Fucking instincts. Why the fuck did they have to kick in now? Andre castigated himself even though he still hadn’t moved from the position that had sparked his scathing mental tirade.
When he’d snapped awake late that afternoon, he was curled tightly around his warm, sleeping Emma. His vampire hearing had detected movement in the hall outside the door to his chambers, and he had instinctively growled and pulled Emma even closer into the protection of his body.
…which had sparked yet another round of mental scolding…
He had to force himself to loosen his arms a fraction of an inch to give his mate room to breathe when she’d mewed a slight protest in her sleep. Even though he recognized the noises from the hall as coming from his guards, he still didn’t like having anyone that near when he was dead for the day and wouldn’t be able to protect his…mate.
I’m so fucked, he thought with sardonic resignation. How the hell did I not see this coming? And why the hell did I fuck up and manage to twice-bond with her? What the hell kind of power does she have over me? One good, solid bond…that’s all I wanted.
He caught himself reflexively stroking her arm and instantly paused…then with resignation allowed himself to give into the urge. He was suddenly, horrifyingly, sure that this was but the first of many such urges he would have to comply with for his own peace of mind, no matter how much they disrupted his…peace of mind.
So, all that I’ve heard about mates must be true, apparently, he groused to himself. Well, if it’s true, then we should definitely not complete a third bonding.
He allowed himself a very long mental cringe which felt strangely hollow, then soothed himself with her scent as he nuzzled below her ear until he heard yet another small noise intrude from the hall. Had the guards always been that loud?
Pissed at having what should have been a slow, easy waking disturbed, he slid out from around Emma and quickly dressed for the evening.
After dressing, he strode into the main living area for his evening’s foul True Blood experience, and while they were heating, he thought about Emma and her need for human food. Maybe he would hire her a cook. And maybe a housekeeper to keep things tidy. And, if he was going to hire her a cook and a housekeeper, she would definitely need a maid. Yes, definitely a maid. Ladies needed maids, even in his human times ladies had maids. His own Maker had at least ten.
He then looked around at his apartment, and grimaced. It had been more than adequate for his own needs, but now that he had the responsibility of tending to Emma’s comfort, this place was severely lacking. Hell, it didn’t even have a kitchen.
And it was too small. And dark. She was a creature of air and light, of movement and …she was soft. The memory of her soft skin, of her soft lips and breasts and thighs had his body reacting accordingly.
Quickly attempting to stifle those thoughts while his Emma slept on, Andre turned his mind once again to the confines of his sparsely-furnished chambers. His pet deserved better than this.
Pet. Fuck. She was no more a pet than he had ever been. Emma was his mate, damn it, and would be seen to and cared for accordingly.
Maybe he should just go ahead and assume control over Arkansas after all, he thought as he uncovered and accessed one of the larger safes he had hidden in this area. He had secure locations in several countries, each hiding a percentage of his physical wealth – any vampire over a century risen knew better than to keep even a small portion of their wealth gathered in one place.
He withdrew a heavy wooden jewel casket and set it on a nearby table. After lifting the lid and removing three tiers of loose gems and gleaming gold pieces set with sparkling jewels, he located the small silk bag containing item he desired.
The heavy gold ring held a ruby almost the size of his thumbnail, and a tiny bee was engraved into the gold on each side of it. The ruby signified protection granted by his Maker’s regime, as rubies were her favorite gem, but the bees were his own personal insignia as a descendant, however bastard, of a king of France.
He had held possession of this particular piece of rather plain but exquisitely crafted jewelry for centuries, but had never bothered wearing it beyond its original fitting. Rings just weren’t his thing, especially considering his specific talents. And besides, he was the Queen’s protection.
However, when his Maker had bestowed the ancient piece upon him, it was with great honor that he had accepted it. He’d had the queen’s jeweler inscribe the bees, and when the old piece was returned to him, he had added it to his collection of fine gems and jewelry. The thought that Emma might enjoy prowling through some of his old treasure caskets brought a brief smile to his face. Someone might as well get some use out of it.
He dropped the priceless artifact back into its silk bag and stuffed them into his pocket. He replaced the casket, and spent the next half hour reviewing various security recordings and plotting his next moves, changes, and options. He had one Were left in the dungeon, and his instincts were telling him that the were knew more than he was letting on. The problem was in getting the disgusting beast to talk.
There was just something off about that beast, something niggling him about the way he’d been able to resist… He suddenly realized that perhaps he’d been glamoured into resisting all forms of torture. His resistance had been oddly strong. He should know; with his experience, the were should have broken right along with his miserable cohorts.
Knowing the Sheriff he needed to speak with was already awake considering he was even older than himself, Andre grabbed his secure phone and dialed.
“Northman,” the strong voice answered after two rings.
Eschewing pleasantries as per usual, Andre replied succinctly, “I have need of your Bonded’s particular skills as soon as possible.”
The vampire on the other end of the call stood from his bed to pace. The call from the Queen’s Second was an unwelcome surprise, but the words being used confused him. Andre had never once truly acknowledged his and Sookie’s relationship, always referring to her as “the Queen’s telepath” or “our telepath”…never as “your Bonded”.
Something had changed, and change always pricked both his interest and his survival instincts as change was rarely good. And besides…this was Andre.
Although he didn’t expect a real answer, Northman had to ask, “What is the situation?” He was, after all, his Bonded’s primary protection and needed to know what he was walking into.
Sookie stirred, the sound of Eric’s voice disturbing her sleep. She picked up a confusing blend of emotions from him, with curiosity and slight irritation mixed with caution and the usual blast of lust when he noticed that she was awake. She rose and donned a robe before heading to the bathroom. At the very least a call from Andre meant no more sleep that night, and very likely it meant they’d be travelling soon.
She had to wonder what kind of trouble the Queen had kicked up now.
By the time she’d finished with her human needs and taken a shower (sadly alone), Eric had already packed them both an overnight bag and was sitting on the bed while waiting for her.
“Ok, what’s up,” she asked as she walked over and sat on his lap.
As he gathered his Bonded into his arms, he began explaining. “Andre needs you to read a rather stubborn were. A now-former associate of Sophie-Anne’s had taken an undue interest in Andre’s human Bonded,” he broke off at Sookie’s disbelieving guffaw.
“Andre? Has a Bonded? A human? Seriously? He must have glamoured the brains right out of that poor girl!” Sookie squealed with laughter.
Eric had to agree. The mere thought of Andre with a mate had him both cringing and rolling his eyes.
Sookie noticed how quickly her Viking’s mood turned serious once again. “Ok, I sense there’s more.”
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot more. In the process of attempting to acquire said bonded, this BeauChamps prick has taken Rasul…hostage. Andre wants you to read a Were and pick his brain apart.”
He paused at Sookie’s expected gasp. She’d always liked the handsome, roguish younger vampire, and she had a pretty good idea of just how Rasul would be treated while in captivity. Of course she would help.
“When do we leave?”
“As soon as you are dressed and fed, and I’m showered.”
“I’m on it. We’re staying at our place,” she asked as she moved toward her closet after a glance at the two small overnight bags.
“Of course. Even if Andre does supposedly have a Bonded, I still don’t trust him, but…” Eric’s voice faded as he reviewed the conversation.
“But what?” Sookie’s voice was muffled in the closet, but he could feel her curiosity.
“Something he said, or rather, how he said it, makes me wonder.”
She came out of the closet still in the process of pulling a light blue sweater over her head, and Eric’s thoughts were immediately captured by how her movements caused her full, bra-covered breasts to bobble in the most delightful way.
“Eric! Focus,” she admonished with a laugh.
He waggled an eyebrow and smirked. “Hey, red-blooded male over here, what did you expect?”
She blew a raspberry at him and finally located her shoes. “As you were saying,” she threw over her shoulder.
“I find it odd that he referred to you as my Bonded, thus acknowledging our relationship in a way that he’s never done before. Usually he refers to you as “the telepath” or “the Queen’s telepath”.”
“Huh…you’ve got a point. While he’s never tried anything else with me since Rhodes, still, that is weird. Makes me wonder more about this “Bonded” of his and what she’s like. I’m definitely glad we’re staying at our place anyway, though. You just can’t be too careful with Andre.” She shivered as she remembered how he’d tried to force her to bond with him a while back, and sincerely wished this unknown girl of his some really good luck.