Charlaine Harris owns almost everything. I own the rest.
Thanks for all the love for Chapter 1. I’m glad you’re here on this journey with me! I won’t have wifi consistently for the next few days, so I won’t be able to reply to reviews. I guess I’ll just have to enjoy my vacation instead. 😉 I’d like to give Meridian a big ol’ cyber hug for all her help editing this little story. Thanks!
Since this story begins before the books, I’ve taken liberties with the series of events that dictate the outcome of books 1-7. You’ll notice my backstory and CH’s aren’t alike for the most part. That’s the beauty of changing the past…it changes the future too!
The first two years passed in a blur of activity as they prepared for the Great Revelation. In that time, Sookie not only figured out how to control her telepathy, she also learned how to set boundaries.
Surrounded by silent and beautiful men meant she had to keep her head on straight. Despite their attempts to woo her, she almost always refused. Mixing business with pleasure never sat well with her, and being the queen’s special aide gave power to her rejections.
It had taken forever for her to adjust to life in the palace: having a wait staff attending to her every need, drivers taking her wherever she needed to go, and enough money to buy whatever she wanted. Her salary provided more than enough to meet her needs; so much, in fact, that she could be sure her gran didn’t have to worry about money another day in her life.
At first, Sookie and Hadley spent every day together, just as they had when they first moved to New Orleans, but Hadley’s relationship with Sophie-Anne deepened, and after a while, Hadley confessed that she wanted to be turned. Sookie didn’t know how to take the news, but she knew Hadley’s love for the queen was true and ran deep enough to survive death, so in the end, she celebrated with Hadley and watched her emerge in her new life happier than ever.
Because she worked for vampires, she had all the hours of daylight to herself, and plenty of vacation, too. For the first time in her life, she traveled. She traveled for work and she traveled for pleasure.
After the Great Revelation, she accompanied the queen on trips overseas where she spent her days exploring the museums of Paris, the ruins of Rome, and riding a bike through the streets of Holland. Andre, who always escorted the queen, taught Sookie different languages, which only heightened the pleasure of her trips.
She visited home at least twice a year. She wouldn’t dream of missing Thanksgiving or Easter. The people of Bon Temps didn’t change much over the years, except their opinion of her. No one knew what she did for her job, but they knew she’d made it out and made it big. Now instead of whispers of Crazy Sookie, they speculated about the source of her money. She made her gran swear up and down that she wouldn’t tell them about her job. That would ruin her fun. It wasn’t hard for Gran to play dumb anyway since she didn’t really understand how Sookie used her gift to help the Louisiana vampires.
Occasionally, Sophie-Anne would loan Sookie to another state, but always with Sookie’s permission and with the escort of her choice. On those trips she earned double pay for the hazard of dealing with vampire politics. In her years of travel, she met a wide variety of other supes, including a handful of shifters, demons, and another telepath: Barry Bellhop. She and Barry became friends instantly, and stayed in touch. In fact, they both looked forward to any work event that brought them together. The Rhodes Summit was the next occasion scheduled for the third weekend in September.
As fall approached, everyone at headquarters kicked into high gear. Arrangements were made, bags were packed, and a private Anubis Air plane had been chartered. Sookie bought an entire new wardrobe for the trip and anxiously waited for the opportunity to wear everything.
And then Hurricane Katrina hit and ripped the city apart.
Sophie-Anne worked tirelessly to keep her group together and organize rebuilding efforts, but it came down to money. Louisiana never had enough money, especially not during a catastrophe. The Rhodes Summit was coming at the ideal time since it would be the perfect opportunity for the queen to ask for support in the most diplomatic and face-saving way possible.
The morning their plane left, Sookie boarded with Mr. Cataliades and his two nieces, Diantha and Gladiola, as the airline staff loaded coffin after coffin in the back of the plane. The sisters competed with each other for brightest outfit, decked in florescent colors so lively they glowed. Sookie enjoyed their fast-paced conversation and the way they played together. She couldn’t get into any of their heads, and for that, she was grateful. As the queen’s personal lawyer, Mr. Cataliades spent a lot of time at the palace and never ceased to give Sookie the heebie-jeebies, despite his smooth, pleasant voice.
The pilot announced their descent into Shreveport where they would pick up the rest of the Louisiana entourage. Despite the years she had spent with Sophie-Anne, Sookie had yet to meet the Sheriffs of Areas Three, Four, and Five. She had met Arla Yvonne, Sheriff of Area Two, the week prior to their trip, as arrangements were made for someone to run things at headquarters while everyone else was gone.
Diantha and Gladiola played jacks while they waited for the remaining passengers to board. Sookie eyed the Anubis employees carefully as they moved five more coffins onboard, making sure no one touched her group. Two humans boarded the plane, sitting on the opposite side, but not together.
The man looked like he had a stick shoved so far up his ass that he couldn’t move easily, and the woman wore a dress so short that when she sat, Sookie could almost see her underwear.
“Who are you accompanying?” Sookie asked after they reached cruising altitude. It’s going to be a long flight. I might as well try to be friendly.
The woman spoke first. “I’m with Gerry. We’ve been together about seven months.” She yawned and then thrust her hand across the aisle. “Carla Danvers.”
“Pleased to meet you, Carla. Sookie Stackhouse.”
“Can you believe they’re making us fly this early? I was hoping to get a later flight. Gerry and I had a late night, if you know what I mean.” She winked.
Sookie didn’t have to imagine what Carla meant since she broadcast a very clear image of Gerry naked on top of Carla. Sookie blanched.
Carla put headphones over her puffy hair and closed her eyes, obviously giving in to the sleep she so desperately needed.
“And you?” Sookie asked the other passenger.
The man turned in his seat to face her, but didn’t speak.
“Who did you come with?” she repeated.
“I don’t think that’s any of your business,” he answered coolly. Master Eric doesn’t need another groupie following him around. She looks like a high-class fangbanger.
Sookie scoffed, unbuckled, and strolled to the back of the plane where she read the five nametags attached to the new coffins. “Which one is your master, Gervaise, Cleo, Pam, Eric, or Bill?” she asked even though she knew the answer.
The man’s face puckered. “You think I would serve Bill?”
She shrugged and returned to her seat. “How would I know? You’re not talking.”
“I serve Eric.” His voice took on a reverence that made him sound pathetic.
“So you’re his gofer?” She nodded. “Nice to meet you, Eric’s gofer.”
“I’m his day man, and my name is Bobby Burnham.” He straightened his back.
She thought about offering her hand, but knew he wouldn’t accept it. “Pleased to meet you, Bobby. I’m Sookie Stackhouse.”
“Why are you here?” Bobby said, snidely.
Diantha peeked through the gap between the seats and said in a single breath, “He’sanasshole.Wantmetohurthim?” She slid her knife out of its sheath.
“No, that’s okay, Diantha. Thanks for offering though. You’re too sweet.”
Diantha grinned and turned back to her game. She and Gladiola were playing cards.
Bobby swallowed hard and eyed the glimmering sisters warily.
“I work for the queen. Perhaps you’ve heard of her?” she smiled widely and dipped inside his brain again only to find a string of Oh shit! She laughed. “How long have you been Eric’s day man?”
“Six months,” Bobby answered in a much more respectful tone. “And you?”
“Six years.” She smiled. “Almost seven. I’ve been with her since before the Great Revelation. Do you travel with him often?” She nodded her head to the back of the plane.
Bobby shook his head. “This is the first time.”
“So you want to make a good impression, right? Show him how great you are, and try to put everyone you think is lower than you in their place, right?” She stared at him intently, making him squirm in his seat. “You know it’s not nice to call someone a high-class fangbanger.”
He frowned. “But I didn’t… I mean I…”
Sookie laughed. “Oh! Silly me, I forgot to mention I’m a telepath.”
Mr. Cataliades leaned forward and looked at Bobby. “Sookie has a great sense of humor.”
Bobby laughed uneasily and then focused on the checklist in his lap, which he had already referenced twice before the plane had even taken off.
“Looks like we’re going to have a fun weekend, huh?” Sookie whispered to Mr. Cataliades. He chuckled and pushed his seat back as far as it would go. Sookie turned her attention to the paperback she had brought and spent the rest of the flight catching up on the story, already in progress.
* * * *
An Anubis Air shuttle waited for them at the airport near Rhodes. Bobby stood guard, glaring at anyone who slipped up while handling his vamp’s enormous coffin. He insisted on riding in the shuttle with Eric.
Sookie, not willing to let him feel superior, told Mr. Cataliades she would do the same to make sure everyone got into the hotel safe and sound. He laughed and shook his head, but said he would go ahead to the queen’s suite to be sure everything was in order. She watched as Sophie-Anne, Andre, Wybert, Sigebert, Hadley, and Rasul all got loaded into secure compartments that lined the shuttle walls. The driver offered her the passenger seat, which she gladly took, while Bobby sat on the floor, smashed between two coffins. By the time they reached the Pyramid of Gizeh hotel, her cheeks hurt from smiling. The van disappeared into the bowels of the hotel, twisting and turning into an underground parking structure. They stopped abruptly behind a line of vehicles and began unloading. Bobby stretched gingerly after the ride into the city, and then started glaring at people again.
Sookie’s entourage was loaded onto moving carts, each controlled by a bellhop. They all wore a lanyard around their necks with their names and security clearance. She nodded her approval as she accompanied them into the massive elevator. She waved at Bobby, who stood waiting with the other five coffins from their shuttle. As soon as the door shut, she burst out laughing, startling the group of bellhops standing near their assigned coffins. “Sorry, I’ve been holding that for a while.”
She got off the fourth floor and followed the trail of coffins. She tipped the bellhops and thanked them before closing the door to the suite.
“How was the ride?” Mr. Cataliades asked from his perch on the oversized couch by the dark, slanting windows.
“Amusing,” she replied, smiling again. “Bobby Burnham will think twice before being a condescending asshole.”
“I’m sure you’ve taught him a valuable lesson.” He nodded.
“Where are the girls?” She thought for a moment. Could she really call them that? She had no idea how old the half-demon sisters were, and she worried that it sounded rude.
He chuckled, putting her at ease. “Patrolling. They can’t hold still for long. That’s what makes them such excellent security.”
“One of their many admirable traits,” she said.
He beamed with pride, which showed off a little too much of his terrifying smile.
Within a few minutes, the occupants inside the coffins began to stir. Sophie-Anne emerged first, stretching and yawning as she shrugged off the sleep still clinging to her. Andre, and Wybert and Sigebert rose next, scanning the room the second their lids popped open. Sophie-Anne opened Hadley’s coffin and kissed her peaceful face, smiling when Hadley woke enough to kiss her back. Rasul’s latch got stuck, so Sookie helped him from the outside.
Rasul bowed deeply. “I am in your debt.” He squeezed Sookie’s hand and smiled at her through his long, dark lashes.
“Think nothing of it,” Sookie replied, pulling away from him. He had become more of a brother to her than Jason ever had, and because of that, she was happy to help him. “Just lending a hand.”
“How was the flight?” Sophie-Anne asked.
Sookie and Mr. Cataliades exchanged looks. She smirked. “Interesting. I haven’t met the Sheriffs in the north yet, but I did get a chance to meet Eric’s day man and Gervaise’s girlfriend.”
“They’re interesting? I haven’t had a chance to make their acquaintances.” The queen tilted her head.
“I had a little fun with Bobby Burnham, Eric’s day man. He was —.”
“Hewasanasshole,” Diantha added, blowing into the room faster than Sookie could see.
“It’s true. He was an asshole.” She grinned. “Where’s your sis?”
Someone knocked on the door, which Andre answered after Wybert and Sigebert were in place protecting the queen. Joseph, the burly vamp at the door, announced the arrival of his party, which included the King of Texas.
Sookie smiled. The last time she’d seen Stan Davis, he’d been Sheriff of Dallas. He hadn’t changed much, still dressed casually, and embodied the word nerd. His nest sister Rachel trailed behind him, and Barry followed close on their heels.
Barry! You look great! He had matured into a handsome young man in the three years since last they’d seen each other.
Barry’s eyes raked over Sookie and he said, Likewise. I think you’re prettier every time I see you.
Sookie waved a hand and shook her head. Stop! She smiled, but her face fell when she realized everyone in the room was looking at them. “Sorry, I don’t get to talk to another telepath often. That was rude. I apologize.”
Sophie-Anne nodded. “I know that feeling, and I accept your apology.” She smiled up at Stan, who bent to kiss her hand. “Stan, your royal position suits you.”
“Thank you, most beautiful queen.” Stan bowed deeply and the other two vampires in his party did the same. “We have come to show our support. We know you’ve been hit hard by Katrina, and I wanted to let you know that we are willing to help however we can.”
Sophie-Anne managed to look humble for a moment before thanking him and getting into details about exactly how and where she could use the most help. It was her main focus, and finding support immediately put everyone at ease.
“In return, I hoped I might ask for your help with deliveries. It seems as though our ports are under heavy scrutiny.”
“My ports are your ports,” Sophie-Anne said with a smile.
“Excuse me, ma’am, may Barry and I be excused?” Sookie asked.
The queen nodded. “I don’t see why you need to be present for this discussion since you are the only humans present. You should get something to eat before the Summit begins. I’ll page you when I need you.”
Mr. Cataliades rose from his comfy seat. “Before you go, you should put this on. Everyone has one. Security is tight.”
“For good reason,” Sookie added, slipping the security lanyard over her head with her name and state typed along the bottom.
“I also picked up your room key,” he added.
“Thank you,” she said, slipping the card key into the plastic pocket that protected her security badge. She gripped the handle of her luggage and walked out of the room. As they made their way down the hall to the elevator, she asked, Are you hungry?
I could eat. He shrugged.
They rode the elevator down to the human level where she dropped off her luggage and quickly surveyed her room while Barry waited. Floor to ceiling windows filled one entire wall, giving her a spectacular view of Lake Michigan and six lanes of traffic. Well, she assumed it was spectacular. At that time of night, the water looked like a giant moving shadow. She sighed, resigned to the fact that she’d be spending the entire long weekend inside the hotel instead of walking along the edge of the lake. It’s too cold to enjoy the beach anyway. She closed the door and then they made their way to the little restaurant in the lobby. While they waited for their food, they talked. It must’ve looked strange – two people facing each other, not saying a word. But she didn’t care.
You look great. Really. Is Stan treating you well?
He nodded. He makes sure I’m taken care of. He always reminds me that I’ve been crucial for his promotion to king. How about you?
Sophie-Anne is a great boss. Andre is a creep sometimes, but he’s also helpful. He taught me French last fall when we went to Paris.
They paused to thank the server for their food. Barry looked at his burger and fries and then at her plate with a giant slice of chocolate cake.
Life is too short. I always start with dessert. Sookie smiled.
Barry laughed. I thought you were kidding when you told her to bring your cake first. He smiled. Are you seeing anyone?
Sookie blushed. She gave into her desires frequently with vamps away from home and slept with an unimportant human here or there too, someone she wouldn’t have to see again, someone she could block from her thoughts while they were together. The truth was always too hard to stomach. She preferred vamps because of their silent minds, but that got complicated quick. The Summit had the potential of providing some much-needed relief, if only she had the chance to mingle. She took a bite of her cake and sighed. No. You?
He shook his head. I know what you mean. I don’t like hearing what they think either.
Shit. I didn’t mean to share that with you.
He grinned. It’s okay. It’s not like either of us have practice guarding our thoughts! He touched her hand lightly to console her, and when he did, they both gasped.
All the thoughts in the room amplified, coming in so clear she could pick out a single one and figure out who it was coming from, something she struggled to do normally. Can you hear them?
Yes! It’s amazing. It’s like hearing their thoughts in stereo! Look at that woman over there. He stared at a woman dressed all in black sitting alone eating quickly, barely stopping to breathe.
She’s waiting from a call from her master. Ugh. I hate that, when human employees call their vampire bosses master. She made a face. Which is weird since she hates a vampire named Becky.
Maybe Becky is a bitch, Barry thought, making Sookie laugh. He looked behind her. How about that guy?
She glanced over her shoulder and got a glimpse of Bobby Burnham before looking away. He’s an asshole. I met him on the plane ride here.
He’s coming to talk to you. Act natural. Barry pulled away from her, and just like that, the voices dissolved into the background.
“Miss Stackhouse, I wanted to, uh, apologize.”
“For what, Bobby?” She batted her eyelashes at him and smiled.
“For the way I talked to you on the plane. Mr. Northman is not pleased with me, so I told him I would apologize,” he explained.
She scoffed. “So the only reason you’re apologizing is because your boss is making you?”
“That didn’t come out right,” he stammered. “I meant to show respect, since you deserve it.” His voice trailed off.
“Thank you, Bobby,” Sookie said, turning back toward Barry. I know I shouldn’t like it so much, but I love making him squirm.
You’re cruel! Barry sniggered, making Sookie laugh.
“I’ll let you finish your … meal. I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Bobby muttered before turning and walking out of the restaurant.
They laughed and communicated in silence while Sookie waited for her pasta. Just as she picked up her fork, someone walked into the room. He took up a lot of space and had an air about him that meant he was used to attention.
Hmm…I wonder who that could be! Find out now, It Happened In Rhodes: Chapter 3