**A/N: I have unanimously decided that my vampires are not going to get the bleeds. The bleeds are gross and a waste of good old- and new-fashioned vampire blood and squeaky clean tissues. So far my ouchy finger is holding up sans ouchies and the other one seems all cleared and the scar isn’t currently Voldemorting me, so that’s good. I’m hoping they decide to stay that way. As always: unbeta’d, I own nothing except the characters and plots I’ve created, and coffee is a good thing.**
Andre stared at Eric in shock while the Weres on detail silently shifted to their secondary positions, thus leaving the primary station free for The Boss, and quickly focused on the large screens before them.
It was impossible for anyone, especially a human, to non-physically contact a vampire to whom he or she wasn’t Bonded. It simply was not possible. Hell, it was rare for a Bonded human to contact ‘their’ vampire as the ability wasn’t necessarily automatic upon the exchange of blood. However, the Northman would not lie about such things and he trusted his Emma implicitly.
The mystery would have to wait, though – his Emma…
After clearing his head, Andre rapidly snarled at the on-duty Security Chief to triangulate the GPS trackers on Emma and Sookie’s handbags and phones. He had just ordered the Chief’s Second and Third to do the same with the missing Were guards’ last known coordinates after alerting all Palace security of the situation when the door to the Security Center burst loudly from the wall.
Sigebert, with Wybert barely one step behind, heaved the door to the Security Center open so hard that it flew off its hinges and crushed half of the long conference table upon impact. Both hulking mountains, their long blond hair flowing freely and with their swords in scabbards secured about their waists, were clad in dark leather pants, boots, and nothing else.
The massive twins had been abruptly wrested from their daysleep by the volcanic flood of their Sibling’s rage. An automatic bond-check of Andre’s physical state had proven that he, himself, was in no danger, therefore both had concluded that the threat must be to their Emma as their Maker was also fine – nothing else save a threat to their Maker could have caused such a response from their normally dispassionate brother-by-Turning, and She was nearby and harm-free. Both had sprung into action, each unknowingly mirroring the other’s preparations albeit in different quarters, neither pausing for second thoughts, shirts, hair ties, or feedings.
“What?” There was no mistaking the meaning behind Sigebert’s snarled demand for information. The closer he got to his brother-by-Turning, the stronger the feelings of staggering alarm and outrage had become.
Andre, fangs still descended, had instinctively crouched to spring at an intruder when the door had been flung open, but relaxed minutely upon recognizing Sigebert and Wybert.
“Emma and Sookie…kidnapped,” the tall blond hissed more quickly than a human could decipher. Icy wrath chilled his features. “Emma’s hurt and unresponsive…but seems stationary.” He looked to Eric whose own features were harshly defined in the same vein.
Sigebert’s sudden growl added to the tension. The lust for battle, for bloody retribution and victory, rose exponentially and not just between the broders.
“Sookie is unconscious and also stationary.” The older vampire snarled, just as restless as Andre as he paced the wall of screens.
“Who dares to harm our Emma and apparently our Sookie as well,” demanded Queen Sophie-Anne as she, too, entered the Security Center dressed in black military gear. A slight gasp from one of the Weres was quickly smothered; the Queen had never appeared dressed thusly.
Her Child’s terror-tinged fury had slammed through their bond with such force that a return to her daysleep would have been impossible even if she had so desired. Naturally she had immediately checked her beloved Child’s health, and had taken time to dress for the upcoming occasion, whatever it might be, after determining that he was physically fine. The problem, she correctly deduced as she forewent her normal wake-up multi-feedings, must have to do with their darling Emma, but as there was no tinge of grief or mourning coming from Andre, she knew there was still time to don the black combat boots she’d not yet worn. Whatever was going on, she trusted her Child to see to things whilst she dressed accordingly.
It had been by far too long since Her Majesty had participated in a mission, she thought with a grim smile. And, if her deductions were correct, a mission it would be. Emma was a member of her household, at least until Andre finally accepted his new state and status next week, and by the Armorican saints no one messed with her people be they vampire or not! Following the tie with her Child, she had dressed and sped to the Security Center far more quickly than she would admit.
Andre, and to a lesser extent Eric, didn’t bother questioning how Sophie-Anne, Sigebert, or Wybert knew of the situation or where to meet. Eric knew The Torturer’s formidable rage would have easily shattered their dayrest and as members of the same blood line they could easily track each other.
Everyone faced Andre as he spoke.
“Too damn many suspects to even guess,” he growled rapidly through clenched jaws. “Far too many fucking whispers of who is against us but no conclusive facts, not one damn thing of substance. Fuck, we’ve heard that even the damn Dae are fucking pissy over a human being crowned as my queen.”
“Fucking Dae,” rumbled Wybert as he stood guard in the now open doorway with his enormous sword unsheathed and balanced against the jamb within easy reach. Somewhat a better actor than his broder, he knew the value of at least appearing to be at ease, and resolutely tamped down his inner seething over something happening to the little Emma…or The Telepath. She was nice to him, too.
He allowed one hard tremor to rock his core, then forbade even his feet to pace lest the barely-controlled violence contained in this one room ignite. Every vampire present was well-old and well-powerful enough to level the city. While that would be enjoyable, they needed to save Emma and The Telepath first.
Then level the fucking city. His ensuing grin, gruesomely distorted with anticipation, was not pleasant.
“Even the fucking Dae?” Sophie-Anne knew there were factions solidly against allowing a human to be crowned a queen over vampires, but… “What the fuck? Why wasn’t I told about this?” She didn’t trust the Dae in any sense unless she’d bought their allegiance – something she had done often as the Dae were famously loyal to cold hard gold – but what the fuck did vampire politics have to do with foul, boorish demons?
Andre rammed a fist through the reinforced concrete wall then held deathly still as he once again attempted to feel Emma through their bond. All held quiet in vain hope until with a furious snarl he began pacing and cursing in a form of ancien Français only Sophie-Anne could decipher.
Wisely, Eric replied, albeit succinctly, “Our informers have only heard a couple of whispers about the Dae, nothing of any value. We have no information, not one fucking thing, with enough weight to act on. Nothing!” He paused to feel for his Sookie, and then with a ground-shaking roar slammed his own fist through the wall.
Pacing in increasing urgency, Andre was but a blur when Tracy, gasping for breath from running so quickly, knocked on the wall beside the door-less opening manned by Wybert, who turned and glared at the petite intruder a moment before allowing her to enter.
Andre turned on his heel and blurred to the were-lynx. “Which watch did Emma wear today?”
Confused as to the situation but now even more concerned from the tight intensity on her employer’s handsome face, she answered, “The one with the rubies. It matched her bag.”
With her answer Andre darted to the nearest keyboard, fingers blurring over the keys with his eyes trained on the screen.
Tracy moved over to Sophie-Anne and, with complete disregard for her position within the Palace hierarchy, quietly asked the monarch, “Where’s Emma…and Sookie?”
The badly-masked fear and rage in her Queen’s expression intensified. “Missing.”
Tracy’s angry growl was joined by several others.
“Sir, their purses are…,” began the Security Chief on duty only to be cut off by his boss.
“I’ve got her,” Andre interrupted with a triumphant snarl.
Everyone turned to stare as his screen displayed a quadrant of the city map then began zooming in closer and closer until finally narrowing in on an abandoned brewery to the west of the Palace. Within seconds Andre brought up a live satellite feed of the area, and in tandem he and Eric silently dissected and memorized everything visible about the location.
Sophie-Anne checked her watch. She had been out of her comfy bed for all of nine minutes now…and the sun wasn’t due to set for hours.
Fuck. At least they had their emergency gear that was somewhat vaguely protective against the sun’s rays even if the stiff fabric felt uncomfortably like the armor it was.
Tracy glared at the map as if it had done something wrong. As careful as we’ve all been, as many precautions as we’ve all taken, and Emma and Sookie had still been captured? She was pissed off and terrified for her friends, and the urge to shift so that she could go after them was becoming harder to resist.
She was also familiar with a couple of the Weres assigned to their detail and knew they wouldn’t leave their post unless something really, really bad had happened. She huffed in frustration.
This was not looking good.
At Eric’s glare she shook her head, but added, “Believe it or not, there are a couple of old tunnels under the city but to my knowledge they’re not only not connected to each other, but you can’t get to them from here – you’d have to go around – and that wouldn’t help considering the sun’s position. And I’m not sure if any of those tunnels would even be near that building, anyway. I know where it is, though. Can I go and…,” she ended in a rush but her offer was abruptly declined by a surprising source.
“No,” snapped Andre. “We don’t know what we’re facing yet.” It galled him to negate the were’s painfully inviting offer but it would be too dangerous at this point. Weres could be extremely powerful fighters when trained well, but even the most vicious would have difficulty defeating a half-dae and this technically untrained chit had barely entered adulthood. Besides, there were measures they could take so they weren’t necessarily held hostage by the sun’s rays any longer.
Best to attack en masse…and we do have that mildly protective gear, inefficient though it be…
“True, but that’s part of the problem I can help with since I can track,” she bravely pointed out, unintentionally interrupting Andre’s train of thought. She was now almost quivering with the need to shift and rescue. “I know what Emma and Sookie smell like, and I know what vampires and even dae smell like; let me investigate. If I have to I’ll even promise not to do anything else.” Her reluctance to limit her involvement was obvious.
Andre’s face briefly contorted as he lost his internal battle, and he agreed with barely a second thought. Despite his Maker’s surprisingly good fighting and political skills, his somewhat chauvinistic upbringing in the human world had naturally carried over into his new life, and he was reluctant to send a female of any species into what was likely considerable danger, but fuck, this was Emma…and Tracy deserves to be allowed to do her part.
He stared at Tracy for a long second before ordering her to wait a minute before suddenly turning to stare once again at the clear image of the front and one side of the building. The roof was much like any other and would have been an excellent entry point but only after dark. However…
Eric noted the path of the blond’s highly focused gaze, and nodded.
After trading a scarily intense glance with Eric, Andre grabbed a headset from the com device near his hand. Eric blurred from the room.
The Viking couldn’t stand still another moment – the wait, the uncertainty, was killing him. He needed his Sookie back now! Her condition had not changed – she still lived and she still hadn’t been moved, but she hadn’t woke up, either. The need to kill, to rend and shred and destroy the bodies of his enemies burned through his veins.
Being locked in because of the fucking sun was lowering to his soul. His beloved, his MATE, needed him!
When he realized that Andre had noticed the same thing he had, and at the same time no less, was the first glimpse of hope he’d had this sunny day from hell. The moment he realized Andre’s logical line of thought, he knew he would need his sword, and was relieved beyond measure that it rested well-hidden in his quarters in the Palace. Considering the current threats and political situation, he and Andre had been sparring with increasing regularity of late to both hone their skills and to provide stress relief, and he fought best with his oldest and dearest weapon.
Old friend in hand, he blurred back to Security.
“Tony, Rupert – Security. Now.” He tossed the headset aside then ordered his Chief to go to the well-equipped storage rooms and start gathering sets of the emergency gear for the five vampires, then once again turned to face Tracy.
Her visible worry and impatience were duly noted…as was her inexperience in these types of situations. He hated sending an untried soldier, especially one so young to his old eyes, into the unknown, but then, recon was her offer, and recon was what they needed. She deserved her chance to prove herself, and fuck it all, her help was needed.
With his arms crossed, his stance firm, and his voice hard as he stared down at her, he ordered, “You will wait for Rupert. Do not shift until the very last second. Were-lynxes are not a common sight; draw no attention upon yourself. You will carry a com badge and you will keep communications open at all times, even growls and huffs while shifted will count.” He turned to the image on the screen and indicated the back parking area of a convenience store located diagonally across from the defunct brewery. “Park there. It is where we will meet you should my plan prove viable. Cross the street over here, and approach the structure from this side,” he instructed as he pointed out the route he thought safest and the side of the building not visible on the screen.
He faced Tracy once again and glared down at her to reinforce his message. “Rupert knows the drill but you will take no chances. Your jobs are to note all scents you encounter even if you don’t have a name for them and to note all possible entrances and exits. Your com badge will have auto-cam to capture what images your height when shifted will allow, so rise up on your back legs as often and as best you can. Circle around the structure several times. We need to identify the best entrance point. If you detect anything of importance, hide, shift back, and speak. Understand? Yes or no.”
At the were-lynx’s surprisingly firm acquiescence, he turned to one of the Weres and ordered two a/v com units from the Security Center’s supply room and glared when Tracy interrupted.
“It needs to be on an elastic-type necklace or something like that so it’ll stay on when I shift.” She was practically humming with impatience. Andre tipped his head at Tracy in agreement and gestured to the Were who then rushed to gather the necessary items.
That taken care of, he acknowledged Eric who had just returned with sword in hand. Sigebert and Wybert growled in approval at the sight. Sophie-Anne simply dialed up the Palace’s kitchen and snapped out an order for 25 bags of warmed blood to be delivered to the Security Center, STAT. The Queen was determined that she and her Children would be well-fed before proceeding so willingly into danger.
Less than a minute later Tony and Rupert, already armed and en route after having been informed of the situation, reported as commanded. Andre ordered Rupert to go with the were-lynx and, after receiving their devices and minimal further instructions, they left.
As they were leaving, Andre informed Tony, “If their recon provides the information I expect, you will select the largest, most reinforced of the tinted SUVs and will be driving us to that fucking brewery. Yes,” he added at the Were’s expression, “in the fucking daylight. For now, plot the fastest route.”
Andre paced as he thought, his eyes continually drawn to the old building now showing on the enormous screen. Even if Emma and the telepath truly were in that abandoned brick structure, he knew realistically that they wouldn’t be there for long. He suspected that well before the sun set their captors would return to move them to another location as it was common knowledge among the state’s vampire population that the blonde shared a bond with the Northman, and that the bond would allow him to track her.
Whether or not his bond with Emma was common knowledge was irrelevant.
Whether their kidnapping was a product of a well-laid plan or was accidental luck on the part of those soon to be dead motherfuckers was also irrelevant.
The only relevant fact was that he had to get his Emma back as soon as fucking possible – far before that damn sun set.
Ignoring the curious stares and bond-pings from his Maker and Siblings, he increased his pace as he mentally finalized his potential plans.
At his disposal was a small fleet of highly customized SUVs whose windows were tinted with the highest possible grade of sun blocking allowed by chemistry. Also at his disposal was a storeroom filled with clothing designed to be worn only under the direst of daytime emergencies when coffins were not an option. Through both chemistry and metallurgy the fabric was imbued with a weak sunblocking ability – powerful for humans but paltry at best for vampires.
The research used to craft the uncomfortable fabric was still in the primitive stages and the items were unwieldy at best, but together with the SUVs’ protective tinting, it just might work if they could avoid direct exposure en route both to and from the vehicles. Ostensibly the clothing was designed to protect a vampire from full sun exposure but no one wanted to test that theory if they didn’t have to. Until this night the gear had been kept on hand solely in case of a dire daytime emergency.
Exit from the Palace wouldn’t be much of an issue. The driver could simply pull into what the ladies – his heart clenched when he thought of Emma but he forced his mind back into a logical state – called “the parking box” and the vampires would basically dive into the SUV.
An unexpected noise near the open doorway caught his attention and he turned with a snarl. Sophie-Anne sent a blast of calming emotion through their connection as she blurred over to the wait-staff bringing their breakfast. He deftly caught the warmed bag she tossed him, then leaned back against a far wall to plot while he drank.
The problem was exiting the vehicle. The sat feed didn’t show the entire building so he didn’t have entry logistics, but if the weres found an appropriate entryway, preferably covered with an awning or even a small overhang, they could realistically exit the vehicle…he could kick the door in…
Fuck. They could ram the damn thing through the fucking wall and exit inside the fucking building.
The problem was that all his plans hinged on whether the were-lynx and the were-tiger scented proof that Emma and the telepath actually were in the building.
Watches can be removed.
**A/N: Ok, so, what did you think? It’s hot off the presses (translation: I haven’t gone over it again/again) because I didn’t want to make y’all wait any longer for it, so I hope it read well?**