PRESENT DAY (THE NIGHT OF THE BATTLE)
Eric Northman was very aware that—when his eyes opened—he might be “waking up” to his last night in the earthly plain.
“But what a sight to awaken to,” he whispered as he took in his beloved, nestled half on him and half next to him. The vampire couldn’t help but to be grateful for the fact that his mate wasn’t freaked out by the fact that he “died” during the day.
He stretched out his senses. Being in a hotel, there were a lot of scents and sounds, but in the immediate area, he sensed only the people that were supposed to be in the suite: the Weres, Henry, Mustapha, and Tray; the vampires, Pam, Thalia, and Bubba. He felt the magic of the witches, Octavia and Amelia, encasing the suite they all occupied.
“Safe,” he sighed out the word. He closed his eyes. “For now.”
Sookie’s breathing was even and deep, the breath she always displayed when she was in complete rest. Eric thanked the gods for it. Soon, they would face battle, and he was grateful that his mate had found her well-earned sleep.
“Vampires have it easy,” he said, whispering a kiss against her brow. “We have no worries when it comes falling asleep.”
In his supple mind, the Viking went over the plan for the night. He’d made sure that all of those in his group knew their assignments. But, of course, the battle itself would invariably prove chaotic; thus, Eric had made sure that everyone on his side would be wearing a particular pin—the symbol of the “New” Authority—before they entered the fray. This was essential in avoiding “friendly fire.”
And a nod to Roman. Best to keep him happy.
Of course, to keep their enemies from identifying the symbol, no one would be putting on the pins until right before the fight.
Eric closed his eyes and let the battle unfold before his eyes. He envisioned fights between various individuals. He paused the “film” in his head and made alterations about how to place some of his people. Then he advanced the vision again, letting it run for several minutes, before taking it back and make slight changes again.
Sun Tzu had said that “victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” Thus, Eric played out various scenarios that would offer his allies the best chance at victory, and then he envisioned his and Sookie’s confrontation with Russell. He and Sookie had been practicing fighting together, choreographing battle movements that would make their bodies one machine—a machine without cogs. Their bonds allowed them to anticipate each other’s movements with precision—almost precognition. However, Eric knew that muscle memory would be essential to allowing them to move that much faster. They’d even practiced with their Masquerade costumes on; Sookie had called them dress rehearsals.
The vampire couldn’t help but to smile as Sookie moved against his body, snuggling into him.
“You’re awake,” she said sleepily.
“Yes,” he replied needlessly.
She looked up into his eyes, brown meeting blue—the sand meeting the sea.
Eric and Sookie were both silent for several minutes. Sundown would come soon, and not long after that, there would be preparations to make and costumes to don.
But before that, there was a need beyond all else—a need the likes of which neither of them had ever felt before.
It was sexual.
It was emotional.
It was primordial.
It was about strengthening.
It was about hope.
It was about love.
It was a compulsion.
It was a goodbye.
It was a wish that the goodbye would not be needed.
Mirroring each other’s actions, they both leaned in for a kiss at the same time. Their mouths quickly turned hungry as their tongues joined their lips. Their bodies pressed together, flesh to flesh—as many parts touching as possible.
The kiss lasted as long as Sookie’s oxygen levels would allow, and then he trailed kisses over her cheeks, then chin, then neck—anywhere he could reach without removing any of his body from hers. He was on top of her, covering her with his full body, though she didn’t feel his weight.
She felt only his need to protect. And—in those moments—she felt protected.
She responded to his kisses by moving to meet them before finding places to kiss of her own.
As one, they moved so that his cock was above her entrance. Instinctively, she moved her legs to wrap around his strong thighs, and she raised her pelvis to meet his member as he eased into her body.
A shared sigh of contentment—of pleasure—was the only sound in the room as he set a slow pace. He moved his hands—both to find hers to hold and to make sure that his weight didn’t become too much for her. Her fingers were soon threaded together with his.
She smiled up as him as he paused his movements. He smiled back—that beautiful soft smile she’d only ever seen from him when they were alone. It was a smile that made her feel as if the universe itself were smiling down upon her. His lips were still upturned as he moved to kiss her and then recommenced his slow, deep thrusts into her welcoming body.
Because of the urgings of their bonds, their bodies had become masters in the art of love, having learned just how to move in order to bring each other the most pleasure. She felt his pleasure—and felt what she could do to bring him more. In turn, he felt hers and made it his mission to bring her more. Fed by their bonds and the melody of their bodies joining, they were both brought to long releases. Through them, their fingers stayed locked together, adding inexplicably to the intimacy of the moment.
As vibrantly blue as his eyes, her light passed through her palms and into his without her consciously sending it into him. His own gold-colored light greeted hers and strengthened it; his body absorbed her magic and then sent his own rejuvenating strength into her.
Only after her quivering had ended did Eric break their kiss and the lock of their hands. He moved so that he lay behind her, spooning her much smaller body with his own.
Eric wasted no in biting one of the palms that had just been pressed against hers. She took his offered blood happily even as he gently slipped his fangs into the curve of her neck.
Matching moans filled the room as Eric moved his lower body so that he could slip his member into his mate’s body again. Their new position made her feel impossibly more tight—and warmer—to him, while he felt even bigger inside of her—filling her in a way that made her body sing.
She licked his small wound after it closed and groaned as she felt him doing the same so that the fang marks in her neck were healed. As she freed his hand, he moved it down to her clit in order to provide her with some extra pleasure. Immediately, she turned her head so that their lips could meet.
His trusts became faster, harder—as she lifted one of her legs to settle over one of his. Soon, his fingers stimulating her clit and his cock brushing against her g-spot sent her over the edge; it didn’t take him long to follow.
A few minutes later—after she’d caught her breath—Sookie spoke the first words that had been shared between them for almost an hour. “Alcide and Tara are part of Henry’s group.”
He considered that information for a moment. “You saw them?”
“Are they with us?” he asked, not needing her to explain her actions. He could understand her reasons without needing to hear them. But he did need to ascertain whether they might be a fly in the ointment.
“Yes. They are.”
Eric nodded in acceptance. “Did you give Alcide the concealment potion?”
“Yes. And I asked Tara to stay behind in the warehouse.”
Eric nodded. Sookie’s friend might be plucky when it came to fighting, but he agreed with his mate that it would be best not to have to worry about the human during the fray. The vampire stood and reached for Sookie’s hand before leading her to their bathroom. Soon, he had the water temperature where she liked it. Unlike their shower from the night before, they washed each other this time.
And—of course—he felt her guilt as soon as it entered their bonds. He knew what it was about; he’d been expecting it.
“We will succeed, min kära. And then we will warn the humans to get out of here,” he assured.
“And—if we don’t succeed—many of them will die,” she sighed.
Eric nodded stoically. He and Sookie had talked for many hours their first night in Rhodes about the Fellowship’s plan to bring down the hotel with strategically-placed bombs.
The bombing was to occur the next morning—right around 8:00 a.m.—when the vampires would be most vulnerable. Sookie had overheard one of them thinking about the plan and then had told Brady how to find him. The man had been brought to their suite, where he’d been glamoured to spill the entire plan and then forget everything he’d said.
Unlike other Fellowship terror cells, the one in Rhodes was well-organized and led by someone as skilled as he was insane. He’d moved his group to Rhodes about a year before, and their target was always going to be the Pyramid of Gizeh—since it was a hotel catering to vampires. However, the leader had been waiting for a large event to strike. Meanwhile, several of his people had gotten jobs at the hotel so that they would be well-placed when it came time to set the charges to bring the huge structure down.
According to Brady, the charges that the group had been carefully placing in the hotel for the past two days would be enough to level the hotel. Having learned of the vampire Masquerade, the leader of the terrorist cell had decided that the event would draw the most vampires—thus the timing of the next morning. In addition, he wanted to take out the most “fangbangers” and “fang-lovers” as possible—as punishment for them working for vampires. And 8:00 a.m. was when the shift changed and also when most of the janitorial and maintenance staff arrived at the hotel for their day shifts. Of course, the Fellowship members had no idea that this was also when the all-Were staff that took care of the hotel at night was replaced by mostly humans for the day.
The fact that the hotel owner, Lance Johnston, and high-level employees were Weres was one of the draws for vampires, after all. They knew that their fellow Supernaturals would help them cover up any “unfortunate” events.
Given this fact, Eric figured that Russell Edgington—if he was successful at defeating him and the Authority—would be in a celebratory mood and would likely gorge himself in his suite as his minions and the hotel staff were called upon to clean up whatever mess was made in the ballroom below. Indeed, Russell would likely want to hold court the next night—to receive the supplication of his followers.
And to publically take the head of anyone left who refused to bow before him.
Not surprisingly, when Eric had first suggested that the hotel should be brought down—as a failsafe in case they were unsuccessful or as a measure to explain the deaths of so many vampire monarchs if they succeeded—Sookie was against the plan. However, it hadn’t taken her long to recognize that Eric was right—that the vampire hotel needed to come down for the sake of them all.
In fact, they’d even added to the charges; Brady had set several additional bombs on the roof and on the floors right below Russell’s and his followers’ bevy of suites. The terrorists didn’t have the security clearance to access the vampire floors. Basically speaking, Brady had done that for them.
Still—Sookie had insisted that as many human lives as possible should be saved. However, if there was a general alarm, the Weres protecting Russell during the day would find out too and, perhaps, be able to get their master to safety.
It had been Maggie who had come up with a plan to ensure that couldn’t happen.
If Eric’s plan failed and Russell succeeded, an anonymous email would be sent to the hotel ten minutes before the hotel was to explode. At that same moment, Maggie had set the system to go into lockdown on all the vampire floors, meaning that steel doors would come down in front of all stairwells and elevators. These doors would have been no match for vampires, but they would keep the Weres busy for more than ten minutes.
Meanwhile, the humans and two-natured employees in the hotel would have those ten minutes to save their own lives. Sookie wasn’t naïve. She knew that wasn’t enough time for everyone to get out. Plus, there would undoubtedly be humans—donors and pets—trapped on the vampire floors, but her conscience was as clear as it was going to get.
Of course, if Eric’s plan succeeded, all the vampires on their side would clear out of the hotel right after the battle, and warnings would be given to any “neutral” vampires, too. The bomb threat would be emailed to the hotel staff a half hour before the bombs went off—rather than ten minutes—ensuring the successful evacuation of even more humans and Weres. The upper vampire floors would be still be placed on lock-down, however. Thus, the bombs’ destruction would cover up the real reason why so many vampires had lost their lives and—hopefully—prevent any uprisings by the followers of the fallen kings and queens.
Still, Sookie couldn’t prevent her guilt. It was almost certain that—no matter what—some innocent lives would be lost.
Not to mention everyone who might die during the battle itself, including donors or other hotel guests who got caught in the crossfire.
The Viking patiently waited as his mate experienced whatever emotions she needed to experience, and then he held her when she cried. He hated her tears, but—in truth—he’d been expecting them. He’d learned that his bonded sometimes needed to cry. He didn’t quite empathize with that impulse, but he could understand it—especially with what would be coming that night. Thus, he simply offered her comfort through their bonds and waited.
It wasn’t long before he felt her sorrow change into resolution, and he knew that the fighter inside of his mate had come to the surface. She looked up at him with resolute brown eyes.
“I’m ready,” she whispered.
“As am I,” he responded.
A/N: I hope that you enjoyed this chapter! Sorry that this one was a bit shorter than usual, but that’s how it came out. I considered taking it out, but—in the end—I thought that Eric and Sookie needed this time to share their love (and their fear of what was to come).
Because I had a question about the bombs after the last chapter, just let me clarify about them. Yes—the Fellowship HAS put bombs into the hotel; this is a nod to the books (as is using the setting of the summit). Given that it’s a high-profile target, I would imagine that a hotel like the Pyramid of Gizeh would get a lot of verbal “threats” from the Fellowship and other wackos. Coincidentally, Russell’s group is using this fact in order to put into position his second group of Weres (led by Dillon Roth, whom we met a couple of chapters ago). However, Russell doesn’t have a telepath in his group, so he has no idea that there are actually bombs in the hotel. Our practical Viking has decided that the Fellowship bombs are “convenient.” He knows that he might be defeated by Russell, so the bombs are the failsafe to take out Russell if they lose. Hope that’s coming through clearly after this chapter.
Many thanks to Kleannhouse for the beta work and Seph for the artwork. I love the banner for this chapter!