I was much more excited than I anticipated to reunite with Anabelle. Pamela had sent a message that she would join us some time tonight and had something tangible for me regarding Sookie. I knew this news would make Nan very happy. I could not wait to hold her, see her face light up when I told her I wouldn’t be leaving her again. I could not wait to show her to my very unlikely companion and King should I choose to swear the oath. I could not wait to say the words. She is mine.
I would never tell Bill Compton, King or no, what Anabelle had within her, I was no fool, but I had had a moment of clarity that night and knew the proper wish. I knew she would be pleased with this as well. The paths inside had cleared. I had… space again.
My reunion had to wait through interviews via the holo-max room of the palace with numerous vampire councils and a particularly grueling and unpleasant interview with the Ancient Pythoness. Her head was projected to enormous proportion and her sightless eyes searched the room constantly. It was unsettling. We had not lied. Oklahoma had been planning an unsanctioned takeover, and she was killed as a direct result of acting upon the plan, but the wily old oracle suspected she was not getting the full truth.
In the end Bill was confirmed as Regent in the three new states until his official coronation, and I was thoroughly sick of seeing his simpering face. I regretted inviting him to meet Nan. I found I no longer had the patience for his company and no longer cared to share even a glimpse of my treasure. I had gone from ecstatic to surly in four hours.
Perhaps we would go to Europe, Bill Compton, fairies, and Louisiana be damned, and I could show her where I had been born as a human and where I had been molded into a strong vampire. We would have all the time in the world.
I began regretting not killing him when he renewed his offer of a position in his court. I refused again and informed him I had made the decision to travel.
“Ah, will you be traveling alone, or will your child go with you?”
“I’m sure Pamela will wish to join me if only for a few years of vacation. May I inquire why you have an interest in my progeny, Your Majesty?”
“Ah. I was hoping to tempt her to return to Area 5 as Sheriff. I’ll be needing to reorganize. She was efficient.”
I knew Bill was asking me to coerce her. I knew I owed him a favor, but I was not willing to use my influence over Pam to make her accept a political contract for any length of time, so I ignored his wheedling. Again, I wished to have staked him when I had the chance.
“Well, we are finished here. Do you wish to spend the day at this palace, or do you have other accommodations?”
I looked around the prison in which I had spent the last century.
I would burn it down before I spent another second here.
“I will take my leave. Now. Majesty.”
“Eric? Who was it that I’m supposed to have met?” I was silent and he continued. “I smell her… on you. It isn’t her, is it… but…”
Half of my mind was made up to leave for Sweden that night. I would sweep Anabelle into my arms and fly her myself if it were possible, but my pragmatism always won out.
“I am afraid the evening took longer than I was expecting, she will be asleep and is nearly impossible to rouse. Perhaps tomorrow, if time permits you, Sire.”
Bill nodded and dismissed me with a gesture. Instead of breaking the fingers he used, I nodded and left as quickly as dignity would permit.
Bill Compton could always be killed. Perhaps he would be soon, but not by my hand. For once, I’d had enough death and destruction for the time being, and wanted to bury myself in the little golden skönhet awaiting my arrival.
I imagined her warm fragrant flesh next to mine, imagined the taste of her lips, and the strange beauty of her eyes as I drove to the bolt hole as quickly as the vehicle would allow, but when I arrived it was empty.
Willing calm into myself, I tried the Were. He did not answer. Perhaps they had needed more human food? At the very least, Anabelle had not been alone. Still holding on to my serenity through sheer force of will, I searched for Pamela, through our bond. She was near. I would wait only until she arrived before going to look for my missing maiden, and I would not lose control of my temper. I was my own master, and would not be shaken from the commands I issued myself.
My child arrived within the hour carrying a large envelope. I kissed her on her forehead, thanked her for her efforts, and praised her success.
“You’re happy… I have not felt that from you in many, many years.”
“My child, I am very happy.”
“Well, hurry up and summon your tasty little source of joy so we can look at these together.”
“She is out. I was awaiting your arrival before seeking her out.”
“Why, Eric. This is different! Perhaps I should leave you two alone often! You’re not worried?”
“She has a wolf with her who owes me a debt.”
“He can be trusted?”
“I think he is sufficiently afraid, yes.”
“She did not fight it?”
“No, thankfully as often as we run into the Stackhouse temper, this is not an issue on which she balks. I am sure she is quite used to having a guardian, actually. Niall was no idiot.”
“He is dead.” She was not asking.
“Oklahoma killed him when he appeared in her garden with a certain necklace.”
“You are a devious old man.”
I grinned. I had taken pleasure in killing Niall (killing fairies was always pleasurable and the longer they bled the better), but I had respected him. He had done his best to keep this descendant of his from me, and I had not forgiven that, nor let him pass without the knowledge that it was I that held all before me. He no longer would play a role in her life, he would no longer threaten mine. She was mine. She would always be mine. He had no power. That was thrilling to even recall. But his death marked the end of an age. Fairies may well die out without his guidance and wisdom. I thought of Lochlan and Neave and Sookie’s mangled body. I was not remorseful.
I shook my head, I hoped she would never have to know.
“And here I rushed back to keep you from killing each other. You had her then?”
“Eric!” She stared hard into my face. “Why are you waiting?”
I pointed to the documents in her hand and she placed them in mine. “She is not ready. The time will come. Why is this humorous?”
She was shaking with laughter then, red tears threatening to spill while she extricated her handkerchief.
“I believe we had this very conversation once before.”
“I have no doubt of it.”
“So you’re ready to admit it?”
“Pamela, I will send you barefooted to the Amazonian Jungle to collect the eyes of flesh eating insects if you persist. By the way, Bill Compton is now King of Oklahoma, Nevada, Arkansas, and Louisiana and intends to offer you your old fiefdom.”
Her face went from petulance to horror.
“By the very virtue of Bill’s last buyout-takeover I was released from my contract early and refused to swear an oath to that pantywaist! What on Earth makes him believe I would wish to sign one with him now?”
“He admires your efficiency, and of course hopes that I will wish to once again settle in his lands in the future. If you are under contract, I am always accessible.”
“I’ll return to Minnesota this instant! Fucking Bill Fucking Compton!”
“Pam! Relax. How would you like to go with Anabelle and me to Europe for a few years?”
Her face lit up. “How soon can we leave?”
“I… invited him to meet her tomorrow evening.”
Pam was very silent and still. “Do you plan to kill him?”
“Not at the moment.”
“Consider it.” Her voice had a slight plea in it. “He will try to take her. She looks like Sookie. He’s never let her go and he’s a king, Eric. A God damned powerful one at that.”
“Power is relative to so many things, Pamela. Age and politics are but two factors of many. Bill only has me bested politically.”
“I missed you.”
I raised an eyebrow at her. “That was effusive.”
“Over confident, kill-all-the-opposition, adventurous Eric has been away for a long time. That Eric was the vampire I met upon my first rising. We’re adding happy to that now. You must be in love.”
I chuckled and turned the envelope over in my hand, then threw it upon a nearby table.
“Have it your way, Pamela.”
“Your clothing is filthy!”
It was indeed. I instructed her to keep trying to reach the wolf while I cleansed myself of the poison that had been the last few days, the inward falling away with the outward remnants.
Refreshed, I pulled fresh clothing from the bag I shared with Anabelle.
Her garments were missing.
I checked again.
Terror took me.
I searched all the furniture and shelves.
I roared loudly enough to shake the walls. Pam was by my side in an instant.
“She is gone!” I shouted and grabbed the first heavy object within reach and launched it at the wall.
Pam rummaged through the bag and extracted the shredded remnants of Anabelle’s old shirt.
“Find Bill Compton! I don’t care if he is the ruler of this world or the next! Give that rag to him and tell him to find her!”
She was gone before I could throw her as well.
She couldn’t have left me.
She loved me.
I wanted to tell her that I loved her. That I would…
They had to have taken her. The fairies. The fucking fairies.