A short introduction into 'Beholden':

Being a telepathic barmaid is hard enough. Sookie Stackhouse doesn't complain though. She has a normal life in her small town. It goes up in smoke when a fairy blackmails her into marrying a vampire; an alpha werewolf will stop at nothing to have her as the shaman for his pack; and then she falls in love with a weretiger. If that's not enough, extremists are trying to kill her. So yeah, the woman's got problems.

"While her obedience is a must agreement is not." Typical words of the worlds richest man, Eric Northman. He is a vampire with a slighter darker past than your average undead. For political purposes he requires a bride. Attachment and love and not things he feels, not for her. She has a part to play, nothing more; nothing less. Not an easy love story but then again love and life seldom are.

This fic is about walking the path to happiness and how it will often test your character, pit your mind against your heart, and force you to look between who you are and who you want to be.

Leave all your canon stuff at the door before you read this fic. I took a little bit of this and that to make the characters we know and love who they are, but there are differences, big ones. If you start reading while looking for things to compare and contrast to the book and Tru Blood…there'll be too many to count (I wanted to spare you the time)*

Eric

Chapter I

Over the years work has brought me to almost every corner of the world. Lately with the advancements in technology and modernization, I just had to keep a few key locations in the major cities of the world. On a personal level the silence of anything less made it hard to focus. I needed the chaos of the outside world to fuel my mind. In the past a larger population was a must. It was necessary to offer ample food and cover. With the Great Reveal things had gotten easier in terms of movement. Unfortunately things were much harder on the business end.

Eric Northman is my name and making money is an art form that I have perfected. A financial analyst recently calculated that I made a hundred thousand dollars every minute from first dark to dawn. It meant that with all my investments combined in the old world and the new I made over seventy million dollars a night before routine losses, taxes, and expenses.

If I was the actual twenty-five years of age I appeared to be that would be impressive. Seeing I was over a thousand years old it was less remarkable. Many vampires my age were royals and had focused a great deal of time and energy shoring up their power to rule. My father ruled our clan when I was human so I knew what it was to rule. Be it a tribe or a kingdom, the price was the same and I wanted no part of it. I preferred investing my time into something that was mine and mine alone.

I had created an empire of sorts. It wasn't one of servants and knights. It was business, clear and simple. I'd been steadily building it for five hundred years. The major venues I owned were banks and aviation. They had figureheads that I chose. Those corporate institutes broke down into hundreds of different companies and subsidiaries, some local and others were international. I oversaw them all. It wasn't a small feat and I'd needed countless fake names and identities to maintain my hold over the ages. If I thought maintaining it was hard, consolidating the disparate holdings was a nightmare.

Case in point: I was in Washington, DC and I had a full posse of government officials up my ass. In attendance at this meeting was the commissioner of the IRS. Sitting beside the good commissioner was the director of the Federal bureau of investigations. There was also the liaison for human-vampire affairs sent from the cabinet of the President. Beside that elderly man was the mayor. Spanning out on both sides were lawyers and legal aids. At their backs was a barrage of federal agents with itchy trigger fingers.

"Throughout the economic crisis," one of the tax lawyers began, "UBS posted no losses but had millions in unpaid mortgages, properties that should have gone into foreclosure but didn't, giving your bank and its subsidiaries an unfair advantage."

All eyes on the other side of the table came to me. I said nothing. I sat with my fingers steepled under my chin and listened intently as my lawyers ripped theirs apart. The governments' problem was that legally they couldn't keep me from merging all my businesses into one and they wanted to stop me. If I had my way, which I knew I would, I would be wealthiest man in this country and many others.

Having a vampire with that much power was what they feared. Was their fear understandable? Absolutely. Was it warranted? Not in the least. There was no way I could sell that point so here I was willing submitting to their blind fishing expedition. So far I was accused of a violating Sherman Antitrust laws in several markets, tax evasion, and falsifying legal documents a hundred times over. But they had nothing on me and we all knew it.

To begin with, I paid taxes on both sides of the Atlantic. I had a vampire on staff who knew the tax laws better than any person seated across from me. I also had documents that went back to when their grandparents were in diapers. The falsification of documents charge was more bullshit. All vampires thirty years into their undead life were guilty of the same thing. As far as the antitrust laws, I'd sold enough shares in the proper venues to avoid it when it came into effect. What I didn't sell I'd halved and gave to my child to hold. She was in Canada where she was loved and idolized by the humans there and so they could kiss her ass. "This is the last meeting," my lawyer concluded, closing his briefcase.

Cataliades was a daemon attorney. If any being nonhuman needed to wade through any legal field, be it the human world or not, he was the one to go to. It was a testament to how much trouble he had encountered because he had to call in his aides. Bureaucratic red tape stonewalled any move I wanted to make.

"We have been cooperative with this investigation but now it borders on harassment. Anything further will require a federal warrant." Yes, I'd say. They had stooped to questioning the legalities of me not deciding to put human families out on the street? I would love for human media to get a hold of that one.

"What does he have to hide?" one of the armed guards asked. "We don't have to allow your kind any rights but we do. Never forget that this is our country no matter how much of it you can buy. It will always belong to us."

I wasn't sure if he thought if he was being patriotic, intimidating, or both. He failed miserably in either endeavor. The only thing he succeeded in doing was making an ass of himself. If not for my irritation I wouldn't have responded. Such as it was I obliged him though I didn't look his way.

"I'm a thousand years old, Agent Latestta," I replied in a bored monotone. "Believe me when I tell you there is a reason why you'll always be holding the gun but never get an invitation to sit at the table."

He wasn't a forward thinker. Any idiot with an ounce of finesses would know that while not letting me have my way would be great, it shouldn't come at the expense of me leaving. It was a delicate situation for both parties. If I left this country I would take my money with me and it wouldn't benefit anyone as it was currently doing. I rose and with a nod of my head at the proper people I exited with my entourage in tow.

"Can they get a warrant to slow things down?" I asked my lawyer.

He shook his head. "Not legally," he said.

"Consolidate the identities and assets on your end," I said as we drove to the airport.

That process had been gradual as to show the government we were willing to cooperate. We were past the point of cooperation and well into wasting my time. I refused to allow that.

"I suggest speaking to Pamela's publicist, Gabby Snow" he continued. "No one can run a popularity contest like she can. You need the masses to love you if you're going to pick a fight with their government."

The idea of being in the spot light didn't appeal but I saw the wisdom in it. I also witnessed it in Canada. It was where I'd been holed up with my child Pam since before the great reveal. Pam lived like a rock star there. She loved the attention and people loved her. It made her life a whole lot easier and offered her an additional layer of protection.

"I'll call." I said resigning myself to it.

I was at the point where my money made itself, all I had to do was manage it. That wasn't what I wanted. It was necessary at the moment. If I wanted to be left in peace during my future endeavors I had to make a few things happen. First, I had to appease the government in this country. At least for a while, I would play nice and Gabby Snow would help. Secondly, I needed a place that was away from both Pam and Illeta. A major city was out of the question, at least for a while. I needed low key. I needed a vampire royal who was stable and looking to offer me a place outside their political circle. I would openly mainstream to show I had nothing to hide.

Seeing I'd set my eyes on the south I had to pay the toll. You could have more money than Croesus but it wouldn't matter if you went around stepping on toes. While I wasn't a vampire royal, I was a vampire and knew to mind my manners if I was stomping around someone's turf. My propriety saved me the hassle when I travelled from state to state.

The person at the gate in Oklahoma was a sandy haired vampire by the name of Freyda, the vampire queen. Oklahoma was south central and therefore not a part of the Amun vampire territories of the New World. It was a division of Zeus and from what I gathered that territory was collectively stronger and so would be more stable in the long run. I went to her first.

"Eric," she greeted with a nod of her head, "You are most welcome."

"Thank you." My nod was a bit deeper than hers as a show of respect.

After the preliminary bullshit I got to the point. "I seek residence in your state, I wish to mainstream."

There was no emotion on her face but I knew whatever else she thought I was here for it wasn't that. "That is one way to supplant your problem with the government," she said. "Marriage to me is another."

I left Oklahoma disappointed even though I had known there was a chance of her proposing. The thing that I hadn't expected was for her to turn down my counteroffer without pause. There was no more love in a royal vampire marriage than there was in a chess match. It all boiled down to out-maneuvering your spouse because the terms were never entirely secure. Meaning, one would benefit if the other died. These unions often ended in bloodshed. I loved the mere idea as much as any other vampire but it wasn't what I needed at the moment. It was Freyda's loss because I still had another option.

Bobby Burnham was my personal assistant. My previous assistant had been with me for fifty years. Before he retired he recommended Bobby. I was still getting used to him but I had no complaints about his performance. He was smart and efficient and was good at nonverbal cues. He was also able to travel at a moment's notice. When I rose he was waiting with a blood of Royalty Blend in one hand and a laptop in the other. He rattled off messages as I drank and went over stock reports for the day as I dressed.

Thanks to the great reveal I could travel safely during the day and not lose time. I was in New Orleans to see the queen of Louisiana. I was optimistic that I would get my way. Sophie-Anne had been eager to meet me and I knew she preferred women almost exclusively.

"We have to be in New York," he reminded me as I prepared to disembark.

I nodded. "Tell the pilot to refuel. I'll be gone no more than an hour."I left Montreal this afternoon. I woke in Louisiana, midnight would find me in New York then I'd be in Ontario before dawn. My itinerary for the evening was fairly light.

The only people that went with me were my bodyguards Batanya and Clovache. They were Britlingens, daemons from another dimension. They were expensive to summon and to keep them as long I've had them was bordering on figures that were obscene. It was worth it. One of their kind was extremely hard to kill and they saw through many forms of physical glamour. They also had several nasty tricks of their own. I'd contracted a dozen but these two interacted easiest with the world at large so they were my personal guards.

"I need you to be unseen," I told them.

"That might tempt someone," Batanya observed.

"We can only hope," Clovache mused darkly.

I rolled my eyes. They didn't see much action with me. At the most they got a sparring match with each other. For a species born to fight, this assignment was their longest and most unfulfilling. It couldn't have been all that bad because every year when the renegotiations came up, they stayed.

Almost two hours later I was less than pleased as I boarded the aircraft again.

"Bobby," I said.

"Yes sir."

"Call Alexander, I want to see him. I don't care where or how but I want to see him before I leave New York this evening."

Bobby simply nodded and walked away to make the call.