Considering the amount of tension I felt as I came back to myself, I was expecting to rise somewhere I shouldn’t.
Sookie’s hands were firmly clasped around mine where she’d pulling it onto her lap and she was staring down at me… on her knees next to me, biting her lip and looking and feeling more overwhelmed than ever.
She shook her head. “I don’t know… Something’s wrong.”
I forced my eyes away from hers to look around, take in my surroundings… Our bags were packed and sitting next to the door to the room I’d died in. Sookie was wearing a sundress I’d seen in her suitcase already. Our rings were exactly where they should’ve been and there was a chorus of heartbeats pounding in the commons… the television was still airing news about the Fellowship’s fuckery.
“This isn’t a skip.”
She shook her head again.
“Then what are you worried about?”
She cleared her throat, shifting slightly and tightening her grip on my hand. “I woke up and… Alcide was already gone so I let Quinn in because he was posted outside… I ordered breakfast and started packing…”
“I told you to relax today. Did you hurt yourself?” As anxious as she was, as barely alive as I was… I could’ve missed any pain she might’ve been feeling.
Another shake of her head. “No… I’m fine. Perfect… except… we were eating breakfast…”
“Is Quinn not behaving?”
She inched closer. “He’s actually getting better… Eric, why would a Vampire wake up during the day?”
“Pam rose? In the middle of the day?”
“Not Pam… Sweetie, the Berts.”
I shook my head, still wracking my brain as to why Sookie was so panicked. “I couldn’t possibly know. Unless it’s something Sophie-Ann gave them… We could be mistaken about the reason as to why your cousin doesn’t die.”
Her eyes started to well. “They die… They’re dead now.”
“They die, but they rose. Now they’re dead again?”
She nodded, taking one of her hands from mine to cover her mouth and start to sob. “It was… it was horrible.”
“What did they do?”
She shook her head, crying more violently… unable to reign in her hysterics to speak coherently. While I pulled her into my lap, doing my best to force her to calm down, I looked her over to see if they’d injured her.
It took her too long… It seemed as though the little bit of calm she absorbed did nothing but transfer her alarm to me… By the time she was breathing enough to not be light headed, her face was covered in blotches and her eyes were glowing.
She sputtered, “They screamed…” and began hyperventilating again.
“Is that all?”
She shook her head and started fighting against my arms in a race to get to the bathroom where she started vomiting…
I left the bed to follow her, stopping to open our door to look into the commons. Jason, Alcide and Hunter were on the sofas and they immediately noticed me. I doubted any of them would succumb to a crying jag that kept them from telling me what was going on. “What the fuck happened?”
Alcide shook his head and pointed to Jason. “I was at Hutchins.”
Jason, big surprise, shrugged. “I woke up to the most God awful yelling… The Berts was roaring… wasn’t human…”
“They aren’t human, jackass. Had someone gotten into their rooms? Harmed them?”
He shook his head. “Naw. Me and Sook got to the hall about the same time. We was gonna check on ‘em… They came running out of their rooms, swords up… Paulette was in with Ema, helping her pack… when she came out to the hall, the light hit ‘em. She shut the door real fast, but they fell over… Wybert fucked himself up. Almost ran himself through…”
“Sunlight hit them and they died.”
“Well… y’alls kinda dead, not dead dead.”
“That was it?”
“I helped Sook get them back to their beds… she sat with Wybert until he was pretty much healed up.”
“They didn’t say anything?”
He shook his head. “I cain’t tell ya what they yelled. Wasn’t English. Sook’s all kinds of freaked out, had Paulette ward their rooms so they cain’t get out… warded this one again so they ain’t getting in until they’re invited.”
“They didn’t harm anyone.”
“Cept Wybert… naw.”
“Sookie didn’t say anything about her reasons for enclosing them?”
“Naw. Just said ‘better safe then sorry’. Since they had their swords out and all…”
Alcide cleared his throat and added, “She was worried, but alright until Ema brought her a drawing.” FUCK.
I was almost afraid to ask, “What’s the drawing of?”
“It’s a really accurate portrait of Mr. Cataliades. Sookie officially started flipping out about an hour later… went and sat with you.”
“Cataliades? Anything else?”
“Picture’s on the bar. Ema was all kinds of excited because she used different colors in the same drawing…”
I grabbed the sketch from the bar… Felix Cataliades in the foreground wearing his usually gracious grin and the back ground included a sketch of green and orange flowers.
Jason chuckled, “Not bad, huh? You got any ideas what kind of flowers those is?”
“Jason, those would be Dianthas and Gladiolas.” Flowers. First the Queen’s children wake during daylight hours to make an attempt to get to my room… then the added confusion of ‘Flowers’ being sent… but for who? The call I’d made to Andre just before dawn could’ve been faked, but he’d seemed genuinely pleased to hear that Sookie was healed and that a large step had been made to discredit the Fellowship… I’d figured that the news that Milne was willing to entertain Sophie-Ann’s proposal was responsible for Andre’s unusually good mood… but it could’ve been bullshit…
What everything seemed to be adding up to…
I had served my purpose…
Sookie was more valuable than ever…
The Berts were on their way to me…
The Flowers had been sent to collect the Queen’s telepaths.
“Hey! Like Mr. C’s nieces, right?” I’d almost lost track of the conversation to nowhere.
“That’s even cooler then.”
“The Berts weren’t told about Ema’s true nature last night. They were told that she was hired to help with Hunter, yes?”
Alcide nodded. “Yeah.”
Jason shook his thick melon. “What? She wasn’t? What the hell is she for then?”
“Jason, Ema is a psychic. Her drawings are premonitions.”
“Yeah? Think she can help me find my cell phone?”
“Shut up and be pretty.”
When I joined Sookie in the bathroom, she was holding her hair back with her face submerged in the sink full of cold water.
I put a towel next to her on the counter and took her hair, rubbing her back in the hopes that she would stay as calm as she was… for the time being. Considering the possible future, she wouldn’t be calm for long. I had a strong feeling that she’d had plenty of time to come to the same conclusion I had.
That our lives were about to fall to shit.
She pulled her face out of the water long enough to gasp for air and then cool her face again three times before she used the towel.
“I got as much info as I could from Alcide and Jason. What don’t they know?”
Her throat clenched. “They’re downstairs… They’ve been here for about an hour. I can’t tell what they’re waiting for…”
“Mr. C and the girls… they’re all freaking out… they’re freaking out like Mr. C was when he brought the proposal… All three of them are flipping their lids.”
“We don’t know what that means…”
“Yes we do… Eric, you have to get Pam and get the hell out of here… Go to Milne or something. The wards aren’t going to hold the Berts forever. You’ve got to get out of here. If I cooperate, then Hunter and I will be fine. Alcide’s loyalty is to me. You’ve got to go.”
“I’m not going anywhere. Did you disarm the Berts?”
She nodded. “Yeah… what I found… their swords and guns are cased up behind the bar…”
“Then, if I have to, I’ll relieve the Queen of five of her most loyal servants. I’m not going to run. Have you made arrangements with Paulette and Ema?”
“Yeah. They should be here any minute. I had Paulette re… re…” She started hyperventilating again and crashed into my chest. “Eric… please go… I get that you’re a bad ass and all, but… all 5 of them… Milne likes you… he could give you sanctuary or something.”
“The only thing I’ve ever hidden from is severe weather. I’ll stand my ground… only one of them can get through the door at a time.”
“No. No, you take Pam and regroup… I’ll play along and suck it up. I doubt they’ll do anything but use my telepathy for now. It’ll give you time to come up with a plan.”
“I have a plan.”
“It could get you killed… Damn it, Eric. I’ve lost a lot. I refuse to lose you too.”
“I’m not leaving the three humans under my protection. If they’ve been sent… If we’re right about why, then they’d kill your brother to force your compliance… then hold Hunter’s life as a guarantee.”
“Because you would?”
“If I were in the practice of being an imperceptive cunt with no grasp of allegiance, yes. Turning you, considering your cousin’s attributes, would be a temptation too. It would give them a way to control you.”
“Then get the hell out of here. The only way…” The only way they’d get her away from me would be if I was a puddle.
She whimpered, “Eric…”
“Do you really want to argue? I’m not running. I’m not leaving you. We wait.”
“There’s no fucking exit, Eric. We’re trapped in this room.”
“If it comes to it, I’ll push out the wall.”
She shoved herself away from me and went to grab her phone. Determined, depressed, flustered. “What is that, DeSalvo Street?”
“Because I’m calling a cab company… just in case… I don’t want you getting pinned down. We can take cabs… you can Peter Pan your way to safety… You’d be the first objective.”
“You seem to be thinking ahead…”
She snapped, “No. I’m thinking about how to get out of this and still have you Goddamn it. Do you have any cash?”
“A few thousand…”
She cut me off. “What section?”
“What section of what?”
“What section of wall do you think you’ll push out?”
“Eric, if you’re going to be a proud jackass then fucking humor me. What section of wall do you think you’d destroy so we can get out?”
“The one in the commons would make the most sense.”
She grabbed a suitcase and flipped it open, yanking her dress off and pulling on a pair of jeans… replacing her heels with sneakers and yanking a T-shirt on. “That bag there has my ‘thank you’ gifts in it. Alcide brought them up from the hotel safe when he got back. It’s mostly jewelry. We could pawn it on the fly.”
“I have access to untraceable accounts. We don’t have to worry about that. Are you almost done obsessing over our escape route?”
“No. Where do we go? Michelle told me that you told her to have an escape planned… tell me you have exit strategy.”
“From here we’d go to Houston and make our way to Monaco.”
She stopped closing her suitcase mid-zip to stare at me. “Since when?”
“Night before last… before you shared your ‘shit sandwich’ analogy. We were thinking in terms of someone ending Sophie-Ann and leaving before I was put in a position to fight for a state I’m uninterested in ruling.”
“So… everything you own…”
“It’s not much. I’ve learned over the years to keep things as liquid as possible. My companies pay my dividends to offshore accounts. We’ll be fine no matter…”
“Let me worry about getting out of the hotel. K? After that, I’m good. I could give a shit about everything else… I just don’t want to walk out of here without you.”
“Well shit, Eric. You should’ve told me that you’re a psychic.”
“No. There are two, count them, TWO Saxons almost your age who tried to get to you in broad daylight… and two more little hitmen downstairs. Me calming down isn’t likely. I doubt they’re here just to let you know you won the mail in vote for Mr. Congeniality.”
“Alright, let me put it another way… Calm the fuck down so I can think. Your conniption is affecting me and I need to be level headed if we have ANY chance of getting through this.” She took a deep breath, glaring at me… and I felt her fall away from our bond. Nothing.
“Better?” If ever there was something convenient about her ability to manipulate our bond, that was it. Since she could resist my control of it, at least she could prevent collateral damage by blocking her moods from mine.
“That isn’t what I meant, but…”
I was interrupted by a knock on the bedroom door.
Without an answer, Jason still cracked the door and leaned in. “Ummm… I know y’all are bickering and stuff, but… Quinn’s here… he was flippin’ his shit before, but since Alcide’s got his gun on ‘em and ain’t inviting him in, he’s ‘bout ready to shit his pants.”
“What does he want?”
Jason shrugged. “He’s asking to talk to you. Says… says it’s Vampire business… Alcide says Sookie needs to stay in here since Quinn’s on the payroll… says you’d know what that meant.” Not only was Quinn on the Queen’s payroll, but I’d given him a gun which would make his job easier if he had the forethought (or coaching) to get wooden bullets.
After having Jason and Hunter join her, I left Sookie where she was, knees bouncing and running her hands through her hair nervously.
As soon as I closed the door behind me, I heard it open again… She’d cracked it so that she could eavesdrop.
Alcide had his gun drawn, just out of Quinn’s reach and aimed at his face.
“What do you want, Quinn?”
He pointed to Alcide fearfully. “What’s this shit? I haven’t done anything!”
“I have a lot of practice disposing of bodies, Tiger. Explain why you’re here or yours will be the first one I hide in Dallas.”
His eyes widened and he gaped for a moment before he forced himself to speak. “I… Jake… Jake Purifoy… he called…”
“It must warm the cockles of your heart that he misses you. Thank you for the update.”
“He… I told him I’m in Dallas, right? I didn’t tell him why, you know, that I’m here with you… He just saw y’all on the news like everyone else.”
“Get to your point.” The only reason his nose hadn’t been rebroken by a slamming door was that he’d mentioned our helpful little Wolf friend.
He sputtered, “He… He wanted me to…”
“Fuck! Quinn, in case you aren’t catching on, we aren’t in the mood for games at the moment.”
“Hadley called him, but he didn’t have a signal. He just got the message a little while ago… she… she suicided today.” My mouth fell open.
“She committed suicide? How does he know?”
“The message she left… he tried calling her back and got her voicemail. He went to where she was holed up… the house went up in flames around noonish.” I caught myself sighing… feeling a huge relief… The Berts waking during the day could be explained by Sophie-Ann feeling Hadley’s death… the transference could’ve clouded their grasp of their surroundings… Cataliades would be the logical courier of the news to Hadley’s relatives.
“What message did she leave?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know… he told me that it was private… that it was just for you and Sookie.”
“She left a message for me and Sookie on his phone instead of one of ours?”
“Not by the sounds of it… but he said that it was none of my business since it’s Sookie’s family. He forwarded it to me… you know, so you could hear it.” Note to self: Give Purifoy our phone numbers.
I nodded to Alcide to have him stand down.
As I reached for Quinn’s phone, Alcide growled, “Fuck. Now I’m gonna have to be nice to Jake, aren’t I?”
“More than that. I’m hoping you can train him to be a decent guard. He’s proving to be relatively loyal.” Not to mention how sharp the boy seemed to be when it came to dire circumstances.
I went back to my room where every surviving Stackhouse was waiting for me… Sookie had heard, but Jason and Hunter were left oblivious without the benefit of heightened hearing.
“Can you think of any reason that Hunter shouldn’t hear the message?”
Sookie bit her lip and shook her head. “No… He could get it out of our heads later.”
I nodded and pressed the send button to dial Quinn’s voicemail and then turned the speaker on.
“Hey Jake… Ummm… I just… I just called to say… bye, I guess. I… I overheard Andre and Soph talking. He’s trying to convince her to put me down. He… That prick called me temperamental. She said she won’t do it, but she will eventually. She always listens to him eventually. Especially now that Andre finally got her to talk to Texas about marrying his queer ass and he’s down with it. If I just let things go, I’m gonna get dragged out into the woods and staked and I’m not gonna go down like that. I’ve known for a while that they’ve just kept me around for the benefits… fuck them for keeping me like a candy bar. I don’t care that I taste more like fae now that I’m dead. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of being used and I’m sick of the bullshit and now they’ve got me locked in a room like they grounded me for not doing my homework. I wish I’d died when the baby was born… if I’d known… Nevermind that… I’m just sick of it all. I didn’t think it would be like this. Um… yeah… sorry… Bye.”
That was it. Her farewell address amounted to just over a minute worth of annoyed ranting about being ‘SICK’ of her life. She had plenty of synonyms at her disposal… fed up, bored, unhappy, revolted, weary, disgusted, displeased… of all her options, she used the word ‘SICK’ four times. No ear infection or hangover… Hadley was sick. Two out of three… and when I reconsidered things, curtains weren’t just a window treatment… Hadley was sick of her life and took her final bow… she took her curtain call. Fuck.
She didn’t sound depressed, just infantile. She sounded exactly as Andre described her… temperamental. She’d killed herself as part of a hissy fit.
All four of us stared at the phone as though we were waiting for it to do a trick.
Hunter was the first to speak. “Hadley died?”
Sookie’s eyes stared to water again. The boy had found out that his mother, estranged as she was, had died finally by listening to her suicide note. Even I felt sympathy for him.
I nodded. “She did.”
He set his jaw like I’d seen Sookie do enough to know that his reaction wasn’t going to be anywhere near ‘sedate’. His eyes started to well as he shook his head. And finally, he wailed, “NOOOOO!”
Sookie tried to pick him up, but he ran past her to me. Lifting him when he tried to climb me felt automatic, but thinking of something settling to tell him wasn’t as easy. “She wasn’t a happy Vampire, Hunter. It happens a lot… Going over is too hard for some.”
He hid his face, sobbing against my neck while Sookie rubbed his back. “Hunter?”
He pushed his face against me, still weeping… Sookie suddenly covered her mouth and stepped back… her crying became more severe.
Before she could get her wits to answer, Hunter’s grip tightened and he yelled through his tears, “DON’T SEND ME BACK!”
“Send you where?”
“With Remy! I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to!” I’d thought his outburst was due to grief. There truly wasn’t a manual for Stackhouses.
“Hunter, if Hadley is gone then you’re safe to…”
“I WANT TO STAY WITH YOU!”
Without thinking, I told him, “Fine.”
He sputtered, “Rrr… really?”
“Really. If that’s what it’ll take to make you stop rubbing your snot all over me, then yes. You’ll stay with us.” It was a sad state of affairs that a boy his age would rather be in the company of Vampires than his own father… but judging by the look on Sookie’s face, she more than understood.
When he snickered, he backed away enough to wipe the side of my neck. “What if Remy wants me back?”
“I’ll glamour him.”
“To change his mind?”
“To think Hadley is still alive and a danger to you.”
“I get… I get to… You’ll keep me?”
“Why not? You don’t make much mess. You’re a good pet.”
He seemed satisfied with my answer, if not amused with the joke, and when I set him down so that he could go clean his face, Jason finally broke his silence… He hugged Sookie and told her he ‘got it’.
It took longer for Sookie to calm down than Hunter.
She all but collapsed onto the bed, only holding her head up by bracing her elbows on her knees and taking deep breaths through her hands.
“Do you realize how this changes things?”
She shook her head without looking up.
I sat next to her and she slumped against my side. “Quinn said the fire happened around noon. That’s when the Berts rose?”
“Sophie-Ann would’ve felt her child’s death. She most likely rose the same way in New Orleans… Understand?”
“I guess… I guess I was freaking out for nothing?”
“Not exactly. You reached the same conclusion I did. Until we heard about Hadley, that’s what all the available roads led to.”
“I’m sorry I yelled at you.” She hadn’t been yelling at me as much as the situation. If I hadn’t understood that, then we would’ve had a repeat of our last argument.
“I yelled back…” Hunter came from the bathroom with a quirky smile on his face and handed a washrag to me for ‘his snot’. “Thank you…”
Sookie took the rag and cleaned the side of my neck for me. “The Daemons?”
“Probably just here to inform you of the death in the family.”
She nodded as the information sunk in. “I’m going to call room service then… have them send a donors up for the Berts. They tend to wake up just after you do.”
I’d only risen half an hour before, even then it was early because of Sookie’s mood…
At least Sookie’s disposition was less burdened as it slowly came back to our bond.
Quinn was giving (seemingly) genuine condolences to Sookie when I tossed his phone back to him and sat on the sofa next to Ema… Hunter had grabbed her recent drawing and her portfolio and bounced onto my lap.
Hunter pouted when I shushed him because of Quinn’s presence… Patience wasn’t a virtue of the young apparently.
Once Quinn was thanked with all our hearts for his messenger skills and excused, Hunter eagerly unzipped Ema’s binder. “Your ability is awesome.”
She giggled as she watched him. “Thanks.”
“I was wondering about your brain. It’s crazy big and super still.”
“As opposed to?”
He stopped leafing through her sketches and gave her a serious look. “Small and busy.”
She bit her lip to dial back her amusement. “I meant what are other brains like?”
He nodded his head from side to side as he went back to his task. “Small and busy. Humans are like a blender. Noise and all. Vampires are awesome too ‘cause they’re quiet…” He stopped again to study the ceiling. “Depending on the Vampire, it’s like watching a river go by.”
He blurted, “YEAH!” and it made her jump. He continued with a giggle, “That’s the word.”
“So mine is like… what? Like a pond? You said it’s still.”
He shook his head while he thought about it. He blurted again, “Rock candy…”
Sookie giggled from her post of watching for donors at the doorway. “That’s perfect. That’s exactly what it’s like… little crystals.”
He nodded enthusiastically and studied the once mysterious sketch of the room in flames before he thrust it to Ema. “That happened.”
She gasped, “What!?”
“Today. That happened today.”
“Oh my God! Was someone hurt!?”
He nodded. “Yep. Hadley died. Killed herself.” No feeling. He was as invested in that sketch as I’d been in the drawing of Fangtasia’s bombing.
Her eyes started to fill and I was tempted to jokingly ask if I was going to get a turn crying. “Who… who is Hadley?”
Hunter shrugged. “She was my mother. She was a bratty Vampire. She killed herself because she didn’t like her lot.”
“You… you poor baby.”
He pet her hand. “It’s ok. She tried to kill me. Anyway…” He pushed the new sketch of Cataliades into her lap. “He’s cool. You drew him ‘cause you’re about to meet him. He’s downstairs.”
She heaved out a deep breath and gulped. “Oh God… Is he going to die or is he going to kill someone else?”
I answered her. “He’s here to tell us about Hadley. I’m sure he didn’t realize the news would beat him here. Pam’s fond of the saying, ‘you can’t outrun Motorola’…” I pointed to the flowers. “You’ll meet them too. Diantha and Gladiola are his nieces and they’ve come with him.”
She flopped her head back to rest on the sofa. “Great… they’re gonna die then!”
Hunter inched off of my lap, taking over my task of encouraging her… he flipped the stack of sketches over and began going through them. “Don’t do that. Don’t cry. Look… All the bad stuff you drew happened already. Look. All that’s left is these two.”
Alcide shook his head. “Nope… that one with the boxes stacked up… I think that’s done too.” I’d already made my own assumptions since Sookie was planning to move to Shreveport.
“My meeting today. Webster. Since you offered a house to the guy, his ‘anything’ was that his daughter could go ahead and move into it with her kids. Her husband just took off.”
“That was his ‘anything’? His genie wish?”
“And the answer to your question… his reasons for staying, but still being willing to work for me?”
“Said he figured if he went on the lam he’d never get to see his family again. Turns out the reason he was doing his thing was because he’d been pink slipped… finding new work wasn’t easy for him.”
“Explaining the small increments…”
“And weekly withdrawals… He seems straight forward enough. Said he wants the right to turn you down for certain work written into his contract.”
“To what extent?”
“I don’t think your plans are going to give him a bad taste. I think it’s more of an innocent women and children thing.”
“Do you have an address for his daughter?”
“I put Paulette to work when I got back. She can’t sit still when she’s worried. She’s already rented a house and scheduled a moving company. I called Shelby and told her that I just got out of jail, owed her dad a favor for watching my back… cellmates… blah blah blah. She moves next weekend.”
“Do I get a biscuit?” I was definitely finding out I was a ‘dog person’.
“No… but I think Sookie has something for you.”
He braced himself when she started to giggle. “Told. You. So.”
He growled at himself. “That wasn’t so ba…”
“Toldyaso, toldyaso, toldyaso…”
“That’s SOOOOO grown up!”
She started her reply with a raspberry and called him a ‘dingleberry’ after singing several more toldyasos.
At least she was being difficult in his direction… and in somewhat of a joking mood.
When I heard the elevator bell ring, Sookie’s mood darkened again, but only slightly.
Sookie still managed to sound friendly. “Hey there. Ladies, you can wait right there. They’re just starting to stir… Mr. C, Diantha, Gladiola, nice to see you again.”
Cataliades sounded just as nervous as Sookie described. “Miss Stackhouse, always a pleasure, but I’d like to meet you under more positive circumstances eventually.”
She sighed. “We heard. Jake called Quinn. He got a voicemail from Hadley.”
“I’m sorry, dear. I was first alerted by Miss Broadway. I have to assume that Mr. Purifoy received a similar message.”
“It would’ve been nice if she’d bothered herself with a message for her son… I guess that would be asking too much. Please come in.”
“I should notify the Berts as well…”
“They know something’s up. They woke up when it happened. They were out of sorts enough to leave their rooms. Once they’re completely with it, I’ll go fetch them… I was going to tell them, but… What are y’all doing?”
When Alcide and Jason’s eyes bulged, I turned to look at them since my back had been to the door.
I rolled my eyes when I saw them… Cataliades and both of his nieces were all bowed, on one knee. “I’m not amused. Get up.”
Sookie excused herself to go to the Berts so I invited the Daemons to sit down and asked Ema (our nanny) to take Hunter to his room to ‘help him pack’.
When he opened his mouth to start his explanation, I stopped him. “In the interest of saving you the trouble of repeating yourself, I’m sure Sookie will only be a moment.”
He nodded and proceeded to fester and sweat in his seat… and drum his fingers on his briefcase handle.
While we waited, I sent Jason to explain to Pam and bring her back…
I could feel Sookie’s sympathetic nature kick into overdrive, most definitely including tears, before she closed herself off again.
The awkward silence made the rhythmic pounding on the leather attaché case deafening.
Alcide went to the bar and offered drinks… he was most likely inspired by the lawyer’s weeping pores… He looked hot enough that I might’ve been parched.
Paulette joined us.
Jason returned with Pam.
Sookie was still standing in Wybert’s room and the 20 minute wait was making me worry enough to consider going after her…
As she slowly made her way back to our suite, she opened herself up again and if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that she was trying to calm my nerves… It actually made me smile.
The Berts loitered along the wall, pausing to give me a deep nod… And Sookie stopped directly behind me, putting her hands on my shoulders, and sighed, “All present and accounted for, Master.”
“Mr. Cataliades, you’ve got a captive audience.”
He nodded and flipped open his briefcase. “Right… ummmm… Majesty…”
I could’ve choked. “Lieutenant is bad enough. Are you trying to piss me off?”
He pulled his lips over his teeth and whimpered… His terrified look wasn’t as confusing as the way Sookie gave my shoulders a squeeze.
He cleared his throat and fidgeted. “Um…”
“Just fucking call me Eric. Don’t make it difficult. I didn’t kill you for being the messenger last time. Relax.”
He nodded, looking no more relaxed. “Errrr… uhhhh… Eric, there’s plenty to discuss. I imagine we could do that on the plane if you don’t want to delay your return.” How much could there be to discussing the death of a newborn fucking Vampire. I wasn’t fool enough to think she’d have had a will at all, let alone left anything to Hunter since she didn’t bother leaving him as much as message to remember.
“I doubt it’s that complicated. You do a lot of worrying. Go on.”
He nodded again, “Majesssss… Eric, there’s the matter of the private estate and accounts that have been left to Wybert and Siegbert Kuester…” Bully for them. It was probably all gifted as a tax shelter to Hadley from the Queen and left to them as an extension of her final conniption fit.
“You should discuss that with them privately. Is there anything you need me for?”
“Uhhhhh… ye… yessir… yes… The most pressing of matters would be the realignment of treaties and trusts for the Kingdom.” Lovely. Sophie-Ann was incapacitated by Hadley’s death. Why wouldn’t I love being Lieutenant? Fucking dream job.
“If that’s the most pressing, then what else is there?”
“It’s going to be a bit harrowing. I only brought the emergent items with me. I suppose you should decide if you’ll be appointing a new Sheriff…”
“I’ve already told you that Pam will regulate Area 5 in my absence.”
He nodded. “In that case, do you plan to rule from Shreveport?”
“I thought we established that we’d tend to the state as bookends.” Sookie squeezed my shoulders again. I was starting to feel like I was missing something.
“Eric… you… you’re the only bookend.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“I’m… I’m sorry. Miss Stackhouse, when we arrived. She said you’d been notified.”
Sookie interrupted me. “Eric, we didn’t get the whole story. I don’t think it’s Jake’s fault either.”
“What. Did. He. Leave. Out?”
She whimpered too… what the fuck. “Hadley… Hadley didn’t just kill herself.”
I was afraid of the answer. So help me. I didn’t want to ask… I decided that I definitely WAS NOT going to ask when Cataliades opened his mouth…
I felt like bracing myself like Alcide had when Sookie teased him.
Cataliades took a deep breath, no happier to say it than I was to hear it. “Majesty, as per her punishment, Hadley was confined to the Queen’s chambers. The room’s door was sealed electronically so that she couldn’t leave while Andre and the Queen rested.”
“Tell me it’s a joke NOW and no one gets killed. Pam! Tell me this is just the best fucking prank you’ve ever orchestrated!”
Pam couldn’t look at me. She shook her head and stared at the floor. “I wish it was.”
“FINE! I’ll play. How did Hadley, the most inept Vampire to ever stain the fucking planet, manage to end her fucking maker?”
Everyone traded loaded glances back and forth until I was tempted to go for the Berts’ weapons.
As far as I could tell, Cataliades was the only one who knew exactly what happened.
“Majesty, Andre and Sophie-Ann were resting and… Hadley, Hadley… it seems… she…she…”
“She… she… she… Spit it the fuck out!”
“She lit their bed on fire… and yanked down the light blocking curtains.”