. “Russell wants me to help him replenish the pack with strong children once we get our new blood,” she reported.
Dane cringed as she ran a finger across his cheek. “Maybe he’ll even want me to have your little whelp.”
Debbie enjoyed the Alpha’s discomfort and replayed her movement, causing Dane to slap her hand away.
“Never. Gonna. Happen,” he snarled.
“Oh—you’ll do whatever Russell wants, and you know it,” Debbie grinned.
He frowned, but did not answer as they were joined by another Were,
Debbie licked her lips at the sight of him.
“Dillon Roth?” Dane asked.
The Were nodded and sat down.
Debbie studied him. She couldn’t remember seeing a more beautiful male specimen—or one better suited to her tastes. Even though he had a shirt on, she could sense that his muscles had muscles, though she hoped to taste one muscle in particular. She could see tattoos peeking out of his sleeves and his collar. Yes—it was as if he’d been specially ordered just for her.
How fucking kind of Russell!
Debbie licked her lips again, but managed to focus on the words being exchanged between Dillon and Dane. Dillon was the leader of a group of lone wolves—mostly men—who made the Hell’s Angels look like a church choir. These were the wolves that Russell wanted to add to his pack—the ones that were to offer the group fresh blood.
Hell—if they all looked like Dillon, Debbie wouldn’t mind having whelps with them all!
For security’s sake, very few knew about them—with Debbie being one of the few. They were going to be posing as a bomb squad, which would be entering the hotel that evening to follow-up on a vague national announcement by the Fellowship of the Sun. The announcement would raise the threat levels at vamp-friendly establishments. Of course, the Fellowship announcement had actually been orchestrated by one of Russell’s people, who glamoured just the right idiots to do his bidding. But the situation would allow Russell to move one of his insurance policies into place.
Debbie just hoped that she’d get to sample the “coverage” before the night was over.
A/N: Hello! I hope that you all enjoyed this little transitional chapter. I hope that it served to show that Sookie is still quite “quick” to want to help, but she is a lot wiser about going about the information gathering. Meanwhile, we see that Russell has even more Weres as allies that we had thought.