Glimpses 2 – She’s a teen
“So I heard Dr. Finard was at the house today. Are you sure you’re OK for the conference?”
“Yes Papa Bear. We’re fine; I called to have him check us out before we left for DC.” She grinned widely knowing he’d love to know the details of the visit with Dr. Finard, but that could wait ‘til she was home.
“If you’re sure.” He could feel her happiness and a little mischief through the bond and he had his own suspicions about this pregnancy but he said nothing figuring she wanted to surprise him.
“I’m sure. You all OK there? Frannie’s not mad about not having Kavan for Friday is she?”
“No, she’s excited about the dance on Friday and understands she needs to take regular guards. With other chaperones there, she’s feeling OK that nobody will notice two vampires watching her all night.”
“I miss her.”
“She’s right here. Do you want to talk?”
“Hey Mom. How was the flight?”
“It was fine. Luckily no bad weather for the flight but they had a winter storm yesterday. The snow here is beautiful, you would have enjoyed it.” Sookie started crying a bit in the phone.
“Mom.” No response but sniffles. “Mom.” Still nothing. “Mom, you’re hormonal and you’re making me feel guilty for wanting to go to the dance.”
Sookie sniffled and cleared her throat. “I’m sorry honey. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty. I just hate traveling without everyone.”
Frannie could hear Hunter’s voice through the phone. “It’s OK Mommy. Moyra and I are here, we love you.”
“I know Hunter, I know.” She spoke into the phone. “I’ll talk to you and your father tomorrow. I Love you.”
“Love you too Mom. Good luck with your speech in the morning!”
Frannie ended the call and looked at Eric. “Mom’s hormones are bad Dad. It’s gonna be a long pregnancy.” She tucked in under Eric’s arm while he was sitting on the couch. “She’s so upset at being away.”
“I know, but she really wanted to do this conference. If I hadn’t felt her excitement at being asked to be the keynote speaker, I wouldn’t have allowed the trip to DC without me. I’m just glad she has Kavan with her since I couldn’t leave right now.”
“I really appreciate that you’re doing your prep work here and not traveling to New Orleans ‘til Saturday so I can go to the dance on Friday.”
“Hoyt and Holly have everything under control so we’re good. Godric is arriving tomorrow for our prep work. I’ll be busy once the sun sets every night from now through the conference. You’re welcome as always in the office while I work, but I won’t have much free time – just some short breaks here and there.”
“I’ll study in the office and don’t worry. I know this is a big deal for us to host the first global council meeting in New Orleans.”
“It’s an opportunity to help the city after Katrina.”
“Enough serious talk. Are we playing a game?”
She stood with pulled on Eric’s arm. “I set-it up in the playroom already. We can at least start a game before the sun sets.”
Eric and Frannie played for about 45 minutes. Playing a game did take some of his worry about Sookie, Moyra, and Hunter away. He really hated that they had traveled to DC for this conference without him – but it really couldn’t be helped. Sookie was asked to deliver the keynote address at a conference on Family Life and Work Balance and she was thrilled. Eric supported her decision and made security arrangements for her but he just couldn’t go. At first, the plan was for Sookie to take all the kids with Kavan to DC, but then Frannie asked to stay home for the local high school dance. That meant he needed to keep some key security staff here for Frannie and make the tough call on Kavan. In the end, he sent Kavan with Sookie since they were in the foreign city and Kavan could stand next to Sookie and be unnoticed, even during her keynote. He also believed Hunter’s accident, just in December, played into his decision; he felt the need to protect the younger children since they were more vulnerable.
“Why are you frowning during our game time?”
“Sorry Lilla, I was lost in thought. Just worrying I guess. They’re so far away.”
She guessed at his concerns, he’d been overly concerned about safety since Hunter’s fall just last month. “Dad Hunter was fine. He needed to wait for 2 hours until you rose for a healing, and now we know what to do if you are resting and one of us kids needs blood.”
“I still worry.”
“You look every bit your 1000 years when you worry, you know that? Snap out of it. His arm hurt, he broke it, you mended it; he won’t try climbing that tree again – at least for a while.” He gave her a forced smile. “Besides, I know you sent some of your blood in stasis. Amelia had trouble with the spell and was yelling about it. We all know.”
“Ok, Ok, I’ll stop worrying Lilla.”
“I’m not so little anymore Dad.”
“You’ll always be my little one, my Lilla, no matter how old you are.”
She sniffled at his words but kept her emotions in check and mock yelled at him. “Now you’re just trying to distract me while you spend more time planning your next move. Get on with it Dad.”
“You’re just as demanding and your mother.”
“Come on Frannie. Don’t chicken out now. You’ll never get this chance again.”
“Kaley, you’re sure nobody’s gonna see us when you pick me up at the farmhouse?”
“We know the patrol schedule; we’ve been watching it all week. We have a small window to get you out then another one when I return you later. I’m just gonna say I forgot my bag. Here,” She handed Frannie her bag. “Put this in Gran’s back porch. Oh, and I packed some of that make-up we tried the other week at the mall.” Frannie still looked reluctant. “Come on, Jimmy’s gonna be there. Pretty yourself up and meet me in a few.”
“Ok, Ok. I’ll meet you down there in 20.”
As promised, Frannie snuck back down through the playroom and tunnel to the farmhouse. She quietly went to the kitchen porch and waited for Kaley knowing Gran was doing her morning walk with Michelle. As soon as her friend pulled up, she ran in and hid on the floor of the front passenger seat. On the drive off the property, they even stopped while Kaley said Hi to Gran, Michelle and Corbitt (Jason and Michelle’s son) all while Frannie hid on the floor. Another 20 minutes later and they were on the highway to Shreveport.
“Wow, you did it.”
“I almost want you to take me back. Dad and Mom would freak.”
“It’s my first time playing hooky too.” She patted her friend’s shoulder. “Your risk is low since you can’t be ratted out by school.”
“I know – but my punishment could be worse. You guys didn’t sneak away from guards.” Frannie was quiet as she thought about the two times she’d been in trouble – the ONLY times she’d been in trouble with Mom and Dad – ever. Both were for disregarding her curfew when she attended a Packster social event. She recalled that her Dad was angry because they were lenient about how late she could stay out – she was practically nocturnal – and she didn’t respect their wishes. She remembered trying to blame the guards when it happened a second time and he reminded her that her guards were to protect her, not chaperone her – as was her request, and that the fault was solely hers. Her punishment had been a week’s grounding including no cell phone. Worse than the punishment though was the talk about what she did: Dad was in cold business mode and Sookie was near tears so she could see they were angry and hurt that she disrespected their rules. Saying it was uncomfortable was putting it mildly. At least for that, once punishment was handed down, it was over and they all hugged it out. God only knew what Mom and Dad would do if he discovered that she left the property unguarded; hugging it out wouldn’t come so quickly she guessed. Her stomach lurched at the thought and she wanted to go home out of fear. Fear for whatever punishment she would receive and fear for whatever could in fact get her while she was unprotected. Her Dad had hired her guards for a reason.
Kaley saw Frannie wringing her hands together while they drove. This was supposed to be fun so she tried to calm her down. “It’s just a bunch of kids having breakfast together then going to school late – we won’t stay long. Like I said, the school is the tricky part and you don’t have that worry.” She patted her friend on the shoulder.
“No, but I have other worries.” She bit her nails and thought to herself. ‘Like a pissed off 1000 year old Viking Vampire Dad’.
Kaley wanted to bring up something that she wasn’t sure how Frannie would react. Having thought through her approach she began. “Your Dad babies you, you know.”
“I mean, you’re 16 and I had to sneak you make-up. That’s a little extreme.”
Frannie was aware of how others saw her father’s treatment of her but frankly she liked it. Since Kaley knew her entire background, she decided to try explaining. “It’s not that he’s told me ‘no make-up’ Kaley. Well for interviews Nan had me painted up once and he pitched a fit – so that was the end of make-up for official publicity business. At home, I’ve never even asked. I mean, I had fun when we went to the mall and had makeovers, but that’s not really me.”
“Then why’d you put it on today?”
Frannie was quiet before she admitted. “I thought you’d think less of me if I didn’t play along like a teen.”
“I would never. Others will, but never me Frannie. It’s not just make-up though and it’s not just that you have guards. It’s like he doesn’t realize you’re 16.”
Frannie took a big breath realizing she could trust her best friend. “Kaley. Would it shock you to know that I enjoy being babied? That I love when he cooks for me or does my hair? I still want my Mom to help me pick my outfits when I’m going out with the Packsters. We both giggle like girls when we have our spa nights. I enjoy doing my school work in the big office with both of them – usually all of us – the whole family. I’m a teen that likes to spend Saturday nights with her parents, brother and sister.” Her friend was quiet so Frannie continued. “You know I had to grow up young; I was cleaning up Quinn from pit fights when I was 8 years old Kaley. My brother loved me, make no mistake, but he wasn’t my Daddy. I never had a mother’s love either. I’m not pushing away this opportunity.”
“I get it I do. You should enjoy it. You’re my best friend Frannie; I’ll never judge you for it. I just don’t want you to miss out on high school fun either and maybe someday college.” She glanced at her friend for a reaction – this was the part she wanted to start discussing. “I was hoping we could research colleges together, study for the exams, pick the same places to apply?”
Frannie started twisting her hands together again. “College scares me Kaley. I know I have to deal with it so I’m glad you’re bringing it up now so I can adjust. Let’s start with researching them until I get more comfortable?”
They drove until they came to a clearing and saw other kids from the pack and her Packster friends there. There was one girl there that Frannie didn’t like. This girl hated Frannie simply because she was Eric and Sookie’s daughter. It was Payton and she was smiling cruelly at Kaley and Frannie as they got out of the car. “Look who actually showed up this time. Sandra Dee and Gidget.”
“Knock it off Payton.” A young boy barked at the girl; then he turned to the new arrivals. “Hi Frannie, Kaley.”
Frannie looked to the ground and spoke shyly. “Hey Jimmy. How are you?”
“Good. Glad you made it.”
Payton walked over with two glasses. “Here ya go.”
“Is that beer?!” Frannie exclaimed and looked at her friend. “Kaley, you never said anything about beer. I can’t be here.”
“I didn’t know anything about that. I swear.”
“You two are unbelievable. It’s just some beer.”
“Kaley, I want to leave now. I can’t be caught up in something like this.”
“Ok Frannie, we’ll go.”
“POLICE! Everyone stay where you are.”
Frannie looked at Kaley. “I’m dead.”
“Gran, you’re sure she’s not up there – is she taking a nap upstairs?”
“Eric I checked. She’s not here.” She called to Michelle over her shoulder. “Michelle, call Jason we need him. Call me when you know anything. I’ll keep Corbett here so Michelle and Jason can help.”
Eric hung up with Gran and called Bryan who was the head guard on duty while Peter was with Sookie in DC. “Bryan, any news?”
“No sign of Frannie but Peter called; Kaley never came home from school today. We’re already looking for her car.”
“Keep me informed.”
His phone rang almost immediately. “Min kära.”
“Sweetie, why did you close the bond?”
He sighed. He was hoping he found Frannie before they spoke. He didn’t want to burden her with worry. No, it wasn’t worry; it was panic he was feeling right now. He couldn’t lie to her though. “Frannie is missing. Turns out Kaley is missing too.”
“What?! Since when? Who saw her last? Eric, oh my god!”
“I don’t know much else since I’m still trapped down here I can’t . . . Sookie I feel so helpless. She’s missing. My Lilla . . . ”
She needed to snap him out of his thoughts. Worry like that wouldn’t help and she could feel that he was in misery. “I’m coming home. I need your help though.”
Sookie’s question worked and he came to attention immediately. “What do you need?”
“Call the pilot and Peter – though I guess he needs to be back for Kaley – this will work out for the best that we leave now. Holly and I will pack.”
“I’ll take care of it all.”
“I love you Eric and you are not helpless. I know you are barking orders out as needed. I WISH I was there with you right now.”
“I’m barking alright and I really WISH you were here too.”
“Let me pack now.”
Holly ran into Sookie’s room before she even got the chance to end the call. Holly had spoken to Hoyt and of course he filled her in. “Sookie, what do we need to do?”
“Pack. We’re going home.”
“I’ll get you out of here and will follow on commercial; I can call the pilots and security that way.”
“Eric’s doing that – he needs something to do. Just pack.”
They were at the private airfield only 30 minutes later and ready to take off so Sookie spared a moment to call Eric. “Any news?”
“I’m upstairs now, we have all my vampires and the Were guard engaged in the search. I’m almost ready to take to the sky and look for the car.”
“Eric, stay put. If you’re in the air you can’t always take a call if they have news.”
“You’re right, of course.”
“Sweetie, have you considered calling the Ancient Pythoness?”
“I called Father, he’s trying but she’s in seclusion. He’ll be here shortly since he’s already on his way.”
“We’re taking off. I’m glad you at least tried to reach her. Call me if you hear anything. My phone should be back on in about 20 minutes.”
“Ok min älskade.”
In Bon Temps Eric had ordered every one of his resources to search Shreveport and the surrounding area for Kaley’s car. They were calling all the Packsters, they were checking hospitals. He was waiting for news in his office, pacing when Pam came running in. “Eric!” He spun around. “Almost all the Packsters are missing and were never at school. About a dozen teen boys from the pack also missed school.”
“Where the hell are they?”
“We’re gathering the car information for all of them so we have more than just one vehicle to search for.”
“Keep me informed.”
She nodded and left the room, leaving Eric to his worry. To protect Sookie, he kept the bond muted; she didn’t need to feel his emotions right now. Frannie had come so far and he was afraid something horrible had happened to her or that she had done something foolish, which he could not allow to go unpunished. Either way, they were in for some difficult days ahead. On top of this problem, Godric would be arriving any moment with Toni, Cecelia and Godric Jr; they had so much work to do before New Orleans. Well, work was secondary. Finding his little girl came first. No, she wasn’t a little girl, she was a big girl, a teen, a very pretty teen out there – vulnerable and with no guards. His thoughts spiraled and he couldn’t control himself, he picked up the couch and threw it right through the double doors to the office.
“My son. Is that any way to greet your father?”
“Father. I’m sorry. I lost control. It’s . . . “
“I know Eric. Toni has left the kids with Gran and Carter mostly to distract her and also so she can help with the search. What do you need?”
“I need my daughter back safe and sound.”
Godric had seen that desperation before. He saw it when Eric had to leave his human children. He saw it when Eric had left Sookie. Eric needed his father’s comfort right now. He righted the couch, put the doors back as best he could and pulled Eric to sit with him. “I have you. Let the worry go so we can find her.”
Eric sighed and took in the comfort of his father. It was an indulgence, he knew, but he needed it. Going through this without Sookie was almost unbearable. After a few short minutes of Godric’s constant calm feelings and arms soothing him he was better; in control. “I was thinking of taking to the air but cannot in case I am called with news.”
“I will go up, what am I looking for?”
“Cars, we’re getting a list of cars of the missing kids.”
“KIDS – with an S?”
“Yes, Frannie’s Packster friends and several of the boy Pack members.”
“Do we suspect foul play or teenage tomfoolery?”
“I don’t know. You should hope for Frannie’s sake it’s not tomfoolery – that would have been an unwise decision on her part; the other part of me hopes it’s just teens gone bad – it’s less dangerous than some of the alternatives.”
“I am sure.”
Pam ran in a moment later. “We have a lead. One of the Packsters’ younger siblings heard her sister on the phone talking about playing hooky – well going in late – after some breakfast .”
“The clearing in Flood Park. I’ve already sent some of our resources.”
“I’m going, Father, Pam can you run things from here?” Pam and Godric just nodded; arguing was pointless. He was out the door and in the air before either of them could say anything anyway.
He landed in the clearing and greeted several of the Shreveport police already there. “Chief Stanton.”
The Chief was human and someone Eric considered a friend so he reminded him. “Eric, please, John we’ve discussed this before. With your permission, I’d like to sniff the area.”
“Certainly. We’ve already walked around so I’m sure we’ve tainted the area.”
“I need to do something.”
“Understood.” The Chief gave Eric a supportive grip on his shoulder before giving him space.
He’d made one sweep when he heard two deputies speaking, they were both Weres. “I know, it’s his jurisdiction but he didn’t even come out when he was called. He was blatantly told the KING’s daughter was among the missing. Said he didn’t answer to a vamp.”
He bowed immediately. “Your Majesty, I apologize, I was quoting someone.”
Eric put his hand up. “I’m aware. I just wonder if there is information you could share.”
“Well, this here is just outside Shreveport, yet the Sheriff, ah . . . the HUMAN Sheriff, who presides in this area refused to come out. He’s not blatant enough to go after any vampires, least I don’t think so, but he wasn’t willing to help once he heard the Princess was involved.”
“Do you think he could be hiding something?”
“I’d be happy to drive you over there if you want.”
“I think we need the Chief, yes?”
He nodded. “Let’s get him and go.”
They arrived at the local Sheriff station and Eric stiffened. “John I can hear my daughter crying in there. Is there a specific way this needs to be handled? Because honestly I’m ready to rip through the wall to get to her.”
The Chief knew the amount of control it must have taken Eric to give him the opportunity to handle the situation politically. “If you’re sure she’s there, I can call in some overriding authority since technically this isn’t my jurisdiction either.”
“She’s there, I’m sure. This Sheriff should have reported he had the very same kids for whom we’ve been searching.”
“Yes, which is why he’s going to be fired, but I don’t know if he has something unstable going on in his head or some other problem that the three of us can’t deal with before kids are released. And I’m not sure if you saw it, but they did have beer so it could have started with a legitimate arrest.”
Through gritted teeth Eric responded to that. “I’m well aware of that. I’m also aware that it was likely that my daughter’s being there caused this to go too far with the Sheriff here and my first priority is her safety. If I hear anything that causes me to be concerned that she is more than just upset in general, I’m going in.”
“Understood. Let me make some calls.”
“I’ll call my wife.”
Sookie answered from the plane. “Sookie, I know where she is. It’s a long story but I can hear her and we’re about to go in.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’ll tell you everything, but I want to be ready to go in, and I need to call Pam.”
“Go. I trust you.”
“Pam, we’re at the Sheriff station in Karnack. Get here with about 10 guards and my father.”
“We have Weres and Vampires I can send you right away – resources that were already out searching for Frannie. I’ll be there with Godric as quickly as I can. 30 minutes tops.”
“Good.” He ended the call with Pam and turned to the Chief for an update.
The Chief visibly swallowed. “Your father, head of the new Global Supernatural council is in town?”
“Yes, and he’s on his way. They should be here in 30 minutes. I trust we’ll be in there and I’ll have my daughter by then. We’ve always worked well together John, but this is my child.”
“I understand Eric. The FBI is on the way. They can cross the jurisdiction and we have minors involved.”
“I’ll give them 15 minutes. I can hear she’s almost whimpering now and I’m losing my patience.”
“You can hear that well?”
“I can. I can hear her friend apologizing and trying to soothe her and I can hear another girl mocking my child for her weak will.”
“We’ll only wait 10 minutes then.”
A knock on the window took them out of their conversation. Eric rolled down the window. “Sam.”
“Your majesty, can I help?” Sam had really taken to Frannie after their strange first meeting during the Vegas battle. When he’d heard she was missing, he stepped right up to help.
“She’s in there with the Packsters and some of the teen pack members.” He pointed to the sheriff station, “We’re waiting for the FBI – cross jurisdictions and all that.”
Before he spoke, he started taking his coat and shirt off. “I’ll shift into a mouse and stay with her. The pack members will be able to tell her it’s me.” Eric nodded and turned his head trying to calm himself for a moment. Truth was, when he smelled the beer, he suspected that this was some teenage ritual gone bad for the kids by having the police find them. The situation was only made worse by some vendetta driven local yocal who kept them for some reason. It would appear that Frannie was in a cell all day long. This could possibly set her back. While at first he was seriously considering how to punish Frannie, after she was safe; he now realized the fear she must be feeling would be a significant part of the punishment, well that and a long discussion about why she left the property unguarded. He just wanted her now and it was killing him to stay in the back of this car. He needed to hold her and comfort her and bring her home. It was just about 8PM; Sookie would land shortly. Just a few hours and he would have them all back in his arms. The hell with work for the rest of the night.
“FBI is pulling in.”
Eric nodded and watched as the agents surrounded the building trying to assess it as they could. Some of the agents walked into the station. After another tense 5 minutes, the Chief’s phone rang. He hung up and said, “We can go in, the Sheriff has been secured and they found the kids locked in the cells.”
Eric exited the car and was surrounded by some local vampire and Were guards as Pam promised; Indira leading the group. They walked in together and Eric saw the Sheriff handcuffed and sitting in a chair. “WHERE. IS. MY. DAUGHTER?”
He gave Eric an evil smile. “She’s not your child. You can’t have children. She should be turned over to foster care. It’d be better than living with a blood sucker.”
The FBI agent started speaking. “We’ll be going in to identify the kids and start calling parents. I’d like you to wait here un. . . “
From down the hall he heard her sob. “DADDY! I’m here!”
Ignoring the Sheriff, the Chief and the FBI agents, he vamped down the hall and ripped the door off the cell. Frannie was wrapped around him instantly while crying hysterically.
She cried into his shoulder as he walked. “I’m sorry Daddy. I’m so sorry.”
“Shh, don’t worry now Lilla. I’ve got you. Daddy’s got you.”
“Your Majesty,” Indira offered. “Let’s get you into this room.” Indira waved her arm towards a door and he entered it. “I’ll stay at the door.”
Eric handed her the mouse Frannie was holding, explained it was Sam (and where his clothes were) asked her to call Gran and then walked into the room with a trembling Frannie glued to him. He managed to get his phone from his pocket and called Sookie. “I’ve got her.”
“Yes, I can feel your relief. She’s OK?”
“I don’t know much. I can put you on speaker while I check her out and get some answers.”
“OK, I’ll have to hang up for the descent soon so I’ll just stay on as long as possible.”
Pam barged in before he even got started trying to assess Frannie. “Good Pam, I need your help.”
“Godric is dealing with the FBI and the Chief. What do you need?”
“I don’t really know how she is. She’s been in that cage all day I gather.”
Pam gasped at Eric’s words. “What did she do that got her here anyway? Didn’t that Sheriff know about the search for all these kids?”
“He did, but I’ll deal with that after I know she’s OK. Help me with getting her pulled back a bit, I need to try talking to her.”
As soon as Pam started tugging on her wrist, Frannie yelped. Pam knew this wasn’t going to be good. Eric’s eyes narrowed and he watched as Pam moved to look at Frannie’s wrist while the girl maintained her tight hold on Eric. She was quiet for a moment so Eric needed to ask. “What do you see Pam?”
She cleared her throat, an unnecessary move for a vampire, and responded. “It looks like she was in cuffs and they were too tight.” Sookie gasped from the phone.
He begged for answers. “Frannie, honey. I need your help. Please tell me what happened.” He pushed her shoulders a bit to try and make contact with her eyes. “Please Lilla.” At first she just shook her head ‘no’ and continued to cry. “Frannie, that Sheriff is in trouble and I need to know the details.”
“I’m sorry Daddy. I shouldn’t have gone.”
“Frannie, you’re right about that but I need to focus on learning what happened today and ensuring you’re OK right now. We’ll talk about your leaving the house without guards when we’re home.” Frannie started turning green, a look both Pam and Eric recognized from all of Sookie’s morning sickness so Pam grabbed a trashcan and put it near her while Eric gathered her hair. She wound up only heaving into the can though but that gave Eric another worry. “When did you last eat or drink?”
“Home.” She said meekly.
“Pam, get her some water and a cloth to clean her face.” It was mostly all smeared but he noticed she’d put on make-up for her outing. He didn’t like it.
“Eric, I’ve got to hang up. We’ll be landing in about 20 minutes. Frannie I’ll be there soon. I love you.”
Pam was back and handed Frannie the water. “Just a few sips sweetie since your tummy seems upset.”
After she took a drink Eric pulled her on his lap sideways and gently wiped her face clean of make-up and tears. To help relax her when her face was clean, he rubbed her back. His soothing actions calmed her and she was finally able to speak, though she was still crying a bit. “I snuck out this morning to meet up with the Packsters and a few of the Pack guys for a breakfast. Well I thought it was just breakfast. They were all cutting their morning classes to just hang out.” She paused to take another sip of water. “When I got there I was kinda surprised to see they had beer so I wanted to leave.” Her eyes were pleading as she looked at Eric. “I swear Dad, I had no idea it was that kind of gathering. I didn’t have anything to drink.” She offered her hand to his mouth. “You can taste alcohol in blood, you can try it; I’m not lying.”
Eric knew that this whole incident was going to be a trust issue going forward. He decided to take the first step. “That won’t be necessary, I believe you Frannie.”
She visibly relaxed and continued. “I tried to tell the Sheriff I wasn’t skipping school and that I hadn’t even touched the beer. Dad, he didn’t let anyone tell him anything. He didn’t let anyone call their parents or a lawyer. He took all our phones. He was hateful – yelling insults at the boys about them being Weres, calling the Packster girls freaks because they were part of shifter families. When he saw me . . .” She sobbed out. “Daddy, he knew who . . . who I was. His face was evil.”
He pulled her closer as she shuddered at her memories. “Were you touched by anyone beyond the cuffs?” She nodded. “Details.” She hesitated. “Frannie, I need to know.”
She sighed and answered. “The cop that cuffed me yanked on my arm first. That guy was just following orders.”
“Let me see your arm.”
She knew Eric was serious and the situation was going to be worse if she had a bruise. “Dad, you can’t kill anybody right now, please.” She sobbed out.
He didn’t answer her plea and focused only on assessing the damage to his daughter. “Frannie, your arm.” Knowing it was pointless, she shrugged out of her cardigan so Eric could see her upper arm. Without looking herself, she knew there was a bruise: Eric was growling. “What else happened?” He asked her but now he was sniffing her to assess the damage himself. Other teens would roll their eyes at this, but Frannie needed the comfort he was providing by caring for her. After all, she did grow up with a cat.
“They tried but nothing happened.”
“The Sheriff tried to get closer to all the Packsters but one of the boys shifted and tried to fight him off. He was . . . he was hurt.”
“Who was it?”
“Jimmy Connor. His father works for you.”
“I’ll ensure he has my thanks.” He noticed a distinct blush at mentioning this boy and her eyes lowered. That, he would need to consider later.
They were quiet again for a few minutes while Frannie gathered her thoughts. “Kaley tried to get the Sheriff to let me out cause she knows about Vegas.” Sure that her father was going to hold Kaley accountable for her escape she started full on crying again. “Please don’t hurt Kaley Dad, please.”
He rubbed his face with a hand before answering. “I’ll be speaking to her and her parents and any punishment will be a decision for them. I won’t hurt her and I appreciate that when you got upset at being locked up, she tried to help you today even if she was likely the one that helped you off the grounds.”
There was a commotion outside their door and Eric turned to Frannie. “Mom is here.”
“You didn’t feel her.”
“I did, but my focus has been on you.”
Sookie burst into the room and ran to Eric and Frannie. It really just started Frannie’s hysterics for a few moments again until Eric could get them both calmed down. “Sookie, can you read anything?”
“We’ll need to ask some questions to direct the thoughts.”
“Sure, where are Hunter and Moyra?”
“Holly took them home.”
“Frannie, are you ready to go out there so we can get to the bottom of this and go home?” She nodded and he stood her up. The four of them walked into the main area of the station, Pam, Sookie and Eric flanking Frannie protectively. The station was full of Weres, parents of all the kids, and they all fell to their knees. Eric motioned for them to rise and commanded the room. “We need to find out the details of today’s events. We’ll begin conducting some interviews, my wife will be assisting.” The Weres in the room all knew what that meant. Even though he was human, the Shreveport Police Chief also knew about the telepathy but not all the FBI agents. Still they remained quiet; the victims here were Supernatural so they would wait to see what this King did.
To minimize the exposure of Sookie’s gift, the Chief asked for a moment to clear the room of the FBI agents except for the lead man. Eric could later glamour the man to prevent him from speaking about what he saw.
About an hour later Sookie had read what she needed and she approached Payton and her mother, Nancy Talbot. “Payton, would you care to explain how we are all here?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“You have two choices Payton, confess here and now and deal with the consequences via supernatural law or try your luck with the human system.”
“I did nothing wrong.”
“NO? We won’t find phone records to this Sheriff station starting two days ago? Your Packsters won’t tell us you were the one who pushed for this breakfast? How about your mother being the one that purchased the keg of beer?” She paused to look up at the mother as the woman paled. “You know, those kegs are marked for the deposit, so we’ll be able to confirm that.” She paced around mother and child as she spelled out their plan. “What I don’t know is why?”
Sookie could certainly read it but Payton yelled it out. “You killed my father. He fought in your stupid Vegas battle and died.”
Sookie glanced at the mother and frowned. “What have you been telling your child? You used your own child for what?” She paused to read more of the woman’s mind. “Your own personal vengeance against my husband? Because he didn’t fall for your charms?” She turned to Payton. “Your father was not one of the Weres in the Vegas battle. I’ll leave it to your mother to tell you the truth but her story about breeding for the pack and keeping your father’s true identity a secret for pack reasons is a lie.”
Sookie was frustrated and wanted to get Frannie home, but she needed to know just a bit more. “How did this all get planned anyway? How did you know Frannie would be at the breakfast?” Payton and her mother just looked at Sookie defiantly while she read everything she needed to from their minds. “OK, so you know Frannie’s main guard would be gone. How?” Again, silence as she got her answer. “I’ll discuss that with my husband later.” She moved into Payton’s face. “I’m sure your older brother will be ashamed of your actions. He has served this kingdom well as a guard on our staff and I find it difficult to see that you are related.” She just couldn’t help herself in speaking to the teen.
She breathed in deeply to calm herself. In full councilwoman mode she began. “This is what I suggest.” Another deep breath. “The kids who cut school will have their school records noted as such and the school will handle the incident within their disciplinary system. As far as the drinking goes, the 14 of you that drank will do 20 hours of community service. The other 8 of you that didn’t, you’re off the hook on that.”
“How do we know who drank?” Payton asked snidely.
She turned to the Chief. “We can do a blood test. It’ll still be in their system, right?”
“You’ll have it fixed so your precious princess shows as innocent.”
“Payton, you know damn well that Frannie didn’t take a sip. You even teased her for it. But, to appease you, we’ll have the tests done with codes and not names. My husband and I will cover the cost of the tests. Please have that done now.”
“Already on it Sookie.” The Chief informed her.
Into the already packed room, another person arrived and Sookie greeted her warmly. “Genna, thanks for joining us. Everyone, in case you aren’t aware, this is Genna Dulpert, the DA in Shreveport. She and I work closely on human and supernatural crimes.” She turned to the DA. “Genna, I was just going through what we’ve learned.”
“Go on then Sookie.”
“So that takes care of the kid’s wrong doing in general. Payton, have you and your mother decided what to do?” Silence. “Come now, human system or supernatural.”
“What will happen to us under supernatural law?”
Eric answered. “You’ll be abjured.”
“You don’t have the right.”
“He does.” A new voice entered the room. It was the Packmaster for Shreveport, appointed after Alcide left for his kingdom. “He is the Supernatural King of this territory. You know as a Packmaster, I report to him. Just to be sure there’s no mistake. You’ll be abjured if you also try your luck at the human system and you lose the trial. Go now, take your daughter and be out of the Northmans’ territory by the end of the week.”
Sookie nodded to the man. “Thank you Packmaster Thomas. That leaves one other problem remaining.” Now she walked to the Sheriff. “You are a human, so I don’t have sole jurisdiction over you even if the victims are mine. I need to coordinate with human authorities.”
“Your damn right you have no jurisdiction over me.”
“No, but I do.” The head FBI agent piped in. He looked to Sookie. “If I may?”
“Please, the floor is yours.”
“You are being charged with kidnapping, 22 counts of kidnapping actually. You had every right to arrest the kids but it’s after that where you turned your job into kidnapping. You didn’t call any parents, you ignored the APB for all 22 of them, and you wounded one of the boys while he was trying to protect the others from you and your men.”
“I’ll find sympathizers.”
“You won’t.” Eric spoke for the first time. “The world is changing and those of you who still hate anyone for simply being different are the minority. You need to realize those days of hate are over. We must move on and coexist.”
The FBI Agent spoke. “Your choice is simple. Simply confess, we have the DA here, ready to deal with this. You’ll never win a trial, not with all of us here to provide testimony. We can also forget this from the FBI perspective and leave you in the care of the parents of these kids. That’ll include King Northman here. My guess is he’d actually prefer it that way.”
Eric was troubled. He wanted personal vengeance for the bruises on his daughter’s arms. If the FBI took him, he would never get that. He dug deep for calm. This was the exact reason they all worked together. 22 kidnapping charges would not give the man a light sentence. Godric felt his struggle and touched his arm offering his support then leaned over. “This has to be the way. We set these rules as the council.”
“I know, but I don’t have to like it. She has bruises.”
“You’ll heal her.” Oh he knew he would – not just to heal the bruises but for another reason that they would discuss at home before dawn.
The legalities were sorted out and the families started gathering their belongings to leave. Eric stopped the group and asked. “Before we leave, I’d like to meet Jimmy Connor.”
A groan could be heard from the back of the crowded room and a gruff voice said. “What did you do? Go on; let me introduce you to the King.” A large man and a very nervous boy made their way through the crowd; the boy was holding what looked like a broken arm. The man bowed (he knew Eric didn’t like kneeling that much) and he pushed his boy’s shoulders over as well. “Your majesty. This is my son, Jimmy Connor.”
“Thank you Ralph.” He turned to the boy. “Jimmy. I understand you were hurt trying to protect the girls from the Sheriff. I only wished to thank you; if you call Dr. Ludwig, your arm will be healed for you.”
The smile of relief was evident. As was the look of longing he gave Frannie.
Eric didn’t miss it. ‘Great, something else to discuss tonight. She’s not going to be happy when I forbid dating. Because that’s the mood I’m in now.’
A short while later, Eric was putting Moyra and Hunter to bed, Frannie was soaking in her tub and Sookie was filling in Gran, Sam and others with the night’s (and day’s) events. He could hear her giving the summary of the punishments. “The idiot sheriff confessed and the DA had him booked right away. He’s in jail now and will be there until the formal hearing for sentencing. He’s getting life in prison – it was 22 kids. The judge has to approve, but that’s the current plan.”
“What about the kids, the blood tests?” Gran asked.
“What a waste of resources – the blood results proved the exact kids drank as I had already stated, but whatever. They’re doing community service with the local meals on wheels group. The best news is that Payton and her mother are leaving the state and will be spelled by Amelia as a tracking mechanism. Eric’s also going to notify other monarchies of their transgressions.”
“And what about our princess?” Gran was obviously concerned about her fate.
“Gran, Eric and I need to talk. She can’t go off the property without a guard and we’re pretty sure she learned that lesson from her day, but we need to enforce it.”
“Gran, thanks for taking care of the kids while we were busy. Sam, thanks so much for going to Frannie. Did it take her long to figure out it was you?”
“No, one of the pack boys announced right away that I was a shifter, she picked me up right after that. Poor thing was shaking. Don’t be too hard on her.”
“Sam, she left the property unguarded.”
“I know, I know Chere. Just . . . never mind. It’s for you and Eric.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow Gran. Get some sleep.”
Eric was pleased. He had some ideas for what he wanted to do as punishment and he was afraid Sookie’s tender heart would have her wanting to do nothing. Now that the littlest Northmans were asleep, they had time to talk before meeting with Frannie. He could hear Gran’s night nurse, Carter, walking her back to the farmhouse so he went in search of his wife. He found her in the kitchen.
“Yes. Hunter needed extra time since he had questions about what happened. I think you should prepare for an overly curious son when he wakes. I wasn’t ready to talk about it that much.” She nodded absently while pouring milk for herself. “He’s also very worried about Frannie’s punishment; he pleaded for leniency. He also wanted nothing to do with his own bed tonight.”
“Not a surprise. Frannie probably won’t make the whole night in her room either.”
“I’m sure.” Now was the part he hated about being a father. “We need to discuss our response; the consequences to her actions.”
“Agreed. I think she learned her lesson but something needs to come from us as well.”
Eric started. “I was thinking no dance on Friday.”
“Absolutely. Though I think a longer grounding – maybe a month?”
That was shocking to Eric. His concern that she would be too lenient went out the window. He felt he wanted to pull HER back some. “A month will include our ski trip plans for after the global council meeting.”
“Ok, two weeks grounding. That’ll take us right to the trip.”
“I’m taking her phone. I already ordered one that dials four numbers total and no texting. She can call Kaley once a day from my office while I’m there. I haven’t decided on the length of time for that. I’d like to coordinate with Peter on Kaley’s punishment.”
“That’s gonna hurt but it’s good. I agree.” She could feel his apprehension. “What is it Sweetie?”
“I have one more item. I’m nervous about your reaction.”
“Eric, with what she’s been through, you can’t hurt her physically at all. No spanking . . .”
“I WOULD NEVER! I know that. I’m talking about blood.”
“It was a choice before and she wanted the freedom from my ability to read her feelings and her location. That luxury is over. Hunter and Moyra already have my blood for this very reason. Now it’s imperative for Frannie.” He rubbed his face in his hands. “If she had my blood, we would’ve found her sooner. She wouldn’t have been in that cage for as long. My Lilla. . .”
“Hey, she’s going to be fine. Let’s go see if she’s out of the bath.”
“I can hear her, she’s still in. I’ll get ready to make her something to eat. Why don’t you see if she’s OK? She’s going to be a prune.”
“This must be done.”
Sookie moved to Frannie’s door and knocked. “Frannie. Are you OK?”
“You can come in Mom.”
They never crossed privacy boundaries with Frannie given her experience so Sookie was a little surprised. “You’re sure?”
“Yeah, it’s fine Mom.”
She walked in and could see Frannie sitting in the tub, her legs up to her chest with her arms wrapped around them and her head resting on top of the knees. “Frannie, Honey, are you ready to come out? Dad’s getting something ready for you to eat.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“That’s not going to work with your father and you know it.” She moved to sit on the edge of the tub. “You’ll be lucky if he lets you eat on your own.” Frannie laughed thinking Sookie was joking – but she wasn’t.
“We are going to talk about today, but it’s not going to be that bad. I promise. Come on.”
She was quiet for a moment before she responded. “OK. Will you wait for me in the bedroom?”
Frannie dressed quickly and met Sookie in her room. Sookie could sense and read that Frannie was still very scared so she took her hand. “I promise it won’t be that bad.”
They met Eric in the small kitchen in the underground chamber. He was ready to make her some eggs but he wanted to talk first so they all sat at the table. “Your mother and I have decided on your punishments, before we hand those down, can you explain why you went off without your guards today?”
“I don’t know.”
He raised his eyebrow at that one. “Not good enough little girl. Try again.”
She glanced nervously at her mother but found nothing readable from her facial expression. After a moment she sighed and started speaking. “It was a combination of things. Mostly, Payton has been taunting me about my goodie-two-shoes life for months now. She heard Kavan was traveling with Sookie so she . . .”
“Wait,” He changed his focus from Frannie to Sookie. “I don’t know how she knew that yet. You mentioned later.”
Sookie added. “Details later, but Payton’s mother is or was sleeping with one of our guards. We have a termination to address with this situation. Information about our guard schedules must be secure.”
“Agreed. Continue Frannie.” His face now turned in complete focus on his daughter.
Frannie swallowed. She noticed for this discussion she wasn’t his Lilla. That hurt, but she knew she deserved it. “Well Payton was relentless about the breakfast this week. Kaley had also never played hooky and she was really picking on us. I guess I just succumbed.”
“Explain this goody two shoes teasing.”
“You know, that I don’t play hooky or hang out with them after their school day is done. I don’t wear the clothes or makeup that they do.”
Eric knew he was restrictive but they were in the public eye. If he admitted it to himself he was also restrictive so he could protect her as much as possible. If she didn’t dress like a typical 16 year old, maybe she wouldn’t act like one. “Are those things you want to do? I noticed you put on make-up today.”
“I don’t care about the make-up or the clothes. I think some of the girls look like sluts.” Well that made Eric happy. “I wouldn’t mind meeting up with them after school though. Not every day cause that cuts into family time but maybe once a week.” That request was something to table considering she was about to be grounded, but he didn’t jump right into that now.
“I’ll take that under advisement and get back to you.” She nodded. “So back to today. Where does Jimmy fit into today?”
“Wh . . . Why do you ask about him?”
“Because the same blush and sudden shyness you’re sporting right now showed up earlier when you mentioned him. So, is this Jimmy the reason you wanted to go to the breakfast?” She didn’t answer and found a bit of lint on her pajama pants suddenly fascinating. “Frannie?” He waited another moment before he continued. “You want to date?”
“No . . . well maybe . . . I don’t know.”
“OK, so let’s summarize. You were pushed into going to this activity without your guard due to social pressures and a possible interest in a boy?” Frannie nodded. “How did you get out of here?”
“The front passenger floor of Kaley’s car. We used our knowledge of the guards’ perimeter rotation, the patrol I mean, and the fact that Gran takes her walk every morning with Michelle and Corbett as the window of opportunity.”
“Well, I’ll make your dating indecision easy for you. The answer is NO.” Frannie actually opened her mouth and Eric stopped her. “Ah Ah Ah – unless that’s a yes sir, I suggest you rethink what you were about to say.”
She offered a meek “Yes sir.”
“I didn’t hear that.”
“Yes sir.” He was being a stickler tonight she thought.
Sookie chimed in since they were in this together. “You are grounded until our ski trip, and that includes the dance tomorrow.”
Eric spoke about the phone. “You will turn over your Blackberry. A new less featured phone is being procured for you and it’s for emergencies only.”
Southern manners kicked in for Sookie. “You will write a handwritten letter of apology to all the guards and other help we had out searching for you. You scared dozens of people Frannie.” Eric nodded at Sookie’s addition.
Eric finished, “Finally, the choice of whether you have my blood for protection is no longer yours. You will.”
“I want it. You could have found me sooner today.” Her voice broke as she spoke.
He was shocked. The separation had been disturbing for his daughter, she had never looked so frail and vulnerable as she did right now. His features softened immediately and he put his arms out. “Come, the discussion is over.” She practically tripped to get into his arms and he held her. “My Lilla. I was so scared today. You can never do this again.”
“I won’t Dad. I promise. I know the resources and time spent trying to find me. If it’s a true emergency, I want you to be able to engage them again without worry.” Their hugging was interrupted by her stomach; it growled loudly making them both laugh.
“Let’s get you fed. Dad’s scrambled eggs?” She nodded and he kissed the top of her head. “Coming right up.”
Much later, Sookie and Eric were whispering to each other on their side of the bed. Moyra was next to Sookie asleep in her co-sleeper (no, they hadn’t moved her to her nursery yet), Hunter and Frannie were on the other side of Eric. The day had been unsettling for all of them and both kids made their way in at some point. “God’s min kära today was a new level of fear. As a warrior I was never this afraid.” He put his hands on her stomach. “I think when this one comes, that’s it. I know we discussed more, but I don’t know that I can handle more than four – I hope I can survive four.”
“Do you regret having the kids?”
“Not for a minute, I’m just minimizing the risk of repeating today’s events.”
“Papa Bear, you are the best Daddy. You have nothing to worry about.”
“Sookie. When I first saw the beer, I’ll admit it – I was thinking of a keeping her in the house forever I was that mad. I would never do that – but that’s how mad I was. I thought our sweet Frannie was going to the dark side of teenage life and I wanted to end any of that behavior right away. Then I arrived at the Sheriff station and heard her crying and whimpering from the building. The anger started diminishing and the need to have her safe with me took over. Once we were in the building and I heard her call to me from the cell, my heart broke.” He shook his head at the memory. “She called for me as Daddy.”
“I heard her call you that on the phone. She never calls you Daddy.”
“She was terrified. All my anger went out the window as I held her trembling form to me.” Sookie hugged him tightly since he was still shaken from the day’s events. “You probably think me weak.” Sookie was a bit torn. She had news she’d been holding onto since she left for her conference but maybe now wasn’t the time. But this news wasn’t something she wanted to keep to herself for even a moment longer. Believing Eric was speaking from just the experiences of the day, she pressed forward knowing he’d be happy.
“I think you are a father that loves his children. And you will love all six of them.”
“No Sookie, I’m serious. This one more – then that’s it.”
“Yes, I heard you.” She stared at him, willing her news to make it through his thick skull. After a moment she realized he was really thrown by today so she had mercy. “Eric, Sweetie, if we’re having six kids, and this is my last pregnancy . . .”
The wait for him to do the math seemed to take hours. Finally:
“TRIPLETS!?” Frannie and Hunter both woke and sat up from his exclamation.
She just nodded and laughed at his face for a moment. “Surprise!”