By the time Eric finished explaining what I heard from Quinn’s mind, the Queen looked ready to tear someone limb from limb. That’s not to say that she was throwing things or snarling. No, she was incredibly still and quiet, but her eyes were burning with barely contained rage.
I really wanted to leave the room. I could almost feel her strength and anger radiating around us.
When I couldn’t take it anymore and I was about to take a step back, I felt a foreign injection of strength and courage.
I didn’t have to look at Eric to know it was coming from him. Any other time I might be pissed off that he was manipulating my emotions, or even to find out that he could play with them, but at the moment I was thankful for it.
We had been standing in silence for several moments when Andre re-entered the room, and immediately took his place beside the Queen. Finally, Sophie-Anne spoke and her tone was rock hard.
“I want the tiger and his sister brought to me.”
My body stiffened at the mention of his sister. She was a bitch to me but she didn’t have anything to do with the plan to attack Louisiana.
At least not that I knew of.
Eric bowed his head slightly, “Yes, Your Majesty. Would you prefer us to wait until after the festivities tonight? He is supposed to organize the events.”
She thought for a moment before answering and I wondered if she was communicating with Andre or Seigbert telepathically while she considered her options.
I knew I’d certainly like to be able to send a few questions to Eric in moments like this. Although I would rather have his silent mind over that ability any day of the week.
“Fine.” She finally answered. “But have someone follow him at all times and if he gets out of line then I want him detained. No one will fault me for taking someone who is a threat to my state.”
“Of course. We will detain the tiger shortly before sunrise.” Eric replied with a slight bow before asking. “What of Mr. Baruch?”
I couldn’t hide my reaction to hearing the hotel manager’s name in the same sentence as Quinn’s. My head immediately turned to look at Eric to try to convey my need to say something even though Pam had told me to keep silent.
There was something there with Quinn and Mr. Baruch. How did we miss it before?
“Is there something you would like to share, Ms. Stackhouse?” Andre asked with only a slight sneer.
I guess I couldn’t stay silent now.
I bit my lip for a moment before deciding to take a leap and answer his question honestly. “Does anyone know if Mr. Baruch has any connections with Nevada? He designs hotels, right? Maybe he worked for them on one of the hotels at some point.”
All of the vampires simply stared at me so I started to babble.
“Well, if someone made use of a weather witch to cause Katrina in order to get the Summit delayed, couldn’t part of the plan have been to get the Summit to be somewhere Nevada had spies? Perhaps they are behind it all. The weather witch, the hotel manager’s attempts to get close to you, the bomb outside your door to make you feel vulnerable, Mr. Baruch’s attempt to insure the trial moved forward, and Quinn’s plan to get close to me and your State.”
“Stop.” Sophie Ann said as she raised her hand.
I quickly bit my tongue and cursed myself. However, I immediately felt a sense of pride coming from Eric, and that confused me.
I saw the Queen look at both Andre and Eric, before settling her discerning eyes back on me.
“You certainly have a way of seeing through other’s plans.” She said.
I didn’t acknowledge her statement in any way because I wasn’t sure if she saw it as a good thing or not.
When it became obvious that I didn’t have anything else to say, the Queen turned back to Eric.
“Have Compton run Mr. Baruch through his database and research any ties the manager may have to Nevada. Now that Ms. Stackhouse mentions it, I do believe it is odd for a hotel designer to be acting as a manager in a hotel.”
“I believe you are correct, Your Majesty.” Eric said calmly. “We will go to see Compton immediately.”
“See that you do.” Sophie Ann directed as she stood up from her seat. “Afterwards, I want you both to mingle at the ball. Let me know if Ms. Stackhouse hears anything important, and I’ll summon you if I need either of your services.”
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Eric bowed at the waist slightly as the Queen started to leave the room.
Before she left, however, she turned around to address us once more.
“Are you bonded willingly, Ms. Stackhouse?” She asked coolly.
I’m sure the shock crossed my face before I wiped it clean of emotion. I also felt Eric’s shock and tension through the bond.
Even though I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be bonded, all I had to do is remember my nightmare from last night to know how I needed to answer the question.
“Yes, ma’am.” I answered when I regained my ability to speak.
I felt Eric’s relief.
“And you cannot be glamoured into agreement. Correct?” She persisted.
“No, ma’am. I cannot be glamoured.”
“I’m also guessing, Sheriff, that she does not heel.” The Queen asked pointedly as she stared down Eric.
Oh shit. Eric had lied and told Andre that I ‘heeled nicely.’
“No, My Queen.” Eric answered smoothly. “I learned last night that she does not heel. I assume it is her telepathy.”
The Queen nodded before stating. “This is good. Then the tiger has no rights to dispute the bond. You are free to protect what is yours shall he try to interfere, but you may not end him. I need to learn what he knows about Nevada.”
“Of course. Thank you, Your Majesty.” Eric bowed again as the Queen and her entourage left the suite.
“Well, that was . . .” Before I could say anything else, Eric’s lips were on mine and I was lost to the sensation of his cold tongue entering my warm mouth.
Much too soon, however, he released me and finished my earlier sentence with “brilliant.”
“What was brilliant?” I asked only slightly dazed.
“You.” He answered seriously. “The Queen wasn’t joking about your ability to see things differently. I don’t think any of us would have connected the dots without you.”
I blushed at the compliment. “Um. Thanks?”
Eric laughed at my embarrassment and grabbed my hand. “Come. We need to go and find Bill.”
“Ugh. I really didn’t want to deal with him again.” I said.
“I know Lover, but we won’t have to speak to him for long.” Eric soothed me as we entered the elevator, and rode it down to the second floor.
“Bill is supposed to be selling his database so we should find him here.” Eric said as we stepped onto the booth-covered floor of the convention center.
As we worked our way through the crowded aisles, Eric was forced to let go of my hand and I followed closely behind him as he led the way towards Bill’s booth. When we finally stood in front of Bill, he glared at Eric with unveiled contempt.
“Stop that right now, William Compton.” I said to him and I felt Eric’s amusement at my words. “You have no cause to look at him like that and he is your Sheriff. We are here because the Queen sent us so just back off.”
Before anyone could say anything, I heard a sound I’d never heard before.
Pam’s unrestrained laughter.
“That was perfect!” Pam laughed. “Seeing you lecture Compton was worth all the time I’ve had to waste down here in this bore booth.”
Ignoring Pam’s uncharacteristic outburst, Bill started to plead with me. “Sookie . . .”
“Enough Compton.” Eric ordered. “As Sookie said, we are here for the Queen and we don’t have time for your nonsense.”
When Bill didn’t interrupt again, Eric took a notepad from the booth and wrote a note to Bill explaining what he needed. At first I was confused as to why he was using a notepad, but then I realized he didn’t want all the vamps in the area listening to our suspicions about the hotel manager and Nevada.
As Eric finished writing and handed the note to Bill, I took the opportunity to scan the room around us. I didn’t find anything unusual so I pulled my shields back into place before I started to get a headache. I would be reading a lot of the humans at the ball tonight and I didn’t want to start it in pain.
“I will start on this now, Sheriff.” Bill said begrudgingly. “Where should I bring my findings?”
“We will be in the ballroom.” Eric said calmly before wrapping my arm around his and leading me back out of the convention center.
“That was fun.” I said sarcastically when we stepped back onto the main concourse of the hotel, and started making our way towards the ballroom.
“And here comes more fun.” Eric said with a nod towards the entrance to the ballroom that was about twenty feet in front of us.
As I turned my attention to follow Eric’s gaze, I wasn’t at all surprised to find Quinn standing there.
Nor was I surprised to see his eyes shining with a golden glow as he focused on my arm wrapped around Eric’s arm as we approached him.
When we attempted to walk into the room without acknowledging him, Quinn stepped into our path.
“Don’t get too comfortable, Northman.” Quinn sneered. “I won’t let you corrupt her. The Queen will be ordering Sookie’s release tonight and you will be punished for forcing her into the bond.”
Before Eric could say anything, I was already stepping closer to Quinn and speaking.
“What is your problem Quinn?” I asked hoping to lead him into thinking about Nevada.
I laid my hand on his bare arm as if to comfort him and added. “I’m sorry I hurt you, but this is my choice and you need to accept it.”
Fuck. He really has her under his control.
At least I could hear him, but that thought wasn’t helpful.
“Babe,” I winced when Eric growled behind me. “You don’t understand the way these bloodsuckers can control you with their blood. I’m trying to save you.”
And myself. De Castro will kill me if I lose the telepath. At least the bugs are still in her house and hotel room. Maybe he will be satisfied with being able to spy on her. We’ve already got some useful info from those.
My anger rose exponentially at Quinn’s thoughts and I quickly withdrew my hand from his arm and stepped back into Eric.
“Sookie cannot be controlled by our glamour or our blood. Perhaps if you took the time to know her better, then you would have known that, tiger.” Eric’s voice was full of contempt as he continued speaking. “Also, the Queen has already given her blessing to our bonding. I have full rights to protect what is mine.”
It was so wrong but my stomach clenched with arousal as Eric growled out his right to protect me.
“She is mine vampire.” Quinn growled, his eyes grew more slanted as he stepped towards us.
“The telepath belongs with the Northman.” The heavily accented, unfamiliar voice that came from behind us startled us all out of our argument, and we turned around.
Before I knew what was happening, Eric and Quinn were on one knee on the floor and Eric gently pulled me down to join him. Standing in front of us was a small, elderly vampire with wild, white hair and glassy eyes that were evidence of her obvious blindness. I was shocked since I had never seen a vampire that was turned so late in life.
The ancient vamp was surrounded by five beautiful, female vampires; all dressed in a deep red. The interesting detail about all of the women was that they each had an eye sown onto their clothing, even though they all wore something slightly different.
“I know your purpose and your claim, Tiger, but this is my pronouncement. You shall stay away from the Louisiana telepath.” The old lady spoke with a force that would make the strongest vampire kneel.
“Ancient One . . .“ Quinn started to plead.
“Leave.” She interrupted Quinn with her order and he was gone before I had a chance to comprehend what happened.
“Since I am no longer needed to pass judgment on your Queen, my party is leaving.” She spoke with her blind eyes seemingly focused on Eric before turning her unerring gaze towards me.
“Listen carefully telepath.”
I steeled myself to hear some announcement that would cause more chaos in my life, but was instead shocked to blink my eyes and find the space before us uninhabited.
“What the . . .” I started to say, but before I could finish I was whisked away to a quiet room.
“Do you hear anything Sookie?” Eric asked me once we were alone in one of the side rooms surrounding the ballroom.
“What am I suppose to be listening for? What are you talking about? Who was that Eric?” I spoke my questions in rapid succession so that he wouldn’t have a chance to interrupt me.
“She is called the Ancient Pythoness, and was the original Oracle to Alexander the Great.” Eric said quickly. “She never interacts with humans, and yet she has just told you – the telepath – to listen carefully.”
I gulped audibly.
“Okay.” I said quietly, understanding what Eric was telling me.
Slowly, I lowered my shields and started to listen to the humans enjoying their night in the next room. I quickly switched from mind to mind trying to find anything that could prove useful.
Wow. This food is much better than usual for vamp . . . I hope we don’t stay long . . . God, he can’t dance at all . . . This party’s great. It was worth the magic for the payment and these perks. I just wish all those people hadn’t been hurt. Katrina was so much worse than I thought . . .
“The weather witch is here.” I said quickly.
Eric pulled out his phone and started texting before the words were completely out of my mouth, and only a couple of minutes later Gervaise entered the room.
“Eric?” Gervaise asked with a raised eyebrow towards me.
“Sookie has found the weather witch.” Eric explained before turning to me. “Can you tell him what he looks like?”
I had been listening to the witch for the last couple of minutes so I had gained some more information when he had introduced himself, and his wife, to another partygoer. “His name is Julian Trout. He’s here with his wife and he’s the weatherman for Channel 7. I don’t know what he looks like but you should be able to look him up on the internet on your phone.”
Gervaise nodded before stating, “I can find him and take him to Andre.”
As with most vamps, he was gone before I could say another word.
Relieved that I had found something from all the listening, I sighed deeply. Eric put his arms around my waist and pulled me against his chest.
“I can feel that you are tired, but you need to keep listening. I do not think the weather witch is what the Pythoness was referring to.”
“Well, then what do you think I’m listening for?” I snapped back at him.
He pulled back to look me in the eyes, “I do not know. However, I would suspect that it would have major implications for many of us.”
“Fine.” I said stubbornly as I pushed away from him and walked over to a chair against the wall. If I was going to be doing mental acrobatics, I could at least get comfortable.
I dropped my shields again and started listening to the mundane thoughts of the humans. I listened for what seemed like forever as they continued to dance and get more and more drunk as the night went on. I listened to sexual, bored, and frustrated thoughts.
When I was starting to get really tired, I happened upon Barry’s mental signature. He seemed to be having a good time. However, I suddenly caught a thought from him that he needed to check on the wait staff. Apparently he felt as if they had been avoiding him on purpose.
Well, that was nothing new. People in my Bon Temps always avoided me when they suspected what I could do. If this wait staff knew what we could do, then I would be surprised if they were not avoiding us.
Still, though, I had noticed a waitress walk away from me last night and maybe it was about more than fear of the telepath. Maybe. Possibly, they had something to hide.
Deciding to test out my new theory, I started flipping through thoughts as I looked for the thoughts of the wait staff.
Two AB negative True Bloods for . . . I need to pick up my dry cleaning after . . . I wonder if David is home yet . . . My feet are killing me . . . I’m glad this hotel will be rubble soon. I’m tired of faking each night around these bloodsuckers.
I immediately bristled with the last thought, and a chill went down my back as its implications registered.
“What did you find?” Eric asked stiffly, having obviously felt my fear.
“A threat.” I said shortly since I needed to listen in more. “But I have to pinpoint him. Give me a minute.”
I closed my eyes and held on to the mental path of the thoughts I had heard earlier. Others don’t seem to understand that, simply because I can hear someone’s thoughts in another room, this does not mean that I know what they look like or who they are. They have to think about these types of things in order for me to know them.
However, I can track them and see where they are through their eyes.
And right now, the person we were looking for was in the staff kitchen.
“I don’t know who it is yet, but I can find them if you take me to the kitchen.”
Without another word, Eric picked me up like Rhett Butler and we were off in a flash.
I couldn’t help but wonder what others thought about the spectacle we must have made with Eric carrying me at vamp speed through the hallway. I guess they may have thought we simply wanted to find somewhere private.
When we entered the kitchen, the first thought I had was wondering how Eric knew where it was. However, I soon realized he probably followed the smell of the cooking and then I chastised myself for thinking about something so trivial when I was suppose to be looking for someone who was definitely an enemy.
Honing back in on the mental signature I had been tracking, I could tell the person was standing next to a refrigerator and they were pulling out a small bottle of soda.
“Eric, the person is standing in front of a refrigerator with a soda in their hand.”
Eric was gone in the next second and I was alone for a minute before I felt the mind I was listening to become hazy. I recognized it immediately as glamour and I knew Eric had found our target. A moment later, Eric came walking towards me with a man with dark hair and dark eyes following behind him. The guy looked to be in his late thirties, and had a care-worn face that showed a hard lived life.
Looking back to Eric, he tilted his head in the direction of the door to the back hallway, and I stepped through the door with Eric following close behind.
But of course, I walked right into the chest of John Quinn.
“Sookie, I’m glad I . . .” Quinn started to say he was glad he ran into me, but I’m sure he didn’t feel that way once Eric surprised him with a right hook that knocked him out.
“Eric!” I hissed.
“We were supposed to detain him too but I can’t glamour him because he’s a Supe. Now we will simply go up the back stairs to our floor and question them both in the Queen’s suite.”
“Fine, but we need to start with the waiter since he’s been thinking about the hotel being rubble.” I said frankly as we started up the stairs with the waiter walking unknowingly behind us, and Eric carrying Quinn over his shoulder.
Luckily, we only had to go up two flights of stairs to get to the Queen’s fourth floor suite and we were uninterrupted on our trip.
Once we approached the room, Seigbert greeted Eric and our entourage, as he exited the suite.
“We need to see the Queen,” Eric stated, “We have the Tiger and Sookie has found a human that may have information about a larger immediate threat. We need a place to question him.”
Seigbert stared at Eric as he said this, and only two seconds passed before the suite door reopened and he gestured for us to go in.
Once inside, we saw that Gervaise already had the weather witch and his wife glamoured on the couch, and the Queen and Andre were seated in the middle of the room.
“We have all had an eventful night it seems.” Sophie-Ann said starting things off. “Tell me, Sheriff, what is this I hear about a conversation between yourself and the Ancient One?”
“Your Majesty, she interrupted a verbal contest between the tiger and myself concerning the bonding. The Ancient One told Quinn that her pronouncement was that he was to stay away from the Louisiana Telepath.”
“Interesting.” The Queen said with a raised eyebrow towards me. “Anything else, Ms. Stackhouse?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I cleared my through. “She looked at me and said ‘Listen carefully telepath.’ Eric and I have been in one of the side rooms while I listened to as many people as I can without distraction.”
“This is how you found Mr. Trout?”
She nodded. “What of this man?”
“We have yet to question him, but his thoughts were full of malice. He thought about how he was glad this hotel would be rubble soon because he’s tired of faking around these bloodsuckers.”
“You are worried about a bombing?” Gervaise spoke up.
“Well then, let’s start our interrogations with the waiter, but Gervaise, I want you to silver the tiger so that he won’t be a problem when he wakes.” The Queen ordered.
Gervaise nodded and went over to Eric to take Quinn away. As I watched him carry Quinn’s unconscious body into the other room, I couldn’t help but feel like I was a bad Christian. I knew Quinn was going to be hurt by silver but I couldn’t feel the need to help him after how he betrayed me.
“Do I need to procure his sister?” Eric asked as the door closed behind Gervaise and Quinn.
“No.” Andre answered stiffly. “Sheriff Babbit is doing that errand.”
“Very well.” Eric answered before turning towards me. “Are you ready if I release the waiter from my glamour?”
“Yes.” Waiting wasn’t going to make any of this easier.
I turned towards the waiter and saw that someone had tied him up and tapped his mouth shut. Well, I guess I didn’t really need to hear him yell at me.
I opened my shields and felt Eric lift his glamour from the waiter’s mind. He immediately began to panic.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. That’s the telepath and one of the Queens. Damn it. Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it.
“What’s your name and who do you work for?” I asked calmly.
Of course he started singing the National Anthem. Why do they all do that?
“Singing in your mind doesn’t work Dan. Now, why does the Fellowship have you working here?” I was getting more and more tense the longer I read Dan because he had a lot of secrets.
“Sookie?” Eric asked and I realized I’d been listening to Dan for several minutes with out saying anything, but Dan’s mind was like an open book and I was getting a lot of information.
“One minute.” I said over my shoulder to Eric. “Dan, what are the Fellowships plans for the hotel?”
Good luck bitch. If you try to leave, they will just blow the bombs early.
I gasped in response. I couldn’t help it.
I also knew the vampires were going to be impatient, but I needed the answers to the questions they were going to ask.
“Where are the bombs and when are they suppose to go off?” I pressed and all the vampires growled.
I listened for another minute before I closed my shields to share my information with the vampires.
“Eric, can you glamour him again so I can think straight?” I asked and Eric nodded before holding Dan’s eyes open, in order to get eye contact to complete the glamour.
When he was done, I took a deep breath and welcomed the strength and calm coming from Eric, “There are large bombs in the basement and some smaller ones on every floor in different rooms. The bombs are suppose to go off the day after tomorrow, during the day, but if the Fellowship spies get any ideas that the plan has been discovered, then they are suppose to report to Newlin, and he will set the bombs off early.”
I took another breath and continued on before anyone interrupted me. “Dan also knows they got information from a vampire but he doesn’t know which one. He only knows the vampire wants to meet his final death, and take other vampires with him.”
More growling followed by silence.
Okay. I expected a lot of things but not silence.
I don’t do well with silence.
“Also, I heard from Quinn earlier that someone named De Castro sent him and they’ve bugged my room and home.” I rambled on when the silence got to me.
“Any other problems for us to solve human?” The voice, which came from behind me, was Sheriff Babbit and Eric growled at the obvious derogatory tone. I looked over my shoulder to see that Cleo had returned with Bill, Pam, Jake, and a glamoured Frannie in tow.
“Sheriff Babbit, take Frannie into the other room, with her brother. Make sure she is secured for our departure.” The Queen ordered and turned her attention to Bill and Pam.
“Bill, you must find us secure transportation as discreetly as possible.”
Bill nodded in response and left the room in a flash.
“Pam, once we leave safely, you need to use an untraceable cell and call in an anonymous tip regarding the bombs. I have no interest in dealing with several states in our clan being left without Leaders because of the Fellowship.”
I had no idea what she meant by clan but I understood that she wanted to leave before the tip was called in so that we didn’t risk the Fellowship being tipped off while we were here.
It was wholly selfish but I was happy with her plan.
“Sheriff Northman, you and your bonded will ride with me so that we can talk more about what she heard from the waiter and the tiger.” The Queen continued her orders.
“Yes, Your Majesty.” Eric responded.
The Queen seemed to be done issuing orders for the time being, and I had to admire her calm and commanding demeanor when she was facing so many obstacles. Of course, my admiration was given grudgingly considering all that she had done to interfere in my life.
“Your Majesty, may I take my bonded into the other room to eat and rest until we leave? She will need her strength for later.” Eric asked and I wanted to kiss him for the suggestion.
The Queen simply waved in dismissal, and Eric took my hand to lead me into one of the rooms not being used to house prisoners.
As he was closing the door, the last thing I heard was the Queen giving one final order.
“And Jake, please be sure my luggage is packed accordingly.”