Eric arched a brow and watched The Queen of Virginia while she strolled around his penthouse. She tried to appear unaffected by his scrutiny, but he could see the tension in her shoulders as well as the tightness around her mouth. It was obvious to him that she hadn’t been expecting him to send someone to collect her. Eric had to hand it to her, she was certainly ballsy. She had walked into the lion’s den with her head held high and a smirk upon her pretty face. He might have considered entertaining her for a night or two, if she hadn’t manipulated his child and tried secure him for her husband. Well, he could forgive her wanting him for her husband, she would have been a fool not to desire him, but using Pam to get to him was something he wouldn’t tolerate.
Katherine fought the urge to shiver as she felt Eric’s eyes on her back. Pam had always said Eric had penetrating eyes, but Katherine had dismissed the selfish blonde’s words, believing Pam to have her head so far up Eric’s ass that she couldn’t even see his eyes. Still, Katherine had to admit Eric’s eyes were most definitely penetrating. If she didn’t know it was impossible, Katherine would have sworn Eric could impregnate a woman with a mere glance. Turning to face him, Katherine flashed Eric a flirty smile while she sauntered toward the sofa and took a seat opposite him. She crossed her legs as she sat back, letting her dress ride up slightly to reveal a pale, firm thigh. Despite what many people thought, The Queen of Virginia wasn’t a stupid woman. She knew Eric wasn’t interested in her. She could stand naked in front of Eric and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Oh, she was sure he would fuck her, but that was as far as it would go. It was a shame as she was sure they would be explosive together, or at least the sex would.
Still, she was there for a reason, there was something she needed from him and she wouldn’t leave the penthouse until she got it. She was as stubborn as she was manipulative, not two qualities to be proud of although she embraced them and made them work for her. Eyeing Eric carefully, Katherine deliberated the best way to go about her plan. She knew Eric wasn’t someone to be trifled with for his reputation preceded him. Eric Northman was a force to be reckoned with, and he wasn’t someone she wanted as an enemy if she could help it. ‘Truth, deception, forthright, or indirect?’ Katherine mused while she tapped a perfectly manicured finger against her pale thigh. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set ye free”, she recited in her head, coming to a decision.
“How about we cut out all the bullshit and just get down to it?” Katherine said, her tone soft, yet firm as she met Eric’s gaze. A small smile tugged at her painted lips when she noticed a momentary flicker of surprise cross Eric’s face before he schooled his features into an unaffected expression. “By now I am sure you are aware that I have been fucking Pam to get information on you,” she continued, deciding the forthright approach would work best. “Pam has incredibly loose lips… and I am not just referring to the ones on her face…” Katherine didn’t even try and hide her amusement when she noticed Eric stiffen slightly at the insult to his child.
“Be very careful with what you say,” Eric warned, coming to his child’s defense even though he wanted to laugh. It was evident to him that Katherine cared little for Pam. His child had been well and truly played!
Katherine inclined her head slightly, acknowledging his warning. Insulting Pam was off the table for the time being. “I need a husband,” she said, cutting straight to the heart of the matter. Katherine held up her hand, silencing Eric when she saw him open his mouth to no doubt refuse, “I realize you have no desire to pledge to me, and my actions concerning Pam have probably soured you even more. I manipulated your child to learn all I could about you. Although I must confess my surprise at how little Pam knows about you.” Katherine’s brow furrowed in confusion as she thought about how little Pam actually knew regarding her Maker. “Other than some basic information on your businesses, and your penchant for anal sex…” Katherine shook her head as she added, “Pam went into great detail about how much you enjoy anal. Are you really that fond of it? To listen to Pam, I would think you had it several times a night with a host of different people. I do enjoy it myself, but not to that extreme.”
“It depends on my partner for the night. I am a big supporter of giving and receiving,” Eric replied with a dirty smile.
“You enjoy receiving…” Katherine trailed off as a flurry of images raced through her mind. “Mmm, I can picture that,” she purred with a naughty grin. “Anyway, as I was saying.” She continued, pushing the images into the back of her mind before losing herself to them. “Pam knew very little about you, nothing that I couldn’t have discovered by other means. Well… Except for the fact that she is jealous and dislikes her sister…Laelia.”
A growl tore from Eric’s throat at the mention of his eldest child. His relationship to Laelia wasn’t supposed to be spoken of by anyone. It wasn’t that he was ashamed of Laelia, quite the contrary in fact, but they had always kept their relationship a secret for numerous reasons, one being Laelia’s own safety. His eldest had been able to move around the vampire world rather freely over the centuries, mainly due to no one knowing of her Bloodline. Many vampires saw her as nothing more than a pretty face and didn’t worry about her. If news got out that she was his child, she would come under scrutiny, and her nights of moving around undetected and freely would end.
Pam knew she wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about Laelia. She had been warned of that numerous times since she had been turned, but it seemed she had disobeyed him and disregarded his order. At that moment, Eric cursed himself for not making it a command. He had foolishly believed he wouldn’t have had to command Pam to keep her mouth shut, but the fact that Katherine knew who Laelia was to him told Eric he was wrong.
Eric was out of his seat and across the room before Katherine even realized he had moved. He loomed over her, his hand closing around her throat and crushing her windpipe. He knew it would not do any serious damage to her, it wasn’t like they needed to breathe, but it was painful as hell. His fangs snapped down into place as he pushed her into the sofa. “Do not even think about threatening me with my child,” he snarled, the vicious vampire he was evident in his behavior. “I will make you suffer a fate worse than a hundred of the most painful deaths you can imagine if you even dare. I do not care what Pam has promised you, nor how many times she spread her legs for you, I will end you if you so much as look at Laelia.”
Katherine clawed at Eric’s hand, digging her perfectly manicured nails into his flesh while she tried desperately to pry it off her. She had heard stories about The Viking, of how he could frighten an entire army with just a look. She had always dismissed the tales, believing them to be fanciful, spread by simpering idiots who were desperate to fuck him, but as she looked into the almost black eyes of The Viking, Katherine had to concede there was some truth in them. She was absolutely fucking terrified, and if she could, she would have been running out of the door right then.
“I’m…not… threatening…” Her words came out broken, Eric’s grip on her throat robbing her of her ability to speak properly. She managed to get some of her fingers under Eric’s hand and she pulled on them, yanking them back as far as she could. She heard the snapping of bone as his fingers broke and it gave her the opening she needed to try to put some distance between them.
Lunging forward, Katherine took Eric by surprise and knocked him off balance, making him fall onto the table between the two sofas. Scrambling to her feet, Katherine darted to her left and toward the door. She had barely taken a few steps when a heavy weight crashed onto her and she fell to the ground. She struggled against Eric, scratching and clawing for all she was worth, but it made little difference. Eric easily overpowered her.
Grabbing her arm, Eric yanked Katherine over so her back was against the marble floor of his penthouse room. He pinned her arms above her head and straddled her waist, holding her down. There was no way in hell she was leaving in one piece if she was a threat to his child.
Katherine trembled with fear as she peered up at Eric. His expression was thunderous, promising the pain of death if she dared move against his child. Never in her life had Katherine been so scared, not even when her Maker had snatched her from her family and thrust her into a life, which at that point, she did not want. Not when she had suffered the trials of a new vampire, or been forced to fight for her new life to prove she was worthy of it had she been so frightened. Nothing in her life had terrified her as much as Eric did in that moment.
“I’m not threatening or bargaining,” Katherine said, her words coming out rushed while she frantically tried to calm the raging beast inside Eric. “I have told no one of your relationship with Laelia, nor any of the other things Pam told me…”
“Your proposal claims otherwise,” Eric countered, thinking about the marriage proposal he had received from the Virginia Queen that first pointed the finger of suspicion at Pam. “The words on the paper call you a liar, Your Majesty.” The title was spoken with derision, making it obvious how he rated the Virginia Queen, “You intended to use the secrets you learned from my treacherous child for your own benefit… As a bargaining chip. You shared the knowledge with whomever you used to have the proposal drawn up. You have shown yourself to be untrustworthy. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t remove your head from your shoulders this instant?”
“I drew up the proposal myself. It was the only way I could assure word wouldn’t spread. The loyalty of the many vampires in my retinue is not exclusive to me,” Katherine replied, surprising Eric with her candor. No monarch liked to admit they didn’t have full control over the vampires in their state. “Despite what many people believe, I am not stupid. I may act like a naïve little girl with no idea how the world works, but it is just that… An act. I know when I am being manipulated. I am a master of the art myself after all.”
Eric stared down at Katherine thoughtfully, her words piqued his curiosity. Like everyone else, he believed her to be a spoiled, selfish, and incredibly naïve. Her actions over the centuries had certainly backed up that belief. Her tantrums were legendary. It was rumored that she once threw her shoes at the former Queen of West Virginia during one of her tantrums. As he perched above her, still holding her down, a thought popped into Eric’s head. It was only ever a rumor. As he thought about it, he realized few had ever actually seen her throw one of her tantrums, everything else was gossip spread by the vampires who moved from state to state. Those who had allegedly seen her throw a tantrum were vampires who were well known gossips. Could Katherine have cultivated the image of the naïve and childish Queen as a way to fool others? It was definitely something worth considering. If she had, it had certainly worked.
Rising off of her, Eric reached down and fisted his hand in her hair. He twisted his fingers in Katherine’s brown locks and yanked her to feet, “You have five minutes to convince me to not end you right now. Talk…”
Richard’s eyes were dark and calculating while he reviewed all the information the Ancient Pythoness’ inner circle had managed to gather on Sookie Stackhouse. There were huge chunks missing, things that no one seemed to know about the young woman, but with his keen eye and cunning intellect he was able to put together a reasonable idea of who and what she was.
Richard knew the other members of the inner circle had no real idea whom Sookie Stackhouse really was. They had no idea the kind of power she possessed, but he did. The Ancient Pythoness had trusted him with the secret of the young woman’s heritage. The others knew Sookie had Fae blood, but they were unaware the blood that coursed through her veins was Royal. Sookie Stackhouse was a descendant of Niall Brigant.
“Ah, to suckle at the teat of a Princess of the Fae,” Richard mused while he reached for one of the photos on his desk. A smile curled his lips when he lifted the picture and saw the defiant eyes of Sookie glaring up at him from the glossy print. It was one of his favorite pictures, one he had taken from a still of a video. “How Sophie-Anne ever thought she broke you, I do not know,” He spoke to the picture as he ran his eyes over the image of a naked Sookie, hanging by her arms in Sophie-Anne’s throne room. “Only a fool would see the fire in your eyes and think you tamed.”
“The Louisiana Queen is blinded by her own deluded belief of superiority. She only sees what she wishes. If she was as half as smart as she claims she would see the snakes in her own house.”
Richard grinned when he heard the croaky old voice of the Ancient Pythoness, and he dropped the photo on the desk and turned to face her. “Your Grace,” he greeted respectfully while he watched her enter his quarters. It wasn’t usual for the Ancient One to visit her inner circle in their quarters. She usually demanded they come to her. Her presence there meant she needed him for something that she probably didn’t want the others to know.
“You have been thorough in your research of the Stackhouse child,” the Ancient Pythoness remarked as she made her way to his desk and ran her milky white eyes over the papers he had amassed. She couldn’t see the papers in the traditional sense, her eyes saw nothing but vague shapes. It was the price she had to pay for her visions. Nevertheless, the Ancient One did use the eyes of others to see what she needed to. She saw through the eyes of her children and her handmaidens. She couldn’t see as clearly as they, still, it was enough for her. “The information you have uncovered will aid us in any need to claim her as our own. We cannot allow anything to prevent us from claiming the young woman…or anyone.”
“Has your vision changed, Your Grace?” Richard asked, a hint of worry leaking through his tone. Using Katherine to distract Eric was supposed to have been the last thing they needed. They had planned everything else down to the finest detail. Richard didn’t want to see all of their hard work go to waste, not when they were so close to getting their hands on Sookie.
“I can foresee two possible futures,” the Ancient Pythoness replied as she tilted her head slightly to the side and stared off into the distance. “The others I saw have faded completely and they will now never come to pass. One future is more solid than the other, it is all but a certainty that it will to come to fruition. It is that future we must ensure. It must happen, it is what we have worked so hard to achieve. Still, the hands of fate are working against us. They are trying change the outcome. They wish to keep the Stackhouse child free from any binds that are forced upon her. They desire her to choose for herself without any coercion. It is imperative the Stackhouse child does not meet the North Man at the summit. Everything hinges on their paths not crossing until it is too late for them to change the outcome of the future. The North Man must pledge himself to your child. The union between New York and Virginia must happen. It is the catalyst for a great change, one that will give us all we need.”
The Ancient Pythoness blinked when the vision she had been seeing faded into the back of her mind. Her weathered lips curled into a small smile as she turned in the direction Richard was standing. “Have you been monitoring your bond with your child?”
“I have, Your Grace,” Richard had been monitoring his bond with Katherine since the second she stepped into Eric’s penthouse. He cared little for his child, seeing her as nothing more than a commodity, a thing to be used to benefit him as he worked toward his ultimate goal. “She has felt a multitude of things since she entered the penthouse. Surprise, apprehension, amusement, and only a short while ago she was overcome with fear and was in some pain. It was nothing she hasn’t felt before. Katherine has suffered far worse at my hands. She is currently feeling cautious, but hopeful.”
“Good, good,” the Ancient Pythoness murmured absentmindedly while she began to circle the table, her fingers brushing lightly against the polished wood. Everything was falling into place just as she had seen, but there were still obstacles in their way, ones that needed to be eliminated. “Warlow and his wife will be difficult obstacles to overcome. From what our spy tells us, they care a great deal for the girl. Their home is well warded, preventing me from seeing the full extent of their relationship, but it is said to rival that of a Maker and child. They will not let her go easily.”
“Then we shall kill the hybrid bastard and his fairy whore!” Richard declared, his fangs descending at the mere thought of destroying Warlow and Neave. He had hated the two of them for centuries, ever since they had killed one of his children. The death of his child was not so a great loss to Richard and he couldn’t say he mourned for the young vampire, but Warlow and Neave had still taken something that had belonged to him. It was the principle of the thing. So what if his child had been terrorizing a village and killing those who resided in it? They didn’t have the right to end his child! That right belonged to him and him alone!
“You let your hatred cloud your mind!” the Ancient Pythoness chided. She knew why Richard hated Warlow and Neave and she fostered that hate, but she wouldn’t let it blind him from the truth. “Warlow is older than all of us. He has thousands of years upon us all and is an accomplished warrior, as is his wife. They are fearless in battle, and we would not survive if we engaged them.”
“What do you suggest, Your Grace?” Richard asked, his tone stiff as he conceded her point. Logically, he knew he would never win a one-on-one fight with Warlow. He doubted he would even be able to best Neave in a fight either. The fairy whore had been a warrior of the Fae for centuries before she had met Warlow. Stories still persisted of the fiery redhead who fought beside the former Queen of the Fae for three whole days with no rest during their war with the Elves. If he didn’t hate her so much, Richard might have been impressed.
“We are not the only ones who wish to eliminate Warlow and his wife,” the Ancient Pythoness replied when she came around the other side of the table and stopped several steps away from him. “There are those within the Fae who would love nothing more than to get their hands on the fairy who betrayed them by marrying a vampire. She is considered a pariah amongst the Fae. There is a price on her head, put there by the Prince himself. It would take little to alert Brigant to the news Neave will be in New York. He would not be able to resist sending someone to try to capture her. A threat to his wife will make Warlow take his eyes off the Stackhouse girl. If it comes between her safety and his wife’s, Warlow will choose his wife every time.”
A sinister grin lit up Richard’s face as he thought it over. The plan was simple, yet beautiful. The Ancient Pythoness was right. The hybrid bastard would always choose his fairy whore. The bastard was stupid enough to fall in love with her centuries ago. It was rather pitiful in Richard’s mind. A fairy was only good for two things, a good fuck and their blood. He could barely wait to impart that little bit of wisdom onto Sookie Stackhouse just as he sunk his cock and fangs into her warm body. He had been waiting a long time to sample her flavor.
“Soon, Richard,” the Ancient Pythoness promised, guessing where his mind had gone. She knew Richard held a fixation on the Stackhouse girl and had for years. It was deep, dark, and born of longing. Richard wanted to be the one to finally break her. He wanted to see the fire go out of Sookie’s eyes and watch as darkness took its’ place. “We will take her for ourselves, and then you can begin to shape her into the perfect and obedient weapon.”
“It will be my absolute pleasure,” Richard purred, his mind overcome with ideas of how he could break her. Sophie-Anne, de Castro, and Madden were amateurs compared to him. “I will…” He trailed off as he felt a new, but, oh, so familiar feeling coming from his bond with Katherine. His laughter filled the room as he let it flow over him. Everything was falling into place nicely it seemed
“What has you so jubilant?” The Ancient Pythoness asked, confused by his sudden laughter. Nothing she said had warranted such a reaction from him
“My child is overcome with lust,” Richard answered, his tone boisterous. Oh, it felt so fucking good! Katherine was, apparently, enjoying herself immensely. “I felt a strong burst of joy from her followed by strong waves of lust. I believe she and the North Man had come to an agreement. From the feelings of satisfaction I am receiving from her, it is a very pleasurable agreement at that.
“The union between New York and Virginia is all but set in stone,” the Ancient Pythoness announced, delving into her vision again. “The other future is but a faint picture now. It has almost faded from existence. The girl is ours for the taking.
Reaching for the photo on his desk again, Richard picked it up and held it in front of his face. Ten years he had been waiting to get his hands on Sookie Stackhouse. He had come close so many times, only for the cruel hands of fate to intervene and steal her away. Well, no more! Nothing and no one was going to stop him this time. Everything had been planned. All the players had been counted for, and the obstacles had been placed in their way.
In a hotel room just outside New York City, an attractive, blonde-haired, woman stood by the large windows and peered out into the night sky. The sight was a beauty to behold, but she couldn’t enjoy it. Her heart ached too much to appreciate the beauty that surrounded her. To her eyes, the most vibrant of colors were the dullest of greys. She yearned for all that she had lost, what had been taken from her. She yearned for that blonde-haired little girl whose smile could light up a room. Michelle Stackhouse née Turner longed for her baby girl.
She longed for her Sookie…