In The Shit
I could feel the smile spreading across my face before I was aware of the reason. Sookie was just as she was when I died for the day. Even though her hair was damp from a recent shower, her eyes were on me like they had been when she watched me slip away at sunrise.
“Good evening handsome.”
“Are you planning to do this every night once you move to Shreveport?”
She leaned away, slightly worried. “Not if you mind…”
I pulled her back. “I don’t mind. I’m looking forward to it. How was your day?”
“Dunno… Most of it was progress.” Progress sounded ominous.
“Ok. I’m waiting.”
“Well, we filled a suitcase with new clothes for Hunter. I’m sure Pam won’t approve of most of it, but he’s very happy about how much dinosaur stuff we found at the mall. We did some practicing, back and forth between stretching and blocking. Hunter doesn’t get much of anything from Alcide unless he’s thinking of Hunter, you know, like I used to be. Remy did ok with it, surprisingly. Seeing Hunter be with me… we both caught him thinking that he wished he knew about me all along so that Hunter would’ve had help. He’s feeling much better about Hunter being with us. I told him how much better I feel now that I’m using it. Even though Hunter only got 5 hours of sleep, he mentioned that he’s never felt more rested. No one else’s thoughts or dreams woke him up.”
“Is he napping now? The house is quiet.”
“No. When I left him, he was playing on the patio while Alcide and Jason put together a Little Tykes club house for him. We had a lot of fun at the toy store. We filled a bag with some toys and drawing supplies so that he doesn’t get bored. Remy felt weird about all the shopping, but I told him that we needed stuff for him too.”
“That can’t be why I braced myself.”
“No, but I’m getting there… All in all, we mostly got stuff accomplished today. Alcide brought his laptop with him and helped me shop online for all kinds of stuff we’re going to need here. Kitchen stuff and kid stuff for Hunter. You have a distinct lack of lighting, Mr. Nightvision. It should all get to Jason’s house in a couple of days.”
“Why Jason’s house?”
“Because everyone who can get into your house is going to Dallas with us and my house is uber-warded. Hoyt is going to check Jason’s porch and take packages in for us.”
“Good thinking. What else?”
“Sam harassed Paulette last night.”
“He was waiting for me when she got to the house. He stopped by when he ‘heard I was back’. It was a crock. He had to’ve been watching the house because the only person I talked to since we got back was Lafayette and since I told him about how Sam’s being he wouldn’t have said anything. Sam was pissed about the ward since he couldn’t get close to the house. He didn’t get to say much before Paulette pointed out that she was strong enough to ward the property against humans and then she threatened to turn him into a chicken nugget and feed him to a raccoon. Alcide laughed all the way to McDonalds when she told us and then ate a 20 piece order of McNuggets for breakfast.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Is that why I was bracing myself?”
“You’re not mad?”
“No. Paulette managed to be rid of him easily enough… Did she tell him that you don’t live there anymore?”
She gave an angry. “She said that she wouldn’t steal your thunder… She knew you’d want to be the one to do it.”
“She’s right about that… Come to think of it, all of my problems are Were based at the moment. Seeing the look on Merlotte’s face when he finds out you’re moving away from his reach will soften the blow.”
She rolled her eyes, shaking her head slightly. “How is everything Were based?”
“I owe Purifoy favors for his actions since he risked his neck, literally, to tell us about Hadley’s fuckery. Merlotte is a jilted pain in my ass. As much as I loathe to admit it, Alcide is growing on me and Jackson Herveaux…”
“Wait. How is he a problem?”
“I’m not going to sit audience at his offices for long enough for him to repay me. I need to think of an alternative.”
“Because he’s unhappy with the arrangement. Sooner or later he could get creative about how to end his business with me. If he pays close enough attention, he’ll learn quickly how much you’re worth, especially to me.”
“So you’re thinking that you’re going to have to rebuild Fangtasia?”
“Actually, I was thinking about abandoning the property and just opening a normal bar. It would be less annoying than Fangtasia and we would still have room for meetings…”
Her eyes lit up and she inched closer. “You’re thinking that you should have a storefront for your position and the clinics so the space earns something?”
“Yes. What has you so excited?”
“Is Pam still dead?”
“Instead of a bar, since you’ve already learned how annoying that can be, how about a retail space?”
“What are you thinking?”
“That if you opened a store of some kind, you wouldn’t have to be watched like a zoo exhibit for humans. And your business could move in and out of the back.”
“What would we sell?”
She shrugged. “I dunno. ‘A store’ was the whole lightbulb. Talk to Pam about that. She’s your ‘partner’.”
“Would you mind working from a dildo depot storefront?”
She giggled. “I doubt that’s what she’d want to do. It would be more likely that she’d want to open a clothing store, don’tcha think?”
“I think I’d prefer apparel. I’d rather have the newest Louboutins waved in my face than the alternative.”
She cackled, “Good point… Anyway, hypothetical fashion center would earn money by day peddling whatever Pam tells you that you need to carry… No fangbangers…”
“No bartenders. Minimal staff.” Six employees would suit a business like that just fine.
“You’d pay wholesale for Pam’s clothes.” Pam started to stir, so I waited a moment.
I winked as a signal to Sookie and she bit her lip anxiously. “And her shopping trips would be write-offs because they’re work related.”
She nodded. “The mood wouldn’t be as X-rated and since we’ve got Hunter to think about, that’s a good thing…”
Pam suddenly rolled over, sandwiching me between her and Sookie and speaking quickly enough that there were no spaces between her words. “Are you talking about what I think you’re talking about?”
“I was just telling Sookie that I was thinking about opening another bar because Herveaux and Son’s office isn’t ideal.”
She moped, “Oh.”
“So Sookie suggested that I look into something in the realm of retail instead. Any suggestions?”
Pam drew in a sharp breath. “Bronze her!”
We laughed at her. “She suggested that you might want to entertain yourself by showing off your penchant for fashion, but that would be silly…”
Pam’s hand went over my mouth before I could finish teasing her and cooed directly in my ear. “Fashion… lingerie… we could carry shoes and bags and maybe some jewelry…”
Sookie finished, “It’s every girl’s dream to be paid for doing what they’d do for free.”
“Errrriiicccccc, pleeeeeease. I’ll do absolutely everything. You won’t have to lift a finger. You’ll just have to be sexy and show up.”
Her hand was still over my mouth. I would’ve been annoyed if she wasn’t so excited.
“Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzze. I was so bored at Fangtasia. It’ll be my birthday present.”
Since the ‘negotiations’ were so much fun, I raised my eyebrows to Sookie since I was still ‘silenced’. She added, “And once you find the space, you can negotiate with Jackson to have some of his guys fit the shop with displays and whatnot since they do some construction work.” Even better.
Pam cooed again, “Pleasepleasepleaseplease… you know how annoying I am when I’m bored.”
I nodded, waiting for her hand to move. It took her a moment in all of her excitement to realize that she was still cupping her hand over my mouth before she took it away. “Do the research. Give me tangible numbers, overhead and a real proposal. You know better than to think I’ll buy into your capricious couture fantasy without finite details. I think I already regret the suggestion.”
She lunged over me to kiss Sookie’s cheek, then mine and shot from the bed and into the bathroom. “You won’t regret it. It’ll be sooooo perfect.”
Sookie rolled her eyes as soon as Pam slammed the door shut behind her. “Diabetic and hyperactive.”
“You have no idea how happy you made her. You’re her new favorite person.”
She kissed my cheek and slid out of my arms. “Not for long. Wait ‘til she finds out that I repacked for her so that we could all fit in one plane. Get ready. Dallas is waiting.”
“That was a disappointingly short briefing.”
“If I lay there much longer, you’ll have to carry me to the plane. I’m worn slam out.”
“How much sleep did you get?”
“About two hours… but Red Bulls have kept me going. I’ll power-nap on the plane and be fine.”
“It’s only a two hour flight.”
She nodded from the doorway. “We need to start keeping Hunter up as late as we can so that I can sleep later.”
“Could you give him Red Bull?”
She laughed. “Sweetie, even if it were safe to give a baby that much caffeine, I wouldn’t want to see it. I don’t think you could keep up with him as fast as you move… but you would be the only one who could peel him from the ceiling.”
“So we’ll have to gradually make his bedtime later?”
She nodded. “The hard part is going to be keeping him awake while he’s using your bubble to block out business.”
“Having him to care for is going to be a difficult transition for you.”
“It won’t be too bad… I had fun with him today. He’s really sweet. Chores are easier when they’re fun, right?” She asked like I’d know. Sookie was the first time that fun and obligation had collided for me.
“I hope they are for your sake.” I hadn’t spent any time thinking about Sookie’s physical state when I made the decision to have Hunter stay with us. I’d seen that the boy would thrive and Sookie wouldn’t suffer… I hadn’t taken into consideration that Adele was helping. I hadn’t asked about their scheduling. The other Hunter was practically nocturnal after only a week of staying with them, so the adjustment period wouldn’t go on too long… but the timing of My Sookie’s adjustment, while we were traveling, while we were in the shit; fundamentalists, political coups, dealing with a double-decker lateral move between meeting venues… It was too much. I’d given her too much.
“I’ll be fine.” She didn’t believe it any more than I did.
Sookie was nothing if not organized, even if it did seem like she was just afraid to stop moving.
When Pam and I arrived upstairs, she’d used the garage as a staging area for our luggage and particulars like computer bags and Hunter’s new ‘booster’ seat. Everyone had been gathered at the house so that we could leave together and even if we hadn’t been ready for a well structured departure, I would’ve been fine thanks to my shirt. Sookie had put the shirt she slept in back on while she was in the yard with Hunter and it was waiting on the bathroom counter for me. Sex and Sunlight. Cotton had never smelled better.
Sookie struggled to stay awake long enough to reach the airport while Hunter struggled against his seatbelt to see out of the windows. He was excited over his first limo ride and the idea of his first flight.
Jason chewed his cuticles until Pam promised to glamour him so that he wouldn’t notice the take-off or landing. I didn’t have to make fun of her. She felt my urge to tease her with an ‘awwww’.
Once we arrived, my confusion roused Sookie and by extension Hunter. Next to the Anubis jet that I’d booked for our flight, the Queen’s private plane was waiting with a pair of Saxons flanking the stairs. The attendants and boarding passengers of the Anubis flight were ogling.
I left everyone in the limo to get a reason.
“At the risk of seeming rude, why are you here?”
Wybert answered, “The Queen worries…”
Siegbert finished, “Extra guards.”
“We don’t anticipate there being much problem in Dallas. We’re only going so that Sookie can screen area pets. There aren’t any specific threats.”
Wybert almost smiled. “Political.” Decades in America and their English wasn’t as sophisticated as the 3 year old in the limo.
“Sophie-Ann is sending you two so that she seems supportive of King Milne’s church problems because she wants an ally just in case.”
They both nodded. It made sense. I had to worry if there might be a better place for Sookie to be of if Sophie-Ann had just hitched her wagon to our plans.
“No known trouble.”
They shook their heads, but Wybert actually smiled. “Andre sent Quinn.”
“Fuck. I don’t want him near Sookie.” Or Hunter for that matter and I doubted that she’d disagree.
“A gag gift.”
“A prank. A joke. Why did Andre want him out of New Orleans?”
The genius shrugged.
“Was Quinn told that he’d be part of a guard detail or was he just tricked onto the plane with a can of tuna?”
Siegbert actually chuckled. “Guard. Not who.”
Fuck. I was going to need a fresh shirt by the end of the night. There was no point in calling Andre or sending Quinn back to New Orleans in a cab (on a Grayhound would be amusing) because I was sure that Milne had already been informed of the additions to our entourage. Sending Quinn, because of his fucking reputation was a gesture. Not only did it mean that Sophie-Ann took Sookie’s talent seriously, but it meant that she took Milne’s infestation of bigots seriously. Davis would already be expecting the Berts and two Weres as Sookie’s security. I was stuck with the prick.
I waved to the car to have everyone start boarding.
Sookie stopped next to me while everyone else filed up the stairs, Hunter’s hand in hers. “What’s wrong?” I watched everyone else greet the Berts. The two actually received high fives from Jason and bumped forearms with Alcide.
“Andre sent extra security.”
“I don’t get it. What’s got you so riled about the Berts? We like them just fine.” Sure, as far as retard laureates are concerned.
“It’s not the Berts that bother me. It’s the third guard.”
She gave a confused look, but I could tell that she was solving the mystery on her own. It barely took a moment for her lip to curl. “Oh God. Him? Seriously?”
Hunter chirped. “What’s a Quinn?”
Sookie sighed and passed Hunter’s hand to me. She had to know that if I could avoid taking Quinn with us, he’d already be out of the plane. If nothing else, Hunter certainly didn’t need to hear his thoughts. I lifted the boy and took Sookie’s hand. “Quinns are disgusting. They use litter boxes and eat mice.”
He giggled. “No. Really.”
“John Quinn is a Were Tiger. He thinks Sookie is a beautiful monster. He’s been sent to help watch over the two of you.”
“Alcide needs help?” Not that I’d ever seen. Any Were that could snap a vampire’s back was an image of proficiency.
“Sookie’s a trouble maker. Alcide can use all the help he can get.”
Sookie blew a raspberry at him. “Thanks, Squirt.”
He laughed, “You lost!”
Sookie cut her eyes to look at me as we started up the stairs. “Alcide and I made a stupid bet. I lost so I had to buy a one-piece bathing suit. I’m not allowed to wear a bikini on his watch while we’re in Dallas.” Proof that there was more than one way to skin a cat.
“Do I want to know what the bet was?”
Sookie pinched her lips together and let Hunter answer. “Ice cream race! She got a brain freeze half way through and quit.”
When I laughed with Hunter, we were both given a raspberry.
There was a gaper’s block in the cabin. Alcide, Paulette and Pam were holding up the flow of traffic to stare at Quinn. Since Jason had no idea who Quinn was, he was clueless as to why everyone else was staring.
“Quinn, you’ve met Sookie Stackhouse and my second, Pam Ravenscroft. Our full entourage includes Paulette Simonette; my assistant, Jason Stackhouse; Sookie’s brother and this is Hunter. Watch yourself. He’s a telepath too. Most importantly, you need to get acquainted with Alcide Herveaux. He’s Sookie’s permanent guard. You’ll be answering to him.”
Alcide’s neck crackled because of how quickly he jerked his head to look at me. “Me?”
“To make a finer point, Quinn is your bitch while we’re in Dallas.”
The way he smiled made him seem drunk. “If you say so, sheriff.” Giving the wolf a kitty to play with solved the dilemma of how to reward him for finding the connection between skips.
Whatever he was thinking made Sookie laugh as she released my hand and went to the kitchenette.
While I sat on the sofa with Hunter, Sookie bent to open the mini-fridge. “Awww. Who told the staff that I’ve been drinking Red Bull on long nights? The plane wasn’t stocked with them before.” Wybert pointed to his ‘brodder’. “That was sweet. Thank you.”
The oaf looked surprised that she noticed, let alone appreciated the thought while she passed around drinks; beer for Alcide and Jason, a Diet Pepsi for Paulette and she settled next to me with Hunter’s carry-on bag and a can of Red Bull. Sookie introduced Hunter to the Berts as they fished for a carton of juice and a small bag of crackers for him.
Quinn finally stopped his posturing staring game with Alcide to speak. Unfortunately, but I knew he’d do it eventually. “What about everyone else?”
Sookie rolled her eyes and didn’t bother looking back. “The hotel we’re staying at has a donor lounge. I’ll take care of Pam and the Berts when we get settled.”
“You aren’t going to offer me anything?”
“Last time I did that, you went into heat and there’s a child onboard that reads minds. If you want A DRINK, get it yourself.”
“The kid!? I thought he meant your brother.”
“No. He meant the three year old. Behave yourself.”
After just a moment, Hunter giggled, “No she’s not. I really can… fire hydrant… newspaper… Beggin Strips…” Quinn’s eyes widened in his shock when Hunter passed his ‘test’… but the boy suddenly started cackling, “Sandbox… BB gun… antifreeze?” Alcide was making his rebuttal through Hunter.
Sookie was less amused than the rest of us. “Quinn, you need to get over yourself. None of us are jumping up and down about you going with us. You might’ve been king of the pride in New Orleans, but around here, we’re dog people. Specifically, Alcide is TOP DOG.” It wasn’t fair. She’d used some of my animal jokes.
“I don’t answer to wolves.”
“You’ll answer to this one or you’ll answer to vampires. You’re nothing but bling. All show. Alcide is my guard. All you have to do is keep your mouth shut and try to look as menacing as you can with that Mr. Clean thing going on.”
“Like Rin Tin Tin could scare anyone?”
When everyone else on the plane started chuckling or giggling, I wished I could read their minds to know what they were mentally contradicting Quinn by remembering. Myself? I was thinking of the look on Mickey’s face while he waited for the feeling to come back to his legs.
Quinn growled, “What’s so funny?”
I took over. “How wrong you are. Alcide is trusted with Sookie’s safety for a reason.”
“You got him amped up on vampire blood or something?”
“No. He does just fine without it.”
Siegbert added with a chuckle, “Mickey has limp.” That solved the mystery of what had caused his amusement.
Alcide laughed, “Still? What a pussy.”
“Heal… back…” He stopped, obviously frustrated that he was unable to get his point across in English so he explained in Saxon and let me translate for him.
Pam and I were both laughing when I did. “His back heeled incorrectly. He couldn’t feel a foot. He had to have it rebroken and set.”
Alcide beamed. “Any news on the girl?”
Siegbert gave a curt nod. “Alive. Healing…” Alcide gave a satisfied nod. “Hunter? Is like Sookie?”
I nodded. “Our minds feel the same to them both. His talent for Weres isn’t as honed. He can hear their thoughts occasionally, best when they’re about him…”
Alcide added, “Or directed at him. He played today. He has no problem hearing what I’m thinking when I mean for him to. I think it’s our concentration. And while we were shopping, we picked a few of us out in the mall. He’s got a bead on Supes like Jason and Sookie do.” Good to know.
Hunter gave a proud grin. “I followed someone. All through the mall.”
“How did you do that?”
“Sookie showed me. I listened in. We did our stuff and he did his. When he got too far, we got close enough for me to listen. It was fun. Like hunting.”
“And what did he do?”
“His mom made him try 10 pairs of shoes. And wouldn’t get him a cookie. And they didn’t have a shirt he liked in his size and got stuck with stripes. And his mom looked at bras everywhere they went. He doesn’t know much about dinosaurs. He wanted a Happy Meal, but his mom got him pizza. He hates shopping day. He never gets what he wants unless his grandpa takes him.”
“At least you enjoyed yourself. What did you find?”
“Animal Planet has lots of dinosaur stuff and I got some cool clothes. Have you heard of Land Before Time? Alcide said I could use his computer to watch them.” No mention of his father.
Pam’s eyes lit up. “I. Love. Petrie.” I had to assume Land before time was a cartoon. Jason added to the conversation by agreeing that Petrie was the best part of the movies… Which started a long conversation about more dinosaur movies including the Jurassic Park franchise and whatever Land Of The Lost was. Quinn actually contributed by mentioning a program called Dinosaurs… I think the downward spiral started when Pam and Jason began quoting said show. If I never heard ‘Not the mama!’ again, it would be too soon. The concept of ‘hurling day’ appealed to me though.
Since Hunter dozed off on my lap, and Sookie took her chance for her much needed rest as soon as the plane was in the air, the ‘regulars’ delivered Quinn’s education about Sookie’s security.
Quinn didn’t have as much experience as a guard as Alcide, and more specifically, he had NO experience behaving himself. He wasn’t half as sharp as Alcide and he didn’t seem to have any sense of humor. And since he hated working for vampires and answering to a wolf, he won the prize for being the most exasperating asshole in arm’s reach. From what I could gather, his only two (infinitesimal) attributes were 1: He’d be useful in a fight, but only if he had the opportunity to change. All brawn and no brains made the tiger more of a liability than a defense. 2: Because of his work with E(E)E, he might have something to offer as a protocol tutor, but since Sookie had a natural ease with Supernatural beings, I doubted she’d need any advice from the egotistical emcee.
His list of guidelines included, but weren’t limited to:
To learn Sookie’s tells so that he knew what he was watching for… and follow Alcide’s lead.
As a rule, to stay out of Sookie’s way and follow Alcide’s lead.
To keep an eye on anyone Sookie points out and follow Alcide’s lead.
During clinics and screenings, to keep his mouth shut and follow Alcide’s lead.
Most importantly, if he touched Sookie, he’d regret it.
The more times we told him to follow Alcide’s lead, the more agitated Quinn became (more fun by the minute), so telling him that he wasn’t allowed to touch Sookie was his breaking point. “I saw the wolf touch Sookie.” Not only did ‘the wolf’ touch Sookie, but he thanked her for his beer by pecking her cheek. They were friends. Alcide had already developed a loyalty to her. It was allowed.
“How does that matter? You are not to make physical contact with Sookie unless it’s vital to her safety.”
“Why is that?”
“Because in addition to the fact that Alcide has proven that his thoughts aren’t obscene and offensive like you have, I fucking say so. You’re importance ranks below everyone in this plane. For appearance’s sake, you are an impressive name in the credits of a plotless movie. In actuality, you’re a meat shield. A bullet sponge. Nothing more.”
“Thanks a bunch, jerk off. You don’t have to be insulting.”
“There are truths and there are insults. Let me give you an example. Truth: you are hired muscle with the sole purpose of keeping Sookie and Hunter safe. Insult: I’ve turned down Andre’s offer of your services until now because you’re a mouth-breathing, bottom-feeding blow-hard who’s developed delusions of grandeur based on your ‘talent’ for killing your own kind. Since Tiger’s are such a rare breed of Shifter, I’ll add that to my list of things that prove how brilliant Darwin was. If I thought you were capable of reading, I’d suggest Of Mice and Men so that you’d know why I’ve ‘mistakenly’ called you Lenny a few times. And if I weren’t afraid you’d hang yourself on the chin straps, I’d suggest you wear a helmet.”
“I can read.”
Even Jason caught on to the fact that Quinn’s lack of comprehension skills made him dismiss every other thing I’d said and when the laughter died down, all that was left was staring until everyone who could, fell asleep. As soon as Jason’s eyes closed, Pam stopped fighting that she felt drawn to her computer. She spent the rest of the flight smiling into her computer screen like she were about to lick it.
I let Sookie and Hunter rest as long as possible, only waking them once the door was opened. She’d managed to sleep for two hours… hopefully long enough. I left Hunter to nap longer, hoping he’d stay awake longer once he stirred.
With three more in our party than planned, we divided into several cabs to get to the hotel. Stan had offered to send limos, but given our reason for being in Dallas, anonymity was smarter than luxury.
Sookie and I rode in one cab with Hunter while everyone else argued about who had to ride with Quinn.
Hunter might’ve taken his time waking up in the plane, but he managed to make a full recovery with gusto. In addition to his excitement over being on a plane for the first time, he had never been to Dallas and never been in a cab… He struggled against his seatbelt to see as much as he could through the window. While Sookie was still fighting for consciousness.
“How many Red Bulls have you had today?”
She had to fight a yawn to answer me. “Just 3.”
“I would’ve thought you’d have more.”
“You don’t like the recoil. They make you edgy.”
“I don’t like how tired you are either. We’ll find some at the hotel and put a ‘do not disturb’ on our room tomorrow.”
“I hated that before.”
“You can leave when you’re ready to, but I don’t want anyone to wake you by calling. As tired as you are, you might not notice if you were locked down.”
She smiled weakly and kissed my cheek. “You’re right about that.”
“No serious work tonight either. You can wait until tomorrow night for that.”
She nodded. Even if she wanted to be contrary, she didn’t have the energy. When her phone chimed, she dug it out of her purse. “From Alcide. Flood left him a voicemail that he had 4 guys he has faith in if ‘shit gets hairy’.”
“Better than Cooper?”
She snorted, “Yeah, that reminds me… I need to talk to you about Flood.”
“The ‘conversation’ I missed last night?”
“Why the secrecy?”
“The first thing he wanted to know was if there was any chance of getting rid of Alcide. The topic is out of his echelon, politically speaking.” She got Hunter’s attention and ‘locked’ her lips so he gave her a very serious nod and went back to ignoring everything but the scenery.
“How did he want to utilize you for pack business?”
“He proposed a little hand washing.”
“One hand washes the other…”
“But it takes both of them to wash your hair.”
“A Gran thing. There’s some things you can do for yourself. There’s some things you need a buddy for. And there’s some things…”
“You need a team for?”
She almost managed to giggle. “You’re catching on… Ok… So, the Colonel wanted to propose that I read his pack in an effort to find suitable Weres for your various needs.”
“He’s prepared to gather them and have them scanned?”
She nodded. “He’s mortified over Maria-Star’s behavior. He doesn’t want anything like that to happen again. He figures that if you give him a list of guys that you can work with, that it can prevent more embarrassment for him and safety risks as far as I’m concerned.”
“It makes sense. I can’t say that I’m not surprised that he’d be willing… What does he want in return?”
“He has several lieutenants. He wants to make sure that his vision for the pack’s direction is what they’re going for too.”
“To be clear, he’s offering to assemble his pack so that we can find out if any of them are of use to us in exchange for having you help him find his successor?”
“Down to brass tacks.”
“Is he considering retirement?”
“No, but as he put it, he’s getting long in the tooth and he wants to make sure the transition goes smoothly when he’s gone. He wants to start bringing the Packmaster-to-be in on talks with you to build the bridges of communication.”
“That’s just… Un-fucking-heard of.”
She snickered quietly. “You gonna be alright?”
“No. I don’t think so.”
“You need a minute?”
“That wouldn’t do it, Sookie. Having an accommodating Packmaster is already a bragging point…”
“He’s not a sycophant though. He’s pragmatic. He knows from experience what vampires are capable of. He’s smart enough to worry about it, but he’s sensible enough to understand that treaties can go a long way. He can kind of tell you’re of the same school of thought. The way you’ve dealt with Jackson and Alcide…” Alcide hadn’t pissed me off at all.
“What about Alcide?”
“You let him fire Maria-Star instead of scaring the piss out of her, which you’d have been justified to do in his mind. You aren’t holding it against him that his father is a problem. Alcide’s been reporting back. Vaguely, of course. Trouble, no trouble. Vampire or Were. That kind of thing. Flood might not see the Lorena and Hadley thing as you wanting to take care of it because he doesn’t know specifics, but you let Alcide tend to the problems he could handle and didn’t put him in the middle of vampire shit that could get him hurt. That’s the kind of thing that makes the Colonel realize you’re evenhanded. He wants the new guy to see it for himself instead of wasting time being skeptical.”
“He told you all of that in just a couple of minutes?”
“Uninterrupted monologues tend to go by pretty quick. It’s not like we were back and forth like I was with Michelle and Hunter.”
“Fair point…” I was still reeling. Flood wanted to treaty, develop an official working relationship with me. “Have you heard from Michelle?”
“Today as a matter of fact. She even talked to Hunter. She’s settling in nicely and doesn’t mind Owen at all. Michelle and Hunter decided that they like being telepaths among vampires instead of freaks among humans. I told him that the feeling was unanimous. Mind if I ask why you wanted to deviate? ‘Others’ would keep his ability a secret.” Her tone reminded me that the boy would probably need to be told about skips in the near future.
“I don’t see the point in closely guarding it now that telepaths seem to be growing on trees.” Hunter turned just long enough to smile at me.
“Who the hell is Barry?” Hunter sat back wide-eyed, forgetting his preoccupation with the sign on the Majestic Theater in favor of the matter of a new member of their exclusive ‘club’.
I laughed at their surprise. Sookie had been too preoccupied with Adele to focus on my small-talk with Hunter. “We’ll meet him here. He’s a bellhop.”
“Holy cow. It’s not a freak thing…”
“Statistically speaking, you are ‘one in a million’, but not a freak. We know of 4 people with a mental ability in a state with a pollution of 4.5 million…”
“What?” For a split second I thought she might have found another one who wanted to be left completely alone and hadn’t told me as much.
“We aren’t sure, but… Michelle’s mother killed herself. Everyone said she was crazy.” I should’ve known she wouldn’t have kept that from me.
“Michelle was going to follow her footsteps…”
“Yeah… It actually got me to thinking about going to mental hospitals to look for ‘different’ brains.”
“Save some that wouldn’t know that they aren’t crazy?”
She nodded. “Her mother was labeled ‘paranoid schizophrenic’.”
“Medicine is Pam’s hobby, so I’m not sure which one that is.”
“Hearing voices… Pam’s hobby is medicine?”
“Actually, doctors and nurses are the hobby. Medicine is collateral data that she’s amassed while obsessing over actors who play them. She actually went to nursing school and was completely disenchanted by the lackluster of the job.”
She laughed sarcastically. “Oh. That makes perfect sense then.”
“We’ll make time while we’re here to test your theory. We’ll need a good cover story, medicine being a private matter.”
“Ummm. Missing brother? If I claim to have a schizophrenic brother that’s gone missing, I could at least get a receptionist or a nurse to picture someone so that I can fake my way through a description…”
“Unless the only one they have is black… Asian… female… already has visitors.”
“By then you could glamour them to let us in anyway.”
I smiled at her. Even if I was getting familiar with how resourceful she was, I was allowed to enjoy it. “If it works, you could call Michelle and have her take Owen to search Baton Rouge.”
“I guess Barry could do the same, but it could be a dead end.”
“I wouldn’t give up after the first hospital… It stands to reason that there would be something to your theory. If you hadn’t had Adele to convince you of your sanity, you’d have been in the same position as Michelle. Your own mother questioned your ability.”
“What if we find some though? I mean, you said that Michelle working for Mississippi would be a problem. Louisiana has a bit of a bumper crop.”
“Discovering Barry won’t be a problem. As property and asset to the state of Louisiana, any and all discoveries you make are your intellectual property, including knowledge of individuals with valuable abilities and no less privileged than political and private information you gather. If Barry chooses to make a career change then he’ll be given the freedom to do so and be pointed to a decent employer… Just like you did for Michelle. I’ll be adding a section to your contract just in case.”
“What if Barry doesn’t want to work in Texas or Louisiana?”
“I can think of other areas where he could be well paid and appreciated and if he doesn’t want to be exposed at all, then you and I will respect that. Normally I’d be greedy and vie to bring him to Shreveport, but I have more telepaths than I know what to do with.”
She laughed, “You’re going to end up being a telepathic Humane Society; finding happy homes for wayward mind readers.”
Hunter giggled at the joke and added, “Like Find-a-pet.”
I rolled my eyes. “Pam’s been telling me for years that I need a hobby.”
“Should I have one?”
“You have to find something you like to do, otherwise, I think it defeats the purpose. Is there something you like to do?”
He beamed. “I like being a telepath.”
“I like being a vampire, but I don’t think it could be considered a hobby. It’s just what we are.”
“We should think about it. What did you do before you collected telepaths?”
His seriousness made us chuckle. “Honestly, I can’t think of the last time I had fun before I met Sookie. I suppose you could say that my hobby found me.”
“That doesn’t help.”
I chuckled again, “I’m sorry.”
“Can I collect vampires?”
“I would need a bigger house.”
“I didn’t mean like pets.”
“Then how did you mean to ‘collect’ them?”
He shrugged and cringed one side of his face to look at the ceiling, deep in thought.
Sookie raised her eyebrow after a moment, amused with how essential he made his choice seem. Finally she offered, “How about geography? You’re going to meet a lot of vampires. Why don’t you see if you can fill a world map?”
His eyes lit up. “Oooooh. That’s cool. Eric, where did you live?”
“Between birth and death.”
I chuckled at him. “I’ve lived in a lot of places, but when I was human, I lived in Sweden.”
“Is that rude?”
“Is what rude?”
“I don’t think that anyone would be offended if you asked them where they are from.”
“Cool. What about Pam?”
“Those Bert guys?”
“They are from Saxony, but there isn’t a Saxony anymore. Where they’re from could have been inched out of political borders. I’ve met a few vampires with that problem.”
“That’s even cooler. I’ll ask them.”
I nodded. “I think you have yourself a hobby. We’ll need to find a map so that you can keep track.”
“A map book! Then I can keep it in my bag when we do stuff.” His mood was almost as contagious as Sookie’s was to me, making it easy to be excited for him.
“I think we can manage that.”
The buckle for Hunter’s seatbelt hit me when our cab stopped in front of our hotel.
Sookie smiled as she watched him bounce happily and felt jealous, most likely of his energy.
As I stepped out of the cab with Hunter and waited for Sookie, I watched the other cabs arrive. Quinn practically jumped out of his, quickly followed by Pam and Jason. I could only imagine what those two had been doing to make Quinn so anxious to be away from them…
With Hunter in one arm and Sookie under the other, I led our entourage into the Silent Shores Hotel. Alcide and Wybert had headed off the bellboy before he could get to us, so Hunter watched over my shoulder while Barry went about his task of collecting our luggage. I whispered to him to keep the new telepath’s secret. I couldn’t be sure if Quinn could be trusted. His ties to Nevada weren’t far from my thinking when I was told he’d been sent ‘to help’. It would make sense for Andre to want Quinn where he couldn’t do much damage.
Check in was as much of a pain in my ass as I expected with a party our size. Instead of putting us all on the same floor as I requested, the four rooms we originally needed were put on as many floors. When the clerk claimed that the hotel was booked, Hunter growled at her…
“You’re just lazy.” The woman didn’t know that he wasn’t just being a bratty child.
“Hunter, is there an empty floor?”
He smiled, excited to be allowed. “Nine.” The woman’s eyes bulged.
“Does it have lightproof rooms?”
He raised an eyebrow at the clerk. “On the east side of the hall. The west side has big windows.”
I smiled at him while the clerk turned white. “We’ll take the 9th floor then.”
The clerk shook her head. “Sir, there’s a dozen rooms on that floor.”
I repeated, “We’ll take the 9th floor then.” Extra rooms wouldn’t hurt and it wouldn’t hurt to make the bitch behind the counter suffer through the unnecessary work.
“Are you expecting more…?”
“Ninth. Floor. And a single room on the lowest floor.” Hunter and Sookie giggled, knowing the room was meant for Quinn.
The woman tried to return my stare before she turned to do her job.
Since Sookie and Hunter became completely still, no doubt scanning and practicing respectfully, I sent Pam to the bar in search of Red Bull.
I had to bite my tongue so that I wouldn’t laugh when Alcide realized Quinn was standing next to him. He moved to stand between the Berts, sending a clear message. He preferred their company to his… For a Were to publically prefer vampires to his own (even if there weren’t any other Weres around), Alcide might as well have tarred, feathered and paraded the Tiger. Amusing, to say the least.
I filled my idle time watching, oscillating my attention between Barry’s increasing tension, Quinn’s growing indignation and Jason’s seemingly curious wander through the lobby. All of it was more interesting to me than the fact that Stan Davis was watching us from a club chair in the lobby.
When Lisa was finally done with checking us into 13 rooms instead of the 6 she would’ve if she had just done her job in the first place, I motioned towards the elevators, knowing we’d be stopped.
Stan finally approached us, meeting a wall that had been formed in an instant by Alcide and the Berts. Quinn might as well have been licking a window. He didn’t notice anyone was moving towards us until it would’ve been too late for him to be effective in the case of an actual threat.
Stan took a step back immediately, noticing like everyone else on the first floor of the hotel that our three guards all had their hands on their weapons. “My apologies. I’m only here to greet Sheriff Northman and Miss Stackhouse. I am Stan Davis, Sheriff of Dallas.”
“Greetings, Sheriff Davis. How did you know we’d be staying at the Silent Shores?” As the Berts and Alcide backed away to make a path for Davis, he eyed them carefully.
“I wasn’t sure. My second is waiting for you at the only other vampire friendly hotel in the area in the hopes that you weren’t visiting a private residence. I was discouraged to hear that the flight from Shreveport landed without you.”
“I’m sure. My Queen very generously surprised us with the use of her private plane at the last minute…” It took longer than I expected to introduce everyone to him even though he knew exactly who the Berts and Quinn were.
He gave a polite nod to no one in particular when I was done. “I wasn’t expecting for you to be traveling with a child.”
“Hunter is the newest addition to my collection. He’s a telepath like Sookie. She’s training him.” While Hunter giggled over being part of my set, Barry turned green.
“That is remarkable. How did you find them? I’d kill to have my own. I’m sure you can understand better than anyone how valuable one would be to me given that my area is headquarters to the Fellowship.”
“I understand too well. Since they can hear thoughts, when another telepath is nearby, they tend to experience some interference.”
“Do you plan on keeping them all?”
“Of course not. In fact, Salome is reaping the benefits of the last one Sookie stumbled over. She doesn’t have the talent or strength Sookie does and has chosen to remain anonymous but…”
“Any telepath is better than no telepath. Please, keep me in mind if you find another. I’d give my right arm to have one under contract…”
Sookie snorted out a laugh. “Sheriff Davis, not only are you a lefty, but it would grow back.”
He smiled at her. “Still cheeky, I see.”
I nodded. “Even when she’s exhausted. If you’ll excuse us, we need to claim our rooms.”
“Of course. I’ll wait for you to settle in. I was hoping to have Miss Stackhouse use her ability at the Bat’s Wing tonight.”
“Something pressing? She’s quite tired.”
His face took on a more grave look. “One of my nest mates has been missing for a while now. 6 nights. The Bat’s Wing is the last place he was seen.” Thanks to the notes I’d gotten copies of, I knew the bar was going to be a fruitless evening.
“We’ll be ready in an hour.”
He practically bowed. “Many thanks.”
Quinn had taken another elevator since our party was so large and he wasn’t going to the same floor. Even if the prick was happy to be away from us, he still made a show of how insulted he was that we weren’t falling over ourselves to be in his presence.
As soon as our elevator door closed behind us, Barry’s heartbeat became erratic and his pores wept with panic… The pitiful bastard knew he was alone with four vampires and two telepaths who knew his secret.
Jason started laughing… “He had no idea he was standing 15 feet from another telepath!” Since we hadn’t told him that we’d be meeting another one, I had to assume he’d sensed it like he had with Michelle.
Barry backed into the wall with his eyes bugged out.
Alcide patted his shoulder. “Settle down. Nobody’s gonna bust on you. Nobody’s gonna hurt you. We can only tell because we’re used to being around Sookie.”
“I… If anyone knew…”
Sookie took a can of Red Bull from Pam and smiled at him while she popped the can open eagerly. “Everyone knows about me. You heard it straight from the horse’s mouth. Sheriff Davis would pay anything for his own telepath.”
“I don’t want to work as one. I want it to stop.”
“K. I’ll let you know if I ever find out how to make it go away.” She leaned against me as she started draining the energy drink as though he didn’t exist.
She seemed annoyed to have to stop drinking to answer him. “Yeah.”
He waited until the doors opened to speak again. “Why?”
“Because I have bigger shit to deal with than convincing you to use what you’ve got instead of making yourself miserable by trying to keep it down. If you change your mind, you know where to find me.” She shoved the empty can into her purse and took the fresh one Pam was holding out for her and stepped off the elevator.
He followed with his cart full of our luggage as everyone else filed out of the elevator quietly.
“Are you listening to my thoughts?”
She shook her head and pointed to the room closest to the elevator. “No. Put Pam and Jason in that room please.”
He stared at her for a moment before he went to open the door for them.
Pam quipped, “Won’t you miss me?”
Sookie snorted, “The less I hear the better.”
Barry shook his head. “Your range is that good?”
“Yeah… Wybert and Siegbert can take rooms in between. Alcide and Paulette have the other side of the hall to pick from. We’ll take the vampire suite at the end of the hall.” Sookie was doing her best to seem dismissive of Barry’s ability.
Pam winked and slid two more cans into Sookie’s purse before she grabbed her bags from the cart and tugged Jason inside their room.
Since Barry seemed completely lost, Alcide took over distributing room assignments and grabbed his things. As he disappeared into his room, he said he’d be back to our room in 15 minutes… He knew we had plans to make. He’d read the journal.
It took Sookie snapping her fingers in front of Barry’s face to get him to snap out of his daze.
Barry still seemed anxious as I put Hunter down so that he could tear off in search of a ‘potty’. Once Hunter was out of sight, Barry stared at Sookie while she guzzled another Red Bull and threw all three of her empty cans into the garbage.
She raised an eyebrow at him as she grabbed our suitcases. “Good luck. You won’t get in.”
“How the hell do you do that?”
“It’s too complicated for you since you don’t apply yourself. I shore up my shields and insulate that by Eric’s thoughts. I’m on my own during the day, but my shields are stronger than yours from practice.”
“The kid… He was doing it too.”
“Yeah. I taught him last night. The last thing that baby needs is to hear the creeps downstairs fanaticizing about being bit and screwed to death.” She wandered into one of the bedrooms with our suitcases and then back out to take Hunter’s to the other… and back again. Her energy was already starting to increase. She stopped in front of the boy after grabbing her purse. “I told you that you won’t get in.”
“Teach me how to do that.”
“Sorry kid. Your shields need more oomph. You need to practice…”
“This is the only job I can handle without going nuts. Vampires are the only peace I can get.”
“Me too. I worked as a waitress for years…”
“How did you manage that? All those thoughts, I’d go nuts.” Hunter ran back into the room with a very relieved look on his face and stood on the sofa I was leaning against to watch with me.
“If I hadn’t then I wouldn’t have any practice keeping up my shields. You’ve been hiding around vampires too long.”
Hunter giggled. “She’s like a super telepath. If you practice, she can teach you a bunch.”
Barry blurted, “Who taught you? How are you so… I’m going to go nuts.”
“I’m self taught. I’m going to take it that you’re the only one in your family that’s a telepath.”
“Yeah. Everyone else is normal. Is your brother one too?”
“No. Just me. Do yourself a favor and be around people more.”
“Can you hear vampires?”
“No. You should think about what Davis said too. He’s paying me more than you make all year to poke around pets’ brains for him.”
“No way! That much?”
She shrugged and put his tip in his hand. “I’m verified. Now scoot. I have stuff to do.”
“Figure out how to find a missing vampire in a town crawling with bible-thumping jackasses. And I still have to get changed.” She reached for his shoulder and turned him, leading him to the door.
He resisted, “But… please… I don’t know how to start.”
“Start what? There’s no sense in helping you if you aren’t going to do anything with it.”
“If I could keep myself sane, I would though. I can’t be a damn bellboy my whole life.”
“Then I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon. I’m booked for the night.”
He looked like he was about to cry. “Really? Promise?”
“Yeah. Meet me in the lobby at one. We’ll go out to lunch.”
She leaned against the door once it was closed, grinning ear to ear and holding her finger in the air when Hunter started to giggle.
He very seriously mashed his lips together to keep himself together until Sookie signaled him… then he laughed until he slumped over the side of the sofa.
“Alright kiddo, Eric and I have to go out for a bit so you’re going to be hanging out with Jason.”
“I want to go too.”
I shook my head. “Not tonight. This isn’t a meeting. We have to go get a vampire who’s been mistreated for nearly a week. He won’t be friendly until he’s had the chance to heal.”
He flung himself onto the sofa with his arms crossed and mumbled ‘not fair’ while Sookie took a sip of her last Red Bull and walked towards our room.
“I thought we were going to that bar, The Bat’s Wing.”
“We will eventually, but we already know that the Church is holding Ferrell. We just need to plan his liberation so that you can come back and get some rest.”
She shrugged. “Perking up as we speak. What should I wear to a vampire extraction?”
“Don’t worry about changing. I’m enjoying those shorts.”
She smirked and started opening her suitcase and held up a little dark gray dress. “I thought you’d like this more.” She wiggled her eyebrows while I ate my words. The bodice of the dress was put together like a wrap, overlapping at the waist, and barely touching at the neck and the skirt was playfully short. She slid her hand into the gap on the bodice for effect. “I was thinking that it would make for an interesting elevator trip, but… oh well.” She sighed and tossed in onto the bed. She was teasing me.
She giggled as she came to me and laid her head on my chest. “Barry’s a mess. Hunter has better control.”
“He’ll have an excellent coach.”
“From your lips to God’s ears…”
“Hunter is already grateful for your help.”
“He’s terrified of vampires, but it’s the only peace he gets… Then again, he sees a lot of feeding type of stuff working here. Bloody sheets, glamoured fangbangers…”
“The fun stuff.”
She giggled. “No… the fun stuff includes bloody sheets and you.”
“Now that you have some energy, you’re teasing me. I think I liked it when you were sleepy.”
She hummed. “I’m not teasing you. I’m complaining that we don’t have time to break in the bed.” Oh really?
She squealed when I picked her up and carried her to the bed, laying down and keeping her on top of me. “We have time to break the bed.”
She laughed and batted at my arms. “I said break it in, not break it. And no, we don’t have time… for either one… Alcide is waiting in the hall for the rest of them.”
“I think I like it when you put up a fight. Squirm again.”
The look she gave me… I knew I was fucked before she started ‘squirming’… pulling her legs up each side of me quickly and pushing back against my chest… rubbing herself against my cock until my fangs ran out… she ruined me in less than a minute. “Like that?”
“That was cruel.” It didn’t keep me from grabbing her thighs to keep moving her.
Her eyes rolled back and the way she bit her lip made Ferrell’s life less important. “Then you should let me up before we forget that we have something else to do.”
“Pay for your freedom with a kiss.”
“That isn’t going to help matters…”
“You started this by teasing me. I want a kiss.”
Her eyebrow twitched as she lowered herself, stopping just shy. “You’re punishing me for teasing you. I don’t want to leave. Now that I have some energy, I want to use it with you.”
“You’re still teasing me.”
She shook her head slightly before her lips met mine…
Reaching for my hands and lacing our fingers together…
And only pulling away once there was a knock on the door to the suite.
Alcide knowing more about the situation was problematic considering that the Berts were in tow. How the fuck to explain how we knew about Ferrell’s location without having them believing that Sookie could read vampires’ minds was a mystery…
Or at least it was until Sookie went for her drink and stopped mid-stride. “Y’all know.”
Wybert’s eyes widened. He was silent for a moment before he nodded. “How?”
“Y’all are usually so calm it’s like white noise. Not so much all of a sudden… Do you know about other trips to Dallas?”
Since Quinn couldn’t be bothered to arrive on time, with the rest of our security, I took advantage of his tardiness. “We do. This vampire that Davis is concerned about, if he hasn’t been ended, is being held in the Fellowship Church. Their intention is to burn him at dawn tomorrow. In the experience we had, the other one was traded in exchange for Compton and his maker under the condition that it be done immediately rather than waiting.”
Siegbert grinned. “Good trade.”
“I have it on video if you’d like to watch it. Alcide can’t watch it enough times.”
Alcide started to chuckle. “It’s awesome. I want it on my phone so I can watch it whenever I want to… Anyway, that version was no problem for Sookie because, this Hugo guy, was an easy read and he was a spy for the church, but Hugo isn’t here. So we kind of have to figure out how to cut out the middle man without Sookie looking like she can read y’alls minds.”
Wybert grumbled, “And freeing vampire.”
Sookie snorted and sat on the arm of the sofa. “I don’t suppose y’all would just let me go in and get Ferrell with Quinn as my ‘meat shield’?”
Every one of us barked, “NO.”
She whined, “But it’s the Fellowship. They’ll be armed against vampires. I care about all of y’all.”
She was serious. She actually wanted me to let her go in by herself. “No. A vampire is going to need to carry Ferrell out…”
“I’m stronger now…”
“It’s not his weight. Do you think they’ve been feeding him?” The other Ferrell had been tortured too. Sookie wouldn’t be safe near him even if her scent didn’t already get more attention.
She cringed. “Shit.”
“Exactly…” That was it. Figuring out how Sookie would know about Ferrell’s whereabouts was the problem. We were stuck.
With the exception of when Hunter came from pouting in his room to ask the Berts what part of Saxony they were from, we all quietly pondered our problem for the next few minutes… until Quinn finally arrived 10 minutes late.
Alcide opened the door for him and without warning, he drilled his fist into Quinn’s stomach and left him in a heap at the threshold. “Next time I say ’10 minutes’ and you wait 20, it’ll be your dick, asshole.”
That was an impossible distraction. We were supposed to be coming to a brilliant solution to the problem at hand. Instead, we were all laughing at the Tiger’s pain. It felt like it took forever to get back on track.
Once Sookie drained her last can, Alcide watched her take it to the garbage and it seemed like a light came on. “She needs more Red Bull.”
“I’ll call room service in a bit…”
“No… Go. Get. It. You two run down to the bar… See if anyone in there is thinking about what’s going on. Maybe you can find someone who knows something.” He might as well have been winking and nudging. If Stan wasn’t in the lobby waiting for us, we could’ve just said that we’d gone to the bar, but we actually needed to physically go downstairs to make a show of finding our pretend Patsy whose thoughts Sookie wouldn’t be able to pinpoint.
“You’re getting a fucking raise.”
“I’ll settle for a tip. Bring one back for me. Sookie never shares. I’ll watch Hunter.”
Sookie smiled up at me while we rode the elevator.
“Your guard is proving to be worth his weight in kibble.”
She snorted and turned her attention to the elevator buttons. “I don’t want you to get hurt. They’ll have silver… and stakes…”
“You could be hurt too. We’ll just have to be careful.”
Her grip on my hand tightened, but she didn’t say anything else…
She waved at Davis as we walked through the lobby to the bar…
She quietly scanned the customers while we waited for the bartender to get a case of drinks from the cooler…
She sent a pair of donors up to 906 and 908 for the Berts since she found their type (thick brunettes pumping A positive) and then called to tell them dinner was on the way.
When we went back through the lobby, Stan Davis had been joined.
Instead of waving again, Sookie went over to him. “The Berts are feeding now. We’ll be back down and ready to go in just a few minutes. I just ran down for some ‘go juice’.”
“Of course. I’m sorry that the matter is too urgent to let you rest.”
“I get it. Don’t worry about it. Who are your friends?”
“When I called my second to let her know she didn’t need to watch the lobby of the Prescott, she decided to join me. Isabel Beaumont.”
I gave a nod and Sookie offered a ‘nice to meet you’ and then stared at the man behind Isabel’s shoulder.
Stan grinned curiously before he introduced the man. “My apologies. I don’t think to introduce pets. That is Isabel’s pet, Hugh.”
Isabel corrected, “Hugo.”
Sookie nodded thoughtfully for a moment. “Sorry to hear it.”
Isabel shook her head. “Excuse me?”
“Oh, Hugo was thinking that Polly was going to be pissed that he didn’t have any information about me.”
Hugo’s mistress whipped her head around to threaten him with a look. “Who is Polly?”
He sputtered and backed away. “I… I… She… I…”
Sookie shook her head and advanced on the man, backing him into a chair and looming over him. “Where are they holding Ferrell, Hugo?”
The man knew what would happen as soon as they had all of the information they needed. He just shook his head.
“Who is at the church right now?”
The man started to cry as an alternative to answering. Isabel threatened to glamour him.
Sookie held her hand up to quiet her. “How many?”
When he tried to get up, Sookie caught him by his tie and yanked him back.
“How do I get down to Ferrell’s cell?” When he unwillingly gave her another silent answer, Sookie turned to look at me. “Eric? Anything else?”
“Are they armed?”
She shook her head.
“Then, I think you’re done with him for now.”
She slapped his cheek when stood up and came back to my side. “Oh kee doh kee Sheriff, call around and gather a posse so we can go get our nest mate. Ferrell’s been starved and tortured with silver so you’re going to need some donors too.”
Stan looked like he’d been the one she slapped. “He knows everything?”
“He wasn’t part of the abduction, but he’s been feeding Polly Blythe information and found out about Ferrell’s sacrifice from her. The church is having a lock in tonight. The church is full of human women and children and Ferrell is to be part of the ‘sunrise service’. They have cameras coming out of the wahzoo. No fangs. No fight. We need to get in, free Ferrell and leave.”
“The last thing you need to do is have footage of your vampires storming the castle, bullying ‘innocent’ humans. In. Ferrell. Out. Anything else will make headline news and give those freaks more power, more numbers.”
His fangs ran out. “They should pay for what they’ve done.”
She took a step closer to him, feeling nothing but sympathy. “Yes sir, they should. Do it one at a time. Give Ferrell the chance to recover and serve his own justice to his torturer. This is why you hired me. As a defense. I can’t do my job if you’re going to fly off the handle. You’re right to be worried about your friend, and I’m right to be worried about your image.”
He narrowed his eyes and nodded slowly.
“In. Ferrell. Out. Say it or we leave so that we don’t get caught up in the shit storm.”
He growled, “In. Ferrell. Out.”
“Settle the score later. No witnesses. No publicity. Tell me you see the logic. Tell me you’re going to be practical and use the common sense that’s kept you alive for 700 years.“
His jaw clenched, but he agreed with a nod.
She nodded and turned her attention to Isabel. “You can’t kill him until Ferrell is free. We might need him.”
Her nostrils flared. Her fangs had cut through her lip. Hugo was going to suffer for a very long time at her hands. “Thank you, Miss Stackhouse. I’ll bring him along.”