“Stop fidgeting.” Pam warned me as she finished pinning up my hair. “Vampires don’t fidget.”
“I can’t help it.” I whined. Yes, whined. “I don’t know how I’m going to keep from doing something stupid tonight.”
“Trust Godric and Eric.” She answered simply. “They will keep you out of trouble.”
I nodded and watched as Pam grabbed my five-inch, silver stiletto heels from their box. I was surprised last night. We actually bonded while we shopped for clothing for all of us to go before the Queen.
At first, I had balked at the price tags of the places Pam had taken us, but then I had a little fun trying on all the gowns and different items Pam brought into my dressing room. I felt like a beauty queen as she brought elegant dress after dress to my room. I laughed several times when she pouted after I refused to try on dresses I felt were too risqué or not my type.
It had been too long since I had truly laughed. I knew Godric had noticed my uplifted spirits because he grinned at me slightly during one of Pam’s pouting sessions. I wasn’t sure if Godric had heard me really laugh before last night.
It felt good.
Eric, of course, was his normal self. He would condemn or esteem dresses based on the way they hugged my curves and then we would have a verbal spat over his choice of verbal expressions. Once he told me that I should only buy a particularly tight fitting dress if “I wanted to beg him not to tear it off me.”
I added it to the ‘buy’ pile of clothing. I really liked the dress and as for Eric’s possible reaction when I wore it. Nothing new there. He was always trying to get me out of my dresses anyway. I would just take it as a compliment.
When we returned to the house, fed, and all retired to our rooms, I felt more at peace than I had since I left Bon Temps. I wondered if we really could live like a family. I was beginning to feel hopeful.
“Earth to Sookie!” Pam drawled as she shook my shoes in front of me. “Eric and Godric are already down stairs and you need your shoes on.”
“Sorry” I answered automatically as I took the heels and put them on.
Never. Never would I have worn them if I’d still been human. Five inches of pure death for me before I was turned, but now it was simple to keep my balance and my feet didn’t hurt.
Score one for vampirism and fashion statements.
Pam picked out the heels for me once we found ‘the’ dress. It is silver with an ornate lace overlay, a low V-neck and back, along with a tonal inset waistline to give it just the right contrast. Also, Eric loved the scalloped hem that rested slightly above mid-thigh for me. He said it truly did justice to the beauty of my legs.
I laughed at him. Damn flirt.
“I’m ready.” I called to Pam where she had disappeared into my bathroom. When she stepped out, she had finished dressing and she looked spectacular. She had chosen a grey and silver dress as well, so that we wore complementing styles. The tiered scalloped lace bands on the skirt accentuated her figure in the right places while the empire waist and surplice neck, with scalloped edging, emphasized her curves.
“You look great.” I complimented as we left the bedroom to meet the men.
She nodded her response before adding, “I told you that dress would look sinful on you.”
Before I could answer, Eric’s voice floated up the stairs to us. “And you were right.”
Eric and Godric were each dressed in dark suits that made them both look extremely handsome. Eric was looking especially yummy.
Shit. Did I just think that?
I shook my head as if to clear it before thanking him for the compliment. His smirk in return told me that he hadn’t missed my moment of ogling him. I simply ignored him and followed Pam out towards the car.
The last thing I needed was to be attracted to Eric Northman.
The drive to New Orleans passed mostly in comfortable silence. I entered a downtime state about ten minutes out of Shreveport and stayed that way until Godric called my name a few minutes outside of New Orleans.
“Yes, Master?” I responded.
“We must speak regarding your behavior while we are in the Queen’s compound.” He started. “You will bow deeply to her from the waist and then stand silently behind me to my left, while Eric will stand to my right, and Pam will stand to his right.”
I nodded to show I was following along. I knew our arrangement in her court detailed our relationship and age in respect to each other. Godric had already taught me this much before coming to Louisiana.
“She may very well try to intimidate you, or anger you on purpose, for her own amusement. I command you to stay silent unless I give you permission to speak. If I do give you permission, then you will remain respectful and answer only the questions that are asked. Do you have any questions?”
“What if she asks me if I have any gifts?”
“We cannot lie to the Queen as it would be considered treason and end in our final deaths.” He mused. “If she asks about gifts, then tell her you still have your telepathy. If she pushes, then you will have to tell her about your cloaking.”
I sighed at this news. Just what I needed. Another gift for her know about. Another reason for her to want me.
The compound, as Godric called it, was a huge three-story white mansion with black shutters and several other small buildings surrounding it. Along the perimeter of the property there was a tall fence that had several vampire guards patrolling around it. We pulled up to a gate with three vampire guards posted, and we were allowed through once they looked inside the car and verified the Queen was expecting us.
“You’re fidgeting again.” Pam mumbled to me as we pulled in front of the building and I couldn’t help but laugh at her.
Of all the things that could annoy her, my fidgeting seemed to be on the top of her list.
As we all approached the front of the building, we took our assigned spots behind Godric; since he was our elder. When two guards at the front door greeted us, Godric simply nodded to them and we all followed them through an overly ornate and ostentatious foyer to a set of double door.
“You may wait here until her Majesty is ready to see you.” One of the guards instructed as he opened the door and we stepped into a small sitting area.
We all entered the room and the door was closed behind us as we each sat down in one of the carefully placed leather seats, lining the walls of the room. I had no doubt, however, that the guards remained posted outside of the waiting area.
When I sat down, I decided to use my telepathy to scan the building.
Boring, boring, and more boring.
The humans in the building were either thinking about their housekeeping work, glamoured, or consumed with thoughts of sex and biting.
I was just about to pull up my shields again when I brushed against a mind that felt familiar in some way.
I hope she isn’t too mad. The Queen said she’s a vampire now but I don’t think Sophie Ann would let her hurt me.
I tilted my head to the side as I listened harder to the mental voice and tried to place it. From the corner of my eye, I saw Godric look at me and I felt his curiosity.
The Queen was so mad last night I thought she might kill me. She was even angrier than when she thought Sookie was dead. . .
I stiffened then and stopped listening as I placed the thought pattern.
Hadley was here.
She knew the Queen.
I growled without thinking as I started to put together the events in my life.
Pam and Eric had said the Queen had sent Bill to procure me, but they never mentioned how the Queen even knew who I was or what I could do. How had I not thought of this before? How had I not tried to figure out how she knew about me?
And how could my own cousin set me up to be kidnapped by a vampire Queen!
“Sookie.” Godric’s voice held a command and I realized he had called my name multiple times before using his Maker’s power to get my attention.
“Master?” I responded automatically.
“What troubles you?”
“My cousin is here.” I said with a hiss.
Everyone stiffened at my pronouncement and Godric moved to sit beside me. “What is she doing here?”
“I’m fairly sure she’s the one who told the Queen about me in the beginning. I think she’s her pet.”
I was barely containing my rage.
“Sookie, you must calm down.” He ordered and I felt him sending me calm through our child-maker bond.
“She betrayed me.” I said flatly as I tried to at least control my voice even if I was failing at controlling my anger. “Everything is her fault.”
“Perhaps that is true, young one, but that does not change your circumstances or what you must do while we are here.”
I turned my head to look him in the eyes and I saw and felt his concern growing. I closed my eyes and took a deep unneeded breath. “Yes, Master.”
Before Godric could reply, the door to the waiting area opened and one of the guards from earlier announced that the Queen was ready to see us.
Again, we took our places behind Godric and followed the guard through the building. Eventually, after several twists and turns in the hallway, we came to another set of double doors. Right before the guard opened the door, I had the sudden urge to open my shields again.
I had just enough warning to steel my face, bloodlust, and emotions against what was on the other side.
The Queen was feeding.
On a naked Hadley
From her thigh.
I saw Eric look at me with a glimmer of concern as he noticed me become rigid beside him, but he turned back to face the doors quickly as the guard moved us forward into a brightly lit room.
I blinked once as my sensitive eyes adjusted to the change in light and I quickly surveyed the room.
There was a pool in the middle of the room and several sun loungers lining the sides. The walls were painted with beach and other outside scenes while the room was lit up as brightly as any clear day, which was painted on the ceiling. Several donors laid around the pool in scanty bathing suits.
The Queen had Hadley lying across a table and she lifted her head up as we entered the room. Her eyes immediately met mine and I didn’t give her the satisfaction of showing any emotion as she smiled at me.
Her smile immediately turned to a scowl before she hid it behind a welcoming mask and she stepped forward to greet us in beachwear – complete with sunglasses.
She was definitely obsessed with the sun.
As we all came to a stop about ten feet in front of her, I saw Godric and Eric nod deeply while Pam and I bowed. I assumed the difference was based on age.
“Your Majesty.” Godric greeted.
“Godric. Welcome to my home and my Queendom.” She answered in an overly sweet tone that was obviously fake. “I understand you wish to move to my state with your new child.”
Godric simply nodded in return.
“Tell me. How did you come across our Ms. Stackhouse?” She asked as she lay down on a lounger.
“I was tracking a member of my area that had been taken by the Fellowship when we crossed paths in Kentucky.”
“And were you turned willingly, Ms. Stackhouse?” She asked without looking at me.
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
She seemed to consider this information for a moment and I realized she expected me to have been turned against my will. Interesting.
“Exactly how long have you been a vampire?”
“A month, Your Majesty.”
Her face looked livid as she stood quickly. “Do not lie to me!” She shrieked. “Compton would have felt you if you were still alive for seven months.”
Godric intervened on my behalf, “It seems that my child found a witch whom created an amulet to interfere with the effects of Mr. Compton’s blood. It would have felt as if she died.”
The Queen hissed immediately. “The name of the witch.”
I balked but Godric looked over his shoulder at me with stern eyes and nodded. I knew he would order me if he had to do so but I also knew I was sentencing the witch to death.
I’m a horrible Christian but better her than me.
“Marnie Stonebrook.” I said calmly.
The Queen looked to her right to a short male vampire with pale blond hair and nodded. He was gone in the next second and I knew the witch would be in the Queen’s hands before long.
I didn’t have much time to think on my guilt before the Queen was speaking again, “Did you learn of Mr. Compton’s plans to procure you? Is that why you left?”
“No, your Majesty.”
“Well, then why.” She asked in an angry and exasperated tone.
“My Gran had been murdered and I was nearly killed. Both had happened since I met my first vampire.” I said honestly while leaving out Eric’s existence in my reasoning. “I decided I needed to get away before I was killed.”
“Gran’s dead?” Hadley spoke up quietly from her place behind the Queen.
At least she’d put her bikini back on while we’d been talking.
“Quiet.” The Queen snapped at her before smiling at me.
“You remember your dear cousin, do you not?” She asked me.
Remembering Godric’s orders to respond with as little as possible, I nodded.
The Queen seemed annoyed that I wasn’t showing more of a response to Hadley but she quickly recovered and turned her attention back to Godric.
“You may swear fealty.” She ordered.
Godric stood where he was and spoke clearly. “I hereby swear fealty for myself and my child, Sookie Stackhouse, for as long as we remain in the state and your Majesty proves herself a just and reasonable Queen.”
“WHAT?!” The Queen yelped as she sped to stand in front of Godric mere inches from his face. “What kind of fealty comes with conditions? Correct yourself.”
“I am four times your age and I only swear fealty as it is given in the old world.”
“You are no longer in the Old World.” She hissed dangerously.
“If my oath does not please you, we will take our leave of your state. However, this is the only oath my child or I will give.”
“You would leave without your other child?” She sang.
I would have hissed at her obvious threat to Eric, but I was still under my Maker’s command to remain silent unless spoken to directly.
“No.” Godric answered calmly even though I felt his rising anger. “I would take my entire nest.”
Sophie Ann laughed. “Northman cannot go. He is under contract as my Sheriff.”
“As you know, a Maker’s call supersedes any contract.” Godric’s voice was the epitome of calm and collected.
The Queen, on the other hand, was losing what little control she had remaining. “You would threaten me?”
“I have issued no threats your Majesty. I have simply answered your questions.”
Sophie Ann stepped away from Godric and studied him for a moment before turning away and walking back to her lounger. She laid back down on it and remained silent for several minutes.
“I accept your fealty.” She said calmly. “Now, tell me, have you retained your telepathy, Ms. Stackhouse?”
I breathed in unnecessarily before answering, “Yes, your Majesty.”
“Good.” She nodded. “I will expect you to read my employees and donors once a month to insure they are trustworthy.”
Godric nodded and I responded with another, “Yes, Your Majesty.”
“I will have them gather a week from tonight.” She stated as she motioned for Hadley to sit on her lap. “You will return then. You are dismissed.”
As the Queen sank her fangs into my cousin again, we all turned to leave the room. We were escorted back the way we came and out the front door. None of us said a word as we drove back down the driveway and through the main gate. It wasn’t until we were on the highway that I started to feel better. We had made it through the meeting and I hadn’t messed up. We were on our way back home.
I felt like everything might be okay. Then I chastised myself for thinking so positively. If I’d learned anything in my one month as a vampire, it was that nothing was that simple.
As if they could hear my thoughts, Eric and Godric started talking as we left the boundaries of New Orleans.
“It’s not over.” Eric stated plainly.
Godric’s response came a moment later.
“No, it’s not.”