“Report,” Eric ordered as he entered his office and made his way to his desk, taking a seat behind it. The Summit was just two nights away and he wanted to be certain everything was in place. Eric cursed The Council for their necessity in having called for The Summit. In his opinion, The Summit was a flawed plan. Vampires had only been out in the open for a year and while the original reveal had gone more smoothly than anticipated, there were still a number of vocal anti-vampire organizations existing with members who were high-ranking officials of many human authorities. Vampires still didn’t have the basic rights that had been promised to them, and attacks on them by humans weren’t dealt with seriously on the part of human law enforcement. Most of the attacks inflicted upon vampires by humans weren’t even considered crimes. Conversely, any attack upon a human by a vampire was deemed a major crime.
Nonetheless, The Council was adamant that The Summit would be the perfect event to celebrate The Great Revelation. It was meant to be a reward for all vampires as well as to demonstrate to the humans that vampires were friendly and organized. Eric had not been happy when he heard the first rumblings of The Summit believing it was a bad idea from the start. However, when he heard that not only were plans for The Summit moving forward, but that he and his State would be hosting it, he went from unhappy to absolute fury. Once again, The Council had shown just how far up their own asses they were. They wanted all the pomp and ceremony of a grand Summit, but they wanted nothing to do with the actual running of it, nor all the costs along with the demanding and intricate work that came with it.
Eric had been forced to not only organize the entire affair; he had also been required to foot the bill for the whole thing. If that wasn’t bad enough, he had also been presented with a guest list of fellow monarchs, influential vampires, and numerous others he wouldn’t have invited to visit his State even given the option. Security was his number one priority, and yet he was opening up his State to any number of vampires who would love nothing more than to see him overthrown and his throne taken. They would be searching for any shred of weakness while they were there and he was determined that they wouldn’t find a single one. He would not lose his throne just because The Council had forgotten how to think like vampires and were behaving more and more like politicians.
Casting his piercing blue eyes across the room, Eric observed his Cabinet of vampires. After he had taken the position of King of New York twenty-five years earlier, Eric had called in many favors and some old friends in an attempt to construct his Kingdom as profitable and securely as possible. He made sure he had the brightest and most competent people surrounding and assisting him in running the State. No one seated on his Cabinet was a slacker or weak. He had the best and it showed in the way his State flourished.
“Security is in place at the hotel in preparation for The Summit beginning on Friday. The first guests are due to begin arriving tomorrow, and I have taken the additional step of assigning extra Were guards to police the hotel from sunrise to sundown on the chance that some of our guests may have planned to arrive while the sun is shining so that their daytime personnel might take the opportunity to sneak all over while we are all down for the day,” Laelia Bennett, the King’s second in command, reported. “I also instructed Dante to install more security cameras on both the vampire and human floors. The cameras are only located in the stairwell and elevators currently. The manager of The Gersemi complained about the work, saying that neither she nor you approved it…” A droll laugh escaped Laelia’s pink-painted lips, “I assured Ms. Carter that as part owner of the hotel I approved it, and I was also working with your full backing. Still, I would expect a call or visit from her later.”
Eric didn’t miss the twinkle in his second’s eyes as she spoke and he knew she had enjoyed reminding Ms. Carter that she was a co-owner of the hotel. Many people, humans and vampires alike, underestimated Laelia; they saw her stunning beauty and runway model-like body and assumed she was nothing more than a pretty face who had gained her position by fucking the King. It was an assumption Laelia used to her advantage whenever necessary. Unlike many of her female counterparts, the stunning brunette wanted people to underestimate her; it made ripping out their throats so much easier. Those who sat on the Cabinet knew just how capable she was, not to mention how fully dangerous just as those who had been foolish enough to have challenged her.
Few knew the truth behind the relationship between The King and his second. There was the gossip regarding a romantic relationship; some said she was his consort while others claimed she was more like his pet. One of the best-kept secrets in the vampire world was that Laelia Bennett was Eric Northman’s eldest child. The relationship between Eric and his second child, Pamela Swynford De Beaufort, was well known mainly because Pam bragged about it to anyone who would listen. She loved being the King’s child and the honor it brought, even if she had no valid role within Eric’s Kingdom.
Laelia, however; never traded on her Maker’s name. Everything she had accomplished before Eric had called her to him once he took control of New York could be attributed to her own hard work. The greatest gift her Maker had ever taught her was how to survive and be self-reliant. It was only one of the reasons she hadn’t hesitated when Eric had called her to him twenty-five years earlier and offered her the role of his second in command. Standing beside her Maker and helping him rebuild New York from a poor and crumbling State into the success it now was had been a challenge, and one she had thoroughly enjoyed.
“I look forward to Ms. Carter’s visit,” Eric replied with a smirk. He had no doubt the manager of The Gersemi would indeed visit him before the night was over. Natalie Carter was an intelligent woman who was beyond qualified to run The Gersemi, she was tolerant and accepting of all supes, but she could also be a bitch. In addition to her professional employment by Eric, she was also in his rotation of regular fucks. As a rule, Eric didn’t normally fish off the company pier, believing it to be too messy, but Ms. Carter was a quarter Dae and had spicy blood accompanied by a nice, tight cunt. “Continue with the report.”
“Additional donors have been hired for the duration of The Summit, and a separate room has been arranged for any vampire that chooses to feed directly from the source instead of synthetic,” Laelia said, moving onto the next item on her list. She had been thorough in her duties in ascertaining that everything was in place and up-to-date. She was determined that no one would find fault with New York or her Maker. “I took the added step of having a pamphlet printed and placed in all the vampire suites specifying that the donors in the public lounge are strictly blood donors only, sex is not permitted. The last thing we need is an orgy breaking out.”
Eric nodded in approval. He was relieved she had thought of that as it had slipped his mind. Laelia was right; the last thing they wanted was for The Summit to descend into an orgy. There would be far too many eyes on him and his State for something as unfortunate as that to happen. It would not go over well with The Council. “Did you look at the welcome packs that are to be handed out at check in?” He asked, thinking of the small brochures they had designed containing the itinerary for The Summit.
“I had Rosalyn do that,” Laelia replied, jerking her head in the direction of the redhead who stood on the other side of the room. “Given the media circus that will be in attendance thanks to The Council’s decision to invite certain reporters, I believed it would be best to let Rosalyn oversee the brochures and such. She is Head of Public Relations and best suited to handle those kinds of duties.”
“Rosalyn?” Eric said, drawing the State’s Head of PR forward. She had been quite the acquisition when he had gained her services for his Kingdom ten years earlier. Rosalyn knew how to work the media and make them work for your benefit. While many of the other monarchs had struggled with the media intrusion after The Great Revelation, Eric and New York had thrived, and although Eric didn’t do much in terms of media interviews, his name was often in the public eye for donating money to a good cause or creating jobs through his many businesses. Eric often wondered why The Council hadn’t looked at Rosalyn to be the official spokesperson for vampires when they revealed themselves. She was far more suited for the job than Nan Flanagan. In Eric’s humble opinion, it was hard to accept vampires and give them all the rights they deserved when the official spokesvampire was a rigid-looking bitch who never smiled and looked as if she hadn’t gotten laid in centuries.
“I went over the welcoming packs personally and they are all in order,” Rosalyn said, moving to step in front of Eric’s desk. “I had separate media packets created that will be handed out to the various reporters who will be in attendance. For security reasons, the media will not be present during the trials that The Council has decided will take place on the second night. During those proceedings I have arranged for a special question and answer session in one of the conference rooms of the hotel. I also made sure that if by some chance a reporter should somehow acquire one of the vampire brochures, they will not be able to discern what will be occurring during the same time as their question and answer session. The trials have been categorized as security seminars.”
“Very good,” Eric praised. Why The Council decided that trials would be held at The Summit, and then invited the media, Eric didn’t know. If one reporter managed to get a picture or video of what transpired at vampire trials, vampires would be even more feared and hated by all. They would be forced to move back into the shadows to survive again. “Be certain that all media personnel are shadowed constantly. I do not want them wandering into places where they are not permitted.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” Rosalyn replied with a respectful nod. The redhead had worked for a number of monarchs over the centuries and at one point, she had even been under the employment of The Council for a short while, until Nan fucking Flanagan had usurped her position almost eleven years earlier. However, she could truthfully say the King of New York was her favorite employer. He respected what she did and never tried to take credit for her work.
“Speaking of the media,” Laelia said, rejoining the conversation. She offered Rosalyn an apologetic smile before turning her gaze to Eric. “I received a phone call from Nan Flanagan just after sunset this evening. She demanded an appointment with you and your inner circle so she could instruct all of us on how to deal with the media. She seemed to be under the impression that she would be in charge of the public relations surrounding The Summit and the liaison to the reporters and news crews…”
“I am certain you corrected her,” Eric replied. He was sure Laelia did more than just correct her. His eldest wouldn’t have hesitated to tell Nan to fuck off. She had never liked the harsh vampire.
“I politely informed Ms. Flanagan that the King of New York has his own PR guru who has unrivaled success in dealing with the media and that Ms. Harris will be liaising with the media for The Summit,” Laelia said, feigning an innocent smile. “As for her request for an appointment, I told her that your calendar is full for at least the next week, but if she really insisted, I could pencil her in for noon tomorrow… Needless to say, Ms. Flanagan passed on the appointment.”
Eric chuckled when he heard Laelia say she had offered Nan a daytime appointment. He had no doubt Nan would attempt to gain another meeting with him, but his child wasn’t lying when she said his calendar was full for the next week. He would be lucky if he found time for a feed and fuck once everyone began arriving. “If Nan tries to take control of the media presence during The Summit, discreetly have her removed and locked in one of the cells until it has ended,” Eric ordered. He wouldn’t tolerate any of Nan’s bullshit while she was in his State. Despite what she believed, she had no power in the vampire world. She didn’t sit on The Council; she was little more than their lackey. Eric wouldn’t have her bossing his people around.
“It’d be my pleasure,” Laelia replied. She would happily toss Nan into a cell, and she would even add some silver chains to make sure Nan remained right where she was.
“Is everything else in place?” Eric asked, thinking over everything that had been planned for The Summit. Organizing a Summit had been no easy feat, but his team had done an exceptional job of putting it all together.
“Yes,” Laelia answered confidently.
For the next hour Eric and his Cabinet reviewed everything that had been planned for The Summit, schedules, security, food both for humans and vampires, and entertainment. They left nothing uncovered. By the time they were finished, they were convinced they had seen to every little detail, and were as prepared as well as they could be. With everything complete, Eric dismissed his Cabinet and watched as they exited his office. When all but his child had left and as soon as the last vampire walked out the door, Laelia closed it and turned the lock so they wouldn’t be disturbed.
“Was there more to discuss?” Eric asked, leaning back in his chair and eyeing his child. She really was quite the beauty with her dark hair, hazel eyes, and slender figure. She turned many heads when she walked by, however, it wasn’t her beauty that drew Eric to her and made him turn her, but the fire in her eyes. She was a survivor. She had walked through the fires of Hell and survived.
“Not pertaining to The Summit,” Laelia replied while she walked around his desk and perched her ass on the edge. “That’s all done, or as well as it can be. There is, however, regular State business to deal with, Your Majesty,” her tone took on a teasing inflection as she spoke the title. She always knew her Maker would be a brilliant King, he was born to lead, but she never forgot how he used to hate any type of authority. He enjoyed his freedom too much.
“Can it wait until after The Summit?” Eric asked. He had his hands full with The Summit, so if he could get away with delaying signing a few papers until after it ended on Monday he would.
“Normally I would say yes, but…” Laelia paused while she reached for the black folder she had placed on Eric’s desk when she first arrived. Picking up the folder, Laelia removed a few official-looking papers before placing it back on the desk. “These arrived an hour after sunset…”
“Marriage proposals,” Laelia said with a grin before he had a chance to ask his question. “Four formal requests for an alliance through pledging from four very different Queens. Given that all the Queens will be attending The Summit, I thought it best to deal with these now and pen the rejection letters. If you leave it until after The Summit, you will likely be ambushed and while it is they who are seeking an alliance with you, many will infer it as you looking for one. Rumors will start that the Kingdom isn’t as strong or secure as you would have others believe.”
“This is why I hate politics,” Eric groaned, understanding the truth of what she was saying. Vampire loved to gossip, they were better at it than little old ladies! If word were to get out that he was looking for an alliance, a thing he was, in fact, not doing, but facts never got in the way of a good story, he would have many eyes on his State. His fellow monarchs, or even some power-hungry vampire, would attempt to seek out a weakness in hope of taking his State. “Which Queens are seeking an alliance this time?”
“New Jersey,” Laelia replied, handing Eric the first proposal. “It’s the basic offer, pledging, financial aid, back-up in case of an attack, yearly consummation…” She listed off the offers in the proposal. “Although New Jersey did offer an early opt-out option, but it would cost 15% of the State’s annual profits for the duration of the remainder on the contract. Meaning…”
“New Jersey is in financial difficulty,” Eric finished for her. It wasn’t unheard of for a King or Queen to pledge due to a shortage of State cash, it was actually quite common, but it wasn’t something Eric would ever do as he believed it would place him at a disadvantage. They wouldn’t be going in as equals. “Have a refusal drawn up for New Jersey…”
“Already did it,” Laelia said, grabbing her folder and pulling out the letter she had Mr. Cataliades draw up earlier. “It only needs your signature and I will have it delivered in person so New Jersey receives it before she arrives for The Summit.”
Eric nodded in approval before signing his name to the refusal. He didn’t want to be cornered by New Jersey at The Summit regarding her offer. He wasn’t looking to pledge to anyone. His Kingdom was thriving and he had some of the best vampires in the U.S. residing within it, so he wasn’t too worried about an attempted takeover just yet. “Who else sent a proposal?”
“Oklahoma,” Laelia said, tossing the second proposal on the desk. “Queen Freyda is in a better financial position than New Jersey. Her State is also well run, and her subjects are loyal to her and treated well. Nonetheless, from what my spy tells me, Oklahoma is cautious of the power couple of de Castro and Leclerq. Rumor has it Louisiana and Nevada have been testing Oklahoma’s boundaries though nothing can be traced back to them, but it’s widely believed in Oklahoma that The Cape and the Bitch are plotting a takeover. I believe Queen Freyda is seeking an alliance as a deterrent. You’re one of the oldest vampires in the U.S., only Mississippi, Montana, Thalia, and… em…” She stumbled over her words, not wanting to say the name that would undoubtedly piss off her Maker. “Well, only those are older than you.”
“Pledging to me would put de Castro and Leclerq off temporarily, but it wouldn’t be a permanent deterrent,” Eric replied, ignoring her stumble. That name was not something he wanted to hear or speak.
“There’s too much distance between New York and Oklahoma,” Laelia summarized. “In the event of a surprise attack you wouldn’t be able to get there in time to be of any assistance, but you would be expected to avenge the attack and that would only weaken your State. Freyda would be much better pledging to Texas, Kansas, or Missouri.”
“Agreed, she would have back-up close by,” Eric said with a proud smile, happy to see his child was thinking tactically. “Have Cataliades…” He trailed off and let out a laugh when Laelia handed him another rejection letter. “The other two?” He asked as he signed his name to another letter.
Laelia grinned mischievously as she held up another proposal letter. “This one is my favorite,” she said, waving it in front of his face. “It’s from Michigan…”
“Bronwyn?!” Eric questioned, surprised when he snatched the letter from her hand. She was the last monarch from whom he expected a proposal. Queen Bronwyn Jernigan had been the Queen of Michigan for almost three hundred years and much like New York her State was thriving. She definitely didn’t need any financial aid or protection. She was as deadly as Eric, although not as old.
“Yes,” Laelia answered with a nod. “Queen Jernigan’s proposal is a little different than the others. There is no mention of a financial arrangement, or physical aid. She requires none of the traditional arrangements, in fact, nor does she offer them… Well, expect the consummation clause. She offers…”
“An all-access area pass to her body,” Eric said, chuckling while he read over the proposal. “Romantic, midnight walks along the beach, matching his and hers robes, and an annoying, yapping, little dog that could substitute as a baby.”
Laelia laughed while she listened to Eric list of the offers. “It’s a hard proposal to decline,” she said teasingly. “The Queen will be arriving tomorrow evening, so I thought you might like to reject that one in person.”
“I will,” Eric replied, placing the letter in his desk. It had been a while since he had seen The Queen of Michigan and he would enjoy catching up with her before he Summit started. They had developed quite the relationship over the centuries and she was one of the few vampires he trusted. Her proposal had clearly been a joke; she had no doubt heard about the other Queens that were after him and decided to have a bit of fun. “Who was the fourth proposal from?”
“Ugh,” Laelia groaned when she picked up the fourth and last proposal. “Virginia. Queen Katherine Cale. It’s pretty much the standard offer, financial, physical, consummation, hundred years with the option to extend it further. One difference is Virginia is offering the option of merging the Kingdoms, assets, and so forth. On paper it’s a good proposal. Virginia is a strong State, profitable…” Laelia waved her hand while she spoke, gesturing about. “Beneath the surface things are a little different…”
“Katherine is young, untested in battle, and prone to childish behavior,” Eric said, recalling what he had seen and heard about the Queen of Virginia. “She gained her throne through inheritance rather than combat and has kept it through those still loyal to her Maker. She is little more than a child playing grown up.”
“Pledging to her would serve no purpose. In human terms she would be nothing more than a trophy wife,” Laelia summarized. “She looks good and can be extremely manipulative…” She stopped abruptly when she spoke the last part, a troubled look entering her eyes.
“What is it?” Eric asked, noticing the look and becoming concerned. He wasn’t used to seeing his eldest look uncomfortable or worried when it came to discussing marriage proposals. He had received numerous since he took the position of King and they usually enjoyed a good laugh over them.
“It could be something or nothing, I’m not actually sure,” Laelia replied her tone becoming serious. She wished she didn’t have to bring it up then with The Summit so close, but it was because of The Summit she had to. It certainly wasn’t something she was looking forward to telling her Maker. “It’s just… The proposal is very specific in terms of what is offered, which granted is not unusual in itself, but this one is detailed to you, it’s designed to appeal to you personally rather than the State as a whole. Queen Cale has offered a number of things on a personal level… power, blood, sex, expansion of your personal business into her State. She seems to have an inside track…”
“It is not unusual for a monarch to have a spy inside another Kingdom,” Eric remarked. He had a number of spies in various States. He liked to know what was going on inside them.
“I know, we have managed to infiltrate quite a few States,” Laelia conceded with a tight smile. She also knew there were a few spies in New York from other monarchs. Still, what she had uncovered concerned her greatly. “Like I said, it could be something or nothing. I personally can’t see her doing it, but Queen Cale is extremely manipulative, and…”
“And what?” Eric asked a hint of frustration leaking through into his tone. He wasn’t used to Laelia beating around the bush like she was. She was usually a straight shooter, blunt to the point of being rude.
Laelia stared at Eric for a long moment before blowing out an unneeded breath and reaching into her folder again, pulling out a single sheet of paper, and handing it to Eric. “Pam has been in semi-regular contact with Queen Cale for the last several months…”