LATE Chapter 051

HRH Sookie Northman

 

“Good Morning, Mrs. Northman.”

“awhhh-epp” she yawned, “‘morning, Alicia!”

“How are you feeling today. dear?”

“Awfully tired, but I know I have a lot to do.”

“What do you have planned?”

“Well, I was hoping you’d help me with those thank you notes and then we have to go through that portfolio about the Sheriff’s Ball. It did come yesterday, didn’t it?”

“Yes, it did, it’s on your desk in your office, along with several faxes you need to look at that have your contact information for the Las Vegas and Louisiana offices. Does the Vampire community have its own sort of internal power structure?”

“Yes… why?”

“Well, they refer to you as HRH and ‘your majesty’ – is Mr. Northman some kind of King now?”

“Within their community, yes, he is. He’s over what used to be two kingdoms, which is several states called the Louisiana Territories and the Nevada Territories. I didn’t tell you because I know how weird it sounds to have royalty in America, but that’s how they organize themselves.”

“So you’re Queen of the Vampires?” She was slightly amused and plenty impressed.

“Technically, yes. That’s why it’s such a big deal and why those presents…”

“… were so extravagant. In that context, it all makes sense now. And being royalty, there has to be good security, hence the body guard and guards around the house?”

“Yeah. You’re not going to quit, are you? I really need your help.”

“Don’t you worry, I’m not going anywhere. This is just getting interesting.” She winked at her and they laughed as she set Sookie’s breakfast over her lap.

“This looks good – what is it?”

“It’s a big Western omelet with lots of ham and cheese. Margaret is determined to fatten you up,” she laughed.

“Well, I’m going to enjoy her trying. She’s an awesome cook.”

“Wait until you see what’s for dinner – she already started it because she hopes you’ll eat several bowls of it throughout the day.”

“Is it shrimp étouffeé?”

“Yes, it is and you should see how huge the shrimp are. They look more like lobster tails.”

“Oh, yum! You know, it never occurred to me to ask her if she could make stuff like that. I love it, but Gran hardly made it because it was so expensive. It never dawned on me that I can afford it now.”

“You certainly can, and Margaret is thrilled to be making it for you. She has been more worried than anyone that you don’t seem to be gaining enough weight. She’s counting on a cute little blonde chubster running around in a year or so.”

“Yeah, me, too. I didn’t know she was so excited about it, though.”

“Oh, yes, she has always wished Mr. Northman would find a nice girl because he was always so kind and generous to her. She always wondered why such a handsome and kind man was alone and he seemed kind of sad much of the time. She was tickled to death when you started coming around and he started smiling. She thinks you two are just wonderful together.”

“Awww- that’s nice to know. I really think of you and Margaret like family and I want you all to be happy working here.”

“We are, Sweetie, don’t you worry about us. We love being here.”

“Thanks.”

“Now, you dig into that omelet, catch a quick shower and we’ll dig into those royal thank you notes. We’ve got to make sure King Eric looks good in front of his subjects.” She winked at her again. She was being a really good sport about this. Sookie was relieved not to have to hide it any more.

Baby E was awake and kicking now and she asked him to hold on and she’d drink some blood after she finished her omelet. He was a little persistent, but not as bad as he could be and she was able to eat in relative peace. When she got done, she sat the tray on the dresser and downed a couple of bottles of RM, which made the little Prince happy as a clam.

“Happy now, Baby E?”

Happy. Love. Funny.

‘Oh, great, now he thinks it’s funny harassing mommy to drink blood.’

Funny. Funny.

‘Bobbie was right. He can read my mind.’

Soothing.

Sookie never felt that before. What was she thinking? Bobbie?

Soothing.

He knew Bobbie was the one who soothed them with the massages? Is that possible?

Soothing. Happy.

“Yeah, I miss Bobbie, too, Sweetie – she’ll be back tomorrow night and give us a massage.”

Happy.

She laughed and got into the shower, and she could feel that Baby E liked that the water relaxed her. She washed her hair and started thinking about Eric and felt

Love. Fight!

And she knew he was thinking about Eric now, too. She couldn’t wait to see the two of them together.

She threw on the little yellow knit dress, because she wouldn’t be able to wear these much longer, and she went down to her new office. Alicia had everything piled on the desk waiting for her.

There was a fax from Bill in New Orleans that said to contact Emily Jacobs in the daytime and Jasmine Raj after dark if she needed anything at all, and it gave her their numbers.

The fax from Las Vegas was from Sandy, and Sookie’s liaisons there would be Janet Stevens in the daytime, and Bruce Dunlop after dark. There was a reminder that the time zones might differ, which was good because Sookie hadn’t thought about that. It would get darker in Louisiana a little earlier than in Las Vegas. Not a lot later, but it could make a difference in trying to get a hold of a Vampire assistant.

There was a fax from Jasmine already asking her to confirm her attendance at an event for the reconstruction of New Orleans on July 3. Sookie looked at the calendar but there was nothing about that, so she wrote out a note saying she needed all the information on the event ASAP and clipped it to the fax. There was a new steno pad laid out for her, by Alicia she assumed, and she made a note to check Eric’s calendar and see if he had that on there and ask him if they wanted to go. Her guess was that it was something they should do, since reconstruction would be a priority for Eric because he had said some time before that it was lost revenue every day it was delayed. She didn’t know yet that Victor had been skimming off the top and not doing what he was supposed to do, but she had accurately anticipated Eric’s interest in the project.

Alicia came in and asked how she was doing. She showed her the note she needed sent back to Jasmine, and Alicia sent it immediately through the fax in the corner. About 10 minutes later there was a return fax from Emily with a brief overview of the event and a promise that the portfolio for it would arrive by messenger the next day. It was a star-studded event for humans and Vamps and their attendance would greatly enhance their ability to get donations from the rich and famous who would be in attendance. Apparently, knowing Vamp royalty was the trendy thing for the Hollywood crowd, so they’d be hobnobbing with some seriously big names that night. Sookie wanted to go just to see who would be there!

Sookie pulled out the portfolio on the Sheriff’s Ball and started through it. There was a floor plan of the Grand Ballroom at the Bellagio and little icons drawn to show where everything would be placed. There was a note on the top about ice sculptures and Sookie specified she liked Swans and graceful aquatic themes, no modern art that didn’t look like anything and no castle as Felipe had requested – how pretentious! The decorations chosen were in colors of black and blue, which Sookie changed to black and red because she was going to wear a red dress that night. Alicia was impressed that Sookie made that connection that the décor should suit her outfit since it was her party. Sookie made a note on the steno pad that she needed a killer red dress for that night and put MA next to it because she was going to wear the Marie Antoinette ring that night to wave it in front of Sabrina’s face. She knew why she gave her that ring – two of its royal owners had been killed – and she was going to show her she wasn’t a bit scared of her. Bitch.

Harry Conick, Jr. was the entertainment for the Ball, in between the orchestra playing and while he wouldn’t have been Sookie’s first choice, she figured he was a nice choice for a black tie affair like this.

She looked at the refreshments that were to be offered and she wanted RM to be available for their guests as well as True Blood, and she wanted at least three more hors d’oeuvres, including two that didn’t contain meat or dairy of any kind in case there were vegan guests and she wanted more variety in the caviar, champagnes and beer to include some American equivalents. This was America, after all, and she felt they had a responsibility to support American products. Felipe had shown too strong a preference for products from Spain and France for her tastes and the prices listed for Iranian caviar were ridiculous when you compared it to Russian, let alone America equivalents and she didn’t believe for a minute the people there would actually taste a difference. She also remembered that she loved to mix the beluga with the big red berries of salmon caviar when she had tried it with Bobbie in Las Vegas and she specified she wanted Salmon and some others available as well to make it more colorful. She also asked that the cheese platter include gruyere in addition to the ones listed, because it was her favorite.

She showed the changes to Alicia and she was very impressed. She never expected Sookie to know that much about caviar (thanks, Bobbie!) or to be that aware of the availability of American caviar and champagne that were equal in quality to what was to be offered from Iran and Russia, or Spain and France, let alone the idea that they needed to provide for the possibility of vegan guests!

“Gruyere cheese? Where did you learn about that?”

“French class.”

“Caviar?”

“Las Vegas.”

“Champagne?”

“An article in Vogue magazine waiting at the doctor’s office.”

Sookie was not only resourceful she was apparently a sponge. She read a lot and she remembered information later when it came in handy. Alicia offered to type up the changes for Sookie’s signature, and went to do that while Sookie got set up for thank you notes. Alicia left the list of presents with her, but Sookie decided to wait until Alicia got back to make sure she followed proper protocol. She couldn’t afford to look like a bumpkin here.

Alicia was pretty quick, and had the fax on its way in about 15 minutes. There was a confirmation from Janet half an hour later that said she had checked on all of Sookie’s suggestions and they were not only doable, they would bring them back under budget, which Felipe had totally blown. Felipe apparently cared more about appearance than the solvency of the kingdom. Sookie and Eric would show off when it counted, but use some restraint when it was called for, too.

Alicia called a couple of designer stores she had dealt with before, telling them she needed a spectacular red dress for a special event and arranged to have samples sent to the house on Tuesday.

“That was quick.” Sookie said.

“I told them the dress was to be worn at an event hosted by royalty.”

“Nice.” Sookie laughed. Well, it was true.

“The color will tip them off that the person wearing it will be the royal – you aren’t supposed to wear red in the presence of royalty because it’s reserved for the Queen.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Now you do – you should be the only one wearing red that night, though most Americans wouldn’t know any better.”

“Vampires might, though. They tend to be really old.”

“Do you mind my asking… how old is Mr. Northman?”

“You won’t believe me.”

“Try me.”

“Don’t freak out. He’s over a thousand years old.”

“You’re joking…”

“No, I’m not. He’s lived almost everything you’ve ever read about.”

“That is amazing!”

“I know. I can’t imagine it. It’s easy to forget because he looks so young, but he’s done and seen almost everything.”

“Does aging not affect them?”

“It works the opposite way with them. The older they get, the stronger they get and the more powerful. A lot of Vampires are afraid of Eric because his age makes him stronger than most. He was a good choice for King. Very few people would even consider opposing him.”

“Well – that’s something. Now, let’s get to these thank you notes. I pulled all the cards and put them in order of the gifts as you opened them so we can follow right along. You might need addresses for some of them…”

“They should all be listed in this register. Most of them are from Area 5.”

“Area 5?”

‘The states are divided into areas which are ruled by Sheriffs who report to the King. Eric was Sheriff of Area 5 before. Now that he’s king, we’ll probably get more presents from people in the rest of the Territories.”

“I had no idea Vampires were that organized.”

“They had to be to survive as long as they did without detection.”

“I’ve always wondered – why did they decide to come out?”

“Mostly because of technology. With the advances in forensic sciences, it was only a matter of time before law enforcement found out about them. It was a matter of survival, and once True Blood was invented, they didn’t have to hide anymore.”

“I guess that makes sense. It was quite a shock to a lot of people. It took some getting used to.”

“Yeah, there’s still a lot of prejudice, but honestly, they’re just like human people in most ways. There are good Vamps and bad Vamps. I’ve been lucky to know some of the really good ones. Bill Compton was the first Vamp I met, and he was basically a good guy. Most people think Eric is a bad guy, and I did, too at first, but then he was… sick for a while and I got to spend time with him where he wasn’t being Big Bad Sheriff Northman and I realized that it’s a role he plays so no one will mess with him. When he’s with me, you couldn’t ask for a sweeter guy.”

“He is very sweet with you. He’s probably much more comfortable in his own home.”

“Yeah, when we’re around other Vampires, of course, he has to be a bad ass, and he’s good at it,” she laughed, “and he lets it be perfectly clear that no one is to mess with me. I wasn’t too nice to him early on, so now I go out of my way to make him look good. I like him to be proud of me.”

“You don’t need to worry about that, hon. He thinks you walk on water and anyone who sees the way he looks at you knows it. I’ve never seen a man so head over heels in love.”

“Aw – thanks. I never thought I’d get married or have a baby. I was kind of an outcast where I lived before. Having Eric’s baby is a dream come true.”

Happy!

“Oops! Somebody’s awake” Sookie laughed.

“Is he kicking?”

“Yeah, feel….” Alicia let Sookie put her hand on the spot where Baby E was kicking and she smiled at her.

“That’s a pretty strong kick!”

“Yeah, he’s gonna be a little bad ass like Daddy, aren’t you, Sweetie?”

He kicked again and made them both laugh. Sookie didn’t tell Alicia, but he sent her Love. Proud. Fight! – the three words he associated with Daddy already.

They got serious then about the Thank You notes and it took hours but they got them done, and Alicia assured Sookie throughout that she was being gracious and grateful, which is what she was trying for. Even the one to Sabrina was done just as sweetly as she possibly could. She didn’t tell Alicia why they skipped the one for the Silver Mine. About half way through the list, Margaret brought Sookie a big bowl of étouffeé and rice. She took a break in the living room to finish it so there was no chance of a spill near the cards. It was heaven. The shrimp were almost as big as Sookie’s palm – they must have cost a fortune, she thought – and they were cooked perfectly. It was spicy, but not too much so, and it was so good she went back to the kitchen for more and Margaret was tickled to death to see her eat that way. Sookie told her this was all she wanted for dinner, too if there was enough and there was. She made a ton and Sookie was glad. While she was eating, Alicia answered the door where one of the guards brought in some screened packages.

“Hello, ma’am, I’m Jerry Kerik – I’m the screener. These should be safe for the Queen to open. These big boxes are safe, too, but you’ll need some men to handle them.”

“Oh, well, thank you. I’ll call the gardener’s men to get them.”

“Could I introduce myself to the Queen, ma’am? The king said he wants us all to recognize her on sight.”

“Oh, of course, come right this way.” She led him into the living room where Sookie was sitting, enjoying her lunch and looking like she owned the place, finally.

“Mrs. Northman, this is Jerry Kerik. He’s the new – screener, was it?”

“Yes, ma’am, I screen your packages for explosives and such.”

“Oh, well, it’s nice to meet you, Jerry. Thank you for doing that for me.” She shook his hand and he was surprised that she offered it.

“It’s my pleasure, ma’am. I just wanted to say hello and let you know we’ve got you covered. Enjoy your lunch.”

“Thanks, it was nice to meet you.” She gave him a big smile and he bowed a little and left.

He went back out to his post in front with the other guard, Harold.

“Did you meet her?”

“Yep – just like everybody said. Princess Diana. She’s sweet and blonde and really friendly. She’s a beautiful girl – I didn’t realize she was so young, but she’s a doll. She’s going to be a very popular Queen if she stays that nice.”

“I worked for Sophie Ann and people liked her, for the most part and she wasn’t mean or anything but I wouldn’t call her nice. I’ve never heard of a sweet, friendly Vampire Queen, have you?”

“No, I haven’t. I hope it doesn’t go to her head. I’d hate to see her lose that sweet manner she has. She actually shook my hand!”

“Does she seem the type?”

“Honestly, no. I think she’ll stay just as sweet as she is. That was not an act – she’s a genuinely nice girl.”

“How’d she end up with Northman? I heard he’s a mean SOB,”

“I don’t know, but I’d like to know his secret, because he’s obviously doing something right.”

Bjorn pulled up then and parked on the street, carrying their lunch over to them.

“Hey, guys – what’s up?” he said, handing their drinks to them from a tray.

“Kerik just met the Queen.”

“Queen Sookie? She’s something else isn’t she?”

“Yes, she was very sweet.”

“Did you check out those legs?”

“No, I didn’t notice that…”

“How could you not? She’s gorgeous!”

“I’d watch that kind of talk if I were you. I’ve heard things about the king… there’s no proof or anything, but if half the rumors are true, you don’t want to be on his bad side.”

“What rumors?”

“The rumor is that before they got married she dated a Were-tiger…”

“You mean Quinn?”

‘Yeah, that’s him. He went missing right before they got married.”

“They think he did it?”

“Like I said, there’s no proof, but they say there was seriously bad blood between them over her.”

“There’s probably no connection,” Bjorn said dismissively.

“Yeah, well while they were at his palace in Vegas for their wedding, they say de Castro tried to force himself on her, and he went missing within a couple of days and the two of them moved to a hotel on the strip. That was less than 2 weeks ago and now he’s got Felipe’s entire kingdom. I’m telling you man, fuck with that guy, or his girl, at your peril.”

“They think he pulled a coup?” Bjorn wanted to know the whole story.

“No, they think he killed a guy who fucked with that girl. The fact that he was king was secondary. Then when the Council went to declare de Castro dead at their wedding reception at Fangtasia, Felipe’s second in command tried to object and Northman sliced his head off in front of all of Area 5.”

“Why would they announce that at his reception? Who did it?”

“The Ancient Pythoness. She performed their wedding, too. She said it was the will of the Council. Rumor is, the Queen has a relative on the Council or who soon will be.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah, seriously. I wouldn’t let that guy catch you looking at her too long. He’s connected and he’s not afraid of anything if he’d kill Victor Madden in front of everybody like that.”

“Victor Madden? Northman is the guy who did that?”

“Yep, and didn’t care who saw him.”

“If the Council is behind it…”

“… then he’s fucking untouchable. Anybody who fucks with him is a dead man, and messing with her equals fucking with him. Also, be careful what you think around her.”

“What I think? Why?”

The other guy, Harold, chimed in now. “Oh, yeah, I heard about that – she’s a telepath. She knows what you’re thinking. They say it’s a little harder for her where Weres are concerned, and she can’t do it at all with Vampires, but she can read a human’s mind like listening to a radio.”

“That can’t be true.” Bjorn argued.

Kerik continued: “Did you hear about the bombing of the Pyramid of Giza in Rhodes? About the two telepaths that saved all those lives?”

“That was her?”

“Yep. I hear she saved de Castro’s life once, too, when one of Sophie Ann’s guys tried to get revenge. She had protection from de Castro’s kingdom for that. De Castro should have protected himself from Northman. He’d still be alive if he hadn’t tried to take her from him. There are stories about that baby, too.”

“I thought Vamps couldn’t have kids.”

“All anyone knows is that Niall Brigant made it happen but it is definitely Northman’s kid.”

“Why would an old Faerie do that?”

“Nobody is sure, but the rumor is that she’s his granddaughter or something.”

“Seriously? She doesn’t seem like a Faerie…”

“She’s only an eighth or a quarter or something. Anyway, they say the baby is touched by the gods.”

“Bull shit.”

“All I know is there’s big magick going on around the King and Queen and if you’re smart you’ll do your job and shut the fuck up. He’s known for paying well and being pretty generous and cool with the people that work for him, but he shows no mercy to an enemy. You do not want to be on that mother fucker’s bad side if you want to live.”

“That stuff can’t all be true.” Anderson wasn’t buying it.

“Ask her,” Kerik challenged him.

“Ask her what – did her old man off Quinn and de Castro? Even if it were true, she wouldn’t admit it. Hell, she might not even know it. They say there’s no trace of either of them. They just vanished.” Harold pointed out.

“Ask her about Rhodes, then. See if she’s not one of the telepaths. Somebody told me she saved a lot of lives that day, Northman’s included. They say she went back in to get him.”

“That little girl went back into an exploding building to save that big fucking Vamp?”

“From what they say, she’s not afraid of anything, either. Do you know what a blood bond is?”

“No – is it a Vampire thing?”

“Yeah, see, once a couple has exchanged their blood 3 times, it creates a mystical bond where they can feel what the other is feeling. If she’s horny, he knows it.”

“I never heard of anything like that.”

“I’ve heard of it.” Harold said. “It’s really rare. They say a thousand year old Vampire will only bond once or twice in their whole life. Are they blood-bonded?”

“Yep, that’s supposedly how she knew about the attack on de Castro. Siegbert- you heard of him?”

“Yeah” Harold and Bjorn said together.

“They thought he was killed when de Castro pulled his coup against Sophie Ann, but he escaped. He had Northman and de Castro tied up and getting ready to torture them, and she came back and ran over him with a car, backed up and ran over him again. It was enough to stop him long enough for her to let Northman loose and he killed the guy. They say she found them because of the blood-bond with Northman. She knew through the bond he was in trouble and she had to save him. She had no choice. It compels them to do things like that for each other. That’s why you don’t want to mess with her. He’ll know it and if he knows it, you’re dead.”

“Is that why they’re so close? I saw them together and they seem crazy about each other. I don’t get it on her part, but they do,” Bjorn remembered.

“Damn near made for each other is what I hear. Where else you gonna find a woman that would go through all that danger and still smile at the guy who got her into it. She was nearly famous before they got married. Now that she’s Queen, everyone will know her and most of them will love her.”

“You make her sound like a Witch.” Bjorn said.

“I don’t know exactly what she is, man, but I know what I’ve heard about her old man, and that’s all I need to know. She doesn’t look it, but to live through all of that and do what people swear she has done, she has to be as tough as he is.”

“They have wild sex, too.” Harold added.

“How the fuck do you know that?” Bjorn didn’t like hearing that, though she’d said enough for him to know it was true.

“My buddy worked the night shift last night and the night before, and he said you could hear them outside. They got shot at Monday night and when they got home, she fucked his brains out and the guys out here could hear it all. She may be a lady in the living room but she’s a wild cat in the sack. That was the night he killed Madden, too. Most women would have been a basket case after a night like that, but they said she was loud and begging for more. That rumor about her not being afraid of anything has got to be true. It almost seems like the danger turns her on.”

“She said something…” Bjorn stopped himself.

“What’d she say?”

“Let’s just say the lady knows what to do with a good adrenaline rush.”

Sookie came out the front door and they shut up.

“Hey, guys, have y’all had lunch? We’ve got lots of shrimp étouffeé if you’d like a bowl. Hey, Bjorn. I met Jerry, but I don’t know you – I’m Sookie.” She offered her hand to Harold, who was standing with his mouth open but recovered enough to shake her hand.

“I’m Harold, ma’am”

“Nice to meet you, Harold. Like I said, we’ve got plenty if you want…”

“No, ma’am, thanks, but we’ve already got our lunch.” Kerik said.

“Well, OK, I just wanted to offer and make sure I introduced myself. I guess you all will be regulars in the day time?”

“Yes, ma’am, mostly” Kerik said.

“Well, OK, then, I’ll see you later.” Sookie bounced back into the house, determined to finish those thank you cards before dark.

“Damn!” Harold said.

“Yeah.” Bjorn agreed.

“She’s a sweet girl, I told you,” Kerik said. “Look but don’t touch and make sure you don’t get caught looking or you’ll end up like Victor Madden or vanish from the face of the earth like Quinn and de Castro and god knows how many others. I can’t wait to get a look at the King.”

“I met him last night. He’s about six and a half feet tall, with long blond hair. He looks about 30 years old, but obviously he’s not. He basically threatened me.”

“No shit?” Harold said.

“What did he say?” Kerik figured he’d better know what was going on, just in case.

“He spoke to me in Swedish so I don’t think she understood it. He said anybody who touches her dies. I could just take it that he was telling me my job, but the way he said it, it was a threat as well as an order.”

“You need to think seriously about whether you really want this job, then. He’s already pegged you as a potential threat. Like I said, you do not want to be on that guy’s bad side. People who piss him off have a tendency to disappear… or get beheaded in fucking public.”

Bjorn was thinking about what he said. He had worked for Victor Madden for a while but he didn’t owe him any loyalty. He wondered why Sabrina thought he should try for this job. There had to be an angle – there was ALWAYS an angle where Sabrina was concerned. She didn’t pay well like Northman did but the fringe benefits were awesome when she was in the mood, and Sabrina was always in the mood. Too bad she was mad as a hatter. He wasn’t up for that brand of crazy as a steady diet, so he never worked for her on a permanent basis, though she’d offered many times. This job paid really well and had one very beautiful fringe benefit but thinking about that might get a guy killed. He thought he really lucked out when the guy offered to give him 25% up front. Now he was obligated to stay for at least 6 months. That was the contract, and he’d already used the money to get himself out of a jam. So why did he feel like he just jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire?

When Sookie got done with the last thank you note, she was exhausted, but she knew she still had a lot to do.

“Is everything ready for my dinner guest tomorrow night?” Sookie asked.

“Everything will be perfect by then. The things you got yesterday are spread out on the bed in the yellow guest room the way Mr. Northman suggested, and of course the men are still upstairs working on the packages you got today.”

“What were they? Stuff for the nursery?”

“The large two, yes. The other smaller packages are still there for you to open.”

“OK, let’s do that.”

Alicia brought the three small packages in. One was about the size of a book, and when Sookie opened it it turned out to be an ornate emerald and diamond necklace.”

“Oohh! That will match your earrings.” Alicia said.

“Yes and that’s another card I need to write out. Can you start a second list, please?”

While Alicia did that, Sookie opened package number two – ruby and diamond chandelier earrings.”

“Those will be perfect with your Marie Antoinette ring and your engagement ring. You might not even need a necklace with these, especially if you wear your hair up.”

Alicia added those to the new list.

“And behind door number three…” Sookie was really tired now, “a baby bracelet with something on the front and Northman on the back? Do boy babies wear jewelry?”

“Baby Princes might. Isn’t that the royal seal we’ve been putting on everything today?”

“Oh, yeah. That’s weird – who is this from?”

“”Niall Brigant” – anyone you know?”

“Yes, and there’s no need to send a card because I’ll thank him tomorrow night when he’s here for dinner. I wonder why he didn’t just bring it? He’d better not cancel on me!”

“Is there anything in the box – a note or something?”

Sookie shook the box and a small note fell out.

“See you at 8 tomorrow, Dear One. Love, Grandpa Niall.”

“Oh, he’s your grandfather?”

“Great grandfather, yeah, but I haven’t known him very long. He’s sort of responsible for Eric’s new position.”

“Oh? How is that?”

“I’m not exactly sure – all I know is he decided I should be Queen and made it happen. It’s complicated. I don’t understand all the political stuff, but he and Eric do, so I just let them fight it out.”

“Do they like each other?”

“Not really. They don’t trust each other, but they both love me in their own ways so they’re stuck with each other.”

“He must like Eric somewhat if he helped him?”

“I don’t know – I think he helped him because in his mind he was helping me. I haven’t known him very long, and he tends to step into my life in ways I’m not used to.”

“You know, dear, when people get very old, they sometimes have a sense of their own mortality and try to make things right with the people around them that they’ve hurt or disappointed before it’s too late.”

“I never thought of that. You think he might have done it to take care of me? Like he might not be around but Eric will so he made sure Eric would stay with me?”

“Maybe. Didn’t you say Eric was a good choice?”

“Yeah, he is, not just as King but where I’m concerned, too. If you were going to look in my life for the person best suited to take care of me and protect me, it would easily be Eric.”

“So even if Eric wasn’t his first choice, he was his best option for making sure you’d be taken care of.”

“Yeah, I guess that’s true.”

Leroy came down the stairs and peaked into the office.

“Hi, Mrs. Northman, we just wanted to let you know we set everything up and we’ve got all the trash out of the nursery, so you’re all set. Have a nice evening.”

“Thanks, Leroy, I really appreciate it! Alicia – let’s go see!” Sookie and Alicia headed up to the nursery to see what they put together.

“Oh, this is so cute!” Sookie said when she saw the new Sleigh crib and the matching sleigh co-sleeper.

“What is this one, exactly?” Alicia asked pointing to the smaller crib on wheels.”

“They call it a co-sleeper. It attaches to the side of my bed so I can reach the baby easily for breast feeding, but he’s not in the bed so I can’t roll over on him.”

“Well, that’s handy. I wish they’d had those when I had my kids! I didn’t know you were going to breastfeed. That’s much healthier for the baby.”

“With this baby I don’t really have a choice. The doctor says he’s going to need what only my body can give him.”

“I’m with doctor on that one. A good part of a child’s immune system comes from the first pre-milk the baby takes in.”

“I didn’t know that. That’s good, though, I’m glad. I read that it makes you bond quicker with the baby, though I don’t think that will be a problem.”

“I don’t think it will either. That child is not going to lack for any love. His father is already bragging about him.”

“I know, it’s so sweet. He was bragging about him to his partner in the bar the other night, and these are people that have no interest in babies at all, but he bored them with it anyway.”

“Wait until he has pictures to show…”

“I know. You know, I don’t know if he has a camera or not. I’ll have to ask him.”

“I’d be surprised if he didn’t. So now you’ve got the crib and the changing table – what else are you waiting for?”

“A big storage unit, a glider and an ottoman is the furniture. Then there’s a bunch of bedding and things like that. I ordered red curtains to brighten the room since the wood is so dark, and they’ll match the Dr. Seuss bedding. That was why I bought those three red crib sheets – I figured they would get changed a lot.”

“What kind of fabric is the glider and ottoman set?”

“Denim. I thought it would be easy to clean. I didn’t want anything too fussy – I think a baby should be able to be a baby, you know?”

“My experience is that babies will be babies no matter how much you try to dress them up.” Alicia laughed.

Sookie looked at a pile of the stuff she bought shoved in the corner. “So, we need to start putting this in order, right?”

“Right. Let’s start with this…”

And they worked until after dark, organizing and planning and talking about what they still needed for the baby.

“Hello, ladies.” Eric was in the doorway, smiling at them.

Sookie jumped over to him and threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. “Isn’t it sweet?” She pointed at the crib “It looks almost like a dragon ship.”

Eric laughed. “Is that why you chose it?”

“Of course!” She laughed.

“What is the little one for?” He asked and she told him about the co-sleeper and how it attached to the side of their bed.

“So he will sleep in our room sometimes?”

“Yeah, if that’s OK, just when he’s real small and needs to be fed often.”

“I told you, Sookie, where I am from, families all slept together in one space. He can stay with us as long as you wish, whenever you wish. So this keeps the baby close, but safe? That’s a very good idea.”

He bent down and looked at the little crib, seeing how the side could be lowered so the baby is right next to mama.

“I have read about families in modern times who do “co-sleeping” or they also call it a “family bed,” and the primary argument against it seems to be that the baby might be crushed or suffocated. This solves that problem while he is very small. Yes, I like this very much, Sookie. He should be within reach of his mother when he is small. I told you he will want to feed often and this way you won’t have to get up to attend to him. It will soothe both of you to be so close, and they say babies are much more secure and happy if they are fed quickly when they are hungry. It helps them learn to trust that they will be cared for when they are in need and only you can do that for him.”

“I never heard of a family bed…. I guess you’ve been on the internet again?”

“Of course. I want to know everything I can before he is born so I am prepared.”

“I’ve read about co-sleeping, too.” Alicia said. “It’s somewhat controversial, but he’s right, this is a good solution. When the baby is very small, they recommend feeding every two hours, or some mothers will feed “on demand.””

“On demand?” Sookie thought she knew what that meant but wasn’t quite sure.

“Yes – whenever the baby wants, rather than on a schedule”

“That would be best. I would prefer you do that for him, my Angel.” Eric said. “Yes, Sookie, this was a very good choice. And I like this bigger crib, too. He will be master of his own little ship,” he laughed. “This room is beginning to take shape. Is there more furniture to come?”

“Yes, there’s a chair and ottoman so you or I can sit and rock him, and a big storage unit some of this stuff will go in. There are still a few things we need, but it’s stuff I could get at Walmart or or anyplace like that – just t-shirts and diapers and little things like that. And of course there will be red curtains and some really cute bedding in bright colors that goes in the crib. Oh, and I still have some gift certificates to spend.”

“This child won’t want for anything.” Alicia laughed.

“That is good. I want him to have everything to make him healthy and happy. I am very happy to see you working on this so enthusiastically, Sookie. I’m sure he appreciates it,” he winked at her. “You are already a good mother, and it will only get better when you can hold him in your arms.” He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on top of her head.

“Yeah, we’ll see how good I am when I haven’t slept in a couple of months,” she said wistfully.

He kept his arms wrapped around her. “If need be, you can sleep at night and I will stay with him. I won’t leave you to do this alone, Sookie. I promise I will be an active participant. We will be very close, he and I. I will rock him when he cries and play with him and even change his diaper when I must. I intend to enjoy every minute of his short infancy. We have been given a great gift and I intend to make the most of it. These will be the best years of my long life, watching him grow.”

“Hey, that reminds me – do you have a camera? We’ll want lots of pictures.”

“Yes, I have one somewhere, but I’ll buy you a good one of your own that will be very easy to use. I was thinking a video camera would be a good idea, too.”

“That would be nice – you’d have a permanent record for years to come.” Alicia added.

“Yes – I never want to forget.” Eric said, almost to himself. Sookie hugged him tightly. “What are these boxes here?” he asked, indicating the closet.

“That’s a portable crib and a portable high chair for when we travel. I figured we’d be going to New Orleans and Las Vegas a lot and we’d need some baby stuff that was easy to take with us.”

“Good planning. Sandy is investigating the possibility of moving our headquarters to the Bellagio as we’d discussed. She had the same idea. My predecessor was apparently far too extravagant for the good of his territories.”

“They were pleased when Mrs. Northman cut the budget on the Sheriff’s Ball this morning.” Alicia told him.

“How did you do that, Sookie?”

“Some of the stuff they had was just too much – Iranian caviar and French champagne. I told them to incorporate more American varieties and brands to make it more colorful and support American products and they said that put them back within the budget for the event. Felipe had gone way over. I also made a few other changes – you don’t mind do you?”

“The changes she made were very good.” Alicia assured him, “I was surprised how much she knew about throwing a good party. She came up with things I would never have thought of and the Las Vegas office was very pleased.”

“I knew she would be a natural at this – being a good hostess comes naturally to my little Southern Belle. She’s always thinking of other people’s comfort.” He said proudly.

“Don’t let me forget – we need to confirm attendance at a fundraiser in New Orleans on July 3rd. It’s a big deal with lots of Hollywood people and they said they’ll raise a lot more money for the reconstruction if we’re there. Apparently Vampire royalty is all the rage these days.”

Eric looked worried for a second and looked toward Alicia. “Oh, it’s OK, Sweetie, she knows. I got some faxes this morning that used my title and I had to explain it to her, so she’s on board, right Alicia?”

“Right. We’ll do everything we can to make you look good to your subjects.” She smiled.

“Thank you, Alicia.” He was relieved. “Naturally I’ll adjust your salary to account for your new responsibilities and you let me know if you need me to hire more help.”

“Thanks for that. So far we’re fine. We did pretty well today, didn’t we, dear?” She winked at Sookie.

“Yes, we did. Alicia can type and use the fax machine and she knew how those fancy thank you cards and royal seals worked AND she already arranged to have dress samples brought to the house for my ball gown. Oh and I met some of the security guys today – which reminds me. I want some more étouffeé! Let’s go have dinner!”

“Good idea. You’ve worked enough for the day. There will be more to do tomorrow, now doubt. You still have many packages on the way, I am sure.” He laughed.

They all went down to the kitchen, Alicia stopping off in Sookie’s office to check for faxes, and there was one from Bruce Dunlop asking for confirmation of a couple of details for the Sheriff’s Ball. Sookie approved most of the items, but not all, that he asked about and Alicia returned the fax. Eric was impressed with how self-assured Sookie was in handling that. She had a clear sense of what she liked and didn’t like.

Margaret was all smiles when she served Sookie a big bowl of étouffeé and brought them both a blood.

“There’s a message from Mr. Compton that he and Bobbie will be here in time for dinner tomorrow – will they be joining you and your guest?” Alicia asked, knowing Margaret needed to know.

“Could they, Eric? I’d like that.”

“You are the hostess, my dear. If you want them there, that is your choice. Alicia can you send them a message that we will have dinner at 8 o’clock and that Niall Brigant will be joining us? Bill will want to know.”

“Alicia, as you come back will you bring the bracelet Niall sent for the baby?”

“Of course, Mrs. Northman. I’ll be right back.”

“Bracelet? For a boy?”

“It’s solid gold, has the royal seal on one side and says Northman on the other. It’s cute, but it’s kind of like he’s branding the baby, don’t you think?”

“Niall is thinking of the rings royals often wear. Rather than have a tiny one made for a baby, he had a bracelet made. I’m sure he will provide a ring for him at some point in the future. Niall has a lot invested in making our son a Prince.”

Alicia came back in with the little box, handing it to Eric.

“This is very good quality. It’s beautifully made. We will save it for more official occasions when he is to be presented to others.” Eric said, “Like his Wiccaning or formal occasions when he attends with us.”

“OK – what’s a Wiccaning and why would we take a baby to a formal occasion?”

“A Wiccaning is a kind of blessing ceremony where the baby is named and the parents take vows to protect he child. A local coven has offered to host one for our son and I had to accept. It will be a lovely ceremony – you’ll love it and Bobbie and Amelia will be over the moon, literally. And we might take a baby to a formal Vampire event because he is unique and many people will be interested in meeting him. He may be the first Vampire Prince in history. Everyone will be greatly interested in his progress. He’ll be a bit of a celebrity in our world. Actually, his mother already is, from what I hear.” He smiled at her.

“What does that mean?” Sookie asked as Alicia came back into the room.

“You are being compared in some quarters to Princess Diana – young, beautiful, gracious. People are very anxious to meet you, my dear. Las Vegas is buzzing about you.”

Alicia laughed, delighted “That’s very appropriate, actually. She probably will be a very popular Queen. That’s why the guards wanted to meet you today. People want to see their new Diana. They’ve all heard how sweet you are.”

“Aren’t most Queens popular?”

“No, most Vampire Queens are bitches. Some are loved, but few are adored. You, however, are adorable.” He laughed. “You may be quite the sensation, my Angel. No doubt everyone has heard how gracious you were Monday night and they’re excited at the prospect. They’ll be putting your image on souvenir plates,” He teased her, absolutely beaming at her.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Not at all. Sandy said everyone in Las Vegas is looking forward to seeing their new Queen. I told her they would meet you on the 22nd and they are all excited. You may get quite the reception.”

“Do they know I’m not Vampire?”

“My Angel, I’d say they know everything about you. You have been a key player in some major events in recent years. Remember the reaction of the crowd when Felipe mentioned the role you played in the Rhodes bombing? You were already a heroine to many people. Important people are still alive because of you. Now that you are Queen and have been so gracious to people already, you will be beloved. You will receive many gifts and invitations, and our son will be lavished with attention and gifts. There will be great celebration throughout our kingdom when he is born.”

“I better not see anybody wearing a Baby E t-shirt,” she laughed.

“More like a Prince Eric t-shirt. We are naming him Eric, are we not?”

“Yeah, I knew that would be your first choice and it’s fine with me. Do you want to add anything to his name, like a middle name or initial or something?”

“I was thinking about Alexander.”

“Eric Alexander Northman? I like that!” She looked at Alicia, who nodded and smiled proudly. It was a good strong name.

“Yes, it means “a ruler who defends his people.” Both names are common for Kings and men of valor. Then we can call him Alex or Xander, whichever you prefer, and there won’t be any Big Eric, Little Eric confusion. Though I may call him Alvar.”

“What does Alvar mean?”

“Elfin Warrior.”

“So that would be like a nickname?”

“Yes. Something between father and son – when he is older.”

“OK, I can handle that as a nickname and I really like Eric Alexander.”

“Excuse me, Missus – would you like more étouffeé?”

“Yes, believe it or not, I would” Sookie laughed. “How do you like the name, Margaret?”

“I didn’t hear it. What is it?”

“Eric Alexander Northman.”

“Oh, that’s beautiful. It sounds like a very strong and intelligent man.”

“I agree.” Eric said, smiling. He didn’t say anything, but he was glad Sookie liked it because he was absolutely set on that name for a very specific reason. He hoped it would be prophetic and he would be a good King who took good care of his people. A child touched by the gods would most certainly be a defender or deliverer. Eric thought perhaps there would be war with the FOTS or some other army or organization in the future that his son would fight to defend his people. His son would have honor and be a warrior. He knew this with every fiber of his being.

Alicia excused herself for the evening and Margaret was closing up the kitchen, leaving more dinner in the refrigerator if Sookie wanted it later. She was very pleased she got Sookie to eat so much that day. She’d have her and that baby plumped up nicely in no time.

Eric and Sookie got their calendars, met in the bedroom, sat on the bed and synchronized them. Eric leaned his back against the headboard and Sookie sat cross-legged facing him. Eric was very interested in the New Orleans event, so Sookie would confirm that the next day and he added it to his book.

“We have a lot to do in New Orleans. Madden did nothing from what Bill tells me.”

“You’re kidding – shouldn’t that stuff be almost done now?”

“Bill says it is barely started. He believes Victor was stealing from Felipe and not doing the work he was getting money for. He said you wouldn’t believe how lavishly Madden was living. He also said that his house was ready to receive them when they arrived and that no one was surprised or saddened that he was dead. It was as if they all knew he wasn’t coming back.”

“They knew? And they let him come up here?”

“Exactly. It’s as if Felipe’s organization was in on it.”

“Why would they do that?”

“Felipe was about to bankrupt both kingdoms and Victor was stealing and not doing what was needed to meet the needs of their subjects. Greedy kings who neglect those who depend on them don’t live long if people know what they are doing.”

“Who knew?”

“I’m pretty sure it was Sandy. My question is whether she approached the Council or they approached her and what part Niall had in it all. There were apparently some intense negotiations going on at the highest levels and somehow I came out on top. It would be better if I knew why, so I can be sure they won’t get rid of me.”

“They wouldn’t go to all this trouble just to get rid of you, would they?”

“I don’t know. Until I know otherwise, I must function as if it is a possibility.”

“Will Niall know?”

“Probably, but he may not tell me. Or he may tell me part of it, or tell it in a way he thinks I will want to hear it. When we had our dinner with him, he told me this could take a decade, yet it has only been 17 days since he told me what must happen.”

“It has to have been longer than that?”

“No, we met him for dinner on May 18. Today is June 4th. They have been very eventful weeks to be sure, but we are only in the middle of the third week. You told me you were pregnant one month ago tomorrow.”

“It feels like that was 6 months ago.”

“Yes, it does. It is as if time is compressed… or extended.”

“Is that possible?”

“Yes, it is. Ask Bobbie or Amelia about that. Time is flexible and there are those who can manipulate it. I have no doubt Niall is one of those, but I still feel that there is a higher force behind all of this.”

“How directly could Freyja be involved in this?”

“She could literally be pulling our puppet’s strings. It would be nothing for Her to arrange all of this.”

“Would she do that?”

“Possibly.”

“Why?”

“For you. For me. For the baby. For any combination of us. For the people in these kingdoms.”

“For Niall?”

“Yes, but I can’t imagine it. I think it’s more likely Niall would be doing Her bidding.”

“Why would he do that?”

“I think to get himself on the Council. Why he would want that, I don’t know, but there is great prestige and power, and a good deal of wealth involved and it would pass down to our son eventually.”

“It would?”

“Yes, it would and the Council answers only to the gods.”

“Are they favored by the gods?”

“To an extent, yes.”

“Do people ever meet the gods for real, the way you meet a real person?”

“Oh, yes, my Lover, they are as real and substantial as anything.”

“Have you ever met Freyja for real?”

“Yes, a long time ago.”

“And?”

“I have to be honest because of our bond, Sookie. We were Lovers.”

“You actually had sex with Freyja.”

“Literally and in other ways.”

“What do you mean?

“There have been times when she would come into the body of a woman I was with as we were fucking and I would be with both of them that way.”

“Has She done that with me?”

“No. I don’t think She has to.”

“What do you mean.”

“You told me the other day that you think you have heard Freyja’s voice your whole life, did you not?”

“Yes, and I have.”

“Did it ever occur to you that the voice was your own?”

“What?”

“An older wiser part of you that seemed to be watching you live this life?

“That’s what I thought it was growing up but now I know it’s Freyja”

“I believe that is one and the same, Sookie. The gods sometimes take human form by manifesting their qualities in a human being. Dionysus does it all the time – Jim Morrison, for example, or Brian Jones, lots of musicians are manifestations of Dionysus.”

“So they’re Dionysus? Did they know that?”

“Some do – Morrison famously knew, but most are unaware. Dionysus in particular does not age so they often die before they reach awareness.”

“So they are but they don’t necessarily know it.”

“Yes.”

“And if they know it, do they have everything – the powers or knowledge or whatever – the god or Goddess has?”

“No, there are limitations in taking on a human body. Only a part of the power can manifest, so you have Witches or prophets or other god-touched individuals.”

“So you think I’m a manifestation of Freyja and that makes me a Witch.”

“Yes.”

“So am I having a baby or is She?”

“There is no “you or She” there is only She and you are She.”

“If I were Freyja, wouldn’t I tell myself?”

“You might speak to yourself as you did as a child, or you might visit yourself in dreams or visions.”

“But She did and She is…”

“Because you ARE.”

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