LATE Chapter 048

The Wedding Reception

 

“Wakey, wakey!” Bobbie came through the door with a breakfast tray for Sookie.

“Huh? Bobbie – where’s Alicia?”

“Held up at the doctor’s office so I’m doing breakfast. Or lunch. It’s almost 2 in the afternoon, so take your pick.”

Sookie tried to sit up but she was groggy and slow. Bobbie set the tray on the dresser and helped pull her up.

“Wow – you’ve been sleeping for a long time, sweetie. Are you still that out of it?”

“I guess. I couldn’t even wake up when Eric came home. He gave me a bath and held me while I slept.”

“That’s some talented and thoughtful vampire you’ve got there. He’s a keeper.” Bobbie said with a wink and Sookie laughed. She brought the tray over and Sookie looked at it.

“What are you feeding me?”

“A Chicken stir-fry made with that chicken you didn’t eat last night, served over rice, and some fresh veggies, orange juice, milk, and two ibuprofen.”

“Margaret made a stir-fry?”

“I made a stir-fry – Margaret is trying to get the house in order. Apparently you’ve got a dinner guest coming Friday who’s a big honkin’ deal.”

“A dinner guest? Us?”

“Mm-hm. Eric put the word out that it’s a huge deal and he wants the whole house, especially the dining room, spotless. They’re going to start today and work all week. Whoever this is is going to look the place over but I didn’t really understand why. You aren’t selling this place are you?”

“No, I’m sure it’s Niall. He’s coming to see if Eric is providing for me according to his standards. I forgot about that. He must have told Eric he wanted to do it Friday.”

“So this is a big deal, huh?”

“Yes – and I don’t even want to know what it means if he doesn’t like what he sees.”

“What’s not to like? He’ll be thrilled. Isn’t it nicer than your old place?”

“Much nicer but I inherited that. Now that I’m married it’s on Eric to keep me up to Niall’s standards. I’m telling you, Bobbie, this medieval crap gets old. He’s going to want to see me wearing tons of diamonds and living in a mansion.”

“Well, you DO live in a mansion and you’ve got lots of diamonds, so no sweat.”

“It’s the idea that bugs me. Being dominated in sex is one thing – I LOVE that. But being treated like property the rest of the time…”

“Eric doesn’t treat you that way, honey.”

“Oh, no, I don’t mean Eric. He loves me. I mean Niall. I’ve only known him for a little while and suddenly he’s my “patriarch” of my family and I’m a commodity.”

“Yeah, he does see you that way. I saw that in Las Vegas.”

“He makes decisions about my life without even asking me. He never asked if I wanted this baby, which of course I do and I love my baby, but it would have been nice to say ‘yes, next April might be a nice time to get knocked up with a magickal vampire fairy Viking – OW! I love you, Baby E – I’m not mad at you, I’m just aggravated with grandpa.”

Love. Warm. Happy.

“What was that?”

“He kicked me, hard! He’s OK now, though he’s sending Love. Warm. Happy.”

“He kicked you because he thought you were bad mouthing him? Baby E nothing – maybe you’d better name him Damien.”

“I know, right? Sometimes I think he can read my mind, Bobbie.”

“Uh… don’t YOU read minds, Sookie?”

“Well, I hear thoughts….”

“Think about it….”

“You think he can hear my thoughts like I hear human thoughts?”

“That would be my guess. Isn’t he supposed to have qualities from both you and Eric?”

“Yes – so you think he can already do that? It never occurred to me that he could do that before he was born.”

“I really can’t wait to see this kid. I wonder if he’s going to be able to talk when he comes out.”

“Don’t even say that – there’s no way I could explain a talking infant.”

“Well, look at it this way – this pregnancy hasn’t been boring and this baby won’t be either. Every day will be an adventure.”

“Easy for you to say…”

“True. Say, you know, it’s creepy and grey outside today. How about we rev up your laptop and do some baby shopping.”

“Do we have any idea when the room will be painted?

“Wednesday.”

“You’re kidding?”

“No, I found a place in Louisiana that carried the paint, I called Mr. Burnham and they’ll be here at 8 am Wednesday to paint the nursery. Today’s Monday so if you order stuff today, by the time it gets here, barring any problems, the nursery will be ready.”

“Do you do the mural before or after the furniture?”

“After. We won’t know where to put it until we see how things fit.”

“OK, well, my laptop is right there on the table. Get it started up and when I’m done you can come sit in the bed with me and we’ll look at baby stuff.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Bobbie sat in a side chair and opened Sookie’s MacBook, and it didn’t take her long to figure out how to turn it on. Sookie finished her stir-fry and rice, listening to the familiar “bong” sound that her laptop made at start-up.

Bobbie put “Baby furniture” into Google, then followed a related link to “designer baby furniture and pulled up some likely prospects. Sookie finished and Bobbie set her tray over to the dresser and brought the laptop over to Sookie’s bed. Sookie settled it on her knees and they started looking at the links Bobbie had found. Sookie didn’t know about tabbed browsing so Bobbie had to show her how to flip between the tabs like pages in a book. LuxuryLamb looked a little too fru-fru. Modern Nursery was way too modern for Sookie. Bobbie joked that their stuff all belonged in a loft in Manhattan and that was probably what their stuff was intended for. Sookie didn’t like the looks of the Distinctive Nursery site. 2 Little Monkeys was too hard to navigate. They went through a few more and Sookie finally settled on two sites that she liked – Pottery Barn Kids and a site called Baby and Me Boutique that said it was “mommy owned and operated” and Sookie liked that.

Sookie was very excited when they pulled up the Baby Rooms on PB Kids and the first one was a Fairy room. She figured she was in the right place and she and Bobbie both got a good laugh out of it. When she scrolled down the page she was very excited to see a crib that looked sort of like a dragon ship! It was called a Sleigh Crib but it was close enough for Sookie. She got really excited when she discovered a thing called a “co-sleeper” on the other site that had a similar design to the first crib but attached to an adult bed so the mother had easy access to the baby while she was in bed. It was on rollers and looked like it would come in handy.

She found a glider and ottoman that she wanted with a simple denim covering and she fell in love with some Dr. Seuss crib bedding and sheeting. She chose red black-out curtains in case they needed to keep light out and because she thought a kid’s room shouldn’t be dark and the furniture she was picking was in an espresso color.

She fell in love with a thing called a Bloom Bouncer that had a little harness to hold the baby in and it let his movement rock and move him. She just knew Baby E would love it. She picked a special pillow to use in nursing the baby and since she figured that was for Mommy, she ordered it in pink. They had a navy patent leather tote that didn’t look at all like baby equipment and she figured that would look dressy if she needed to take the baby any place fancy, or even to Fangtasia. She got a less expensive nylon diaper bag for every day use. She got a cubby and base storage set that matched the espresso color of the other furniture. She got two microfleece, silk trim blankets, one in blue and one “butter.” She didn’t like the clothes they had or the lighting options, but she did buy one more diaper tote in red that was offered when she went to check out. At that point she was at $3,998.98 without figuring in shipping and taxes, and it started asking about shipping and things like that so she handed it to Bobbie to finish all that up while she got her AmEx out of her purse.

She then got serious on the Baby and Me Boutique site. She ordered the co-sleeper that matched the other furniture from PB Kids. She got two HotSlings that slipped over mom and let her hold the baby with no hands. The Kate Spade stroller was the only one she liked at all, and she wasn’t crazy about the selection of changing tables on either site. She bought a couple of pairs of bikini panties made especially for pregnant women, and that was it. She was just over $834 at that point and decided to stop for the day. She was getting a little overwhelmed. There was still so much she needed, but Bobbie reminded her that Alicia would fill in the gaps and she felt better. She still realized that this birth was looming large and she had a lot to do to get ready.

“Man, Bobbie, how am I ever going to be ready for this? It will take forever to get the stuff for the nursery.”

“No, it won’t. The only real furniture you need now is a changing table and some form of light for the room. By the time you have the baby, Alicia will have the place stocked with diapers and wipes and bottles and breast pumps and all the little things you need. Everybody here has your back, honey – you’ll be fine.”

“I’m scared about all of this, Bobbie.”

“I know you are, sweetie. It’s a scary thing to bring another life into the world, and this baby will have some unique qualities that no parent is prepared for – except maybe Eric. Eric is ready, I think, and he knows who this baby is and what he’s going to need.”

“You really think so?”

“Yes, I do. Eric and that baby have already bonded in a way most men never do with their kids. They’re already linked psychically and emotionally. You don’t need to worry about that. You aren’t doing this alone, Sookie. You’ve got Eric, me, Margaret, Alicia, Bill, Pam, Jason and even Niall. That’s a hell of a team you’ve got going there, kid, so relax.”

“If you were me, Bobbie, what would you be most worried about?”

“I think you need to be drinking RM or something similar. My one concern is that the baby needs real blood and he’s either not getting it or he’s taking it from you which could be why you’re so wiped out. You probably also need to be taking b-12. I think we should find out if Dr. Ludwig can hook you up with B-12 shots next time we see her.”

“What will those do to me?”

“They’ll replenish you for the feedings you’re giving Eric and maybe the baby and it will give you energy. They can’t hurt you, so if she can arrange them, I think that would be a good idea.”

“I’ll tell Eric to call her and ask – or, I guess you could do that now, huh?”

“Yes, I probably could, but I’d rather check with Eric first. How awake are you now?”

“I’m awake I guess. Not especially energetic, but awake.”

“Let’s go upstairs and do some yoga and give you a good massage. By the time we’re done with that, it will be time for dinner and showers and getting ready and the boys will be up and we’ll go to the reception.”

“I’m not looking forward to this, Bobbie. I think it’s going to get ugly.”

“All you can do at this point is pray for the best, put a smile on your face and make Eric proud. He’s going to be showing you off to all the people who owe him fealty so you put a smile on your face and stand up straight and be the Queen he thinks you are.”

“I just wish I wasn’t Queen-sized…”

“Sookie, you’re not that big and in that particular dress, you will be the archetypal Earth Mother Goddess, so get that in your head and play the part. Eric will be there with you and Freyja is certainly with you. Everybody in that club will be ready to swear fealty to you and you need to act like you deserve it.”

“OK. I can do that… for Eric.”

“As long as it gets done, everything will be fine.”

“So let’s do some yoga….”

Sookie was moving slowly but she got changed and went up to the 4th floor where Bobbie was getting things set up. Bobbie took it slowly with her and she got a good workout and had a sense of accomplishment by the time Bobbie put her on the massage table. Bobbie had to work extra hard on Sookie’s neck and shoulders because she was tense and she was determined to have Sookie as relaxed as possible because this night would be stressful enough without her going in that way. When they finished, both went to their rooms to shower and get ready for the evening.

By the time Sookie got downstairs Alicia was laying out her underwear and steaming her dress to make sure it looked great. When Sookie came out after her shower in her little pink robe, Alicia was ready to dry and style her hair in a full, wavy fall with some height at the crown to make her look a little longer and thinner. She did Sookie’s makeup so that it made her features look pale and delicate and Sookie wondered if she was deliberately making her look a little more like a vampire. She used delicate pinks on her cheeks and lips and her eyes were done in sandy beiges and very black false lashes, mascara and liner. The she sprayed her face with a liquid that would set her makeup and keep it fresh, and put a sealer on her lipstick so it would last the whole night without needing to touch it up.

Sookie went into the bathroom to dress. She put on the really pretty, delicate beige lace garter belt and stockings and decided to go without underwear and mention it to Eric after they were already at the club. That would give them something pleasant to think about because she knew he’d have her at the very earliest opportunity after he spent a few hours with that on his mind. She slipped the dress over her head and then went out to let Alicia repair any damage. Alicia had two new pairs of shoes that she bought to go with the dress and Sookie chose a blue satin pair that were almost exactly the color of the dress and had just enough of a heel to shift her posture and make the dress flow better over her body’s now ample curves. She added the aquamarine and diamond pendant, Victoria pearl and diamond bracelet, and the Victoria diamond earrings that looked sort of like butterflies. She looked almost like Ursula Andress in an old picture she had seen once, especially with her new curves. Bobbie was right – she looked like a Goddess, specifically of the Earth Mother variety. She was thinking that she hoped Eric would agree when he came through the door and Alicia excused herself.

“Sook…” he was about to speak and stopped dead. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. She was the living embodiment of Freyja and it stopped him dead in his tracks.

“Eric – is something wrong? Do you not like it? Am I too fat?”

“My lover… my wife… you are a Goddess,” and he took her hand in both of his and kissed it a long time, never taking his eyes off of her. His voice was soft and full of emotion. “My subjects will be very happy to offer you fealty, my angel. No one could ask for a more beautiful Queen.”

“You’re not just saying that?” She was still unsure.

“No, I could never just say that. I have never seen anything more lovely.” He said as he hugged her to him tightly but carefully so he didn’t mess her makeup or hair. He was shaken and fighting back tears, so he tried to cover it. “That is a beautiful dress. Did Alicia buy it for you?”

“No, I bought it in Las Vegas, remember?”

“Oh, yes – well, you made an excellent choice. That blue color is very becoming. You look… ethereal.” Ethereal, Eric thought, didn’t begin to cover it. She would have fit quite nicely sitting with the other Goddesses in the Living Pantheon. Goddess, angel – these words only hinted at what he saw before him.When he said ‘ethereal’ that made her happy and she relaxed. He took a quick shower and tried to calm himself.

When he came out she was fussing with her handbag as he turned his back to her to put on his tux , still trying to regain his composure. It wasn’t that she didn’t look like Sookie – she did, and she was beautiful as always but there was something… something of Freyja in her or around her or something he couldn’t describe. If someone had told him in that moment that Sookie WAS Freya, he would have believed it. Maybe she was? The gods and Goddesses sometimes took human form. It wasn’t a possession, as when the Witches ritually “draw down the moon” so the Goddess speaks through them, it was substantial and there was nothing fleeting about it. It wasn’t like the times when Freya would enter the body of his lover while they were in the act. If there was a word for this, Eric didn’t know it. He felt like he was high on fairy blood even though he was in control of himself. He thought this must be what humans meant when they said they were “high.”

He would have to think about this when he was alone and could piece it together. He knew the Goddess would never harm Sookie, especially while she was pregnant, and he was satisfied that whatever this was, Sookie was unaware of it and perfectly present within herself. He would give anything not to have to leave the house that night. He needed to make love to Sookie more than he had ever needed anything in his long life. He had a feeling if he could just touch her and spend time alone with her in their own bed, he could figure this out.

The last thing he wanted to do was display her – what if others could see it? Would she be as irresistible to them as she was to him right now? Yet the events for tonight required that she sit in the new chair he had placed next to his own seat overlooking the main room of the club and she would be the center of attention, especially because of the baby. Everyone would want to see her because he had fathered a child in her. This was so rare that people would naturally be curious, and they were expected to be presented to her individually and pledge fealty to her. On top of that, he was expected to kill Victor Madden that night and he had to prepare himself as well as her for the fact that he might have to do it in front of her.

A part of him wanted to run. He wanted to take his wife and baby and go far away from the American Vampire power structure and just live and enjoy them without all this bullshit and war and intrigue. His sense of honor, though, wouldn’t let him. He couldn’t turn his back on his subjects when they were depending on him, and everything was in place for him to move upward and take control of at least the Louisiana territories.

‘Get it together, Northman,’ he scolded himself, ‘the Fates are at work here and you know that running is not an option. She is your Queen – she has seen this part of your world before and handled it, even if she ran for a while after.’

This time she would not run – he was sure of that. She wouldn’t want to be away from him while she was pregnant no matter what happened. He could count on her clinging to him no matter what. At least he hoped he could.

“Eric?” Sookie touched his arm.

“Yes, my angel?”

“What were you thinking? I was talking to you and I realized you were completely lost in your thoughts and not hearing me.”

“I was thinking about what we must do tonight. It will be a very full night, to say the least.”

“You’re expecting trouble, aren’t you? Please just tell me. I promise I won’t run this time, no matter what.”

Was she reading his mind? Was Freyja speaking through her?

“I have to be honest with you as my bonded and my wife. I expect there may be an attack toward me by Victor Madden, and I believe that the Council expects me to kill Madden tonight. It might happen openly, in front of others, including you.”

She reached up and took his face in her hands and he bent toward her as their eyes met. “Eric, I’m so sorry you are in all of this mess, but I know this is our life. The only thing I’ll feel if you kill Victor Madden is relief. I don’t care how it happens – I wouldn’t even mind doing it myself.”

“What?!” He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“He’s going to be an albatross around both our necks as long as he’s alive. He’s a threat to you and my baby. I want him dead, Eric, because we’ll never be safe while he’s alive. If you were worried I’d freak out and run away again, I promise you, I won’t. I meant my marriage vows. We’re forever, no matter what.”

“Thank you,” was all he could manage to say and he took her in his arms. He felt a great weight lifted from his shoulders. He realized that she had given him a great gift and that she had felt his need and risen to the task of giving him what he needed there, in that moment. She wouldn’t be horrified if he killed Victor in front of her. She was ready for what might happen. He wasn’t alone in this. There were three of them here – maybe four, if you counted Freyja – and they were going to get through this together. He no longer wanted to run. Instead, he wanted to be worthy of the faith she was placing in him, and the fealty his followers were giving him. He was ready.

He tilted her chin up to look at him. “No matter what happens, Sookie, this is our wedding reception. We will smile and enjoy it when we can, and if trouble happens we will handle it. Our family is strong. We’ll come through this together.”

They both laughed suddenly because Baby E chimed in at that point.

LOVE. HAPPY. FIGHT!

“Well, then,” Daddy laughed, “since we are all spoiling for a fight, let’s be on our way.” Sookie gave him a peck on the lips and they headed downstairs.

Bobbie and Bill were waiting for them in the kitchen. They looked stunned when the two of them walked in.

“Sookie, you look amazing!” Bobbie said, obviously delighted for her. Bill looked a little sick, but said he agreed.

Eric was relieved. They were apparently just seeing it as Sookie being extra pretty from clothes and makeup and jewels. She’d be unusually attractive to people tonight, but nothing more than that. He was relieved he wasn’t going to have to fight their way out of there for that reason, at least.

“Bobbie, you look very lovely. The four of us clean up well, it appears,” he was laughing trying to keep the mood as light as he could. “Shall we go to a party?”

“Yes,” Bill said, “I think we’re all ready to… celebrate.”

Eric led the way to Sookie’s car, which they were taking because it was bullet-proof and had superior handling if it needed to be used in an escape. Eric had known exactly what he was doing when he bought this car. He knew there would be nights like this. As they drove, he told Bobbie and Sookie what the plan was for the night and told them a few things to be aware of. He reminded Sookie of the escape door behind the stage. He told Sookie about the safe room below the club, and asked her to remind him to show her how to access the closet if she needed to. He told them there would be Were packs in and outside of the club and that his crew knew exactly what was going on. They were closer to revolution than the women had realized. They pulled into the back lot at Fangtasia to find that Sandy was already there.

“Here we go, everyone. Smile and be aware,” Eric reminded them as they got out of the car. “Hello, Sandy” Eric started.

“Northman,” she nodded to him, “I have your photos. I thought we might speak in your office while Sookie and your friends look through them.”

“Alright, follow me.” The club was open and Pam was tending to last minute details.

“It would probably be good for Pam and Bill to join us,” Sandy said, and she handed the photo album to Sookie.

“We’ll just take these out to your table, Eric and you let us know when you’re done.” Sookie said, taking her cue to let the vamps have space to conduct their business, leading Bobbie to the front of the club. Sandy’s driver had stayed at the car and her two assistants took posts outside the door of Eric’s office. Eric, Pam and Bill went into the office after Sandy and Eric locked the door at her urging.

“Alright, Sandy, what can we do for you.”

“I have an offer for you, Northman. Victor Madden knows about your relationship to Niall Brigant and plans to claim that you are conspiring with the Fae against your own people as an excuse to kill you. My spies tell me that neither you nor your wife are to leave this club alive tonight.”

“Interesting twist. It’s not true, of course.”

“No, and I know that. There has been no sign of Felipe de Castro and I’m quite sure he’s dead, though we can’t prove it. I don’t want to know whether you are responsible or not. Madden sees you as his primary opposition in seizing power. He doesn’t think I can stand up to him.”

“That sounds like an accurate assessment. Do you have a proposal?”

“Yes, I do. Felipe bit off too much when he invaded the Louisiana Territories. We don’t have the manpower to administer all of it properly. I want to make you this offer: Kill Victor Madden tonight and I will turn the Louisiana Territories over to you. You will be king, and I will withdraw all of our people from your areas. We all go back to Las Vegas and forget it all ever happened.”

“What happens if I fail to kill Madden?”

“It won’t matter anyway – you’re eventually going to have to kill him or he’ll kill you. The only question is whether I have to run the Louisiana Territories or not, and I’d prefer not to. Victor would never settle just for the Louisianas and even if he did, he’d always be plotting to take the Nevadas. I don’t want to be at war with him for the next 30 years or so, so this seems the best compromise.”

Eric looked at Bill and Pam. They nodded. Sandy was completely accurate in her assessment of the situation. This was a good solution.

“Alright, Sandy – I take Victor out and you have your people out of the Louisianas in 30 days. I take over as regent and we function from that point forward as we always had. That is acceptable to me.”

“Good. Now, I’m going to stay and enjoy your reception since I helped set it up. I have people who will be in the club and there is a small but very capable force outside. If you don’t get Madden, they will. Either way, I hope that as of sunrise I no longer have to deal with Louisiana business at all. I’m more than happy to let you rebuild New Orleans.” Eric knew exactly what she meant. That was going to be a major pain in his ass.

“Alright, Sandy – go have fun. I’m glad to see you here.”

“I thought you might be. Pam, Bill,” Sandy nodded to them as she left.

“Well, that was convenient…” Pam started.

“Why do you suppose she did that?” Bill asked.

“Sandy is strict but not devious. She probably knew better the state of Felipe’s finances and capabilities than he did. She was right – he bit off more than he could chew. My guess is that he let Madden persuade him to invade us all the while Madden planned to weaken him and take both territories from him. Felipe was an egomaniac, but he wasn’t the type to pull off a coup – that was Madden’s doing, I’m sure. As far as I’m concerned, Madden killed Sophie Ann whether he did it literally or not, and that makes it my duty to kill him.”

“Working on your speech for the Council already?” Bill asked.

“No, just letting my two lieutenants know what my thought process is. Pam, as we discussed, I’ve told our forces to follow Bill if anything happens to me.”

“Good – I’m glad to hear it. Area 5 is all the headache I want to deal with.”

“Pam, you knew about this?” Bill was surprised.

“It was my idea. Naturally, Eric wanted to put me in charge, but I don’t want it. Besides, if I were in charge, I would have to learn to be regent and you would have to learn to be Sheriff. This way, you have to learn to be regent and I already know how to be sheriff. Ultimately, it’s less headache for both of us.”

“That makes sense…” Bill was surprised. Pam was smarter than he realized and was looking at the bigger picture as well as her own part. “So, Eric, say it all goes as planned – Madden is dead, you are regent, Pam is sheriff – what happens to me?”

“I was planning to make you an assistant like Sandy and Victor were to Felipe. There aren’t many people I trust enough to give them that much responsibility. I thought you might agree to do it in memory of Sophie Ann. I know you were close to her.”

Bill was taken aback – Eric just told him he trusted him. “Yes, I was. I will, of course, if you need me.”

“I do and I will. Pam, send the girls back here. Bill when she brings the girls back I’ll show you all the lay out downstairs.”

“What exactly is downstairs?”

“Ostensibly it’s a sex room, and of course there has been a lot of sex in it. What is not apparent, though is the safe room. It looks like an ordinary, though somewhat large, bathroom, but it’s got a reinforced door and a hidden closet full of weapons and supplies. It’s also fireproof. If we were trapped in the club and it was bombed, we could stay in there and survive for quite a while.”

“I had no idea you had that kind of set up down there.”

“Only Pam knew about it until now. I upgraded it to include humans when Sookie and I reached our understanding and I’ve made sure there are provisions for 5 in case you and Bobbie need to join us there. I want you three to know how to use it, just in case I don’t make it.”

Sookie and Bobbie walked into the back, Sookie still carrying the photo album.

“How are the pictures?” Eric asked.

“Really good. I love them.”

“They did a great job,” Bobbie agreed.

“I thought maybe we’d put them on a lectern out front and let people look through them.” Eric suggested.

“That’s a great idea! You know they show the Ancient Pythoness, though.”

“That can only increase my prestige. So, let’s go down stairs. Here’s the latch for this door.” He leaned over and flipped what looked like a light switch and they heard a lock click. He pulled the door open and led them down the stairs. Naturally the first thing they saw was the big round bed.

“Good lord,” was all Bill could say.

“Wow!” said Bobbie.

“Isn’ it cool. I never saw a round one before. It’s pretty comfy, too.” Sookie added, sitting on the bed and bouncing on it. Bobbie couldn’t believe Sookie had had sex in a setting like this. “It’s got all kinds of special goodies like for tying people up and stuff.” Bobbie laughed and looked at Sookie with shock and delight. Bill glared at Eric. Eric looked smug, sporting that “shit-eating grin,” as Sookie called it.”

“There are bloods and drinks in the fridge here, and a few snacks in this cabinet. The microwave is here.” Eric continued his tour.

“What’s the chair for at the end of the bed?” Bill asked, knowing full well what it was for.

“That’s for when I want to watch the action.” Eric said in the most matter of fact way. ‘The bathroom here is what I want to show you all.”

It looked like just a large full bathroom with a big tub and a shower as well as a commode and a sink, plus there was a large area to the side hidden by a sliding door. He showed them how to open the panel and it let into what looked like a lounge with a couch and two chairs, a shortwave radio, some Internet hookups and some other electronic stuff.

“The supplies are here.” He stepped to the end of the room and raised a sliding panel to expose a small refrigerator and a large pantry full of supplies and weapons.”

“Wow – I didn’t know this was here!” Sookie said.

“No one did except Pam and me. I thought it was time for you to know it was here and how to access it. These walls are fireproof and this is a type of bomb shelter. If you ever get caught in the club and they set it on fire or bomb it, try to get to this room.”

“This is very complete – it must have cost a fortune.” Bill said.

“Not as much as you might think. The main problem was getting the shell of the shelter in here without arousing suspicion. I had to hire a contractor from out of state for that.”

“Wow – you’ve got True Blood and food in here.” Bobbie noted.

“Yes, I added the food when I started seeing Sookie. I’ve increased the amount in case the four of us, plus Pam, of course, end up needing to shelter here.”

“Thank you for thinking of us, Eric.” Bobbie was in awe.

“Not at all. You both play an important role in my life. I need you safe to keep Sookie and the baby safe.”

Bill couldn’t believe Eric was being so gracious. He knew he had to be worried if he was being this nice.

“So, that concludes the tour. Go out and mingle, you two, have some fun while you can. I want to spend a few minutes with Sookie before we face the world.”

Bobbie and Bill went back up the stairs. Bobbie was full of questions about the sex room. Nobody had to tell her that some wild stuff had gone down in that room, with its black walls and red ceiling, and she was dying to know what, with whom and how many. If she had met Eric and known nothing about him, she would have thought that somewhere in that man’s life, there was a room just like this. This was where the scary, intimidating part of Eric got unleashed and that was H.O.T. She promised herself to pump Sookie for information, though she had a feeling Sookie had only a shadow of a clue what that room was for. Sookie let enough slip to know she had had sex there and that was a place to start. Man, she loved this job! She wondered if she and Bill could use it sometime. Hell, she wondered if she and Bill and some friends could use it some time.

Since it was a reception the drinks were free and Bill and Bobbie got what they wanted from the bar and sat at Eric’s table talking. Bill told her what he knew about the history of the club, Pam’s relationship to Eric, what it meant to be a Maker and a Child. He was in the mood to impress Bobbie and after that tour of the love nest he had to step up his game, so he bragged a little to Bobbie about the Witch war, the Bombing at Rhodes, and a few other war experiences and he answered her numerous questions about the difference between the Civil war and a Supe war. He described what Witches had done to help and told her about the Were-Witches that drank vampire blood. She was fascinated with that concept – talk about exploring all avenues. Bobbie was adventurous and extreme for a girl with such a sweet temper and Bill found that fascinating and sexy. The more he got to know Bobbie the more he cared about her. She was an amazing woman.

When Bobbie and Bill left, Eric wrapped his arms around Sookie and held her a long time. She didn’t say anything because she knew he was under tremendous pressure and just needed a bit of comfort before they faced all of his subjects. He pulled back, took both her hands and looked at her.

“You really are the loveliest thing I have ever seen, Sookie. You will shimmer like a oasis in that black room under those lights.”

“Hmmm- I hope the lights don’t make my dress transparent. I’m not wearing any underwear.”

Eric’s eyes popped and he smiled for the first time all night. “My wife, are you telling me that underneath that lovely dress…”

“… is nothing but a lacey garter belt and stockings.” She smiled wickedly at him.

He laughed out loud with absolute delight.

“But we can’t do anything right now because you’ll mess up my hair and dress. After I’ve been… what are you doing again?”

“I’m presenting you to my subjects in Area 5 so they will know you and they can offer you and the baby fealty.”

“Right, well, after you’re done presenting me, we’ll find some time to have a little fun, promise?”

“Yes, my angel, that is a promise.”

“Good, now let’s go upstairs because your son is hungry. He’s kicking me.”

Eric laughed and put his hand on her stomach to feel the kicks, then scooped her up and carried her up the stairs. He set her down and closed the door, picked up the photo album, then opened the door to the hallway and held it for her. They walked down the hall arm in arm, smiling sweetly at each other, and Eric led her to the new chair on the stage.

“Uh… you didn’t?”

“I did. You must sit beside me so my subjects can present themselves to you.” He bent to whisper in her ear, “A Queen must sit by her King.”

She took a deep breath, blew it out, and he held her hand as she lifted the hem of her long dress to step up on the platform and he followed her as she sat down, he taking his seat beside her. He motioned to a waitress who came over and Eric asked for two bottles of Real Meal and told her to put the book on display on a lectern beside the stage. A different waitress brought the RMs and Sookie drank hers down without stopping to breathe and asked for another.

“You like it?” Eric was shocked.

“Yeah, it’s like I’ve been mm craving it my whole life. Can you get me a couple more? Baby E is doing a happy dance like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Yes, I can feel how happy he is. Interesting.”

She drank another pretty quickly and finally got to where she sipped the third one. Eric smiled lovingly at her.

“You sparkle like a diamond in this light, my angel.” He said, smiling at her and kissing her hand.

“Yeah, well, I’m wearing enough of them” she cracked and he laughed.

The room was beginning to fill up and three vampires approached the side of the stage and waited for Eric to nod before they approached them. The first was a small man who looked like an accountant.

“Good evening, Sheriff Northman. Congratulations on your wedding.”

“Thank you. May I present my lovely wife, Sookie Northman?”

“It’s an honor to meet you, Mrs. Northman. I offer you fealty and your child as well.”

She looked at Eric, not sure what to say, then she said, “Thank you so much. Thank you for coming to our reception. I hope you have a good time.”

The man smiled broadly because she had greeted him so warmly. Eric beamed at her, those Southern manners making her an ideal consort for any man in a position of power. Gradually a line formed and Sookie was equally gracious to all of the subjects that presented themselves. Eric was bursting with pride at how she handled them – she was graceful and warm and even made personal comments occasionally about how pretty a woman’s dress was or how much she liked something about another. She didn’t rush them and she made them feel welcome.

Eric could tell that they all came in expecting a bimbo and wound up face to face with a Goddess. Some brought presents for them or the baby and Sookie thanked them profusely and piled them up next to her chair. When they complimented her dress or her beauty, she beamed at them and thanked them sweetly. Eric mostly nodded and smiled between introductions. Sookie just naturally fell into the role of hostess and she needed no instruction or encouragement. He couldn’t have asked for anything more. She was truly angelic this night.

Sookie would look over occasionally and see Bobbie wink at her, shoring her up and encouraging her. She noticed Sabrina Maxwell sneering at her from the bar, but she ignored the bitch. This was her night and Sabrina’s sour grapes were not going to ruin it. She was surprised at how comfortable she was meeting all these strange vampires, but it was just like being at any party, except she had never been the guest of honor before. It was great to see all the people showing their respect for Eric, and they were just as nice as they could be to her. No one – except Sabrina – seemed resentful in any way. It was approaching 12:30 and the place was packed. The line, mercifully, was beginning to dwindle when up came Victor Madden. Sookie noticed Sandy walking forward and her assistants moving to each side of the stage.

“Eric?”

“Yes, I see him. Keep smiling, sweetheart.”

“Sheriff, may I offer my congratulations to you and Miss Stackhouse?” Madden was obsequious and snide at the same time.

“MRS. – Northman” Eric said slowly in a low and threatening tone.

“Of course, my apologies my dear. You were legally married, after all. LLC Is it true that the Ancient Pythoness was there?”

“Yes, she was…” Sookie answered, unsure what to say, so she looked at Eric.

“Hard to believe Our Lady would attend something as simple as a wedding, Northman. A family connection, perhaps?” He was already working the Niall/traitor angle.

Sookie could see Sandy and her group moving forward and the tension was thick. Suddenly there was a murmur in the crowd and it literally parted like Moses parting the Red Sea. Speak of the devil… or whatever… it was the Pythoness, moving slowly and ceremoniously through the crowd, her two attendants on either side of her, all wearing long black robes with purple satin sashes around their necks, flowing as they moved. As She approached, Madden turned and bowed. Eric started to kneel but she held up her hand to stop him. The crowd was absolutely silent and still as a graveyard. They couldn’t believe SHE was here!

“Eric the Norseman, I bring a decree from the Council.”

Madden looked up in a panic. What the hell was she doing. It couldn’t be….

“Hear me, all in attendance. I am here to deliver this sword to Eric the Norseman as a gift to honor his unique family.” She pulled a large, very ornate broadsword from its sheath, waved it in a flourish and offered the handle to Eric, holding the blade flat over her arm. Eric stood and took it from her, kneeling and saying “My Lady.” The Pythoness motioned for him to stand, then stepped up on the stage. Almost the entire crowd went down on one knee except for the Weres scattered through the room, Sandy’s crew and Victor, all of whom stood ready to fight.

The Ancient Pythoness continued:

“The Council, with the approval of the Living Pantheon, hereby decrees that Felipe de Castro is dead.”

The crowd reacted with Oohs and Ahhs and a small shriek here or there – the rumors were true! Felipe was dead!

She went on “Having no King, his territories are at risk and are therefore…”

“NO – You…” Madden yelled and stepped toward her and everyone shifted forward to protect her but before he could approach her or finish his sentence Eric separated his head from his shoulders with the sword in one invisible strike. Nobody dared move. (Except Baby E, who was kicking Sookie like crazy sending FIGHT! FIGHT! But she didn’t want to call attention to it, so she bit her lip until it bled. What a little Viking he was!)

The crowd gasped collectively and a murmur went up as Madden’s 6 henchmen started toward the stage. One was next to Felicia and when he moved she staked him through the back. One went toward Sandy and one of her assistants stopped him with a dagger in one hand then a stake in her other. Two that went to the middle of the crowd were stopped and staked by Weres from Alcide’s pack who had been stalking them through the club since they came in the door with Victor, though one of them wrestled, bit and put up a good fight, wounding a big Were who was in mid-transformation, though not gravely. In the end, the Were was only wounded and the vampire was dead. One of Victor’s men tried to make for the door when he saw others going down one by one, apparently hoping to sound an alarm, but one of Eric’s bouncers produced a sword from his long black coat Highlander-style and cut him in half – at least, that’s what everyone thought had happened because the movement was so fast it was invisible.

People were stunned. What just happened?! And right in front of their eyes?! Madden was in pieces in front of the stage, turning to ash.

“Silence!” The Ancient Pythoness continued and the room fell quiet again. “Having no King, his territories are in peril. The council hereby anoints Eric the Norseman as King of all the Louisiana and Nevada territories.”

“But…”

Wait..”

Eric and Sandy both tried to stop her but she held up her hand and they stopped. “This is the decree of the Council. It cannot be changed.” The Pythoness turned to Eric. “You will kneel.”

Eric went down on one knee before her and handed the bloody sword back to the Pythoness. She raised the blade high in the air, still covered with Victor’s blood, then brought it down gently and ceremoniously on his left shoulder, took it over his head and touched his right shoulder, then back to the left. She stepped back, raised the sword and said “By the gods and Goddesses of the Living Pantheon, it is DONE. All you in these territories will pledge fealty to your King, Eric the Norseman!

She handed the sword back to Eric, handle first, blade flat across her arm, and he took it. “Rule them well, Norseman. The Council is watching.” She handed him the sheath for the sword, then she stepped forward and motioned to her attendants who stepped next to her, took her arms and they all vanished in a sparkling purple haze.

The crowd was stunned. Sookie finally remembered to breathe – she had stopped when Victor had come forward. Her heart was pounding. She looked over to where Bobbie was sitting in amazement, her mouth hanging open. For a second Sookie could have sworn she saw Niall standing behind Sandy laughing, but then he was gone. Bill was up and out the door then came back in yelling, “There’s fighting in the street. Madden brought a small army. The Weres are trying to hold them off, but they need help!”

Vampires poured out of the club and into the street. Eric grabbed Sookie and Bobbie and made Pam take them downstairs, ordering her to stay with them. Pam was none too happy about missing the fight but she did as he said.

Eric took his sword and went outside, where Weres and vamps were fighting wildly. Eric raised his voice to the sky and let out a war cry that curdled the blood, even in vampires, and most of the fighting stopped in a minute as the sound shocked them all.

“Here me!” Eric called, “Felipe de Castrol is dead! Victor Madden is dead. The Council has anointed me King. Pledge fealty now or die.”

Warriors were turning to each other, asking if it was true. Those who had been in the club confirmed that they had seen the Ancient Pythoness with their own eyes and they had seen Eric kill Victor Madden in front of the whole room. Gradually, most of them put down their arms, though a few ran away. Eric turned and went back inside, calling Pam to bring Sookie back to his side. He wasn’t going to fuck around with a street fight. The ones who would pledge fealty needed to do it now, and the rest he knew he’d have to deal with at some point, but they were few in number and it was pointless to follow them into the night. Better to solidify his forces right now.

Sookie and Bobbie came back out to the main room. Except for the remnants of Victor on the floor, and some of his blood on the floor, stage and wrapped presents by Sookie’s chair, the room was none the worse for wear.

“Eric, what happened?!” Sookie was alarmed, but not as much as she would have been a few years ago. As Supe events go, this was pretty mild. She didn’t even get beaten up!

“I told them Madden was dead and that they pledge fealty now or die. Most of them will be in here momentarily, though a few of them ran. Most of the runners will be killed before they make it out of Shreveport. Herveaux’s Weres gave chase. I owe him for that. They took out a couple of Madden’s people inside here as well, and so they’ve only had one man wounded.”

“Will the vampires just accept that you’re King, just like that?”

“Most of them, yes. Without Madden to lead them, what are they going to do? There is no obvious leader right now. I’m sure there will be opposition, but it won’t be a problem tonight. Everyone knows it is the will of the Council. You saw how everyone here moved forward when Madden threatened the Pythoness? Now they will do that for you and me. This was the best possible way for this to happen. The whole of Area 5 and more heard the Pythoness announce the decree of the Council and the Living Pantheon, and they saw me kill Victor so there’s no question that he’s dead or that it was me that bested him.”

Bill came back in carrying a bloody sword. He zipped over to Bobbie, kissed her hard because he was in a bloodlust, and asked her if she was alright. She said she was and he turned to Eric.

“Most of them are coming in.”

“Good. Any idea how many escaped?”

“Maybe three. Most of them were stopped or surrendered. He didn’t have much of a force to begin with and Herveux’s men aren’t likely to let them get away. They were good tonight.”

“Yes, they were. I have to think of an appropriate way to compensate Herveux and his men. I might even want to hire some of them.”

Sandy came back in. Eric summoned her.

“I am sorry, Sandy…”

“No need. I know it was the Council’s decision, and I saw you try to speak up. The decision had been made before you and I even spoke.”

“If it helps any, I liked your solution better.”

“I’d much rather assist than rule. I’m not cut out to be regent.”

“Can I depend on you to stay as my assistant and continue to run the Nevada territories for me?”

“Of course. That’s what I really wanted – to just keep doing what I’m doing. You’ll need to come and claim your properties sometime in the near future.”

“Yes, I will. Can you get a report together for me as to what that includes so I can start deciding what to keep and what to dispose of?”

“Of course, your majesty.” She bowed to him.

“Thank you, Sandy. I’ll need a list of everyone’s salaries, yours included. My guess is you are all being underpaid. As soon as I get your numbers, I’ll make some decisions. Can you get all this together for me in 2 weeks?”

“Yes, sire, I can.”

“Alright, do that, get them to me and I’ll probably be there to see you in about 3 weeks. The pledges of Fealty for the Nevada territories can wait until after my child is born, if need be, unless you anticipate rebellion?”

“No, your majesty, I think they will all be relieved that Madden is not in charge. Is there anything else I can do, sire?”

“No, that’s plenty to start with. You can use my home numbers if you need to contact me. Pam will be taking over Area 5 and Bill Compton will be your liaison for the Louisiana Territories. Enjoy the rest of the night and if you don’t need me before then, I’ll expect your report in 2 weeks. Call anytime you need to, though I’ll probably check in with you every night.”

“Thank you, your majesty. My party will leave now if you don’t mind.”

“That’s fine. Travel safely.”

Sandy bowed and pledged fealty, then her assistants and drivers did the same and they all left. People were wandering back into the club, and there were quite a few new faces since people who had attended from other areas had to pledge now, too. The line formed again and the pledges continued, some coming through a second time since Eric’s position had changed. Sookie was getting tired but she didn’t show it. She was just as charming and sweet as if she hadn’t been doing this for 3 hours already and just witnessed an execution and an attempted coup. Eric smiled to himself at how gracious she was when most women would be a basket case after a night like this. She really was perfect for him and an ideal Queen in spite of her tender age.

Sookie looked up and noticed Sabrina Maxwell was in line. Ugh. She made up her mind to be just as sweet as pie. Her Gran always said with women like that your best bet is to kill ‘em with sugar. The bitchier she gets, the sweeter Sookie would be. She knew Eric would like that, too. Eric saw Sookie sitting up straighter and steeling herself to dealing with Sabrina. Sabrina had made Sookie uncomfortable for the last time as far as he was concerned.

“Eric, Sookie, nice to see you,” Sabrina began.

“Sabrina, have you forgotten to whom you are speaking?” Eric’s voice was stern. He was still not happy about her bringing Bill to Las Vegas to try to make Sookie unhappy and he was even less impressed that she had ditched Bill, a perfect gentleman, to fawn over Felipe. Any respect or tolerance Eric had for Sabrina was long gone.
“Oh, well, I just thought…” she stammered. Eric did nothing to help her out. “I just thought since we’ve known each other for such a long time…”

“I don’t care how long we’ve known each other, Sabrina, you won’t be as familiar with me as you were with Felipe, is that clear?”

“Yes, sire,” she bowed her head.

“Nor will I tolerate any disrespect in any form toward my Queen. Now, do you have something to say to us?”

“Yes, your majesty, I offer you fealty. Sook – ah – Mrs. Northman, I offer you and your child fealty.”

Eric spoke before Sookie had a chance to. “That’s nice Sabrina. Now if you want to remain Sheriff of Area 3, I expect you to show proper respect at all times and I’ll tolerate no more attempts to make my wife uncomfortable. NOTHING comes before my wife, is that clear?”

“Yes, your majesty.”

“I’ll expect a full report on the state of your area and its finances no later than Friday and it had better be thorough. You are excused.” He had utter contempt in his voice.

Sabrina bowed and backed away. She knew she overplayed her hand when she took Bill Compton to Las Vegas. She hadn’t realized that they were all friends and she thought Eric would think it was flattering and funny, or that he’d hold her relationship with Bill against Sookie. He didn’t, and now he could take her position any moment the mood struck him. That was a really stupid move, she realized. She’d better turn in a thorough report and she’d better do it early, which meant she was facing some late nights and no fun at all this week. Eric could have her executed for no reason at all if he chose to. There had never been a worse time to be on Eric Northman’s bad side.

Bill came up to offer fealty and make a suggestion. “Eric, you’ll need someone to go to New Orleans to get hold of what Madden was doing.”

“Yes, I will. Would you and Bobbie like to go to New Orleans for a few days?”

“Yes, if you’ll allow her to go…”

“I’m going to keep Sookie close to me for a few days, no matter where I am. Get Victor’s address from his clothes there and use his place. I’m sure it’s spectacular. Do you want to take some security with you, just in case?”

“It wouldn’t hurt to have 3 or 4 guards, in case of trouble. I might need some enforcers at first.”

“Alright, let’s see…” Eric looked out at the crowd and motioned to his head of security.

“Yes, your majesty,” The man with the Highlander moves stepped forward.

“I need four of your men to go with Compton to secure the New Orleans offices, preferably 2 vampires and 2 Weres. They’ll be back here on Friday. I need them ready to leave tonight. They’ll report directly to Bill.”

“Yes, sire, I’ll get them together now.”

“Bill?” Bobbie was hesitant to approach him.

“Bobbie, come here, darlin’. How would you like to spend the week in New Orleans?”

“I’d love that. What’s up?”

“Eric wants me to secure the offices there, and I’ll be leaving tonight. You can come with me if you want to.”

“Will Sookie be OK if I do that?”

“Eric suggested it, but you can ask Sookie to be sure.”

Bobbie stepped up to Sookie as she was receiving the last few new subjects and stood behind her chair once Sookie smiled and nodded to her.

“Sookie, could you do without me for a few days?”

“You going to New Orleans with Bill?”

“Yes, I thought I might. Is that OK? I’ll stay if you need me to, though.”

“No, go, Bill will enjoy having you there and you’ll have fun. I’ll be OK for a few days. It’s later on I’ll need you most.”

“I’ll be back on Friday. Try to get out in the pool every day and do some of the exercises we’ve been doing. I don’t know though… are we sure you can do without your massages?”

“It’s just three days, really. I’ll be fine.”

Bill came up “Eric – there’s a driver with a large van available tonight who can double as security and the other three are on their way back in here with their bags. Do you mind if we go back to your house now and get our stuff then we’ll head out from there?”

“Actually, Bill, I’d prefer if you and Bobbie took the car now and got your things then met them back here. I don’t want to let everyone know where I live just now. Here are the keys – you go and bring them back to me. We have things to do here for a while.”

“Alright, we’ll be back.” He took Bobbie by the hand, spoke to the head of security and they left.

“Sookie are you sure you’ll be OK without your massages? If you aren’t sure I’ll ask Bobbie to stay here.” Eric offered.

“No, I’ll be OK. You’ll need Bill’s help and this will make him happy. Let them go and have fun. He’s probably going to have to be there a lot and later on she won’t be able to go.”

“OK, but remember, you and the baby are my priority. What you need is to come first, always.”

“It’s only three days. Nothing’s going to happen. Alicia and Margaret will look after me.”

“Yes, and you’re going to be with me all the time I am awake. I don’t intend to let you out of my sight.”

“Why not?”

“Because,” he shrugged. “…just because. I don’t know. I just want you close. I want you with me all the time.”

“That’s fine with me. I want to be around you all the time anyway.” She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek and he smiled. “Can I get another RM – those things rock.”

“I’m glad you think so. We’ll take a case of it home with us tonight. I set back a case with the false labels. I’m very relieved that you can drink it.”

“Me, too. It’s weird that I like it, though, isn’t it?”

“It’s certainly unexpected, but then so much of what is happening around us is unexpected that there’s just no way to sort it all out.”

“Eric, are you OK? You sound overwhelmed” she said as she took his hand and squeezed it.

“My angel, if you can handle all this change, I think I can man up and handle it, too. You realize you are Queen of two kingdoms now, yes?”

“I’m trying not to think about that. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

“Good plan, Miss Scarlett.” He teased her. His little Southern Belle would need a little time to adjust and that was understandable. She was barely used to being his wife and now she had to get used to being his Queen. That’s a lot for a little girl from Bon Temps. The crowd thinned out after the last fealty was offered and Eric took Sookie back to the office, stopping to thank a few people and speak to an employee here or there. Pam came back after she closed the door and the crew started cleaning, taking down decorations and sweeping up Victor. Two of the bar backs carried the large stack of presents back in about three trips.

“I tried to get the blood off of these, sire.” a new employee named Antonio said when they brought the first armloads “I’m sure it didn’t soak through on anything, so the Queen should still be able to enjoy the contents.”

“Thank you, Antonio,” Sookie spoke up, “I’m sure they’ll be fine. Thank you for your help.”

He bowed to her and went back to get more presents.

“You know you don’t have to thank them, Sookie?” Eric offered, smiling as he sat behind his desk because he knew what she would say.

“Is it wrong or against protocol if I do?”

“No, my angel, you are the Queen. Protocol is whatever you say it is.”

“Ok, then, The Queen says protocol is to thank people for helping.” She was being a little sassy and Eric liked it. He laughed and shook his head, noticing that this was the first time she had referred to herself as Queen. She was already adapting. He loved that amazing little girl.

She walked around behind the desk and sat on his lap, kissing him on the lips briefly but definitely. “Am I allowed to do that to the King?” she teased. “My dear, you can do much more than that to this King.” He teased her back and they kissed playfully a few times. The guys were still bringing presents back and when they came back the second time the blond one, Gary, said “oh, excuse us!” and started back out but Eric called out to him, “no, no, that’s alright. Bring them on in.” And they did, apologizing profusely.

“Hey, how come we got presents?” Sookie asked.

“Don’t people normally get presents at a wedding reception?”

“Yes, I guess they do. Some of them are for the baby, too.”

“That is very wise of people to curry our favor. Make sure you keep track of who gave you what so you can send out thank you cards.”

“Royal thank you cards?” She teased.

“With the royal seal and everything,” he confirmed.

“When do I get to open them?”

“Open them now if you wish, though you might want to wait until Alicia can be with you so she can help you keep track of whom you need to thank.”

“Good idea. I’ll probably need her to figure out what stuff is, too. I can’t imagine what people would give us. We already have everything, don’t we?”

“It’s not likely to be toasters or blenders, my angel. It’s more likely small pieces of artwork or wedding momentos. Jewelry for you. Necessities for the baby, or small toys. Small tributes of some sort. You’ll have fun seeing what’s in them, I’m sure.”

“Yeah, I guess I will. I never even thought about presents. I already got you – what else would a girl want.” She teased him and wiggled on his lap a little to get him going.

“Careful – you don’t want those guys to walk in and find you bent over my desk, now do you?”

“Probably wouldn’t be the first time they’ve seen a woman bent over this desk.”

“Actually it would be because they’re both new. Now if we were talking about Felicia, or…”

“That’s OK, I get the picture.” She pouted at him.

“Mmmm – I love it when you pout. That beautiful lower lip… has been bleeding!” he said as he noticed the cut on her lip.

“Blame your son for that.”

“My son cut your lip?”

“Your son wanted to FIGHT, FIGHT so badly when you killed Victor that he kicked the crap out of my insides and I didn’t want to call attention to it so I bit my lip to keep from screaming.”

“Are you hurt? Why did you not tell me?” He was very concerned.

“I’m sure he didn’t do any damage, but it hurt like hell for a few minutes. There was so much going on, I just didn’t want to add to the drama.”

“Are you sure I shouldn’t call Dr. Ludwig? Speaking of which, where was she tonight? She was supposed to give Compton another booster.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Did I tell you I think I saw Niall tonight?”

“You did? When?”

“Right after you killed Victor, I swear I saw him standing behind Sandy, laughing his ass off, but then he wasn’t there.”

“I’ve no doubt you actually saw him. He would think that was funny. The minute I did that, all his plans fell into place.”

“What plans?”

“Making you Queen, our son a Prince, and in all probability getting him a seat on the Council.”

“Is that a big deal?”

“Oh, yes, my angel, it is a VERY big deal. I suspect that was the driving force behind everything he has done.”

“You think he’s that Mahchy…macki..”

“Machiavellian? Yes, I absolutely do.”

“Do you think he loves me, even a little bit?”

“Yes, my angel, I think he loves you as much as is possible for him. He can’t help being a fairy. It’s in his nature to be shifty and conniving. We have that in common, he and I.”

“You killed Quinn, didn’t you?” She held her breath waiting for the answer.

“What do you want me to say, Sookie?”

“Nothing. I guess it doesn’t matter.”

“That’s right. It does not. No answer I could give you would change anything, would it?”

“No. It wouldn’t. I’d love you anyway, even if it made me sad.”

“There’s nothing to be sad about, my angel. The gods and Goddesses just handed you half the world.”

“More like one Goddess handed me the world.”

“Perhaps. Have you seen Her lately?”

“I haven’t had any dreams, but I hear Her sometimes, and you know what’s weird?”

“What is that, my wife?” he spoke softly as he brushed her hair away from her face, listening to her intently.

“I think I always heard Her. I can remember being a little girl and hearing this woman’s voice that I knew was older than everything and She would sort of advise me and tell me things sometimes. I heard that voice again the other day and I realized it was Freyja – it always was.”

He pulled her to him and kissed her forehead, then kissed her lips. He was starting to understand.

Bill and Bobbie came in then to return Eric’s keys.

“OK, we’ll be off now. The guards are waiting,” Bill said.

“Oh, bye, Bobbie” Sookie got up and hugged her tightly and Bobbie hugged her back. Bill and Eric both smiled at them, knowing that they were growing closer in that way only women can with other women and they both thought it was a good thing for the two of them.

“Here, Sookie, I wrote out your exercise routine on this sheet, then on this sheet I wrote out what I think they need to put in a birthing room.”

“A birthing room?”

“Yes, I think Alicia and Margaret should start setting up a birthing room in one of the bedrooms on the second floor so we have everything you need when you go into labor. I don’t want them to wait – it should be done now. Have them get all of these things and if you see Dr. Ludwig ask if there’s anything else she can think of. Don’t put this off, Sookie, promise me you’ll give this to Alicia tomorrow and have them get started.”

“I will, I promise. Why such a hurry?”

“Just in case – I want us to be ready early. Remember they’re coming to paint on Wednesday morning and you’ll start receiving things we ordered at the end of the week.”

“OK. I wish you were going to be here to open all these presents with me!”

“Me, too, Sweetie, but you keep a list and I’ll call you tomorrow or the next day and you can tell me all about them.”

“OK, you guys have fun.”Bobbie kissed her on the cheek and she and Bill went out to get in the van. The guys came in with the last load of stuff and Eric gave them the keys to the BMW so they could load them into the car with the presents and he had them take a case of RM that he had set aside out as well. Pam came into the office while they were waiting.

“Well, this was an eventful night.” She had a gift for understatement.

“Yes, it was.” Sookie agreed.

“Pam, are you going to train a second to back you up as Sheriff?” Eric asked.

“Yes, if you don’t mind, I’d like to train Vincent to back me up.”

“Vincent, the head of security?”

“Yes. He’s got brains as well as brawn and he’s loyal. I think he could be trusted to run the office if I’m not here.”

“As you wish. You will be gone from the 15th through the 21st, yes?”

“Yes, if you’ll still allow me to go.”

“I made you a promise and your tickets are already on their way here.”

“Where are you going, Pam?” Sookie was surprised Pam would leave right now.

“Your husband promised to send me and a friend to Hawaii for a week to make up for my having to cover for him while you are with child.”

“Oh, that’s great! Who’s going with you?”

“Jason.”

“WHAT?!” Eric and Sookie both reacted in unison.

“My brother, Jason?” Sookie couldn’t believe it.

“Yes, we had such a good time in Las Vegas we thought it might be fun to romp on the beach in the moonlight. You don’t mind do you, Sookie?

“No, I’m just surprised you liked him enough to take him with you.”

“He’s awfully pretty and he’s fun to have around if you can keep him from talking too much – and that’s not a problem as long as I remember to take a gag with me.”

Sookie laughed and Eric closed his eyes and shook his head. At that point the barmen were done loading their car and Eric left the club in Pam’s capable hands, carrying Sookie to the car in his arms. He tucked her into the passenger seat and they started home. About 2 blocks from the club, Eric told Sookie to buckle her seatbelt and duck down in the seat.

“What’s wrong?”

“We’re being followed. The car is bullet-proof, but keep your head down anyway,” he said as he drove looking frequently in the rear view mirror. He turned away from the direction of their house, hoping to throw whoever this was off the trail to their house. Once they were home, there was lots of electronic security, but Eric realized they would have to add some armed guards around the clock now. When you’re King, that’s not paranoia, it’s simple preparedness. He took out his cell and dialed Pam back at the club.

“Master?”

“Pam – is Vincent still there?”

“Yes, is there a problem?”

“Yes, we’re being followed. Can he set up some emergency guards for tonight and tomorrow and then tomorrow hire some ‘round the clock security for my house?”

“Hold on, I’ll call him.”

He could hear Pam buzzing Vincent and heard him respond. She explained what was happening and he said he would take care of it. He came into the office and picked up the phone.

“Sire, I thought this might be a problem so I was already making calls. I’ll have a security detail at your house in 10 minutes and I know some guys with a Were security firm that can take over at daylight. Drive around the neighborhood for about 15 minutes before you head to your house, and somebody will get there and secure the area before you arrive. We’ll have you covered. Tomorrow night I’ll set up a regular, around the clock guard for your house.”

“Alright, thank you, Vincent.” He hung up.

“Which one is Vincent?” Sookie asked.

“Remember the guy in the long coat that made like Duncan McLeod when that guy tried to get out the front door? That’s Vincent.”

“That’s a big, scary dude.”

“Yes, and he’s one of the best guys around when it comes to security. I hired him a few months ago when I knew things were going to get intense.”

“You’ve already been working on this?”

“I have to think 5 moves ahead. Our house is wired for security, but we haven’t had a live guard before now. From this point forward, there will be live guards both visible and invisible around our house. I’ve already got a list of people typed up to give them so they know who is supposed to be around the house during the day. You won’t be unprotected when I rest – there will be Weres all around on my payroll.”

He turned down another street that moved them further away from their house.

“Are we on the way home? This doesn’t look familiar.”

“We’re taking some evasive measures to give the security force time to get to the house. I’m hoping this asshole gives up and goes home. If he insists on staying behind us, he’s going to get a nasty surprise when he gets to our street.”

“What will they do?”

“Do you really want to know, my angel?”

“Yes, I need to know.”

“They’ll torture him until he tells them who he’s working for and then they’ll kill him.”

“Wow. I guess we’re in the big time, now.”

Eric smiled at her and stroked her cheek with the back of his finger. “Yes, my angel, this is the big time now, but don’t you worry. I’ll move heaven and earth to keep you safe. ”

“OK.” She swallowed hard and closed her eyes. “OK.”

He gave her a few minutes to process all of this so he was silent as he turned down another street. He was making a big circle that would take them back to the club and then he’d head home from there. The street that the club was on was deserted and it was a long stretch. Shortly after they turned onto it, the car behind them sped up and drove up beside of them, shooting three times at Eric as they sped by, but the bullets just glanced off the side of the car. Eric sped up, took an unexpected turn and came back out on the road toward the exit to his house. He was driving very fast. If that guy didn’t know where they lived, they were safe. If he did, he’d be behind them again in about 5 minutes.

“Sookie, are you alright?”

“Uh-huh. I was just afraid to make any noise. I didn’t want to distract you.”

“He’s gone for the moment. Just relax. We’ll be home in a few minutes and the security should be in place.” He held her hand and that seemed to calm her down. When they turned onto the long street that led to their house, there was no sign they were being followed. As they pulled up to the house, Eric told Sookie she could sit up. She straightened in her seat and she could see men in front of their house, some with guns, some of whom she recognized from the club.

One of them put up his hand and Eric slowed and rolled down the window.

“Hello, your majesty. We’ve been all around the property and it’s secure. We’ll stay here until one hour before sun up, then the Were guards will relieve us and they’ll stay through the day. By tomorrow night Vincent will have a regular force in place. You don’t need to worry about anything, sire. Nobody will get past us.”

“Very good – they shot at us on Preston Street near the club. It was a dark blue, late model Nissan. If anyone comes down this lane who looks suspicious, sniff for gun powder. You know what to do if you suspect anything amiss?”

“Yes, sire. Find out who sent them and make sure they don’t report back.”

“Exactly. Good night.”

“Yes, Sire.”

Eric opened the garage door and pulled the car in. He waved to the men in the drive as they went into the house as the door went down. They went in the kitchen door and he picked Sookie up in his arms and kissed her. She hugged him hard as he took her upstairs.

He dropped her playfully on the bed and she laughed. She was trying to act like none of this bothered her. She was also running on adrenaline at the moment and it was making her horny and giddy. He seemed to have the same idea because he was on his knees beside the bed, pulling up the hem of her dress. She was leaning back on her elbows, and she raised her hips as the dress moved upward so he could push the hem of it on past her bottom up toward her waist.

She lowered her hips again and his mouth and fingers were on her and in her and she was half writhing and half struggling to get the dress over her head. It took a few delightful minutes of working and wiggling to get the dress over her head and Eric was tickling her as well as eating her so they were both giggling and acting silly.

“Keep the garters and stockings on, please” Eric said in between licks and nibbles and she said “sure” breathlessly as he reached up and grabbed her nipple. She let everything from the night just fall away and just concentrated on the feelings he was creating in her. His fingers were working her enthusiastically and he pushed her leg up and back, nuzzling her thigh. She knew he was going to bite, so she wasn’t shocked when he did, but the intensity of it made her come as he fed from her and fingered her.

He was in no mood to fight the fairy blood tonight. He was King and he was going to take what was his and enjoy it like never before. He let the intoxication wash over him, bending her legs up and back and taking her deeply. Neither one of them was holding anything back. They were alone in the house for the first time in a while and they were loud and wild, fucking and laughing with relish and abandon. Eric came quickly and flipped her over on her knees, pulling her hips up and fucking her hard from behind.

She was laughing and clawing at the bed, but the bedspread was slipping and she couldn’t get hold of anything. The covers slipped from beneath her and she saw why there was no traction with the bedspread.

“Hey – purple satin sheets!”
Eric laughed, but didn’t slow down.

“When did we get, unh,  these?” She asked, in between grunts and panting, and she was cracking up from her adrenaline high.

“I ordered them the other day. I told Alicia to have them washed, ironed and on the bed as soon as they arrived.”

“I never – unh, unh – slept on – ah – satin – oh – sheets befo-ore.”

“Silk, actually” he said, beginning to take one quick stoke and then one slow one with an extra slam at the end, repeating the pattern over and over.

“They’re pretty. Ah. Ah. Ahhhhhhh!” She twisted as she came a second time and Eric followed soon after, collapsing on the bed beside her when he was done. They were both laughing like kids, and when the aftershocks began to subside, they crawled up into their usual spots, Eric pulling the spread back up with him, pulling it over them and he pulled her close and began to kiss and nibble on her neck and shoulders, his hand busy between her legs.

He moved his mouth down to her breasts and began to suck hard, making her cry out and writhe as he stretched her with more fingers. She vaguely remembered this move with his hand, remembered liking it but wasn’t really aware that she was saying “do it, please, do it.” He curled his fingers and continued to stretch her and she pulled her pillow from under her head, put it over her mouth and screamed into it out of sheer bliss, as he moved his mouth down to her center, sucking her clit as she rode his fist, driving her to an explosive orgasm that looked like a seizure and made her squeal, it was so hard. He was laughing as he crawled back up beside her, very pleased with himself, kissing her all over her face and pulling her to him.

“Oh, I love you, Sookie. I’ve never had so much fun in bed.”

“Yeah, right.” She didn’t believe him.

“What – why do you say that?” He was actually mildly hurt.

“Eric, I’m sure nothing we’ve done approaches the wild scenes that have taken place in your little love nest under Fangtasia.’

“That was never fun the way this is fun.”

“What?” She sassed him and he loved it.

“Sookie, while I am able to take pleasure in many things, I rarely had fun before I met you. I was darker then – my tastes were darker. What we did just now was light hearted, even in spite of what is going on around us. We were laughing and having fun – no one has ever made me laugh or delighted me as you do.”

“Aww “ She grabbed his face and kissed him and she almost believed him.

“You are hungry, my angel.”

“How did you know?”

“Sookie…”

“Yeah, yeah, the bond. I wonder if there’s anything up here in the fridge?”

He jumped up to check, finding a little salad with a lot of chicken in it. He grabbed a fork from the little basket and brought it back with a strawberry supplement and a dose of ibuprofen Alicia left out with a note on top of the fridge. Sookie sat up eagerly to eat the salad. He lay down across the bed in front of her, enjoying the sight of her happily munching on her salad which she had drenched with a large packet of salad dressing that was with it. She noticed he was smiling at her.

“What?” she said, laughing a little, pushing an errant piece of lettuce into her mouth with her finger.

“I love you, Sookie Northman.”

“Mmmm – I like the way that sounds.”

“So do I. There is nothing I would not do for you, you know.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes – why? What do you want?” He could tell she was leading up to something.

“We-ell… I could really get into drinking a couple of those bottles of blood you brought home. I know they’re still in the car, but the baby…”

“Yes, I can feel it, too. WANT! He is a persistent little thing, is he not?”

“You should try having him inside you.”

“I’ll leave that to you, but I get your point. I shall return…’

He zipped out of the room at vampire speed. By the time she finished her salad and was drinking the last of the strawberry drink, he was back with an armful of bottles. He handed her two, and put the rest in the little fridge.

“Thank you, Sweetie!”

“How many of those did you drink tonight, Sookie?”

“I don’t know – maybe six?”

“These two will make eight?”

“Yeah, I think so – why?”

“That’s a lot of blood in the space of less than six hours. I want you to drink a bottle tomorrow whenever you feel the urge and count how many bottles you take in. I’m hoping that tonight you just drank a lot because the baby hadn’t been getting any, but if you need that much consistently, we should plan for that.”

“How much is that – like one an hour?”

“A little more than that. A full grown vampire couldn’t drink that much. I’m wondering if the child has been starving.”

“Well, I have noticed that he feels different tonight. He feels stronger and happier and he doesn’t have this undercurrent of… something – need, maybe?… except when he specifically wants me to drink. I never noticed it before, but now that it’s gone, I do. Does that make any sense?”

“Yes – you have been needing blood all along. We should have tried this sooner. I regret that we didn’t.”

“Well, we didn’t know though, Eric, we thought the True Bloods were enough.”

“I should have realized he would need real blood. It’s like a newborn vampire – they need to feed a lot and often and they can’t subsist early on without real blood.”

“But I thought they could…”

“No, that’s propaganda vampires have spread so we could come out of the coffin. Newborns need the real thing. I am sorry I have neglected my son.”

“Eric you haven’t”

Comfort. Love. Proud.

Eric smiled.

“You felt that, right?”

“Yes, I did.”

“He’s perfectly happy. You love your daddy don’t you, Baby E?” She put Eric’s hand on her tummy.

Proud. Fight!

Eric laughed out loud.

“See, he can’t wait to kick ass like his old man.” Sookie teased.

Eric stretched across the bed and laid his head on Sookie’s belly. He closed his eyes and listened to the tiny heartbeat, and felt him wiggling inside. Sookie stroked his hair as he lay there, eyes closed, communing with his son. She could feel the baby and him trading feelings, bouncing love and pride back and forth between them. He looked so beautiful that way – he was rarely at peace this way, and it was precious to watch him bask in the wave of emotion the baby sent to him. Sookie didn’t want to disturb him, so when she finished the two bloods, she put the empties on the nightstand and settled down with her head on the pillow. After a few minutes, Eric realized from her change in breathing that she was asleep.

“Sookie?” he said softly. He got up off the bed carefully, and she didn’t stir. When her eyelids started to flutter, he knew she was in REM sleep and he slipped the covers back off of her, then got his camera out of the closet. This was the reason for the purple sheets. He’d try these and then eventually the black ones. As he looked at her through the camera, he saw that the sheets showed off her curves just as he had hoped they would. There was much more definition with her white skin next to the dark sheets. These pictures would be wonderful and they’d chronicle the growth of her body as she nurtured his son. She was so luscious lying there that he was tempted to take her again before he went to work, but he decided just to finish with his pictures and go to work. He had a lot to do. He put the camera away and covered her up, then turned off the lights and left her there with a gentle kiss on her forehead.

He went to his office, now the headquarters for two kingdoms, for good or ill, and he notified Bobby Burnham that his position had changed – he didn’t say more than that, but that he would be adding an around the clock security service that would be coordinated by Vincent Olivieri, who would contact him tomorrow evening about payrolls, which should be accounted for separately from the security for the club. He sent a message to all of the sheriffs in both territories confirming that he was now the regent and telling them he wanted a thorough accounting of their finances and subjects by Friday.

He left a message for Alicia that told her to get the information from Sookie about a birthing room, telling her about the new security and explaining that there was a new bottled supplement that Sookie would be drinking instead of the True Blood. He also thought to mention that Sookie had enjoyed eating caviar in Las Vegas and that it might be a nice treat for her to have an assortment available for her along with her smoked salmon. He also asked her to keep detailed notes as Sookie opened the presents from the reception, which she should have the gardeners men carry into the living room before Sookie got up.

Finally, he went to rest, thanking Freyja for her assistance and requesting that She keep Sookie and the baby safe until he could be with them again. He fell asleep just as he felt a kiss brush his cheek.

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