I rose at sundown and the first thing I felt was something I hadn’t felt in quite some time. I concentrated on the feeling to pin point the source. It wasn’t Pam or Willa. I could clearly feel my two girls still dead for the day. They would be up in a few minutes. This one though, felt like a pull and a slight warmth, right where my heart used to beat a thousand years ago. A need to be somewhere I wanted to be. So I searched further. It felt as if something was flowing through me, some form of warmth that took a life of its own.
If I was right about the source, there was no reason to be feeling what I was…
It was going to be a very busy night for me, so I quickly got up, showered and fed on some tested bagged blood. I was the new monarch of two states which had gone through hell for two years and problems do not solve themselves. Though I had worked behind the scenes for around six months, I was now out in the open, with the wolves so to speak, and that made things more hectic.
Before the formal event of the evening, I needed to attend to a number of less formal and more important affairs. The first one was a meeting with my team of lawyers and it went on smoothly as expected. I was briefed on all the paperwork which would be signed later and I made sure we had everything we needed on hand.
My second meeting was with other vampire monarchs who had made the trip to New Orleans to, for the lack of better words, give me their blessings and check out competition. I was pretty sure two of them were already thinking about marriage contracts. But I sure as hell was not looking that way. No pun intended but, I think my heart was a bit too dead for that complication. I was more interested in the affirmation of state lines and trade and asset distribution agreements with the other vampire kings and queens. The negotiations had been going on for quite some time but today I needed to sign a lot of contracts and had my trusted demon lawyer Desmond Cataliades and his team for assistance. They had already gone through each and every one of the gazillion legal documents all over the big table in the conference room.
At the end of two hours, we still had to get to the asset documentation. It was basically contractual dos and don’ts on my state assets, all kinds of creatures included, and terms for other known useful resources in other kingdoms. I did have access to the best resources the Supernatural Council had, and that was a lot, but I needed to set boundaries for the others eyeing beings that came within my state lines. Most of those special beings didn’t even know they had any significance for the state, or had legal contracts being drawn over their ownership, or that those state lines even existed. I already had each and every one of them listed, researched and documented with me. It could be called spying without permission, but what can I say, vampires are like that. Someone used to call us high handed and they were spot on with that description.
My last engagement would be the evening meeting with all different supernaturals and their representatives in my state and a few from further around. There were some representatives from the American leg of the Supernatural Council, who were attending. As I understood, the individual groups had already had their meetings prior to the big get together. I hoped it went on smoothly because one can never tell about supes. They may be getting along one moment and then in less than a second, someone could bring up some racist shit and everybody would draw daggers at each other. It had happened before. It could happen tonight. So I requested reps from the Supe Council there to control the situation. Apart from that danger, it was really a very big event, with a lot of supes coming out of hiding to meet the others for the first time. It sure had been a royal pain in the arse to get them to come together. But we needed everyone together. It was important to demonstrate the strength of my states and it was important to do that when a lot of powerful vampires were looking.
We decided to postpone the vampire meeting to until after the supe event because it was already time to be there. So we broke up the meeting and I went to my residence chambers to take get dressed for the ball. I decided to check on my progenies and found Pam practically drowning in couture in her room.
Quick retreat ….
Willa was pulling at some rolling contraptions from her hair and there was some kind of green goo on her face. I just had to ask about that. I stopped at the door and raised an eyebrow at her.
“Oh… what? What? Are the waves looking good?” Willa gestured at her hair.
“I’ll get there when I get past the goo on your face.”
She furrowed her brows. “It’s a refreshing mask I always use before any parties or stuff!”
What the…? “You do realize you are a vampire now and vampires come as fresh as they do.”
Willa jumped up and started towards the door, the voice rising with her nerves for the coming party. “Whatever… I just always do it and I can’t change all my habits right away. It is girl stuff and it helps me relax.” She practically shoved me out of the doorway. “Go now. You are distracting me and I need to look perfect for the evening.”
So I just put my hands up in surrender. “Ok, ok I am going. You do your girl stuff. I’ll get out of your hair.”
It took me ten minutes to get ready for the ballroom event and I decided I should be there as soon as possible to start making the appearance I was supposed to be making. I checked with the guard room on my way to see if everything was smooth and that there was no funny business anywhere. It was the first upgrade I did to Sophie Anne’s place when I came here. The guard room now has a whole wall of display consoles from where the guards can effectively keep an eye on the whole property and the exits, can change angles and can track a person around the complex. I made sure it was the best stuff available or unavailable in the market. No way was I making the mistake of taking security lightly ever again.
I didn’t mean to, but as soon as I entered the ballroom, my traitorous eyes went straight to the golden goddess standing in the middle of the room, looking absolutely gorgeous.
My step faltered.
I, Eric Northman, thousand year old vampire king of Louisiana and Mississippi, Viking warrior of the old world, forgot that I was walking, forgot that there were others in the room and forgot that I needed to start acknowledging the people that were greeting me. But I just…forgot. I again felt the warmth running through my veins, as I had felt earlier.
So it was you…Who else could it be….
For an instance, I forgot that I had decided to move on with life.
Stop being pathetic and don’t make an ass out of yourself Northman…She doesn’t rule you…
But why did she have to look like that? Why did she have to call to my blood like that?
Just out of habit, I did a quick check around her. As expected, the vultures were already circling and I could see how many of them wanted to devour her. I couldn’t help it that I wanted to tear apart each and every one of the buzzards who thought she could be so easily had. The only thing that kept me tethered to where I was, was her own decision to stay away from vampires, from me, and that killed me in that second, as much as it had killed me the night she said it. If only she hadn’t walked out on me…If only she hadn’t sent me away…
Bill Compton was shamelessly moving towards her and doing his poor impression of a smirk at me. No doubt his delusional mind was still claiming Sookie to be his own.
Weasel! That’s our vampire ex-god folks! When I’m finished with him, he won’t be fit to be called anything.
Oh and there’s that wolf circling and sniffing…He looks like someone stole the bone he was chewing.
I put the others out of my mind and concentrated on Sookie. I could not look enough at Sookie’s hypnotic form right across from me, more so because I didn’t know when I would even look at her again. Standing and talking to faceless no bodies and feeling and having her so close and yet so far, was pure torture. But I had to do it for my own sanity. I knew if I slipped even an inch, she would be the death of me. And I couldn’t die. Not when I had so many to protect. Not when I had her to protect. I straightened out and in my head, silently recited the moving on speech I liked to tell myself from time to time.
Sookie Stackhouse wanted a life apart from me and she would have it. I practically fell at her feet and she turned away from me. She didn’t want me and it stung.
I had my back towards her to concentrate more on the conversation I was having with Thalia, when she suddenly went rigid and hissed.
“We have a problem.”
I felt like I was a five year old, waiting excitedly the whole day for my mom to dress me in my new pretty frock, for the party in the evening. Only this one, was nothing like any party I had ever had or been to, or had been within a ten mile distance of. See, Bon Temps is just not the partying kind of town. We have the usual Christmases and thanksgiving dinners and Halloweens. Occasionally we get a birthday or a promotion party at Merlotte’s. But judging by what Great Granddaddy told me, today I was going to a King’s ball and I was expected to look the sparkly princess.
After lunch, I took a long shower under the wonderful rain shower thing in the suite bathroom, and shaved my arms and legs. I blow dried my hair to soft waves and went to look at the dress I was wearing. It was a shear peach gold fitted gown, with crystals all over the bust and the skirt. It delicately hugged all my curves and flared out right at the knees, making me look like a shimmery mermaid, right out of water. It was by far the most beautiful piece of clothing I had ever owned and I wanted to look perfect in it. So I primped and preened and brushed and lacquered well into the evening till it was time for us to leave. My hard work seemed to have paid off when I finally left my room to meet up with Niall. He looked at me for half a minute, and before I could start hyperventilating, a beautiful smile spread on his lips as he offered me his arm to leave.
“You look like a princess great granddaughter. I’d be honored to have you on my arm tonight.”
“Well great granddaddy, you look dapper too. And it may not show, but I am really nervous right now.”
“Why sugar? You look great. Just hold your head high and enjoy your evening. Nothing to be nervous about…”
Adelyne was already with great granddaddy, looking a pretty picture in a hot pink figure hugging dress. It was her first big party too and the girl was splitting at her seams with nervous tingling. Great granddaddy chuckled and just clutched both our hands for a moment and blew on them. Our hands glowed yellow for a moment. Adelyne stopped fidgeting and I felt more peaceful than I had felt in perhaps a whole year.
“That was one neat trick there…Thanks!” Both Adelyne and I giggled and Niall laughed out. So, we headed out to our party, I for one, feeling like Cinderella.
Everything about the whole complex in the middle of New Orleans most elite neighborhood was beautiful. Whoever designed and decorated the place, sure knew what they were doing, and knew it well. It was spectacular and muted at the same time. I had to laugh aloud at the actual red carpet adorning our path all the way through some stunning gardens lit with myriad lights in all the trees, and it led us to a big enclosed building, connected with the other buildings on the opposite side.
As I stepped inside, I could not control the audible gasp that left my lips at the sight that met my eyes.
It was spectacular…
If I was feeling like a Cinderella before, now I felt that I had arrived at the King’s Ball in a beautiful golden dress. And turns out I didn’t have to go back by midnight either. I was the fairy here, remember? I could tweak all rules.
There was a large buffet set up on one side of the large ball room. I say ball room because with its magnificent chandeliers, high vaulted ceilings and gilt mirrors placed all around, it couldn’t be anything else. There was a whole orchestra playing some classic beautiful numbers that I didn’t recognize but was totally loving. If it was not for the complete jumble of thoughts flying around the place, it would have been my perfect ball. Still, it was pretty wonderful.
And don’t even get me started on how wonderful everyone looked. I silently thanked the lord for my splurge on the dress I was wearing because it fit right in with the others. There were a number of vampires flitting about in the room and I caught sight of a few familiar faces from the Bon Temps human-vamp mixer. Great granddaddy introduced Adelyne and me to a number of important people, which were supernatural creatures of some kind because of the funny brainwaves I was getting. I could also tell that Adelyne was royally confused and thoroughly excited. I’d have to keep an eye for her before trouble could catch up with her.
There were the red hazy weres and shifters that I knew about. Then there were some that were just white noise like on a wrong TV channel (maybe they were late on subscription payments?), some with a sort of beeping alien signal going on (World War two SOS?) and some which were definitely human but were blocking their thoughts from me. While making my first impressions on so many different individuals, I sometimes forgot that technically I am an alien too. But not making snarky comments in my mind is just too much fun to miss up on. Apart from them there were a lot of humans loudly broadcasting as well. Excitement and awe was the undertone in every mind though. So I was busy experiencing the different thought patterns, when I felt a void at my back.
I turned and teased. “You are a shitty vampire Tara. You can’t even sneak up on a plain old human.”
“Yeah! Plain old human my ass!” she smiled and stepped forward to give me a good hug. Vampires don’t hug but Tara is my childhood friend and a new vampire so what the hell. “How have you been girl? Where’s your dog?” she sniffed around me for good effect.
“Phhttt…I guess he is gnawing some bone of contention in some corner my fairy lights don’t reach! I’ve been good otherwise. And this…” I rounded my hand around the room, “is the best friggin party I’ve ever been to.”
“I am telling ya Sook, fucker’s not good for you! God you have the knack of picking up the worst of ‘em. This one smelt awful too.” Then she winked at me. “Try out my team sometime.”
I rolled my eyes at that… “No thank you…I am fine with my team.” And since I didn’t want to further discuss my relationship issues in a room full of beings with super hearing, I changed the topic. “You look amazing…”
Tara did a pirouette for my benefit, showing off her dress and ample curves. “You got that right! But I ain’t commin’ nowhere near you tonight…You’ll cost me all my dates…Not only do you look amazing, I now know why vampers never leave you alone. You smell awesome!” she said the last part with a bit of glaze in her eyes and I realized that the fairy scent was beginning to go to her head.
I was sweet scented to the vampires and Niall could mask his scent, but Adelyne was getting a lot of unwanted attention, though she seemed to enjoy it thoroughly. Can’t blame a girl for that though! So I decided to move Tara away from our little group and started walking further into the ballroom.
“Tara sweety, New Orleans is one hell of a city! No wonder you shifted and didn’t want to come back.”
Tara started walking with me when I tugged at her arm, still a little dazed, but managed to give me a coherent reply. “Aah c’mon Sook, Bon Temps is the fucking capital of excitement if you ask me. Ain’t no second passes without something going to shit…”
She was so right about that…We walked towards the dance floor and saw Jessica wrapped up in the arms of James, perfectly oblivious to the onlookers. She looked happy and horny, the perfect combination for a vampire.
I again felt that warmth going right through me, reaching every particle of my being. I couldn’t explain why but suddenly I felt safe and cared for. It was a good feeling. Was seeing Jess and James together making me feel so good?
Tara distracted me from my thoughts. “I hate romance!”
I looked at her and she was looking equal parts forlorn and grumpy. “Oh honey. What happened with Pam? You still seeing her?”
She grimaced at that, “Yeah we see each other when her head is not stuck in that jerk’s ass!”
Oh! That had to be…!
Still I asked to be sure. “Uhhh jerk?”
“Yeah grand fucking daddy! Eric Northman!”
Did she always spit out his name like that? Yes she always spit out his name like that…
Did I always feel bad when she did this? Ummm yeah if I think about it…!
Which fortuitously brings me to a topic of conversation I am dying to start and dying to ignore and no idea what to do about.
“So Eric is here?”
“Sure he is here, where else would he be?…You won’t believe me but he…”
Right then we are interrupted by someone too close to my back for comfort.
Oh great! Just when I was starting to have fun!
I still had to turn and acknowledge him. I was too well mannered to just blow him away, though the thought did cross my mind once, or twice maybe? I did love doing it to him at the cemetery one year ago.
Tara just grunted and made a face. I pulled up the fakest smile in my arsenal and got on with it.
“Hi there Bill.”
He tried to grab my hand but I put both of mine at my back. Bill still settled on trying to grab my elbows.
“You are the sunshine of the room Sookeh! I really can’t have enough of you.”
“Too much of sunshine can burn you Bill. I thought you knew that!”
Bill’s smile faltered for a moment and his face took on a constipated expression, before he expertly wiped his face clean of everything.
Was he always so conspicuous on his face? I should have noticed…
Now he switched to a lustful expression. “Nothing that your blood can’t fix I am sure.”
“You would never have that again Bill.”
“Yeah you heard her. Now buzz off!” Tara chimed in.
Bill turned an angry gaze to Tara and his voice became lusty to chilly in five seconds. “I’d like to remind you that you are younger than me by a lot and it would be better if you kept your ill-mannered self out of this conversation. This is between Sookeh and me.”
And he turned to me again. I swear he changed expressions like a bored ADHD’ed teenager flipping TV channels.
Tara took on her confrontational stance, hand on a hip, head tilted and eyebrow up.
“Just who do you think you are mister well-mannered white ass vampire? I might be younger, but I don’t fuckin’ go about killing innocent people on a happy hour. I bet we can’t say the same for you. If you call them manners, then I sure as hell don’t want any.”
I have worked at a redneck bar all my life and know when trouble starts brewing so I knew where this particular conversation was headed. You see, Tara is confrontational, stubborn, protective and now she is a vampire too. Bill is overbearing, antiquated and stubborn, confrontational and possessive too. Not a good combination. I was about to pull Tara away from where we were standing in an effort to cool her down when I felt another head approaching.
An angry Alcide!
He came up from behind me and put a hand at my waist to pull me roughly up to him. I was flushed tight to his side and tucked under his arm. Right then, I felt more like being claimed by a primordial ape rather than a wolf. The ape, that hadn’t even looked at me all evening and was now staring daggers at Bill.
“Problem vampire?” I swear he made the word vampire sound like a bad swear word.
“You are part of the problem, wolf!” Wolf is a swear word too? Huh…who knew? “Sookie and I were talking before being disturbed by you imbeciles.” He glances at both Tara and Alcide.
“The fuck Bill! Sookie has been clear of vampire since a year.” So vampire was a disease too…“ I let Tara and Jessica talk to her because she is their friend or something.” What! “But you are coming nowhere near her. We made it absolutely clear at that God Awful Bon Temps mixer.”
Before I could ask Alcide just what the hell did he mean by the ‘allow Tara and Jessica to talk to me’ crap, Tara beat me to it.
“Just what the hell do you mean allow us to talk to Sookie? You her bloody warden now?”
Thank God for childhood friends…
I couldn’t be left behind for the life of me… “Yes Alcide! Just what the hell do you mean by that?”
Alcide turned his stink eyes at me. “It means that you are mine! Now please keep quite till I sort this out with these vampires and you and I will have a talk later.”
Oh no he didn’t…
Alcide’s fists were clenched and he was just a hair’s breadth away from having a growly fit.
Tara was snarling.
Bill was making hissy eyes at Tara, threatening eyes at Alcide and some kind of undecipherable eyes at me.
And they had totally killed my buzz…Not to mention I was still pinned tightly under Alcide’s armpit.
I stepped from under Alcide and turned so I was facing all three of them and whisper yelled.
“I belong to nobody! Do you understand me? I am my own person. And how dare both of you insult my friend Tara? She has been around long before you two were even on the horizon of my life and going by that standard, I belong with Tara much more than I do with either of you. Jesus Christ! Are you guys going to have a pissing contest now?”
Alcide stepped right in front of me and looked threatening. I could not shrink back because he was holding my shoulders in a death grip. “You don’t know jackshit about supes do you? The only reason you can prance around freely in your precious Bon Temps with your precious friends is because for the other supes, I have already claimed you. You think you can go on one night without getting attacked by some vampire if I didn’t stand in front of you?”
The thing about a werewolf bully is that he remains happy while you keep within the lines he draws. The moment you start questioning those lines, everything becomes a matter of ego for him and then he does not fool around with things like the other person’s feelings. But coming to think about it, had the other men in my life been all that different?
Bill, the first one, was still delusional and thought he held some part of my heart. And that is after using me, draining me to half death, lying to me to high heaven and calling me names. He still insists that he loves me though! If what he has for me is love in his eyes, then I’ll be god damned…
Warlow, the last one, went all caveman on me when I tried to ask him for some time to accept my future as a fae-vamp. He had to be killed to get him off my back. You get the picture!
Alcide, the current one, is pissing me off right now and I was seriously sick of being a trophy waiting to be claimed.
Since we are on the topic, there was another…Now he had actually listened to what I was saying and left me alone when I asked for time and space. Why did he go and why did I send him away?
Coming back from my man trouble musings, I was facing a very angry Alcide, who had finally come to growling, at me, after hurling a shitload of stupidity to my face. This was it then! The moment of truth…Either I fall in line to appease the bully in the schoolyard and keep backing down. Or I fess up.
I had tried backing down to keep the peace for far too long. I seriously didn’t need that much load on my shoulders all the time. Alcide was clutching my shoulders quite firmly and I was scared I’d have light bruises by the end of the evening.
So much for looking pretty and trying to enjoy a night without guy issues!
I gritted my teeth and looked him dead in the eyes.
“You are hurting me Alcide. Let go…” I was surprised at how calm I sounded.
I guess Alcide was surprised too. He let go of my arms and I promptly took a step back to put more distance between us. He didn’t let go of the argument though. Too bad!
“You are mine!”
Bill chose that moment to jump on the claim Sookie train and declared quite triumphantly “She will never belong to another as she belonged to me.”
“Oh shut the fuck up you two and back off!”
Alcide growled and took another step towards me, so did Bill towards Alcide, and so did Tara towards me, probably to save me from the pissing contest.
I nervously staggered back and my heel caught into the hem of my long gown. I would have gone down but someone put a steadying hand in the small of my back and gently grabbed my left arm to hold me up.
“You heard the lady. Back off!”
My heart jumped to my throat and I forgot to breathe. I knew that voice. I knew those hands. Boy did I know those hands!
Did the whole room just shift its axis?
Was I finally having my long due meltdown?
I didn’t realize I wasn’t breathing till I felt light headed and the room swam in front of my eyes. Eric removed his hand from my back and snaked his arm around my waist to firmly hold me and keep me standing on my feet. I felt his head bend down to my shoulder for a moment and he inhaled deeply, before whispering in my ear. “Breathe Sookie…Breathe!”
Sookie’s Dress and Shoes (I really love this dress :)…Feel free to click on the image and have a closer look… )