“Eric? Sam Merlotte is here to see you,” Pam stood framed in the doorway to my office, her pink cashmere sweater draped shoulders shaking with mirth. “I told him to go fuck himself, but he insists. There is some trouble with Sookie…yet again.”
I had just risen for the evening and already had to deal with the disagreeable Merlotte. If I knew Sookie, she would use our break-up to run straight into his arms, the last man standing. I wanted her to be happy, but that didn’t mean I had to like it. It also didn’t mean I wouldn’t do anything in my power to help her in any way I could.
“Show him in and try not to eat him on the way.” She just shrugged and went to fetch the dog. I straightened my black Armani suit and affected an air of complete nonchalance. He didn’t need to know how much I still cared. Though Merlotte never liked me, obviously, he would be able to give Sookie the life she wanted. I was pretending to be busy with something on the computer when he walked through my office door. I minimized the picture of Sookie I was actually looking at and raised my eyes to meet his.
“Eric, good evening,” Merlotte began as his hands twitched in front of him. At least he was pretending civility despite the fact that I could smell his disgust at having to appear before me to ask for anything. This could be interesting.
“Merlotte, please sit.” I gestured to the uncomfortable wooden chair that placed him slightly lower than me. “What brings you to Fangtasia tonight? There is this modern invention called the telephone that you might have used instead.”
“Hold a moment while I put on my surprised face.” I must admit I was enjoying his discomfort. He seemed overly concerned with the edging on my desk. I continued, “I don’t believe that Ms. Stackhouse is any of my concern anymore, which she made abundantly clear last evening. What could possibly have happened since last I saw our little fairy?”
“She’s been arrested for the murder of Arlene Fowler.” Merlotte finally looked me in the eye and I knew it was bad. I had to remind myself: I was affecting an air of nonchalance. I wanted to fly screaming from Shreveport and rescue her. My dear Sookie should never spend any time confined behind bars.
“And…” I raised an eyebrow. “I wonder how she could have been so sloppy. I have taught her much in our time together.” Merlotte’s body tensed and I could taste his anger scenting the air.
“Eric, you heartless bastard, I knew you were a prick, but I never thought you’d take it out on Sookie.” His teeth gritted together and I could tell he wanted to hit me.
“Well you thought wrong. Ms. Stackhouse rescinded my invitation to her home; therefore I rescind my invitation for protection.”
“Oh truly? This is a wonderful change of events.” Freyda’s words dripped with danger as she sauntered into my office. I knew that tone, I used it quite often. I rose out of my chair and bowed before her while my mind raced. Fuck, this was not good, not good at all. I didn’t mind if Merlotte thought I was an asshole, but this was quite a different story. I knew Merlotte would never hurt Sookie.
“Your Majesty, I wasn’t expecting you for a few more hours. We aren’t quite prepared for you yet.” I rose as she took my seat behind the desk. She clicked on the minimized screen. Double fuck. I pretended not to notice as I stood like a soldier at attention awaiting instructions.
“Oh, I came early to ensure that all was going according to plan. That matters not. Who is this man who begs help for your Sookie Stackhouse?” Her voice was friendly, but I knew better. I hadn’t lived this long by underestimating my opponents.
“This is Sam Merlotte, Sookie’s employer.”
“Business partner,” Merlotte was quick to amend. He just loved to remind me that he had been able to give her something that she never would have accepted from me. I wanted to crush his skull, but that would not do.
“Oh yes, business partner. Sam this is the Freyda, Queen of Oklahoma.” I only hoped that Merlotte realized the danger that sat across from him.
“Your Majesty, I am pleased to meet you. It seems Sookie has found herself in a situation, but it is nothing to bother you with. I’ll just come back…later.” Merlotte was obviously as uncomfortable with the Queen as I was. At least he was using his brain. He needed to leave here, sooner rather than later.
“There will be no later for you to speak with Mr. Northman. He will be busy with preparations for his move to Oklahoma. And I find myself utterly intrigued by your debasement of yourself by coming to ask a man you can barely stand for a favor. But if Eric does not feel the need to protect her anymore, I might have use for her. De Castro, come in here, I have some pleasant news for us.” So Felipe De Castro, the King of Nevada, was here early as well. The situation worsened with every revelation.
“Freyda,” his smooth accent flowing into the room sent my body further into alert mode. “What is this pleasant news of which you speak?” I could see his grin forming with anticipation.
“Well Eric here has relinquished his protection of Ms. Stackhouse, which I would have required anyway. No need to tempt him with what he will never have again. I am sure you are happy to hear that there is no reason you can’t take her with you when you return to Nevada. I am sure you would be quite grateful, would you not?” The Queen was enjoying this as much as I was not. It was getting harder to control the rage that threatened to overwhelm me.
“Oh Freyda, this is a great boon for the state of Nevada. There are so many uses I have for a telepath.”
Merlotte, who had, up until this point, been frozen in disbelief at the turn the conversation had taken, jumped up, his body tense and ready for a fight.
“Never,” I growled as my fangs lowered and my rage broke through. “You will use Sookie over my dead body.”
“Never forget that that can be arranged Eric,” the Queen purred smoothly, “but it would be such a waste of a fine specimen of a body that I intend to use for my own purposes.”
I wanted to throttle the bitch. Could Merlotte and I take her? No, this was not the time. I needed to defuse this situation and quickly. It would be no help to Sookie if both Merlotte and I were killed tonight. I tried to calm myself.
“Sam, perhaps if you would be kind enough to reveal what you came here for, then perhaps the rest of us can move along with our evening. Don’t worry; I will never permit anything to happen to Sookie.” I glared at him hoping he would take the hint and calm down. De Castro looked pleased as he stood at Freyda’s side. I knew I was playing right into their hands, but there was nothing to be done about it now.
“Yes, of course, forgive me your Majesties. I find that I am overly protective of Sookie.” They nodded to him though I could see the calculations in their eyes. “As I was saying, Sookie has been arrested for murder and I came to ask Eric for a loan. I find myself unable to bail her out myself, and I was refused by Bill Compton. It seems that he would prefer to play the hero himself, but I don’t want her mixed up in vampire business anymore.” Of course Bill wanted to be the one to bail out Sookie. I’m sure he was thinking she would fall right back into his bed. That I could not even contemplate. There is no way in hell I would allow it.
“Of course Sam, I would be happy to help.” I was in a hurry to end this conversation.
“Ahh Eric, I don’t think you realize your predicament here. Everything yours is mine now, and I don’t think I want you to help her. She’d be much too useful to the vampire community.” Freyda look pleased with herself.
I wracked my brain for a solution. “I will stay with you for an extra hundred years if you will give me your permission to give Sam the money.” For once the Queen looked shocked. I wanted to scream at her. She already knew I still cared and she was a fool if she thought there was any way I’d let Sookie be used by either of them.
“Yet another interesting turn of events don’t you think Felipe?” The King just nodded and smiled. I couldn’t wait to rip the smirk from his face. “You would sell yourself for another century to help this human girl?” She glanced at Felipe with a knowing look.
De Castro looked smug. “Yes my dear Freyda, this is intriguing. His loyalty will be an asset to you; I can see now why you want him. Besides the obvious, of course.” He gestured at my body as if I were a piece of meat. “But however will you control him? His love for the human has shown that it tends to be…ahh…a risk to our kingdoms. You must know that he will attempt to overthrow us at the first possible opportunity.”
The Queen nodded her assent, “I had considered that.” She paused and contemplated the situation. “Eric, in return for me permitting you to help your little fairy, you will never see her again, nor she you. She will also be forbidden to step foot into Oklahoma, Nevada, or Fangtasia under the pain of death. We can’t have her and Pam coming up with a rescue plan for you, now can we?” Freyda looked pleased with herself. If she only knew that I had no plans to allow Pam or Sookie to attempt to rescue me.
“Agreed, but I need a few more assurances of her safety. She is never to be harmed by any vampire: not harassed, nor tasted, killed, or made a servant. She will also be guarded by my child Karin every night for ten years. She seems able to make many enemies with ease.” I hoped I wasn’t pushing too far, but I couldn’t stop. “I would also humbly ask, not require, that Pam be made Sheriff in my place.” Sookie needed as much protection as I could give her.
“Agreed. She will never be harmed, in any way, by any vampire under the rule of either Felipe or I, but I only agree to allow Karin to protect her for one year. We may have need of one with her skills. As for child, Pamela Ravenscroft, we need to be able to keep an eye on her anyway, so she will be the new Sheriff of Area five in your place.”
Shit, only one year, but hopefully that wouldn’t matter if my plan worked out. If it didn’t, there’d be no amount of protection Karin could offer Sookie anyway.
“I agree, but for one more thing…Merlotte?” Sam came out of the haze his mind had wrapped around itself. He looked at me, waiting for me to continue. “You must agree never to pursue Sookie romantically. You won’t even let her know that you are the one who put up her bail money.”
That should ensure that when she found out Sookie would go running into his arms. She never could do what she was told, no matter if it was for her own good. I’d arrange for Bill to tell her. He’d take joy in the power the knowledge would give him. He would ensure that I came off as the villain. Whatever, let him think what he must, as long as Sookie was safe. I wouldn’t allow her to go back to Compton, but Sam would protect her, and give her the life she desired.
“Are we understood Merlotte?” Letting her go left a rotten taste in my mouth, but I had no choice, it was what she wanted.
He spit out the words as if they burned his tongue. “I agree. I will never act on my feelings for Sookie.”
“Then you may go. I will send Mustapha to her arraignment. You will give him any details that are pertinent. There is nothing more to be said except, I guess, good riddance.” I clasped his hand tightly and hoped he realized one day what I done for him tonight.
“Goodbye Eric. I’d say it has been a pleasure, but you know I’d be lying.” And with that, the man who would love my woman exited my life.
“I’ve been quite patient with your little romantic entanglement long enough. I want to sign the papers now, and then I want to enjoy my victory.” The Queen straightened her red satin gown and glared in my direction.
“Yes your Majesty. If you would allow me to call my witnesses: my children Karin and Pam, as well as Bill Compton. They will need to be privy to the details of our arrangement.” She nodded to me and I went to retrieve them.
They were all waiting at the bar. They must have seen Merlotte leave and been prepared for whatever came next. I ushered them into the office and began pulling the appropriate paperwork. I amended the portions of the contract that had changed while Freyda explained the occurrences of the preceding hour. She took great joy in relating my anger and the caveats that I had arranged to have in place. Pam looked ready to explode, but knew better than to react. Karin appeared bored and Bill looked exactly as I expected him to: smugly triumphant. He would take great joy in passing along the information to Sookie. I just needed to wait for his inevitable betrayal.
The contracts were ready and I opened a vein to sign in my own blood and the Queen did the same. The negotiations were over: I now belonged to the Queen of Oklahoma body and undead soul for the next two hundred years.