@KingFelipeTB stepped out of Jimmy’s reluctantly. Night had arrived and while Jimmy’s was not the sort of place vampires would frequent nor was the Uptown [art of town unless they were hunting. It was still early, however, the last rays of the sun still coloring the sky and most vampires would still be dead to the world. At least that’s what he told himself. The truth of the matter was he was taking a risk, not just being out this late but the lure of human life, from the quieting streets of the Garden District to the humming excitement of the Quarter and Bourbon Street were irresistible. Even now, when he was just another human in the crowd.
As he rode through the Quarter, the chug of the motorcycle engine could almost be mistaken for the symphony of heartbeats that had been the score of his existence for centuries. Sometimes he missed the steady pulsing but he was getting used to the silence. And he still marveled that he could feel it by pressing his fingers to his chest or wrist though he could not hear it. Human life sounded different than vampire existence. Funny, how he’d never thought of that before.
Such were the thoughts occupying his mind when he happened across a couple kissing. The sight was far from unusual yet something about this pair caught his eye. Pausing to allow a gaggle of drunk humans to wind their way across the street, Felipe studied the pair. The size of the male was the only thing that really stood out about them. He towered above the crowd, dwarfing them and the female hidden in his arms. There was something familiar about them….
@KingFelipeTB was furious. He should have been frightened, sharing the room with a couple thousand years of vampire cunning that had demonstrated she did not wish him well. For better or worse, Felipe’s anger was too raw and overwhelming for common sense to assert itself. Besides, he was King.
“What have you done to me,” he demanded.
“I?” @Kezaiya repeated her lips curling in a fang flashing smile. “I have done nothing to you.”
Felipe growled and crawled ponderously from the bed they had shared. He wanted to strangle her. Or beat her until her bones broke through her flesh. Or silver her until her dark blood soaked the floor and she existence ebbed from her a drop at a time while she could do nothing about it but watch. Unfortunately, he could do none of that.
His limbs felt leaden. It took forever to move them, they were so heavy. And when they did move, they didn’t move right. There was no grace, no strength. A dull thudding that reverberated through his body replacing the siren song of power that was innately his and him. He felt empty and bereft, somehow. The world had shifted. He wasn’t sure how or why exactly. He just knew something had been taken from him. He was determined to get it back.
“Then you know what was done to me,” Felipe snapped as he struggled into some clothes.
Kezaiya just smiled at him.
“Tell me!” he demanded.
“Tell you what?” Kezaiya asked sweetly. “That your shirt is buttoned incorrectly?”
It was obvious she was enjoying the situation and his inept attempts to make his limbs behave. That made him hate her even more.
“What has been done to me!” he growled, trying to sneer and imply only a fool would have to ask him to clarify the question.
“I would think that was obvious,” Kezi said. “You are human.”
The revelation staggered him. Close on it’s heels came the understanding that he would soon be finally dead, and he had no one to blame but himself. He had agreed to everything Kezi had asked for. Indeed he would have given her anything, and all he asked for in return was her support. Instead, she choose to give him final death.
They’d see about that.
Spinning on his heel, Felipe strode purposefully out of the bedroom. It took him longer to cross the main room of the suite than he would have liked, but at last he reached the door and threw it open.
@VinnyT_BD gaped at the King. When Kezi had ordered him to collect @GemRoux’s things, he expected she and Felipe would be busy, or at least not opening the door.
Felipe didn’t stop. He pushed past the younger vampire trusting to tradition to keep Vinny from realizing anything was wrong. Fortunately, Vinny gave way but Felipe caught the flash of something in his eyes. He expected one of them to stop him. Neither did.
It occurred to him that they needed him to be seen. Killing him was an automatic death sentence for Kezi, now that they were wed. It was a standard clause in any vampire wedding contract. Killing him now that he was human carried no such penalties. Not only could a human not be King, he had recklessly permitted a clause to be inserted in the contract giving them both power unto death over the humans in the other’s service. At the time he had crowed privately over her foolishness thinking the clause gave him leverage over her through her beloved maid. Now he knew better. He also knew better than to show himself in public, that would be as good as signing his own death warrant.
Abruptly, Felipe turned his steps away from the bank of elevators towards the stairs. He doubted any of the vampire guests would take the stairs. Neither would their human or supe humans who might recognize him. The hotel employees he might encounter on the stairs would probably be in too much of a hurry or be more concerned with concealing whatever they were doing to recognize him. Felipe hurried down the stairs, breaking stride only to grab a jacket someone had left behind. It didn’t fit but fortunately it was also stained, providing him with a ready excuse for not wearing it should anyone challenge him.
He made it to the main floor without incident but kept going. Not all vampires had a Were’s sense of smell but he wasn’t going to take the chance, He would confuse his scent with those of the numerous human employees who labored unseen beneath the five-star surface.A few minutes later he stepped into the chill New Orleans night in a small knot of employees heading for the nearest bar where he parted ways with them. He had a little money in his pocket but he wasn’t going to waste it, or his wits,on intoxicants.
Felipe kept walking. If he was going to survive, he needed distance, time…and a plan.
@KingFelipeTB was pleased. In fact, he was ecstatic. The bonding ceremony with @Kezaiya had been flawless. Not even he could ask for anything more as he twirled his new bride around the dance floor. They were the perfect couple and everyone here knew it. Soon, everyone in the world would know it. And in a few years, once they had settled into a comfortable partnership, they could discuss expanding his territories again. Felipe had his eye on Florida and with Kezi’s Progeny in place, arranging a coup shouldn’t be too difficult.
“Have we entertained the masses enough, do you suppose,” Kezi asked breaking into his thoughts.
Felipe looked down at her in surprise. The had barely danced a half dozen times and neither had found time to take a donor.
“If we have, I have another surprise for you,” Kezi murmured. “I thought perhaps you might be thirsty.”
Felipe smiled. He should have known it was something like that. She was certainly showing how much she was willing to do to make sure their union worked.
“Indeed, I am,” Felipe said, steering them towards the a side door. Vampires didn’t do chivaree, but he preferred making a quiet exit.
They strolled in companionable silence to the suite where both had dressed. Nodding at the guards, he opened the door for her with a flourish. Kezi walked into the room, trailing her fingers along his jaw. Felipe caught her had and kissed her fingers. Kezi smiled then turned her head to scan the room.
“Ah, I see dinner has already arrived,” Kezi said with a throaty laugh.
Following her gaze, Felipe saw the human who had attended Kezi during the bonding ceremony and after. He didn’t know her name. He did know she wasn’t Kezaiya’s usual maid, so there really wasn’t any reason for him to know her name. Perhaps he should suggest Kezi keep her. Standing on the balcony, her ruby dress and mahogany hair against the midnight blue sky was striking. If she tasted as good as she looked….
Kezi summoned @GemRoux with a gesture. The human cast a look down over the balcony they came forward wordlessly. Kezi noted Gem’s makeup was gone and her red eyes spoke of crying. She performed flawlessly nonetheless, approaching within arm’s reach, eyes downcast and her hands clasped in front of her, turned outwards so her veins were clearly exposed.
“Ladies first,” Felipe said, surprising both women.
Kezi scrambled to think of an excuse for why she couldn’t drink that wouldn’t arouse suspicion. A soft intake of breath, drew her eyes to Gem, and the vampire released the girl had lifted her skirt ever so slightly. The implication was obvious. Kezi almost laughed aloud. In a single shy gesture, Gem had given Felipe all the answers he needed about her presence and involvement in the wedding. No wonder @VinnyT_BD had been so upset by her loss. She was a treasure even without her unusual ability.
“Perhaps you would assist me?” Kezi purred to Felipe.
“Of course,” Felipe chuckled turning to one of the bedroom doors. There was little doubt what was on his mind.
“No,” Kezi said, stopping him. “Our wedding bed is for us alone.”
Felipe turned back to the women, discovering Kezi had raised the girl’s skirt and piled it into her arms. The girl was studying it as though it were the most fascinating thing in there world. Her heartbeat was strong but disappointingly steady, just as it had been during the ceremony.
“If you could provide…support?” Kezi murmured, turning Gem so her back was to Felipe.
Felipe couldn’t repress his grin. In his experience, knowing a vampire was behind them instilled fear in even the most fearless humans. He was rewarded by a slight uptick in Gem’s pulse rate. He wouldn’t be able to see what Kezi was doing, which was a pity, but the girl’s growing unease, might be compensation enough. Clearly, Gem didn’t like this situation.
Kezi knelt in front of Gem and reached for her. A tremor she tried to control ran through Gem’s body. Felipe stepped up, wrapping his arms around Gem from behind, trapping her arms at her sides and whispering to her. This time there was no attempt to hide her shiver and Felipe’s grin widened. Kezi had chosen well so far. He could hardly wait to taste her.
Gem jumped and gasped. A whiff of fresh blood, just the barest tendril wound itself around Felipe. He savored it a moment before bending his head and pressing his lips to Gem’s throat.
Fear exploded from her. Her calm obedient facade shattered in an instant. She began to struggle, to fight to to get away. Felipe tightened his hold, restricting her breath along with her arms. Impossibly that elicited even more fear. Felipe relished every drop of fear. Only one thing marred the experience. Gem was utterly silent, although tears flowed freely down her cheeks.
Felipe grabbed a handful of hair pulling her head back, fully exposing her throat and pounding pulse. With a growl, he bit, savaging her throat. Gem screamed.
“Felipe? That is enough, my darling. You don’t want to kill her,” Kezaiya’s voice penetrated the fog of fear and blood he had wrapped himself in as is from a great distance.
He didn’t know how long he’d been drinking. The girl and her overwhelming fear of him were intoxicating. She was limp in his arms but her heart still beat. She breathed. He raised his head, barely remembering to seal the wounds. No, he definitely didn’t want to kill her. He was going to enjoy many, many Southern meals in the nights to come.
Kezi went to the door, calling for one of the guards to come and take Gem away. Felipe paid no attention, though the murmur of a quick conversation tickled his ear. He assumed Kezi was giving instructions for the girl’s care and telling the guards they were not to be disturbed. When the door closed after the guard he seized his bride and fed other hungers now that his blood lust was satisfied.
@KingFelipeTB wasn’t nervous. He didn’t get nervous. The frisson of electricity coursing through him was a byproduct of getting everything he wanted. After tonight, he would be secure. @Kezaiya’s age and connections, combined with his ruthlessness, meant few would even think of challenging him and they would think so long and hard about it he would have plenty of time to discover and take care of the matter. And to top it all off, he would have exclusive access to Kezaiya’s body, though of course she wouldn’t have exclusive access to his. Felipe smiled to himself. In the modern vernacular…he loved it when a plan came together.
Standing in the service corridor adjacent to the ballroom, Felipe tugged his cuffs into place. He could hear the vampires assembling on the other side of the door. Most species thought vampires were utterly silent. They weren’t. Nothing was. you just had to know what the tells were.
He wasn’t sure what alerted him to Kezaiya’s arrival. Some sound, some scent, some shift in the air that informed him his soon-to-be-bonded was near. He turned, an indulgent smile upon his face only to gasp. She had xhosen a gown of an indescribable color, pink, peach, rose, ivory it seemed to be each of these and all of these as she steeped through the door. The raised floral pattern and sheer sleeves and lower skirt also played tricks on the eyes, revealing tantalizing glimpses of the female form it sheathed. Felipe stepped forward, extending his hands to her.
“You look stunning,” he told her sincerely.
“Thank you,” she replied, her eyes sweeping him from head to toe and back. “You cut a very fine figure yourself.”
Felipe preened slightly under her praise. He knew she would come to appreciate him. He was about to take her in his arms and kiss her when he realized they weren’t alone. She was attended not only by @TygerQuinn, who might have been expected since he was the event planner responsible for pulling all this together, but also by a a dark-haired human female he had never seen.
“Is everything ready, Quinn?” he asked.
The tiger inclined his head and Felipe was willing to bet it was to hide the flash of anger in his eyes. The tiger was easy to bait. If this ceremony didn’t go off perfectly, he would be staked out as bait for any creature who wanted to take a bite or more out of him. Suddenly, Felipe found himself wishing something would go wrong…after he and Kezaiya were officially wed.
“Yes, it is, Your Majesty,” Quinn said smoothly. “Whenever you and Kezaiya are ready to begin.”
Felipe nodded, somewhat mollified. Not that he expected, or would have accepted, anything less. He turned to Kezi.
“Are you ready, querida?” he asked watching her response carefully.
Kezaiya graced him with a smile that left him dazzled.
“I am more than ready, Felipe” she assured him, placing a hand on his arm.
Quinn took that as a cue to open the door to the ballroom. The wedding had begun.
Kezaiya fought to keep a smile on her lips as she face Felipe on the dais. Somewhat to both their surprise Eric Northman stepped forward to officiate. With his long blonde hair fanned over the the shoulders of a full length black cape trimmed with gold and beads of semi-precious stones. He intoned the rites in a sonorous voice, Kezi didn’t even know he had. When Eric withdrew the ceremonial dagger from his sleeve, Kezi got another shock.
@GemRoux walked forward, a golden goblet clasped between hands encased in long white opera gloves. Her head and face wear obscured by a thin red veil, but every vampire in the room could hear the steady beat of of her heart. Kezi wondered how many of them realized the girl wasn’t glamoured. She truly was not afraid. It was amazing. And sad. Kneeling on the floor before the dais in a spill of ruby silks, Gem raised the cup and held it between Kezi and Felipe. The two held their hands above the goblet and Eric slashed both palms swiftly. The sound of their blood dripping slowly into the goblet providing a nice counterpoint to Gem’s pulse.
After a few minutes, Eric reached out, pressing Kezi’s palm to Felipe’s and blending their blood. The couple’s eyes met, as Eric took the chalice from Gem. The girl retreated with barely a sound, Eric raised the cup to eye level, intoning the most ancient blessings and oaths as though he understood them. Kezi couldn’t fault his accent. If time permitted she would ask who had coached him. Felipe wrapped his other hand around the stem of the cup. Kezi placed her hand atop his. Eric guided the cup first to her lips, allowing her to drink then transferring it to Felipe’s lips. He finished off the contents.
“Their Majesties, King Felipe and Queen Kezaiya!” Eric declaimed in a ringing voice.
The audience exploded in quiet applause. They were married.
Felipe arrived in Louisiana with little fanfare. That was how he liked it. Travel, especially during the day, left him feeling vulnerable. Too many accidents could happen and end him forever. Add in assassination attempts and well, the fewer people who knew his schedule, the better he liked it.
It wasn’t news to anyone that he would be coming to Louisiana. He didn’t know if @Kezaiya had sent out wedding invitations, or if she was even going to, but the lawyers knew she’d agreed to the union and so did E(E)E and probably a good chunk of her staff and his. Word would be leaking, even without a formal announcement. He had decided it was safer to travel early than wait and arrive just before the ceremony. Besides, he had his own preparations to make, since she had insisted on having the ceremony here.
Climbing into the limo, Felipe wondered again about that. He planned to give her dominion over the state as a wedding gift but no one knew that. He’d drafted the papers himself to be sure. The truth was, Felipe didn’t really want to run the state any more than he wanted Kezaiya to be his constant companion. Louisiana had been a useful place to dump Victor, whom he knew was going to attempt a coup sooner or later. Victor’s disappearance had been as satisfactory as it had been surprising. He wouldn’t have credited Northman with the savvy or the skill to pull it off without getting caught. There was little doubt the Sheriff of Area 5 was behind Victor’s final death regardless of who had done the actual killing. Northman may have even done it himself, which would explain why Kezi had not found any evidence of what had actually transpired beyond the fact that Victor just wasn’t around. Perhaps Northman would do him another favor some night and eliminate his bride-to-be. If he left Louisiana in Kezi’s hands, it wasn’t totally outside the realm of possibility. She was cold and imperious. Not qualities that would endear her to Eric or his minions, let alone the local vampire population or other supes. So why hold their bonding ceremony here?
Felipe pondered the question and they drove to the plantation house he had purchased for the occasion. He would require a permanent base in Louisiana once he was bonded. And the security on Kezi’s rail car was far too good. He had been unable to bug the place or insinuate any spies aboard permanently, which meant he had to trust her. That would be coming to an end with their marriage. He wanted her somewhere where he could keep an eye on her. The plantation house seemed the ideal place. As they approached, he could see that human workers were spending every daylight minute renovating and updating the facilities to his specifications. He only hoped they had already completed the light tight living quarters he had ordered. He was not going to ask Kezi or Eric for a place to stay if he could help it. They should come to him, not the other way around. After all he was King and once he was joined with Kezi he would be ruling for a very long time. Everyone best remember that.
@Keziya presented herself to him, she wasn’t dressed for Vegas. In fact, she appeared to be dressed for traveling.
Not a good sign.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Felipe demanded.
“I am returning to Louisiana,” she told him in a cool tone that brooked no opposition. “I have business to attend to. Your business.”
Felipe leaned back in his chair, regarding his Regent. Her calm facade didn’t fool him. He knew there was a well of hurt and anger beneath it. What he didn’t know was how deep the well was. She wanted away from him and from Vegas, that was obvious from her travel attire. Whether it was just to lick her wounds or plot his demise was a question.
“Continue,” he urged her.
“I have received reports of a significant number of vampires coming into the state,” Kezaiya said. “Yet I have received no requests for residency or the establishing of new businesses.”
Felipe nodded. He had heard similar reports though it was unlikely they came from the same source.
“Should not the Sheriffs be handling such thing?” he asked, the implication being she did not control the most powerful vampires in the state.
“They should,” Kezi agreed. “And it is likely that they are, however, with the exception of the north man, they are all Victor’s creatures and I have received no reports from them indicating a population surge.”
“You think it is the first salvo in an attempted coup?” Felipe asked both his tone and countenance going hard.
Victor had been violent, ambitious and cruel. He was capable of exhibiting great loyalty and devotion but in truth, his only loyalty was to himself. He was devotion to acquiring power. Those who rose within his organization tended to be the same. Which meant the most trustworthy of the bunch, at least at the moment was Eric Northman and he had always been something of a wild card. He was also the perfect choice for an ally if Kezaiya decided to rebel against Felipe. He did not even want to think about more than 3500 years of cunning and power arrayed against him.
“I do not know. But I intend to find out,” Kezi continued, not noticing or not caring about his wandering thoughts/
“Very well, I grant you leave to return to Louisiana and investigate the matter. You will report your findings to me before taking any action.”
Kezi started to argue but he stopped her with a look.
“I do not doubt your ability to handle the situation appropriately and effiecntly,” he continued, and no one needs to know you checked with me first. The truth of the matter is I knew Victor better than most and it is possible I wil see something others do not and that can change how the situation is dealt with.”
“As you like, Majesty” Kezi said.
He smiled at her acquiescence and wondered is she were tempted to grind her teeth in frustration. His logic was flawless, however.
“Call me when you arrive,” he said, dismissing her.