I have never been to New Orleans. Whatever Tara gossiped about it being the party city and all still hadn’t prepared me for the size of it. Coming from a small town where everybody knows everybody, and even working in a bar back there hadn’t really prepared me for the crowds of strangers here.
We reached in the evening and were going through city and everything just sparkled with lights. I didn’t exactly know where we were heading because everything was exciting and new for me. There were lights and shops and street performers and small restaurants and people having a good time everywhere, just like a perpetual carnival going on. People were carrying on their parties on the streets and looked oblivious to anyone who was interested enough to look their way. Well that would really feel great, doing something for all the world to see and not one person to sit in judgment over you. I sat quietly in the passenger side seat and looked out in wonder. I had a feeling I was really going to like it here. It eased my tense and over wrought nerves from last night.
It turned out that Alcide was going to the convention too. Why he didn’t tell me earlier, I had no idea. But apparently he needed to be there with his pack and he wanted me to accompany him. He had been away so much and had spent a lot of time in his home in Shreveport; he probably didn’t know that I already had my bags packed. Apparently he had forgotten that I was going to New Orleans with Niall and that I had been really excited for this trip since a week now. So it turns out that he just walked into my house yesterday, gave me a big kiss and told me to pack my bags.
“Surprise sweetpie! Pack your bags! We are going away on a vacation!” he beams.
I just looked at him, without any expression and deadpanned. “No shit! I bet the vacation is happening in New Orleans?”
He looked a bit shaken with that and furrowed his head quizzically. “How did you know? Who told you?”
“Alcide! There’s a supe convention there. You being part of a werewolf pack and all are obviously going. I am not dumb! But did you forget already that Niall invited me to this thing two weeks ago? He told me all supes of the area are going to be there and I needed to go with him to represent the fae or something like that. I told you I was going. You should have asked earlier.”
By the look of things, Alcide was working out things in his head.
“But I want you to go with me. You are my girlfriend. It’s a given you are going with me. I want you with me where everyone can see. I was just keeping it as a surprise, with you sulking and all since a few days. I thought it would be good for us to get away for some time and really spend some good time together.”
Wow! Guys, I tell you, have no clue!
“You mean it was a couples retreat? Alone?”
He looked contrite with that. “I’ll need to be with the pack members from time to time.”
“So you were planning on taking me where everyone is going to shine like a new penny and you weren’t going to give me a chance to get prepared? You know, get some good clothes, shave my legs, get my nails done and all?”
If it was possible he looked even more baffled now. “Whadyu do that for? You look beautiful in anything you wear and you have a lot of nice clothes for church.”
Wow we really are from different planets!
“Church Alcide? Never mind! It turns out that I already have everything packed up.” Then I immediately felt bad at what I was going to tell him now. “Uh, I am sorry about your surprise but I am going with Niall Alcide. It’s a family thing ya know.” Then I brighten up and show him the bright side. “Hey, we’ll spend that good time when we are there. I’m sure I won’t be grounded for sneaking to your room or something now, would I?”
He wasn’t taking the bait though and by the look of irritation on his face, he wasn’t getting distracted either with the sneaking in the room bit I threw in.
“Look, I know it’s a family thing. But you are with me now. Wouldn’t it be better if you went with me?”
“Why does it matter so much whose car I get driven in? I’ll be there and you’ll be there and we can get together there. Niall really wanted me to go with him and he even bought me a lot of pretty clothes for the events. I need to officially be on his arm for two evening events as he told me and I can’t deny him that Alcide. He is my great grandfather. I already have very little family left, fae or human. He is going to be representing the fairies there and I need to be right at his side for that, because if you haven’t noticed, I am a part fae and just like your pack business, this is fae business for me. I won’t blow it.” Damn right I won’t!
I finish my tirade and cross my arms in front of me and give him a level stare, challenging him to refute that.
It didn’t count though because he started right back with me being his girlfriend, he missing me, he wanting to spend time with me and me not giving him any time. I really didn’t want to get sucked into that so I very maturely decided to stomp to my room and slam the door with all my strength to get the point across that I wasn’t arguing anymore and the room was not open for him either.
Why don’t guys ever understand me? Oh yes, the being an alien from a different planet thing of course!
I couldn’t sleep very well but I tried and then I was grumpy all day till the time Niall came up to pick me for our trip in the afternoon. His indulgent smile and old world charm brought me a little out of my funk and a couple of hours of staring out the window later, the new sights really pulled me out of the gloom. We talked a little on the way. I told him about the nonevents of my life and he told me some more about what to expect there. It really was a big event of the season and Niall was very serious about the right appearances. He gave me a few pointers towards my conduct namely holding my head high like a princess and taking things seriously. He really wanted this to be the proper introduction for me to his world I practically still knew nothing about, despite having dated two vampires and a werewolf. It was like there had always been some strife, some threatening problem, some danger on my life. Seven years ago, I met Bill and fell in love. I was so innocent and so clueless, no wonder I got so hurt. In my ignorance to the supe ways, I constantly flirted with disaster, constantly expected human behavior from non-humans and repeatedly got lied to and used. The past year was uneventful compared to the previous six, when I finally settled down into a somewhat normal relationship with Alcide. But if I thought that things would be easy, I was in for another surprise. Though I could spend time with him during the day, I could now hear his thoughts and sometimes I caught him comparing me to the she wolves of his pack he had been with before we got together. Although he had been faithful since we started seeing each other, he still had a hell lot of experience with a lot of women, compared with my lack thereof. He did love me in his own way and I felt thankful that I had something to work on. He never told me about his previous partners and I never asked. It’s another matter that I knew a lot of gory details I cringed from. Did I see a threeway once? Ughhh stop thinking about it!
Point is, I realized that it would be too lonely without him and I would be too vulnerable to others if I were single. Was that running away from my problems again?
Yeah get in the line with the other questions in my head then!
At least I felt loved enough to work hard on our relationship. God knows things had never been easy for me before that. At least Alcide was not planning on gifting me to his pack master or planning on catching a lying wolf in his pack through me. I consciously tried not to get into his pack business and didn’t ask about it because I didn’t want to be sucked in supernatural shit and getting hurt again. Normal humans didn’t have centuries old marriage contracts to fight with. Yeah I was happy in pretending to be human enough and carrying on with my human enough life. Couples had problems, they solved them. Couples had disagreements they worked on them. Life would never be a story book romance for me. I accepted this and I made it a point to live with it.
I was still musing when we pulled up in front of the most impressive hotel building I had ever seen. The ornate sign said Windsor Court. It looked like a royal court to my backwater eyes.
“Cheese and rice great granddaddy Niall! We are staying here?”
“Oh yes dear one…I take it you like the place?” he replied trying to hide his smile of satisfaction.
I rolled my eyes and looked around. “Like? LIKE? It’s a freaking palace…WOW!”
He finally gave out a full heartfelt laugh and gently took my hand. “Well you are my princess little one. Nothing less than a palace would do for a princess now would it?”
He took a step towards the main glass entrance and a bell boy came up, smiling politely and started loading our luggage and garment bags on his trolley. My eyes were ready to pop at the outrageous display around me and I quickly set in at a pace with great granddaddy lest I got lost. We went to check in at the reception area and the staff there already had our names and reservation details ready. I heard from the thought of the woman behind the desk that the hotel was hosting a lot of vampires and other funny humans. Those would be the other supes. They knew a little about the coming up event and were near to bursting to seams, as like the other hotels in the area. But this was undoubtedly one of the best places to be.
We were lead to our suite and I immediately went around the whole thing to explore. I had thought Dallas was special. Well this here was absolutely amazing.
I should go to more of these conventions, I silently promised myself.
Great granddaddy called from the sitting room of the suite. “Make yourself at home and try catching some rest. You’ll need it later. Do order something to eat. I need to be at a meeting in half an hour and will be dining there. Are you sure you’ll be alright for a couple of hours? Did you want to visit the town or something?”
I come to the sitting room from my explorations and smile. “Oh I’ll be fine! I’ll call Alcide or Tara and see where they are at. Right now I just want to soak up in that fancy bath we have here. I guess I’ll eat after the bath. They are serving up till late right?”
“Oh you can order anything whenever you want. Don’t be shy about asking for what you want, ok? I’ll just quickly take my shower and be off then. The meeting is in a conference room in this hotel. They are having it at the Boardroom here.”
He gave me another reassuring smile and was off to make himself presentable. I stepped into the balcony with my phone, taking in the expansive view of the city alive with lights and texted Alcide that I reached safely and gave him the hotel and room details. Then I dialed Tara’s cellphone. She answered at the third ring.
“Hey Sook…wassup girl?”
“Oh hi Tara…I am in New Orleans. We reached a couple of minutes back.”
“YOU’RE HERE! How do you like it? Where are you staying? Did you check out any pubs yet?” Tara squealed in a very non vampire fashion.
“Slow down Tara. I just got here. Great granddaddy and I are staying at the Windsor Court. And no I am yet to explore the party scene you go on and on about. But I love the place already.”
We were approaching our schoolgirly sisterhood happy screech and I am sure with vampire hearing and all, a whole lot of New Orleans would know I was here at this hotel. Like I cared!
“Oh we’ll see to that, don’t worry! Bitch your gonna have a hell of a time here. I am sure Niall will have to drag your ass back to Bon Temps after your four days here are done.”
I laugh aloud at that. “I am absolutely counting on it. So wanna meet up or something?”
“Wait a sec”. The line went silent for a minute and then Tara returned sounding a little contrite. “I am really sorry Sook but there is this huge vampire thing going to happen tonight. I can’t tell you the details but I really need to be here or Pam will kill me. We are already at the venue. I didn’t know there were so many vampires around Sook and they must all be here. Can we get together tomorrow?”
It seemed everybody had someplace to be, something to do.
“Sure thing sweetie…we’ll get together tomorrow. Call me whenever.”
I shut off the phone with a sigh. If all vampires were at wherever they were at, Jess would also be there so no point calling her. Although I felt a little bad at not being able to hit the streets with Tara tonight, I understood that she needed to be someplace else right now and so I moodily trudged inside. Then I remembered that Jason might be in the city with Violet. But I didn’t call him. I just went inside and put my things in the walk in closet of the suite. Next I picked up an itinerary file Niall had given me to go through, to prepare me about what all places we’ll be going to and when. So I sat planning what to wear for the parties and my mood lifted a bit. The itinerary said that there was a Vampire Convention going on today at the New Orleans HQ, wherever that was, and I guess that’s where all the vamps were tonight. Tomorrow evening was the biggest event, an unveiling of some sort, dinner and ball. It was here that all the supernatural people would be heading to as representation of their kinds. I was supposed to go with Niall and Adilyne to this one. The next day would be the human affairs day with a luncheon and then another human and vampire event in the evening. The news people had been going on and on about this one since a couple of weeks. The two main mixed events were being hosted at night because of the vampires. The next two days would be sprinkled with bazaars, high teas and general mingling over a few parties. All in all, I could expect to be thoroughly entertained and thoroughly busy till it was time to go back.
Tara shut off her phone and looked at Pam.
“Pay attention Tara! I’ll have your fangs if you fuck this up!”
Tara rolled her eyes. “Jeez!”
“Did you practice the walk and the curtsey? Do you remember the lines you’d need to speak to offer fealty?”
“Of course I do Pam! You been singing them to me like forever!”
“Tara I mean it. I don’t have an issue with your attitude. But out there, rein it in if you wanna avoid the wrong side of a stake. I’ll have no options then!”
Tara huffed. “Get off my back already! You know I don’t give a shit about vampire governments but I ain’t crazy to put on a show for all the world. Give me some fukin’ credit here!”
Impressing her point on Tara with another narrowing of her eyes, Pam turned back towards the full length mirror to heck her look.
They were in the New Orleans vampire HQ complex, the same one where Sophie Anne had ruled from but that had been subject to a number of major design and décor changes since then, to accommodate their new monarch. It now looked less of an eighteenth century royal palace, and more of a modern fortress, to suit the new owner. It still held its old world charm, but the buildings had been totally redone to get rid of the over the top gilt furnishings and art pieces the late queen was so fond of.
Pam looked a diva in a deep red shimmery chiffon ball gown, clasped at one shoulder with a diamond brooch and showing a bit of her waist on both sides through strategically placed cuts. The dress reached her ankles and was slit on the left side up to her thigh. The chiffon curled up beautifully at the edges and gave the dress a floating watery feel and matched with her louboutins and diamond earrings. Tara was wearing a navy blue silk gown with a sweetheart neckline and thin rhinestone straps on the shoulders, showing off her ample curves. She looked utterly frustrated with her dress and had been grumbling since she wore it. Formal ball gowns were not her style. Nor were the expensive matching sapphires she was wearing. However she ate humble pie for once and gave in to Pam to dress like that. If anyone in Bon Temps would now see her, they’d surely roll their eyes to death. Being a vampire and following the maker’s commands sucked some times.
The grand ball room of Sophie Anne’s headquarters was the biggest closed and secure space in the complex. At a time, it could host a party of five hundred guests. It was here that the main festivities of the evening were going to take place.
From the moment he crossed the first level security gates to the complex, Bill could not recognize a single thing about the place. It had been given a complete once over. Only the open grounds and gardens appeared to have been untouched.
The new people sure like to change things! I wonder what else is going to change tonight!
He moved forward through another security check point and made his way towards the entrance to the grand foyer. All the other parts and buildings of the whole place were accessed through here. As he made his way through the numerous hallways, guided by guards, markers and event planners, he met up with several old acquaintances. Acquaintances yes, friends, no. He kept looking out for his vampire friends from his time at the late queen’s court and couldn’t find a single one.
Maybe like me, they aren’t quite in agreement with the new regime. Well lets go see who is the new shark. I hope he is someone that can be swayed. Maybe they’ll seek me out as an ex procurer and want to add me to their retinue. I better girdle up and get ready for the ass kissing.
Bill reached the grand ballroom and gasped at the number of vampires in attendance. There looked to be at least three hundred in attendance. He sure hadn’t met most of them. A great number were clearly foreigners, Europeans perhaps. A lot of them had distinct accents from all over America. He did see Thalia glaring at everybody, from a corner. For Thalia, that was her normal state. He looked for Jess and found her making gooey eyes at James in the middle of the room. Bill turned with a sigh.
Louisiana sure is coming up, I’d say…Have there ever been so many vampires present at the same place, other than vampire councils and trials?
Vampires kept pooling in through the three entrances of the ballroom, all dressed in tuxedos and formal evening attire, all resplendent in a blatant display of beauty and power. The event was supposed to start at ten in the evening. At exactly five minutes to ten the three entrances were closed off and the master of ceremonies, the weretiger Quinn, stepped in front of the stage at the back, in the exact center of the room.
The stage was decorated with a banner of the supernatural council and another banner in some blue silk that was folded and tied around the edges with gold woven rope. On one corner, there was an ornate marble stand on which was kept a gold bowl and several sheets of neatly piled documents. In the center of the stage stood two elaborately decorated chairs, a small one and a large one, appearing much like thrones.
At the signal from Quinn, the band which had been playing light music since the evening started, went silent and everybody fixed their attention to the were. He was a well-known master of ceremonies, appearing only in the most exclusive of events and ran the elite event managing firm EEE. Quinn solemnly stood there in a dark robe and a tall staff which he hit the ground thrice, to get everybody’s attention.
“On behalf of the Supernatural Council of America, I welcome all here to witness and take part in the solemn event taking place this evening.”
Suddenly, the middle double doors, the grandest entrance to the ballroom, opened and in stepped a procession that had everybody gasping. In front walked two tall guards, radiating power and age, similarly blonde and blue eyed. They were followed by the handmaidens of the Ancient Pythoness, the head of the supernatural council. The Ancient Pythoness, old and regal, walked in after two of her handmaidens and then two more followed. She was the oldest vampire in the world and held the highest position in the supernatural councils across many countries. Monarchs could lose a hand and leg to have her mention their names. Her presence here showed off the kind of support the new powers had. It also went to prove that no one in their right mind, would even dream of challenging anything that was announced tonight.
They sure are making a big deal out of themselves! Pompous asses…Whats all the fanfare about? Louisiana has had monarchs before! I never got anything like this!
Along with all present, Bill braced himself for the announcement. He had a nagging feeling that a new monarch was going to be announced. He looked in awe at the procession from the door. If only he had the same kind of support. Another collective gasp went across the room when the next vampires in the procession, came in view.
On seeing who entered the room at a place of honor, Bill froze and spluttered on the blood drink he was drinking.
Of all the confounded fuckery… Eric? How the hell?