Running her hand over Eric’s travel coffin, Sookie let out a sigh as she cast her eyes over the spacious hotel room; dread filled her as she thought about what was going to happen. The last three weeks had flown by and the Rhodes conference was upon them. As soon as Eric rose they would have to go and see the Queen of Louisiana. It was something Sookie didn’t want to do, but she knew she had no choice. For now Sophie-Anne was still the Queen. Whether she would be by the time the conference ended remained to be seen.
The case against Bill, and by extension Sophie-Anne, had grown stronger by the day. Maxwell had been thorough in his reports and had amassed quite a lot of evidence. There was both audio and video footage, as well as written transcripts.
The case against Bill was pretty much ironclad. There was almost no way he was getting away with it, regardless of who his friends were. The real problem would be linking Sophie-Anne to Bill’s actions. Although she was recorded audibly ordering Bill to separate Eric and Sookie, there was no actual video footage of her. It would be easy for her to claim the recordings were doctored or she was being set up.
As Eric suspected, Sophie-Anne hadn’t done anything to try to help Bill out. After making a half-hearted appeal to Eric to let Bill go, she had been content to let Eric deal with him in any way he saw fit. Although, Eric doubted she would have been so willing if she would have known he was well aware of her role in everything that happened. In her arrogance, Sophie-Anne believed no one could touch her. She foolishly believed she was smarter and more cunning than everyone else.
The sound of the latches on Eric’s travel coffin being opened drew Sookie’s attention, and she took a small step towards it and waited for her husband to rise.
“I hate that you have to sleep in that,” Sookie said in greeting, as she watched Eric climb out of the travel coffin.
“So do I,” Eric admitted, as he pulled Sookie to him and wrapped his arms around her. “I much prefer rising next to you.” Content to just hold his wife for a few minutes, Eric breathed in her scent and allowed the concern he was feeling drift away.
Sensing he needed a few moments of peace, Sookie wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her head on his chest. She would have time to tell him what transpired earlier before they meet the Queen, but for now, like her husband, Sookie was content to just be held by him.
Dropping a kiss to the top of Sookie’s head, “Have you had any trouble so far?” Eric asked, making made no move to let her go.
“A little,” Sookie admitted, her voice muffled by Eric’s chest. She let out a small whimper as she felt Eric pull back from her.
“What happened?” Eric asked, as he ran his hands down her arms, seeking to assure himself she was okay.
“There was a problem with the hotel booking,” Sookie told him.
“What kind of problem?”
“The kind that would’ve separated us,” Sookie replied with a small smile.
“I arranged our rooms personally,” Eric said. “I booked a light tight room for us.”
“I know,” Sookie said, as she took him by the hand and lead towards the couch. Pushing him down onto the couch, Sookie took a seat next to him as she continued, “But it seems that was some kind of the mix up. ‘Cause when I went to check-in, I was told you would be sharing a room with one of the other sheriffs and I will be sharing with one of the other pets… One of the Queen’s pets.”
“One of the Queen’s pets?” Eric repeated.
“The concierge was quite a broadcaster; he was being paid handsomely to change our booking. You were to be sharing a room with the sheriff of the area three and I was to be sharing a room with the Queen’s pet. He kept repeating that part. That was supposed to be three floors between us, and the Queen and entourage in the middle.”
“I should have expected her to try and do something like that,” Eric said. He cursed himself for not thinking of it sooner. He knew Sophie-Anne wanted his wife; of course she would try and separate them. He had been so focused on Bill and the trial that he had overlooked the fact that Sookie would be in Sophie-Anne’s range for at least one night. Bill’s trial was set for 10 o’clock the following evening. Godric had arranged it so it would be the first bit of business taken care of, even before Sophie-Anne’s pledging ceremony to Arkansas.
Feeling Eric’s guilt, Sookie climbed into his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck. “It’s not your fault, Eric,” she said softly. “You didn’t know she was going to try and do this.”
“I should have known…” Eric started, but was cut off when Sookie pressed her lips forcibly to his.
“We should have suspected she would try something,” Sookie said, as she broke the kiss. “But after everything she’s tried already, doesn’t this seem a little lame? She must’ve known this wouldn’t work. I read the concierge’s mind. She had to know there was no way you would consent to us being separated.”
Eric thought about her words as he wrapped his arms around Sookie’s waist; he could see her point. Sophie-Anne, despite everything, wasn’t a fool, or at least an obvious fool. She knew how protective he was of his wife, so she would know full well that he would never agree to be separated from Sookie.
“She could be trying to distract us,” Eric said. “She knows I’m aware that she wants you for herself. She would assume I would expect her to make a play, to claim you for herself. This is an obvious attempt on her part; she may be trying to divert our attention, make us focus on this so she can slip in the back way, so to speak.”
“You think she’s planning something else,” Sookie deduced.
“I do,” Eric admitted. “Sophie-Anne wants you desperately. In her mind, you belong to her. She no longer respects our laws and rules. She will try to claim you for herself during the conference, of that I am sure.”
“So we keep our eyes and ears open and wait and see what she tries next,” Sookie replied.
Eric nodded as he pulled Sookie closer; he knew the next few nights would be trying for both of them, and he wanted a few moments just to hold his wife close.
But all too soon their moment was interrupted when a knock came at the door; with a groan of reluctance Eric set Sookie on the seat beside him and rose to his feet. Crossing the floor to the door, Eric pulled it open and stared at the young woman who interrupted them. Casting his eyes over her, Eric barely held back the growl that was rumbling in his chest as he took in the familiar looking features of the blonde at the door.
“Eric, who is it?” Sookie asked, as she felt his anger.
“I’m not sure, Lover,” Eric replied, feigning confusion, as he took a step to the side to let Sookie see who was at the door.
“Sookie!” Hadley gasped, as she rushed into the room. Throwing her arms around Sookie, Hadley hugged her cousin and pretended to be shocked at seeing her. “What’re you doing here?”
Sookie stiffened in Hadley’s arms as she looked over her cousin’s shoulder at Eric. She fought the urge to lash out and shake Hadley off her. She couldn’t believe how Hadley was acting like nothing had happened, like she hadn’t betrayed her and sold her out to Sophie-Anne. Sookie could ‘see it’ all in Hadley’s mind. It was foggy like someone had tried to erase the memories, or rather glamour them away, but after three years around vampires, Sookie knew her way around a glamoured mind. She could tell what was real and what was implanted.
Hadley’s surface memories were all false. Sophie-Anne had planted them the memories herself, Sookie could see that; she could barely wait for Hadley to spin her tale. But no matter what Hadley said, Sookie already knew the truth. Hadley had told Sophie-Anne all about her because she had lost her favor. Sophie-Anne had a new pet, and Hadley had been jealous. She had told the Queen all about her freakish cousin just so she could find her way back between her legs.
“I’m here with my husband,” Sookie answered finally, as she gently pushed Hadley away.
“Your husband!” Hadley exclaimed feigning shock. “You’re married? To who? When do I get to meet him?”
Sookie couldn’t restrain from rolling her eyes at Hadley’s dumb questions, “Yes, Hadley, I’m married,” she said, and she flashed her wedding rings at a cousin. She didn’t miss the flash of jealousy in Hadley eyes. Crossing the room, Sookie wrapped her arm around Eric’s waist. “I believe you’ve already met my husband,” she added, her lips curling into a smirk as she waited for whatever dumb thing her cousin was going to say next.
“But he’s a vampire,” Hadley blurted out like it was a shock, as she gaped at them.
“Jason was right, he is smarter than her,” Eric chuckled, as he placed his arm over Sookie’s shoulders.
“Yes, Hadley, Eric is a vampire,” Sookie replied slowly as if she was talking to a child.
“But he’s… they’re…” Hadley stuttered.
“I swear to God, Hadley, if you say evil, I will throw you out of here on your ass after I remind you that you have fresh bite marks on your neck,” Sookie growled.
Tears welled in Hadley’s eyes as she looked down. She wasn’t expecting Sookie to be so protective of Eric. She knew they were married, Sophie-Anne had told her that, but she hadn’t told her what their relationship was like. Sophie-Anne had told Hadley to sow seeds of doubt in Sookie’s mind about Eric. Sophie-Anne wanted Sookie away from Eric at any cost, and Hadley had promised to make it happen. The Queen had promised to turn her if she delivered Sookie to her before the summit was over, and Hadley didn’t intend to disappoint her.
“I’m sorry,” Hadley whimpered. “I know they’re not. I just wish I could’ve been there.”
Eric and Sookie exchange looks as Hadley played the ‘we are family’ card. Neither of them believed a word that came out of her lying lips. The two of them had a silent conversation as Hadley rattled on about the importance of family. Their eyes flicked from each other to Hadley and then back again. They knew what ever Sophie-Anne was up to: Hadley was in the middle of it.
Realizing that they were going to have to play dumb for a while, Sookie pasted on her ‘Crazy Sookie’ smile. She frowned briefly as she realized she hadn’t had to use that smile in quite a while; her vampires accepted her for what she was and she didn’t have to hide anymore. She quickly wiped the frown off her face before Hadley had the chance to see it. Not that she would, she was so consumed with reciting the importance of family that she wouldn’t have even noticed if Sookie and Eric left the room.
“And I know Gran would’ve…”
“I know,” Sookie interrupted, refusing to let Hadley tell her what their Gran would’ve wanted. Adele would’ve wanted a granddaughter who wasn’t planning on selling her cousin out for a pair of fangs. “Gran would’ve wanted to see all of her grandchildren before she died,” Sookie added, before she could stop herself. She couldn’t believe that after three years without a word Hadley had the nerve to try and lecture her on what Adele would’ve wanted.
“Gran’s dead?” Hadley said, showing the first sign of real emotion all night.
“Yes,” Sookie replied, not unkindly, but made no move to try and comfort her cousin. “She died a little over eighteen months ago.”
“Why didn’t anyone tell me?” Hadley cried.
“Are you looking for a reason other than we didn’t know where you were?” Sookie asked. “You ran away, Hadley. You robbed Gran and then took off. We didn’t know where you were to tell you.”
Hadley bit her tongue and swallowed her retort. She wanted to lash out at Sookie and blame her for everything that went wrong, but she couldn’t. She had a job to do. Pushing down her anger and hatred, she stared at Sookie. “I’m sorry,” she said insincerely. “I know I did wrong, but I just want a chance to make it up to you.”
“What are you even doing here?” Sookie asked, seeing Hadley’s apology for what it was.
“I work here,” Hadley replied with a beaming smile.
“Really? For how long?” Sookie questioned feigning interest as she tried to discover what Sophie-Anne’s plan was.
“Almost a year now,” Hadley lied, as she broke into her cover story of how she ended up at the hotel.
“That’s great, Hadley,” Sookie interrupted, “but I actually meant what are you doing here, in this room?”
“Oh,” Hadley giggled nervously, as she twirled a strand of hair around her finger. “I…erm…I…avampirecalledforadonor,” she added in a rush, as she lowered in faux embarrassment.
“You’re mistaken,” Sookie said, as she shook her head. “No one in this room called for a donor.”
Lifting her head, Hadley met Sookie’s eyes, “They did,” she replied almost apologetically, as she flicked her eyes to Eric briefly before returning her attention to Sookie. “The request came for a well endowed blonde about twenty minutes ago.”
“Hadley, I have been in this room with my resting husband all day. I was here when he rose fifteen minutes ago, no one called for room services,” Sookie said firmly. “You must have the room numbers mixed up.”
“That must be it,” Hadley replied tightly, unhappy that she couldn’t claim anything else. She had been told to go to the room by Andre himself to get started her little mission. “But now that I’m here, can I…”
“Do not even think about asking my husband if he wants to feed off you,” Sookie growled, interrupting Hadley before she had a chance to finish.
“I wasn’t,” Hadley denied, her eyes darting around the room wildly. “I was just gonna ask if you would like to get something to eat,” she added after a moment’s thought.
“I can’t at the moment,” Sookie replied, anger still leaking through into her tone. Despite the best efforts of Sophie-Anne and her children, Hadley’s mind was wide open to her, and she fought the urge to shake her head in disgust. “Me and Eric have an important meeting to attend.”
“Oh,” Hadley said dejectedly. “Can’t you cancel it?”
“No,” Sookie answered firmly. “It is far too important to miss.”
“Even more important than catching up with your cousin,” Hadley challenged, trying to guilt Sookie into staying with her and making it seem like Eric couldn’t control his pet.
“Yes,” Sookie stated plainly. “I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to catch up later, but for now I must attend the meeting.”
Hadley glared at Sookie but said nothing in reply. She couldn’t demand that Sookie spend time with her without revealing more of her hand. As she stared at her cousin, a feeling of hate rose up inside her. She despised Sookie for having the kind of life she had always dreamed about. It was clear from looking at them, that Eric and Sookie were very much in love. Hadley doubted that Sookie had to spread her legs to every vampire that Eric told her to, unlike her. Sophie-Anne enjoyed pimping Hadley out to almost every vampire who visited the palace. Hadley doubted there was a vampire who lived at court whom she hadn’t fucked. Hadley adored her mistress and would do anything for her, and if that meant fucking all four of her children at the same time then that was what she would do.
Not that she minded. Sophie-Anne never had to ask her twice or use glamour on her to get Hadley to do as she pleased. All it took was a snap of her fingers and Hadley would strip down naked and let anyone Sophie-Anne chose fuck her in any way her mistress desired. Sophie-Anne’s wants and desires were all that mattered, and her mistress wanted Sookie, so she would do anything in her power to make it happen. She didn’t care what Sookie felt or wanted. Before the summit was over Sookie would be Sophie-Anne’s newest pet and the palace’s newest whore. She only hoped Sophie-Anne would let her watch. She wanted to see her sweet little cousin broken down like the whore she knew Sookie really was.
“What about tomorrow?” Hadley asked, adopting a sweet tone.
“Sure,” Sookie replied somewhat stiffly, the images she was getting from Hadley’s head turning her stomach. “We can meet in the hotel restaurant, say around 1pm?”
“I look forward to it,” Hadley said almost giddily at the thought she’d get Sookie to herself for a few hours. It would give her the time she needed to start planting seeds of doubt in her cousin’s mind.
“I’ll see you then,” Sookie replied, dismissing Hadley as Eric opened the hotel room’s door. He arched a brow at his wife’s backstabbing cousin, silently telling her to get out.
Realizing she didn’t have a choice, Hadley let out a huff as she stomped to the door, she threw a sullen “Goodbye,” over her shoulder as she left.
“She is unbelievable,” Sookie growled, once she was sure Hadley was gone.
“What did you hear?” Eric asked, as he closed the small distance between them and pulled his angry wife into his arms.
“She’s complicit in it all,” Sookie informed him before taking a deep breath. “She’s been working here for almost three weeks now. Sophie-Anne thought we’d be less suspicious if we thought Hadley was just one of the donors at the hotel and not tied to her directly. Apparently the Queen knows the owner of this hotel, and he agreed to ’employee’ Hadley on a temporary basis…”
“What did he want in return?” Eric asked, interrupting her knowing no one in the vampire world did anything for free.
“Sex,” Sookie answered, lifting her head slightly. “I saw it all in Hadley’s head. The owner of this place, Christian Baruch, agreed to hire Hadley if both Sophie-Anne and Hadley would have sex with him. Hadley ‘thanks him‘ for the job every night after he rises and before he goes to rest.” Sookie shook her head in disgust as images of how Hadley thanked him played over in her mind.
Every night for the past three weeks Hadley would start the night on her knees sucking Baruch off and end it on all fours taking it from behind.
“From what I can gather Hadley is supposed to plant some seeds of doubts in my mind. She’s going to tell me how untrustworthy vampires are, how dangerous and sexual you all are.”
“Sophie-Anne can’t honestly expect that to work,” Eric remarked as he rubbed his hands over Sookie’s arms. Even though she already knew about Hadley’s betrayal, he could still feel pain coming from her.
“Who knows,” Sookie shrugged. “Given how she gifted you Yvetta, she could think I was already suspicious of you.”
“I suspect we will learn more after we meet with Sophie-Anne,” Eric said before dropping a soft kiss on top of Sookie’s head. “She is almost transparent in her actions. She thinks she is smarter than everyone around her.”
“Considering Hadley is usually glued to her side, I’d believe it as well,” Sookie snorted.
“Your cousin isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed,” Eric replied with a chuckle. “But we shouldn’t underestimate her; she is working for the Queen after all. I am not sure I like the idea of you meeting her for lunch on your own tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry,” Sookie said. “I had no intention of meeting Hadley alone. I’m sure Jason is just as eager to catch up with our cousin as well,” she added with a devious smile. “And of course the dae flowers will be having lunch at the next table.”
“Very good,” Eric praised. “Make sure you are not left alone with her at any time.”
“I will,” Sookie promised.
Noticing the time, Eric let out an unneeded breath as he gazed down at his wife. “Well, Lover, are you ready to meet the Queen?”
“If I say no can we go home?” Sookie asked hopefully.
“Unfortunately not,” Eric replied.
“Well, I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be then,” Sookie said with a shrug. “Lead the way…”