In the stillness of the morning, she could hear Lafayette in the kitchen preparing breakfast, the tantalizing aroma of fresh baked biscuits wafting through the open windows and sending her stomach into a growl. He’d shooed her out of the kitchen when she went to make a grab for one, saying he was determined to put something more substantial in her stomach if she’d only be patient. Her belly was protesting the wait. She was working on her laptop getting the Were’s schedules and the weekly supply lists done. Last night after Eric finished with everything at Fangtasia he had come home to try to speak with her, but she’d been too tired to do more than mumble a few incoherent words even his vampire hearing couldn’t parse and rolled over to go back to sleep. Her pregnancy was already starting to sap her strength and she definitely wasn’t skipping out on her sleep any more. Eric had ended up leaving a note for her saying that he needed to speak with her first thing this evening. She wasn’t sure what it was about, but she needed to speak to him about his “containment facility” so she intended to make time for him.
“Sookie, can I talk to you?”
Frannie peered around the door, looking at her with a curious expression. Sookie set her laptop on the small side table next to the swing and patted the space next to her. “Of course, honey. Come have a seat and tell me what’s on your mind.”
After taking a seat on the swing next to Sookie, Frannie began, “I was wondering if there is any way that I can be of help around here? Quinn told me I can’t know what’s going on, but I can tell it’s something big. He wouldn’t have moved me here if it wasn’t, and I’d really like to help.”
Dipping inside Frannie’s mind for a quick peek, Sookie smiled at the thoughts racing through the young girl’s mind. She didn’t dig very deep, certain that the girl was no threat, and the thoughts she did read were nothing but of good intent. Frannie genuinely wanted to help her, do something to keep her safe and happy, and Sookie wrapped her arm around her shoulders as she raised her shields again. “Frannie, honey, you don’t need to worry about what is going on around here. Quinn and I just want you to focus on being a kid. That’s all that you should be worrying about. We’ve got everything else covered.”
Frannie did her best to keep her thoughts light, making sure to employ the mental exercises that Newlin had detailed to her in their email conversations. “Please, Sookie! You’ve done so much for my brother and me, and I can’t stand sitting around here doing nothing! Please! Anything! Maybe I can help Lafayette or something?”
Sookie sensed how important this was to Frannie even with her shields up so she didn’t invade the girl’s privacy. She relented, “Let me check it over with Eric, but I’m sure it will be okay. Lafayette really could use some help. He hasn’t said anything, but I can tell how hard it is for him to keep up with all the meals. Cooking so many meals for so many people all on his own is difficult. I’m sure he would appreciate some help in the kitchen.”
Frannie grinned broadly, once again mentally affixing the images in her mind Newlin had suggested to her. She saw back to blissful childhood days when her family was together and let the peace and happiness flood her senses. Her thoughts and emotions wouldn’t betray her feelings at the mention of Eric, just as Newlin had advised during their discussions. She quickly agreed, “That would be great! And if you ever need any help you just let me know! I really do want to be useful to you!”
“I know, honey, I can tell.”
“Reading my thoughts?”
Shaking her head, Sookie denied, “I glanced briefly when you first sat down, but for the most part once I know someone is loyal I do my best to leave their thoughts to them. I understand how it is an invasion of privacy, and I know you’re a sweet girl that just wants to help. I promise I do my best to stay out of your head as much as I can.”
Newlin had prepared for her a suitable heartfelt sounding response that she now rolled out convincingly, “Oh I don’t mind! I think it’s cool what you can do. You can look inside my head anytime you want!”
Believing Frannie’s words only further proved her loyalty, Sookie promised, “Frannie, honey, I know you’re a good girl and wouldn’t do anything to hurt me. My staying out of your head as much as possible is about me respecting other people’s boundaries. I check my guards and Eric’s employees as often as possible because it’s necessary to keep us all safe.”
Frannie hid the secret pleasure Sookie’s words gave her and asked hopefully, “So is there anything I can help you with now?”
“Not really. I’m just scheduling everybody’s shifts, and that’s something Eric wants me to do by myself. How about you go into the kitchen and ask Lafayette if there is anything he needs help with? I’m sure once Eric sees how useful you’re being he won’t have a problem with you chipping in. I bet we can even get him to pay you!”
Frannie didn’t dare push for anything more today knowing it would arouse suspicion. She felt the grin spread wide on her face as she agreed, “Thanks! I’ll just go talk to Lafayette!”
“Okay, sweetie. I’ll see you later.”
Frannie made her way off the porch and towards the back of the house. She’d accomplished what she set out to do. Newlin had told her the best way to get Sookie out of the compound was by immersing herself as much as possible in the daily goings on of the compound. He’d warned her it might take weeks for her to get close enough to be able to divulge any useful information or be in a position to actually get Sookie away from Eric, but she was up to the challenge.
Previously she’d been trying to find a way to let Newlin know the full roster of individuals who were working for Eric and when they were on duty, but other than those at the Compound she had no idea how Eric was building his new kingdom. He was very secretive. She hadn’t even been able to nail down the shifts for the house because Sookie was always switching it up so that everybody worked different times with different personnel. Frannie really had no clue what fight the new king was gearing up for, but she fully intended to have Sookie, her brother, and herself well away from it by the time it started. She’d use Newlin and the Fellowship to get Sookie free from Eric and then the three of them could start their lives together. As a family. A real family.
Sookie watched Frannie run into the house in search of Lafayette and couldn’t keep from smiling. Frannie was such a sweet girl, and considering everything she’d been through it was a surprise that she wasn’t jaded or cynical. The girl honestly wanted to help her, expecting nothing in return, and Sookie couldn’t help but be touched by Frannie’s concern.
Retrieving her laptop to start work again, Sookie thought, ‘I wish more people were like Frannie. She’s so sweet. How can Eric think she’s a nuisance?’
Her thoughts getting decidedly darker at the thought of her mate, Sookie wondered aloud, “What the hell can he be thinking by wanting to build that—that—place! It’s horrible!”
While a part of her recognized that what Eric was doing was revolutionary in the vampire world, his words last night about human abuse being equated with animal abuse only reminded her how he still saw humans. They were animals to him. Not to be misused and abused, apparently, but animals nonetheless. She just couldn’t understand how he didn’t see that vampires were humans. Immortal ones, and with extra powers, of course, but they had been born human, and their humanity was a part of them always. She didn’t understand why Eric couldn’t see that.
‘He’s such a hypocrite about it all! Eric’s past as a human means so much to him, and yet he has the belief that humans are animals! How would he feel if a vampire had treated his human family the way he treats humans? I bet he wouldn’t find it so right or fair then!’
She shook her head in disgust at her mate’s behavior and his atavistic way of thinking and decided it didn’t matter. She didn’t care what it took; she was going to make sure Eric didn’t bring about his “containment facility”. It was yet another thing she was going to have to take up with him tonight. The primary issue she wanted to discuss was her brother. Sargon had made good on his word and dropped her brother and Sophie-Anne off at the location Eric specified, and while Eric had secured her brother for her, he would not let her see Jason. Eric insisted that until their witches or Niall could put a silencing spell on Sophie-Anne and Jason, she would not be permitted to see either of them.
Sookie didn’t see why Eric was so adamant about it. While he’d told her he didn’t want Jason or Sophie-Anne striking out at her like they had the last night she saw them, she had to believe there was more to it than that. She knew the Jason that was now wasn’t really her brother. Just like Eric, she could vividly recall the vicious things Jason had said to her that night at Fangtasia. She could remember the way Jason had delighted in rapturously telling her how he’d murdered Hadley, describing in detail how he’d taken pleasure drawing her death out. So she knew that Jason was more than likely going to say more such things to her, and she didn’t see the need for the silencing spell.
In either case, Eric had assured her that it wouldn’t take long to perform the spell, and she was done waiting. She didn’t care if the spell wasn’t finished or not. Tonight she was determined to see her brother.
“And he better not give me any lip about it,” she muttered to herself as she got back to work. She wanted to get all of this done so she could squeeze in a longer nap this afternoon.
In Dallas, Newlin smiled reassuringly at Tara as he pushed the prepaid cell phone towards her and reminded, “Now remember what we talked about. You must sound convincing. Sookie must believe you are in real danger. She must believe that you need her help and want to come home. You must get her to leave her compound and ditch her guard so that we can rescue her.”
“I know. I’m still not sure this will work, ya know,” Tara replied, grimacing. “Sookie was real clear before that she won’t help if I leave, and I obviously left.”
Newlin’s smile was all that was warm and gracious as he cajoled, “Oh I’m certain her love for you will not permit her to abandon you. I’m sure her words then were due to the vampire’s control. That’s why we’re calling during the day. He’ll be dead and she’ll be able to speak more freely. Just tell her what we rehearsed.”
Nodding, Tara repeated, “That I think we’re being hunted by vampires and I want to come back but Eggs won’t let me.”
“Exactly. I have faith in you, Tara. I know you can do this.”
Taking a deep breath, Tara picked up the pre-paid and dialed Sookie’s home number. It rang three times before Sookie’s voice greeted, “Hello?”
Back in Bon Temps, Sookie froze. She immediately recognized Tara’s voice, and remembering what Sargon had told her and Eric about where her friend was and the trouble she was in. Sookie affected a cool voice. “Tara, I was wondering when I would hear from you.”
In Dallas, Tara started at Sookie’s words and tone. Something was wrong with her friend. She could already tell, but she didn’t have time to puzzle it. She needed to pull off her part of the plan so Newlin could help her save Sookie from Eric. “Sook—I—I’m in trouble.”
Unwilling to waste time, Sookie decided to get straight to the point and explained, “Tara, you’re in more trouble than you know.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Is Newlin in the room with you?”
Tara’s eyes went wide as she stuttered, “N—Newlin? Newlin who?”
“You know exactly who I’m talking about. Tara, listen to me. If there is any way to get away from Newlin without arousing suspicion, do it. Get away from him and Eggs both and then call me back. I’ll explain everything then.”
“Sookie, I’m calling because I think vampires have found me and I’m scared. I want to come back but Eggs won’t let me. I—I need you to come get me.”
Sookie closed her eyes and shook her head sadly. Her voice was pained as she took a deep breath before replying, “Tara, you and I both know that’s not true. You’re in Dallas at the Fellowship with Steve Newlin. He and Eggs have both convinced you they want to help rescue me from Eric, but that’s a lie. They want to draw me out from under Eric’s protection and then kill me. They’re playing you … well, Newlin is playing you both. You’re in danger, Tara, but it’s not from vampires.”
Her voice serious, Sookie cautioned, “Tara, you need to get away from them as soon as possible, and you need to do it in a way that they won’t know you suspect them. If Newlin thinks you know about his real motives he might just kill you immediately. Or he could do worse. Remember I was almost raped there. Newlin and his people are capable of anything. Get out and call me as soon as you can. I’ll see if Eric can send someone to pick you up.”
Tara stood still for a moment, her gaze darting nervously to Newlin and Eggs who were both watching her avidly. She didn’t know how Sookie knew any of this, and a large part of her thought she was wrong; Newlin and everyone else here at the Fellowship had been nothing but wonderful to her since she’d arrived here. For the first time in a long time she felt like she had a home, a place to belong, a family, and a future.
‘But how could Sookie know about Newlin and Eggs? How did she know I was here? Is what she is saying right? Is Newlin playing me? No, he can’t be. He wants to help me and Sook. He wants to use her mind reading to help save other humans from vampires. I bet Eric found out we are trying to rescue her, and he’s filled her head with shit so she won’t leave. That bastard.’
Abandoning the story now, Tara replied, “Sook, you don’t know these people like I do. They’re good people that just want to help.”
Newlin, realizing that something was wrong and Tara was going off script now, dropped his smile and demanded, “What are you doing?”
Covering the phone with her hand, Tara told him, “She already knows I’m here. She thinks you are trying to draw her out to kill her. I just need to explain that we want to help.”
Quickly Newlin ran through his options and decided that the only real chance he had of still getting to Sookie was using Tara to do it. His mind flashed on an idea as he pressed the panic button under his desk and waited for the guards at the door to come rushing in, guns drawn.
When the gunmen entered the room and pointed their weapons at her and Eggs, Tara gasped, “What’s happening? What are you doing?”
Reaching into his desk to pull out his own gun and leveling it at Tara’s chest, Newlin’s smile held no warmth as he replied, “It seems Miss Stackhouse is more informed than I was expecting.”
Eggs ejected himself from his seat the moment the guards rushed in, and when Newlin pointed his gun at Tara he exclaimed, agitated, “What the fuck?! What is going on?!”
Newlin focused on Tara as he demanded, “Slide the phone to me across the desk. I’ll speak to that vampire loving whore myself.”
In the space of a ragged heartbeat, the truth slammed into a distraught Tara as his words echoed in her head. ‘She is right! God, Sookie is right! I’m being suckered!’ Newlin had no intention of saving anyone. Tara’s eyes were hooded with anger as she pulled herself up and sneered, “You motherfucker!”
One of the guards moved forward and slammed the butt of his gun across Tara’s cheek causing her to cry out and fall from her chair onto the floor. Eggs moved to help her but the other guard hit him on the back of the head with his gun, knocking him unconscious to fall next to Tara on the floor in a heap. One of the guards grabbed the phone from where Tara dropped it and handed it to Newlin.
His voice filled with loathing, Newlin greeted, “Now listen to me you fangbanging whore! If you don’t do exactly as I say your friend is dead.”
Back in Bon Temps Sookie took a deep breath, set her laptop aside, and in a chilling tone replied, “No, you listen, you self righteous fuck, and you’d better pay very close attention. You’re going to let them go, because if you don’t I’ll rain down a shitstorm on you the likes of which you’ve never seen. You think your pathetic Light of Day army is anything compared to the resources I have at my disposal? You honestly believe vampires and other supes remained myths for so long out of sheer fucking luck? We have means you can’t even dream of, and I will use them all to crush you and your sad little world if you fuck with me!”
Newlin hesitated a second before laughing, “You are delusional. If vampires were so powerful they would have struck out at me before this.”
“Before this, Newlin, you were simply beneath our notice.”
“How very eloquent. Newlin, you’re out of your league. I love Tara, and I will do my best to get her safely out of there, but I will not sacrifice my life or the lives of those I’m responsible for to do so. If that means you kill her, so be it, it’s a sacrifice I’ll have to make as a queen, but I assure you that I will have vengeance in her name. I’ll see to it that the Fellowship is obliterated; your members dead or in jail, your buildings rubble, and you will be nothing but a memory. I will destroy everything you are and have worked for, and I’ll do it with a single phone call. I’m giving you the chance to save not only your life here, but the lives of those who have so foolishly chosen to look to you for leadership. Let Tara and Eggs go and that will be the end of it, but if you harm them I will retaliate.”
Newlin was reading from an old script as he refused to be intimidated. He had no idea what Sookie had become and was addressing the blond bimbo who had shown up at the Fellowship of the Sun so long ago and played so eagerly into his hands. He hissed, “You listen to me, you abomination!” he sputtered. "You either leave that vampire’s control and give yourself over to me and my people in 24 hours or I’ll ship your friend back to you in pieces!”
Sookie hung up the phone and called out, “Liam!”
Appearing before her, the captain of the Fae guard bowed and asked, “My queen?”
“Newlin is making his move. He’s threatened to kill Tara if I don’t hand myself over in 24 hours.”
Liam’s eyes widened. “Are you going to wake the king?”
Shaking her head, Sookie explained, “No. I have a plan, and Eric would only try to stop me. Get a cell phone, go outside the barrier and call Shreveport, but as soon as the line opens ask for Sargon. He’s definitely monitoring calls in the area.”
“Who should I call?”
“It doesn’t matter. We’re only interested in Sargon. He’ll be listening. Speak to him and tell him I need him to contact me immediately.”
Liam hesitated before offering, “Perhaps we should wake the king and discuss this with him.”
Eyes narrowing, Sookie declared, “Eric is asleep and I am your queen. I just gave you an order. Are you refusing to obey?”
Liam’s eyes flashed with momentary surprise before he bowed deeply, “No, my lady. Your wish is my command.”
He disappeared to the guesthouse to retrieve one of the many burner phones they had and then materialized right outside the barrier. He knew that Fangtasia was out of the question since their own hackers had secured its lines, so he dialed the only other number he knew, the all natural grocery store Sookie had been doing her shopping at before her gnome had arrived. When one of the employees answered and asked if there was anything she could help him with, he ignored her and announced on the line, “This is Liam, Captain of Sookie’s Fae guard, if you are listening Sargon, she wishes you to call her back immediately. I repeat, Sargon if you are listening, Sookie Stackhouse wishes you to call her immediately.”
“Sir, this is Whole Foods Center, and there is no one named Sargon here. My name is Sarah, can I help you with something?”
Liam hung up the phone and disappeared back into the barrier to stand beside Sookie on the porch. He nodded when she looked to him questioningly. They both waited an interminably long few minutes before Sookie’s cordless house phone rang.
“Hello?” she grabbed the phone on its first ring.
“You asked for me?” His rich baritone voice was smooth and melodious.
For once feeling relief at the sound of Sargon’s voice, Sookie stated, “I need you to do something for me.”
“I must say I’m surprised you called.”
“I don’t have time for this, Sargon. If you have all the resources you say you have I need you to put them into use right now. Newlin has dropped his charade with Tara and is now holding her captive. He’s threatened to execute her and Eggs if I don’t turn myself over to him in 24 hours.”
“You will not give yourself to that fool!”
“Obviously. I’m calling because I want you to use your government resources to raid the Fellowship compound right now and get her out. You say you love me? Prove it. Destroy Newlin and the Fellowship right now.”
There was a moment of silence before Sargon asked, “And what does your king say about this plan of yours?”
“My king is asleep, and I am Queen. This is the course I’ve decided on. I can’t risk leaving this barrier because of you, so I’m going to use you.”
“Were I not so impressed with you at this moment I would be hurt by your indifference to using my love for you against me.”
“Will you do it?”
“I will begin putting everything in motion immediately. What do you want me to do with Tara once I retrieve her?”
Sookie hesitated, mulling the situation. “Give her money, a phone, and a car. If she wants to keep running she can, if she wants to come back, she can. The decision is hers.”
“Your heart amazes me. I will call and tell you the outcome as soon as possible.”
Before Sargon could hang up, Sookie asked, “Why aren’t you asleep?”
“At my age I only need sleep on occasion. Once every two weeks or so, and even then only a few hours fully replenishes me.”
“But you can’t go out in the sun, right?”
“No, I will not be given the gift of sunlight until we are bound.”
“That’s not going to happen.”
Sargon’s tone was full of mirth as he replied, “We shall see. Now I must go to see to your friend. You will hear from me soon. Keep an eye on the news as well. A plausible story will be provided to the press.”
The line went dead and Sookie hung up before looking at Liam who was gazing at her in wonder. She shrugged and said, “We might as well get some use out of him before we take him down.”
Liam laughed before sobering. “Your king will not like this.”
Sookie rolled her eyes. “Oh, don’t I know it. He’s going to be bitching about this for years! I can feel it.”
“What will you say to him?”
Sookie shrugged, “I’ll wing it. I didn’t endanger myself, and I didn’t endanger any of our people or waste any of our resources, nor did I expose us in any way. All I did was get an enemy to do our work for us. He can’t find fault in that.”
“Somehow I think he will.”
“Of course he will. Eric isn’t happy unless he has something to bitch about.”
Liam laughed again. “My Queen, you continue to delight and astound me.”
“Glad to entertain.”
“Do you think your friend will return?”
“I’m not sure. I hope she does. If she’s here I can keep her out of trouble, but if she wants to keep running that’s her choice.”
“I am sorry she has put herself in this position.”
“Me too, but hopefully Sargon can get her out safely.”
Nodding, Liam agreed, “I’m sure he will, but his ability to do something like this so quickly is also concerning.”
Her expression grave, Sookie concurred, “I know, but we’re getting stronger every night too.”
“Indeed. You especially.”
Beaming at her Fae captain, Sookie said, “Thank you. That means a lot, and do me a favor and make sure Lafayette doesn’t learn about this. He’d just worry himself sick. There’s no point in telling him until we know how all of this lands.”
Retaking her seat on the porch, Sookie lamented, “I guess all we can do now is wait.”
“The worst part.”
“I know, right?”
Back at his own home Sargon turned to his assistant and ordered, “Call the Pentagon. I want every special ops team available on standby in 30 minutes. They are to take the Fellowship compound immediately. Their primary objective is to retrieve Tara Thornton and Eggs Benedict, and their secondary objective is to kill Steve Newlin. See to it that ample evidence is planted to justify the raid. Something to indicate the Fellowship was planning a terrorist attack. Have everyone that isn’t killed in the raid arrested as well.”
Henry nodded soberly. “Very well, my Lord. Do you want me to handle the press as well?”
“Yes, but I do not want it hushed. Make sure the raid takes precedence over every other news story. I want Sookie to see the lengths I will go to for her.”
“Yes, my Lord. I will contact the Pentagon now. What do you wish us to do with Miss Thornton and Mr. Benedict?”
Sargon hesitated only a moment. “Hold them. I will go to Texas at first dark to see them before sending the girl back to Sookie.”
“Very well, my Lord.”
When his servant had gone Sargon let a smile grace his features. He had never expected Sookie to call him like this, but he was glad she did. While he recognized her actions were selfish, that she was simply using him, it did mean that she took his feelings seriously. She knew he loved her, she believed he loved her. It would make it easier to heal the rift between them once he killed Eric and claimed her as his mate.
‘And Tara will help me to bring Sookie to my side. I hate having to use the girl like this, but it is an opportunity I cannot pass up. Sookie will not expect it. She relies too much on her telepathy, but she forgets there are other ways to implant ideas and desires into people’s minds, and there are other ways to keep those intents hidden until it is time for them to come to fruition.’
Grinning at the unexpected boon he’d been given, Sargon muttered out loud, “And of course the Northman’s stupidity will help me to drive a wedge between him and Sookie.”
Sargon couldn’t believe that Northman actually believed he was going to be able to kill Bill behind Sookie’s back. Of course the fool might have had the chance if Sargon wasn’t so thoroughly connected. As it was, Sargon intended to let Eric kill Bill so that he could then inform Sookie of what her king had done. Hopefully it would cause more strife between them and leave them weaker.
‘They still haven’t figured out how to share minds and become one yet, and as long as I keep them at odds that won’t happen,’ Sargon thought to himself. ‘If they ever figure out just how strong they are as one I know my magic will not be strong enough to defeat them. I need to keep them so busy with other problems and being at odds with each other that they do not have time to explore the bond between them and the power it holds. My victory lies in keeping them apart. I have not come so far to lose control of the future now. Sookie will be mine.’
Less than two hours later in Dallas found Tara and Eggs huddled together in the basement of the Fellowship. After Sookie had hung up on Newlin he’d ordered them thrown in one of the cells and had both treated to a thorough beating. Tara’s right eye was swollen shut, she was pretty certain her wrist and a few of her ribs were broken, and Egg’s was coming in and out of consciousness.
“I should have listened to Sook,” Tara muttered to herself as Egg’s moaned in pain next to her. “I’ve really fucked myself this time.”
Before Tara could mutter any more self-incriminations the cell door opened and Steve Newlin came rushing in. He had a demented look in his eyes and was waving his gun around wildly.
Newlin’s eyes focused on Tara and he screamed, “This is all your fault! If you hadn’t come here none of this would be happening! You stupid bitch!”
Pressing against the wall behind her, Tara cried, “What? What did I do?”
“They’re attacking the Fellowship! All my soldiers are dead and everyone else is being arrested! By the military no less! You! You’re the one that brought them here!”
Still not understanding what he was talking about, and far more worried about the gun he was pointing at her, Tara stuttered, “P—please! I didn’t do anything! Don’t kill us!”
“You fucking bi—”
Tara’s eyes widened as she was suddenly sprayed with blood as bullets rained into Newlin’s body. He was dead before his corpse hit the floor in front of Tara and Eggs. Behind him stood a team of special forces in combat gear with rifles raised. One of them called out, “Tara Thornton and Eggs Benedict?”
Staring into the dead eyes of Steve Newlin, Tara was for once without words. She could only look from Steve’s body to the soldiers and back again.
The leader of the special forces team announced, “She’s in shock. Secure the rest of the basement and then get medics down here.”
The next half hour passed quickly and Tara remained in a state of stupefaction as she and Eggs were seen to by medics and pronounced fit for travel before being evacuated from the building. As she was escorted from the basement Tara couldn’t help but gape at the sight of the Fellowship compound. The place was littered with bodies of Light of Day soldiers, bullet holes pockmarked all the walls and several small fires were being put out. Military men and women were everywhere, herding the surviving Fellowship members into containment areas to be processed for arrest.
Turning to the woman military medic speaking to her, Tara mumbled, “Huh?”
“We’re going to transport you to a military hospital for evaluation.”
“Uh—okay, what happens to me and Eggs after that?”
“Frankly, ma’am, that’s above my pay grade. I’m just supposed to see to your care until we’re at the hospital. I’m only responsible for you until then.”
Tara wasn’t given a chance to say or ask anything else as another soldier ushered her towards the waiting Blackhawk alongside Eggs who was strapped to a stretcher.
More time passed quickly for Tara as her wounds were seen to. Initially she and Eggs had been separated to be treated, but after he was seen to he had been moved back to her room. Apparently he had a skull fracture and would need to stay under observation for awhile. No one had been able to tell Tara anything, and it was only when the sun set that she was finally provided some answers.
A mere hour after the sun set Sargon strode into the hospital room that Tara and Eggs were being kept in. Dressed entirely in black and cloaked in a full-length leather duster framing his broad shoulders, he was every inch the man not to be trifled with. He removed his sunglasses, his dark eyes capturing hers. He inclined his head politely, and said, “Hello, Miss Thornton, my name is Sargon and I’d like to speak with you.”
Eyeing the handsome male skeptically, Tara asked, “Sargon who?”
“I have no last name. I come from a time when people did not have them.”
“From a time—oh! You’re a vampire!”
“What the fuck are you doing here?”
Choosing not to become upset with the girls words or tone, Sargon replied, “I am the one that ordered the attack on the Fellowship and arranged for your rescue.”
Shock clear in her features, Tara asked, “Why?”
“Sookie asked me to.”
“Sookie! You know Sookie?”
Sargon nodded, “Indeed, and I hope to know her much better.”
Something about his tone worried Tara and she asked, “What is happening?”
Sargon lithely stepped next to Tara’s hospital bed and reached down. She felt immediate alarm but his expression was intent and not menacing. Long rugged fingers reached out to brush across her cheek. Tara gasped as his power flooded her body and her wounds began to heal. Within moments she felt no pain and could tell she was back to normal. Gazing at the man beside her she asked in fear, “What the hell did you do?”
“I healed you with my magic.”
“You have magic?”
“Yes, and I am done answering pointless questions,” he said, standing tall once more. She watched him sweep his unruly thick black hair back over his shoulders and his eyes pinned hers again. “It is time for you to listen to me.”
Tara felt real fear next to the vampire’s show of power. “Why are you here?”
“I am here to point out to you how foolish it was for you to leave Sookie’s protection. Not only do you owe her far more loyalty than this, but obviously you are ill equipped to stand on your own. Especially in this war and the one coming.”
“War? What war?”
His sensual mouth smiled condescendingly. Sargon supplied, “Well currently the Northman and Sookie are amassing an army to fight me, and later there will be the war for this world.”
“You? You’re the one they are gearing up to fight?”
“And who the fuck are you?”
“I am Lord Sargon,” he explained. Tara could believe it. He was every inch kingly and commanding. “I have spent the last six thousand years preparing for Sookie’s birth and the path I shall walk with her. I am the only vampire in the world who is capable of wielding magic, and as you have seen for yourself the human governments and militaries of the world are also under my control.”
Tara was feeling very frightened now as she croaked, “Why do you want to kill Sookie?”
Sargon’s face registered his shock and horror as he gasped, “Kill her? I would never kill Sookie! And I will protect her from any that mean her harm. I wish to make her my queen. I wish to spend eon after eon at her side making her happy and loving her. The only one I am planning to kill is Eric Northman, but enough talk of that. It’s not what I came here for.”
“Then what are you here for?”
“I am here to urge you to return to Sookie’s side. She can see to your safety. She asked that I rescue you and then leave you with a phone, money, and a car. Which I will. You will be free to go wherever you like as soon as I leave this room; however, I must advise you to return to Sookie. This is the last time I will rescue you from your own stupidity, and I doubt Sookie will go to such lengths again if you manage to get yourself taken captive by any other enemy wishing to get to Sookie.”
Tara didn’t understand any of this and demanded, “Why is this happening? Why are so many people after Sookie?”
“Because she is literally the greatest creation of all time. She is the embodiment of hope, and all paths for the future lie through her.”
“What does that mean?”
“If you wish for more answers you may get them from Sookie.” When Tara remained sullenly silent, Sargon continued, “You should also think about leaving Eggs. He was in on Newlin’s plan to assassinate Sookie from the beginning. Normally I would kill him myself, but I’m unsure how Sookie would respond to such an action.”
Arching a brow, Sargon asked, “Why would I lie?”
“Because—because you want to break us up!”
Sargon released a hearty laugh before asking, “And what concern of mine is your relationship to that pitiful man?”
“Well, you certainly seem interested in us right now!”
“Because Sookie cares about you. I assured your life and freedom, but your relationship status is, quite frankly, beneath my notice. Normally you would be as well, but Sookie does value you so.”
“If my relationship status is so far beneath your notice why are you trying to turn me against Eggs?”
Sargon frowned, shaking his head and denied, “I’m not trying to turn you against him. I’m simply telling the truth about him to you.”
“You’re lying. Eggs wouldn’t do that. He would never lie to me.”
“Are you quite certain about that?”
When Tara remained silent with no ready response, Sargon explained, “Tara, I don’t care about you at all. Frankly, you are a waste of space, and a hindrance to Sookie. I gave some thought to allowing you to be killed in the raid on the Fellowship, but decided against it. Even if your death would simplify Sookie’s life, it would grieve her, and I wish to avoid that. She will have to mourn the Northman soon enough.”
“I don’t believe you!”
Unwilling to argue, Sargon pulled out his phone and began playing the audio files his people had recorded of Eggs’ initial conversations with Newlin. He watched dispassionately as Tara listened with growing horror as Eggs and Newlin discussed Sookie’s assassination and Eggs desire that Tara know nothing about it. She listened as they concocted the story they fed her before Sargon turned his phone off and slipped it back into his pocket asking, “Do you believe me now?”
Tara’s eyes filled with hot tears. “Why are you doing this?”
Sargon explained, “I’m telling you now because it is my hope you will return to Sookie, but you cannot do that with Eggs. Northman will not allow the fool back into his compound. As he shouldn’t. Once a traitor, always a traitor.”
Looking at the bed next to her where Eggs’ unconscious form lay, Tara asked brokenly, “He really was trying to set Sookie up to be killed?”
Tara focused back on Sargon warily as she asked, “Why do you want me to go back to Sookie?”
“Because she loves you. She misses you, and once I kill Northman she will need her friends support.”
Of course Sargon didn’t mention that he hoped Tara’s presence at Sookie’s compound would create further animosity between Sookie and Eric. The more they fought the less they would explore their bond and power. Exactly what he needed, and Tara was nothing if not problematic.
Tara, unaware of Sargon’s true intentions, asked, “Why do you want to kill Eric?”
“Because Sookie can only be bound to one man. I will be that man.”
Tara shook her head and fretted, “This shit is fucking crazy.”
“To you, perhaps.” Reaching into his pocket, Sargon pulled out a wad of hundred dollar bills, a new cell phone, and a set of car keys and held them out to Tara. “There is a Denali parked downstairs in lot 3b, parking space 47. That’s five thousand, and the cell phone is fully charged. Go and do what you want, but I ask that you remember that Sookie never ran from you or your problems. She faced down death itself to save you from that maenad, and you need to ask yourself if you could live with yourself if you abandon her now.”
As Tara slowly reached out to take the offering, Sargon added, “And if you do return to Sookie, urge her to accept my previous offer.”
“What previous offer?”
“She’ll know what I mean. Tell her she needs to focus on those she can save, not those destined to fall.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just tell her.”
Sargon didn’t give Tara a chance to say anything else as he stepped forward and cupped her face in his hands and let his power flow into her. Tara’s eyes turned solid white and her body glowed for a fraction of a second before Sargon grinned and stepped back. The trap had been set. Sookie’s telepathy would not be able to detect what he’d done to Tara’s mind. He waited a moment for Tara to return to normal, knowing she would have no remembrance of what he’d done.
When Tara’s eyes cleared she asked, “What happens now?”
“I’m leaving. What you do now is up to you.”
Tara watched in silence as Sargon turned and strode from the room. When he was gone she shook her head and muttered, “This shit is fucking crazy.”
Looking back down at the keys, cash, and phone in her hand she considered her options. Finally, she decided she was going back. She’d never felt right about leaving Sookie, Lafayette, and Sam, but she’d thought her only chance at happiness was with Eggs. As usual, she’d been wrong. It was time to go home.
“What the fuck were you thinking!”
Sookie sat on her bed sipping another glass of juice as she watched Eric pacing in front of her bed, ranting and raving at her for contacting Sargon and asking him to save Tara. “I was thinking about saving my friend without endangering any of us or wasting any of our men or resources.”
“Sookie, you had no fucking right!”
“I am queen, and I had every right!”
“And I am your king! You should have woken me and allowed me to handle the situation!”
Pointing at her new TV that Eric had finally allowed back in the house after the hackers had assured him they had full control of all transmissions in the compound, Sookie hissed, “Do you see the news? The Fellowship is all but destroyed! They’re being labeled terrorists! The only ones left are the cells now! Tara is safe and it didn’t cost us anything!”
“That’s not the fucking point!”
Eric was livid. When he’d risen tonight to find out what Sookie had done he’d nearly lost any and all control. He’d had to take a few minutes to calm himself before even thinking of speaking to her. To think that she’d turned to Sargon for help had caused the darkness in him to rage, and what’s worse, it hurt. How could she turn to anyone for help but him? Of course he refused to admit to the pain and focused solely on his rage.
“Then what is the fucking point, Eric?”
“The point is I’m your mate, and it is my place to handle your problems! Not Sargon’s!”
“I don’t need anyone to handle my problems, Eric! I handled the problem today, and Sargon was simply the tool I used to do it! I saved Tara with a phone call, and you’re here bitching about it like a little boy! Grow the fuck up, Eric!”
Eric’s fangs snapped down as he snarled, “Don’t talk to me like that!”
“I’ll talk to you any way I like! Especially when you’re here screaming at me like I’m a child!”
Eric stepped forward to lean down into her personal space, growling. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
Sookie refused to be intimidated and instead demanded, “What? What did I do, Eric? What harm have I done? What have I cost us with my actions today?”
“You—you undermined my authority!”
Sookie shook her head letting out a hollow laugh and replied, “Eric, that is one weak ass argument and you know it. This isn’t about a mistake or risk you think I made, this is about you not liking me calling up Sargon and asking him to do something for me instead of me having you do it.”
“Damn straight! If there is trouble and you need help, it should be me that you turn to!”
Setting her glass of juice down to stand from the bed, Sookie argued, “Now you listen to me, Eric Northman! I am a queen just as much as you are a king, and I made a judgment call! I saved my friend’s life without having to do anything more than make a phone call. I’m sorry if it hurts your pride, but you need to get the fuck over it! I’m not going to judge my actions by whether or not they offend your pride. I considered whether or not any of us might be hurt by my calling Sargon, whether it would cost us men or resources, and when I saw that nothing was to be lost and only everything to be gained, I called. Besides, what could you have done in 24 hours that wouldn’t have lead to Tara being killed?”
“I could have saved her!”
“I would have come up with a plan!”
She shook her head and admonished, “And why should we have wasted time, manpower, and resources with something Sargon could obviously do for us quite easily?”
When Eric remained silent, Sookie continued, “Don’t you see, Eric, I wasn’t choosing him over you, I was simply using him. I used his feelings for me to get him to do our work for us. The kind of thing we should be trying to do more of! Just like he wants to distract us with those stupid fucking pills, we should be distracting him with something!”
Strategically he could see her point, but Eric was still not happy. Sookie should have woken him, she should have asked for his input and allowed him to handle the situation. At the very least she should have let him call Sargon and demand he save the girl. He could see how irrational his thoughts were, but he couldn’t help them. Sookie was his Dammit!
“Sookie, we agreed that I was in charge of protection. You promised you would let me handle matters of security.”
“This wasn’t a matter of security. Nobody here was in danger. Tara was in danger, and I promised I wouldn’t leave to try and help her if she got in trouble. I upheld that promise. You have no right to be angry with me.”
“I have every right!”
Sookie refused to be riled. “Why? What grounds do you have to be so upset about this?”
“Because I am your king!”
“And I am your queen!”
When it looked like Eric was about to say something else, Sookie hissed, “You’d better think long and hard before you say something I will make you regret!”
Eric faced off with Sookie, his rage humming inside him before he let out a curse and vamped out of the room. When he was gone, Sookie muttered, “Hard headed ass!”
Downstairs Eric appeared in the living room where Han, Ivan, Haldar, Pam, Liam, and Lucas were waiting. He spared none of them a glance as he said, “I will be out the rest of the night. See to your duties and make sure Sookie does not leave the barrier.”
He was gone before any of them could say anything, and after a moment Haldar commented, “I have to give it to Sookie, that girl has balls of steel.”
“You have no idea,” Pam laughed.
“Where do you think he went?” Han asked?
Haldar and Pam knew perfectly well were Eric went. He was going to see Bill. In the mood he was in they almost felt sorry for the pathetic vampire. Almost. Of course the only thing Haldar said was, “It is none of our business. As the king said, it is time to see to our duties.”
A few minutes later Eric landed in the field the abandoned warehouse he’d had Bill stashed at was located. He vamped inside and let his fangs snap down as he greeted darkly, “Hello, Billy boy. You have no idea how happy I am to see you right now.”