A Regime Change

Luckily, I located my underwear and put them in the bedroom trash can, because they had not survived the Viking raid. Eric was still dressing when the others began arriving.

Everyone was laughing when they came in, Alcide was telling a story, and I hoped it wasn’t about me. It turned out he had run into some Vegas supes in the casino and was telling the group how he had beaten them all at Texas Hold ‘Em. He had made $3,000 and was quite happy with himself. I stood behind Bill and listened to see if I could hear his thoughts.

Eric walked in to find me standing behind Bill’s chair concentrating on trying to hear him. I heard Eric make a little laughing noise and then he thought, Do not hurt yourself, Lover. I did not think you would be able to hear anyone else.

After Pam handed out a round of drinks, we got down to business. The plan for the night was to question Lars first, and basically let him bury himself. Then Alcide would talk about his cousin, without letting Lars know exactly who he was, and I would testify that there were no other humans present at Fangtasia. Victor would sit in on the whole thing and eventually, Felipe’s staff would present the phone records showing that not only was Victor in Shreveport the night of the attacks, but that he and Lars had talked more than one hundred times in the two weeks leading to New Year’s. It all sounded very cut and dried and as if nothing could go wrong. I was not quite naive enough to believe it though.

As we made our way up to Felipe’s suite, I hung back with Eric and caught his attention. I still didn’t have the hang of this talking through the bond thing.

He laughed at me and I heard him think, Lover, you don’t need to get me alone anymore, just think whatever you need to and I’ll hear it.

Fine. I thought. I want to know how you are going to get all of the security tapes from Felipe from yesterday.

Security tapes? Why do we need those?

Because he has tapes of us… you know… in the elevator!

Yes, I do know. His security system is state of the art. The video is actually quite good.

I grabbed his arm. What do you mean the video is good?

Relax, Lover. He gave me the CD last night. He had the hard drives wiped clean so no one could upload it to the internet, but he thought we might want a copy as a souvenir.

Souvenir? I want to destroy it!

He burned me with his eyes. Oh, Lover, I think we’ll watch it together and then you can decide if you don’t want to keep it, or make more for that matter.

Then he leaned down and kissed my neck, giving me a lick right over my pulse. He had done it to me again. We were walking in to an important meeting and my body couldn’t decide if it wanted to throw up or have an orgasm.

Felipe greeted us and brought us into the conference room. He introduced us to Dani and Jeanette, two of his D.D.’s who he explained were there to document the hearing, the representatives from the AVL, and the Tribunal Court officers that had flown in for the hearing. Victor was sitting to the right of Felipe’s vacant seat. The king showed off by offering the vamps True Blood’s new Virgin drink that apparently had pheromones or hormones in it to make it taste, well, virginal. I didn’t really understand, it was synthetic but they were using real hormones? It just upped the ick factor on TrueBlood for me. Oddly though, he served the blood from a carafe and gave it to everyone in coffee mugs.

I’ll be damned, but that is genius, I thought and Eric almost spit his drink out. I mean, I’m sure it stays warm longer that way as opposed to just serving in the bottle. Anyway, Alcide and I were offered coffee or water. Thanks for breaking the bank on us.

Lars was brought in and seated at the end of the table. He was wearing long leather gloves and what I assumed to be silver handcuffs. This was actually my first look at the Florida King. He was tall and appeared to be Nordic, very blond and blue eyed, but I had no idea how old he was.

Not old enough, Lover. He’s only about 400 years old. He had a rapid rise in Florida. There are many hurricanes and a lot of vampire turnover in the sunshine state.

Felipe began reading the list of accusations against Lars. Everyone was quiet, and then Lars was asked to speak in his own defense. He told a story of being framed by the Fellowship of the Sun to drive a wedge between the vampire kings.

One of the AVL reps asked him what evidence he had that FotS was involved. He talked about strange hang up calls on his cell phone and a fire at his dry cleaning store that in no way indicated FotS involvement to me. I felt Eric willing me to keep my mouth shut through the bond.

I am behaving, Eric. Leave me alone.

Speak to me like that in private all you want, Lover, but remember the king thinks you like to obey me.

I don’t think I ever gave him the impression I liked it.

We quieted our minds and listened as the court members asked some of their own questions. Nothing Lars said was anywhere near convincing to me. He talked about human bodies found outside of the recently attacked establishments that indicated the New Year’s attacks were part of a larger plan.

I had to bite back my sarcasm, I mean really, FotS was not responsible for drug over-doses and drainings that occasionally happened near vamp bars and parties. I had no idea how Lars thought he would get away with this, using such a pathetic excuse.

After a few more questions, Felipe gave Lars a pitiful look and said, “That is all quite interesting. But not only do I have a witness from one of the attacks that will confirm there were no humans involved in the raid, but I have another witness who has knowledge that you planned these attacks from the supe bar in Jacksonville.”

He let that sink in a little and asked Lars what he had to say to that. He really had no response and looked completely shocked he had been found out. Alcide and I quickly made our statements, and we were all asked to take a break while the court officers and the AVL folks made a decision. Lars was escorted to a room across the hall and the rest of us stepped into the suite for more refreshments.

I stood by Eric and Pam and said, “Well, that wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected.”

Pam looked at me like I was a little crazy, she did that a lot, and Eric said, “Oh, Lover, that was the easy part. I’m afraid the bloody part is about to start.” He squeezed my shoulder and his thoughts continued. When we return to the hearing, Lover, be sure you sit next to me. I do not know how Victor will react to being threatened.

We regrouped in the conference room a few minutes later, although without Lars, and Felipe didn’t wait a second to stir things up. “The representatives from the Court and from the Vampire League have determined what they think an appropriate punishment should be. Before we discuss that, I’d like to ask Victor how he feels about this. He is my second in command in Louisiana, and this did all happen under his watch.”

Victor cleared his throat; he clearly felt powerful and unbeatable. “Attacking another king is a heinous crime. Making three coordinated attacks on vamps and an attack on supes in the area at the same time is unforgivable.”

I could feel myself starting to hyperventilate a little; the man was about to throw himself out in to the sunshine and he had no idea.

Eric put his hand on my leg. Lover, just wait. Be ready to run if this gets ugly.

But Victor just continued, “If we are trying to make our place in society, we cannot be plotting against each other like savages. Lars should be sent into the sun, there is no question.” He looked around, clearly quite pleased with the speech he had made.

Felipe smiled. “That is what you truly believe, Victor?”

He confused Felipe’s evil smile with one that said he was proud of his second in command and gave a firm nod.

“That is good to know. Now, let me allow two more witnesses to speak about your involvement in this ordeal.”

Victor visibly paled, not that he could get much more pale, but he did. You could feel the tension in the room. The AVL folks were stunned, and you could see Victor’s jaw working as he tried to come up with something to say to save himself.

Dani spoke about her job pinging cell phone calls. She told everyone Victor had been in Shreveport, two blocks from Fangtasia, when Felipe called to warn him about the attacks. I truly think there was smoke coming from one of the AVL guy’s ears. Then Jeanette explained that once they knew Victor was lying about his whereabouts on New Year’s they investigated his connection with Lars. Not only had they found the over one hundred phone calls between Lars and Victor in the two weeks before the attack, they had discovered a very large wire transfer going from one of Victor’s businesses to Lars’ Dry Cleaners account. Victor looked like a cornered animal; it was not going to be good.

Felipe began to make a grand statement about how glad he was that Victor knew the consequences of his crime when I saw the muscles in Victor’s shoulders tense. Eric pushed me back just as Victor launched himself at the king. In the same instant, Pam grabbed me and the Sheriffs moved toward Victor. They were too late though, because he was beginning to disintegrate and goo was flying across the room. Felipe picked the gooey stake up from the floor and handed it to a very shell shocked Jeanette.

Everyone was a little dazed, and Felipe was bleeding where Victor had grabbed his throat going in for the kill. After a moment, the king spoke, “Well, I did not quite wish for that ending to the evening, but I had prepared, just in case. Now, we have agreed that Lars will also meet his final death due to his role in the attacks, not to mention his blatant attempt to lie about it. The court officers will handle all of that. You are all dismissed. Please enjoy your stay here at my hotel. If you’ll excuse me, I need to get cleaned up.” He strode from the room without a backwards glance and was gone.

Eric checked in with me through the bond but I was okay. This wasn’t my first vamp murder, it wasn’t pleasant by any means, but all of my vamps were safe, and I just wanted to get out of there. Our group from Louisiana headed back to our room downstairs. We each had a little bit of vampire goo on us, but we had all been at the far end of the table, so a change of clothes and a wet cloth here and there were really all we required.

Alcide was looking thoroughly disgusted with all things vamp and said he would see us in the morning. He told me to call him if I wanted breakfast. Eric actually thanked him, and he was gone. We were all still pretty shocked, or at least I was in such a state of shock I thought they were too. All I knew was no one seemed to want to talk about what had just happened.

Since we were in Vegas, we decided to head downstairs and do some gambling. Eric offered to teach me how to play roulette. He explained the basics of the game to me and that I could bet on specific numbers, just the colors, odd or even numbers, or all of the above. He gave me some chips and nudged me towards the table. I didn’t know how much the chips were for, but I bet one on red.

The wheel spun and spun and landed black. I read the number board to see if there was a pattern to help me decide what I should bet on next.

“That board means nothing, Lover. Every time it’s a 50/50 chance. Just pick what you want.”

Well, I like red. It was the color of love, blood and vampires, so I stuck with it again. The ball was dropped and I watched the wheel spinning…red! The dealer added some chips to my stack and
Eric smiled. “You’ll win more if you choose a specific number.”

“I’ll lose more often if I pick a specific number too.”

“Just making sure you had listened.” He stood behind me and rubbed my back. We played for a while and I ended up making a little money. It didn’t seem real since it was chips, and I handed it all back to Eric.

He grinned at me, “Lover, you may keep your winnings.”

I kind of wrinkled my nose, “Nah, it’s yours.” I took his hand and headed towards Pam and Bill playing craps.

“Lover, you just won two thousand dollars.”

I stopped in my tracks. “I what?”

“Well, you started with $10,000 and just handed me twelve, so you won two thousand.”

“Why on earth would you give me $10,000? Oh my lord, what if I had dropped a chip? Eric, that is too much money!” I was rambling.

He pulled me into his arms for a kiss and his cell phone rang. “Northman,” he answered with a growl. Eric stepped slightly away from the gaming tables so he could hear and spoke only for a moment and then returned. “Lover, we need to call Barry and your shifter boss. Felipe would like us to stay an extra day.”

“What does that mean?”

He sighed a little. “I think it means I am going to be his second in command.”

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