“Good morning, Mrs. Northman!”
“Hm – oh, hi, Alicia. Is it morning already?” Sookie laughed a little.
“Doesn’t it feel like morning, hon?”
“Actually, I feel like I barely slept. It was a long night last night.”
“So I gather. I take it Mr. Northman got some kind of promotion last night?”
“And how – he’s a big deal in the vampire community now.”
“Well, that’s nice, I suppose…?”
“Yeah, it is – I guess there are guards outside now?”
“Yes, some very big, impressive looking men. They seem very well-mannered, though.” She settled the breakfast tray over Sookie’s lap. Salmon, YAY!
“That’s not going to be a problem for you or Margaret is it? The guards, I mean?”
“Not at all, dear. We’ve both worked for wealthy men who had to have security guards on the grounds. I heard them talking to the gardener about adding to the fence line to cover the front of the house, which is probably a good idea, too.”
“Yeah, that would be a good idea. I’m sure they’ll talk to Eric about it. He’s got a head of security that will be handling all that, I think.” She was smearing lots of cream cheese on a bagel and piling it high with salmon. Alicia brought even more than usual and Sookie had every intention of eating all of it.
“Well, this must be exciting for you?”
“I guess. It’s nothing I was ever looking for, or him either, really, but circumstances sort of forced him into taking a more active role than he wanted. There are a lot of perks and property and things that go with it, though. We’ll probably be traveling a lot to New Orleans and Las Vegas, which could be fun.”
“Oh, yes, you’ll enjoy that. You’ll have your days to shop or go to museums or nice restaurants, and he has apparently said you’ll be with him when he works. Maybe he’s going to have a little job for you or something?”
“Yeah, I guess you could call it a job. I’m not exactly sure what it involves, but I’ll learn. A lot of social stuff, I think. I’m not exactly sure how having a baby fits in with it all, but I think I sort of get to call the shots about that, which is good. I can set it up the way I want and people just have to deal with it.” She laughed. She never thought about it that way before.
“That’s every mother’s dream, to be able to arrange things around her baby. I’m sure that will be very nice for you.”
“Yeah, I mean, we’ll have a doula or a nanny or whatever, but she’ll just kind of be back-up, I hope. I don’t want to hand my baby off to someone else to raise. I want to keep him with me and Eric as much as possible. I know he’ll need his daddy close by.”
“You’re sure it’s a boy, right?”
“Very sure, and Eric is beside himself.”
“Men are often that way about sons. It can be very sweet.”
“Yeah, it is sweet. Sometimes I think he’s more excited than I am. He’s always thinking about what the baby and I need.”
“Let’s hope he stays that way.” Alicia was arranging things in the closet and gathering laundry as they talked.
“Oh, I think he will. I’m pretty sure that no matter how demanding this new position is, he’s going to put us first.”
“That sounds very reassuring. You’re very lucky. Most young mothers have to do it all themselves and even the ones with husbands often get very little help. Mr. Northman is a rare specimen,” she joked.
“Ain’t that the truth?” Sookie laughed. “So after I eat I guess we have presents to open?”
“Whenever you want. Are you excited to see what you got?”
“Yeah. I didn’t expect presents at all. I can’t imagine what they could be! Eric said not to expect any toasters or blenders.” She laughed.
“Well, when you get ready, we’ll tear into them and see what’s there. I gather he wants you to keep careful notes on who sent what?”
“Yeah, we have to send formal thank you’s to them all. Part of the new job that’s my responsibility.”
“Well, most brides or new moms do that, anyway.”
“Yeah, I guess they do.”
“You know they’re going to be painting the nursery tomorrow?”
“Yeah, that’s right. They’re going to start early, aren’t they?”
“Yes, and I had an idea about that. No matter how safe the paint might be, you shouldn’t be in here with all those fumes. What if you and I got out and went to breakfast and then did some shopping?”
“Oh, that would be fun! You got any ideas where we’d go?”
“I was thinking you might want to check out some baby shops and maybe go to the jeweler’s that Mr. Northman has your account at. You’ve got lots of dressy jewelry, but I’m thinking you might like to have some real pieces for more casual wear – some simple earrings and things like that.”
“OK, that sounds good.”
“You probably also need a few maternity outfits and some little “necessaries” for new mommies. We’ll make a day of it and have fun.”
“That sounds great. Now that I think about it, I do tend to get headaches from paint fumes.”
“While we’re gone Margaret can open all the windows and we’ll close this door and put a fan in here to make sure it’s minimized as much as possible. Any idea what you want to wear today?”
“Is it going to be sunny enough for the pool?”
“I think it’s going to stay cloudy all day and rain tonight. You probably won’t get a pool day until Thursday.”
The doorbell rang and Alicia stepped to the top of the stairs, but came back when she was sure that Margaret had answered it.
“Sorry, dear, Margaret got it.”
“OK, well, how about just an easy little dress that I can just throw on and put my hair in a pony tail and not hassle with anything big today? Do I have anything like that?”
“You certainly do, in this drawer down here.” Alicia pointed to a drawer in the dresser. “What color would you like? Navy, yellow or pink?”
“Pink, I guess. What will I wear shopping tomorrow?”
“This navy dress would be good. You can dress it up with the right shoes and bag and it will be comfortable and won’t wrinkle at all.”
“Sounds good. I think I’m done with this, so let me run to the bathroom and put my hair up and I’ll meet you… where are the presents?”
“The living room.”
“OK, I’ll meet you in the living room.”
“That’s good, then, I’ll just take care of your tray and be right there.”
Sookie waited until Alicia started down the stairs to get out of bed since she was naked, but she stood in front of the mirror and stretched, then turned to the side and patted Baby E.
“Good morning, Sweetie. Did you like the salmon?”
“OK. That’s good.”
“Oops – you want blood, don’t you. I think there’s some up here.” She looked in the fridge and there were a few Eric had put in. She drank one straight down, then took the other to the dresser so she could grab it on her way downstairs. She put her hair in a ponytail, used the commode, then threw on a cotton thong and the little pink dress. She realized she had just worn this a couple of days ago, but she liked it so that was cool. She went down to the living room, remembering to take the list for the birthing room that Bobbie had written out with her, and got there in time to see several boxes addressed to Eric being taken into his office, and there was one box for her.
“What’s this?” Sookie asked. “Hi, Margaret.”
“Good morning, Mrs. Northman. I believe it pertains to Mr. Northman’s new position. They said these things were sent by special courier so you two would be able to begin immediately.” Margaret said.
“And one of them is for me? I wonder what it is?” Sookie said.
She opened her box and found a royal seal with her name on it – HRH Sookie Northman – a set of printed Thank You and note cards, also with her “new name” on it, expensive printed stationery and calling cards, a social calendar, a social register of all their subjects for each kingdom, a huge rolodex, an accounting of the contents of all their new properties – tableware, art work, furnishings, etc. with photos of it all and estimated value – and two small locked boxes that turned out to contain, no kidding, royal jewels that were to be worn on certain occasions that belonged to each kingdom. It was all Sookie’s now to do with as she wished.
“HRH?” Alicia asked.
“Oh – it’s a vampire title. It only applies when I’m dealing with them.”
“Ah – interesting. May I make a suggestion?”
“Please! I have no idea where to begin!”
“Start with the calendar and see if you have any immediate social obligations to attend to, then work from there. We’ll need to set you up an office somewhere in the house.”
“An office? For me?”
“Yes, dear, you’ll need a place to store all of these things and keep up with them. We’ll ask Mr. Northman when he arrives where he’d like you to do that.”
“OK, well, at least we’ve got the Thank You notes we need,” Sookie laughed. It was either laugh or cry so she decided to laugh about it.
“Best to laugh about it, dear. Don’t you worry – we’ll figure it all out. Now, let’s take a look at that calendar.” She flipped through the pages settling on June. “It looks like the next official engagement here is called the Sheriff’s Ball and it’s slated to take place at the Bellagio on June 27th from 10 pm to 4 am. It says see note 56-e.” She flipped to the back of the book which was a group of notebook-like pages that had numbered and lettered notes. “OK, here’s 56-e: ‘300 guests, Council, all American Regents, Sheriffs for NV, LA t’s and assorted other guests.’ Then there’s a long list of names.”
“Oh, great – we have to host a ball at the Bellagio. I wonder why it’s not at the residence?”
“Yes, the… guy Eric is replacing in the Nevada territories has a huge mansion that I’d expect him to use for this. Instead, it’s in a hotel. I’m wondering why.”
“Is there an obvious person to ask about that?”
“Yes, actually, now that you mention it, I could call Janet Stevens and see if she can explain it. Is her number in the rolodex?”
Alicia spun the huge thing around and pulled out a card. “Here she is. Are you going to call her yourself?”
“Yeah, I don’t see why not. I’m supposed to sort of be in charge.” Sookie took the card and went into the study. She dialed the number and got a secretary.
“Hello, Janet Steven’s office.”
“Hello, this is Sookie Northman,”
“Oh, my god, your majesty, I’m sorry if I was rude…”
“No, you’re fine. Is Janet there? I have a question for her about the Sheriff’s Ball.”
“Yes, your majesty, right away.”
Sookie could hear her in the background – “It’s the new Queen! Hurry!”
“Your majesty, this is Janet Stevens. How may I serve you?”
“Hi, Janet, I was looking at the calendar of upcoming events and I had a question. Why is the Sheriff’s Ball being held at the Bellagio instead of at the residence?”
“I believe Sandy made that decision – she thought the security would be easier there and more of the attendees would be able to stay on site. She said she didn’t know if the new regent would want to keep this residence or not.”
Sookie caught something strange there.
“Janet, when were the reservations for the ball made?”
“January, I believe. I can send you a portfolio on the event if you would like, so you can make sure you approve of the arrangements and decorations. I could have it to you tomorrow.”
“Yes, I think I’d like that. You have my address?”
“Yes, your highness, I will get that to you by tomorrow.”
“Alright, Janet, thank you. Good bye.” Damn, Sookie thought, I could get used to this being in charge thing. She liked making snooty Janet Stevens nervous. That’ll teach her to be rude to people. You never know who your next boss is going to be.
January. Did Sandy know there would be a new regent in January? Was she part of this… whatever it was? Conspiracy, maybe? She needed to be very sure she told Eric about this first thing.
“How did it go, dear?” Alicia asked.
“Very well, actually. She’s going to send me a portfolio on the event tomorrow that I can look at in case I want to make changes in the decorations or other arrangements.”
“Very nice. I heard you on the phone. You handled that very well.”
“Oh, thanks. Well, let’s open some presents.” She rubbed her hands together in anticipation and made Alicia laugh.
Sookie and Alicia went to the large pile of gifts on the living room couch. It was covered.
“OK, how do I do this?”
“I’ve got a notebook here. You open the boxes, tell me what the card says and I’ll make notes about the item and the name. So – tear away!”
That sounded fun to Sookie, so she picked up a small box and opened it. “Ooh – are these emeralds?” She held a small velvet jeweler’s box to Alicia and showed her to huge Emerald earrings with diamond accents.”
“Yes, my dear, those are real emeralds. Very nice!” Sookie read the name on the card and went to the next box. This one was an engraved rattle that said Northman on the handle.
“Aw, this is cute!”
“It’s also apparently solid gold,” Alicia added.
“Wow, indeed.” Alicia laughed as she wrote down the name.
Sookie tore into another box. It was a Fabergé Egg.
“Oh, uh, this is nice…?”
“Let me see that?” Alicia jumped up and looked at it. “We’ll need to have that appraised.”
“The base of it says “Romanoff” – this may have belonged to the last Czar of Russia.”
“No, I’m not. Mr. Northman has some wealthy associates, I take it?”
“Yeah, they’re all rich.”
Next Sookie opened an envelope that had a $1,000 gift card for a baby shop in Shreveport called Baby Depot.
“Oh, cool – we can use this tomorrow!”
“Yes, we can. I hope they deliver,” Alicia joked.
“Do you know where it is?”
“It’s in the Burlington Coat Factory mall.”
“Oh, good, that’s not far.”
The next box contained a sapphire and diamond necklace and matching earrings. Alicia’s eyes bugged out.
Next was a small original Mary Cassatt pastel of a mother and baby.
“Real, yes, I believe it is – there’s a certificate to prove the provenance here on the back.”
“It’s really pretty.”
“Gorgeous. It’s a very sweet subject, too. Appropriate for a new mother.”
She continued through the packages and the list grew:
- an antique diamond bracelet;
- Gorgeous diamond chandelier earrings;
- a natural pearl necklace 30 inches long;
- a box of 40 cloth diapers with two treasury bills totaling $4,000 for “baby Northman” also payable to Eric;
- a very expensive breast pump and a savings bond for $5,000;
- a beautiful ruby and diamond ring that had a certificate proving it once belonged to Marie Antoinette;
- A matching set of his and her jewel encrusted daggers;
- Star sapphire earrings and bracelet;
- another $500 gift certificate for Baby Depot in Shreveport;
- a deed and prospectus to an active and lucrative silver mine in Nevada, made out to Baby Northman, with Sookie’s name on it as his guardian;
- a mink teddy bear wearing diamond earrings, which were for Sookie;
- a gift certificate for a $5,000 miniature pony for the baby when he was old enough;
- a beautiful diamond encrusted peace sign necklace in a Tiffany box – Sookie wondered how she missed that one!;
- a solid gold spoon, cup and bowl for the baby all engraved Northman;
- a $5,000 gift certificate for Amazon.com;
- 3 of the biggest, newest ipods for mommy, daddy and baby;
- 2 blue cashmere baby blankets and black cashmere robes for Eric and Sookie;
- A double strand pearl necklace that once belonged to Jackie Kennedy;
- a small original Van Gogh painting of flowers;
- a box full of expensive clothing for an infant with no identifiable source;
- a beautiful lace “christening” gown that was made by hand in a convent in France;
- a Kate Spade diaper bag full of Mustela and Kiehl’s baby products;
- a Juicy Couture Quilted Velour Baby Tote with a $2,000 treasury bond in it for Baby Northman payable to Eric;
- white mink crib bedding and a white mink stole for Sookie;
- a $1,000, a $500 and a $250 gift certificate for FAO Schwartz from 3 different people;
- a “Baby Shiloh” 3 Carat White Diamond Pacifier;
- a Hand Blown Cobalt Blue Chandelier by P Greenwood;
- Boys’ Silk Shantung Christening Shoes;
- An heirloom Silk Dupioni Christening Tuxedo;
- A Gift Set of 3 Petite Luxury Loveys 14 x 23 baby blankets;
- 4 Royal Posh Swarovski® Crystal Bling Baby Tees and V.I.P. Baby Swarovski Aurora Borealis Baby Gift;
- a big box of Ralph Lauren infant boy’s clothes;
- a “comfy cozy” lamb blanket and $1,000 savings bond;
- a Rockabye Baby blue rocking horse;
- a $500 gift certificate for a website called Petit Tresor;
- a box of baby bibs and clothes with Vikings on them from Nordic Kids;
- a Bugaboo ‘Cameleon 2008’ Stroller with red fleece set and cup holder;
- a big Nordstrom’s box full of :
- Mustela® Newborn Set,
- Elegant Baby Squirtie Bath Set,
- Little Me infant Robe & Slippers in blue,
- Beary Basics Hooded Towel with Duck and Mitt (Infant),
- BVLGARI ‘Petits et Mamans’ Gentle Bath/Shampoo Gel,
- Ralph Lauren Layette ‘Darrel’ Sandal (Infant)
- Nordstrom Baby Quilted Bunting (Infant) in blue,
- Bunnies by the Bay Baby Gift Basket (Infant)(blue bunny, bunting, cap),
- Little Me Print Bodysuit Set (Infant),
- a blue HotSlings for mom,
- Juicy Couture Maternity ‘Dreamy’ Hot Pink Dress for mom, and a
- Juicy Couture Maternity Dahlia Print Dress, also for mom.
“Wow!” Sookie said as she looked at all the stuff. “I can’t believe we got all this home!”
“I can’t either. I also can’t believe how much more there will be when you spend all those gift certificates. And the Treasury and savings bonds! This child is rich in his own right already – he owns a SILVER MINE!” Alicia was cracking up. She had never seen such a collection of bling and baby goods.
“How much do we have to spend in that store in town?”
“Cool – I still need a changing table and lights for the nursery. I hope I can find stuff I like.”
“I’m sure you will. There are still a few things you could use that you didn’t order.”
“Really? Like what?”
“a play pen, a crib for the den, a high chair, baby gates, baby proofing items, bottles, nipples, more baby clothing bits like socks and t-shirts. You should probably have a throw rug for the baby’s room, too. And, if you’re going to be traveling a lot, you’ll need a portable crib and high chair.”
“OK, we can probably get all that tomorrow, right?”
“Right. How about we leave all your booty here and I’ll just clear away the paper and boxes, and you can show Mr. Northman all your goodies when he gets here. He’ll need to list some of it with his insurance company and there are one or two items that will need to be appraised. He might want to put some of these jewels in the safe, too, like the Marie Antoinette piece.”
Sookie and Alicia were scooping up paper and smashing it into boxes when Margaret came in.
“Are we doing family dinner tonight, Mrs. Northman?”
“Yeah, if that’s OK. He’ll be home pretty soon, won’t he?”
“Yes, it’s just the edge of dark now. You two have been at this all day!”
“You wouldn’t believe what all she got, Margaret. I’ve never seen such gifts!”
“Oh, that’s wonderful! People must care a great deal about you and Mr. Northman.”
“I don’t know if they care about us so much as want to stay on Eric’s good side.”
“Nothing wrong with that, sweetie,” Alicia pointed out, “not when you get presents like this. Some of these things are priceless.”
“What would you like for dinner, Mrs. Northman?”
“Honestly, I know I shouldn’t, but I could kill for some fried chicken.”
“Just this once won’t hurt. I’ll start that now and it will be ready by the time Mr. Northman gets here.”
“Thanks, Margaret. Actually, now that I think about it, I need another bottle of that new stuff. I’ll be back, Alicia.”
“No need, hon, I’ve got this.”
“Thanks.” Sookie followed Margaret into the kitchen and went to the fridge, taking out two bottles of RM. She opened one and drank it straight down, then went to sit at the table while she drank the other.
“Did you have a good time at your reception last night, Mrs. Northman?” Margaret asked.
“Yeah, actually. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. Dealing with Eric’s… associates can be a little intense sometimes, but last night ended well.”
“Oh, that’s nice. So you got lots of nice things?”
“Yes, lots of it is really nice jewelry. There’s a ring there that supposedly belonged to Marie Antoinette!”
“Well, let’s hope it brings you better luck than it did her,” Margaret laughed and Sookie joined her.
“Yeah, let’s hope. I wonder when I’ll ever wear anything like that?”
“Didn’t I hear you say you had a ball coming up in Las Vegas?”
“Yeah, I did, and Eric and I are sort of hosting it, so maybe that would be a good time to show it off. I’ll have to be looking pretty spectacular that night. Everyone will be looking at me.”
“Don’t you worry about that, Mrs. Northman. You’ll be the most beautiful thing there, I’m sure. I’ve heard Mr. Northman talk about how you sparkle next to all the other women. He says he’s always so proud to have you on his arm, because you’re always sweet to everyone. I don’t think he likes hard women. I take it he’s around a lot of them?”
“Yeah, some of them are not very nice at all. There’s this one, Sabrina Maxwell, and she has had a thing for Eric for a long time, and she tried a couple of times to make me look bad. She got smart last night and Eric chewed her out and told her he’d better never hear any disrespect toward his wife again. It was awesome.” She and Margaret laughed and still were when Eric came in.
“Hello, my wife, how are you tonight?” He bent and kissed her, sitting down beside her.
“I’m good. I was just telling Margaret a little bit about last night.”
“What was so funny that happened last night?” He was stumped as to why she would be laughing about an assassination, a coup, a coronation and getting shot at.
“I’m sorry – this is mean – but I was telling her about what you said to Sabrina.”
“Well, Sabrina deserved what she got. I don’t want anyone deliberately trying to make you unhappy, not to mention the fact that it showed disrespect for me. You, on the other hand, were perfectly sweet to everyone and I was very proud to have you by my side. You should have seen her, Margaret! She shone like a diamond and was the perfect hostess. No one had ever seen anything so lovely or so sweet.”
“Eric, you’re embarrassing me!” Sookie was half kidding but she was blushing.
“Oh, I’m sure she was, Mr. Northman.” Margaret loved to hear him brag on her that way. Sookie had always been as sweet as she could be and she was sure everything he said was true.
“She had to sit there for hours and greet people she didn’t know and she never let one of them know that she was tired. She just kept smiling and charming them and making me look like the luckiest man in the world.”
“OK, now you’re laying it on too thick,” Sookie started.
“I am stating a fact, my angel. Last night was one of my proudest moments because of you.” He leaned over and kissed her, lingering for a while to let her know he meant it. “What did you do today, Sookie?”
“Alicia and I spent the whole day unwrapping presents. You won’t believe some of the amazing stuff people gave us. Oh and you got some boxes and I got one, too, that had… official stuff in them. And I have something important to tell you so remind me later.”
“Dinner won’t be for at least 20 more minutes, Mrs. Northman, if you’d like to go show him all your gifts.”
“OK, thanks.” She bounced up out of her chair and took him by the hand, leading him into the living room. “See?! Can you believe all this stuff?!”
Alicia was finishing the clean up and spreading the items out on the couch and table so he could look at them.
“Lots of jewelry, I see – that’s good. And what is this?”
“Baby stuff. There’s a lot of stuff for the baby. Someone even gave him the deed to a silver mine!”
“A silver mine? Interesting choice for my son. Alicia did you keep a list of who gave which items?”
“Yes, sir, it’s right here.”
Eric looked at the list, scanning the names. The silver mine was from Victor Madden. A joke or an insult, but Eric had the last laugh this time around.
“Where are the boxes we received today, Sookie?”
“In here.” She led him to the office. “These are yours and that one is mine. Did you know we’re hosting a Sheriff’s Ball at the Bellagio on June 27th?”
“I remember something about that.”
“Don’t you think that’s strange that they didn’t have it at Felipe’s house?”
“Now that you mention it, yes.”
“I called Janet Stevens and asked her why they chose the Bellagio and she said Sandy decided the security was better and the new regent might not want to use the residence.”
“She said that?”
“Yes, and I asked her when the arrangements were made at the Bellagio and she said January.”
“Uh-huh. She’s sending me a portfolio on the thing so we can see if everything meets our expectations. I’ll get it tomorrow.”
“You called Janet and you had her send you information on the ball?”
“Yes – that’s alright isn’t it?”
“That’s excellent. I’m glad to see you take the initiative.”
“Oh, good. Also, Alicia thinks I need an office and wanted me to ask you where you’d like that set up.”
“Good question.” He looked around, thinking about the house, and the obvious solution presented itself. “Use this office. Redecorate it to your tastes and set your things up here. I only use it for meetings, anyway, and I could still do that if you used it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, come to think of it. Most of your work will have to do with our houses and social calendar. This room is big enough for you and Alicia to work together on that and most of your items won’t need a lot of security. This is the logical place.”
“Do I have to redecorate it?”
“You may do whatever you wish. You should set it up right away since you’ll have things you need to do.”
“Yeah, like Thank You cards – they sent me a bunch of stationery and cards and stuff that says HRH Sookie Northman.”
He laughed out loud. “Get used to it, my angel, you are Queen now.”
“Yes, I am. Anyway, do you think Sandy could have known back in January that something was up? Like a movement against Felipe?”
“Sandy was awfully cooperative about all of this. It’s possible that she was in on the move by the Council. I’m going to have to think about this. I’m very impressed that you picked up on that, Sookie. The fact that you noticed something wrong and called Janet to investigate is remarkable. That’s thinking like a Queen, and I love the fact that you made her send you a portfolio for your approval.”
“Eric, there’s something else – how did they get all this fancy printed stationery done when you were just appointed last night?”
“Obviously this was all planned for some time now. I’m just wondering who initiated it – was it Niall or did someone else approach Niall? Speaking of whom, you know he’ll be here Friday night?”
“Yeah, so I hear. He’ll be happy about this development. He’ll like those new jewels, too, especially that ruby and diamond ring from Marie Antoinette.”
“Yes, one of the rings supposedly belonged to her.”
“Sophie Ann had a ring like that. I’ll have to see who gave it to you. Whoever it was might have gotten it from Victor or Felipe. I need to know if it was someone in their employ.”
Alicia knocked on the door. “Excuse me, Mr. Northman?”
“Did you want to look at the list of items you received last night? There are a couple of items that will need appraisal and you’ll want to add some of the pieces to your insurance.”
“Yes, Alicia, I would like to see it. Do you have the name of the person who gave Sookie the ring from Marie Antoinette?”
“Yes, let’s see – Sabrina Maxwell.”
Eric and Sookie looked at each other. They were both pretty sure how Sabrina got her hands on that and Eric was pretty sure she’d be the first one to put a knife in his back if she got a chance. It might be time to replace Sabrina as Sheriff of Area three. He’d have to think about that.
“Alicia, Eric said we should use this office for my stuff.”
“Yes, I think you two would be comfortable working in here. You can decorate it for Sookie if you like, but go ahead and put her things in place because I know she has things she needs to take care of.”
“Yes, sir, I think that’s a marvelous idea. Maybe slightly more feminine furniture – you’ll still need to use it for meetings, though, yes?”
“Yes, but I don’t mind if it looks womanly. Everyone knows I’m newly married and this would be the proper place for the lady of the house to administer household affairs. No one will think less of me,” he laughed.
“Can I make a suggestion?” Sookie asked.
“Yes, of course.” Eric said.
“I love the dark cherry stuff in the dining room and living room. How about we do this office in that. It’s feminine but not too much so and it would suit both purposes. Would that be alright? And could I get a computer armoire to get this big computer off of the desk?”
“Those are excellent ideas, Mrs. Northman. I’ll start looking for something appropriate right away.”
Eric was nodding – he liked this idea and he liked that Sookie was taking charge a bit. She was adapting so quickly to all of this – it was inspiring. She was going to be an excellent Queen.
“Margaret has dinner almost ready if you’d like to go into the kitchen now.”
“Alright, shall we, my dear” he teased Sookie a little, offering her his arm.
“We shall.” She teased back, taking his arm.
Alicia smiled proudly at them. She genuinely liked these two, and she loved to see how sweet they were to each other. It was going to be fun watching them raise a little family, and she had a feeling her expanding duties would come with an expanding salary, which was a very good thing. Eric was so generous and so handsome, she didn’t even mind him being a vampire. It just made him more mysterious and sexy. She could see why Sookie was so crazy about him, especially the way he spoiled her. He was an ideal spouse from what she could see.
They went back through the living room, stopping at the coffee table because Eric wanted to see the Marie Antoinette ring. He whistled when he saw it. “That’s some ring.”
“Think I could wear it to the Sheriff’s Ball?”
“You’ll have to get a sexy red dress to go with it.”
“Yep, I’m going to have to be looking sharp that night.”
“You always do.” He winked at her. They went on into the kitchen and Margaret was setting Sookie’s place with a plate of Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans with a cute little pone of corn bread on the side and some sliced cucumbers and green onions.
“Wow, Margaret, this is a real country meal. Thank you!”
“I fried enough chicken for you to have another meal of it later tonight. I hear you need to eat more.”
“Yeah, they don’t think I’m gaining enough weight. Can I get another bottle of that new stuff?”
“I’d like a bottle of that, too, if you don’t mind.” Eric said.
“Of course, coming right up.” Margaret said cheerfully. She loved this new “family dinner” thing. They were sweet together and she liked seeing that Sookie and the baby were properly fed. She agreed that Sookie wasn’t gaining enough weight. Well, a few of her famous cakes and some good country cooking would put that to rights.
She came back with their bloods, not realizing what they were.
“Miss Sookie, do you like Low Country cooking? I make a mean shrimp étouffé and a good crawfish gumbo.”
“Ooh! I love that! Gran never made it much because it was so expensive, but yeah, I love that stuff! I always ate a ton of it when she did.”
“Well, if you don’t mind my saying so, I think that’s what you and that baby need – some serious country cooking.”
“It will definitely make me gain weight!”
“That’s what we want, right Mr. Northman?”
“Yes, indeed. We want my son to be a fat and happy baby.” He laughed.
“Easy for you to say – you don’t have to give birth to him.” Sookie teased.
“True, my angel, and I am forever grateful to you for doing that for me.” He was only kidding a little, and he leaned over to kiss her.
“Can I get another one of these, Margaret?” Sookie asked, indicating the RM.
“Of course, dear,” and she brought a new bottle straight over to her removing the empty.
“How many so far today?” Eric asked.
“6 so far. I think it’s going to end up being about 10 a day.”
“And I like them much better, too. That’s 2 ½ to 3 cases a week for a while. I’ll have Pam order three for us and we’ll see how far they go. That smells very good, what you are eating there.”
“Yes. That is fried chicken?”
“Yeah – you want to try a bite?”
“Yes, actually, I would.” She tore off the little “leg” part of the wing and handed it to him. He sniffed it, made a face that indicated it didn’t smell bad, and ate it.
“Anything?” She asked, expecting him to get sick.
“It was delicious.”
“You’re not sick?”
“No, I feel fine.”
Alicia came in with the list from Bobbie. “Mrs. Northman, Bobbie wants us to set up a birthing room? Are you going to try a home birth?”
“Yes, I have to because of the… unique nature of the baby.”
“Are you sure? It’s dangerous.”
“Her doctor will be in attendance and she’ll be able to handle the situation.” Eric assured her. “I think she wanted it put together very soon.”
“Well, alright, then. We can get some of this tomorrow. Which room on the second floor do you want to use?”
“One of them has a bathroom in it, doesn’t it?” Sookie asked.
“Yes, the one nearest the kitchen. That would be a good choice. I’ll make sure there’s a bag of ice in the freezer so you’ll have it to munch on in between contractions. That’s what they do in the hospital. This list is pretty simple – white cotton sheets and towels, alcohol, Betadine, twine, scissors, Plastic drop cloths, a plastic mattress cover, rubber gloves, white cotton receiving blankets, a baby bath basin, a couple of plastic pans, a blood pressure cuff, a couple of apron style hospital gowns. We’ll get this stuff tomorrow and put the room together. Apparently she wants us to spread the drop cloths on the floor under and around the bed, put a plastic cover on the mattress, and cover everything with white sheets. We’ll take one of the trays from the closet in the den up to put supplies on.”
“It seems early for this.” Sookie said.
“Bobbie wants to be ready in case he’s premature. Better to be safe and have it ready to go than to need it and not have it ready. Even if we have to clean things a few times as we wait, I agree with her, let’s have it set up and ready to go. This will be hard under the best of circumstances, so let’s make sure we’ve got the best of circumstances to work with. Actually, some of this I’ll need to go to a pharmacy or medical supply store to get. If you don’t need me anymore tonight, I’ll go get started on this. I’ll feel better if these things are at least here in the house.”
“Yes, that’s fine, Alicia. Thank you.” Sookie said.
Eric smiled to himself – Sookie said that with such an air of authority. This was wonderful. They were years ahead of where he thought they’d be in building her confidence and helping her grow into her new roles.
“So, do you have to go to Fangtasia tonight?” Sookie asked.
“No, I already called and told Pam to take care of it. I need to go through those boxes and get organized, and you need to do the same in the office down here. You and I are going to be running two… “ Margaret was still in the room “territories from here and we need to get a handle on what’s happening as quickly as we can. I have to check on the security arrangements with Vincent. I’ll need to talk to Sandy and Bill later on tonight, and you might need to talk to them, too, once you see what all is happening. I’m glad you got the jump on the Sheriff’s Ball. That’s a major event and all of the other regents will be there. I’m sure Sandy has it under control, but you need to stay on top of that. You’re technically the hostess and people will be looking for things to nitpick about.”
“You can handle it. You’ve handled much more challenging things.”
“I’m glad you think so. Can I ask you questions if I’m not sure about something?”
“Of course, Sookie, I’m always here for you. You also have Alicia, Margaret, Bobbie, Sandy, Janet Stevens, Bill – I’m sure he’ll set up a liaison for the Queen and I’ll ask Sandy to assign someone to work specifically with you, too. You aren’t doing this alone, my lover, you have many servants to help you. A lot of the things you’ll do will be in reaction to requests or requirements of some process or project and the answers will be obvious. Just remember that you are in charge and others must do things so that they suit you. You don’t answer to them and you shouldn’t be apologetic or timid with them. You have lovely manners and good taste. I’m confident that you will be perfectly fine in your new position.”
“OK. We are going to get to spend some time together tonight, though, right?”
“Of course. We’ll make it a priority to be together as much as possible. We should be able to arrange to be together most of the time since most things will be flexible. We’ll even be able to keep the baby with us most of the time as long as there is someone there to help you.”
“Good, I was hoping that was the case. I don’t want you being an absentee father.”
“That will never happen. I intend to be with my son as much as possible and enjoy watching him grow and learn. I’ll teach him to fight and to be a good king, and someday, I will give part or all of the kingdom to him.”
“You’ve got this all worked out, huh?”
“Yes, my lover, I do. It’s all going to be fine.”
Margaret set a huge piece of cake in front of Sookie.
“Yum! Thank you!” She said as she dug in. Eric enjoyed watching her and even took a taste of the german chocolate cake and liked it. He still didn’t get sick. When she was done they thanked Margaret and went back into Sookie’s new office. He started opening boxes and looking through them. Some things were duplicates of things Sookie had, like the Social Registers of their subjects and the catalogs of their possessions, though neither of them had anything about the properties or businesses yet. Sandy would be working on that. They each had stationery and royal seals in several forms. Eric had a different calendar, though some of the items, like the Sheriff’s Ball, over-lapped.
Sookie showed Eric the royal jewels from both kingdoms and he was impressed. He said that she could wear them whenever she wanted, though the fancier pieces would probably best be saved for major affairs of state.
He marked down that he should have Sandy’s report on the properties by June 15th, and figured he and Sookie should head for Vegas on June 22nd and stay until the Monday after the Sheriff’s Ball, which was June 29th and Bobbie would need to go with them. Eric was afraid Bill would be needed in New Orleans, but he could join them on the 26th so he’d be there for the Ball and he could come back with the three others.
They both added Niall’s dinner with them on the 5th to their calendars. They’d have to get used to accounting for things like that and making sure their schedules were coordinated. They both noted Pam’s vacation from the 15th through the 21st. June was going to be a busy month.
“Do you have plans for tomorrow, Sookie?”
“Yes, they’re coming to paint the nursery, so Alicia is taking me to breakfast and shopping to get me away from the paint fumes. We’ve got $1500. in gift certificates to spend at Baby Depot.”
He laughed. “Baby Depot?”
“Yeah, it’s at Burlington Coat Factory. They’ve got all kinds of good stuff for babies and we’re going to load up. Oh, there are a lot of packages expected this week where I ordered furniture for the nursery, too. The gardener’s men probably need to be warned that I’ll need help with that stuff.”
“I need to mention all of this to Vincent, too. He’ll need to make provisions to check things for bombs.”
“Yes, of course, Sookie. We have to be careful now.”
He didn’t bother to tell her to get used to it. She would, and probably more quickly than she thought possible.
“Anything for the rest of the week?”
“Just Thank You notes, putting the nursery together and then Niall on Friday. Things may be in a bit of a mess because of the birthing room and the nursery.”
“Margaret will see that it’s all as neat as possible and Niall will understand that we are preparing our nest. He’s going to love seeing all of your new jewelry. You should probably lay out all the gifts you got in one of the guest rooms until he can see them, then put them away later. He’ll like seeing how you were honored by my subjects. There may be other gifts on the way, too.”
“Because only Area 5 was notified. Once the word is out that there is a new king with a new wife and a magical child on the way…”
“Ah… gotcha. The rest will want to curry favor, too.”
“Yes, we’ll probably receive things at Fangtasia, the New Orleans Office and the Las Vegas residence. Do you want to stay in the residence when we go to Vegas or would you prefer to stay in the Bellagio?”
“This may sound crazy extravagant, but can we do both? I’d like to stay at the residence a few days to see what’s there and see if we need to make any decisions there, but then I’d like to have a room at the Bellagio to escape to.”
“That is fine. Actually, it’s a really good idea, now that you mention it. It’s best for us to have options. Good thinking.”
She smiled to herself because he had praised her a couple of times today and she was glad she was doing things correctly. She loved knowing he was proud of her.
“Do we have to keep the residence in Las Vegas?”
“No, we don’t and we don’t have to keep this place either, just so you know. It’s up to us where we want our headquarters. We will need homes in New Orleans and Las Vegas, but we don’t have to use the ones we have there now. Our primary residence is up to us.”
“I really like it here, and I’d rather not get used to a new house with all the rest of what is going on, so let’s please keep this as our primary home. We’ll have fancy houses in Vegas and New Orleans for when we need to receive guests and stuff, but I don’t think we need anything as huge as what Felipe had, even if we can afford it. It’s just too much.”
“I agree. We can have nice large, gracious homes without having literal palaces. We need to feel comfortable in them, first and foremost.”
“Good. I was worried you might want to move. I’d like to go through Felipe’s residence, pick out whatever we want to keep, like artwork and stuff, and sell the rest. You could put the money toward rebuilding New Orleans and find us a more reasonable place. Hell, I’d be happy if we had a set of rooms in the Bellagio instead of a house.”
“If that’s what you would prefer, Sookie, that can be arranged. I’m sure with enough financial incentive, the Bellagio would give us permanent use of a penthouse suite to use as our offices and home away from home. Or they have private villas there that are the finest lodgings available.”
“Yes, they do, very luxurious ones. They also have a presidential suite with a conference room, a luxurious living area and 3 servant’s quarters for your “entourage.” Then the hotel worries about cleaning and butlers and things, you get all kinds of perks with the restaurants and shows, all kinds of luxurious things. We need to spend some time with the mayor next time we’re there and he got us the suite we stayed in before – he might have an ‘in’ that would let us move the whole headquarters there. It’s certainly more modern and convenient and if we needed to entertain, we can put guests up in the rest of the hotel.”
“I would love that – then all we’d have to worry about is a doula or nanny, some assistants and everything you need to conduct business is available there, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. I’ll make dinner plans with the mayor and his wife and when we see them I’ll tell him what I am interested in. He’s going to be very happy with my new position.”
“Yes, he will. His wife will be over the moon, too. I think she has a crush on you.”
“Do you blame her?” he wiggled his eyebrows at her.
“No, not a bit. I’ve got a crush on you, too.” She kissed him and started to pull away but he held her and kissed her more deeply in one of those soft, intense kisses that made her melt into her shoes. “Mmmmm – good kiss. How much longer do we have to do this?”
“Another hour, at least, then we go to bed.”
“OK, what’s next?”
“You find places in this office for your things, I find places in my office for these three boxes of things, I make necessary phone calls, check email and messages, then I’m probably done for the night. You should probably thumb through your calendar to get an idea what the rest of the year will be like. I’m going to take this stuff upstairs.” And he kicked it into vampire speed, taking the boxes in one quick zip up the stairs.
He called Bill’s cell and found him at the New Orleans Head Quarters.
“Have you had time to find out anything?”
“Well, we all stayed at Victor Madden’s small castle – you wouldn’t believe how high on the hog he was living, Eric – and we got in here an hour or so ago. We didn’t meet any resistance. They expected us, and they had already started getting an accounting of the business for this office together. Hang on just a minute.”
Eric heard a door close.
“Sorry – I wanted to have a little privacy. It’s the strangest thing, Eric, it’s almost as if no one is surprised that Madden is dead. His servants had his house prepared as if for guests, and they even had his bedroom cleared out for Bobbie and me to use. No one is mourning, or sad or resentful. It’s like they were all expecting this.”
“I’m finding that’s the case in several quarters. I almost feel as if someone in Felipe’s own organization helped orchestrate this.”
“Any ideas who?”
“Sandy is the logical choice – maybe she didn’t want to work for either of them?”
“But did she want to be Queen?”
“No, I really think she was sincere about just wanting to do what she was doing. I’m just wondering who put all of this into motion. You know Sookie and I received boxes of printed stationery and seals with our titles and names on them today? That had to have been ordered weeks ago.”
“Well, look at it this way – somebody wanted you in that position and now you’re there. I think I’ll be able to get a good idea of what is going on here. I suspect something is amiss in the funds for the reconstruction because things that should have been done to some of our properties in the Quarter are still undone but so far I haven’t located the funds for it. I think Madden has been stealing from Felipe.”
“That’s about what I’d expect from that snake. Make sure you and your security search his house thoroughly. My guess is there’s a second set of books hidden somewhere and keep an eye out for keys to safe deposit boxes and any paperwork from a bank. He was too cocky to hide things that thoroughly. I’m sure he thought no one would catch on.”
“We’ll search very thoroughly. The men you sent with us have a lot of experience in this sort of thing. Vincent put together an excellent crew for such short notice.”
“Good, I’ll let him know you’re pleased. Is Bobbie liking it there?”
“Yes, she was out in the Quarter today – that’s how I knew some of our properties are neglected. I gave her a list of some of the places I knew and asked her to make notes, then we went through there on the way here after she told me what she saw. I’m telling you, Eric, they’ve done nothing to most of it. I don’t know how Madden got away with this.”
“Well, technically, he didn’t.” Eric laughed. “One last thing – can you assign a liaison to the Queen so she’ll know who to contact for whatever she needs?”
“Yes, of course, I’ll assign a team for her for day and night. Is she already taking on royal responsibilities?”
“Yes, it seems we have to host the Sheriff’s Ball in Las Vegas on June 27th so she has to take hold of things pretty quickly. She’ll have the details on it tomorrow so she might need information from your office then about travel or reservations, that sort of thing. For now her lady’s maid will assist her, but depending on the demands of the office we may have to hire a full time assistant for her.”
“I’m amazed that she is already doing things like that.”
“She took control of it herself – she had already talked to the Las Vegas office before I even knew about it. She’s going to be good at this. She has a way of rising to the occasion.”
“Yes, I know she does. That’s wonderful. What is her assistant’s name?”
“Alicia, but for the most part I think Sookie will want your people to report directly to her. She’ll need to synchronize the social calendar with your office’s to make sure we aren’t missing anything. You can use the house number for her for now – I’ll be getting her an iPhone and she’ll give you the number once it’s in place. Call me back as soon as you know anything, and make whatever changes in staff you feel are necessary. I’ll talk to you later.”
One Down. Now Vincent.
“Yes, your majesty?”
“Hello, Vincent, any progress on the security force?”
“Yes, sire, I have quite a few eager applicants with good experience. The word of your ascent went through the community like wildfire and everyone wants to work for you. I’ll need to meet with you about the fences at your house. You should probably consider extending them to cover the front of the house and add a small guard stand.”
“That’s a good idea. Find out who is available to do that. Also, we’re going to be receiving quite a few packages in the next month or so, do you have an explosives expert who can work days?”
“Yes, sir, there’s a Were named Kerik who did EOD for the military. He’s the equivalent of a bomb sniffing dog and an explosives expert rolled into one. I’ll make sure he’s scheduled on weekdays so he can handle all of your packages.”
“I’ll need him to start this week.”
“He’ll start at 5 am, sire. The whole team schedule will be in place by tomorrow night. I won’t let you down. Also, sire, you might consider making sure the Queen has my number in case she needs help, and if you’ll approve it, I’d like to assign a driver and bodyguard to work for her during the days. He’ll be an extra pair of eyes when he’s not driving her and he’ll be protection for her when he is.”
“She won’t like that, but it’s an excellent idea. Do you have someone in mind?”
“Yes, his name is Bjorn Anderson. He’s a Were and a former Navy Seal. He did some military intelligence work, too. You’ll like him – he’s a big Swede with muscle and brains. She’ll be almost as safe as if you were with her.”
“Anderson – when can he start?”
“Immediately if you’ll meet his salary requirements.”
“What does he want?”
“$80,000 a year, with 20 of it up front.”
“He’s hired. Have him at my house at 7 am – my wife and her maid are going shopping and I’d like him to drive.”
“He’ll be there. I’ll wire the money to him now.”
“Good. Keep me informed and when you have it, fax a list of your personnel and their schedules to my house.”
“Will do, your majesty. Good night.”
“Good night, Vincent.”
Sookie might not be happy about it, but he’d feel much better knowing she was being guarded. There’s no telling whether Madden had any contracts out on them that might not have been cancelled. They needed to be extra careful for the next month or so. Now, to talk to Sandy.
“Yes, Your Majesty?”
“Good evening, Sandy. I’ll be calling you at least once every night to check in. Anything I need to know about?”
“Things are fairly quiet. I expect to have your information about the properties done and in your hands by this Friday, and the Queen’s information about the Sheriff’s Ball is on its way and should arrive in the morning.”
“Excellent. You will be reporting to me, but I’d like you to assign a liaison for the Queen for whatever she needs.”
“Yes, sire, I have already done that. Angela will contact her tomorrow evening and she’ll have the names of her day and night people. Everyone is excited to meet the new Queen, sire.”
“Yes, sire, they’ve all heard how gracious she was when you were appointed and they are hoping for their own sort of Princess Diana – they know she’s very young, very sweet and very kind.”
“That she is. They’ll get to meet her on June 22nd. We’re going to come in the week before the Sheriff’s Ball and stay until the following Monday. We’d like to stay at the residence part of the week but we’ll keep a suite at the Bellagio, too.”
“I’ll make those arrangements for you right away, your majesty. Did you receive the catalogs of the household goods?”
“Yes, we did. We’ll look things over and see what we want to keep. I do want to prepare you, Sandy – we’ll probably sell the residence and opt for something more modest for our home and for your offices.”
“I suspected that might be the case, sire. This place was far too expensive but de Castro insisted on it.”
“I’m open to seeing or hearing any suggestions you might have for alternatives so if you have a preference, speak freely.”
“Thank you, sire. Have you considered moving the headquarters to the Bellagio, sire? They have villas there that are very private and they would only cost a fraction of what this place costs, plus you would need very little staff. A Villa for your family and a commercial suite in the building would more than suffice for our needs.”
“My wife and I had discussed something like that earlier today. If you’d like to investigate the particulars of that option, I’ll be happy to hear what you find out. The Mayor of Las Vegas might also be of help in that area if you tell him it is for me. He and I will be doing business together later this year.”
“As you wish, sire. I’ll also include a financial report for the kingdom with the property listings that will arrive on Friday. I think you’ll be pleased with what you see from my territory.”
“As opposed to what I will find in the financial report for Madden’s territory?”
“So I hear. Fortunately, that situation will be rectified immediately.”
“Yes, your majesty.”
“Good night, Sandy – I’ll talk to you tomorrow evening.”
“Yes, your majesty. Good night.”
‘So Sandy knew Victor was stealing,’ he thought to himself. ‘It had to be Sandy – the question is, did she go to the Council or did the Council go to her? And what did Felipe do to earn their ire?’
That was enough intrigue for tonight. He had a beautiful wife who was a much more pleasing prospect than untangling Madden’s web of lies. He zipped back down to her office.
“Hello, my lovely wife.”
She was kneeling behind the desk where she was moving stuff around in the drawers and looked up at him a little out of breath.
“Why are you working so hard. my angel?”
“I want to have everything done so Thursday all I have to do is come in here and write Thank You notes.”
“How much more do you have to do?”
“I can stop any time now… can we go to bed?” she asked hopefully as she stood up.
He scooped her up in his arms, turned off the light in the office and took her to bed.
He dropped her playfully on the bed, both of them tearing at their clothes to get them off, and Eric destroyed yet another thong to get at her. He rolled on his back, pulling her on top of him and helping her lift up and lower herself on his very erect, very hard cock. She wasn’t quite as ready as she might have been but it hurt in a good way, and soon she was grinding away on him as he helped her raise and lower her hips.
She leaned forward and put her hands on his shoulders, really concentrating her strength and her attention on the feel of him inside her. She had her eyes closed, lost in the sensation, and he marveled at how pretty she was like this, all desire and warmth. He wrapped his arms around her and sat up as she leaned back so she could straighten her legs out and wrap them around him. He was kissing her face and her shoulders, then she threw her arms around his neck and she bit his shoulder hard, but didn’t break the skin.
They were both in continuous motion and he leaned forward, pushing her back, so he could get to the dagger he kept in his nightstand. OH, YES! She loved this. He tilted his head to the side and cut his artery, and she sucked hard for as long as she could before it closed up. He came while she was drinking from him and he moaned as she licked all the blood that had spurted on his chest and shoulder up, coming as she did, his blood intoxicating her. They clung to each other for a long time, just enjoying the heat of their bodies, Sookie out of breath, Eric licking the sweat off her shoulders and neck.
Suddenly he bit her neck savagely and she came again as he drank deeply from the wound, every draw he took at her neck reaching right down to her center, extending her orgasm over and over. The Fae blood hit him hard and he flipped her on her back, throwing her legs up over his shoulders and going deep as she moaned loudly, managing, somehow, not to put any pressure on her stomach though it was getting so big it was beginning to affect the way they had sex. It didn’t take him long to come because he was high on her blood, and soon he was just holding her with one arm, nibbling and sucking on her breasts, his hand between her legs, working her to another release that was short and sweet and made her beg him to hold her as she ran her fingers through his long hair and hid her eyes in his neck, unable to believe the ache she felt inside for him even though she had just had him.
She whispered in his ear,“Oh, god, I feel like I can’t get enough of you – I just want you inside me so much, I wish you could stay inside me for hours and hours.” Those words were like music to him, and he took her again, moving very slowly in and out, trying to stretch it out and make it last as long as possible, which turned out to be two slow, blissful hours of him slowly stroking in and out of her, whispering in her ear. Half of what he said was in Swedish, but it didn’t matter because she knew what he was saying, what he meant, and the sound of the words was like a song. He gradually turned off the light with the switch in the headboard and she fell asleep with him in her, which is what she wanted more than anything.