The phone was ringing beside the bed, after three rings when Eric didn’t answer it, I realized I was alone. I grabbed the phone and managed a groggy hello.
“Lover, you have two hours to get ready for Felipe’s reception.”
“Reception. Two hours.”
“Yes. You will want to call room service because there will not be human food available.”
I was starting to fully wake up. “Reception, two hours, food.” I cleared my throat again. “Where are you?”
He laughed. “I’m in the lobby. I met with Felipe and am getting ready to take him to Victor’s old compound to inspect the security around Booker. Can you meet me in the front lobby in two hours?”
“Yeah. I’ll meet you there.”
“Good, Lover, I cannot wait to see what outfit Pam and Ellsey selected for this event. Oh, and Sookie, if you leave the room you must bring you keycard with you, even if you are coming to meet me. The hotel is very strict about allowing guests only in certain areas.”
I was finally awake, so I said, “Right. Reception, two hours, food, key. Anything else?”
With all seriousness, he said, “Do not wear any underwear.”
I snorted, but figured he was probably on to something; they just got ruined when I wore them anyway.
When I got to the lobby, I didn’t see Eric anywhere, but I saw Ellsey and she immediately pulled me into the ladies room.
“Sookie, I don’t know how you do it…”
“You either look like the girl next door or a hooker. You cannot seem to find the middle ground when it comes to cosmetics.”
I was a little embarrassed, but she was too quick for me to stop and was already wiping off my lipstick and moving for my eyelids. I don’t know how she had all of the supplies in her purse that she needed, and I certainly don’t know how she fixed everything in two minutes flat, but I did look a lot better.
She mumbled to herself that we were going to have to have make-up lessons when we got back to Shreveport, and I laughed. She looked me up and down and seemed otherwise satisfied with my appearance. I was wearing a long black satin floor length straight skirt with a corseted top of red satin overlaid with black lace. It was sexy and appropriate, but still Sookie.
Eric was in the lobby when we came out of the restroom, and he smiled at my outfit. When he saw my bare skin through the corset laces in the back I felt his reaction against my hip. I raised my eyebrow at him and took his arm to head into the large ballroom. Even though this weekend would culminate in a trial, Felipe was taking every opportunity to flaunt his status as king and enjoy some southern hospitality. Eric reminded me not to speak to Felipe unless spoken to, although he expected that at some point the king would come speak to me.
The crowd seemed very lively and there was a head table set up for Felipe to lord over his minions. It was very odd since he was sitting there by himself and there were no other chairs on the dais with him, just security guards and a velvet rope. Eric mentally shushed me, as if I would have said anything out loud, and directed us to our table.
The evening was full of speeches. Felipe had invited a representative from every Area in the State and several Sheriffs from bordering Areas attended as well. Oddly, the human Governor of Louisiana had come to welcome the king and reach out an olive branch to the Vamps of the State. I was beginning to yawn when the music began. Eric led me to the dance floor and spun me around to an old fashioned love song. When the song finished I noticed one of Felipe’s bodyguards was waiting for us.
Sure enough, he stepped to Eric’s side and said, “The king requests your presence, Northman.”
We went over to Felipe’s table and waited, basically in a line, to speak with him. Eventually, he glanced at me and rudely told Eric I was not needed. Sigh. Eric tightened his grip on my arm before I said something and quietly told me he would meet me in the lobby bar.
“As you wish,” I said with a nod of my head, knowing Eric would recognize it as a quote from the Princess Bride and not a sign of my acquiescence.
Luckily, since the hotel served humans and other supes as well as vampires, I was able to get a gin and tonic in the bar while I waited. Ellsey wandered in and sat next to me, splurging on some imported blood and telling me funny stories about anyone she recognized.
Suddenly, I felt like I was being watched again, but when I found Seamus in the crowd he was narrowing in on Ellsey, walking towards her, their eyes locked. He was black Irish, with dark hair and eyes on top of a body that would not quit. Whatever was going on with him and Ellsey was an odd, slow-motion kind of situation, but I couldn’t turn away from watching.
As he brought her hand to his lips, I cleared my throat. “Seamus.”
“He gets me every time!” Ellsey laughed and pulled back, slapping at his hand.
“Sookie, it is not nice to ruin the moment when a man is moving in to seduce a beautiful woman.” He reached for Ellsey’s hand again and kissed the back of it.
I looked between them. “What is going on here?”
Ellsey grinned. “You don’t know Seamus? Oh, you two have to talk!” She kept smiling and walked away, leaving me more confused.
“Why do I have to talk to you, Mr.-?”
“Flynn, Seamus Flynn. I suppose you and I need to talk, because I used to be you.”
“You used to be a blond waitress? Really?” I snarked. I didn’t know what we had in common but I was tired of the hints.
He barked a laugh. “No child, I used to be an eighth fae and in love with a vampire.”
“What? You’re like me? Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“I said I used to be you. If you haven’t noticed, I’m a vampire now.”
“Oh! How did that happen?”
“Really, Sookie?” he laughed.
“No. I mean, I got the impression that I don’t have to turn. I mean, I…” I’m sure I looked totally confused. I couldn’t believe there was someone out there like me! I didn’t know how much I could tell him, and I was just struggling to process everything.
He laughed again and sat down next to me at the bar. “I’m assuming several things about you. One, you are bonded to the Viking, and two, you are probably soul-mates. I’m also going to guess you’re part of a Royal family, Brigant probably, based on the fae smell. Am I close?”
I tried not to confirm anything, but asked why he would make those assumptions about Eric.
He sniffed a little. “Because nothing less would have pulled that one into a relationship. He has been wandering for centuries, a king without his queen. When I heard he had fallen, I knew it was for eternity. But as I said, it’s just a guess. So if I am correct, you will not need to be turned. You’re right about that. It doesn’t mean your life together will be easy by any means.”
I smiled. “You sound like Eric.”
“That’s a compliment, to be sure. See, my case was different. The vampire I loved was not my soul-mate. To ensure eternity together, I asked her to turn me.”
“Oh, I see. Is she here?”
“I haven’t seen her in decades.”
“Oh. That can’t be good.”
He cocked his head a little. “I think it’s for the best really. No one warned me that vampire couples find it very difficult to stay together. In the long run, we were much happier apart than together. And now as part fae and vampire, I lead the most amazing bachelor’s life.”
He signaled the bartender to get me another drink and sighed. “What do you know about your family?”
“You’re good,” he said with a head shake. “You’ve picked up a lot from Eric. Anyway, your family is not entirely trustworthy and will have a hard time with your union with the Viking.”
“And this is based on my scent?”
“No, this is based on the fact that your great-grandfather is a piece of work.”
“So you know who I am?”
“Yeah, I heard about you, but I didn’t connect you with Eric’s woman until today. Plus, you smell so much like Claude and Claudine it isn’t funny. Anyway, I heard through the grapevine they were going to start training you. If you ever need help, or you have questions about the fae world, give me a shout.”
As he finished speaking, I felt Eric’s cool hand on my back. “Seamus, you’re not filling her with lies, are you?”
“Ah… Viking, why would I do such a thing?”
“Because you already figured out you can not seduce her.”
“Quite true, but her friend Ellsey and I go way back. I think I shall keep her busy this weekend.”
He grinned and stood and took my hand. “It has been a pleasure. I meant what I said, if you need any advice or help in terms of the fae, call me.” He kissed the back of my hand and walked off.
“So, Lover, you met the vampire Don Juan.”
“Yes. He was, interesting. Where’ve you been? What did Felipe need?”
“He wanted to finalize plans for tomorrow evening. Trey and Simon have everything in order, but the king felt it needed my stamp of approval as well.”
I finished my drink and smiled. “Are we done tonight?”
“Yes, Lover, let’s go upstairs. We need to talk about the plans for tomorrow evening, and then I need to get you out of those clothes.”
I got up before Eric, as usual, and made coffee while checking my voice-mails. I had an hour and half, maybe two hours to myself to relax.
Message one, Sam warning me to be careful. I hadn’t heard from him in weeks. I’d have to call him when I got some time, just to catch up and hear the bar gossip.
Message two, Amelia warning me to be safe. What was that about? She was always worried about something or other though.
Message three, Alcide telling me to stay close to Eric and be alert. Weird, but he knew I was coming to the trial.
Message four, Barry. “Call me. Immediately.” Oh, no, that’s bad, and whatever it was, everyone else already knew about it.
I hit the B to speed dial him, and he answered on the second ring.
“What’s up, Barry? That was a cryptic message,” I said, my voice full of concern.
“Sookie! Dude. Listen, we’ve had some problems here overnight. I need you to have Eric call me as soon as he wakes. No fooling around in the shower or on the breakfast bar or anything you crazy kids normally do first thing. I need him to call me.”
I was a little surprised at how accurate he was about where Eric and I liked to fool around, but I didn’t want to get into that with Barry. “Is everyone okay? Where’s Pam?”
“Everyone is okay, even the humans, which I can’t believe. But I think Pam will probably sleep in a little tonight. The bar’ll be closed for repairs.” He was sighing, and I could imagine him shaking his head, his shaggy hair flying. “It was nuts, Sook. These vampires came in the bar just before closing and messed the place up. Like dirty freakin’ Harry. You should see the surveillance footage. You know how Pam always says, carnage? That’s what it was. Man, I got this crazy call from Felicia to wake my sorry ass up and get down there, but like what am I gonna do against the vampire mafia or whatever they were? I called 911, cuz it still scares some of the younger vampires to have the cops show up. Then I called Dr. Ludwig and headed out. Carnage, Sookie. Crazy, bloody, gooey vampire carnage.”
“So were they after anyone in particular? Or just taking advantage of Eric being gone?”
“That’s what’s crazy. I think they were after David. You know, the bartender that thinks he’s a freakin’ Greek god? I mean, they tore up the part of the bar he was working.”
“Is he okay?”
“Yeah, he had a couple of nasty wounds and holes, but with a good sleep in the ground the Doc said he’d be okay.”
“Barry, I’m not getting it… holes, like bullet holes? Did they have guns?” I asked. Why were they shooting at vampires? Unless they had special bullets it would just do a lot of damage but not kill any of them.
“Did they have guns? Sookie, what do you think I meant when I said mafia! They had guns, tire irons, baseball bats, silver chains…”
I interrupted him, he could go on sometimes. “So they weren’t trying to kill the vampires? Just mess up the bar and stir everyone up?”
“I guess. I don’t know what they wanted, but I’m freakin’ scared. Dude, when I got home I like triple locked the doors and shut Thor in the bedroom with me, and that dog scares the crap out of me. I’ll tell you what, that David dude, he can fight, though. I think some of the chicks got hurt because they were distracted watching him.”
“Okay, just hang tight. I’ll have Eric call you as soon as he gets up.”
“No hanky panky.”
“Right. I’ll have him call you.” I chuckled to myself. For some reason I think “hanky panky” is one of the dumbest phrases on the planet. And it always reminds me of Long Duck Dong in Sixteen Candles saying, “No yanky my wanky.” I love the 80’s, I can’t help it. And it was so inappropriate for me to be thinking about that right now. Stupid stress reaction.
So much for my two hours of relaxing. I could soak in the tub or watch TV, but I wasn’t going to relax, and I had a bad feeling I was not going to be allowed to go to the trial later. I decided I had better get dressed, grab my key and phone and get out of the room before my Viking put me on house arrest.
It was around 2:30 in the afternoon and I hadn’t eaten yet. I knew I was pushing it being out in the open, but I really figured the attack on Fangtasia was about David, so I tried to stay close to the hotel. I found a little place to order a shrimp po’boy and washed it down with a coke. New Orleans is quite a place to visit, no matter how many times you’ve been here. I didn’t really think about where I was going, but ended up in my favorite place, Jackson Square. If I was going to get a moment of relaxation, it would be there.
Between the Mississippi River and the great Cathedral, I just sat on a bench and breathed. I felt better after a few minutes, and then I smelled heaven. My sense of smell had definitely improved with the blood Eric and I were sharing. I knew I should head back, but my feet took me straight to the smell. Café Du Monde. Mmmmmm….chicory coffee. I didn’t have room for a beignet after the po’boy, but I always had room for café au lait. I ordered two to go and headed back to the hotel to wait for my Viking to wake and give him the news.
I set the spare coffee down and made my way into the bedroom. Eric’s cheek was twitching a little bit; I loved to watch him wake up. I sat down on the window seat and sipped the coffee while I waited for him to move a little more and start to stretch.
He sensed me, stretched and sighed, “I do not want to know, Lover.”
“I think you do.”
“No, I do not want to know why you are not naked and in my bed.”
His naked body was seriously inviting, but I held it together. “I don’t think we have time for that right now. You need to call Barry as soon as you can function. There was a problem last night at the bar.”
He rubbed his face a little and rolled onto his stomach and looked at me, “A problem involving money or blood, humans or vampires?”
“Blood and vampires. Well, and a few human patrons, but everyone is okay. Call Barry. It sounds like the attack was aimed at your new bartender.”
“Yes, his name is David.”
He huffed a little and rolled over to reach for his phone, thinking to himself that running a bar was a gigantic pain in the ass. I went back out in the living area and drank my coffee while reading the newspaper that had been outside our door.
A few minutes later, Eric wandered into the living area, still naked, and still on his phone. “Yes, thank you. We’ll see you shortly.” He hung up and sighed as he grabbed a blood and put it in the microwave.
“Lover, we’ve had a slight change in plans.”
“Are we going home?”
“That is very much what I would like us to do, but no. The king is dismayed about what happened in Shreveport, but he wants me to stay here as planned through tomorrow.”
“He wants you to stay?”
“No, Sookie,” he sighed and I could tell he was tense, but really, the king was pissing me off. “He wants us both to stay. However, he is concerned about the possibility of something happening this evening and wants you to stay at the hotel during the trial. I’m afraid that I have to say I agree with him.”
I nodded. “I kind of figured after I talked to Barry.”
He glanced at my coffee. “Yet you went into the city for a coffee run?”
I smiled. “Yup, took full advantage of my freedom. I got a sandwich too.”
He laughed and sat next to me on the couch shaking his head. “I am sorry. I have been worried about your coming to the trial. There will only be a handful of humans there and I was afraid that some vamps might be upset with your presence, but I was sure we could handle it. With this added threat though, we cannot risk having you there. Ellsey will stay with you. You can go to the spa or the gym, or just wait here. It’s up to you, as long as you stay in the hotel. It will be the safest place.”
I nodded; it wasn’t really worth fighting about. “So, is the king sorry he was so rude to me last night?”
Eric just looked at me blankly for a second; sometimes he forgot that small slights were stored in the human mind so easily. “I’m sure he is, Lover,” he tried to cover. “He has been greatly enjoying flaunting his superiority as king here in Louisiana. He meant nothing by it.”
“Sure,” I said sarcastically. I took a deep breath and focused on what was important to me, Eric. “So, you’re going to have to go soon, how long will everything take?”
“I will meet everyone at the warehouse in an hour for the final preparations, then Simon will have Booker moved to meet us there. Depending on how many people Felipe has found to speak against the captain, it could take an hour or two. Remember though, there are a few other cases that will go first. The King decided he wanted to host a full tribunal of cases in the area while he was here.”
“Power trip, much?”
“Sookie. You must learn not to say such things.”
“I don’t say them to anyone but you.”
He put his arms around me and laid me back on the couch. “Yes, but you might have a slip of the tongue someday,” he said into my ear as his own tongue began slipping in and around my ear and his hands worked the buttons on my shirt.
“You have to get ready to go.”
“I’m fast, remember?”
“Yes,” I sighed as his tongue found my breast, “But maybe it would be faster if we did this in the shower?”
“Mmmmm…I like the way you think.” He pulled me up to standing and finished removing my clothes. He was already naked, so he put me over his shoulder and took me to the bathroom so we could fully appreciate the rain water showerhead and each other.