Rosalyn was absolutely floored by the sheer scale of Eric’s plan. She wanted to help vampires go to school, so what did Eric suggest? He offered to create a university.
Not immediately, he explained. But this would be part of their end game. “Is everything you do just completely, madly, totally over the top?” she asked, jaw agape.
“Look, poppet. This is something you want, yes? Let’s make it happen. It’s a damn fine idea and everybody wins. You get what you want, I get to give you what you want, and it creates the perfect excuse to wheedle Godric into the same room as you. The only downside is that we can’t take credit for it.”
“But it’s…it’s so…”
“Fantastic of me?”
“Ugh, no! I was going to say overwhelming! I don’t even know how to go about something like this! How are we even going to come up with the seed money for it?”
“I don’t quite think you understand the sort of resources we have at our disposal. Here’s what I’m thinking…”
It took a full two months of frenzied work to organize the fundraiser. Convincing Louisiana’s Queen Sophie-Anne to play hostess had been the easy part. She was all too happy to take full credit and do none of the heavy lifting. Coming out in full support of vampire education could only help her public image. More time consuming for Eric and Pamela was the flurry of activity to design invitations, draw up guest lists, hunt down speakers, and launch a national advertising campaign – all while staying fully under the radar.
Nonprofit licenses were secured, a board of trustees appointed, and accounts were formed to hold the inevitable influx of money. Key donors were tapped and more than a few old rivalries were put aside for the benefit of a higher cause. Ros consulted by phone as necessary, giving her input about the critical issues and putting just the right spin on the informational materials. Eric had to admit, she had a special way about her. Creatures of every ilk would be welcome to the new university and in true liberal arts fashion, the hope was that the campus would be a breeding ground of critical discussion, inquiry, and inter-species understanding.
With the amount of buzz stirring around America’s path-breaking – and youngest – university, everyone who was anyone wanted to be involved. The charity ball would be a beautiful, classy affair in New Orleans. All they needed now was a way to ensure that a certain ancient Sheriff of Dallas attended.
Throughout their plotting, Eric had been extremely careful to continue harassing his maker with routine visits. Deviating from his behavior now would send up a red flag. When he made the short flight to Godric’s nest one evening, he found his maker chewing out a couple of underlings in his office in an especially hateful tone. Godric had grown increasingly taciturn, as was evidenced by the young vampire who was sent flying out the doorway. The other underling was unceremoniously tossed out by the scruff of her neck.
Eric politely inquired about the trouble they had caused before casually flipping an invitation across Godric’s desk. It slid to a stop just in front of his maker’s left hand. “It would do you good to get out of dodge for a day or two.”
Godric glanced at it and continued writing up the report on the underlings. “What’s this?”
“Some charity gig in NOLA. Sophie-Anne’s roped me into putting in an appearance and DJing the opening act.”
Godric did not hide his scowl. He set down his pen. “She uses you like a dancing bear. This is not what I taught you to be.”
“It was a good trade. She is giving me extra paid leave time.”
The Celt’s frown deepened. “You’re not going away, are you?” His voice cracked, betraying his concern.
“No. I just wanted to keep my options open. I like being able to remind the Queen she owes me something.”
“Ah.” Godric sunk back into his chair.
“Admit it. You could use a vacation. You’re going to end up killing someone by accident if you don’t unwind.”
Eric put his back to his maker and strolled to a side table, feigning interest in a stack of catalogs. In his mind, he envisioned his bond as a thick cord and he squeezed it with a mental fist as hard as he could. It was the only way to choke off the flicker of sensations that flowed in their unusually close bond. He could let nothing through if he hoped to succeed. Godric felt him do this, but the trick was to make him believe it was to hide fear rather than a lie. “Be my ‘plus one’? It will make the whole thing so much more bearable. Between Sophie-Anne and that jerkoff from Nevada, I may well die of boredom.”
“It will be well attended?”
Godric took the bait. He assumed Eric was being flippant because he was actually concerned. “Everyone will be there. New York. Mississippi. Aforementioned jerkoff from Nevada. I’m surprised your King hasn’t mentioned it.”
“You know Peter doesn’t bother me with such trifles,” Godric said. He bit his lip, the wheels in his lightning-fast head spinning through the information. Eric did not want to go to the event alone. Old vampires would be there. Queen Sophie-Anne obviously valued his presence enough to bargain generously. Eric would be distracted with noise and lights, possibly his back exposed to their enemies while operating this musical equipment. It sounded like the perfect opportunity for an ambush. “I don’t like it.”
“Well, neither do I but I can’t really see how to get out of it.”
His maker muttered something in ancient Gaelic under his breath. “I will go. When is it?”
Eric clamped down on the bond with all of his might. He allowed only the slightest bit of relief to leak out. “Two weeks.”
“Wear the tux with the black tie. I hate you in bowties. You look like a dweeb.”
Godric quirked an eyebrow at his progeny’s cheekiness. “Duly noted. Is there anything else? I’ve got an 11pm meet and greet with a new resident and a courtesy call to the local packmaster to make.”
“Can I help?”
“Don’t you have your own territory to run?” he said, not hiding his exasperation.
Eric shrugged. “Area Five practically runs itself these days. Pam is doing a bang-up job as my second.”
“No doubt.” Godric ran a hand through his hair. The thought of his grandprogeny softened the hard line set in his jaw. “She is a credit to our bloodline. Tell her I am pleased to hear she excels in her work.”
“Thank you, Maker, for everything.”
It was a miracle Eric managed to escape the office without letting his excitement slip out. He flew home in crazed kamikaze circles, channeling his energy into physical exertion. The trip between Dallas and Shreveport was relatively quick – no more than a jaunt, really – but he entertained himself by counting the six large lakes between the two cities. One, two, three, four. He had a habit of dropping his altitude low to skim a hand through each. The spray he sendt across the water’s surface disturbed the alligators. They thrashed in great splashes to avoid a predator they intuitively knew was far more lethal. Nearing his city, he slowed as he passed Big Lake to snag a fisherman’s buoy. He slung the mucky trap over his shoulder. On the outskirts of Shreveport, he touched down on a private dock in an overgrown cove of Cross Lake. He sunk the trap back into the murky water and secured it to a cleat on the wooden pier where the inhabitant of the modest house was sure to find it. Eric often left things like this for the old man that lived here. Rupert had been his dayman for the better part of thirty years before he asked to retire. Eric had tried to convince him to settle in one of the grander homes on the opposite shore, or even move back to his own estate in New York where they had met, but old Rupert said he just wanted a quiet place to fish. So be it. Rupert would at least have a big crawdaddy dinner.
Eric rocketed off soundlessly into the sky and within minutes he was at his own residence. He quickly dismissed the idea of putting in time at Fangtasia. Instead, he texted Ros with two simple words: