Two months have passed since Drew Marshall, also known as Rene Lenier, was apprehended by the Shreveport police. In truth, he hadn’t been apprehended; the Fangbanger Killer as he has been dubbed by the media walked into police headquarters and confessed to the murders of Dawn Green, Maudette Pickens, and many other women around the state of Louisiana, including his own sister, Cindy Marshall, who had been his first victim. After killing her, Drew Marshall had gone to church, confessing his sins to his reverend. Rather than be horrified by the story he heard confessed, the reverend had assisted Drew Marshall in leaving the state and going to Dallas where he joined the ranks of the Light of Day soldiers. Instead of condemning him for his action, Drew Marshall was treated as a hero. The leaders of the training facility convinced the murderer that he was a soldier of God, fighting a holy war against Satan and his evil soldiers: vampires. Drew Marshall’s training taught him how to become a better killer, how to stalk his prey, and how to disguise himself so that he could blend into any situation. Once he completed the training program at the Light of Day facility, Drew Marshall ceased to exist. Rene Lenier, a raging Cajun from a small town in Louisiana arose. Rene drifted through the state, doing odd jobs but never settling down until he found his way to Bon Temps.
In the years he had resided in the once sleepy town, he had killed a total of twelve women. His total body count was seventeen including his sister and the women he had killed during his “training” period.
The fantastical take that Drew Marshall had been sanctioned by the Fellowship of the Sun to commit these killings was a scandal that made its way to every major news outlet around the globe. Reverend Steve Newlin and his wife Sarah were constantly defending themselves to the public, stating that somehow vampires had paid this man to say these awful things about them. The only things vampires had done to Drew Marshall was torture him for a week before glamouring him to turn himself in and give a full confession, but the human population didn’t need to know that.
It had galled the Sheriff of Area Five to arrange for the healing of the murderer, but he couldn’t have the man be in anything less than perfect condition when he gave his confession. But if something should happen to him while in police custody, well that would be a happy coincidence indeed.
It had become a hobby for Pamela Swynford de Beaufort to record the daily talk shows and news shows to see what ridiculous lies the Newlins and their supporters would come up with to defend themselves. Investigations by the authorities, both at the state and federal levels, were ongoing. The Newlins had denied that Drew Marshall was a member of their congregation, but an anonymous source had revealed to the authorities the amount of money the killer had donated to the church as well as video of him participating at a Fellowship event in Dallas. As of yet though, none of the investigations had turned up anything showing the church as condoning murder or teaching its followers how to kill vampires.
Pam sits at the bar in Fangtasia, watching with an amused smirk as Reverend Steve Newlin faces off against Nan Flanagan from the American Vampire League. The human prophet looks fanatical as he spouts his religious rhetoric, while Nan looks calm and collected, using facts to support her position. It’s clear that even the television host, a man much respected in the world of journalism for his impartial reporting, sides with the vampires. He is polite to Nan, but treats Reverend Newlin with thinly veiled contempt.
Pam laughs as spittle flies from the reverend’s mouth while he pounds on the table to prove his point. “This is better than any comedy I’ve ever seen.”
The Sheriff of Area Five, Eric Northman, strides quickly through the bar. He is dressed in his typical uniform of black jeans, black singlet, black leather jacket and black boots. He looks at the television with irritation. “Shut it off,” he growls.
Pam huffs. “I’m not finished watching it. The good part is just coming up where Newlin jumps up out of his chair and stomps off the stage.”
“I said shut it off!” Eric whirls around with his fangs down. The waitresses in the bar that have been getting ready for opening shrink back in fear. Chow, the bartender that replaced Long Shadow, is behind the bar, filling the refrigerators and shelves with the necessary alcohol for the night. He looks up from his job, sparing a glance towards the two owners of Fangtasia. Eric growls in warning at the Chinese vampire and Chow immediately resumes his task.
Pam reluctantly does as ordered, placing the remote down on the bar top with a bang. Eric ignores her and continues back to his office. He is seated at his desk doing paperwork when Pam storms in.
“What the fuck is your problem?” Pam stands inside his office with her hands on her hips. She is speaking in Swedish so the others will not understand her. For two months, she has dealt with his piss poor attitude. Ever since he returned from Dallas he has been in a foul mood. Of course, it’s been wonderful for business since the humans pay for the experience of being scared shitless, but Pam is tired of dealing with the equivalent of an emo teenager. When Pam tries to question Eric about Dallas, he shuts down and orders her out of his sight. Speaking with Godric had been as frustrating; for once her grand-sire was not sharing what he knew. That left only one person for her to question. Sookie had been very forthcoming in all the details about her trip to Dallas, nauseatingly so. Pam never wanted to hear the name Barry again.
“Not now Pamela,” Eric growls out without taking his eyes off the computer screen.
“Yes, now. Ever since Dallas you’ve been a barbaric ass. If this is how it’s going to be for the next fifty or sixty years, I’m going back to Minnesota,” Pam declares angrily with her hands on her hips.
“Fine! Then go!” Eric vamps out of his chair, pinning his progeny against the wall with his hand around her throat. He snarls in frustration when he sees the look of pity in Pam’s eyes and releases her. He stalks back to his desk, flinging his body down in the leather chair so hard it slams against the wall behind his desk. The chair actually embeds in the drywall and Eric has to wrench the chair out, leaving a gaping hole in the wall. Annoyed, Eric rises from his chair and begins pacing the room like an animal in a cage.
“Why won’t you tell Sookie how you feel?” Pam looks at her maker with concern. She’s never seen him this rattled over a woman before. She likes Sookie; she’s become Pam’s favorite breather. However if this is what having Sookie in their existence is going to be like, then maybe Pam will have to arrange for some type of accident for her. She can’t cause any problems if she’s dead and buried.
“Tell her what Pam? That I love her? That I want her to spend the rest of her life with me in the dark? I can see it now; the two of us playing house while I stay the same and she gradually ages. You want us to play house, to have me be domesticated,” Eric snarls. His tone switches to sarcasm as he continues. “Sookie waiting for me every night to rise with blood in a martini glass, waiting to see her husband off to work. I’ll leave our house with the white picket fence to go and play the role of the breadwinner while she keeps house. That sounds so fucking perfect that I want to gouge my eyes out with a silver stake,” Eric scoffs at the imagery he has painted with his words.
“Listen here you high-handed bastard,” Pam argues stepping forward so that she is right in Eric’s face. It’s not often that she legitimately argues with her maker, but in this instance its warranted. “What makes you think Sookie wants that kind of life? She doesn’t exactly strike me as the Donna Reed type. Though I bet she’d be delectable in an apron, string of pearls, pair of heels, and nothing else,” Pam says with a considering look as she imagines the fantasy she has woven. Eric even gets caught up in the fantasy for a second and groans because it only makes his cock stiffen. Thoughts of Sookie almost always seem to make him hard.
Pam shakes her head and softens her tone as she places her hand over Eric’s non-beating heart. She smiles softly up at him. “You think you know what Sookie wants, but have you asked her? I know how you two react to each other. That kind of chemistry doesn’t happen that often Eric. Honestly, in a thousand years, how many women have affected you like this?”
Eric shakes his head regretfully. “It doesn’t matter Pam. Sookie wants the life she’s been raised to expect: home, husband, and children. She expects to fall in love, get married, live their lives together until they are old and gray, and then die together. Even if she did love me and wanted to be with me, I couldn’t stand by and watch her wither away. It would destroy me,” Eric admits raggedly as the idea of Sookie dying rips through him, slicing open his already wounded heart.
Pam taps his chest comfortingly before she turns to leave the office. Before she goes, she does offer one last thought. “What do you think it’s doing to you now?”
Not giving Eric the chance to respond, Pam opens the door to walk out, only to find her path blocked by Desmond Cataliades, Eric’s demon attorney as well as Sookie’s godfather.
“Ah Ms. Swynford de Beaufort, always a pleasure to see you,” Desmond says affably. He gives her an appreciative once over. “You are looking as lovely as always. Is that from the new Dolce and Gabbana collection?”
Pam arches an eyebrow though she preens under Desmond’s compliment. “It is. I didn’t realize you were a fashionista Mr. Cataliades.”
The demon lawyer chuckles. “In truth, I am not. However, Queen Sophie-Anne was looking through all the spring/summer collections recently. If I were you, I’d avoid wearing anything Chanel or Dior this season; she bought everything from both collections.” Pam nods her thanks at the demon’s information. Sophie-Anne throws a temper tantrum when she sees someone wearing an outfit that she too owns. It’s especially insulting to her if the woman wearing the outfit looks better in it than her. Fortunately for Pam, Sophie-Anne has a penchant for wearing white, something Pam never does. Sophie-Anne thinks the virginal color looks most striking with her red hair. In Pam’s opinion, it merely makes the Louisiana monarch look like a bloody tampon.
Pam walks past the lawyer and he enters Eric’s office, closing the door behind him. Eric nods his head in greeting as he resumes his seat behind the desk, ignoring the pile of crumbled plaster on the floor. “Cataliades, I didn’t realize we had business together this evening.”
“I am merely passing through the area and thought I would stop by,” Desmond replies affably as he lowers himself into a chair across the desk from Eric. “I visited with the Stackhouse women earlier today. I must say I am impressed with the renovations you have made to their home. The house looks spectacular.”
Eric nods acknowledging the lawyer’s words but in truth, he doesn’t know what the house looks like now that Herveaux’s company has completed all the work. Eric only signed the checks to pay the invoices; he let the women decide what they wanted. The only stipulations Eric had insisted on were the additional security features and the addition of light-tight rooms in the event a vampire needed to rest in the area. Two months have passed since Dallas and he has not seen any of the Stackhouses with the exception of Jason. That damn fool had come into Fangtasia once to see what all the fuss was about. Pam hadn’t let him past the velvet rope to get into the club. Instead she glamoured him to go home, and only return to the club if it was an emergency or if he was summoned. At least she had taken the sting out of being denied entrance by glamouring a hippy-looking brunette to go home with him. That act of benevolence had cost Eric three handbags from Rebecca Minkoff’s website.
“How is Sookie’s training going?” Now that Sookie is aware of her supernatural standing, she has worked with both Cataliades and her fairy godmother, Claudine, to hone her telepathic abilities as well as any other latent fairy abilities she possesses. According to the reports Eric received, Sookie developed the ability to channel her light and teleportation. However, reading the reports over and over from all those he had in place to keep the Stackhouses safe doesn’t answer the questions that burn inside Eric.
How is Sookie handling all this?
Is she happy?
Does she miss him as much as he misses her?
The thing that nagged the most at Eric about the reports was that there were no mentions of Barry in them. Eric knew the Dallas telepath had not been in his area; as a supernatural it was courtesy to check in with the area sheriff when passing through. However, Eric knew Godric would have notified him if Barry were coming to the area. His maker wouldn’t want him to be caught unaware. In the weekly conversations he had with his maker, Eric knew tensions between the Fellowship of the Sun and the vampires in Area Nine of Texas were increasing exponentially despite the AVL and The Authority decreeing that retaliation against the Fellowship of the Sun could result in a penalty as steep as the True Death. Barry’s role as an undercover agent was becoming increasingly important. He had been instrumental in thwarting the Fellowship’s plan to burn down a nest of vampires that had foolishly allowed the location of their daytime death to become public knowledge thanks to their presence on a reality television show. Of course, there was no evidence to pinpoint the attack on the Fellowship, and since no one had been harmed other than the destruction of a building, the human authorities weren’t actively pursuing the case.
“It’s going well,” Desmond says warmly. “Sookie is flourishing under Claudine’s tutelage, though I think the trees near the house will appreciate it when her aim becomes better with her light. I know Adele has forbidden Sookie from training with her light in the house. I believe an afghan was a casualty of her training.” Desmond’s stomach jiggles with the force of his mirth.
Eric smirks and a small smile graces his lips though his expression quickly disappears as the demon lawyer continues talking. “I’m sure Sookie’s training will go more smoothly when Barry arrives next month for a visit. I know he is most anxious to see her again.”
“Is that why you are here? To tell me your relative will be in my area next month.”
“No, though I must admit the Prince and I both are surprised you allowed the match,” Desmond says archly.
Eric raises his eyebrow as he leans forward in his chair, placing his folded hands on the desk. “I am responsible for Miss Stackhouse’s safety. I am not such a monster that I would prevent her from living her life the way she wishes. Sookie is free to do and see who she wants as long as it does not endanger her.” Eric’s voice is soft but the undercurrent of anger is visible and Cataliades quickly rises to his feet, retreating back to the office door.
“Of course Sheriff. Forgive me for speaking out of turn. I will not keep you any longer as I am sure you have a busy evening. However, Queen Sophie-Anne asked me to deliver an invitation for you to bring the Stackhouse family to New Orleans. The Queen wishes to meet them for herself and she worries that Hadley misses her family.”
“When does the Queen expect us?”
“Two weeks. Is that agreeable to you?”
Even if it wasn’t agreeable, Eric knows better than to argue with the Queen. She will get her way no matter what. “I will have Pam make all the necessary arrangements and contact the Queen’s secretary for our itinerary.”
“Good,” Desmond says with satisfaction. He opens the office door but stops in the doorway. “Oh, and if I were you, I’d suggest having Miss Stackhouse drink more of your blood. She barely smells of you. We wouldn’t want André to think that she is available for the taking.” Not wanting to stick around to hear the repercussions of his words, Desmond closes the door behind him with a snap and quickly vacates the vampire bar.
Eric swears loudly in Old Norse and flings a stapler against the wall where it embeds in the drywall. His frustration levels are at an all-time high and he knows of no way to relieve his tension without killing someone. Even then, Eric doubts it will make him feel better. He feels as if everything is piling up on him and he is sinking fast.
He knew this was going to happen eventually, but Eric had hoped to have more time before having to stand on ceremony in New Orleans. He thought that he’d be able to milk the excuse of adjusting to each other and getting the house renovated for a little longer, but clearly Sophie-Anne has other plans. Or perhaps Hadley really does miss her family now that she knows a family reunion is possible. You never know with those two.
The last thing Eric wants to do is take part in whatever farce of a family reunion Sophie-Anne plans for this. He worries that Jason especially will somehow insult the volatile Queen, and that Eric will bear the brunt of her displeasure. However, Jason’s antics are the least of Eric’s worries. He knows Adele will keep her grandson on a tight leash.
How the hell is he going to handle being near Sookie? Better yet, how is he going to handle her wrath since it has been two months since they had any contact?
Sookie had tried calling him several times when she first returned from Dallas. Her voice mail messages had ranged from heartfelt thanks when she learned the Fangbanger Killer had been taken care of to anger when Eric refused to communicate with her. The last message, which had been three weeks ago had been the hardest for him to hear. She had begged him to call her, worried for him, wondering what was so wrong that he couldn’t talk to her. He’d been there for her when she needed him. Why couldn’t she be there for him? Sookie’s voice had been filled with tears and it tore at Eric’s resolve to stay away. In fact, he’d been flying to Bon Temps to see her but then he’d felt lust coming through the tie he shared with Sookie and he’d stopped in mid-flight. He’d been muting the tie with Sookie since the day they had parted. Eric was having enough trouble dealing with his emotions; he couldn’t handle hers on top of it. Adele and Jason weren’t so bad; they tended not to feel extreme emotions. Even lust wasn’t an extreme reaction within Jason; granted that could be because he was always feeling lustful. Especially since the dark-haired girl he’d left Fangtasia with that night had become a serious girlfriend for the male-fairy hybrid. However, Sookie felt every emotion strongly; when lust came barreling down the blood tie, it felt like Eric had been kicked in the stomach by a horse. He’d turned around and headed back to Fangtasia.
That was the first evening that Eric had used the new dancer as stress relief. In the time since he’d returned to Dallas, Eric had been celibate, not for lack of trying among the fangbangers and the new dancer that Pam had hired to entertain the vermin while he was in Dallas. Eric had shown no interest in Yvetta while he had been in Fangtasia, but that didn’t stop her from showing her interest in him. Really, Yvetta was interested in any vampire that she thought was going to take care of her and keep her in a life of luxury. However, she’d specifically set her sights on Eric, because he was the most attractive man or vampire the Estonian dancer had ever seen. She wanted him for his body and his money, and made sure that he knew she was willing to do anything he wanted.
Eric had put her promises to the test that evening, using her in ways that would surely have scared his beautiful fairy if she ever found out. Of course, Eric was careful to glamour all memories of his sexual encounters with Yvetta out of her head. It’s not that she couldn’t think about them or remember them, but the clear images of what they had done together could only be recalled when she was only with Eric or when she was alone. After all, Eric wanted Yvetta to remember the vampire that made her scream for hours with pleasure. He wanted her coming back for more, and she did. She thought she had the upper hand in their arrangement, but Eric had quickly shown Yvetta that he was always in control.
Except when it came to Sookie.
With a last sigh of regret, Eric pulls his cell phone out of his pocket. He presses the button for Thalia. “Where is she?” There is no such thing as phone etiquette among vampires; they always get straight to the point.”
“Working for the Shifter,” Thalia answers succinctly. Eric growls in annoyance. He hates that Sookie continues to work for Merlotte, but he had given her no reason to quit. When Sookie had returned from Dallas, the Shifter came to her with his tail tucked between his legs asking for her to come back to work. From the reports by Dawson and Thalia, Merlotte had been a model citizen when it came to dealing with Sookie. If he still harbored any prejudices towards vampires, he kept them well hidden. Dawson had also reported that there was another shifter working at Merlotte’s as a waitress. From what Dawson had seen during the full moon, it seemed the new waitress was keeping Merlotte fully occupied and on a short leash.
“When does her shift end?”
“She closes. I’m here with her and then will escort her home.”
“I will escort her home. I’ll be there before the end of her shift. Do not tell her I am coming,” Eric commands.
Thalia chuckles which makes Eric wince. “Oh I wouldn’t dream of it; her reaction will be much more satisfying when you surprise her. I’m sure the fireworks tonight will light up the town.” The call ends and Eric is left swearing in his office.
Just fucking perfect.
If her words weren’t enough to eviscerate him, now he has to deal with dodging her fairy light.