Sookie stretched and it took her a minute to realize where she was. She couldn’t remember going to bed last night – she had a vague memory of Eric kissing her and telling her good night but that might have been a dream. She remembered being in the tub with him, and how warm and wonderful it felt to be near him. She rolled over to his side of the bed and buried her face in his pillow. She missed him so much during the day. Lately, she’d been busy during the day and hadn’t had much time to think about it, but she couldn’t believe how hollow she felt when she was away from him and she couldn’t believe how warm and safe she felt when he finally wrapped his arms around her again. There was just always something missing when they were apart.
She suddenly had a sense of someone sending her comfort, but Eric was asleep. Was that the baby? Was he trying to soothe her? She shifted onto her side into Baby Eric position and placed her hands over the bulge. There was a distinct sense of love and care coming from him. It was like he knew she needed a hug and this was the best he could do.
“Is that you, Baby E?”
Happiness. Love. Safety. Very distinct, very present, almost conscious….
“Do you know I’m missing your daddy?” Comfort. Love.
“Thank you, Baby E- I love you, too.” Overwhelming love that brought tears to her eyes. She lay there a long time with her hands on her tummy, sending him love and enjoying the feelings he was sending back to her. She wasn’t alone. It suddenly occurred to her that she was not alone – there were two of them there all the time now. She didn’t know anything about how babies grew in the womb or what they were capable of, but she knew with absolute certainty that she and the baby were communicating and he knew what she was sending him, and he was able to send back to her.
“Good morning, Miss.” Alicia came in with a breakfast tray.
“Good morning Alicia.”
“It’s just after one o’clock, dear. You have a fitting with the seamstress at 2:00. It was supposed to be earlier but I changed it because Mr. Northman said he didn’t want you taking early appointments. I guess the doctor told you that you needed more sleep?”
“Yeah, she said I need to sleep later. She wants me to be a night owl for a while.” Sookie was sitting up on her side of the bed.
“Well, I’m sure more rest will do you good. This is more rare steak. I’m afraid it’s very, very rare – if you want me to have Margaret cook it a little more…”
“No, that’s OK, the doctor said just to take the chill off of it.”
“Well, I’ve never heard of this, but I don’t know anything about this… unusual type of birth. Here’s your ibuprofen. You’re to take regular doses for a while. Hopefully that will keep those awful cramps under control.”
“Let’s hope,” Sookie said as she took the pills with a drink of milk. “I can’t take many like I had the other night. I felt so bad, and I scared Eric to death.”
“He was very concerned. This is all new to him, too.”
“Very new.” Sookie finished the milk. “Any chance I could get another glass of milk? Just one more would do it,” Sookie explained, so Alicia wouldn’t think she was going to drink a whole carton again.
“Of course, Miss. Is there anything else you’d like?” Alicia retrieved Sookie’s note from Eric from the dresser and handed it to her.
“Thanks. How much trouble would it be to get some of those home fries you made yesterday? And a couple of eggs over easy?”
“Alright – do you want me to take this away?”
“Oh, no, I’m going to eat it, I’d just also really like a big plate of potatoes and some eggs and another glass of milk.”
“Alright,” Alicia said as she checked to make sure the monitor was on, “I’ll get that for you as fast as I can.”
“Thanks so much,” Sookie said as she was wolfing down her steak. Alicia had cut it up for her again, but this had to be a big one because there was a lot there and Sookie was glad. She still had toast, a bowl of strawberries and cream, and one of those drinks Eric had given her but this one was chocolate. Baby E seemed to like the idea of that one, though how he would know about chocolate, she had no idea. She opened it next and drank it down and she could feel happy coming from the bond. She didn’t think he could taste what she ate, but again, she didn’t know that much about babies, let alone Fae babies. He was clearly happy about it, though.
Maybe he liked it because she liked it? Who could she ask about stuff like this? Eric was as surprised by this as she was. Maybe Niall would know? She looked around for the steno pad – she wanted to make a list of questions to ask dear old granddad tonight when she saw him. She didn’t see it, so she checked the top drawer of her nightstand and it was right on top with a pen. She bet Alicia put it there for her. She was handy like that.
Sookie took a bite of a huge strawberry with cream and sugar on it, and it was just amazing how good it was. She opened the note from Eric:
My Angel, (that made her swoon)
I was pleased that you were sleeping so well and had no cramps last night. I hear you have a dress fitting today, but I hope you’ll take it easy as much as you can.
You will receive a package today – please do not open it until I awake, because I want to see your beautiful face when you do.
I love you, Sookie
A package? She wondered what he was up to now. Surely he was running out of things to buy for her? Oh, well – whatever it is, it’s done. She knew there was no reasoning with him so relax and enjoy the ride. He wouldn’t spend money he didn’t have – he was too pragmatic for that.
He would always put survival first, and she knew she could depend on that. He would be a good provider – he is a good provider. She couldn’t imagine wanting more than he had already given her. She was living a dream life – an amazing house fixed up just for her, servants, fancy cars, jewels, beautiful clothes, and she knew he’d do anything she asked of him. She and her baby would never want for anything. He’d do anything for them. He’d kill for them – literally! How many women could say that?
Just look at the wedding he arranged for her. All of her family would be there, it would be held on a beautiful estate with the best of everything. It would be glamorous and romantic – he and Felipe both would see to that because it would be a matter of pride for both of them. She was actually looking forward to the cocktail party. Eric and Felipe both would be showing her off and she planned to be worth showing that night. She knew other sheriffs would be there and she’d bet money that bitch Sabrina Maxwell would be one of them. That old girl was going to have nothing on Sookie Stackhouse that night.
Wow – where did that come from? Sookie was feeling downright territorial. Eric was HERS and Sabrina better act like she knows it. Pam would have her back, too. She loved – yeah, she realized, she loved Pam because she always let Sookie know what was up. She had helped her know what was going on with Eric when things were rough. She filled her in that night about his history with Sabrina. She figured Pam considered taking care of her part of taking care of Eric now, and she was happy about that. If there was going to be a fight, you wanted Pam on your side.
Not that Sookie was anticipating a fight… but Sabrina better watch her step. This bonded thing went both ways. He might own her but she owned him, too, and Sabrina better not even look at Eric too long, let alone touch him.
She looked down – the baby apparently agreed. She wondered how conscious he was going to be of her feelings and thoughts as this pregnancy progressed. She needed to pay attention – she didn’t want to send him bad vibes or anything. She wanted him to feel as much love as possible.
Sookie finished the first part of her breakfast and jumped in the shower since it would take Alicia a while to fix the potatoes. She was wrapped in a towel combing out her hair when Alicia came back with breakfast 2.0 and she wolfed it down before Alicia even got the corset, stockings, thong and shoes ready for her to try her dress on.
“Alicia, did I tell you about our plans tonight?”
“Eric and I are having dinner with an old… friend of the family, who is sort of a grandfatherly type toward me.”
“Oh, that will be nice.”
“Yes, I need to look good – like I’m being well-cared for and even a bit spoiled. Do I have anything like that?”
Alicia helped her get dressed, and helped her into her pink robe.
“Let’s see now – you want to look sweet rather than sexy, I assume?”
“Yes. It’s a very nice restaurant, too. But mostly, I need to show him that Eric is a good provider – does that make sense?”
“Yes, I think I know what you mean. You want him to know that Mr. Northman will be a good provider for you and the baby so he won’t object to your marrying him.”
“Exactly. I’d like to have his blessing, and he’ll give it if he sees that Eric is taking good care of me.”
“I think we can come up with a pretty dress that says ‘sweet and well-tended,’ Miss.”
“Cool, thanks. I’m a little nervous about this.”
“His opinion means a lot to you?”
“Yeah, it does.”
“We can handle that. He’ll be pleased with you tonight.”
Sookie headed downstairs while Alicia took care of the breakfast dishes. Margaret already had the seamstress setting up in the living room, and she was ready for Sookie when she came into the room. She helped Sookie into the dress, and was just zipping it up when Alicia came down.
“Well, what do you think?” Sookie asked nervously.
“It’s very pretty, Miss. Here let’s try this.” Alicia took Sookie over to the Rose chair by the fireplace and had her sit down.
“Is that comfortable? Does it feel tight anywhere?” Alicia asked.
“Maybe a little in the hips?”
They had her try to bend down, too and the hips were definitely pulling a bit.
The seamstress came over and felt the seams and agreed they might want to let it out just a little. Sookie asked her to let it out more than she thought was necessary, just in case, and she agreed to.
Once she made notes about the final alterations, the seamstress had a variety of veils for Sookie to try, and she set up a large mirror for Sookie to try them on. Each was prettier than the next, but the one Sookie settled on was a small satin piece on a comb that got pinned to the crown of the head and had just a little bit of netting that only covered the eyes. Everyone agreed that it went best with the dress, since it was strapless and very sleek. Any of the other ones drifted a little farther into the “wedding cake” look Sookie wanted to avoid. This would look beautiful and modern with an up-do, and Sookie’s throat would be fully visible, though she didn’t say that to the other women.
“I guess I’ll need to pack hot rollers and a curling iron so I can do my hair?”
“Oh, no, Miss,” Alicia reminded her, “Mr. de Castro is providing a stylist and a makeup artist for both the party and the wedding. They said you won’t need to bring much at all in that department.”
The dress would be delivered on Wednesday and they’d check it for final fit then. As far as the dress went, Sookie was pretty much set. As Sookie was getting ready to take off the dress, the doorbell rang. Margaret answered it, and came back with a small rectangular package, about the size of a book.
“Look how it’s addressed, Miss” Margaret said proudly.
Sookie looked at the address label – it was addressed to Sookie Northman. Her eyes welled up but she didn’t want to cry in front of the other women, as they all ooh’d and ahh’d about it being the first time her soon-to-be married name had been used on something official.
“Are you going to open it?” Alicia asked
“No, Eric said in my note this morning that he wanted to be with me so he can see my face when I did. Margaret – would you put this on the dinner table and I’ll open it then?”
“Of course, Miss.”
Alicia reminded Sookie that she had to get ready for her session with Bobbie, so she thanked the seamstress and went back upstairs as she packed up. She decided she’d like to play in the water and get some sun while she waited for Bobbie, so Alicia put her undergarments away while Sookie changed into her black bikini and headed on down to the pool.
It was a gorgeous, sunny day and Sookie grabbed one of the inflated rings from the rack and waded into the pool. Naturally, she kept thinking of how Eric looked the night he dived in and came up wet and glistening. How could a man – any man, let alone her man – be that beautiful? She was glad she was in the water so it could keep her from over-heating at the thought of him taking her on the quilt in the yard. Maybe she could get him to come outside tonight after their dinner with Niall?
Bobbie was a little late, so Sookie got to float around and play in the sun for almost an hour and she could tell she was getting a little color from it. That was good. She didn’t want to be too pale next to that white dress on Sunday. This week was going to include some serious time in the sun. Cleavage, shoulders, back and legs needed to be glowing that weekend – make-up would take care of her face.
Bobbie finally arrived and they had an uneventful training session. Sookie felt strong, but a little tired, and Bobbie reassured her that it was normal for her to need a lot of sleep. As they were preparing for Sookie’s massage, Alicia came out with another dose of ibuprofen and told Sookie her dress, shoes and bag were ready for tonight. Sookie was pleased to notice you could sort of tell where her suit had been when she took it off and got up on the table. She was getting used to being naked on the table, even outside. She started to doze a bit during her massage and she dreamed of being in the water with Eric in the moonlight.
Sookie jumped back in the shower after Bobbie left and let Alicia fix her hair and help with her makeup. The dress was beautiful – it was an exotic print in navy and shades of blues and green, made of silk with spaghetti straps and softly gathered waist and thin, matching belt that would hide Baby E, more or less. That wasn’t going to be possible much longer but she hoped she could get through the wedding before he made his presence undeniable. Sookie was glad she couldn’t really wear anything under the dress but a thong. Alicia had a matching set of navy sandals and a bag for her. She was ready early so she could go back down to the kitchen and wait for Eric. She was dying to know what was in that package, and she wanted to see if he thought she was dressed appropriately for dinner with Niall.
She was sitting at the kitchen table having a ginger ale and talking to Alicia and Margaret when Eric came in.
“Hello, ladies,” he nodded to them, and went to Sookie and kissed her.
“What are you wearing, dear one?” he asked, since he’d never seen that dress before.
Sookie stood up and turned around for him. “Do you think it’s OK for dinner tonight?”
“I think it is very pretty. You will be the prettiest girl in the restaurant.”
“Did you get your package today?”
“Yes – did you tell them to address it that way?”
“Look – it says Sookie Northman. Did you tell them to do that?”
“No, I didn’t, but I wish I had thought of it,” he laughed.
“If you didn’t tell them to do it…”
“I told them to send it to Sookie and to use my account, which says Northman, so I guess they just put Sookie Northman on the label. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?” he teased.
“Very nice. That’s my first one, you know…”
“The first thing I’ve ever gotten with my married name on it.”
“Is that a big deal?”
All three women chimed in at that point.
“Eric, “ Sookie said, “that’s a huge deal for a girl. I’m going to cut the label off and keep it in my jewelry box.”
“Really?” he wasn’t kidding.
“OK… it must be a female thing.”
“It is. Now, what’s inside it?”
“Open it. I want to watch.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her and gave her a wicked sexy smile.
It was taped so Margaret handed her a small knife and she got the outer package open. Inside was a velvet box – uh oh – it looked like a jewelry box.
“Eric, you didn’t …”
“Open it, Sookie…”
Alicia and Margaret were watching silently. Sookie looked at them for moral support and they nodded to her to go ahead.
“Oh. My. God. Eric, what did you do?!”
It was a large diamond solitaire on a fine, nearly invisible white gold chain and matching earrings. Holy shit.
“That’s the necklace she wore with the dress, “ Alicia said
“What?” Sookie said, in shock and not quite catching on.
“In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Miss. That’s the necklace Maggie the Cat wore with the white dress.”
Sookie looked at Eric. “Eric, I wasn’t hinting around for you to do this…”
“I know you weren’t. You were quite serious about going to Walmart for a cheesy CZ. Your cubic zirconia days, my angel, are over. No more cheap jewelry for my bonded. You can do better now and I expect you to wear better. You have an account with this jeweler and I expect you to replace all your old things with new, real, substantial pieces that befit a woman of your station.”
She didn’t know what to say. She realized that there were more issues here than money. What she wore reflected on Eric. She knew she was going to have to start living up to his reputation, and this was a part of it. She was going to be his wife. If she looked cheap, so did he. Niall…
“Can I wear this tonight?” She was still a little stunned.
“I was hoping you would,” he smiled softly at her.
“It will be perfect with your outfit,” Alicia added.
“Somebody will have to help me with the necklace…”
“Here, dear, I’ll put it on you.” Alicia came forward and Eric let her take over. She showed Sookie how to take the necklace out of the box and fastened it around her throat. It was stunning next to her skin, and Eric was beaming at her. Alicia helped her replace her plastic earrings with the large diamond studs.
“It is almost as pretty as you are, my lover… but not quite,” he said as he raised her chin and kissed her. She smiled unsurely and it was a little hard to breathe, but she touched it with her hand and looked at the love in his eyes.
“I need a mirror…” Sookie looked around.
“The bathroom off the den is the closest,” Margaret suggested.
Sookie went through the den into the small bathroom and looked in the large mirror. She was looking at someone else. A new Sookie, in a silk dress, hair and makeup done by a lady’s maid, skin kissed by the sun from her pool out back, wearing what she figured had to be at least 22 carats of diamonds and rubies. She wasn’t Sookie Stackhouse, bar maid, any more. She was Sookie Northman.
“Sookie, are you alright?” Eric looked concerned. He wasn’t sure what he was feeling through the bond.
“Yeah, I’m just… I’m just… disoriented.”
“Talk to me, my lover. Are you upset?”
“No, I’m not upset… and I’m not unhappy…”
“That is good…” Eric was being cautious. She was conflicted and he was afraid she was going to react badly.
“I’m just… changing.”
“I’m turning into someone else…”
“Sookie, you are still you. You are still strong and independent. Clothes and jewels do not define you, my angel, they are superficial things. They only matter to others and in our world, we have to be aware of that, but you are still the same person you have always been.”
“What if I don’t want to be?”
“What if I don’t want to be who I’ve always been? What if I want to be somebody new?”
Eric scooped her up and went to the couch. He sat down and held her in his lap.
“Listen to me, Sookie. You are going through a lot of changes – a new home, a new life, but most importantly, your body is going through enormous changes because of the baby.”
He put his hand over the bump.
”It’s OK to be a little confused, now and then. It’s OK to be scared. It’s normal to be unsure now and then. You are safe. I am with you.” He kissed her forehead.
“I know – you’ll always be there for me.”
“Does that make you unhappy?”
“NO, no, I love that you’re there and that we belong to each other…”
“Do you want me to cancel dinner with Niall? If you are not well…”
“No, I want to go. I want to thank him.”
“Are you upset with me, Sookie?”
“No, Eric, I’m in love with you.” She smiled weakly but still seemed spaced out.
“Is that not a good thing, dear one?”
“It’s very good – it’s amazing.”
She put her hands over his on the baby bump. She felt comfort and love coming from both Eric and the baby. She smiled and looked at Eric.
“It’s just all so new.”
“Yes, it is all new.”
“Yeah… OK, OK.” She started to pull it together. He was relieved to feel her snap back into herself, and he knew she was more grounded now. She wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him hard.
“I love you, Eric. I will always love you.”
“I will always love you, too, my angel.”
She brightened then.
“I love it when you call me that.”
“Your angel. That’s new. I melt every time you say it.”
“MY ANGEL” He whispered.
Eric was relieved and she could feel that. He thought to himself that this was close. There was a time when Sookie would have had a complete meltdown, and run away from him. He had seen her do it many times. This time, she didn’t run. This time, she stayed and let him talk her through it.