LATE Chapter 039

The Bastard King

 

It was 12:30 and Eric showed Sookie how to cash out and started trying to round people up. Bobbie went into the bar to get Jason and Pam but returned without them. When she came back to the group she said, “I couldn’t find them.”

Eric and Sookie spoke in unison: “They’re in the bathroom having sex.”

Everybody laughed, Eric knew because of his bond with Pam, Sookie knew because she could hear her brother’s thoughts. They were both getting a theoretical earful. Amelia went in because she was sure they were in the Ladies’ room, and she came out shortly with a sheepish Jason and a happy Pam in tow. In spite of the intrigue, everyone had had a good night – they drank, they gambled, they ate, a couple of them even got laid. That’s a successful outing by anyone’s standard. By vampire standards, a night when no one dies is a good one.

Felipe was equally grabby with Sookie on the way home, keeping his hand on her thigh the entire ride as Eric came up with different scenarios for killing him. Oh, but he would enjoy it when that happened. Niall had just insisted he expel him from Louisiana but Eric was pretty well set on separating this fucker’s head from his shoulders. Eric mentioned that he was concerned about some severe cramps Sookie had been having, and he was worried about her being alone in the day when her masseuse left on Monday. Felipe offered to arrange for Bobbie to stay with her through Friday and Eric thanked him profusely.

Once back at the mansion, his majesty offered a blood and a further visit, but Eric begged his forgiveness, saying that he’d like to spend some time alone with his bonded. Felipe tried to be gracious and excused them until tomorrow, saying he would see them at the cocktail party at 9:00, telling Sandy to extend Miss James’ stay through Friday. Eric thanked him once again, the King kissed Sookie’s hand, lingering far too long, and went into his offices.

The entire party returned to their suite and Pam went into Bobbie’s room as Eric led the others in some inane conversation about the casino and turned the TV on loudly, motioning for Sookie to go get her phone. When Pam looked out and motioned, Eric directed them all back into Bobbie’s room.

“Find anything?” Eric asked as he closed the door.

“One tiny thing that is now in the plumbing,” Pam replied.

“Eric, what does she mean?” Sookie was concerned.

“Bugs – surveillance devices. Bobbie’s room is the least likely place to be bugged, and Pam only found one small one. We can be sure our suite is well covered, my lover.”

“Ew – he’ll be listening to us?”

“Mostly to see if we have any clue what he’s up to, but yes. We’ll have to act as if we don’t know he’s listening.”

‘Oh, I’ll act like I don’t know alright. Creepy Felipe is gonna get an earful of me yelling Eric’s name.’ she thought to herself. ‘He wants to listen, let’s see if he’s got the stomach for it.’ She was going to maul Eric and make a show of it just to rub Felipe’s nose in shit. She’d teach him to paw at her.
Jason was a little slow to catch on, but he knew this guy was a problem.

“Eric, if you need me to help, let me know. I’d love to kick that guy’s ass.”

“Thank you, Stackhouse, but he’s very old and very strong. The only one in this room with a chance of taking him down is me. All of you act normally when you return to your rooms. Jason and Pam, do what you had planned. Tomorrow, none of you is to leave Sookie alone. Who gets up earliest?”

“Me.” Amelia said

“I will awaken you before I go to rest, and you will stay in Sookie’s room until she wakes, agreed?”

“You bet.”

“Why don’t I just get up then?” Sookie asked.

Amelia answered, “You need your sleep, sweetheart. The maid won’t come to wake you up until 2 pm, so you just go ahead and sleep, and let Bobbie, Jason and me watch out for you.” Bobbie and Jason nodded in agreement.

There was a knock at the door of the suite. Eric motioned for them all to go back out to the living room, and when they were in place, and he answered the door.

“Hello, sir, I’m sorry to bother you but I have a meal for Miss Stackhouse.”

“Good, good, take it on over to the table, please.”

The girl sat the meal of very rare steak, potatoes and broccoli down and Eric told Sookie to go ahead and eat so they could go to bed. Sookie thanked the girl and cut into the steak. Eric indicated that they should all go to bed, except he told Jason Pam would be there in a minute. Eric and Pam went into his room, and Sookie got up to follow them. Eric wasn’t happy to see her standing in the door, but then he motioned for her to come over and to be quiet.

He quietly pulled up a false bottom to his travel box and slid two thin katana swords out of it. One he put inside the main part of his box and the other he gave to Pam and nodded for her to take it and put it in her box. He reached into the compartment again and pulled out a dagger and gave it to Sookie, mouthing the word “pillow” and pointing to her side of the bed. She went and slipped it into her pillowcase under the pillow.

Eric made a motion for Sookie to go out and call Niall, which she knew she should do in Bobbie’s room. Eric looked around the bed for bugs, and found a small one behind the headboard, which he flushed just as Pam had the other. He scanned the room, expecting to find at least one camera somewhere, but there were none that he could find and his vampire hearing didn’t identify that kind of noise.

He went down the hall to Bobbie’s room where Sookie was on the phone with Niall, and she handed him the phone.

“This is Northman.”

“And this is your future great-grandfather-in-law. Why is my Sookie so afraid?”

“You tell me – what is de Castro planning for her?”

“Well, I’m not completely sure of course, but I can assure you there will be no trouble until after your wedding.”

“And why can you be sure of that?”

“Because he knows in no uncertain terms that I will rain Hell down upon him if he prevents my granddaughter from becoming your legal wife and her child your legal heir. You may be sure that he will wait until you are legally wed and your marriage consummated before he tries anything.”

“And then…”

“We will cross that bridge when we come to it, Viking. I will be there tomorrow night, and you and I will speak privately. Until then, you are under my protection and de Castro will not dare interfere with your wedding if he does not want war. Now, you put Sookie’s mind at ease. Stress is not good for the child. Good night, Northman.”

‘Fucking Fae… never trust them’ Eric thought to himself.

The others all came into the room and Eric motioned to Jason to close the door.

“I have been assured that we are safe until Sookie and I are wed and our union consummated. My guess is, the trouble starts after Pam, Jason and Amelia leave on Monday.”

“Eric, how can you be sure of that.” Sookie was unconvinced.

“Because de Castro has been told that interfering with our wedding will mean war with the Fae and he is not going to risk that. You might be a widow soon after, but come hell or high water, you will be my bride.”

“Eric, don’t even joke about that.” Sookie said as she wrapped her arms around him.

“Do not worry, my angel, it will be alright. I promise you.” He said softly to her. “Everyone get a good night’s sleep. We should be fine tomorrow, but keep close to Sookie, just in case. We will know more tomorrow night.”

Jason started to ask a question, but Pam took his hand, shook her head ‘no’ and pulled him out of the room with her. When they got into his room, she tried to kiss him but he pulled back.

“Wait a minute.”

“Jason…”

“Who was that on the phone?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It sounds to me like it matters a lot. What the hell is ‘the Fae’?”

“Fairies.”

“You mean fags?”

“No, not homosexuals. Fairies from Ireland, magickal beings who trade in secrets and treasure and play tricks on people just because they can.”

“Are you telling me…?”

“Yes, they are real. All those fairy tales you heard when you were a kid had some basis in reality.”

“No shit?”

“No, shit. Now, shut up and fuck me,” and she pushed him on the bed. He quickly forgot about danger and fairies and his sister’s safety.

Bobbie decided the best thing for her to do was to get a good night’s sleep so no matter what happened, her reactions would be sharp. She did a little yoga, some martial arts moves, and went to sleep. Amelia decided a little magick of her own might be in order, so she called down divine protection for Sookie and Eric before she went to sleep, not knowing that was already covered.

Eric and Sookie went to their room and Sookie took the tube of lubricant out of the train case and threw it to him.

“My lover?”

Sookie spoke loudly, clearly and distinctly. “First, I want you to fuck me. Then, I want you to fuck me up the …”

“Sookie!” he indicated someone might be listening.

Sookie gave him an evil smile, mouthed the words “I know” and wiggled her eyebrows at him. Eric was shocked that she wanted to put on a show but he quickly realized it would serve Felipe right to have to listen to him plunder his bonded right under his own roof. She didn’t have to ask twice.

The first round didn’t take long because Sookie was loud and calling Eric’s name over and over, which was an incredible turn on under normal circumstances – in these circumstances, it was a nearly instant orgasm. The second round featured a mutual blood exchange that made them both crazy. He took her a third time before he flipped her over and she moaned loudly and confirmed his ownership of her several times, swearing “I’ll never do this with anyone but you” over and over. If Felipe was listening, by now he would be sick.

Sookie knew that all the things Eric most loved to hear would be the very things that Felipe would hate, so she made Eric a happy, happy Viking that night and she took an evil delight in the idea that she might be torturing creepy Felipe at the same time, which made her more voracious and aggressive than she had ever been. Eric, in turn, was loud and dominating, letting anyone who might be listening know that Sookie was HIS in every possible way. He left no doubt in the mind of anyone listening that while Sookie might have been unspoiled when he met her, he had by now thoroughly defiled her in every possible way. At least, that’s how Felipe would see it. Eric saw it as claiming what was his.

Eric had so thoroughly satisfied and exhausted Sookie that she was asleep before he got back from cleaning up in the bathroom. He kissed her, covered her up and put on his pants so he could go out to the living room and go through the papers Burnham had sent to him. As dawn approached, Amelia came out of her room and said she’d take over before Eric even had to wake her. He went to rest knowing that Sookie would be watched closely, and praying that would be enough.

By 9 o’clock all the humans were up and the staff brought a wonderful breakfast of bacon, eggs, pancakes, fresh fruit and hot biscuits, which the three of them enjoyed thoroughly. They talked about their next best move and decided the best thing to do was to follow through with Sookie’s plan to get some sun so they didn’t arouse suspicion.

Sookie was dreaming. She was standing on the shore again, with the beautiful blonde woman with the gold necklace, which she noticed was made of some kind of yellow-orange-brown stone and red jewels that she somehow knew were rubies. The woman kissed her lips, not sexually, but the way a mother would kiss a child and told her “Pay attention” then Sookie saw that she was wearing a cape of grey and brown feathers. There was a flash of white light, and the beautiful woman became a giant bird of prey and flew back to the dragon ship at the edge of the mist.

“Miss Stackhouse? Miss Stackhouse?” Angela woke Sookie, who was having trouble shaking off sleep. She felt the remnants of a dream lingering at the edges of her mind, but the only thing she could really remember was the phrase “pay attention.” She had no idea what it meant. Angela placed a tray over Sookie’s lap, rare steak and scrambled eggs with juice and milk, and Sookie asked for a cold bottle of blood. Sookie ate with the words “pay attention” echoing in her mind.

When she was finished, Angela suggested she and her friends might want to spend some time in the pool since Sookie had said she wanted some sun. She put on the black with white trim, higher-waisted bikini, which she had never noticed was a really cute retro design. Baby E was much less visible than in a normal suit. When Angela left, Sookie put her hands over the bump.

“Good morning, Baby E.”

Love.

“I love you, too, sweetie.”

Warm. Happy.

“Are you gonna let mommy get into her wedding dress tomorrow?”

Funny.

What the hell? Sookie felt like the baby thought it was funny that her dress might be too tight. That had to be beyond his abilities, right? He couldn’t be teasing her?

When Sookie went out to the living room, she found Jason, Amelia and Bobbie ready to head for the pool, too, and the maids had given them a map of the “castle” so they could find their way to the pool. The maid told them the quickest way down was to take the service elevator that went to the kitchen, so that’s what they decided to do. Amelia said they probably didn’t want people roaming around the halls in bathing gear, and everyone agreed that was probably the case.

When they got to the kitchen, they heard snippets of conversation from the staff that there were guests coming in that would stay in the West wing both for the party tonight and the wedding tomorrow.

“Sookie – who would that be that’s coming for the wedding?”

“Maybe Dr. Ludwig? Or Niall?”

Bobbie and Jason didn’t know who Niall was and Sookie didn’t know what to tell them so she changed the subject by asking if anyone brought any sunscreen. Bobbie suggested Sookie go without it for an hour or so because she’d need the vitamin D for the baby.

When they got to the pool, they found that the staff had expected them. Bobbie, Amelia and Jason were welcomed with a pitcher of strong margaritas and Sookie had Kool-aid and cold bloods waiting for her. There was also a tub full of ice and beer that had Jason’s complete attention. Jason drank a beer straight down, then jumped off the diving board into the pool.

Sookie took a foam mat off a rack and managed to get on it and lean back so she could tan her belly, peeling the straps off her shoulders so she wouldn’t have tan lines. After half an hour or so she got out of the pool and lay on her stomach with her top off. It wasn’t completely comfortable to lie that way, but Bobbie didn’t think it would hurt her or the baby at this point. Just in case, they struck a compromise and put two smaller pillows from some of the lawn chairs under her chest and upper thighs to keep from resting any weight on her belly. The sun in Nevada was very strong, and Sookie got a lot of color very quickly, so she spent a little time under an umbrella to keep from burning. She wanted color, but not hot pink, she laughed. At 3:30, Bobbie waded into the pool and took Sookie through a series of exercises, as Jason and Amelia each wandered in and out of the water, floating on foam mats and getting more drinks. Sookie had a few deep twinges, the first she had had in a few days.

At 4 o’clock a massage table was set up and spread with sheets and towels, and Jason was shocked to see Sookie stand behind a sheet and take off her suit. He didn’t watch, of course, but the idea that she was doing it really struck him as odd. When did his sister become so…so… well, he couldn’t think of a word, but whatever it was, he didn’t think he liked it. He didn’t say anything, but he also heard a few things coming out of Sookie and Eric’s room last night he wasn’t crazy about either.

‘I mean, OK, she’s going to marry the guy, but I still don’t want anybody doing THAT to my sister!’ he thought as he tried not to look at her on the table. He knew Sookie had sex, since she was pregnant and all, but hearing it… well, that was a little much for him. Pam tried to keep him distracted, but they were kind of loud and it was hard not to bust down the door and kick Eric’s ass… though he knew Eric would break him in half so that wasn’t really an option.

‘Fuck it, I need another beer.” Jason thought as he turned his mind to seeing if he could get Pam to do THAT tonight. No harm in asking, right? She hadn’t said no to anything yet, even blowing him under the table in the bar last night, and that one thing she did to him… he never even knew about that little trick. It seemed queer at first but once she got him to relax and let her do her thing, it was awesome!

‘And that tongue… oops, better remember I’m wearing swim trunks. Don’t want everybody to SEE what I’m thinking!’ and he dove into the pool to cool down.

Sookie felt another couple of those deep twinges on the table, and Bobbie tried to relax her but Sookie was just too keyed up to really relax. At 5:30 Angela asked Sookie if they wanted to eat by the pool or in their rooms, and they agreed they’d go on in so everyone could shower and relax before the party. Angela told Sookie just to shower and leave her hair wet. The make-up artist, hair stylist and manicurist would work on her beginning at 7, and they would be available to others in the party as time permitted.

The servants arrived with their dinner just as they got back to the room, so everyone ate in their swim clothes, with towels on the chairs to protect the wood from their wet suits. At 6:45, Sookie hit the shower, and the others gradually migrated to their rooms for showers and such. Sookie shaved her legs, so it was a little after 7 when she got out, and they were already set up in her room with a special chair when she came out in her pink robe.

The manicurist started on Sookie’s feet so the polish could dry, and the hair stylist dried and rolled her hair, then they had her get into her corset, thong and stockings, put the robe back on, and the manicurist did her nails while the makeup artist worked on Sookie’s face. She asked if Sookie wanted her to cover the bite marks on her neck and Sookie said absolutely not – she wanted them to be easily visible.

When she was done, the stylist took her hair down and used a curling iron to make more curls and started pinning them up on her head in a beautiful updo, while the manicurist and makeup artist went out to offer services to the other women. Sookie was all done except for her dress and putting on her pink pumps when Eric got up.

“My lover, you are perfect!” he said, delighted with the way she looked just in the robe.

“Check this out,” she said as she turned and looked back over shoulder at him, peeling first one shoulder, then the other, of the robe off, and finally turning toward him and dropping it, leaving her in the corset, garters, thong and stockings. Eric, who doesn’t even breath, gasped.

“Garters!” he growled, popping his fangs throwing his arms around Sookie’s waist and swinging her around.

“I thought you might like to know what you’re getting when you bring me back up to the room after the party and ravish me again.”

“Mmmmmmm – maybe we should skip the party…”

“Oh, no, you don’t Buster. This whole trip is about you making a big political splash and getting protection extended to our baby. No backing out now.”

Eric sighed. “Of course, my lover, you are right, but when we come back tonight…”

“I got the idea – take your shower,” she said as she kissed his cheek.

He kicked it into high gear and while he was in the shower, Sookie slipped on the amazing pink dress and went out to get somebody to zip it up. She wanted Eric to see her completely done when he came out. She took the box with the diamond solitaire set in it with her, too, so somebody could help her put it on.

She was completely ready when Eric came out in a tux. She turned to look at him and they both just froze. Sookie couldn’t breathe, he was SO BEAUTIFUL in that tux, and Eric thought he was dreaming. No woman could be that beautiful. It just wasn’t possible. The dress flowed so gracefully over her curves and swung seductively above her knees, and that cleavage! The pink color sparked against her sun-kissed skin, the diamond was glistening at her throat. Bobbie, Amelia, Jason and Pam were waiting to see how long it would take one of them to move. Jason shook his head. Pam rolled her eyes. Bobbie looked on wistfully, wanting a hot vampire of her own, and Amelia beamed pure pride and happiness for Sookie.

“Wow” was all Sookie could say, swallowing hard.

“My Queen.” Eric said softly. Finally, he stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her and she threw hers around his neck. They hugged for a long time until the rest of the group said “AWWwww” in unison and made them laugh. Eric and Sookie were both close to tears, and since the clock was striking 9 pm, Eric said “So my friends – are we all ready?”

He offered Sookie his arm, and they walked out the door, followed by Pam in a pretty plum dress and Jason, in his suit, walking arm in arm, then Bobbie, in an expensive maroon silk wrap dress and Amelia, in a light blue a-line dress, following behind. Nobody spoke as they wound through the halls to the party. There was a lot at stake tonight and most of them were acutely aware of that.

When Eric and Sookie started down the great stairs, every head down below, guests who were arriving and milling around, turned to watch them. They were so striking together, people stared for a minute, then started asking people near them who that gorgeous blonde couple was.

Sookie knew they looked good, but was a little nervous, so she stood tall and put on her panic smile. Eric was so proud he could barely stand it. He knew the room was stunned by his bonded’s beauty and he stood very tall, enjoying their stares as he escorted her down the stairs and around into the great hall. No one could match her beauty tonight, and she was all HIS. It was one of those nights when it was very, very good to be Eric Northman.

As they entered the great hall, the sight of the two of them created a little stir. Was that the Northman this party was for? He really is a Viking, isn’t he?! Who is the blonde woman in the pink dress? Half the women in the room cursed themselves for wearing black and the other half resolved to find out where that pretty blonde got that amazing dress. She looked like a movie star, and he was obviously someone important. Sookie remembered Felipe had said there would be about 50 people there, but this looked more like 250 to 300.

There was a small orchestra playing on a slightly elevated stage in one corner of the huge room, and there were seats around the perimeter and clusters of chairs and love seats scattered about. There was a blood fountain on one side of the room, and a champagne fountain on the other. There were three ice sculptures on buffet tables full of drinks and food, and some volunteer blood donors wearing red ribbons to identify them. Felipe’s crew was gathered into one corner with a large red leather chair and a couple of red silk settees that would enable him to receive visitors.

Eric saw Felipe’s face when he first saw Sookie, and it was one of the best parts of the night. Felipe’s eyes bugged out and his jaw dropped very briefly before he recovered himself. Pam and Jason found themselves a drink and a quiet corner. Amelia and Bobbie checked out the buffet, and looked at some of the artwork displayed on the walls. Eric got a warm blood for himself and a cold one for Sookie and they were going to mingle when Felipe summoned them. Ok, here we go.

“Sheriff, Miss Stackhouse – welcome. You look stunning, my dear. Allow me to introduce the Mayor of Las Vegas, and his lovely wife. Mayor Norris, this is Sheriff Eric Northman and his beautiful fiancé, Sookie Stackhouse. Northman will be the first vampire sheriff in the Americas to marry.”

“Oh, you must be so excited, dear!” The mayor’s wife took the opportunity and ran with it, talking Sookie’s ear off about weddings and grilling her about her wedding dress and flowers and so many things Sookie’s head was spinning as Eric and the Mayor shook hands. The mayor asked about their visit to the Regency the night before and told Eric about some new development planned for the strip hinting that there might be investment opportunities for a well-connected vampire like himself.

The couple kept Eric and Sookie busy for about 20 minutes, Eric never faltering in his conversation and Sookie mostly nodding, smiling and answering questions about the wedding. As the four of them spoke, several people came up and paid homage to Felipe or were introduced to him. Sookie noticed the mayor slipping a business card to Eric and him slipping it in his pocket, pulling one of his own out of the other pocket and handing it to the mayor. Eric came prepared to network, and Sookie made up her mind to be as charming as she could to make him look good.

Sookie was trying not to look bored when suddenly Felipe stepped forward and said “Sheriff Maxwell, how nice to see you.”

Sookie got ready to deal with the bitch, then turned around to look right into the face of Bill Compton! Sookie panicked and Eric looked up to see what was going on with her. Bill wasn’t moving, except to bow to Sookie and say hello. Eric was on high alert in case of trouble, but he waited to see what Bill would do.

“Bill, what are you….”

“It’s alright, Sookie, I won’t be attacking you again. I’ve been inoculated to prevent it.”

“Inoculated?”

“Yes, by Dr. Ludwig. You must have known – she used your blood?”

“She what?”

“She has been giving me injections of your blood so I could attend tonight’s party without incident. I wanted to apologize to you personally so when Sabrina invited me, I sought out Dr. Ludwig’s help.”

Bitch.

Sabrina had to know about Sookie’s past with Bill – everybody did – and she did this to mess with her. And what the hell was Dr. Ludwig doing? Was this ethical? Sookie wondered how much Bill had paid her for that particular service.

Sabrina was fawning over Felipe. “Your majesty, have you met Bill Compton? He lives in Sheriff Northman’s area. Bill used to date Ms. Stackhouse, didn’t you, Bill?”

“That was quite a while ago. Now we’re just neighbors and good friends.” Bill wanted to change the subject, “Your majesty, this is a lovely gathering.”

“Thank you, Mr. Compton. I had hoped to hire an MC for the evening, but I understand that the man I requested, John Quinn, is missing?”

“Oh, I hadn’t heard…”

Sabrina smiled wickedly, “You knew Quinn rather well, didn’t you, Ms. Stackhouse? Didn’t you date him AFTER you bonded with Eric?”

A word popped into Sookie’s mind that proper Southern girls just don’t say, but it started with a C and Sookie thought it was well deserved in this case.

‘Rise above it, Sookie, you don’t want to make Eric look bad.’ Sookie thought as she smiled her emergency smile.

Now Felipe joined in. “Sheriff Northman, you had some disagreement with Mr. Quinn regarding Miss Stackhouse, did you not?”

“There was a brief misunderstanding, sire, but we’ve long since worked that out. Sookie and I are quite content with our bond and happy to be committed to one another. We are extremely grateful to you for hosting our wedding.”

Sabrina had fired all her best shots and Sookie didn’t blow up or cry the way she had hoped, so she linked her arm with Felipe’s and started flirting shamelessly, as if Eric might be jealous of him. That didn’t work either, and Sookie just turned away as Eric went back to his conversation.

“So, how are you, Bill?” Sookie noticed he seemed shaky and even more pale than normal

“I’m fine – the inoculations leave me a little weak, but otherwise, I am as ever. You must be well –you are radiant. Being pregnant agrees with you.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m sure you’ll be a wonderful mother, Sookie.” Bill seemed sad but sincere.

Just then, Amelia and Bobbie wandered over to make sure Sookie was alright, ostensibly, but really Amelia had told Bobbie who Bill was, and Bobbie wanted to see him up close.

“Oh, Bill, you know Amelia – she’s living in my old house now.” Bill bowed his head to her. “And this is my masseuse, Bobbie James.” Bill bowed his head to Bobbie and she tried not to melt into her shoes. Goddess, he was GORGEOUS! Sookie was one lucky girl!

“You are a masseuse, Miss James?” Bill inquired.

“Yes, I am. I’ve worked a wide variety of clients, vampires included.”

“Indeed?”

“Yes, one of my specialties is treating vampires who are depressed. I use aromatherapy and Reiki and I’ve had great success with it.”

“Aromatherapy? And that works?” Bill actually seemed interested.

“Yes. You seem a little shaky. You know Civet oil can be very effective if you are feeling ungrounded. Many vampires find it particularly soothing.”

Sookie’s ears perked up. Was Bobbie offering Bill a massage? Did she LIKE Bill? That would be so cool if they hooked up! Sabrina was hanging all over Felipe, anyway.

Bitch.

“Bill, Bobbie is very talented,” Sookie encouraged him. “She has helped me more than I can say.”

“Oh, thank you, Sookie.”

“Miss James,” Bill asked, “Would you like to dance?”

Bobbie looked at Sookie and Sookie wiggled her eyebrows and nodded her encouragement. Bill excused himself, took Bobbie’s hand and led her over to where the orchestra was playing and couples were dancing.

Amelia laughed “How about that?”

“Amelia that would be so perfect for both of them if they hooked up. She’s so open to the vamp thing and I know she’d love to date one.”

“You wouldn’t be even a little jealous?”

“I want Bill to be happy. Bobbie is really pretty and sweet. He could do a lot worse.”

“Not trying to ease your own guilt, are you?”

“Maybe a little, but I think they would be great together.”

“O…K….” Amelia laughed, not quite convinced.

Felipe called Eric over to introduce him to some Nevada sheriffs and he pulled Sookie over to him so she could be introduced as well. Amelia was asked to dance by someone she was pretty sure was a Were, so she went for it. Jason and Pam were nowhere to be seen.

The song ended, but Bill whispered something to Bobbie and they stayed on the dance floor so they were apparently hitting it off. The orchestra started playing Madonna’s song Material Girl and there was a little murmur in the crowd. Sookie laughed to herself, because it seemed so weird that they would play that song.

Eric was talking to the Sheriff from Lake Tahoe, holding Sookie’s arm, when suddenly from behind them…

“ERIC NORTHMAN, you gorgeous hunk of dead meat!”

“Oh, shit!” Eric said. Sookie was shocked because she never heard Eric say that before. What the hell?

Sookie turned to see the petite blonde walk up to Eric and run both hands up his chest like she was going to put her arms around his neck but he grabbed her hands and stopped her.

“Hello, Maddie, how are you?”

“Between marriages. How are you?”

“Engaged.”

“What?” She was shocked.

“Let me introduce you to my fiancé – Sookie Stackhouse, soon to be Sookie NORTHMAN, this is Madonna.”

Sookie smiled and said hello, but she was ignored.

“Well, well, I never thought anybody would reel you in, Eric.”

“She didn’t reel me in, I fought for her and won.”

“Well. Isn’t that romantic.” She said with a sneer in her voice. “Pretty dress, dear. Buy it at a vintage shop? It looks old fashioned.”

“Maddie!” Felipe interrupted, “I’m so happy you could be here!”

Felipe and Madonna fawned over each other and a photographer stepped in to get a shot of them. Eric saw a chance to get the hell away from them so he led Sookie out onto the dance floor. They were near Bobbie and Bill when Bobbie leaned over to Sookie and said “Is that who I think it is?”

“Yes, and she just iced me HARD. Eric you actually… slept with that rude woman?!” Sookie was aghast.

Bill interrupted “Well really, Sookie, who hasn’t?”

Eric laughed out loud and Sookie looked horrified at Bill, who shrugged like it was no big deal. Eric picked Sookie up and spun around with her, making her laugh and she let it go. He was HERS now, and that was all that mattered. They didn’t even notice people watching them dance from the four corners of the room, enchanted by the vision of Eric swinging Sookie around so sweetly, like something from an old movie.

About an hour and a half into the night, Felipe summoned Eric and Sookie and led them up to the bandstand. Eric held Sookie’s hand and she tried to stand tall and not to look nervous. Felipe approached the microphone and a hush fell over the room.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Welcome to my home!”

There was polite applause.

“We are here, my friends, to celebrate two most unusual occasions. Many of you know Eric Northman, the Sheriff of Area 5 in Louisiana. Many of you also know the famed telepath, Sookie Stackhouse, who saved many lives, human and vampire alike, in the attack on the Pyramid of Giza in Rhodes.”

OHHHhh the crowd said and applauded enthusiastically. That’s why she seemed so familiar!

Sookie noticed Niall standing at the right of the stage and he nodded to her with a sly smile.

“We are here tonight to announce that Sheriff Northman, for the first time in the Americas, will wed a human. He and Miss Stackhouse will be joined in marriage tomorrow in this very house!”

Shock, then applause that grew as people absorbed the news.

“And, as the result of a near miraculous work of magick from an exalted master,” Felipe nodded to Niall and there was a murmur of recognition in the crowd. “Sheriff Northman was enabled to impregnate his fiancé. Miss Stackhouse is pregnant with Sheriff Northman’s son.”

Silence, then shock, then amazement and applause.

“As many of you know, Miss Stackhouse, due to her bravery and service to the crown, was offered Protection from all in my realm. Tonight, here and now, I declare that her protection shall be extended to Sheriff Northman’s and her child. I hereby decree that all who owe me fealty will honor and protect this unique family from all enemies.”

Huge applause and approval from the crowd.

Niall still had a sly smile on his face and was now standing next to Dr. Ludwig. Bill looked sick and Bobbie squeezed his elbow. He smiled at her and held her hand as Bobbie steered him toward the nearest exit. Amelia was beaming. Jason and Pam were gone.

“Please, my friends – feast, drink, dance, celebrate this unique family with us!” and Felipe turned to kiss Sookie’s hand and motioned for she and Eric to precede him off of the stage as the orchestra began to play again.

Sookie and Eric were mobbed with well-wishers, congratulations and questions about the wedding, where they lived, how they met and when the baby was due. Felipe went back to his corner, where he was also congratulated for having such a unique and progressive nest in his kingdom. He was gracious and over the top as usual, but he rarely looked away from Sookie.

Eric was paying attention to several things at once. He gave perfect responses to all who spoke to him, he held Sookie at his side so he knew where she was and he was aware of where Felipe and all of his guard were. He also knew that Niall was here and was keeping an eye out for an opportunity to get him alone.

After about 45 minutes, the crowd dispersed and returned to their partying and Sookie needed to go to the bathroom. She interrupted Eric’s introduction to a sheriff from Arkansas.

“Eric, I need to use the ladies’ room.”

“Alright, my angel, take someone with you.” And he went back to his conversation. EVERYBODY wanted to congratulate him and ask how he felt about being a father after such a long life. He was basking in the glory of being a vampire that had managed to sire a son. Everyone knew the child would be special and offered their best wishes. People were literally standing in line to speak to him.

Sookie looked around. She thought Bobbie was still dancing with Bill and she wasn’t going to mess that up for either of them. Amelia was talking to a really handsome guy and she didn’t see Pam or Jason and Sookie really had to go! She finally just went out the side door and followed the signs to the rest room. When she was done, she checked her hair and makeup, but she had to lean against the wall for a minute because of a cramp. It didn’t last long, but it felt deep. As she came out the ladies’ room she was thinking about whether she’d ever be able to wear this dress again and she wasn’t paying attention to where she was going so she walked through the wrong door. She was pushed from behind through a side door and it locked behind her. She hadn’t even seen who had pushed her.

She tried to open the door but it was locked and bolted. This was some sort of den or office. There was a fireplace, a desk, some chairs and a couch, and lots of books. There was only one way out that she could see. She was trying to figure out what to do when the door opened and Felipe walked in.

“Miss Stackhouse, I would speak to you.”

“Oh, well, I was just on my way back to Eric.”

“Yes, that is what I would like to speak with you about. You will be wed to him tomorrow night.”

“Yes, I’m looking forward to it.”

“Have you thought about what might happen after, my dear?” He was walking toward her and she was backing up.

“After?”

“Yes – you know you can marry him, but you don’t necessarily have to stay that way.”

“I love Eric – of course we’ll stay that way.”

“Life has a way of taking unusual twists and turns, my dear. What if something better came along? What if someone offered you a chance to be queen, and to bear a king’s son?”

“I don’t want to be queen, and the only child I intend to bear is Eric’s.”

“Eric might die. His son might die, too.”

“Don’t say that – I want to spend my life with Eric and I love my baby.” She backed into the wall and he was still advancing. She was in a corner and had nowhere to go.

“Say the Sheriff had an unfortunate accident after your marriage was consummated. You and your child could have his name and his money, and you would be free to choose another partner. A partner who could give you all of this.” He motioned as if his house was the whole world. “Most women would jump at the chance to be Queen, my dear.” He was up against her and stroking her chin with his fingers.

“I’m not “most women”…”

“No, you are not… you are special, my dear, I will give you that.”

“I really need to get back to Eric now.”

“You could have my child instead.”

“NO, I couldn’t. I’m already pregnant.”

“A small matter that can be quickly disposed of…”

Sookie was horrified at what he was suggesting. He couldn’t possibly think she would agree to…

“I could kill him and make you my queen whether you like it or not, you know.”

“I know no such thing. I won’t do anything I don’t want to do.”

“I can be very persuasive, my dear…” he reached under her skirt and she felt a stab of panic run through her like a knife. Eric! She sent for him through the bond as hard as she could

As Felipe touched her there a flash of light exploded and knocked Felipe across the room. He was lying on his back screaming and flailing his legs and hands like he was being attacked by something invisible, and Sookie doubled over with a horrible cramp. The door burst open and Felipe’s guard ran to him, Eric right behind them heading straight to Sookie.

“Sookie, are you hurt?”

“I don’t know – it hurts.”

“Why do I smell blood?”

“What?”

“Why does the King have blood on his hand?” A guard yelled across the room. Felipe was still screaming and flailing like he was fighting off an attack “The wings, No, a falcon! Wings! Wings!” he was screaming over and over.

“He touched me.”

Eric panicked “Where?” but he knew where. He reached under her skirt and his hand came out bloody. Sandy was bringing Ludwig into the room.

“Northman – take her to your rooms, I’ll be there after I see to the king.” Ludwig said as she gave the king a shot and he began to pass out. Eric scooped Sookie up and ran vampire speed back to their room, kicked the doors open and took her straight to their bed.

“Eric, get my dress off me, don’t let it get ruined.”

He didn’t have time to argue with her so he unzipped it and pulled it over her head. There was a small streak of blood, but it was on the inner lining. Her pink thong was ruined with blood, though. Sookie turned over on her side and put her hands over the baby. She was still in pain, but it was fading. She was crying, but mostly because she was scared. She concentrated.

Love, comfort. Anger.

Anger? Could the baby be angry? At her? No – he was angry about what Felipe tried to do to her.

Hearing the doors kicked open, Pam and Jason ran into the room partially dressed. Bobbie ran in, and so did Bill, who was carrying his shirt. Jason was zipping his pants and Bill pulling his shirt on.

Everybody was freaking out and asking what happened. Eric threw Sookie’s pink robe over her since she was in her undergarments and the room was full of people.

Amelia and Niall walked into the outer room. Niall went to a large easy chair and sat down, perfectly calm and Amelia went to Sookie’s side, opposite Eric.

“Did anyone call Dr. Ludwig?” Bobbie asked.

“She was there when it happened – she said she’d see to Sookie as soon as she was done with the King.”

“What actually did happen?” Amelia asked.

“I’m not sure – Sookie, are you alright?” Eric asked.

“It was him.”

“What?”

“It was the baby.”

“What are you talking about?”

“When Felipe… touched me there was a flash of white light, like a shock, and it threw him across the room, then he was fighting something off like he was being attacked by something. I think he thought a falcon was attacking him – he kept saying “the falcon, wings, no.”

“Yes, I heard that – what does that have to do with the baby?”

“It was him – he was protecting me.”

Amelia and Eric looked at each other and then at Bobbie. Bobbie asked Sookie if she was still in pain, and she said no, she was mostly just tired at that point. Jason and Pam went out to the living room since there was nothing they could do. Bill asked if there was anything he could do to help, and Eric looked him up and down, noticing he wasn’t quite dressed. Bobbie started rubbing Sookie’s lower back as Eric stroked her cheek. Amelia went out to talk to Niall.

“Hey, who are you?” Jason said, like he just noticed Niall was in the room.

“I am Niall Brigant. You, my boy, are Jason Stackhouse.”

“Yeah – do I know you?”

“We have never met.”

“Are you sure? You seem really familiar to me, like I’ve seen you somewhere before.”

“Indeed?”

Jason sat down, but you could tell he was still trying to figure out why he thought he should know Niall.

“Are you Niall?” Amelia asked.

“I am. And you are the Witch who lives in my granddaughter’s old home.”

Jason started paying attention – granddaughter? If he was related to Sookie, he had to be related to him, too. Did they have a grandfather living that he didn’t know about? He didn’t interrupt, but he stayed tuned in a way he normally wouldn’t have.

“Yes. Do you have any idea what happened to Sookie?”

“I have some idea. I gather she was molested by Felipe de Castro, and retribution was swift enough to protect her from serious harm.”

“Retribution by whom?” Amelia knew he knew more than he was telling.

“Well, that’s the salient question, now, is it not?”

“Are you going to answer it?”

“I’m afraid, my dear, that Sookie will have to reach her own conclusions about the source of her help. I can tell you, however, that Felipe will most likely be indisposed for the remainder of their stay here, and they should be able to enjoy their time here in relative peace as long as they are reasonably vigilant.”

“Brigant, do you want to talk to me.” Eric was in no mood for Fae bullshit. He wanted answers from this old bastard and he wanted them now. Niall looked amused by Eric’s attitude.

“Calm yourself, Sheriff. She is unharmed and so is the child.”

“Why does she think the child is responsible for what happened to Felipe?”

“Perhaps he was? Or perhaps it was someone working through the child. These things are rarely black or white. More often, there is some blurring of the distinctions between object and source.”

“Is anything going to prevent our wedding tomorrow?”

“No, Sheriff, the wedding will go as planned, though de Castro probably won’t be in attendance.”

“Is he planning to have me killed after the wedding?”

“Probably, but I don’t know for certain. It would seem to be the logical move from his perspective.”

“And what is your logical move, Niall?”

“To see you married to my great granddaughter and raising your son together. Living a long and happy life as a rare and uniquely blessed family. I’m counting on you to raise that boy to a fine strong man like his father. He’ll need your influence, especially as he enters manhood. It will take a strong hand to manage him. And there is that other matter we discussed which I’m sure you won’t want to go into just now.”

“Your wishes are unchanged in that matter?”

“Our agreement is still in effect. Watch your back while you are here, but have a good time. The hard part starts once the child is born. All your best efforts will be required to see that that happens.”

“Is Sookie in danger? Or the child?”

“There is always danger to mother and child in the birth process, but I trust you to see that every precaution is taken and all of their needs met.”

Niall stood up and walked toward the door, stopping in front of Bill.

“You are Compton, I presume?”

“Yes.”

“Well, in another time and place, you and I have a score to settle. In this time and place, however, I think you should elect to stay here the rest of the week with the bridal couple. That pretty masseuse will make your stay more than pleasant, and Northman might need your assistance. Apply to Sandy and have your things moved here from your hotel on Monday after the others leave. Your assistance here might go a long way toward mitigating the damages you owe me.”

“Damages?”

“You took something, Compton, that was my right to dispose of as I saw fit. Just because she managed to make an advantageous union, don’t think your obligation is expunged. In time I would have demanded reparations from you and from Sophie Ann. Northman will clear Sophie Ann’s debt to me, but you, sir, still owe for that which you took under false pretenses. Do we understand each other?”

Bill nodded, “we do.”

“Keep in mind that either Northman or I could consider that a blood offense. You live from this point forward at our pleasure alone.”

“Yes.”

“Ludwig is coming in now. I will see all of you tomorrow at the wedding. We have much to celebrate. Nice to meet you, Jason.” And with that he was gone.

Jason, who had been listening intently, sat back in amazement. That guy just vanished right in front of his eyes! What next?!

Actually, what came next was Dr. Ludwig, and Jason felt like he was in the Twilight Zone. How much more weirdness was there going to be around this wedding?

“Dr. Ludwig,” Eric began

“Northman – she in there?”

“Yes”

“You should be with her. She’ll need some reassurance from you to get through the next little bit. Come, let’s see how she’s doing.” She went into the room and Eric followed, closing the door.

Bobbie was still rubbing Sookie’s back when they went in, and Sookie was nearly asleep. The bed was so high that Ludwig had to push some little steps over to it to reach Sookie.

“Now, my girl, let’s see how we are…” She looked in Sookie’s eyes, put her hand on her breastbone, then had Sookie turn on her back so she could press lightly around her abdomen.

“Let’s get these off of her.” Ludwig said and Eric and Bobbie unhooked Sookie’s stockings and gently rolled them down, then helped her out of the thong.

“Eric, I’m sorry…” Sookie started.

“Shhh, my angel. You’ll wear it for me again sometime.”

She smiled at him weakly and he held her hand while the doctor checked to see if she was still bleeding. She wasn’t.

“Alright then, no damage done. Just a little scare. I want her to have a bottle of blood every hour until dawn, and a glass of red wine now to calm her nerves. Hold her and talk to her Northman. She needs to feel safe, and you are the only one at this point that can do that for her.”

Ludwig turned to Bobbie. “Do exactly what you’ve been doing, but no pressure on the tummy from this point forward. Ibuprofen as soon as she wakes in the morning, and she’s to stay off her feet as much as she can. I’ll see you all tomorrow night for the wedding.”

She started to leave but Eric called her back.

“Dr. – what was de Castro screaming about?”

“He thought he was being attacked by a falcon. Maybe he was. Either way, he’ll be sedated for a while by a compound I use just for vampires. You won’t see much of him from this point forward.”

Niall had said the same thing. Was this part of the plan? To keep Felipe away from the wedding? Sookie would certainly be much happier if he weren’t there. Or was this revenge because he accosted Sookie before she was wed? Either way, he was pretty sure Niall and Ludwig were working together in this case.

A servant came in to ask if they needed anything, and Eric asked for red wine for Sookie and a cold bottle of blood. She showed him where the bar was, and it had several bottles of wine as well as hard liquor, and there was a cold blood in the bathroom of Eric’s and Sookie’s room. The servant said she would see that the little fridge was restocked immediately, since Sookie had consumed some of the blood there already, and she said she was going to bring some of the dietary supplements for her, too.

“Compton” Eric summoned Bill. “I take it you are going to be staying with us?”

“Well, that seemed to be what Niall suggested.”

“Bobbie, Bill will be staying with you. He can send a servant to his hotel for his things tomorrow. Any objections?” He looked from Bobbie to Bill.

“None at all.” Bobbie said. Yum.

“Thank you,” was the only thing Bill could think to say. He had no objections to staying with Bobbie, since he was pretty sure the massage she’d been giving him was going to lead to sex any way. She was very pretty, especially for her age, and very sweet, and frankly, he felt like shit and a massage sounded pretty damned good right about now. The injections of Sookie’s blood had made him sick as a dog for a week. He could use a little tender love and care, and if Bobbie was up for it, so was he.

Pam dragged Jason back to bed, and Amelia went to sleep so she could be up early to stay with Sookie. The maid returned with some bloods and Eric asked if a travel box was available for Bill or if Bobbie’s room could be light-proofed. She said she’d take care of it right away, so Eric went back to his room and closed the doors.

“How are you, my angel?”

“I’m sorry I ruined your party.”

“You didn’t ruin anything, Sookie. I spoke to everyone I needed to and I have a pocket full of business cards. I handed out at least 50. I did more than I expected. And besides, it’s not your fault de Castro couldn’t control himself. He risked war with the Fae approaching you before the wedding that way. Niall would be completely within his rights to attack his kingdom now for what he did. That might even have been part of Niall’s plan.”

“Are you sure it’s OK?”

“My angel, the only thing I care about is that you and my son are safe. The rest is inconsequential. Let’s get you out of this corset and into something more comfortable.”

“There’s a pink nightgown in the large suitcase.”

Eric retrieved the nightgown and slipped it over her head as he helped her sit up. He stripped down to his red silk boxers and Sookie whistled weakly at him, then laughed and so did he. He lay down next to her, and she faced him, and they whispered to each other a long time as he stroked her cheek and the baby bump and they sent love all around the three of them. The family was safe for the moment. That was all that mattered. In less than 24 hours they would be wed, and things would be fine.

When Sookie got really tired, Eric bit his wrist and had her drink from him, and he stayed with her until he could tell she was dreaming. She dreamed of the blonde woman, who held up a rose that was dripping blood. She looked at Sookie with those sparkling blue eyes and said “He used blood magick. You can, too.”

Sookie would remember this dream, and gradually piece together the earlier ones in the days to come. She would even come to question whether they were really dreams at all.

Amelia got up just before Eric went to rest for the day, and Bobbie came in after Bill was secured in the light-fast room. Jason didn’t sleep at all until Pam went to rest, and everyone knew it because they were loud all night. Bobbie and Amelia knew he wouldn’t be up until later, so they had breakfast and talked about Bill. Amelia told Bobbie everything she knew and Bobbie told her the bits she had picked up – not that they had spent that much time talking. Amelia knew clearly that Bill had Bobbie if he wanted her, and Amelia hoped he did. They looked good together, and Bobbie had a gentle quality about her that suited Bill’s Southern manners.

They gabbed like old friends and watched morning TV until the maid came in to feed Sookie, then they got ready to go to the pool. Jason was up by that time so he threw on his trunks so he could go with them. Sookie was moving a little slow, but she got it together and they all headed out. They found margaritas and beer waiting for them, and Sookie drank three bloods because she thought it might help her feel stronger. They were served hamburgers and hot dogs from the grill at 5:00, since the formal dinner was late that night, and they played in the pool until it was almost dark.

When Sookie got back to the room, they were setting up for hair and makeup, and she jumped in the shower. Eric got up while she was in the bathroom, and the stylists shooed him out of the room so he didn’t see Sookie. He took his tux and went to Jason’s room to shower and change. He knew he had to help Jason get dressed, anyway. When Eric was dressed, a servant came to take him down to the wedding. Bill was dressed at that point and went with him. There was a flurry of activity in the suite as Amelia, Bobbie, a hair stylist, a makeup artist, a manicurist and several maids fussed around Sookie and got her ready.

Once her hair, makeup and nails were perfect, they helped her into her dress. It was snug, but she got into it and you couldn’t really tell she was pregnant. Amelia was speechless and Bobbie was ready to cry. Sookie looked amazing, her sunglow standing out next to the beautiful white gown, looking like she just stepped out of a magazine. The maids and the girls all escorted Sookie down to a side room where she would wait for the wedding to begin. Thank heaven, Sookie thought, it wasn’t the room Felipe had trapped her in. She didn’t think she’d be able to handle that.

The chairs in the great hall were arranged in a semicircle around the platform the bride and groom would be on, with an aisle down the middle. The room was virtually filled with yellow and pink roses and there were pink decorations and ribbon everywhere. A smaller orchestra was on the same bandstand used the night before, with the addition of a white grand piano and a microphone, plus a few unusual items that appeared to be African drums. There was a head table along the wall next to the bandstand.

Since Felipe wasn’t able to attend, Bill agreed to stand up for Eric, which Eric thought was above and beyond the call, but Bill wanted to do it. There were about 60 people in attendance, most of them Sheriffs or other officials from the vampire hierarchy, including Russell Eddington and his mate and the Queen from the Gotham district, Carolina, and her consort.

Niall came in and sat down, then Dr. Ludwig joined him, and Eric noticed they seemed deep in conversation. The mayor of Las Vegas and his wife were there, and a few wealthy business men and their wives who had met Eric the night before and wanted a further chance to speak with him. The dinner would be held in the same room, tables arranged behind the chairs for the ceremony, and it looked to Eric as if all of these people were expected to stay. So much for a small, intimate wedding, but he didn’t care, he just wanted to marry Sookie and quell the competition for her.

Eric and Bill stood at the front of the aisle, Bill in the same tux he wore the night before and Eric in white tie and tails. They both looked impressive, and people whispered and marveled how tall and handsome the groom was and how impressive he had been when they were introduced to him. He was obviously on the rise in the vampire world and they all wanted to know him or be in business with him.

Eric wasn’t exactly nervous, but he almost felt high he was so excited. He had always wanted Sookie but never thought being married made much difference. He was surprised to learn that it apparently meant quite a lot to him. He was actually fighting back tears and he hoped no one noticed. Pam and Bobbie came in and sat in their reserved seats in the front row, Pam behind Eric and Bobbie behind the spot where Sookie would stand.

Jason was at the back of the room, and one of the servants motioned to another. A side door opened and out walked the Ancient Pythoness, who was going to perform the ceremony, and two daemon assistants. The vampires in the room were awestruck. Eric and Bill were shocked, and knelt down on one knee before her. She told them to stand, and they became aware that she was surrounded by an aura of magick so the humans didn’t know what they were seeing. Felipe had pulled out all the stops for this wedding… or had he? Eric realized that Felipe could not have arranged this, so who did?

Eric, let alone Bill, couldn’t believe she had agreed to do this. Eric looked back at Niall, and he had a satisfied smile as he nodded to him. This was huge. Eric began to wonder exactly who it was that thought de Castro had overreached in his coup against Sophie Ann. There might already be very powerful forces aligned that were waiting for Eric to step into place. Niall had said he was putting Eric in position to become regent. He hadn’t dreamed it went this high up in the hierarchy. If the Pythoness was involved, there were much bigger things going on in this wedding than just Niall arranging a financially advantageous marriage for his great granddaughter. Eric began to wonder if this wasn’t a coronation of sorts.

The orchestra began to play a really slow and sweet song they would later find out was Edelweiss, but no one would ever figure out why that was chosen for the bride to walk out to. The crowd stood. Amelia walked slowly down the aisle in a pretty pink satin Asian style dress and a small bouquet of pink and yellow flowers. There was an audible murmur of awe and approval when Jason walked in with Sookie on his arm.

No one could believe how beautiful Sookie looked, least of all Eric. She was a vision in that perfect white dress, carrying a bouquet of small pink roses, and you could tell even Jason was proud of how she looked. Eric found himself wondering if he remembered to put a handkerchief in his pocket, because he was really afraid he was going to cry. She looked like an angel – his angel – and it was almost too much to handle in front of all of these people. All thoughts of war and politics flew out of his head. The only thing that existed right now, in this moment, was this beautiful girl that was going to marry him. The gods had truly smiled on him.

Jason gave Sookie’s hand to Eric, kissed her on the cheek and sat next to Pam. Eric and Sookie faced the Pythoness. Sookie was surprised. She didn’t know exactly what her presence meant but she knew it was a big deal. It was a short and simple ceremony, the Pythoness speaking with her thick accent.

“Sheriff Eric the Norseman, do you take this woman as your Lady and your wife?”

“I do”

“And are you satisfied with the bride price?”

“I am”

“Place the ring on her finger and repeat these words: Sookie, as I take and protect thee, I thee wed.”

Eric placed the ring on Sookie’s hand and said “Sookie, as I take and protect thee, I thee wed.”

“Sookie Stackhouse do you accept Eric the Norseman as your lord and your lawful husband, heretofore to be known as Sookie Norseman, this man’s legal wife?”

“I do”

“Place the ring on his finger and repeat these words: Eric, as I belong to thee, I thee wed.”

“Eric, as I belong to thee, I thee wed.”

“Kneel”

Eric and Sookie knelt before her and she said “Cord” and motioned to an assistant who handed her a leather cord and she bound their clasped hands together. She turned to the other assistant, saying “Besom” and she was handed an old-fashioned, handmade broom that smelled of some herb Sookie couldn’t identify. The Pythoness swept around the couple in a circle, then when she returned to her starting place she pointed the end of the broom up, down to the side, across to the side, straight across, down to the other side and back up to where it started. Amelia told them later it was a pentacle.

She laid the broom in front of them, told them to stand and then jump. Eric was still holding Sookie’s hand as they jumped over the broom.”

The first assistant handed her a dagger, and she cut the cord opposite the knot and handed it to Eric.

“Ye are now husband and wife. So mote it be, and It is done. You may kiss your bride, Norseman.”

Eric gave Sookie a very gentle and proper kiss, and they smiled at one another. The Ancient Pythoness turned and left the platform, taking a place of honor at the front table. Sookie and Eric were photographed before they stepped off the platform, then Bill, Jason and Amelia were added for additional pictures. Sookie and Eric were led over to the center of the table headed by the Pythoness, and Niall was seated at the opposite end, along with Dr. Ludwig. Pam was seated next to Eric, Jason next to Sookie, then Bill next to Pam and Amelia on the other side of Jason, and Bobbie was seated on the other side of Bill. All of the other tables had non-family or friends.

There were pink roses and candles on every table. The seats assigned to vampires featured a cranberry glass goblet on a gold charger. The seats for humans and others had gold chargers under china that looked like it was sprinkled with mistletoe, and clear glass goblets. The humans were served rare prime rib. The vampires were served a red liquid that Sookie and Amelia later decided was a blend of human and fairy blood. They didn’t want to know where it came from.

The meal progressed quietly as the orchestra played delicate classical pieces that were soothing and light. Sookie thought it was odd that there were no toasts, but she didn’t say anything. As people were wrapping up their meals, Sookie and Eric were asked to take the dance floor in front of the orchestra. The bandleader announced them as Mr. and Mrs. Eric Northman taking the floor for their first dance as husband and wife, and a new group of musicians took the stage as the diners applauded Eric and Sookie. A man sat at the grand piano and began to play, as several people in African dress began to play the drums and other instruments. Sookie and Eric began to dance and they realized that the song they were playing was “In Your Eyes” and the man at the piano was Peter Gabriel.

“Eric, is that…?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Did you…?”

“It was a gift from Felipe of all people. I didn’t tell you because I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“So that really is THE Peter Gabriel?”

“Singing just for you, my angel.”

“Wow.” Sookie couldn’t quite breathe and tried not to cry.

Eric laughed and swung her around and the other guests applauded. The bandleader invited others to take the dance floor with them, and Bill and Bobbie, Jason and Pam, Niall and Amelia were the first to do so, though several of the other attendees did soon after. Mr. Gabriel played three more songs, and Eric and Sookie danced to two of them. As the third began, Mr. Gabriel wished the best of luck to the happy couple, and they thanked him as the song progressed and they returned to their table.

At this point people were mingling and drinking and nobody was feeling any pain. Eric and Sookie were walking around thanking people for being there to share the evening with them, which let Eric make another round among the important business people, politicians and Supes. The mayor of Las Vegas and his wife asked Sookie and Eric to sit down for a few minutes.

“Thank you, Mayor Norris,” Eric was in full bull-shitting mode, and Sookie was just doing her part as arm candy, though she was also listening to people’s thoughts because it might help Eric.

“I understand that your host has taken ill.”

“Yes, it was quite unexpected.”

“How long are you and your new bride planning to be in town?”

“We are due to leave on Friday.”

“I’ll be honest with you, Northman, I’d like to talk more to you about the projects we are planning for the strip. Since your host is indisposed, how would you feel about spending a few days in a penthouse suite at the Bellagio instead? It’s more central to the fun and you and your bride could enjoy the city more. The Mrs. and I would like to take you and Sookie to dinner on Wednesday and show you around.”

“That is very kind of you, Mayor. A penthouse suite at the Bellagio, you say?”

“Yes, I took the liberty of reserving it for you. How many in your party – two?”

“Actually we are four – my wife’s masseuse and her beau are also with us.”

“How about I send a car tomorrow night at 10 to pick the four of you up and move you to the Bellagio. It will be a wedding gift – all expenses paid.”

“That is very generous, sir.”

“Good, then that’s settled. No point in staying all the way out here if your host is not able to entertain you. You be ready to go tomorrow night at 10, and we’ll talk more on Wednesday night. We’ll call for you at your suite at 9 pm. I’ll have Sandy make any arrangements that are necessary.”

“Thank you so much, mayor. I know Sookie will be pleased to see more of the city.”

“Alright, my boy, we’ll see you on Wednesday. My driver is Darrell and he’ll be in charge of moving you.”

The mayor’s wife was going on about how pretty Sookie’s dress was and how lovely but unusual the ceremony, and he told her they were leaving and said their goodbyes, saying they’d see her on Wednesday.
“Eric – what’s Wednesday?”

“Sookie, my love, how would you like to trade in your bugged room here for a penthouse suite at the Bellagio for three days?”

“Can we afford that?”

“We could, of course, but it’s a gift from the Mayor. He has business he wants to discuss and he apparently prefers not to do it here. He’s sending a car for us, Bill and Bobbie tomorrow at 10 pm and moving us there, then we will have dinner with him and his wife on Wednesday night.”

“I’d love that! I can’t wait to get out of here. I’ll feel much safer somewhere else.”

“I thought that would be the case. Did you happen to listen in at all to either of them?”

“Yes – she’s hard not to read. She adores me, and thinks you’re handsome and impressive. He thinks you’ve got potential and for some reason he specifically wants a vampire in on this deal he’s working on. There’s also some tie in with New Orleans he wants to talk to you about.”

“Interesting.”

“So how much longer do we have to stay here? It’s our wedding night, you know,” she said as seductively as she could.

He gave her a beautiful smile. “Yes, I do know that. Let’s make sure we’ve thanked everyone, and we’ll sneak out.”

“Sounds good to me. I can’t wait to get out of these shoes.”

“And I can’t wait to get you out of that dress. I’m looking forward to making love to my wife for the first time.”

“Awww – sweetie.” She laughed. She was walking on air. She felt like pinching herself to make sure it wasn’t a dream – she was Mrs. Northman! How amazing was that!?

 

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