“Don’t forget, Sookie.” Pam called out as she left the room to go find a donor.
Eric held his hand out to help me up from my seat on the edge of his bed.
“Forget what?” He asked.
Eric had left our room to check in with the other Louisiana Sheriffs while Pam helped me get ready for the ball and the meeting with the Queen. So, he didn’t know about the little lecture I’d received from his child while she was styling my hair.
Pam and I decided to leave my hair down with soft curls landing around my chest and mid-back. Since my ice blue dress with a crystal, encrusted bodice had a deep v-neck and bare shoulders, we thought that putting my hair up to expose my neck would just be showing too much skin and inviting too much trouble.
After all, I attracted enough trouble without making an effort to do so.
As I stood up, the expectant look on Eric’s face reminded me he had asked a question.
“Girl talk, Eric. No reason to worry.” I covered. “Let’s go before we’re late.”
The look on Eric’s face said it all.
His bullshit meter was reading false and he was going to get an answer from me sooner or later.
Oh well, he’d know in a few minutes anyway.
After walking down the hall and entering the empty elevator, Eric pulled me close to his chest and kissed the side of my neck.
“You look stunning.”
“Thank you.” I whispered as I reached up to nibble on his ear lobe slightly. “I had to put forth my best effort since my vampire is desired by men and women alike.”
I paused before breathing softly in his ear, “Tonight, he looks exceptionally mouth watering.”
I didn’t know where this sudden sex kitten routine of mine was coming from but I was enjoying the effects I was having on my man. My ego needed to know that I affected him in the same way that he affected me. Especially tonight, since he looked completely edible in a light, blue silk button down shirt underneath a sexy Armani suit. The fact that he left the top three buttons undone on his shirt was going to be my undoing tonight.
Before our coziness in the elevator could get any further, the elevator opened and Mr. Cataliades stepped into the elevator along with another man who looked somewhat similar to Mr. Cataliades.
“Good evening. Sheriff, Ms. Stackhouse.” He tilted his head to us both in greeting. “This is my brother in law, Mr. Simon Maimonides”
Eric nodded his head in the customary vampire greeting while I shook hands and exchanged “How-de-dos” with Mr. Mamonides.
What I heard when I touched his hand surprised me so much that I had to clamp down on my facial expression quickly to keep from revealing anything.
Unfortunately, Eric and I had not had any time to adjust to the strength of our new ‘bond’ and it seemed that he must have felt my shock and worry because his whole body stiffened.
I really needed to ask him how this whole bond thing worked or it wouldn’t matter how good I was at hiding my emotions from others because he was showing my shock for me.
I’m sure Eric had to be annoyed as well since he normally had one hell of a poker face.
As I released Mr. Maimonides’ hand, the sudden tension in the elevator was palpable.
It was obvious from the expression on his face that Mr. Maimonides knew I was a telepath and that he believed I had read something of interest from him. Mr. Cataliades’ expression never changed from its normal friendly countenance but I noticed a slight tensing of his shoulders.
Eric’s arm had tightened around my waist and I felt an overwhelming protectiveness rolling off of him.
Just as I was about to try to say something to break the tension in the air, the elevator door opened on the Queen’s floor.
“If you will both excuse us, we are expected by the Queen.” Eric’s words were delivered smoothly as if nothing was wrong. However, the words had barely left his mouth before we were out of the elevator and standing a few feet away from Sigebert’s guard post, outside Sophie Anne’s door.
“What is it?” Eric demanded and I saw Sigebert go on alert as his eyes started sweeping the floor.
“We need to speak to the Queen quickly or the trial is going to go forward.” I blurted out.
The response was immediate as the door to the Queen’s suite swung open and Andre opened the door.
His eyes were fierce.
I guess he heard me.
Without a word, Eric wrapped my hand around his arm and led me into the Queen’s suite.
As soon as the door closed, Sophie Anne was commanding an explanation from her seat in the middle of the room.
“The remaining Arkansas vampire, Henrik Feith, has asked the Arkansas lawyer to represent him to continue the trial against you so he can claim the state.” I told them all quickly as Eric led us to stand in front of Sophie Anne.
“How do you know this?” The Queen asked calmly.
Eric responded, “We shared an elevator with Mr. Cataliades and his brother in law Mr. Maimonides. Sookie read it from the brother in law’s mind when they shook hands.”
Before I could blink an eye, Andre had Henrik on his knees in front of the Queen.
Was he really dumb enough to stay in her suite after plotting against her?
And they say I go looking for trouble.
“What do you have to say for yourself?” Sophie Ann asked the vampire kneeling in front of her.
I squeezed Eric’s hand tightly and looked at him. I was trying to follow Pam’s guidance from earlier and wait for permission to speak and I was praying that Eric could read me well enough to know what I needed.
Eric looked at me for only a moment before he turned back to the Queen but I could swear I felt an inkling of surprise from him before he said, “If I may your Majesty, I believe Sookie has more information to share.”
The Queen looked up at me before saying, “What do you know?”
“Based on what I heard, he’s only going forward with the trial because he was convinced by someone else that your promise to let him live and join your kingdom was a lie. He was lied to by someone in order to make him think that his life depended on his winning the trial.” I summarized what I heard from the lawyer.
“Do you know who told him this, Sookie?” Eric asked me.
“No, I don’t.”
“She isn’t planning on killing me?” Henrik directed the question to me but the Queen answered.
“I wasn’t planning on it.” Sophie Anne said evenly before demanding. “Now, tell us who lied to you.”
If a vampire could sweat at all, then Henrik would be sweating bullets. He was already wringing his hands and it was such a human trait that I wondered how old he was.
“Forgive me, your Majesty.” He bowed his head lower. “It was Mr. Baruch, the hotel manager.”
The vampires hissed at his admission.
“You will call your lawyer now and tell him to disregard your request to continue the trial.” She ordered the fearful vamp. “If you do this, then you will not meet your final death but you will be punished severely for your mistake.”
“I . . . I agree.” Henrik answered hesitantly.
With a nod from Sophie Anne, Andre took Henrik through one of the other rooms in the suite and the door closed. I assumed that they were making the required phone call.
I wondered what they were going to do about Mr. Baruch.
No sooner had the interior door closed behind Andre and Henrik than the exterior door opened and Sigebert entered to stand behind the Queen.
I guess she was never without at least one of her bodyguards.
“Well, it seems we’ve had a bit of lucky timing with your elevator ride Ms. Stackhouse.” Sophie Ann said lightly as she sat back in her chair.
“Yes, your Majesty.” I took a deep breath and continued with my rehearsed line from Pam. “And I hope you’ll allow me to apologize again for my behavior when I left last night.”
I didn’t know how the bond worked yet, but I know I felt Eric’s surprise at my words even though I didn’t see him move even the tiniest bit.
Pam had used our alone time earlier in the night to explain that my actions now reflect heavily on Eric. A Sheriff his age could not be seen to have no control over his human or he could be punished. Therefore, I needed to apologize to make it seem like Eric had ordered me to do so. Also, it would show that I ‘heeled nicely.’
I hated vampire politics.
They made me sick.
But I loved Eric.
“Ah. Yes, you were out of line last night, but I will forgive it this time.” The Queen answered and her words successfully pulled me out of my thoughts. “I’ve also explained to Andre that he was out of line last night as well.”
I’m sure if I didn’t have years of practice hiding my reactions to people’s thoughts I would have shown my shock at her words.
Last night, I was ninety-eight percent positive that Andre was acting on the Queen’s orders when he attempted to force a bond with me.
But I guess she could be lying now and trying to stay in my good graces.
After all, I had saved her ass at least three times now.
“I guess it all turned out okay though.” She mused with a slight grin. “I’ve heard the tiger is rather upset since you ended things with him to be with the Sheriff.”
I swallowed rather loudly because I didn’t know exactly how to respond to that.
Luckily, Eric took over for me.
“Yes, he is rather unhappy.” Eric said with his fangs on display. “But I believe that is mostly due to his failure to complete his mission for Nevada.”
I cringed as the Queen growled.
“Explain.” She commanded.