Earlier in the evening
“So Sookie is in Nevada?” Willa asks the question after Eric fills everyone in about the information Vivi had relayed to him. Eric remained detached as he spoke of the facts he knew, but his mind was already moving the puzzle pieces around trying to see how everything fit together. He still feels as if something is missing. Hot Rain had been Long Shadow’s maker. As per protocol, Eric had contacted the Native American vampire when his progeny had been ended. Hot Rain hadn’t seemed overly concerned with the loss of his progeny; his main concern had been the financial restitution he believed to be due him. Hot Rain demanded five million dollars for the loss of his child. As The Sheriff of Area Five pointed out to him, he could take that matter up with the magister since Compton was to stand trial for his crime. Eric had assumed by Hot Rain’s absence from the proceedings that he didn’t care that much about the money after all. Perhaps he had been wrong if he was involved in this plot. But again, Hot Rain knew Bill Compton had been the one to end Long Shadow. Yes, it had been in defense of Sookie, to them known only as a mere human, but why exact revenge against her?
The variable in all of this is Felipe de Castro, the King of Nevada. If de Castro had been Russell’s child, then why hadn’t he called him to free him from his concrete grave? Why had he relied on Salome to do it for him? Unless Salome was another of Russell’s children? How else would she have known where Eric entombed the radical vampire? But again, why was de Castro not at his maker’s side during his insane hunt for fairies? And in the years since Russell’s True Death, Eric and Felipe have met each other several times; they do move in many of the same circles due to their wealth and public personas. Not once has Eric ever picked up on any hatred from de Castro, though he had sensed a feeling of competition between them from the caped vampire. Eric didn’t care about who was more popular or who had more money, but he could tell that it meant something to the vampire monarch. Now that he thinks about it, Eric thinks de Castro was the one to call him before, but how did he get that information? To Eric’s knowledge, Felipe and his closest minions have not set foot in Louisiana in the last decade. Who from the inside is working for him? Too much of all of this doesn’t make sense!
“It would seem that way,” Eric says in response to Willa’s question after mulling it over for a few minutes. His expression and the uncertainty in his voice do not give any confidence to his words.
“You think it is a trap,” Thalia states.
“Too much does not make sense,” Eric snarls in frustration. “If they wanted to remain unknown why taunt me with the phone call? Why not capture me as they did Sookie? Or why not take her son? Using her son against her would have ensured her full cooperation.” Eric yanks his hand through his hair as he paces at vamp speed.
Willa’s cell phone ringing breaks the silence. She hastily pulls the offending noise out of her pocket as she meets the baleful glares of the other vampires in the room. “Hello,” she says timidly. She listens for a moment before hanging up. Whoever was on the other end spoke so softly that none of the older vampires were able to hear the conversation. Willa rises from her seat heading to the bar.
She reaches in the refrigerator behind the bar and pulls out a New Blood. “I didn’t have time to feed tonight. Do ya mind?” Eric looks at her as if she has lost her damn mind. Is he cursed to have progeny plagued with mental instabilities? Willa uses a bottle opener from behind the bar to pop the tab on her can before bringing the can and a stack of cocktail napkins back to the table where she had sat with Freyda.
“Are you sure no one else wants anything?” Willa takes a swallow from the can before setting it on a napkin. She pushes the open can and napkin to Freyda. “You look a little pale. Maybe you should have some.”
Freyda is about to respond that she would rather be dipped in silver than drink that swill. However, Willa’s pointed stare at the can gives Freyda pause. “Sure; I could always use a drink.” Freyda picks up the can and brings it to her mouth as her eyes flicker down to the napkin on the table. “Thank you, though I must admit that is not nearly satisfying enough for me. Perhaps my maker would like to go with me as we go to find a late repast.” Thalia rises without question and the two elder female vampires vacate the bar, leaving only Eric and Willa within the confines of the club.
Before Eric can question her, Willa interrupts. “Would you like to come with me to see little Eric?”
“Isn’t he sleeping by now?” Eric does not remember much about his human sister, but he does remember that children should sleep through the night.
Willa shrugs. “He hasn’t been sleeping well or through the night since Sookie’s been taken. We try to keep him occupied to the point of exhaustion, but he’s been having nightmares. He’s been asking about you though; he wants to know all about the Viking,” Willa says with a smile on her face.
It warms something inside of his chest to know that this tiny fragile human boy who is a part of Sookie wants to know him. He is still suspicious of Willa’s odd behavior, but Eric will wait to question her until they are on their way to Bon Temps. Gesturing for her to lead the way, Eric and Willa walk towards the exit. Outside the building, Eric pauses to lock everything up as Willa shifts impatiently from one foot to the next. He begins walking towards his vehicle, but Willa stops him. He arches an eyebrow and remains immobile, waiting for his progeny to speak. Instead of speaking, Willa hands him one of the cocktail napkins from the bar. Eric snatches it out of her hand, ready to rip it to shreds in a fit of anger but the words written underneath Fangtasia’s logo stop him.
The bar is bugged. Niall is waiting for us at Jason’s home.
Eric’s fangs snap down in anger. After Sophie-Anne, Eric had his homes, vehicles, and businesses swept repeatedly for bugs. There had been a few instances right after the launch of New Blood where people tried to breach his security, but those were dealt with swiftly. The biggest threats they face these days are cybercrimes; Vivi’s team handles all of those pesky bugs with swift eradication. Sometimes it is enough to shut down the hacker via the internet; other times Vivi’s team has applied a more “hands on” approach to deal with cyber terrorism threats. Eric wants to know how Willa or Niall know these physical locations have been bugged and he wants to know how these bugs have been able to avoid detection. But he will have to wait to get his answers.
Within the hour, Eric and Willa arrive at the home of Jason Stackhouse. Not since Sookie’s disappearance to the Fae realm has he had reason to come here. Back then, Eric had thought the home in need of a facelift; it looked like something straight out of the 1970s. All that was missing was shag carpeting and wood paneling on the walls. But now he can see that an addition has been added to the home as well as new siding. Perhaps Stackhouse’s wife had something to do with the renovations. Eric was under the impression that as long as Jason had a refrigerator to put his beer and a big screen TV to watch his sports and porn, he could live in a wooden shack and be perfectly content.
“This place doesn’t look as I remember,” Eric says as he looks around uncomfortably. He doesn’t like that here he has no advantage in the situation; he is putting his trust in a fairy and the village idiot. It does not inspire a wealth of confidence in him. He knows the Freyda and Thalia are patrolling the woods, making sure no one interferes with this clandestine meeting.
Willa smiles briefly as she continues to the path leading to the front door. She remembers the way the house had been pre-Bridget; it had stank of cum, beer, and pizza. One of the first major changes Bridget had brought about in Jason was a sense of pride in himself. For too long, he had been the butt of people’s jokes, a convenient dick for them to ride, or a nice guy that was always taken advantage of. Bridget taught Jason that he was a good man, worthy of admiration and love. As Jason’s sense of self had gained confidence, he began taking care of the things that meant the most to him. Slowly but surely, he had renovated his home, making it livable for his future family. For too long he had treated his parents’ house as his personal brothel where he was the star attraction. He spent weeks, months really, gutting the entire interior of the house, replacing electrical and plumbing, redesigning the layout of the rooms, and when Bridget had told him he was going to be a father, adding an addition so he’d have a dungeon to lock his daughters away in so they would never meet a boy like him. Within two years, Jason had created a home he could be proud of, with a wife he adored, and a bubbly little angel of a daughter that ran happily through the yard. A year later they had added a second daughter to their brood and two years after that had been twin girls. Jason was trying to convince Bridget to let him expand the pond into a full moat with alligators to keep the boys away from his girls. So far he hasn’t won that argument, but he keeps trying, even going so far to enlist the aid of Hoyt and Lafayette, who swears his daughter, will never look at boys that way. Willa laughs softly as she remembers when she told Jason she and Jess were more than enough to keep the boys away from his girls. Jason had looked at her as if she were crazy before asking how they planned to do that; they were only girls themselves. Bridget may have fixed his confidence, but his brain still doesn’t fire on all cylinders. Hell, before he went away with his family, Jason told Willa she needed to go get a tan; she was looking a little pale.
“Bridget, Jason’s wife, has done him a lot of good. They are really happy together. He still has his moments though,” she says with a fond smile as she slips quietly through the front door without knocking. Eric stops at the magical barrier as he waits to be granted access to the home. With a pang of jealousy, he realizes his only remaining progeny has everything he has wanted these last ten years. She has found friends that love her and that she can rely on; she has made a home and family for herself even if it is not in the traditional sense. Willa is probably the closest person to Sookie and Eric hates how involved she is in his fairy’s life. He doesn’t begrudge Willa happiness; he begrudged her happiness in the life that he wanted for himself.
Willa embraces Jason tightly for a few minutes, the two of them leaning on each other as they both give in for a moment to the overwhelming fear and panic they both feel for Sookie. When Willa pulls away Jason turns to stare at Eric with a wary eye though he speaks only to Willa. “Are you sure we need him for this? Why’s he suddenly care about what happens to my sister? Not like he’s been around the last ten years,” Jason says angrily.
Eric stares at Jason impassively. He wishes to contradict every word that the male Stackhouse has spoken, but his own actions have made those words truthful. Ten years have not aged Stackhouse a day; not a single white or gray hair to be found, no wrinkles line his face, and his body is still fit and muscular. Eric would think vampire blood was the reason for Jason’s appearance except Eric can smell none in him. Is this because of the Fae genes he possesses? Would Sookie still look the same?
An elderly male and a teenage boy enter the room from the hallway. Eric’s nostrils flare and his fangs ache as he smells the unmistakable scent of the Fae. How is his progeny not affected by their scent?
“She is immune to our scent Norseman,” the elder male states. Eric’s eyes narrow as the elder chuckles. “No, I cannot read your mind, but it was easy to deduce your train of thought.” The elder Fae turns to Jason. “We don’t have time for your anger tonight; we need him to get Sookie back. Invite him in,” he says with authority.
“Grandpa Niall are you sure? What about you and Hunter?” Jason looks slightly panicked as his eyes swing back and forth between what Eric can only assume are two Fae. Eric has determined that the elder Fae is Niall Brigant, Prince of the Fae, but who is the boy? Jason called him Hunter, but why is he here?
“Everything will be fine Jason. The Norseman will not harm us,” Niall says in a tone of absolute certainty as he stares at Eric as if daring him to deny the truth of his words. Eric merely shrugs as he waits for Jason to issue his invitation.
Jason begrudgingly issues the invitation that allows Eric to enter his home. “But don’t think you can force any more of those fucking sex dreams on me! That shit fucked me up for months!” The teenager sniggers and Eric smirks as well. All vampires have the ability to control the blood dreams. The only time the dreams did not go as Eric wanted was with Sookie . . . well, that’s not true. He had told his blood to make him more attractive to her. Perhaps it had succeeded, just not in the way he had envisioned. Nothing ever went the way he wanted when it came to his fairy. Eric moves inside the house and stands awkwardly by the door.
“Prince Niall,” Eric says humbly as he bows his head towards the Fae regent. “I am sorry that we have to meet under these circumstances.”
“To be honest, I’ve wanted to meet you for years. I’ve heard stories and I’ve been intrigued,” Niall says as he moves towards the sofa and sits down. He gestures for Eric to have a seat in one of the vacant chairs in the room. “There have been many times in the last ten years where I wanted to intervene in what’s going on between you and Sookie but she wouldn’t let me.”
“Why is that?” If others were willing to end the separation between them, why wouldn’t Sookie have taken the help?
Niall smiles wistfully. “I’m sure you can find her answer in one of her journals or letters. I assume you’ve found where she put them for you.”
Eric nods his head. “You know about them?”
“I know everything about my great-granddaughter,” Niall vows. “Just as I know she is in Nevada being held by de Castro. Mab was supposed to have collected Sookie from him by now, but she’s been unavoidably delayed,” he says with an evil smirk.
“She’s not going to make that meeting in Nevada,” the teenaged boy says with a grin. “It’s kinda hard to go anywhere without a head.”
“You’ve killed Queen Mab?” Eric reels at hearing this news. What are the implications of this for Sookie? What will de Castro do with Sookie now that the Fae queen is no longer around? Eric doubts that luck will be a lady for Sookie while she is in Sin City.
“I should have done it years ago,” Niall says bitterly. “She never should have been allowed to assume control of any part of the Fae realm. I was too consumed with avenging my family to deal with ruling the Fae people, so Mab was easily able to take the crown from me. After Warlow was defeated,” Eric growls hearing the faepire’s name, “I’ve spent this time trying to defeat the mad bitch. Mab arranged to have Sookie kidnapped in a last-ditch effort to have me give up my quest to restore my family to the Fae throne. Now that Mab is gone, her followers have all given up. My son Dermot is the acting monarch of the Fae realm.”
“So how do you know my bar is bugged?” Eric is glad to know that Mab will no longer be an issue as will none of the other Fae, but time is wasting.
“A vampire in your area, Johnathan, has been a spy for de Castro for the last decade. When Fangtasia was renovated, Johnathan had glamoured one of the construction crew to plant devices that would record audio and video around the bar. Those devices were eventually found and destroyed, but de Castro’s people found a way to piggyback off your own surveillance in the bar. In effect, you have enabled him to spy on you for years. Johnathan has also been reporting your activities as well as those of Aunt Sookie back to de Castro,” Hunter says in summation.
“How do you know all of this?” Eric stares at the teenager with interest. He called her ‘Aunt Sookie’ so the boy is a relative. He can’t be Jason’s son; there is no resemblance between them, but he does seem familiar to Eric. He has a round face with pale blond hair and eyes that he swears he’s seen before.
“Like Aunt Sookie, I’m a telepath,” Hunter says as explanation. “But our gifts are different. She can’t read vampires; I can. And I’m familiar to you because my mother was Hadley, Jason and Sookie’s cousin.” Hunter stares at Eric impassively, waiting for the vampire to react to his declaration.
“Dang it Hunter! You can’t go ‘round tellin’ vamps that you can read their minds! They’ll kill you or sumthin’ worse,” Jason cries as he roughly grabs hold of his family member trying to shake some sense in him.
“Jason, I can assure you that secret will go no farther than this room,” Eric vows.
“Besides, there’s a reason that Hunter resides in the Fae realm with me,” Niall says reassuringly to his descendent. “Sookie had me find Hunter because she knew he was like her. When I learned that he could also read vampire minds, I took him to the Fae realm.”
“Well what happened to Hadley? When we were at the Fae club, why didn’t your momma introduce us? Did she go wit ya to wherever it is ya went?” Jason fires rapid questions at Hunter who just shrugs them all off. The rigid stance of the boy lets Eric know that Hadley did not suffer a pleasant end.
“Jason,” Niall begins gently, “Hadley overdosed a few months after Hunter came with me to the Fae realm. She began using drugs again shortly after she and Hunter fled the fairy club. When I found Hunter, he was in a foster home because Hadley had been deemed an unfit mother. I tried to help her, but she was too far gone,” Niall says regretfully.
Jason sits numbly on the couch as he learns of yet another family member he has lost. Conversation grinds to a halt as Jason fights to control his emotions.
Willa is the first to break the silence. “So how are we going to get Sookie out of Nevada?”
“It’s going to be a bloodbath,” Niall says grimly. “Security in de Castro’s hotel is top of the line and he has surrounded himself with the best in Were and vampire guards. He wants Northman to go to Nevada; de Castro wants it to look like Northman has gone off the reservation and is attacking him for no reason. The King of Nevada wants to destroy the Viking’s reputation, have his business interests hemorrhage money until they are worthless, and make certain that all those he cares about are no more. And only after he has accomplished all of his goals will de Castro deliver the True Death to Northman.”
“How do you know so much about de Castro’s plans?” Eric is not entirely trusting of the prince. The Fae are known for their duplicity even while telling the truth. It is very unsettling to know that Niall Brigant seems to be so well-informed about Felipe de Castro’s plans.
“Hunter and I tortured Mab for every piece of information she possessed before we ended her,” Niall states matter-of-factly. “To be honest, she didn’t know much; all she could really tell us was of her plans to kill Sookie. There is a double-agent in de Castro’s camp. In exchange for helping us recover Sookie, he wants to negotiate a business arrangement to make use of her telepathy in the future.”
“If Sookie is in their possession, why would he help us? It doesn’t make sense,” Eric says in frustration.
“I believe it has something to do with loyalty. This vampire was very loyal to your maker Northman. In fact, they were blood brothers, having shared the same maker. Have you ever heard of Appius Livius Ocella?”