Despite all their best efforts, neither Eric nor Sookie – with the help of Pam and Desmond – could find a way out. Desmond had gone over the contract with a fine-toothed comb, looking for anything that could have gotten Eric and Sookie out of their predicament, and, unfortunately for them, the only loophole he found was one that could have been used before Eric pledged to Freyda. Desmond made a point to mention that to Eric: the lawyer, he had employed should have easily discovered the same loophole and the whole situation could have been avoided. The loophole had been so plain to see, Desmond believed that Eric’s lawyer had deliberately ignored it. He knew Eric would deal with the lawyer if he was still around, but Desmond couldn’t help but wonder why he hadn’t informed Eric about it. Had it been a simple oversight? Could Freyda have paid him off? Or was it something more sinister? Desmond wasn’t sure, but he found the whole thing suspect.
Appius’s sudden reappearance in Eric’s life, the contract he brokered with Freyda, the fairies moving in with Sookie, his own life suddenly being in danger, and him being forced to go on the run meant he couldn’t represent Eric and find said loophole. As far as Desmond was concerned, too much happened too quickly for it all to be a coincidence. He was sure someone had been manipulating them for quite a while, and he had a good idea who. He was convinced the prince of the fairies had played a part in all that had happened. Fintan hadn’t wanted Niall to be a part of his children’s or grandchildren’s lives for fear of what would happen – a fear it seemed had been justified. Given all he suspected, Desmond was happy that Sookie could now defend herself against the fairies; he was only sorry how that ability came about. He would have rather had her safe, unharmed, and with the Viking.
It had pained him greatly when he was forced to tell Sookie there was nothing he could do. From a legal standpoint, the pledging between Eric and Freyda was ironclad. It was clear to him that, despite her claims to the contrary, she had believed he would have found a way out for them. He would have given anything to tell her that her and Eric could be together again. Over the years he had come to care a great deal for the little telepath, treating her the same way he did his niece. One thing he knew, though: was he wasn’t giving up. There might not be anything he could do from a legal standpoint, but there were other methods, less-legal avenues he could explore. If there were a way for Eric to get out of the pledging, Desmond would find it.
Eric stared out the hotel window, taking in the Stockholm nightlife. The city was alive, pulsing with energy, energizing those who milled around, but Eric felt detached from it all. He could feel his millennium’s worth of living resting heavily on his shoulders. He had spent the last five nights doing everything he could to find a way out of the mess he found himself in so he could stay with Sookie, but without luck. He had promised Sookie he would find a way out and he intended to keep that promise, but he had foolishly believed he would be able to do it before he had to return to the US and re-consummate the pledging for another year. Now, as he stood in front of his hotel room window, the day before his wedding anniversary, he knew that wasn’t possible.
The thought of having to fuck Freyda again – even if it was his usual three thrusts – disgusted him. He didn’t want to touch her, to see her, or to even hear her shrill voice, but he knew if he didn’t return, she would have him brought before the council before he could blink. There was no telling what they would do. They could censure him, give his states to Freyda, chain him in silver, or worse, make him re-consummate in public before witnesses. Eric had no problem having sex in public, having done it hundreds of times, but he didn’t want anyone to witness him being forced to defile himself with her.
For the first time in a long time, Eric didn’t know what to do. He knew what he had to do, and what he wanted to do, but he didn’t know what to do. He had to return to the US. He had to play the role of King again, but he wasn’t sure he could. He couldn’t be the same King he was a week ago. Seeing Sookie again, holding her, touching her, being with her had reawakened a part of him that he had buried when she left. He didn’t want to go back and be the King; he wanted to stay with Sookie, even if he couldn’t actually be with her.
It was bad enough he had to have sex with Freyda; he wouldn’t disrespect Sookie by touching anyone else. But that could prove to be a problem. Since taking the throne, he had developed quite the reputation as a playboy King. His sexual appetite was quite the talking point among his subjects, his donor pool having to be constantly replenished due to both his use of them and his lack of regard for their feelings. He had never harmed any of them and never abused them physically or sexually. He had left quite a few of them sore after his use of them, but anything he had done to them had been with their consent. He had never cared for any of them. His words had often been harsh and biting. He had treated them like whores, using their bodies. He had made it clear from the beginning that his only interest in them was sex and blood. He didn’t care how their days were or what their families thought of them. He wasn’t looking for a pet or a companion. There was no chance of them getting ahead with him. The only thing he wanted from them was for them to get him off. A number of them had fooled themselves into believing he thought more of them than he did the others, that he cared for them, but he had always squashed those beliefs, and usually in the cruelest way possible. He had quite a few donors glamoured and thrown out of his palace for their delusions.
It wouldn’t take long for his disinterest and lack of use of his donors to spread. There would be those who would think it would be a sign of weakness: a vampire is supposed to feed and fuck; it is ingrained into their very being. Ones who didn’t were considered weak. There would be those who would think it would prove him unfit to rule three states. There would be a strong possibility that he’d find himself challenged. And if word got out that Sookie was the reason why, it would put them both in a great amount of danger – him for breaking the contract and Sookie for what she could do. But regardless of the danger he may face, he would never touch another, Sookie was his ‘real wife’ he would not disrespect or hurt her just to appease others. There were many in the supernatural world that coveted her for themselves; de Castro hadn’t been the only one who had an eye on her, but the only one who had made a play for her. A gifted telepath was something many vampire monarchs wanted, and without the bond, he couldn’t stop them from taking her, at least not without going to war. And then there was Freyda. Pam was right when she said she wouldn’t sit back and allow Sookie back in his life. There would be no telling the lengths she would go to in order to separate them again. Even though he knew all this, Eric still couldn’t let Sookie go; he had tried once and failed. To the outside world it might have looked liked he had moved on from her, but that was all a front.
Eric was pulled from his musings by the sound of Pam entering the hotel room. “Eric, the plane is scheduled to leave in a few hours. We have to go.”
“I am aware of that,” Eric replied, but made no move to leave.
“What about Sookie?” Pam asked, knowing his reluctance to leave stemmed from her.
“She is still refusing to leave,” Eric answered. “She claims she can defend herself.”
“Stubborn little fool,” Pam snarled. “She’s going to get herself killed. Is that what she wants?”
Eric had to admit he was starting to wonder the same thing, her constant refusal to leave, knowing the danger she was in, had him thinking she had a death wish. She had told him repeatedly she could defend herself, but so far he had seen no proof of that. She seemed to play fast and loose with her safety, always being the last to leave her bar and paying little attention to her surroundings. Eric had to wonder if she was doing it unintentionally or if she just didn’t care? Had what the fairies done to her broken her? He feared the answer to that question.
“We should just take her back to Louisiana with us,” Pam added. “We can arrange guards for her to be safe.”
“I am sure she would love that,” Eric replied sarcastically, “being kidnapped and held prisoner.”
“She’d be safe,” Pam argued.
“For how long?” Eric countered. “If we were to kidnap and take her home, how long do you think she would stay with us? I could not and would not hold her against her will indefinitely. She would never forgive me. As soon as I dealt with the Freyda threat, I would let her go and she would leave, and I doubt I would find her again.”
“She would be safe,” Pam argued again.
“She would hate me.”
“So you would rather her be in love with you and in danger, than alone and safe.”
“She wouldn’t be safe, though, Pam,” Eric replied sharply, not appreciating Pam’s questioning. ”You are not foolish enough to believe Freyda is the only threat to her, are you? They are others who seek to use her, exploit her for her abilities. She would be safer with me, but I will not force her to do something she doesn’t want to.”
“Even if it gets her killed?”
“Taking her back to Louisiana without her permission is not an option, Pam,” Eric stated firmly.
“No,” he growled.
Pam bit back her words, knowing she had pushed him to his limit. “She’d probably stake us anyway.”
“I wouldn’t want to face her anger if we did; I will say that,” Eric said. He knew Pam was only trying to help and he was grateful, but as much as it pained him, he wouldn’t take the decision out of Sookie’s hands. He wouldn’t force her back to Louisiana with him if she didn’t want to leave. Too many people had already taken from her without her consent; he wouldn’t be one of them.
“So what are we going to do?” Pam asked.
“I spoke with the demon. He assured me he and his niece will watch out for Sookie and try and keep her safe while I deal with Freyda. It is all I can do at the moment, but for now I wish to see her one last time before I am forced to leave.”
“May I accompany you?” Pam asked. She wanted to see Sookie again; the two of them hadn’t gotten off to the best start that first night in the bar. They had clashed and Pam had soon realized that Sookie was right in saying she wasn’t the same girl she had been. Pam found herself liking the new Sookie as much as she liked the old one, and like Eric, wanted her back in their lives. The two of them hadn’t had a chance to clear the air properly and Pam wanted to. If Eric found a way to deal with Freyda and be with Sookie again, Pam didn’t want past dissent to interfere with their friendship.
“Of course,” Eric answered, surprised she was even asking. “Sookie will be at the bar by now.”
After checking out of the hotel, Eric informed the driver, who Pam had booked to take them to the airport, to take them to Sookie’s bar first. Eric paid little attention to the scenery that passed him by as the driver maneuvered them through the streets of Stockholm, his mind focused solely on Sookie. He had spent most of the last few nights with her. They had spent hours talking, catching up on all they had missed. She told him what her life had been like since she left Bon Temps, but even as she told him, Eric knew she was holding a lot back. Whether it was through fear, shame, or the need to protect him, he didn’t know. Eric had spent more than one night with her held securely in his arms while she told him all the places she had been and the things she’d seen. Despite how much he wanted to, he hadn’t had sex with her again since that first night. He had craved her, but despite some heated kisses and one very good blowjob, nothing else had happened. It wasn’t that neither of them wanted it. They did. But they had decided that until they could be together properly, they would wait. They wanted it all, and they didn’t want to have to hide what they were, what they meant to each other. Eric refused to sneak around and hide Sookie. He wouldn’t treat her like she was his dirty little secret; he wouldn’t make her feel like she was his mistress. She wasn’t a whore, and he would be damned if he treated her like one.
The two of them had said their goodbyes the night before, but Eric needed to see her again. He needed to touch her, to hold her, and to kiss her. As they drew nearer to the bar, a sense of unease crept up on him. He didn’t need to see the bar to know something was wrong. He could feel it, or rather, he couldn’t. He couldn’t feel Sookie. He hadn’t noticed it earlier, something he berated himself for, but the bond he shared with Sookie was empty. He wasn’t feeling anything from her. He knew she was still alive – how he knew, he didn’t know – but something deep down inside told him she was. Maybe it was just wishful thinking on his part, but he was clinging to it.
The car hadn’t even stopped before Eric leapt out of it and took off in the direction of the bar. He could feel Pam hot on his heels, but he paid her little attention as he busted through the door to the bar, ignoring the police officer blocking it. No one was going to stop him from entering. The sight that greeted him caused his heart to seize in his chest. The bar had been ransacked. Tables were upturned, chains knocked over, and bottles of alcohol smashed. Broken glass littered the floor. Eric felt dread wash over him when his eyes landed on the broken body of a young man lying in the middle of the bar. From where he stood, Eric could tell he was dead, his neck having been snapped. A quick scent of the air told him the dead man was a werewolf. He looked around desperately in search of Sookie, but even as he looked he knew he wouldn’t find her, she wasn’t there.
“Excuse me, you shouldn’t be in here,” a voice said, drawing his attention.
“What happened?” Eric asked, his eyes settling on the blond-haired police officer.
“I’m not at liberty to say.”
“Then find me someone who is,” Eric growled.
“Who’re you?” the police officer, asked eying Eric suspiciously.
“Eric,” he heard someone call, before he had a chance to reply.
“Desmond,” Eric replied as he turned away from the police officer. He crossed the bar towards the demon lawyer, leaving Pam to deal with the officer who was calling after him. “What happened? Where’s Sookie?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t heard from her since last night. As to what happened, it is unclear. There seem to be conflicting theories. All I know is that Sookie has been missing since early this morning. One of the waitresses reported this when she came into work this afternoon,” Desmond said, his eyes flicking over the many police officers milling around the bar disdainfully.
“What theories?” Eric growled.
“Well, it seems that young officer that Pam is talking to thinks this is a simple case of robbery, despite nothing being taken and Sookie being missing. He seemed quite adamant about this,” Desmond replied. “Detective Regan believes otherwise.”
“What does she think?” Eric asked, glaring at the detective who was interviewing one of the waitresses.
“She believes, given Sookie’s reputation, that she was kidnapped by either a spurred lover or a jealous wife or girlfriend,” Desmond answered, not bothering to sugar coat his words. “She’s under the impression that Sookie has gotten what she deserved, due to her promiscuous nature.”
Eric growled at the woman across the room. It took centuries of control to stop him from stalking across the room and snapping the woman’s neck.
“She isn’t far off,” Pam said as she joined them, having gotten all she needed from the young police officer. “I would say a jealous wife is behind this.”
“Pam,” Eric growled in warning.
“Come on, Eric, we know she’s behind this,” Pam argued.
“I would have to agree,” Desmond added. “Although I am curious how she managed it. Most find it difficult to get within even touching distance of Sookie these days.” Seeing Eric and Pam’s skeptical looks, he added, “Just because you don’t believe her when she says she can protect herself, doesn’t mean she isn’t telling the truth.”
“Doesn’t this place have any surveillance cameras?” Pam asked, not wanting to get into another argument about Sookie being able to protect herself. As far as she was concerned, her being kidnapped was proof she couldn’t.
“It does, but it seems there was some kind of error and they didn’t capture the incident,” Desmond answered, not hiding the suspicion in his voice.
“You think whoever took her had help from the inside?” Eric asked, rejoining the conversation.
“We know who took her,” Pam snarled.
“We know, or suspect who they were working for,” Eric countered. “In case you haven’t realized Pam, Sookie was taken this morning, while the sun was up, so she couldn’t have done it personally. We need to know who she hired, who took her, so we can find her.”
“I find it unlikely that they had help from the inside,” Desmond said, answering Eric’s original question. “Sookie reads her employees regularly. She would have known if she had a spy in her midst. I am more intrigued by the young officer over there. It seems he had decided it was a robbery before he even stepped foot in the bar. In fact, he was the first one on the scene with his partner.”
“You think he’s involved?” Eric asked.
“I do,” Desmond admitted. “In fact, I know he is.”
“How do you know?” Eric questioned.
“We all have our secrets Eric,” Desmond replied cryptically. “What I will tell you is that he wiped the surveillance footage, as he was paid to do. He doesn’t know where she is, or what is going to happen to her. He was just paid to cover her disappearance. He was supposed to make it look just like a robbery.”
“He doesn’t know where she is? Where she was taken?” Pam asked.
“No, his only role was to do the clean up,” Desmond answered. “But we do know where she is, or where she is heading at least.”
“Oklahoma,” Eric growled.
“That would be my guess. I would guess Freyda wouldn’t go to all the trouble of finding and kidnapping her if she wasn’t going to use her against you,” Desmond said. “Which means she is probably still alive. For now at least.”
“Yes, Freyda will try to use Sookie to get you to do as she wants,” Pam added. “She will probably threaten to hurt her if you don’t do as she wishes.”
“I will kill her,” Eric swore. “If she hurts her in any way, I will rip her apart.”
“I suggest you both return to the US right away,” Desmond urged. “Find Sookie before it’s too late. I will deal with everything here.”
Eric was halfway out the bar before Desmond had even finished speaking. He jumped back into the car and ordered the driver to get them to the airport as quickly as possible, his mind once again fixed on Sookie. He cursed himself and her. He should have done as Pam suggested and just taken Sookie. She might have hated him for it, but at least she would have been safe. He knew the threat she faced, and he had done nothing but warn her about it. He had foolishly left her on her alone and unprotected. It was like what happened with the fairies all over again. As they sped through the streets of Stockholm, Eric swore if Freyda hurt her in any way she would pay. He didn’t care about the consequences or what it would cost him. He would tear Freyda limb from limb, and nothing and no one would stop him.