ONE HOUR EARLIER
Given the carnage, the hotel staff had proven as discreet as could be hoped. And Duncan had dealt with the situation in his role as Magister.
It didn’t hurt that most of the night-time employees at the Pyramid of Gizeh were Weres and vampires.
The hotel’s owner, Lance Johnston, of course, was aware that a large fight had occurred, but Maggie and Brady had previously insured that no cameras would pick up anything after the action started. Thus, Lance had no idea of what had happened beyond what Duncan told him—which was that a large group of V-influenced Weres had attacked the vampire Masquerade, but had been subdued. Lance was also told that the bomb squad team was a hoax—and a part of the V-pack.
As a Were himself, Lance was disgusted by the idea of V-addicted Weres. He was also apologetic that he’d not confirmed the credentials of the bomb squad team personally.
Lance was also informed that two members of his own staff had been killed in the fray, Brady Johnson and Maggie Smith. The owner looked slightly disappointed, but then recalled that both Weres were relatively new to his establishment and had no pack affiliation. And since they’d been required to sign the liability wavers that were standard for any Were who was employed at the Pyramid of Gizeh, Lance had felt that he’d gotten off lucky—all things considered.
Of course, the hotel owner’s thoughts were telepath-confirmed. Sookie had insisted. And Eric could deny neither her pragmatism nor—well—actually, he couldn’t deny his newly resurrected wife anything.
Finally, Lance had been told—quite firmly—that while his people could “clean up” certain areas, the vampires would be in charge of removing all the dead and “cleaning” the ballroom and the corridors around it. In fact, Duncan informed the owner that he’d called in two “cleaners” to do the job and that they’d be on site the next night.
Of course, the Were had heard of such people before, and he knew enough to be scared of them. He promised that his people would stay out of the area of the hotel where the main battle had taken place, and Duncan assured that his own people would be guarding the area to insure that the staff did just that.
Lance was smart enough not to fuck with the Magister.
The Were owner also clearly wanted the situation to “go away” as quickly as possible. Plus, he understood that it was best not to ask questions of his vampire patrons, even when a story was full of holes. Luckily, he always kept about a dozen vampires on staff, and it was hotel policy for the human employees, donors, and guests to be glamoured to make them forget—carte blanche—an entire night that included “trouble.” It was one of the reasons why the hotel was so popular with vampires.
As Eric parked his car in the garage of his safe house on the outskirts of Rhodes, he had a moment of regret as he thought about the Pyramid of Gizeh being blown to bits, but he knew that Lance Johnston would have the hotel heavily insured, and he also knew that the Were would likely rebuild it even bigger—claiming defiance against “hate groups.” Such was the way of businessmen.
In the passenger seat, Sookie let out a long sigh of relief as the garage door closed behind them. Though the threat of Russell was over, the situation was ongoing. And it would be until the hotel fell to the ground, hiding the evidence. All the vampire soldiers who’d fought on Eric’s side had been sworn to secrecy, as had the surviving Weres. And there was not much left of the enemy—except for the few remaining in Russell’s suite, but they wouldn’t be allowed to escape.
Luckily, most of those fighting had done so thinking that they were fighting for Roman. And the story was already being spun with a mixture of truth and fiction.
The truth? That Russell had been attempting a coup against the Authority.
The fiction? The “fact” that Eric had been an enforcer for the Guardian all along and that the previous Magister had been “bought” by Russell.
The gossip would soon include the idea that Roman had been hiding Eric after he ordered him to execute the previous Magister in the name of the Authority. Eric would become just another “soldier” in the story—though he would be noted as the one who brought down Russell Edgington.
And the fairies? Well, their presence would be explained by the demons. It would be confirmed that Appius, who had the reputation of being a mercenary himself, had been hired by Russell and had brought along the demons as extra muscle. Agnes would also be putting into her “official report” that the fairy, Niall Brigant, approached Roman because of an old secret alliance they’d had. The details would remain murky, but most would assume that the fairies had been keeping their eye on the Christopoulos clan.
Eric didn’t care too much about the details, just as long as his mate was kept out of them and his own role in the fray was limited to “participant.” He didn’t mind being known as Russell’s killer, however.
Reputation was useful since it meant no one would want to fuck with him—or his mate.
“So—are we getting out or what?” Kuruk asked, interrupting Eric’s thoughts.
The young man and Leonie had come with him and Sookie—both to add to the daytime security of the safe house and because Eric wanted to have Kuruk nearby as he monitored the happenings at the hotel via Brady’s computer set-up.
The bombing would occur during the daytime—though Eric intended to “stay up” until the hotel was razed.
“Just checking the area for any dangerous minds,” Sookie told Kuruk, having obviously been interrupted from her own thoughts as well. Eric could tell that she was feeling an odd mixture of pensiveness and relief.
He was feeling the same.
“All clear,” Sookie said with a wink in Eric’s direction. Before she could even open her car door, however, Eric was at the other side of the car and taking her hand to help her out.
She, of course, didn’t need any help, but it was clear that she understood her mate’s current overprotectiveness. She had died, after all.
The safe house that Eric had brought them to was a new one added to his fleet of homes. Brady had been the one to secure it, and the Were had outfitted it with all that would be needed for their short stay, including its own advanced computer network.
The Viking sighed, wondering when he’d see his friend again. His new vampire friend. Of course, it was to be Brady who performed the role that Kuruk would now fulfill, but Eric trusted that the boy would be able to do it. And, if not, Eric knew how to accomplish the rest of the plan since Brady had set everything up and walked the Viking through it all the previous night.
Indeed, Eric was—in part—testing the young Werebear, wondering if he might be able to take over the role that Brady had once served for him, at least as his pack duties allowed.
Either way, Kuruk’s role in the battle and its aftermath was clearly giving the boy a boost in confidence. And, in Eric’s opinion, the young man deserved his chance to shine. Elina had beamed when Eric asked Kuruk to accompany him. As heir to a strong Werebear den, the young man would only be helped by his experiences in Rhodes—and the reputation those experiences would help him to build.
After Kuruk set up his equipment and confirmed that the penthouse floor remained locked down and that no one had tried to exit, Eric felt Sookie relax a little more. As much as he hated not killing Bill Compton personally, there was something poetic in the fact that he would be blown up. And he knew that his bonded was relieved that he was not going to be the one to slay Bill.
Though she had become a warrior in her own right, Sookie didn’t like the idea of torture. Thus, Eric had not told her that he suspected that Russell had tortured Bill, following his slaying of the witch. Of course, the thought of what Russell could have done to Bill appealed to the vampire’s thirst for this enemy’s pain and blood. But there was no need to let his bonded know just how much he hoped Bill had suffered.
To allay Sookie’s fears and cater to her sensibilities, Eric had even once agreed, though reluctantly, that he would kill Bill quickly—if he was ever given the chance to kill him. Yes—dying in the bombing would be too quick, but Eric held out hope that Bill would not die in the bombing itself, but—instead—would feel himself being burned in the sun in the ruins of the mangled hotel.
Yes—that was a happy thought to the Viking!
While Leonie went to the kitchen to fix a snack, Eric and Sookie took their things to the light-tight bedroom they were to share. They’d taken quick showers before leaving the Pyramid of Gizeh, leaving their bloody costumes behind to be consumed in the explosions. In fact, to make sure of that, an accelerant had been put on all the evidence to ensure it lit up with flame and was destroyed. The ballroom had been absolutely saturated with it!
The Viking closed his eyes as he sat onto the bed. There were only two things left to do. First—to simply wait for the Fellowship’s plan to come to fruition, thereby completing his own plan.
Second—and more importantly—to take care of his bonded.
To treasure her.
To love her.
As long as they lived.
He smiled softly at the thought.
“Are you hungry, min älskade?” Eric asked softly.
“No,” she returned with a loud sigh. “Tired.”
“Why don’t we rest until it is closer to time? Or you may sleep through it if you wish.”
“No, I couldn’t do that,” she responded.
He nodded. “Do not worry. The humans and Weres will get the warning in time to get out, and given the fact that we will tip off the exact time of the bombing, the human bomb squad will not attempt to go in. They will set up a perimeter and wait.”
Sookie nodded. “Still—I need to see. But a little rest sounds good right now—even if I don’t fall asleep.”
“I agree,” Eric said as he began taking off his clothing. Sookie was quick to follow suit. The vampire kept his fangs from snapping down at the enticing body of his beloved only because he knew that sex was not what she needed in that moment. She needed intimacy and closeness. She needed assurance that they’d both survived and were whole.
She needed him.
And he needed her.
I hope that you enjoyed the chapter, despite its short length. I wanted Eric and Sookie to have a little quiet time together, but a sex scene didn’t seem to fit here. I suppose that it’s a sign of Eric’s evolution in this story that he now recognizes that intimacy is not always the same thing as sex. (A lesson we all need to learn, I suppose.)
I appreciate your comments on the last chapter! Most of you agreed that Hadley’s own choices had led to her impending doom.
Some of you also PMed me about Hunter. It’s been a long time since he was discussed, so here’s a summary of what we know about him. In this fic, Hadley never leaves Sophie-Anne to go and get him. However, Sookie does find out about him from Niall, who coveys that he is a telepath but doesn’t have the essential Fae spark. Telepathy is a fairy trait in this universe, similar to the attraction Jason inspires being a fairy trait—and neither is an automatic indicator of a spark. Anyway, you might remember that Sookie begged Eric to take care of Hunter when Niall’s plan was to take her to the fairy realm against her will. And Eric does this with the help of Mr. Cataliades, who arranged for Hunter to have a teacher to help him with his telepathy. However, we later learn from Leonie that Hunter’s telepathy is the usual “fairy” variety. He can basically decide if he wants to listen to thoughts and is not invaded by the thoughts of others. We learned from Leonie in Uncharted that Sookie’s and Fintan’s telepathic skills were different from the standard fairy gift. So—in case you were wondering, Hunter is fine. Remy never got as freaked out because Hunter’s ability was never “uncontrolled.” But Hunter is still being taught how to develop his ability, and he and Remy are being protected. Now that Russell is gone, Sookie and Eric will certainly make contact with him. I hope that helps those of you who’d forgotten.
As always, many thanks to artist, Sephrenia, and beta, Kleannhouse!