Chapter 8: Artful Conversations
When I pulled my car into the drive of my own house, I was greeted by the sight of yet another unwanted guest. At least I assumed Eric was lurking about somewhere, as his Corvette was parked in front of my house. As my sheriff, he apparently felt he had the right to intrude upon my home. I could see lights on inside my house, and I entered to find Eric settled on the sofa in my sitting room, his long legs stretched before him and his hands folded behind his head.
I nodded to him, saying, “I would have assumed you would be detained by that raid at the club.” And honestly, I had assumed as much. I knew I would have to answer my sheriff’s enquiries about Sookie, but I thought I would have more time.
Eric removed one hand from behind his head to waive the matter away, and then returned his hand to its former position as he leaned even further back into the sofa. He was obviously trying to make it very clear to me just how comfortable he felt intruding on an underling’s home. “Pam is quite capable of handling such trifling matters as raids by human law enforcement,” he said evenly. He looked me over steadily, and removed both of his hands from behind his head, resting his elbows on his knees to lean forward and regard me from where I still stood in the doorway to the sitting room. “But the discovery of a psychic, in my very own backyard as it were, well that is something I definitely would look into,” he informed me, his fangs running out.
I knew there was no backpedaling this train, so I responded quietly, “She’s telepathic, not psychic.”
Eric ran his tongue over his fang, and looked off into space as he whispered, “Interesting.” His eyes snapped back to mine, as he demanded, “Tell me more about her—can she hear all thoughts, even ours?”
“From what I have determined, she cannot hear vampire thoughts at all, and is very limited in reading the two-natured,” I answered with a sigh. At least Eric’s interest in the girl appeared to mostly be in that of making her an asset … at least for now. I knew I would have to tread carefully, perhaps if we could work out some sort of deal for him to occasionally use her talent, he would be pacified and not demand more.
Eric seemed to be considering this news. “And how did you come to discover this girl?” he finally asked.
I weighed my answer carefully. There was no way I could expose my queen’s plan, so I could not say that I had been sent here. “I went in to the local bar one evening to assess the people of this area. As I went to leave that evening with a couple to feed from, Sookie warned me that they were drainers. I soon discovered her particular talent,” I carefully explained. This was no less than the truth, simply an edited truth.
Eric hissed at the mention of drainers, sharing the same aversion to them that all of our kind does. “I trust these drainers are no more,” he stated.
“I took care of the matter,” I assured him.
“Why did you not bring this girl’s ability to my attention immediately? She is an asset of my area, therefore it was your duty to inform me,” Eric said, rising to his full stature to tower over me. His face was as impassive as always, but I knew he was using his height as a not so subtle hint about my place in the “pecking order” as Sookie so aptly called it.
“I wanted to gauge what the strength of the girl’s power was first, sheriff,” I said calmly. I knew it was dangerous with a vampire of the Viking’s age, but I decided to risk it, and pushed a subtle influence towards the Viking, hoping to calm and sooth him, and convince him of my plan. I continued, “This was why I brought her to your club to test her. I wanted to see how she worked in a safe environment, and what safer environment then my own sheriff’s bar?”
The Viking seemed to relax ever so slightly, but then his demeanor snapped back in place again. He eyed me curiously, and I wondered if he was aware of my subtle influence. If I’d had breath, I might have been tempted to hold it, but the Viking addressed another matter instead, much to my relief. “And yet, you did not seem pleased to announce the girl’s talents to me and you have claimed her for yourself. Much of what you say doesn’t quite add up Compton,” he said thoughtfully, while stroking his chin.
The Northman began moving slowly about the room, as though casually observing what little décor there was, but I knew he was thinking. “The girl intrigues me. As such, I decided to lay claim to her. You can hardly blame me for taking such a valuable asset for myself,” I explained truthfully. What surprised me was how much the girl was beginning to interest me. I would have to examine that thought later.
Eric kept up the pretense of studying the few items I had placed on the mantle. “The laws of our kind have changed since the revelation,” he said in a bored tone, never looking away from the mantle. “In the past I would have been quite justified to have simply taken the girl from you to use for higher purposes.” I felt myself stiffen ever so slightly, the corner of Eric’s mouth turned up as he noticed this. “But now that we are living amongst the humans, we must all strive to mainstream. As such, many of the old ways must fall to the wayside, as the humans say. It would no longer be acceptable to simply take the girl from you, not that I would have done such, even in the past. It is never wise to treat loyal subjects unjustly. We all must evolve our ways if we wish to thrive in this new era.” I knew his words would need to be carefully considered at a later time.
Turning, Eric faced me more fully. “You are correct about one thing though, that girl is intriguing, but for now I will abide by your claim on her, provided you fulfill one condition,” he told me, once again stepping closer.
The risk of trying to influence the old vampire again was too strong, his defenses were too high at the moment, so I bowed my head and quietly asked, “What would that condition be, sheriff?”
“You will allow me to use the girl’s talent should I have a need for it,” he informed me, looking me straight in the eye.
I schooled my face to remain emotionless, but inside I was rejoicing. My plans would still be in place. I would keep the girl, and when the queen was finally ready to receive her, I could bring her to New Orleans without interference from the sheriff. “You have my word, so long as the girl is mine, she will help my sheriff when needed,” I solemnly promised.
The Viking studied my face, searching for something in my features, but I gave nothing away. “Your story still does not add up Compton, and I will be watching you carefully.” He seemed to be considering what else to say, but then he moved to the door and opened it. Before he stepped out he added, “I will discover what it is that you are hiding from me Compton, make no mistake about that. I will let you know when I have need of the telepath,” and with that, he vanished through the door.
After I heard his car fade away, I felt myself relax. I did go outside to make a quick check of the property to ensure that the Viking had not left anyone to watch me, but I found no one. Once I returned inside, and was sure that no one was nearby, I decided to make a call that I had been putting off. After tonight, I knew I could put it off no longer. The queen wanted timely reports on this project, and though I was loath to do so, I knew I had to inform her majesty that the sheriff was now aware of the telepath.
Taking out the prepaid disposable cell phone I had acquired for the purpose of contacting the queen undetected, I placed my call. I left a message with Andre requesting to speak with the queen and was assured she would call me back shortly. Sophie-Anne had explained how consumed she was with her current marriage negotiations, so I anticipated that she might not call back until the following evening.
I decided to spend the remainder of the evening going through the house to see what the contractors had done. I informed the contractors that the first priority would be the master suite. Though I had showered quickly to prepare for my evening with Sookie, I had not taken the time to examine the work that had been done. As I took the time to examine the bathroom, I was pleased with how quickly the contractors had installed new plumbing fixtures in the bathroom. The shower stall had yet to be replaced, but the old tub had been replaced with the large jetted tube I had requested.
Soaking in a tube had been pleasurable to me even as a human, but now it was even more so. The feel of the warm water was soothing, and at times, I could almost feel human again. I decided to fill the tub and relax for the evening. Surely, after walking out of the lion’s den with the lamb still at my side and me unscathed, and then having the oldest lion follow my home, I deserved such a simple pleasure.
As I relaxed into the tub however, Sophie-Anne chose to return my call. I was perturbed at the interruption, and disappointed to not have more time to formulate my responses to Sophie-Anne, but I was also resigned to having yet another artfully worded conversation.
“Hello my queen,” I answered solemnly.
“You called with an update, William,” Sophie-Anne replied, delving straight into business.
“Yes, I have … important news regarding the girl,” I said carefully.
“And what would this news be?” Sophie-Anne asked with an edge in her voice.
“I had to escort the girl to Fangtasia this evening—” I began, but was cut off.
“You took her where?” Sophie-Anne fairly shouted through the line.
“Your majesty, let me explain,” I said in an even voice, knowing it was best to remain calm, though visions of the queen’s various favorite forms of torture were floating through my mind—Waldo’s image strayed through my thoughts before I batted it and all of the others away.
“I’m waiting,” Sophie-Anne said impatiently.
“I fear it would have been inevitable for the Viking to find out about the girl, my queen. Sookie was also determined to go to Fangtasia, trying to discover the murderer of several local fangbangers. She would have gone with or without me, and at least with me, she was under my protection.” I pause to let this sink in with the queen.
Sophie-Anne’s silence draws out for a time before she finally speaks. “And does the sheriff suspect that she is other?” she finally asks quietly.
I sigh and say, “Yes, Sookie warned him of an impending police raid on the bar and thus exposed what she really is to him. However, the sheriff is respecting my claim on the girl and has let her be, with the condition that she occasionally do work for him,” I rush to explain.
Again, Sophie-Anne remains thoughtfully silent, so I continue. “I think this may be a good thing your majesty. Doing a few jobs here and there for the sheriff will further expose her to our world and ready her for working at court,” I explain.
Finally, Sophie-Anne speaks, “You claimed the girl, and the Northman is respecting your claim?”
“Yes my queen.”
“I feared her allure would be too much and that she too would ensnare a vampire. The Northman is much too old for me to take the girl from,” Sophie-Anne says so quietly she almost seems to be speaking to herself. I wonder briefly at her cryptic words, but before I can make sense of them, Sophie-Anne continues. “Perhaps you are correct and this might be a good thing. However, I think it is more important than ever to step forward with our plan. I want that girl firmly under your thumb so that the Viking cannot persuade her away. Form a blood bond with the girl if necessary. I will not be able to take the girl from a vampire as old as the Viking if he bonds to her first, and I am still not wholly trusting where the Viking is concerned. He is a good sheriff to me, and an excellent warrior with no apparent political aspirations beyond sheriff, but I cannot risk having to fight such an old vampire for the girl. Queen or not, we are nearly the same age, and the Viking is much respected here and abroad.”
“Of course my queen,” I answer. Some part of me wonders at the statement that she “cannot fight a vampire as old as the Viking” and what she is implying, but before I can latch onto the thought, she continues again.
“What are your next plans with the girl?” Sophie-Anne inquires.
I have been carefully considering this since leaving Sookie earlier, and though I am reluctant to do it, I know the next best move will be to focus on speaking at her grandmother’s club. I explain this to my queen.
“Excellent,” Sophie-Anne purrs. “My Hadley informs me that the girl is quite fond of their grandmother. Impressing the old woman will go a long ways towards impressing the girl.”
I explain that I had decided as much as well.
“Continue on this course, William, but I warn you again, beware of the Viking. Him I would be hard pressed to take the girl from,” Sophie-Anne cautions before she hangs up.
I wonder at her parting words. Does that mean a vampire of my own age would be easier to take the girl from?
A/N: I know, I know, shame on me. Where have I been? I’m sorry guys, the past couple of weeks have been really hectic. I’ve been subbing at the elementary school a bunch towards the end of the year here, then I got sick (personally, I’m blaming all of those little kids for that!) and I’ve been struggling the last two and half weeks to get over that, as well as write articles, and try to ride horses. Although it’s been raining almost daily for the last three weeks! It’s suppose to be fairly dry where I live too, and it’s been raining several inches at a time, which causes a lot of flooding around here! At least my place is on a pretty good hill, no flooding for me, but the neighbors at the bottom of the valley are sure getting some flooding!
The rest of this summer might be pretty erratic as far as posting goes. If it ever dries out some, I hope to be riding my horses more, and then I’ll be rodeoing too. So updates will come when I find downtime to write, no promises as to when that will be.
I know that was kind of a short chapter, but I think it was some important conversations between Bill and his superiors. I know some of you were expecting Bill and Eric to come to their agreement about Sookie going to Eric if anything happened to Bill, but I don’t think we’re there yet. I think, like Bill, Eric is just intrigued with her right now. I think right now Eric just sees her as a valuable asset and nothing more. Their conversation starts laying some of the groundwork though for that agreement. Sophie-Anne’s conversation I think also gives us some insight into her, and her decision about keeping Eric out of the loop.
Anyway, next up is the DotGD meeting.
As always, let me know what you think!