Niall Brigant, Prince of the Sky Fae, stands in my office looking as regal as I remember. His back is perfectly straight with his shoulders back, his chin is raised in a slightly challenging manner, and his hands folded elegantly over the end of his walking stick. It does not escape my notice that the ends of the stick are covered in what looks to be silver. I have known the Fae prince for centuries, but I cannot begin to guess his age; if he were human, I would think him to be in his forties or fifties. His closely cropped hair is completely silver-colored, but it does not make him look old; he looks distinguished. There are few lines on his face to mark the passage of time; those he does have are mainly concentrated in the corners of his eyes. The expertly tailored navy suit fits his body like a glove, a body that looks as fit and trim as my own. The color of his suit darkens his eyes to nearly obsidian. His tie and pocket square coordinate together perfectly which would please my progeny’s delicate fashion sensibilities. There is no mistaking the sense of royalty and power that surrounds Niall. People like Sophie-Anne think that just because they have a title it makes them royal; but there is something that separates Niall from everyone else. He does not flaunt his position, but you can tell by looking at him and the way he presents himself that he is above you.
“Perhaps you did not hear me,” he says softly, a sign that his patience is wearing thin. “I will ask you again Viking. What business do you have with my great-grandchildren?”
Well fuck me! I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. Who do I choose to piss off in this situation; the Queen to whom I’ve sworn my allegiance to despite my better judgment or the leader of an entire race of supernatural beings that has been my ally on occasion since the 1500s? I know I can defeat Sophie-Anne in a fight; I’m not sure who would come out the victor if I were to face off against Brigant.
“I have been ordered by my Queen to claim the Stackhouse family as my pets,” I say briskly. There is no point trying to hide it; Cataliades obviously informed the prince of the contracts I requested. So much for attorney/client privilege. What relationship does the demon lawyer have with the Fae prince? I know Cataliades offers his services to all supernatural species, but I’ve never known him to favor one species over another, not even his own. Perhaps it is because the royal family of the Fae is involved. But how did Cataliades know the Stackhouses were related to Brigant?
“I see,” Niall says evenly. “How does the vampire queen now about my family?”
“The Queen’s child, André, tasted faint traces of the Fae essence in Sophie-Anne’s newest pet, Hadley.”
Niall closes his eyes and exhales heavily. He opens his eyes to reveal a mixture of sorrow and regret. He begins speaking with a touch of nostalgia in his voice. “Hadley always was a wild child, never content to stay at home. She always wanted more; excitement and adventure are like a drug to her.” The prince’s eyes flicker over to me, resuming his impassive demeanor. “What else does Sophie-Anne know?”
My eyebrow arches involuntarily as I realize he is fishing for information; Niall is aware that at least one of his great-grandchildren has supernatural abilities. He needs to know everything the childish queen knows to begin damage control. I wonder how far he is willing to go to protect his family.
“All Sophie-Anne and André know is that Hadley and her family are descendants of the Fae though it is quite muted in their blood. They do not know Hadley is related to you.” Niall breathes a sigh of relief before I continue. “The Queen plans to bond with Hadley and eventually turn her,” I warn him.
“She made her choice,” he says regretfully. He begins pacing the space in agitation. “Before Hadley left her family, I had tasked another of my subjects to warn her of the pitfalls that awaited her because of her Fae heritage. She was not, however, told whom she was related to; it was believed she could not be trusted with that information. Hadley disregarded the warnings and chose to go to New Orleans. She sought employment at a well-known vampire establishment!” He turns on me with an incredulous expression on his face. “Why should I help her when she has courted death at every turn?” Niall may have said he washed his hands of his errant great-grandchild but I can see the pain in his eyes. I know if it were my family, whether human or vampire, I would do everything within my power to save them.
I shrug my shoulders nonchalantly before replying. “That is your decision. But it may interest you that Hadley neglected to tell the Queen of her family’s,” I pause for effect before continuing, “‘extra’ abilities.” My eyebrows rise as I wait for Niall to process my words.
I do not have long to wait, and I think I have an answer to who would win in a fight between me and Niall. In a move that even I couldn’t track with my enhanced eyesight, he has me pinned to the wall with his walking stick pressed tightly against my throat. Trying to bring my hands up to defend myself, I snarl in anger as I realize I cannot move. What fucking magic is this?!?!?!
“How do you like my extra abilities vampire? Do you still think you have a chance of beating me in battle?” He laughs harshly as I struggle in earnest against the magic pinning me to the wall. “You won’t break my hold over you.”
“Are you telepathic too?” I stop my struggles and remain passive against the wall. I have no wish to meet my True Death this night, so I force my fangs back into my gums. My human father said a true warrior knows when to fight and when to walk away. Godric also believed in this lesson; as a young vampire I learned not to run recklessly into battle. He advocated using my intellect; it may cost me the initial battle but I would ultimately win the war. It was a fortune cookie that said it best; he who knows to walk away shall live to fight another day. In the 1970s, Pam and I returned to San Francisco her pet at the time lived in Chinatown; those fucking cheap cookies were always lying around the girl’s apartment.
“That would be me,” Desmond Cataliades speaks for the first time during this meeting. The demon lawyer has remained seated on my couch with his right ankle resting on his left knee. Only he didn’t speak out loud…
Yes, I can read your thoughts as well as send mine to you.
“Well that’s a clever party trick,” I say drolly. “It is no wonder your practice is so successful.”
“It does make things easier in the courtroom,” Cataliades says with a smile. “To answer your earlier question, the Fae are not telepathic usually. Telepathy is a demon trait; nearly all demons have the ability. Miss Stackhouse has the ability because I gifted it to her when she was a small child. This was my gift to her as I am her godfather.” The demon rises from his place on the leather couch and walks towards us genially. “Your Highness, I do not believe the Northman means harm to Sookie. From his thoughts I can tell he is more than a little reluctant to claim the family.”
Niall drops the walking stick from its resting place against my throat. He takes several steps backwards before releasing me from his power. My body sags against the wall momentarily as it takes me a second to reclaim control.
I move towards the refrigerator in my office and grab two bags of blood, draining them without bothering to heat them up. Once I feel like myself again, I turn to face my unwanted guest. “What would you have me do Your Highness? If I do not claim them, the Queen will have me convicted of treason and sentenced to the True Death. If Sophie-Anne claims them herself, they will more than likely be forced to move to New Orleans where they will either be the playthings of one of her children or end up in the donor pool at the mercy of every vampire that comes to the Queen’s compound. You could claim them through the Supernatural Council; that would make them off-limits.”
“And it would open them up to threats from my enemies that would seek to use them against me,” Niall replies quietly. “Believe me Viking, I have thought of claiming them many times since their grandfather, my son Fintan, was murdered by my enemies. But I cannot risk it.”
“So what would you have me do?” I am open to any and all ideas that will resolve this situation to Brigant’s satisfaction and will keep me from meeting the True Death. Though I prefer none of the solutions involve me.
Cataliades offers his advice. “I think you should go ahead as you intended Sheriff. Place the Stackhouse family under contract as your pets; the paperwork will be verified by the Queen and then filed with the Supernatural Council. Who would be foolish enough to cross you? Your reputation is well-known throughout the supernatural community. And if your reputation isn’t enough of a deterrent, then that of the Gaul is.”
As much as I hate it, Cataliades is right. Godric and I are a formidable combination; there has only been one vampire that has survived when facing off against my maker and me. The only reason Appius Livius Ocella survived is because he started a fire that damn near burned all of fucking London down to the ground! I have spent centuries looking for him but he vanished from the world after World War II. Godric thinks he may have met the True Death, but I do not. I think he has hidden away somewhere and is waiting for the perfect time to strike again. Ocella will meet his True Death at my hands; my honor and vengeance demand it.
“Very well,” I say with a heavy sigh. “Draw up the paperwork Mr. Cataliades.” The demon lawyer nods his head and pulls the paperwork from his briefcase and leaves it on my desk. I have to admire the demon for being thorough; I’m sure he was prepared for many situations that could have resulted this night.
“You have my gratitude Viking,” the prince says to me quietly. “I will aid you in any way I can.”
“As will I,” Cataliades vows with a nod of his head.
I nod my head in appreciation to both men. “I need to make contact with the family, explain the situation to them. Would either of you like to be present?”
The lawyer speaks first. “I will need to be present to notarize the contracts when they are signed.” I let him know that I will call his secretary to make the appointment after I have discussed the situation with the Stackhouses.
Niall shakes his head no. “They have never met me. The children think their grandfather was Earl Stackhouse, Adele’s human husband. They do not know that Fintan was the father of Adele’s two children; her human husband could not have children. Corbett and Linda never showed any Fae tendencies other than being highly attractive. However, all of Fintan’s grandchildren have shown Fae tendencies. All three children are attractive; Hadley and Jason have never lacked for companionship. Hadley is empathic; she is highly suggestive to the moods and emotions of those around her. Jason I believe is the opposite of Hadley; he can influence the feelings of those around him. Sookie is different . . . she is an exceptionally beautiful girl but her telepathy has been both a blessing and a curse for her. If you expose her ability to others, she will never be safe; she will always be hunted. I won’t have her live that way; I’ll take her to the Fae realm before I let that happen,” Niall says darkly.
“If there is need for her ability, I will do everything in my power to make sure she remains undetected,” I vow solemnly. “In truth, I have no wish to be involved with the family directly. I will do all that is necessary to mark them as mine, including giving them my blood on occasion and arranging their protection with the local packs, but I prefer to let them live their own lives.”
Niall and Mr. Cataliades are both satisfied with my answer and leave me alone shortly after. I sit in my office to contemplate the situation I find myself in. Not since my early years as a vampire have I felt the need to keep pets. Back then, pets were a necessity to ensure one’s survival since the human population was nowhere near as large as it is today. With the Great Revelation and the opening of Fangtasia, I haven’t needed to actively search for a meal. So why should I keep pets in the traditional sense? I swear I will do all that is necessary to keep them safe. But to be honest, they live in a town I’ve never even heard of and I’ve lived in this area many years! What could happen to them?
The next evening, I land outside of Merlotte’s Bar and Grill. I wrinkle my nose in disgust; the smell of shifter permeates everything around here. Sam Merlotte isn’t exactly friendly with my kind…in fact, he hates all vampires. However, the few times I have called on his services he has been quick to comply even if his attitude has left much to be desired. The Shifter has no allegiance with any of the local packs, he prefers to stay alone. I wonder why he has chosen to isolate himself from the supernatural world, and that is exactly what he has done by settling in this backwoods town. My eyes flicker to the building itself. Inside there are dozens of humans, drinking themselves into a stupor or clogging their arteries with overly fried and greasy food. Again, I cannot help but think Brigant is overly worried about his great-grandchildren. The worst thing that will happen to them in this town is obesity followed by a massive coronary.
Through the open blinds I am able to catch my first glimpse of Sookie Stackhouse. I must admit, the picture my investigator included did not do her justice. Even from this distance, there seems to be a glow around her; it is as if she is lit from within. None of the fairies I know glow. Is she something more than Fae? Wouldn’t Brigant have mentioned if she was something more? Her light blonde hair is pulled back in a tight ponytail that swings back and forth as she works briskly. My eyes move over her body hungrily. She isn’t stick thin like most women today; she has curves in all the right places. My cock and fangs both ache with the desire to sink inside her. Fuck, this isn’t supposed to happen! I had assured Brigant that this would merely be a business arrangement between me and the Stackhouse family. Something tells me he wouldn’t be pleased to know that I wanted to fuck his great-granddaughter.
Angry with myself, I stride purposefully to the entrance, keeping it firmly in mind that this is nothing more than a business arrangement.