Hushed whispers broke out in the room at Sookie’s accusation. Many of the Supes present craned their heads to get a better look at Sophie-Anne to see how she was going to react to Sookie’s claim.
Sophie-Anne stared at Sookie with wide-eyed shock. Her thoughts were a panicked jumble as she struggled to calm herself. This can’t be happening.
“How dare you accuse your Queen of such a thing?” she shouted, deciding to go on the offensive. She was a Queen, their Queen, and she’d be damned if she would cower before a lowly human and her Sheriff. “I demand an apology right this minute,” she added in a huff as she rose to her feet. “No…” she continued, holding up her hand. “An apology won’t make this right. You have disrespected and insulted your Queen. I won’t stay here and listen to more of your petty lies and accusations.”
“Louisiana Queen, you are not going anywhere,” The Ancient Pythoness said, rejoining the proceedings. “This trial is not over yet; no one is permitted to leave until the truth has been uncovered, and the verdict delivered. Retake your seat.”
Sophie-Anne bristled as she reluctantly took her seat. As much as she would have liked to have stormed out, she knew she couldn’t. No one who disobeyed the Ancient One had lived to tell the tale.
“Mrs. Northman, are you positive that the orders came from the Queen of Louisiana?” Roman asked. He had no doubt they did, but they had to cover all bases and present the case.
“I am,” Sookie answered, her tone firm. “She received them before sunrise this morning in the Queen’s hotel room. The Queen and her second, Andre, were present…”
“She’s lying,” Hadley interrupted, trying to protect her mistress. “No one ordered me to go into her hotel room. Eric wanted me. He wanted a good fuck for a change…”
“Shut the fuck up, Hadley!” Sookie snapped, rounding on her cousin. “Every word that comes outta your mouth is a lie. Eric didn’t and doesn’t want you. Why would he want what half the vampires in the US have already had?”
“Hey!” Hadley cried indignantly. “That’s not true. You’re just jealous…”
“Jealous?” Sookie scoffed, interrupting Hadley delusion ranting. “What have I gotta be jealous about? I have a vampire, a man who loves me. What have you got? A vampire who pimps you out and uses you to get what she wants.”
Sophie-Anne seethed with anger as she listened to Sookie insult her. It took all her restraint to not to stand up and put the little blood bag in her place. Sophie-Anne swore she would make Sookie sorry for her words. No one talked about her that way.
Tears pricked Hadley’s eyes as Sookie revealed a few home truths. Anger, shame, and hatred welled inside her. She wanted to lash out and hurt Sookie, but there was nothing she could say to hurt her now. She didn’t think telling Sookie that she fucked the guy who had asked her to the prom, senior year of high school only to stand her up would hurt her now. Sookie was right; she did have a vampire who loved her. Hadley would’ve liked nothing more than to fuck him, but that was unlikely. He had turned her down and seemed to hate her.
“I hate you!” Hadley screamed.
Reacting on instinct, Sookie curled her hand into a fist and lashed out, punching Hadley on her healed nose. Hisses spread through the room as the scent of her blood hit the air, and Hadley fell to the floor. Before anyone had a chance to react, Eric was across the room, pulling Sookie to him, a growl tearing from his throat as he issued a warning to any vampire who was even thinking about acting on the smell of blood.
“I believe things have gotten a little out of hand,” Dieter said with a smirk, enjoying himself for once.
“She attacked me,” Hadley mumbled as she held a hand to her rebroken nose. “I want her punished as the…”
“Queen’s pet?” Sookie supplied helpfully, moving to stand beside Eric in a show of strength. She wanted to show everyone there, she wasn’t a pet. She was his wife, his partner; she wouldn’t cower in his arms.
“I’m not the Queen’s pet!” Hadley hissed, biting back her words.
“Oh really?” Sookie snorted.
“Perhaps we should ask the Queen if Ms. Delahoussey is her pet.” Roman suggested, as he leaned back in his chair. “She has yet to deny or confirm it.”
“Louisiana Queen, step forward,” The Ancient Pythoness ordered, turning her milky white eyes to Sophie-Anne.
Rising to her feet, Sophie-Anne took small steps towards the platform, her head held high as Andre flanked her. She bowed before the judges before straightening her back and waited.
“Queen Leclerq, is Ms. Delahoussey your pet?” Roman asked, cutting straight to the chase. But even as he waited for her answer he already knew the truth and that she would lie. Sophie-Anne wouldn’t admit any wrongdoing. She would hang both Hadley and Bill out to dry to save her own ass.
“No, she is not,” Sophie-Anne answered with a small smile. “While she is no doubt agreeable to the eyes, I have no claim on her.”
“Okay,” Sookie said with a shake of her head before anyone else had a chance to say anything. Turning to face the vampires who were all eagerly watching the proceedings, “How many vampires here present have visited the Queen’s residence in Louisiana and seen my dumb cousin there?”
Godric bit back a laugh as he watched his datter take charge of the trial. As he watched her he had to admit his child could not have picked a better mate.
“Now there’s no need to be shy,” she continued. “Although I’m not sure shy and vampires go together. Raise your hands…” Sookie grinned as she saw a few vampires begin to raise their hands, and then more. By the time they were finished over a third of the vampires had raised their hands. “You were saying?”
Sophie-Anne grit her teeth as Sookie challenged her. She couldn’t believe the judges, the Council, were allowing a human to speak to her in such a way. “I was saying I have no claim to her now,” Sophie-Anne corrected with a stiff smile. “It’s true that for a while Hadley was my pet, but that relationship ended over a year ago when your cousin decided she wanted to leave. I’m not in the habit of keeping people against their wishes. So when Hadley told me she wished to leave, although I was sad to see her go, I didn’t stop her.”
“And Mrs. Northman’s claim that Ms. Delahoussey was in your hotel room before sunrise this morning?” Roman asked. He had to hand it to Sophie-Anne; she was certainly thinking on her feet. If he didn’t know she was lying, he might have been inclined to believe her.
“I’m afraid she’s mistaken. I haven’t seen Hadley since she left my palace in New Orleans,” Sophie-Anne lied quite convincingly. “In fact, I wasn’t even aware she was working here at the hotel.”
“I see,” Roman replied with a nod. “Ms. Delahoussey, how long have you been working at the hotel?”
“Nearly a year,” Hadley answered, her voice croaky.
“Mrs. Northman?” Roman prompted.
“Three weeks,” Sookie answered.
“She’s lying!” Hadley cried. “’Cause she hates me.”
“Perhaps Mr. Baruch will be kind enough to clear up the confusion,” Dieter suggested. “Tell us, Mr. Baruch, how long has Ms. Delahoussey been working for your hotel?”
Christian Baruch eyes flicked from the judges to Sophie-Anne as he wondered what the hell he had gotten himself into. When he agreed to employ Hadley at the hotel, he had done so in an attempt to get closer to Sophie-Anne. He held no real affection for her, but she was a queen, and it could only benefit him. But now he had to wonder if that was actually true. It seemed to him all it had done was bring him trouble. He had breached the security of his hotel when he ordered Cameron to give Hadley the hotel key to Eric and Sookie’s room, all for the satisfaction of a few hours between the legs of Sophie-Anne and Hadley? But admitting that would only bring him more trouble than he could handle. To save his own skin, he would have to continue to back the Queen up. He couldn’t reveal that he was aiding Sophie-Anne in her schemes.
“Hadley has been working for me for just over eleven months now,” he lied.
Sophie-Anne smiled smugly as Christian backed her up. It was now Sookie’s word against theirs, and no one would believe a blood bag over a vampire. And a vampire queen at that. The whole thing would soon be over and she could continue with her plan to claim Sookie for herself. After the humiliation she suffered that night, Sophie-Anne swore she would make Sookie sorry. She would start with a public apology. Sookie embarrassed her in front of everyone so it would only be fair that she should suffer the same fate.
Sookie rolled her eyes at the arrogance rolling off Sophie-Anne. It was clear to her that the Queen thought she was in the clear, and Sookie couldn’t wait to wipe the smile off her face.
“I see,” Roman said after a moment’s pause. He wasn’t surprised that Christian had backed up Sophie-Anne. He was a weasel of a vampire, always trying to attain power he had no idea how to wield. “So just to be clear, Mr. Baruch, you‘re stating before this trial and its judges that Ms. Delahoussey has been working for you for just over eleven months now?”
“I am,” Christian replied with a nod.
“And Queen Leclerq, you’re stating that Ms. Delahoussey left your side and residence a year ago? And that, unlike Mrs. Northman claims, you haven’t had any contact with her in that year, and she wasn’t in your hotel room just before sunrise today?”
“That is exactly what I’m saying,” Sophie-Anne purred. “The Sheriff’s pet is mistaken. Or perhaps I should rephrase that into saying she’s just plain lying,” she added, casting Sookie and Eric a withering look as she crossed her arms over her chest.
Eric growled at the accusation against his wife, his fangs clicking down as he stared at Sophie-Anne. “Sookie, as you have been told repeatedly, is my wife, not my pet,” he said, his tone unyielding.
“A wife I didn’t give you permission to take,” Sophie-Anne retorted smartly, thinking she had once again gained the upper hand. “You married her without my permission.”
“Is that true?” Salome asked, a calculating look entering her eyes as she ran them over the couple.
“No,” Eric answered, wrapping his arm around Sookie’s waist as he saw the look in Salome’s eyes. “As I told Sophie-Anne the night she demanded my presence in New Orleans, I sought her permission to marry, and Sophie-Anne approved it before I submitted the paperwork with the council.”
“And the council approved them,” Godric interjected, stepping forward again. “I personally approved the paperwork, and I can attest to the fact that not only was Queen Sophie-Anne’s signature on the papers, so was her royal seal. The marriage between Eric the Norseman and Sookie Northman is binding.”
He, like Eric, had also noticed the calculating look in Salome’s eyes and Godric didn’t like it one bit. He wouldn’t let Salome interfere in their relationship. And if she thought she could, she would soon find out how wrong she was.
“I never signed them,” Sophie-Anne argued petulantly. “I would never consent to him marrying my telepath.”
“The proof of your royal seal says otherwise,” Roman countered. “But that holds no bearing on the situation here…”
“If I may,” Desmond interjected, rejoining the proceedings. He had been content to sit back and let Sookie handle it, but Roman had presented him with an opening and he intended to take it.
“Of course, Mr. Cataliades,” Roman said with a wave of his hand offering the demon lawyer the floor.
Desmond stepped around the table as he tugged on the bottom of his jacket. “Queen Sophie-Anne’s continued ignorance of the marriage of her Sheriff and Mrs. Northman does play a factor in the proceedings here this evening,” he said. “In fact, she is just as responsible for the attack on Mrs. Northman as the vampire Compton…”
“Lies!” Sophie-Anne spat, rounding on the demon lawyer. “How dare you accuse me of such a thing? I am a Queen and I demand respect.”
“Respect is earned, not demanded,” Desmond informed her coolly. “And I dare accuse you because it’s the truth.”
“Do you have proof of your accusations?” Salome asked.
“I do,” Desmond replied, as he flicked through the papers on the table that had been provided for him. Picking up the typed reports of the various phone calls Eric had transcribed of Sophie-Anne and Bill discussing procuring the telepath, he handed them to the trial judges as well as the USB drive containing the original recordings. “The evidence I have just handed you was collected by Eric the Norseman by placing the house of Bill Compton under surveillance…”
“What?” Bill shouted, rejoining the proceedings as he jumped to his feet. “Northman had no right to bug my house. It’s an invasion of my privacy.”
“As your Sheriff, the Norseman had every right to place your house under surveillance if he suspected your presence in his area could prove to be trouble,” Desmond countered. “The first night you moved into his area you broke his rules. It was clear you couldn’t be trusted, so he took the necessary precautions.”
Bill snarled, but said nothing in reply. He shot a glare in Eric’s direction before retaking his seat. So lost in his hatred of Eric, Bill never realized the full implications of what he had just discovered. He had never really thought about how Eric got the footage of him and Candy. If he had, he might have realized just how screwed he was.
Roman, Dieter, and Salome read through the written transcripts as they waited for Quinn to fetch them a laptop so they could hear the recordings. It was just a few minutes later when Quinn returned with the laptop. He placed it in of front of Roman before stepping back.
Picking up the USB drive, Roman powered the laptop up and plugged in the small memory device. A silence descended over the room before the unmistakable voices of Sophie-Anne and Bill were heard coming from the computer.
“Bill, please tell me you have secured my telepath,” Sophie-Anne said, her tone soft and breezy.
“Unfortunately, not yet,” Bill replied. “Northman, as you can imagine, is proving to be a problem. He is possessive when it comes to the telepath, almost controlling you could say. He refuses to let anyone but his child anywhere near her.”
“That is not good to hear, but not unexpected,” Sophie-Anne huffed.
“I’m confident if I could speak to Sookie without the Sheriff around I could make leeway,” Bill continued. “Northman treats her little better than a fangbanger,” he added, lying. “He parades her around his bar covered in his scent for all to smell. She doesn’t seem too bright. She is currently hesitant around me because Northman has no doubt told her she can’t trust anyone but him and his child. If I had the opportunity I’m positive I could gain her trust and get her to leave Northman willingly.”
“I see,” Sophie-Anne mused. “I suppose I can demand the presence of my Sheriff for a few nights. I would like to know why he thought he could get married without informing me or asking for my permission.”
“Thank you, my Queen,” Bill replied.
“I shall demand his presence in court this weekend,” Sophie-Anne said. “You will have two nights to gain the telepath’s trust. Do not fail me.”
“I won’t. My Queen,” Bill promised. “The telepath is yours.”
“You get her to leave Northman willingly and I might be inclined to let you have the first taste of her,” Sophie-Anne said.
“The Queen is too kind,” Bill replied.
“Make it happen, Bill,” Sophie-Anne ordered.
Anger-filled growls flowed through the room as the recording ended. The vampires of Louisiana were letting both Sophie-Anne and Bill know just how unhappy they were at the treatment of the Sheriff’s wife and their Mistress.
“She is not fit to be a queen,” Thalia growled, her voice carrying over the crowd. She knew of the plan to steal her mistress away, but it was the first she had actually heard the audio footage. She was furious that they would talk about her mistress in such a way. Sookie was the first friend she ever remembered having, and she swore to the Greek Gods of old, she would deal with it herself if the trial didn’t go in the favor of her Sheriff and Mistress.
Sophie-Anne blanched under the piercing glare of Thalia. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t ever considered that Bill’s phone might have been tapped. It was clear to everyone present that she had tried to steal Sookie for herself, but Sophie-Anne still held on to the foolish belief she could get out of it somehow.
While Sophie-Anne was holding onto foolish hope, Bill knew he was well and truly screwed. He knew there was little chance of him getting away with any of it. His only hope was for Sophie-Anne to admit that she ordered him to procure the telepath by any means necessary. One look at the queen told him she would never do that. She would sacrifice him to save herself. Even knowing that, Bill still couldn’t find it in himself to speak against her. To do so would be considered an act of treason in the eyes of the other vampires. He knew speaking out against her wouldn’t help him. He just hoped that she would be able to get out of the mess she found herself in and somehow find a way to get Sookie away from Eric. He wanted them both to suffer.
“I think it’s safe to say the accusations are not without merit,” Roman said as he turned off the laptop. “The evidence against both Mr. Compton and Queen Leclerq is plain for us all to see, or in this case, hear. Do you have anything to say in your defense, Mr. Compton?” he asked, giving Bill the chance to implicate Sophie-Anne further.
“No,” Bill mumbled, his head low as he avoided eye contact with the Council.
Godric shook his head at the pathetic sight Bill made. He had been aware of everything already, but he still found it disturbing to hear Sophie-Anne and Bill talk about his datter in such a way. Sookie wasn’t a trinket to be collected or currency to barter with. She was a beautiful young woman who his child loved more than anything.
“The real issue here is the Louisiana Queens’ involvement in the attempted procurement of Mrs. Northman,” Roman said, turning his gaze to Sophie-Anne. “As you are all aware the procurement of humans is against vampire law. The practice, while regrettably permitted in the past, was outlawed many years ago. The Council has no tolerance for those who are found guilty of such disgusting behavior. The penalty for those who are found guilty of such practice is grave. In the interest of fairness, we will give Sophie-Anne Leclerq the chance to defend herself. Louisiana Queen,” Roman added, his voice rising above room. “You have heard accusations made against you. And you as well as the rest of us have listened to the audio footage Eric the Norseman gained by placing the house of the vampire Compton under surveillance. You’re aware of the accusations against you. What do you have to say for yourself?”