I excused myself from my guests did a quick sweep of my bar. I caught their scent long before I reached the ladies’ room. I cursed, startling two human women waiting in line. Upon seeing me, their pupils dilated and their scent turned sexual. Ignoring them, I spun on my heel, closing my eyes and inhaling deeply.
Two of them. Wolves. The slightly saccharine fog of chloroform. And of course, Sookie. All of these scents had spiked just minutes ago, now all traces of their origins were gone.
I opened my eyes.
Weres had taken my beloved. They had waltzed right into a vampire bar and stolen my bonded right in front of me.
I attacked my bond with Sookie, forcing my will into her, trying to make her wake up and give me a clearer picture of her welfare. I sensed nothing but black. I pushed harder, furious at what they might to do her while unconscious, but it was useless. My angel was sleeping.
I felt the throb of movement within her, which told me they were on the highway heading north.
I looked back at my VIP booth and growled so viciously that all within ten feet of me edged away in fear. As they should. They’d been closer to Sookie during her abduction and could have raised the alarm. Instead, they’d stood around like vacant sheep, baaing and mewling and trawling for a rough fuck. If only one of them had called out in protest, I would have decapitated those wolves in a flash, saving Sookie and silencing their mission for the queen.
And it was the queen. I could think of no one else who would be stupid or arrogant enough to pull such a stunt as this. The Authority would have used vampires. Weres were too low rent for their tastes.
As Sookie moved further from my side, our bond yanked at my flight instincts. My blood was suddenly magnetized, throbbing with the pull to go north. Having never bonded with someone before, the sensation was new to me. Thick, furious possession raged in my veins so intensely that I couldn’t tell if it was Viking, vampire, or Fae in origin. I’d never responded well to loss as a human. Vampires were aggressively territorial. But most of all, Sookie’s Light pulsed like a beacon inside me, filling me with a distressing level of panic. I felt dangerously unstable. Sookie needed me. If I flew now, I could catch them inside of ten minutes.
My guests were watching me.
I swallowed my fear and smiled lazily at them.
Fuck fuck fuck fuck!
I could not leave.
To leave was to expose our situation. To leave was to jeopardize Sookie’s secret. The Authority might want her for interrogation, but once her true nature was revealed, their interest would turn as covetous as the queen’s. They would take her from me. They’d lock her away in a steel bastion and take vial after vial of her blood, desperate to extract its essence, just as they had done with ordinary humans when synthesizing Tru Blood. During which time, they’d question her ceaselessly about the Fae. They’d want every last detail about our ancient enemies and how best to arm ourselves against any attack they might plan in the future. In my mind’s eye, she lay quietly in a white room, broken after months of fighting to escape. Too much of her blood had been taken. Too much of her soul. She’d wither under such sterile, heartless conditions. She needed sunlight. She needed my arms. My mouth. My eyes and my voice. She needed her Light, which now resided in my body alongside my darkness. She needed my love. If I let myself cave to panic now, I would condemn her to such a fate.
I turned discreetly to the side and sent out a recall pulse to Pam. She must return immediately. She was an excellent strategist and I needed help. Plus, if the weres were taking Sookie to Sophie Anne – and I knew they were – I no longer needed Pam to locate that bitch. Sookie’s presence would lead me right to her.
I composed my features and moved towards my table once again.
I sat and made excuses about Sookie’s sudden departure. She was needed at home, I explained. Her brother had foolishly taken up with were panther trash and needed some sisterly advice. Their squat in Hotshot was known to my guests. They nodded sagely in agreement with my unspoken insinuation that all weres were trash, regardless of social status. We spoke casually about politics and what would happen now that our monarchy was vacant once again. Several candidates were suggested. They asked about the strange business with the maenad in Bon Temps, of all places. I answered their questions and mused about realpolitik solutions for our current troubles.
At some point, I heard my name resonate in Sookie’s frightened, pleading tone before falling silent again. The only sign of anguish I showed was a tick in my jaw as I ordered Domingo another bottle.
After an hour, I felt Pam reenter the premises. Shortly after that, our good Authority representatives took their leave.
“Get in here,” I mumbled to her, crossing the bar into my office.
She emerged from the back area where she’d been waiting and followed silently. I closed the door and began to pace. My desk stopped me after ten steps. I upended it, sending it crashing across the room. My sofa sat just beside it, mocking me with the knowledge that Sookie had fed me there just two hours before. I could still smell her shampoo in the cushions. I could hear her chiding me about wanting sex, laughing in that soft, rippling voice that told me she liked my wolfish appetite despite her admonishment. I lunged at it, ripping out stuffing and smashing its wooden frame to splinters.
Pam stood to one side, her anxiety palpable. The bond between us was a frayed wire of distress.
“Where is she?” she asked as I murdered my furniture.
I collapsed to my knees, grunting. “Sophie Anne has taken her.”
Pam hissed quietly, fangs bared. “Why are we still here?”
“I had to persuade the Authority that nothing was amiss. Weres took her. I had to stay here and make sure they didn’t doubt our story.”
“Fine. Then why are we still here now?”
I closed my eyes. My bond with Sookie was much murkier than usual. The drugs in her system had weakened her. I tapped her for proximity. She had stopped moving and was now about a hundred miles upstate. I sensed discomfort in her body and fogged displeasure in her mind. But no pain. She was not in immediate danger, or so she believed.
“She is awakening. Slowly. No doubt Sophie Anne will question her first before she tries anything.”
Pam snarled in disgust. “Surely you don’t think that bitch would taste her once she recognizes your bond. Our laws would see her silvered for – ”
“That is exactly what I think, Pam. She has already broken our laws. Drinking from a bonded human is like a parking ticket at this point.”
I felt my child’s fury at such an infraction. “So let’s say she does. Fine. We’ll kill her twice when we find her. The point is that your bond with Sookie is unbreakable. The queen will have enjoyed a fine last meal and Sookie will return to your side. Fade out.”
I rose up. As much as the idea of the queen drinking Sookie enraged me, I forced myself to see reason. Pam was right. Three other vampires had sipped from my beloved besides myself. Lorena and Edgington had paid dearly for it and Compton had reaped what he’d sown. Sookie had lived through it all. When I found her, I would offer her Sophie Anne’s heart in recompense for my failings. I would heal her with gallons of my own blood, and we would forget all of this and go back to discovering all of the wonders of our union. I would never leave her side again. I would guard her every step, even if she was simply going to the damn grocery store. Nothing would distract me, not even the sun she had given me. I would stay vigilant.
This I promised her.
“You will drive north,” I said aloud. “I’ll text the coordinates once I find her. Once there, we will begin our siege.”
It was still very early in the morning when I took to the sky. Pam followed in my Lotus, making slower time, but moving faster than she would running. Sadly, my child had not been gifted with the ability to fly. Like all other forms of endowment, flight struck at random in vampires. Some could, most couldn’t. The gift often manifested in later years, but so far, Pam had remained flightless. No matter. It wasn’t required.
I flew quickly, making better time than usual. But it wasn’t the threat of the eventual sunrise that had me rocketing through the darkness, as was usually the case. It was Sookie. Our bond was an unbearable throb of forced separation. I felt hewn in half by a blunt instrument, ragged pieces of me flapping where Sookie used to be. She was awake now, reaching out to me. I felt nimble plucks at my mind, her virtual fingers searching, entwining, tugging. Her outer emotions were furious. She was fighting against whatever the queen was forcing upon her. Her inner emotions were soft and imploring as she earnestly sought me out. I heard the ghost of my name. I felt the impression of her hands caressing my face, as if she was identifying me purely through touch. My memory betrayed me and summoned the soft sleekness of her body wrapped around me, her athletic limbs refusing to loosen from my waist and shoulders as I flew. The bitter chill that blasted around me did nothing to dull the warmth she had bestowed in my blood.
I pressed back into her. I’m coming, I projected. Stay strong, lover. I’ll find you.
At my reckless speed, it took less than half an hour. I saw the unfamiliar mansion from two miles out and knew instantly it was Sophie Anne’s new lair. Jesus, the woman really was incapable of subtle, even when fleeing the law. I was downwind and could pick up several pieces of helpful information. A small pack of weres was located in the barn. There were five vampires present, one of whom was Compton. Another was the queen. I assumed the other three were guards. Surprisingly, a weaker bond pulsed in my mind, informing me that Hadley was also in attendance. It had been months since I had fed her my blood, but the tie was still strong enough to project her emotions. At present, she was hopelessly sad. A fallen queen’s court was not a happy place to begin with, but her sorrow eclipsed even that. She was being eaten alive by guilt.
I landed in a tree by the barn and listened intently. Four pairs of lungs took long, steady breaths. There were no voices. The weres were sleeping. I had anticipated this. Weres were needed for daytime defense. Vampires could handle themselves at this hour.
I flew up to the house. On closer inspection, I swore under my breath.
The house was awash in a pale glow that only vampires could see. A glow that meant the house was protected under human ownership, its soft light acting as an impenetrable barrier to my kind.
I landed on the lawn, staring up at it in fury. Since when had the queen become less of an imbecile?
I quickly sorted through my options and arrived at the most obvious conclusion. Hadley owned this house. There were no others present and the queen would most certainly use her pet in such a fashion. I whipped out my phone and texted Pam. She would be here within an hour, provided that she didn’t get pulled over. It would only take minutes to glamour a cop, but they were minutes I was loathe to part with. I preferred to have fellow warriors at my side when I engaged a stronghold.
For now, I was forced to work alone.
I ran back to the barn. Inside, I could still hear the soft noises of four creatures resting. Scanning the structure, I chose the far entrance. For this to work, I would have to be fast.
As I slowly swung the splintered old door open, I calculated my timing. I must kill three of them outright. Then somehow, I must spare the fourth without damaging them and without letting them raise the alarm before I could glamour them. Once that was done, I would instruct the were to enter the home and bring me Sookie. This was my preference, however Sookie might prove unattainable. A were was no match for a vampire guard, let alone five. And Sophie Anne would anticipate my arrival. So unless the queen proved unparalleled in her stupidity, stealing Sookie would not be an option. Should this be the case, I would also instruct the glamoured were to abduct Hadley instead and bring her to me. I would glamour her for an invitation, then retrieve Sookie myself. And should the were be caught during its mission, he would carry out my final command and attack the queen.
Even with all of the optimism in the world, my chances of success were slim. Still, I had little choice. Every second I wasted was a moment when my bond to Sookie might explode with pain and degradation. The queen was weighing her options, but she wasn’t a patient woman. She would make a rash decision and do something stupid that jeopardized my lover’s safety. I had to act.
Sliding noiselessly into the barn, I hovered an inch off the crunching surface of the dirt floor, scanning the room for sign of my prey. In the corner stood four cots. On them lay four prone figures. I selected three. They would not wake, not ever again. I shot forward, all of my speed and ferocity bared for the kill.
Something shot out from my left. It landed lightly against me. I roared in pain as a silver net draped softly but devastatingly over my flying body. It seared into my face and arms, its diamond pattern slicing deep into my skin and burning with unspeakable pain. My strength disappeared. I crashed to the ground, writhing and snarling under its light, but crushing weight.
The four weres jumped a mile in the air at the sound before raising from their beds and making their unhurried way to me. They all stared down at me as I lay helpless, their faces full of smug victory. I had failed.
“Fuckers,” I hissed at them acidly.
One of the older men turned to his pack and smiled lightly. “See? Motion-sensor nets, man. It’s the wave of the future.”