A/N- this story is a short sequel to follow Dead Accord. (Please note- This is not part of the "Irish" series.)
The characters of the Sookieverse are the creation of Charlaine Harris. I hope she doesn't mind my borrowing them for a few hours.
dead reckoning n. the process of calculating one's position by estimating the direction and distance traveled rather than by using landmarks, astronomical observations, or electronic navigation methods. Origins: Late Elizabethan/Early Stuart period, English (1605–1615).
"Kill him… Take him out on the terrace so you don't leave a mess in here. Take her to my quarters. I'll deal with her later. You my dear, will have the honor of being bound to a King."
It was a rare moment in my life where I felt that, for once, I saw something coming and was perfectly prepared...
It was early in the evening of March 2nd. The sun had just gone down a short time ago. I rode with Bill to the Shreveport airport. We didn't talk much at all. Things were still awkward between us. But we were easier with the silence than we used to be. Eric and Thalia met us there. Pam drove them and had waited to see me and to loan me her jewelry. I was glad it was a flight that we could take at night, without the issue of the vampires being in coffins. Frankly, given how tense Eric, Pam, Bill and Thalia, were, I would have had the feeling that we would to arrive in Vegas and I'd open Eric's coffin and find ashes and a stake. Walking into Felipe's hotel seemed infinitely preferable, since at least there was a chance of self-defense.
Eric had lectured me sternly that I was not supposed to talk to Bill and Thalia about my knowledge of any of the problems with Felipe. While he thought Bill might be accepting that I knew some of what was going on, he said Thalia would probably not like it much at all. I knew from my own history with Bill that he would like it far less than Eric believed. Eric had always been much more open and up front with me than Bill had ever been. Eric told me that Pam knew that I knew most of what was going on with respect to Felipe. He did not think it was as hard for Pam to accept my knowing details but said that for any of his other vampires, it might be difficult for them to trust a human, even a bonded human bonded to him, with too much information. Now was definitely not the time to argue with anyone sworn to him about his choices in trusting me. Any argument or even a discussion of his decision-making would further threaten his position. So I had to keep quiet. But I was used to keeping secrets. A telepath always is.
While we waited to board the plane, I stood chatting a bit with Thalia, who was wearing a beautiful bronze silk dress. Even in three inch heels she was so tiny, but so beautiful and exotic looking. I felt plain and vanilla in comparison, since I was just wearing black slacks and a red sweater with black pumps and I didn't feel the least bit exotic. Thalia seemed so much happier these days. It seemed that the entire experience of fighting Dieter's fae group had brought about some revitalization in her. She was happy to be going to Vegas to provide additional security. Eric seemed pleased to have uncovered Thalia's real nature. She wasn't just the rude Fangtasia vampire worshipped on a fan website. She was very sharp and could be truly ruthless, both skills that Eric seemed to admire. She was also fairly nice with me, which was a high compliment considering that Thalia really seemed to dislike humans quite a bit. It seemed she thought I was quite worthwhile and not just potential food, at least according to what Pam told me. While we chatted Thalia kept looking at my chest. Finally she reached up and touched the locket underneath the sweater. The locket pulsed slightly under my sweater. I felt it, and it seemed like she felt it, too.
"What is that? What is that under your shirt?"
"Um, it's just a locket, Thalia."
"I would like to see it, please" she said meeting my eyes intensely. It was a polite demand.
Eric was off with Bill discussing something several meters away. I didn't know what to do, but since Eric had said I shouldn't argue with them, I just took it out and let it rest on top of my sweater. Thalia gasped.
"Where did you get such a thing? That is a highly magical object, Sookie." She looked up at me curiously, arms crossed. "Where did you get it?" she said leaning forward toward me.
I was scrambling for what to say. When I'd been kidnapped some of Eric's vampires had been privy to the fact that I was really actually Niall's great-granddaughter but I'd been too thick to ask which ones. How much did the Area 5 vampires who fought in the Magnolia compound actually know? Was it just Bill and Pam? Thalia had been hanging out a lot with Pam and Eric. I was so uncertain as to how to reply.
"Well, it's a family piece, sort of like an heirloom."
Thalia leaned closer and said in a low voice, "So this is from your Fae family? Really? Oh, I see, the 'B', yes. What does it do? Because that," she said pointing to it, "is magic."
"I was mostly focused on how pretty it is." I felt tense and hoped that if I was evasive she'd just stop asking. Maybe the dumb blonde barmaid routine would keep me safe on that account?
Thalia looked up at me with narrowed eyes as if she was definitely long since onto the fact that I was just not that simple. She reached out to touch it and to my amazement, in contrast to what happened when Eric touched it, it seemed to want to repel her. It glowed a bit and almost felt like it pulsed. I felt like I'd gotten a tiny shock from static electricity and I jumped, making a little gasp. I knew she must have felt the same shock. She withdrew her hand quickly and looked at me with her head tilted slightly to the side.
"Interesting. It does not seem to want to be touched. Alright, Sookie. I see that perhaps you do not wish to discuss this."
Damn right, I thought to myself. I wondered why Eric and Thalia had been able to sense it but not Bill. I glanced over at Bill and Eric, who were still deep in discussion. I wondered if Bill getting so badly injured had affected his senses. Or maybe older vampires with experience with the Fae could sense the locket's magic? Thalia was as old as Eric. Maybe even older. I had to try to ask Eric privately what he thought. Niall said I should wear the locket at all times, especially on this trip, but it was going to be very awkward if people kept asking about it. The two very dressy dresses I was taking had low necklines that would make it difficult to hide the locket.
As we boarded the flight, I shivered. Eric looked at me with concern once we were in the seats. I was holding his hand tightly. He reached over and took my other hand too, for a moment.
"You're hands are so cold. Are you cold? Do you want my jacket?"
"I'm just tense," I said, my voice sounding tight.
He put his arm around me and pulled me to him, kissing my temple.
"We'll be fine, Lover" he whispered softly to me.
I had been pretty happy the night before. Baking an apple pie, at ease, sure that everything was fine and that it would stay fine. Right up until the conversation before Eric left to go back to Shreveport. I'd been apprehensive about the trip for a while. But after the raid on Dieter's compound, it seemed that Eric's King had taken issue with the fact that Eric could mount such a fight on his own and win. Niall's help was really not something that would have leaked out, other than through Rasul talking to Victor Madden. And Thalia had taken care of Rasul. So everyone pretty much thought that Eric and some of his Area 5 group had raided a compound in a neighboring state without permission, rescued me, killed about twenty-five Fae and a bunch of weres and Weres. All of their own. This left Eric looking like a force to be reckoned with, and that was not a good thing to a micromanaging King who lived four states away. It occurred to me, as I found myself getting more and more familiar with Eric's style, that one of his main strategies was to always use the least possible show of power or strength to get any job done. That way it was very hard for someone to get his measure. Fighting Dieter had been a grand display of power. It had been a risk, and now the consequences were becoming evident.
Clearly, I had no idea how bad things were. When Eric dropped his backup plan in my lap before cruising back to Shreveport at 1 am, I was rocked by it. I couldn't shake the feeling that this trip could spell disaster. Frankly, since Eric had first told me about the Vegas trip back in January, I hated the idea. It was now the beginning of March and I still hated the idea but for new reasons. I could be at home, getting back to work, getting back to my normal life. Well, as normal a life as a girl has when she dates a vampire, but still, normal for me. And it was ironic that after I was so bent out of shape about having to go on this trip and share a room with Eric only a month ago (could it really only be a month ago?) that now I would like the idea of a trip with Eric if it were just about any trip other than this one.
I thought back to Pam hugging me at the airport, before we went through the security check. She had pressed the small case of jewelry she was loaning me into my hands, looking at me with serious concern. I almost got the feeling that now she was not just worried about Eric, but that she was worried about me, too. Whispering, "Please, be safe. Be very careful. Listen to Eric and don't argue, Sookie. Promise me that you'll listen to Eric" The look in her eyes… I promised her. With the whole business of Dieter fresh in my mind, yes, I would listen to Eric. My willful side had been taken down a notch.
As we flew through the thin clouds and I saw the lights from the Dallas-Ft. Worth below, I thought back to the conversation I'd had with Eric the night before, right before he left to go back to Shreveport. The backup plan, in case something happened to him. Thalia would get me out and then I should bind myself to Pam… Which would imply he'd be finally dead, of course. Suddenly, I'd realized in that moment that I didn't know how bad things really were, even with what Eric had shared with me. Clearly, I did not grasp the extent of the problems and this was why Pam had been so much on edge ever since we all got back from Magnolia. Eric always seemed so indomitable. But he was rather sober in telling me his plan. Why did we need a backup plan, I'd asked? I'd started crying, which succeeded only in upsetting him and making me embarrassed with myself. But he told me that he always had a backup plan for things, sometimes even several, though he seldom needed to employ them. Pam had agreed to do it. She would keep me safe, he said. He was sure of it. No matter what, Pam would take care of me. If I was bound, I would always be safer.
Well, I had a plan of my own. A fail-safe plan in case it all went wrong. I steeled myself with that thought. We would be safe. No matter what, we would be safe, I told myself.