Another rough one! I drove back from Florida to PA last night (all night) and it was crappy weather! I need to get to bed – I only sent this to Jess now for beta – I’ll fix it later!
Chapter 26 – Something more
Giving a quick bow, Eric addressed Russell. “What can I do for you King Edgington?”
“First, you can introduce me to your bonded. Then we can discuss how we’re going to handle my sheriff’s crimes.”
The relief Sookie and Eric felt at Russell’s words and smile were palpable and Patuk remained, but eased his protective stance. Honoring the King’s first request, Eric stepped back to stand beside Sookie. “King Russell Edgington of Mississippi, I’d like to introduce you to my bonded, Miss Sookie Stackhouse.”
To Sookie’s surprise, the king put his hand out and she placed hers in his; then he kissed it. “Roman’s description didn’t do you justice my dear. You are lovely. The Northman is a very lucky vampire.”
“Thank you your majesty. I assure you, I am the lucky one to have captured his attention.”
Russell laughed. “You are a charming creature. If I liked women, Eric would have a fight on his hands.”
She laughed back at him. “And you call me charming?”
“Touché.” After sharing a smile with Sookie, Russell turned to Eric. “I wish we had more time for a pleasant visit but we need to deal with my sheriff.” Eric nodded in agreement. “Can you describe what you know of his role in the capture of your bonded?”
“We haven’t investigated his role in the planning. Andy’s residence was used to hold Sookie and I overheard Lorena speaking to Bill about Andy and his staff having a turn with Sookie.”
Russell grimaced. “Eric, Sookie, I apologize. I’ve had trouble before with Andy and his closest colleagues.” He paused. “Specifically trouble with Lorena. She was banned from my state, so on top of the crimes committed against you, Northman; he’s broken my own laws.”
Sookie bit her lip. Crimes against Eric! I was the one captured. Eric could feel her irritation and squeezed her hand gently in recognition of her anger. Like he was the mind reader, Russell turned to Sookie. “I meant no slight my dear. On paper, per vampire law, the injured party is the vampire in a human/vampire bond. I personally apologize for the role my sheriff played in your suffering.”
“Thank you Russell.” Sookie decided right then and there that she really liked Russell Edgington.
“Eric,” Russell moved onto the next steps. “I’d like to travel with you to New Orleans if I can. Roman filled me in on your meeting with the Queen. I believe my presence is needed since a sheriff in my state was part of the conspiracy to capture your bonded.” Roman needed to attend the meeting in New Orleans as a member of the council as well, but he kept that information to himself.
“We welcome your company though we’re leaving now to ensure we arrive before dawn.”
“I’m ready. I came hoping to hitch a ride.” Eric put his arm out gesturing for Russell to walk with them. He picked up Sookie and they boarded the elevator. Russell looked again at Sookie and his brow furrowed. “I understand you were hurt badly by Compton and his maker.” He looked up at Eric. “I know this is a delicate question, but did you photograph the marks before you healed her?” Eric nodded. “Good. We may need that evidence.”
“Who is ‘we’ and I thought council was sequestered right now?”
“Council started our quarterly meeting but stopped when we realized we needed something.”
Eric raised his eyebrow but Russell added nothing else. “And ‘we’?”
“You and I.” Russell answered honestly, but not completely.
Eric wanted to press for more information but the elevator arrived and they were rushed into the waiting cars to get to the plane.
The flight to New Orleans was perfectly uneventful. Sookie dozed in Eric’s arms and Russell couldn’t help but notice how the fierce Viking would look down at her in concern when she made the slightest noise in her sleep. Knowing how it felt to love someone, the ancient vampire softened and spoke quietly to Eric. “To love is a blessing and a curse, is it not?” Eric was stunned for a moment at the King’s words. Seeing the shock on Eric’s face, Russell put him at ease. “Eric, I’m over 3000 years old. I’d like to think I can tell when a man is in love. I’ve loved my Talbot for a few centuries now. Unlike most of our kind, I don’t see it as a weakness; love is a strength.” Eric nodded, sharing the belief. “Do you plan to turn her?”
“That’s my desire.” Believing that Russell had opened the door to a personal conversation, Eric decided to go with it. “Did you bond with Talbot before you turned him?” Russell nodded. “Any complications or tips for me?”
“You’ll need to be close for the first few decades after you turn her. I mean, same house and often the same room close. It eases after a while but it never bothered me. I hate when I’m away from Talbot. Being on the council takes me away occasionally and we both suffer the separation – not from bonding sickness though – from love.”
“I didn’t want to be apart from her before we bonded. I know what you mean. As you first said, love is a blessing and a curse but I wouldn’t change anything.”
“And how does your child feel about your human?”
Eric smiled. “Sookie is her favorite breather. Pam and I don’t have a romantic relationship so she has no jealousy. Actually, she looks forward to spending time getting to know Sookie more.”
“That won’t be long now. I do believe we’ll have this mess with your Queen resolved quickly tonight.”
Eric nodded in appreciation for the confidence. In reality, he wasn’t quite sure what Russell’s presence meant entirely. If he wanted to punish his sheriff, the king could have simply demanded him at the hotel. There was something more to this than Eric could figure out. It was a curiosity, but not a concern since he knew Roman would be with them, and he trusted his vampire uncle and the head of the council completely.
“The Queen cannot know that we are more than vampire and asset.” Eric said.
“Eric. It’s obvious to anyone who sees the two of you that you are more. Of course, you’ll put on a show but it’s not going to be a problem. I promise you.”
“You’re here for more than your sheriff, aren’t you?”
Russell simply shrugged and after they stared at each other for a moment, he added, “Your relationship will not be a problem with the Queen.” He shifted then added. “I’ll say no more.”
Russell changed subjects for them. “You know, I’m ordained as a Priest.”
“As am I. It’s come in handy at times.”
“Yes. Resourcefulness is a necessity to our longevity. Though that’s not why I brought it up.”
“No. There are several states where vampire and human marriage is legal.”
Eric played it cool. “Is that a fact?”
“Yes. My own for example. Pennsylvania, Alaska – did you know Alaska passed the vampire/human marriage law?”
“I did.” Eric paused and added for emphasis. “I assure you, I’m well aware of all the locations were a vampire can marry a human.”
“Very good. I was simply checking. I should have known you’d be up on that information.”
“I didn’t know you were so nosey.”
The men laughed quietly and moved to another conversation about vampire gossip for the duration of the flight.
Barry was waiting for the group when the plane landed in New Orleans. A van and a large SUV were parked on the tarmac and with some quick instructions, Barry had the Mississippi sheriff, Compton, and Amelia secured in the van with Alcide and Patuk riding as guards. Amelia wasn’t in chains, but she was being guarded carefully in case there were any lingering glamour triggers implanted. Unfortunately, the men had some trouble with the coffin and wound up dropping and bumping it into the plane and the van several times before the van doors shut. Sookie giggled as she approached her friend. “Barry, you enjoyed that too much.”
He hugged her then replied. “I know I’m not getting a turn to take out my anger on them after the vampires pass judgment. I believe it was my only chance to hurt them for taking you.”
Sookie hated violence but she knew it was part of her world. Rather than focusing on what she didn’t like, she focused on Barry’s friendship as the reason for his desire. “Thank you Barry.”
Eric smiled at his trustworthy assistant. “Don’t worry Barry. I think I can arrange something more if you want.”
“Oh, I want.” He opened the door for them and watched as Eric, Sookie and Russell got in the SUV. Having refrained from any kind of greeting when he first saw Thalia, Barry took advantage and gave her a quick kiss before she climbed in as well. The two were quite passionate in private and she’d made it clear that their affection was a private matter so he was shocked when Thalia responded. Further shocking Barry, when he was seated next to her in the limo, she took his hand for the ride.
Russell wanted to laugh at the normally serious female vampire. Instead, he commented on the bond. “So Northman, I see bonding is contagious in Area 5.”
“Thalia and Barry decided to bond before Sookie and I did. If anything, we followed their lead.”
Russell stared at Thalia and raised his brows in shock. “Must be the fairy in them that brings out the desire in you two.”
Sookie couldn’t contain her shock. “YOU KNOW? HOW?”
“At my age, the fairy essence in your scent is unmistakable. Not to worry, your secret is safe with me Sookie
Not knowing if the vampire in front of them was trustworthy yet, Sookie turned to Eric and expressed all her concern with her timid question. “Eric?”
“All is fine Lover. It was bound to come out. Having an ancient vampire and council member in our corner is a good thing.”
She nodded and turned back to Russell. Knowing Eric trusted him, she wanted to learn what he knew. Her desire to understand the light that shot from her hands was a living thing inside of her. “Your majesty, do you know much about fairies? I don’t. I didn’t know I was a fairy until I met . . .” She hesitated rather than saying the last word.
Eric finished for her. “Godric told her.”
“Ah,” Russell said. “Yes, I’m sorry about your maker. Godric was a remarkable vampire.” He paused for a moment out of respect. “Miss Stackhouse . . .”
He smiled at her invitation and responded in kind. “I’ll be pleased to call you by your first name if you do the same. Both of you.” He acknowledged Eric and Sookie as he spoke. Eric was floored. Vampire monarchs were strict about their titling and he again felt that more was happening than a king dealing with a sheriff’s offense. Russell almost snickered at the look on Eric’s face but instead he responded to Sookie’s original question. “I’d be happy to share what I know with you.”
“Thank you Russell. I look forward to dealing with the ah . . . politics and such then enjoying a more pleasurable visit in the near future. As much as I want to know more, now may not be the best time.”
They had pulled up to Eric’s and the driver helped carry the bags inside. With an hour before the dawn, Eric quickly reviewed sleeping arrangements and guided his guests to their rooms.
“Lover, would you like a snack before we retire?” She nodded yes and they walked to the kitchen. Russell joined them to visit in time to see Eric moving about the kitchen preparing food for his bonded. Seeing the Viking so attentive to his mate was a pleasure to witness.
“Hey boss, you cookin’?” Barry walked in and headed straight for the table, sneaking some of the strawberries from Sookie’s plate.
“You’re on your own Barry.” Eric answered as he sat next to Sookie and kissed her. “I only cater to my bonded. If you want pampering, take it up with Thalia.”
Barry laughed while he poured himself a drink. “Thalia is not a pamperer.”
Russell boomed out a laugh. “I just got an image of Thalia, with an apron, serving you a martini.” He thought for a moment and added. “Does she call you dear?”
He shook his head. “No, but she does offer me the newspaper before she starts my dinner.” Barry added to the image.
Sookie smirked. “You’re asking for trouble. Both of you.” She took a bite of the strawberry Eric offered her. “I would never get Thalia mad at me.”
“You’re a smart woman.” Thalia said from the hall outside the kitchen. While the three at the table watched, Thalia stormed in, grabbed Barry’s hand, and pulled him away. They were hissing out laughter as she said. “Time for bed . . . dear.”
Not knowing how Thalia was taking their banter, they desperately tried to not laugh out loud. Sookie had an even harder time since Barry sent her his thoughts. ‘OH Lord, I’m in for it now. It’s been hard being apart as bondeds and she already told me she’s been near bloodlust since rescuing you.’
She sent back ‘Should I find some Viagra?’
‘I think given that it’s so close to dawn, I’ll make it. Pray for me Sookie’
That last sentence had Sookie laughing out loud. Looking at her like she was insane, Eric and Russell both stopped their conversation to stare. “Sorry. Barry sent me something funny.”
“Oh Lover, now you have to share.”
“NO SHE DOES NOT!” They heard Thalia shout from the lower level. Thalia had heard them speaking since she wasn’t yet in the sound proof bedroom.
Eric held a finger up, indicating they should wait and he nodded when he heard the bedroom door shut. “What did he send you?”
“That Thalia has been near bloodlust since my rescue . . . then . . .” She stopped talking to have a giggle fit. “Then he asked me to pray for him. I offered to get him Viagra.” She had both men laughing out loud with her and when she could speak again, she added a new idea. “I’m buying her a fifties dress and apron for Christmas. Maybe a pearl necklace. This is too good.”
Russell was puzzled. “I thought you said you wouldn’t want her mad at you?”
“I was only teasing before. Thalia would never hurt me or Barry in anger. She reserves her violence for enemies only.” She was quiet for a moment then said. “I don’t normally peak in on Barry’s thoughts, but I can confirm she’s teasing him about our imagery – all is good.”
Russell shook his head. “I’m damn jealous of Thalia finding that boy first. He must have some stamina and balls to take on Thalia as a lover.”
“Russell, he likes women. Finding him first wouldn’t change that.”
With a brilliant smile he leaned in and offered, “I can be very persuasive.” Then he winked at her.
Sookie shook her head at the king’s confidence then changed the subject. “Well, I think we should all settle in before sunset. I know I’m ready to sleep off the past day.”
Though she’d slept on the plane, Eric could feel Sookie’s exhaustion so he didn’t hesitate. “Good rest Russell.” Eric said as he picked up his lover.
Once in their room, Eric sat on the edge of the bed and pulled Sookie to him. “Do you need to talk about anything?”
She tucked in on his lap with her head under his chin. “I do have a question.”
“Why is Russell really here?”
He smirked at her. “Caught my confusion about that did you?” She nodded. “I don’t know. My gut is telling me that it’s not bad and he certainly has issues with his sheriff that he must deal with. He wouldn’t answer me directly, but he did tell me that we have nothing to worry about with Sophie-Anne. His involvement only helps us. Having Russell on our side adds protection for the meeting. For that reason alone, it’s beneficial. Making friends with a monarch, as you did tonight my little charmer?” He shook his head. “Sookie, that’s always a good thing. Russell’s on the council, so this will only further help our negotiations when the time comes.”
“What about the part where they need something for their sequestered meeting?”
“I have some ideas but I can’t be sure.”
“For you. No way, you’ll blab to everyone!”
“When will I be doing that? I don’t plan to wake tomorrow until you do.” After her first statement she realized she should seem insulted by his comment so she put her hands on her hips and added, “HEY! I don’t blab!”
He chuckled at his feisty fairy and wished they had longer before the day would take him. “I know you don’t. I was teasing you and you gave me the exact reaction I wanted.” She couldn’t help herself, she giggled too. “Anything else you want to discuss?”
“No.” She sighed and wiggled in further. “I want to attach myself to you and sleep.”
“That can be arranged. Did you have enough to eat before we came down?” She nodded her head but otherwise didn’t move. “Does my Sookie want some more pampering?”
“From you? Always.”
“Then relax and I’ll get you ready for bed.” He switched them so she was on the bed and he proceeded to disrobe her; then he returned with a cloth and cleaned her face. “Do you want lotion?” She gave him a relaxed hmm-hmm. When she was soft and smooth, he whispered, “I have a present for you.”
She perked up immediately, “A present?”
He laughed. “Normally you get suspicious of my gifts.”
“I need one tonight.”
He kissed her nose and ran to the closet, returning with a bag. “I thought you might want something new for sleeping.”
Sookie expected to find lingerie but instead, it was a new tee-shirt.
She laughed and asked. “And does someone need a midnight snack?”
“No. I wanted to see you smile. I promised I would always find ways to soothe and comfort you even in the worst of times.”
“Mission accomplished Cuddles.”