“Mrs. Northman? Time to drink.”
“Oh, thanks, Alicia, how are you today?” Even half-asleep, Sookie was polite, and that made Alicia proud of her.
“I’m fine today, dear. Have a good night last night?”
“It was amazing.”
“I thought so.” Alicia had found their clothing in the back yard and one of the guards snickered and shook his head when he saw her picking them up. She didn’t have to ask. Eric knew when he left them that Alicia or Margaret would take care of them and put them back in their closet as good as new. They had been warned long ago that there would be signs of sex frequently, so they just cleaned it up and rarely acknowledged it. They had no idea how really wild and rough the sex was, of course, so they thought it was sweet that they were so in love. “I’ll see you in two hours, dear.”
The 9 and 11 feedings were uneventful, Sookie barely waking up, but at 1:00 Alicia brought breakfast because she was concerned Sookie was skipping the third meal of the night again. Their lifestyle made it hard for her to get fed, and she would be glad when Bobbie was here to keep after her. She also thought that they were supposed to be checking Sookie’s blood pressure, but only Bobbie knew how to do that. She was very glad Bobbie would be back tomorrow and she was seriously thinking about asking Mr. Northman not to give her more than one day off at a time from this point forward. She had a feeling Eric didn’t understand what blood pressure meant, or he would be more intent about that, and she was working on a way to gently mention to him that it was very important to prevent complications or even a stroke. He had the night off tonight so she was planning to make sure she talked to him before she left because he probably wouldn’t be rushing out the door, but he would for the next week or so.
Sookie wolfed down the rare steak and fried potatoes, grape juice, Texas toast and strawberry jam, put on her suit, grabbed her iPod and headed for the pool. Bjorn was out back talking to one of the other guards as she came out and she gave him a big smile and a wave, grabbing her mattress from the rack and setting up her iPod. She was in the water when he came over and sat down, and Alicia brought him a glass of tea. They were already adapting to the routine, and Bjorn wouldn’t admit it to anyone but he was looking forward to his talk with Sookie. He thought he was about to get control of the Sookie Syndrome he had been suffering from but when he got over to the pool, he smelled sex and that didn’t help matters.
“So, Bjorn, did you and Felicia hit it off last night?”
“Yes, she’s a great girl. She’s got such pretty skin and her eyes are an unusual color. She’s really nice and easy to talk to.”
“What’d you all do last night after the bar closed.”
“Uhh – we went to her place.”
“That’s nice. I hope you both had fun.”
“Yeah, we had a good time – I’m going to see her again tonight after work.”
“Oh, that’s so cool. She’s a nice girl. She’s worked at Fangtasia almost a year now and she’s one of Eric’s favorites, though he’d never actually say that. He can always count on her to take an extra shift if he needs her and she’s one of only three that he trusts to shut down the club, the other two being Vincent and Pam.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that. I was wondering why he introduced me to her, but I’m really glad he did. She’s going to take me some places around town and she introduced me to several people around the club last night. I think I met your brother.”
“Jason? He was supposed to be there with Pam because they were leaving for Hawaii from her house, but I never saw him.”
“Yeah, he seemed nice enough, but he’s always hitting on every female around, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, he’s a hound dog. Did he hit on Felicia in front of you?”
“Yeah, I don’t think he knows how to talk to a girl without hitting on her.”
“That’s about right. Maybe that’s why he hardly ever talks to me,” she laughed.
“Eric doesn’t like him?”
“No, he doesn’t. He has some old fashioned ideas about how men should treat women and he thinks Jason should have supported me instead of letting me work in a bar.”
“I agree with him.”
“Yes. You aren’t tough enough to be handling rednecks in a bar. I know you had friends there but from what Pam and Jason said, you needed to be home with your Grandmother, not waiting tables.”
“I did OK – Sam, the bar owner, always looked out for me.”
“Jason said Sam was interested in you.”
“Well, yeah, maybe, but he was nice to me. He helped me out a lot when I needed it with some Were stuff.”
“The Pack war you got involved in? You’re famous for that, too, you know.”
“Too? What do you mean?”
“Everybody knows you. The Pyramid of Giza bombing, Pack wars, Witch wars, now you’re Queen. You’ve been a busy lady,” he teased her.
“Yeah, people say I’m a trouble magnet. I just end up in weird places, I guess. I don’t go looking for it.”
“I think it might be the men in your life.”
“Maybe, but it all worked out for the best, so it was worth it.”
“That’s a good attitude to have. So you left really early?”
“No, we were there for a while, but we were in the Love Nest.”
“The Love Nest? Is that the kink room in the basement I heard about?”
“Yeah, probably. It’s awesome.”
“Really? What’s it like? I heard it mentioned but no one described it.”
“It rocks. The walls are black, the ceiling is bright red. There’s a huge round mattress on a wooden platform with all kinds of things attached to it, and there’s a refrigerator, a microwave, a big chair for Eric at the end of the bed and a bathroom.”
“What kinds of things are attached to the platform?”
“Like cuffs and stuff for tying people up. There’s some other stuff but I don’t know what it’s for. I’m still learning. ”
“Really? And Eric has a chair down there – why? – so he can watch?”
“And you know all about this and you’re OK with it?”
“I wouldn’t say I know all about it. I just know a little about it. I’ve only used it twice, but it was always fun. I’m sure I don’t know half of what’s gone on down there. I get Eric to tell me little bits, but I think he’s telling me slowly so I don’t freak out.”
“Are you worried about the stuff he doesn’t want to tell you?”
“No, because it’s in the past, and we’ll find out together what I like and what I don’t. He knows what I like better than I do half the time, anyway. He’s so smart about everything.”
“He likes to show you off…”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Doesn’t that bother you?”
“It did at first, but I finally understand it. I used to think it was demeaning, or something like that, but he said it’s because he can and no one else is allowed. They can look but only he can touch. He likes to show his dominance.”
“Yes, that’s the impression I got. Do you like to be submissive?”
“He says I do, and so far everything he tells me to do turns out really great, so I guess I do. He said I was dominant the other night, though.”
“Really?” Bjorn was dying to ask and just praying she’d tell him what she did to him. Everybody was always pumping him for information about the King and Queen because they knew he’d been spending days out back talking to her. He didn’t dare ask but he wasn’t above seeing if he can get her to make one of her little slips. She was so unselfconscious that she would make those revealing little slips and then blush. As much as he was determined not to be attracted to her, he still loved to see her blush.
“Do you ever do that? Be dominant?”
“You never let anybody else do it?”
“No, I’m always a top.”
“What’s a top? The dominant one?”
“Yes. The submissive is called a bottom.”
“I guess that makes sense. I’ve got a lot to learn still.”
“Are you sure? Maybe you know more than you think you do?”
“No, I’m pretty sure I’m still learning – like Bobbie told me how to do something the other day that never even occurred to me, but it’s awesome because I can make Eric scream and squirm around – it’s so cool.”
“I must not know it either, because nobody ever made me scream.”
“Aw – maybe Felicia knows it? Vamps seem to know so much more about sex than people do – not that I know anything about sex with regular people.”
“You never had sex with anyone but a Supe?
“No, just two Vamps and a were-tiger…. well, technically, 3 Vamps now.”
“The girl is number three?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know if she counts as a whole other one, though because she’s like part of Eric.”
“You mean Pam?”
“Shhh – don’t tell anybody, OK, that’s just between you and me.”
“Oh, I won’t tell a soul.” No, he thought, I’ll just be haunted the rest of my life with pictures of you fucking Pam… and Eric. What a lucky son of a bitch. All at once he flashed on an image of Sookie and Pam on the round bed and Eric sitting at the end of the bed in a big chair. Holy FUCK! And what he heard about last night…! “Wait a minute – does that mean Pam has been with you AND your brother?”
“It kinda turned out that way, yeah, but they got together after.”
“After you and the King?”
“Yeah, but he wasn’t the King then, of course.”
You couldn’t prove that by Bjorn – as far as he was concerned Eric was definitely the King of something. Holy shit.
“Would you ever.., never mind.”
“It’s none of my business.”
“Go ahead and ask me – we’re friends. If I don’t want to answer it, I just won’t.”
“Would you ever… be with Pam, again?”
“I’m pretty sure I will. I think she liked it.”
“And you liked it?”
“Oh, yeah, it was fun – and it was my idea, Eric just went along with it for me. And Eric was really happy, you know, seeing his two girls getting along. He said that will make his life a lot easier if we like each other.”
“I can imagine it would.” ‘Please, please don’t let me need to stand up right now’ he thought. If he ever had any doubts about Sookie being a Goddess, they were gone. She was every bit as lusty as Freya. Holy shit. And she was completely open about it, but then she still seems so innocent. She had to be Goddess-touched.
Alicia came out with a bottle of blood for Sookie, which she drank in no time and asked for another, which Alicia went back in for,
“Does your brother know?”
“You know, I don’t know? He never said anything if he does, and I’m pretty sure he would say something.”
“Most guys would, I think.”
“Yeah, but Jason wouldn’t let it stop him from getting laid, anyway.”
‘Must run in the family,’ he thought. Alicia came back out then with another blood, and she left it with Sookie to sip on.
“So Eric and your brother never…”
“Oh, god, no – it’s all I can do to keep Eric from killing Jason. If he ever hits me again, he said he will kill him no matter what I say – he said it to Jason, too.”
“That guy hit you?” Eric might not be the only one her brother needed to worry about. Bjorn wasn’t going to put up with anybody beating on Sookie, either, and not just because he was her bodyguard.
“He was really upset because my Grandmother was murdered and it was kind of my fault.”
“How was it your fault?”
“This guy that we all thought was our friend turned out to be a serial killer and he killed girls who slept with Vampires, starting with his own sister! He thought I would be alone in the house and broke in, but then Gran was home alone and he killed her. I should have been there instead,” she said a little bit sadly, and it broke his heart.
“Sookie, if he ever hits you again, Eric won’t be the only one he has to worry about. If anybody hurts you, I’ll kill them and not because it’s my job, but because you’re a special person and you deserve better than that.”
“Aw – you’re sweet. See, we’re friends now. You’ll be part of the family in no time.” She gave him a brilliant smile that made him sweat, and he smiled back at her. She jumped off the mattress then and did her thing where she lays across it and floats.
“Time to do your back?” he teased.
“Exactly. It’s bad enough I have to have tan lines – I sure don’t want half a tan!” she laughed and he laughed with her.
“Ow – Baby E is doing a happy dance!” she laughed.
“Did you wake him up?”
“I think it was the bloods. He loves it when I drink them.”
“That’s amazing how you know that. Is there anything he doesn’t like?”
“He’s not crazy about orange juice.”
“He tells you that?”
“No, early on it made me nauseous, and now it just bugs him and I know it.”
“I can’t wrap my mind around the idea that Eric can feel him, too.”
“He can, though, and Baby E loves Eric. I can’t wait to see them together. 2 years ago, if you told me Eric Northman would be crazy about a baby, I’d have thought you meant he was having it for dinner,” she laughed.
“He’s a big scary dude.”
“Yeah, but he’s my big scary dude, and that’s all I care about. I don’t think he’s scary, though, I think he’s beautiful.”
“I’m amazed he doesn’t scare you with the stuff…” he stopped himself.
“What? Are we going to go through this again? Just say it and I’ll tell you if I don’t want to hear it.”
“The stuff like tying you up or having sex out here where people can see.”
“I love that stuff when he does it. I wouldn’t let anyone else, of course, because I would never trust anybody else the way I trust Eric. If I’m with him, I always know I’ll be OK. He will NEVER let anyone really hurt me and he’ll push my limits for sure, but he won’t ever really hurt me himself. He’s helping me be more of who I really am.”
“Who you really are or who he wants you to be?”
“I don’t think there’s a difference. I want to be what he wants. If I’m supposedly supposed to be sent to him by Freya, then who he wants must be who I really am, right?”
“I never thought of it that way.”
“I think about it a lot. It confused me at first, but I get it now. I’ve got all these hang-ups from the culture I was raised in that I don’t have to let limit me anymore. I don’t have to be a “good girl” I just need to be Sookie and be happy, and I am really, really happy when Eric is happy with me.”
“Oh, he’s happy with you, and everybody knows it.”
“That’s good. I want people to know it so they’ll leave us alone and let us be happy.”
“And it doesn’t bother you that he uses you to make himself look like a stud?” Bjorn was overstepping his bounds here and he knew it, but he had to say it.
“He doesn’t “use” me to make himself look like anything – he IS a stud.” She laughed, “he’s fucking sex on wheels and I couldn’t be happier about that. I never knew you could feel some of the things he makes me feel. I never had any concept that people had orgasms that went on for days or made you feel like you’re having a seizure. I never knew some things that seem kind of gross feel really, really good. I never knew the kind of excitement he makes me feel or the fear or just being swept away on a wave of sensation. I’ve talked enough with Bobbie to know that he doesn’t just think he’s good, he really is damned good. Women would kill to have what I have…”
Bjorn suddenly got a flash on Sabrina
“…and if it means I have to stretch a little or push myself to give him what he wants, then I’m happy to do it. I WANT to do it. He doesn’t say “will you do this for me?” I say “tell me what I can do to make you happy.” I’ll do anything for him, even if it’s hard for me, because I love him and I know how lucky I am.”
“Do you know how lucky he is? Does he?”
“Absolutely. I’m made just for him. He said that all along and he was more right than even he knew.”
“He’s your dream and you’re his dream?”
“Exactly. I always wanted a handsome Prince to swoop in and save me and he did, literally, more than once. He wanted a Southern Belle that wasn’t like all the dark, hard women he knew. It’s like he came to Louisiana looking just for me. He constantly tells me how lucky he feels and how much he loves me. He’d do anything for me, too. If I asked him to stop being King and walk away from everything he has, he would do it – he has offered to do it, but I won’t ask that of him. You can’t imagine the sacrifices he has already made for me. If he thinks I’m Freya come back to him, I’ll do my damnedest to be that for him.”
“He doesn’t just think that, Sookie…”
“So he must be doing something right, don’t you think?”
“I can’t argue with that. If you’re happy, Sookie, I’m happy. But if you ever decide you’re not, I’m your friend and you can count on me, OK?”
“OK, that’s a deal.” She gave him the sweetest smile he had ever seen. Part of him was in awe of the Freya connection but another part of him just wanted to save her, not necessarily from Eric but from anything harsh or unpleasant in the world. He better never hear anyone refer to her with disrespect. He wouldn’t tolerate that any more than Eric would.
Alicia came back out to talk about dinner and told Sookie she could have étouffé or huge fried shrimp, but Sookie asked for étouffé, of course, and Margaret was happy to make it, knowing Sookie could munch on it all night since she’d be home.
“So are you going with us to Las Vegas, Bjorn?” Sookie decided to change the subject after she was sure she had put his mind at ease. It was sweet that he was worried about her, but she had never felt safer in her life.
“Yes, I’m to be with you every day, any time you’re awake.”
“Gonna be my shadow, huh?” She was being girlish and cute now. Damn.
“You know it – I’ll be right in front of you if anything happens.”
“That’s cool. I don’t think Eric has any enemies there but I guess a King always has enemies whether he deserves them or not.”
“Yes, ma’am, they do.”
“You’re calling me ma’am again,” she sighed, “because we’re talking about work.”
“Yes, ma’am” He smiled at her affectionately and it made her feel a little flushed.
“Have you been to Vegas before?”
“A long time ago when I was a boy.”
“Well, it can be really fun. Eric will let me play slot machines, I’m sure, and maybe he and Bill will play craps again if there’s time – he’ll get there later. Bobbie and I will shop and have lunch in the daytime – you’ll go with us, right?”
“Good, it will be more fun that way. The more, the merrier, right?”
“Something like that.”
“You probably hate shopping, right?”
“Right,” he laughed.
“I did last time, especially when Eric told me I had to spend so much before I came home.”
“When we were there the last time, he told Bobbie to take me shopping and not to bring me home until I had spent at least $40,000!”
Bjorn was stunned. “He did?” He didn’t know Eric was that rich before he was King.
“Yeah, he wants me to buy lots of clothes and jewelry. He says it makes him look good if I look nice, so I try to look really nice for him.”
“I don’t think you could look any other way, Sookie.” He couldn’t believe he said that.
“Thanks” Sookie said, blushing. She couldn’t believe he said that.
Oh, man, she’s blushing again. It was going to take some time for him to get her into perspective. No matter how much he respected the situation, she was still damned near irresistible. He absolutely meant what he said to Eric – he would respect their marriage, at least as long as Sookie was happy and right now she was freaking ecstatic – but he would need time to make himself immune to her charms, which were considerable – she was a Goddess, after all.
“Bjorn – why don’t you stay and have some étouffé with us? You like it, don’t you?”
“I’ve never had it.”
“What? How long have you been in Louisiana?”
“A year and a half.”
“Oh, you have to try it. Margaret’s is out of this world. Please stay and have some and you can tell Eric about your date with Felicia.”
“There’s not much to tell, but I guess I’d like to try the….”
“…étouffé. It’s French for “smothered” because it’s in a thick sauce. It’s good – you like shrimp, right?”
“Yes, very much.”
“Do you like spicy food?”
“Sometimes – depends on how spicy.”
“You’ll like it. Bobbie will be home tomorrow. Have you met her yet?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“She’s cool, she’ll be out here with us in the pool now.”
“That’s nice.” THANK YOU, FREYA! These intimate chats were dangerous, and he’d be glad to have a chaperone. “You’ll be busy then, though, right?”
“We float some and we do my workout and then she gives me a massage. She has to start using a massage chair instead of a table now because I almost couldn’t get on it last time.” She was laughing at herself.
“I could lift you up on a table but that might not be a good idea.”
“Yeah, probably best if Eric doesn’t smell you on me. He has really acute senses because he’s so old. If you get up against me, somebody better be shooting at us,” she laughed but he knew she wasn’t kidding. “Do you like to gamble?”
“Uh…” How much should he tell her? “Well, it depends. I really have to avoid poker, but I can play a slot machine or a little craps now and then.”
“Why do you have to avoid poker? Do you have an addiction?”
“Some people might say so. I’ve had some trouble with it in the past.”
“OK, well, we’ll just keep you as far away from that as we can. I don’t want you getting in trouble. Is it OK for you to go to Las Vegas?”
“Yes, ma’am, I’ll be fine. I won’t have time to get into trouble. I’ll be trying to keep you out of trouble, and that sounds like a full time job,” he was teasing her to get her off the subject. This was a sore point with him and he was kind of sorry he said anything about it. Not that she would use it against him, but just that it was a weakness and he didn’t like people knowing his weaknesses.
“Do you like massages?”
“Depends on who’s doing the massaging.” He was still teasing her.
“I was thinking about Bobbie. She might give you a massage if you wanted. She’s really good.”
“Well, we’ll see – not that I wouldn’t like some body work, but she’s here to work for you, so we’ll see how that goes, OK?”
“OK. Have you been to New Orleans before? You’re going there, too, right?”
“Yes, ma’am, you’ll have to put up with me there, too.”
“That’s not a bit hard.”
‘Want to bet?’ he thought to himself. ‘It’s plenty hard, sweetheart, and I need to get it soft before the King sees me.’
“Yes, the job I moved here for was in New Orleans. I only came up here when I heard about this job. I actually worked for Victor Madden for a bit after the other job fell through.”
“You knew Victor? Were you loyal to him?”
“No, ma’am, and I left after only a few months. I didn’t like the way he operated.”
“He was a thief, you know?”
“No, I didn’t know for sure, but there were rumors. Nobody liked the guy. He was full of himself, he thought he was smarter than everybody else and he used to say horrible things about de Castro. In my mind, you don’t pledge fealty to someone then turn around and trash him. I’m not a Vampire, but there’s such a thing as a sense of honor or at least propriety. Madden was second in command – it was just wrong and I didn’t want to be around the guy. He didn’t pay that well, either. I knew Vincent and had been up to Sabrina’s area a couple of times on under the table stuff Vincent clued me in to, then he told me he thought there was going to be a shake up in the Vampire power structure and if I was smart I’d get myself to Shreveport because if it was the guy he thought it was, he paid well and was a good boss.”
“Vincent knew about Eric?”
“Only a few days before hand, I think, but I didn’t have any ties to New Orleans so I moved up here.”
“You were able to move that quickly?”
“Yes, I was just living in a motel. I’m in a place up here is pretty much the same. I’ll eventually find something more permanent, but I like not being tied to a lease.”
“You’re just living in a motel? Is it nice?”
“I wouldn’t say it’s nice – reasonably clean, though, and cheap, but it can be a little noisy at night. That ice machine is going 24/7,” he laughed.
“Huh,” Sookie said sort of to herself. She was thinking quickly. She didn’t dare mention it until she talked to Eric, but it would be good if Bjorn moved in to the second floor. It would save him money, he’d be available more flexible hours, and Bobbie and Bill are already here most of the time – what’s one more person?
“So Vincent wanted you to be my body guard?”
“Not exactly. Sabrina suggested I ask specifically for that.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s what you told Eric – she thought you’d get me in trouble?”
“Something like that. I think she was hoping we’d like each other too much.”
“Well, at least she knows my type,” Sookie laughed.
‘She just told me I’m her type. Damn!’ he thought.
“I think she figured if you went for one big Swede you might go for another.”
“She’s so mean. Eric says he hasn’t been with her in ages and she’s still a pain in his ass.”
“Yeah, she’s persistent. She’s also vindictive and you don’t want to take that too lightly. If she’s ever around you and I’m not with you, make sure your guards are aware of it so they’ll be extra careful, OK? She could be dangerous.”
“I’ll be careful. Besides, you’ll be with me all the time, anyway.”
“Just in case. I might have to miss part of one of the dances or something. Anything can happen and I want you to promise me that you won’t be around her. If she shows up anywhere, any time, you get to Eric or one of your guards immediately and stay with him, OK?”
“OK. You don’t think she’d be violent, do you?”
“Yes, Sookie, I’m afraid she might. She doesn’t like people saying no to her and Eric said no in a big way. The fact that she wanted me here tells me she wanted to cause a problem. If she gets frustrated, she could lash out and she’s an old, strong Vampire. I don’t want you getting hurt. You tend to be open and think the best of people, but I’m telling you, don’t give her any benefit of the doubt or anything like that. I want you to consider her armed and dangerous. Eric is going to tell her to leave the Kingdom, but I’ve got a feeling she won’t.”
“Really? You think she’d just defy him like that?”
“She already did by sending me up for this job. She might be a physical danger to him, too, but I know she’s a physical danger to you.”
“OK, I promise, I’ll be careful.”
“Now that I’m thinking of it, I might suggest to Vincent that he hire a couple of female guards for you for day and night.”
“So there’s someone to go into the ladies’ room with you.”
“That’s not necessary, is it?”
“I’ll talk to Vincent and the King and see what they say. If it’s left up to me, I don’t want you unguarded, ever.”
Sookie was taken aback that he thought there was real danger to her. Surely Sabrina wouldn’t try to hurt her? Still, Bjorn knew her and he knew his job, so she’d better pay attention to what he says.
FIGHT! FIGHT! LOVE! HAPPY!
“Whoa – the baby is going crazy sending Fight. He usually only does that when Eric is around.”
“Hello, Bjorn, Hello, my Angel.” Eric came out of the house barefoot in jeans and a Fangtasia t-shirt. He did that move where he sort of gracefully falls into a push up at the poolside and she paddled over to kiss him.
“No wonder the baby is yelling FIGHT – he must have felt you coming!”
“My son is very smart. I can feel him all the way from our bedroom to my resting place now.”
“Wow – cool!” She finally reached him “Hi, Sweetie. Bjorn is having dinner with us, OK? He never had étouffee.”
He reached down to rub her belly under the water. “As you wish, my Lover. Margaret says it’s nearly ready so you might want to dry off and put on some clothes.” He smiled at her, not saying that he hated her being in that state of undress in front of a man when he wasn’t around. He’d be glad when Bobbie got back. Letting people see them fuck from a distance at night was one thing, but this was “up close and personal” as they say and that was too much for Eric’s comfort.
Sookie got out and was drying off when Alicia came out with a little turquoise terry tank dress she could slip over her suit. Eric was much happier with that and made a note to himself to give Alicia a bonus for thinking of that on her own. Sookie went in to comb her hair and Eric decided to play host, so he motioned for Bjorn to come in.
“So, Bjorn, did you have a good time at my club last night?” Eric was going to make an effort to be friendly because Bjorn had been forthcoming about Sabrina. He could easily have concealed that from him, but he did his duty and warned him. He had a sense of honor and Eric respected that.
“It was a good night. Felicia is very sweet and she introduced me to a lot of people. I met your brother-in-law and had a drink with him and Pam.”
“Did he hit on Felicia in front of you?” Eric knew the answer already.
“The Queen asked me the same thing. I don’t think he knows how to talk to a girl without hitting on her.”
“That’s an accurate observation. Was Pam there at the time?”
“Yes, but she just laughed at him. She’s not the jealous type, I guess.”
“I fail to understand why Pam finds him so entertaining. She deserves much better.”
“I think he’s just a good time to her. She made a comment about him being “uncomplicated.” I got the impression he was just no-strings sex.”
“Yes, well, I want her to enjoy herself but I want her to be safe as well. Stackhouse is a magnet for trouble and he’s stupid. If he were to get Pam hurt, my wife would be an only child and she would be very sad about that. He’d already be dead if it were not for Sookie. He has never treated her as a brother should, and I would be well within my rights to kill him for things he has done to her, but she has no other family left and it would cause her grief. I warned her though that if he ever strikes her again or is any threat to my child, he’s a dead man.”
“That sounds reasonable to me. If he were to strike her again, he’d have two of us to worry about. I won’t allow any harm to come to her from anyone.”
Eric nodded. He liked that. Sookie came back in and handed Alicia her wet suit, not thinking that everyone was aware she was naked under the little terry dress.
“Are we ready to sit down?” Sookie was playing hostess now.
Eric pointed to the seat next to him on the back side of the table for Bjorn. He sat at the head of the table, and Sookie sat in her usual spot beside him with her back to the cooking area.
Margaret set utensils down for them all and brought Bjorn and Sookie a big bowl of rice.
“What would you like to drink, Bjorn?”
“Iced tea, I guess?” That was the only thing he knew they had.
“Alright then, I’ll get that for you.”
She came back and put a huge dutch oven full of the shrimp concoction and a big ladle in the middle of the table. She came back with tea for Bjorn, a cold RM for Sookie and a warm RM for Eric.
Sookie ladled some shrimp into Bjorn’s bowl, then some over hers.
“What is this dish, my Angel, it smells heavenly?”
“It smells good to you? It’s Shrimp étouffee. Do you want to try a bite?”
“Yes, I do. Margaret, may I have a small bowl with just a bit of rice in it?” Eric was really curious because it smelled so good.
“Of course, Mr. Northman, here you go.” She hustled over and gave him a small dish of rice and a fork. Sookie poured some étouffee on it, making sure he got a couple of nice shrimp. Bjorn was fascinated. Was he actually going to see a Vampire eat food?
“This is a shrimp?” Eric asked
“Uh-huh, and it’s got onions, peppers, celery but I guess no garlic, and spices and stuff in a sauce they call a “roux.””
Eric stabbed a shrimp and picked it up, sniffing it and shrugged, then ate it. They looked at him, and he scooped up some rice soaked with the vegetables and sauce.
“This is delicious,” he said. “Very tasty.”
“Margaret’s cooking is so good even a Vampire can eat it!” Sookie laughed and they laughed with her. “It really is wonderful, Margaret.”
“Aw – thank you, Missus!”
“Bjorn, what do you think?”
“It’s a little spicy, but it’s really good. These shrimp are huge!”
“Yeah, you should have seen the ones she used the other day. They looked more like lobster tails. Margaret knows where to get the good seafood. Did you tell Eric you are seeing Felicia again tonight?”
Eric raised his eyebrows in interest. This was good news.
“Oh, no, but yeah, I’m going to pick her up when she gets off work tonight.”
“That is good. She’s an honorable person.” Eric said. He rarely complimented anyone but Sookie so that was a big deal. “If you ask for her, remember that there are two Felicia’s who tend bar at Fangtasia. There’s a tall, light-skinned African-Asian woman, and there’s your Felicia Rubens.”
“Rubens is a good name for her – she sort of looks like one of his paintings.”
“She might be one of his paintings. She spent a century or so roaming around the art scene in Europe.”
“She’s going to take me to some after-hours place that’s for Supes only. I don’t remember the name.”
“The Asylum,” Eric remembered.
“I didn’t know there was one of those around here.” Sookie said.
“Oh, yes, my Angel, they opened it over a year ago.”
“How come we’ve never been there?” Sookie asked.
“I did not know you would want to go. I thought we spent too much time at Fangtasia as it was.”
“But we could go on a real date there, couldn’t we?”
“A real date? Balls and formal events are not enough?”
“Those are work, Eric. We could go there and just be us, by ourselves, couldn’t we?”
“Well, not quite – we are…” he looked to see Margaret was out of the room, “royals now. We would have an entourage with us.”
“Oh, yeah. Oh, well – like you said, balls and formal events are like dates. We get to get dressed up and be out and dance.”
“Yes, we do.” He leaned toward her and looked her right in the eye. “We will be sure to dance together at the Sheriff’s Ball. I’ll make you fly, and let everyone see your beautiful blonde hair flow and glisten in the lights.”
She beamed at him and said “Oh, now I can’t wait. Even if it is work.”
“Do not think of it as work, Sookie, think of it as a party you are throwing. You will be hostess and get to meet everyone. You always enjoy making sure people are comfortable and cared for. You already made changes to suit your taste, did you not?’
“Yes, I did. I even changed the color of the decorations to match my dress.”
Bjorn laughed a little – that was such a cute, girl thing to do.
“You already have your dress, yes?” Eric asked.
“Yes, and I’ve got a couple I can wear in New Orleans, too.”
“You and Bobbie will shop while we are at the Bellagio, too, I am sure. Bjorn, you help Bobbie make her spend money.”
“Make her spend money? I never heard of a girl that didn’t like to spend money.”
“My Sookie feels that she doesn’t deserve expensive things. We’re all trying to get her to understand that she has all the money she could possibly spend, and that it is not a bad thing to spend money and enjoy it.”
“I don’t know if I’d say I don’t deserve them… I just feel selfish spending money on me. It’s one thing to spend it on the baby, but I don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on clothes.”
“But they look so beautiful on you, Sookie, and you know you feel beautiful when you are wearing something that is almost as pretty as you are.”
“Why don’t you like to shop? Most girls would kill to get to shop in designer stores and buy whatever they want.” Bjorn was amazed.
“Sookie grew up very poor, and so she learned to be thrifty and sacrifice so she didn’t burden her grandmother, who raised her and her brother. Then, it was a virtue for her to be modest and be content with lesser quality clothes and cars and other things, and she learned not to want because it would have seemed selfish or greedy when her grandmother was doing all she could for them. When we first dated, there was the additional problem of not wanting to seem like a “kept woman.” Now, she is my wife, and she can easily have the very best of everything and lots of it, but she is stifled by her upbringing.” He brushed her hair back from her face. “I want her to relax and enjoy all of the advantages she has, and build a beautiful life for herself. She deserves all good things, and I am able to provide them. I want to spoil and pamper her as she deserves to be spoiled and pampered.” He smiled at her and stroked her cheek and she beamed at him.
“Wow – I never knew anybody that would have a problem with that. It’s really sweet, but if it’s not necessary anymore, relax and make the most of the gifts you have.” Bjorn said. Why couldn’t he meet a sweet girl like that? He could afford a girlfriend like that – he was able to buy a girl presents now and again, and a girl like Sookie would appreciate it a lot more than most of the women he had been with who always wanted more. It occurred to him that he would probably never meet that kind of girl hanging in Supe bars.
“Felicia is a girl like that, to an extent.” Eric said.
“She is?” Bjorn didn’t know this. Eric had his full attention.
“She is always very appreciative of any small kindness or gift. I make sure she gets some sort of small recognition regularly because it means so much to her. ”
“Eric, you do?” This was news to Sookie.
“Yes, such a virtue should be rewarded. It would be very easy for her to be scheming and acquisitive like most other Vampire women, but she has retained her human sweetness and gratitude. When she doesn’t have a suitor to provide such remembrances, I see to it that she gets something special through her work now and then to keep her spirits up. She needs a man smart enough to know a good thing when he sees it. There aren’t many of them walking around these days. Do not tell her that I do it, though, or it will lessen the benefit to her. The effect would be lessened if she came to expect it.”
“I told you she was one of his favorites.” Sookie teased.
Eric smiled and drank his RM. He didn’t confirm or deny it, so Bjorn knew it was true. Eric thought a lot of Felicia and it was a compliment to him that he chose to introduce him to her. This was a big deal. He was glad he liked Felicia, because being with her could keep him on Eric’s good side if he treated her well, and he would.
“Eric, did you know where Bjorn is living?”
“No, I assumed he has an apartment somewhere. Where do you live?” Eric asked him.
“I’m in a motel for now. I just came to Shreveport to check out a job and I don’t have a permanent place yet.”
“Do you make enough money to afford that?” Sookie asked. Eric already knew what she was driving at, but he was going to make her work for it a little.
“I make a good living, but it gets a little expensive if it goes on for too long. I don’t like being tied into a lease, though.”
Sookie was looking at Eric and he laughed.
“Bjorn, would you like to move into our second floor? There are extra rooms there, and it wouldn’t cost you anything for rent or food – you’d eat with us. You’d be more available to Sookie if she needed you, or if we want you to drive us in the evening.” Eric suggested. “I would adjust your salary upward to cover your additional availability.”
“The best room for you is set up for the birth right now, but you could stay in the yellow room until after and then move into the one with the bathroom and the masculine theme.” Sookie suggested.
“I would be putting you out, though…”
“Not really. Bobbie and Bill will be here most of the time anyway. You’d have Monday nights off because that’s Eric’s night off, at least for now. Everything is kind of in flux now and evolving as we adjust to the changes.”
“Felicia lives nearby, and you might not be here much anyway in your off hours. Why pay for a hotel room you will never be in?” Eric added.
“You sure this is a good idea?”
“My wife thinks it is a good idea and you are her bodyguard. I don’t see any harm and it would be convenient to have you around if we need you. Our staffing needs are evolving as we adjust to the new positions and the baby. If you don’t mind being in the house with a newborn, you’re welcome to stay here. Check out of your motel in the morning and bring your things here. Do you need a moving van?”
“No, your majesty, I sort of live out of my car because I move around a lot. I’ve got two bags at the motel and that’s it.”
“Alright, then, when you come to work tomorrow, bring your things and move in. You’ll be settled before Sookie even wakes up. I’ll tell Vincent you are going to live in and we’ll adjust your job description and salary. If you find it’s not to your liking, you’re under no obligation to stay.”
“Thank you, your majesty.”
“Oh, good. I love the idea! Oh, excuse me, I’ll be back.” Sookie popped up and ran into the den and they heard the bathroom door close.
“Margaret, I’ll need to get you some more help and a raise – is that alright with you?”
“Oh, yes, Mr. Northman, I love having all these handsome young people to cook for. I was thinking maybe we’d just increase the hours for the two part-time girls?”
“That might be a good idea. Where is Alicia?”
“She has been in Mrs. Northman’s new office for some time now. I’m not sure what’s going on.”
Sookie came back from the bathroom.
“Are you alright, Sookie?” Eric was pretty sure what happened, but he wanted to be sure. She stopped next to his chair and took his hand.
“It’s one of those being pregnant things.”
“Needing to urinate frequently?” Eric was sometimes clinical in describing bodily functions that he only read about, which could be a little embarrassing to a Southern girl.
“Yes, it’s starting to get bad. I almost had to get out of the pool today.”
“As I understand it, this will only get worse, will it not?”
“Yes, as the baby starts putting weight on my bladder it might get really bad. I’m starting to feel really conscious of it now, all the time. You know it might slow me down a little or affect what I can do…”
“Sookie, I told you, do not worry about things like that. We’ll do what we have to do for you to be comfortable, and if it’s not comfortable, we won’t do it.”
“OK – I just don’t want to be a drag.”
“You are not a drag, my Angel, you are a miracle. Every minute I am with you is a miracle – I don’t care what we are doing, as long as we are together.”
She wrapped her arms around him and leaned against him as he sat.
“Sookie, I think you should check on what Alicia is doing in your office. She may have something that needs your attention.”
“Oh, OK, I’ll be back.” She headed for her office and Eric turned back to Bjorn.
“She is very self-conscious about the effects of the pregnancy on her. I keep telling her she is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen and I mean that. I care more for her comfort than anything. We have a long life together, and this will only be a short time. I want her to embrace it and enjoy it rather than apologizing for it.”
“It does make things slow down, though, plus the weight turns a lot of men off.”
“I am not “a lot of men.” I know the value of this process. I love the roundness and the ripeness of her now – the scent of her and the taste of her are intoxicating. Being in her presence means more to me than anything we do. Even if we could never have sex again, I would be with her.”
“Isn’t that a big part of your relationship, though?”
“We enjoy each other because we can, but if we could not, I would still love her. I have spent many centuries in darkness and alone. Sookie is the only light in my world. That means more to me than sex – I’ve had sex a million times with thousands of women. I have only known one Sookie.”
“Eric – I’ve got a bunch of papers I need to go through about some upcoming events, so Alicia and I will have to work on it for a while – is that OK?” She walked up and put her hand on his shoulder, and he reached his hand up and covered it.
“Of course, my Angel, you have your duties as Queen. I will check my messages and email and then see how you are progressing.”
“Thanks. See you in a bit.” She kissed him. “See you later, Bjorn! Have a good night.”
“Good night, your majesty,” he said, getting a brilliant smile from her. He turned to Eric. “She’s a good Queen, isn’t she?”
“Yes, she has risen to the challenge admirably. Considering all the changes she has had to adjust to, I think she is doing a remarkable job.”
“She’s already very popular. Everyone is talking about her.”
“Yes, and that will grow every time she is presented in public. She is going to be a shining star,” Eric laughed, knowing his subjects would love her almost as much as he did.
“She reflects well on you.”
“Yes – she makes me very proud. And I know people think I must have some good in me if she loves me so much. Her light shines on everyone around her,” he laughed.
“You should ask Vincent to hire at least one female guard for her for night and day. Someone who can go into the ladies’ room with her.”
“I never thought about that. Do you think that is necessary?”
“Yes, your majesty, I do.”
“All right, then, I will mention it to Vincent.” His cell phone rang, and he pulled it out. “It’s Bill Compton. I should take this.”
“I need to be on my way. I’ll see you tomorrow, your majesty. Thank you for your offer. I’ll move my things in tomorrow as you said.”
“Good night, then. Hello, Bill – did you find out anything?”
Bill was excited “Yes, I think we have traced most of the missing funds to three accounts in the Cayman Islands. We have partials of two of the account numbers and we think the full numbers will be found in the house somewhere. Any ideas of where to look?”
“Yes. Did he have a desk?”
“Tell them to take the drawers out and turn them upside down.”
“No, I’m not kidding. Look written on the bottoms of the drawers, probably the bottom one, if it’s made that way.”
“It is. Let me call the residence and get back to you.”
“Alright. Let me know what they find.”
Even if they found the numbers, Eric was going to tear Victor’s residence apart when he was there, because he knew Victor would have an escape fund secreted away somewhere and Bill hadn’t found it yet. He also knew there would be at least one account in Switzerland that no one but Victor would have known about. These Cayman Island accounts were easier to trace but the Swiss account would be well hidden. If they could find most of this money, it would more than cover the reconstruction and turn New Orleans into a moneymaker again. At some point, he might enlist Amelia’s aid at the residence to see if she could find anything, if he was not successful.
He went up to check his email – he had an application from a resident of Sabrina’s area to move into Area 5. Normally he would forward that to Pam or Vincent but he had a feeling about this so he gave the man a call.
“Sebastian Taylor, please.”
“This is he.”
“This is Eric Northman.”
“Hello, your majesty – what can I do for you?” He was obviously nervous at being called directly by the King. Eric liked that.
“I want you to tell me honestly and with complete candor why you wish to leave Area 3.”
“Well, sire, I, uh…”
“Be honest and say it outright.”
“I have a conflict with the Sheriff here.”
“What did Sabrina do?”
“She’s charging double the tribute for certain businesses. Everyone knows they weren’t raised but she claims they were and I can’t afford to pay double.”
“Do you really want to move your business or would you be happier to stay where you are under a different Sheriff.”
“I do like the location of my business now, your majesty. Is Sheriff Maxwell leaving?”
“Yes, she is, but she doesn’t know it yet. Hang tight for a week or so and I think you’ll find your situation improves.”
“Thank you, your majesty.”
Double tribute, eh, Sabrina? That’s a trick he’d expect from someone like Madden. Then again, Sabrina is beginning to look as if she IS someone like Madden and he’s not going to tolerate any scheming from his Sheriffs. Technically, she has already plotted against the Queen, and she’s stealing from her subjects, if not from the Crown. The phone rang.
“Yes, Eric, they found 2 numbers under one of the drawers. They seem to correspond to the partial numbers we have so we should be able to figure out what the whole number is.”
“Bill, is there a forensic accountant in the employ of the New Orleans office?”
“Yes, I believe the financial manager is qualified for that. What do you need?”
“I want a complete audit of Area 3’s books, immediately. If he can leave tonight, I’d prefer that. I don’t want Sabrina to know about it until he arrives and I want him accompanied by armed guards.”
“Are you expecting trouble?”
“I’m expecting we’re going to find Sabrina skimming off tribute. I just found out she’s been charging her some of her subjects double.”
“She couldn’t think she would get away with that?”
“Sabrina is crazy, Bill. Niall was right about her. She should never have been put in charge. She’s too vindictive and she plays “favorites” in ways that sow dissension among the people she’s supposed to be serving. Remember that before now, her bosses were Victor and Felipe. I have no doubt she was sleeping with both of them when it served her purposes and they let her get away with these little games.”
“She absolutely had sex with de Castro when we were all in Las Vegas.”
“I thought so. At any rate, I want her caught and then I’m going to banish her.”
“Yes, she has also been scheming against Sookie, but the little trap she tried to set sold her out.”
“A big, blond Swedish bodyguard she sent our way. When he figured out what Sabrina was up to, he told me about it. I think he used to work for Madden, so she probably thought he’d go along if he figured it out.”
“Did you retain him?”
“Yes, he’ll continue as Sookie’s bodyguard. He’s got spectacular credentials and I believe he and I have reached an understanding. He’s going to be living on the second floor starting tomorrow.”
“Sookie’s idea, I assume?”
“Exactly, though it is a logical solution to the problem of where he should live and it will make him more available when she needs him. I’ll engage him to drive for us some evenings this way – it lets me focus more on Sookie’s needs.”
“You know Bobbie and I will be back tomorrow, unless you’d prefer I not be there?”
“No, no, feel free. I think it’s good to have people around the house with Sookie. She thinks of everyone as family and she loves the company.”
“You’re being very generous, Eric.”
“I’m very happy, Bill, so I can afford to be magnanimous,” he laughed.
“Yes, I suppose you can. Is Pam on vacation now?”
“Yes, she left today.”
“Who is running Fangtasia?”
“Vincent is training as Pam’s second and I will be going in every night this week in case he needs anything. People who have requested audiences were directed to show up then. If you’re available, I’d like you to be there, too. We can continue to look over your books and see what needs to be done.”
“That’s fine – I’ll be glad to be able to bend your ear on some of these things. I have two pages of questions for you already.”
“Well, good, maybe we’ll get caught up before I have to leave for Las Vegas. How are the plans for the benefit on July 3rd going?”
“We’re getting swamped with requests for tickets from literally all over the world. Everyone wants to see the new American Vampire King and Queen they’ve heard about.”
“I’m sure you’re exaggerating, Bill.”
“No, Eric, I’m not. Even the other royals want to meet you and Sookie. I’ve never seen anything like it, certainly not among Vampires. Hollywood executives and movie stars are offering huge donations if we’ll squeeze them in. Russell and Carolina both dropped your name to get seated at your table.”
“You did accommodate them, I hope?”
“Of course I did, Eric – I remember they were at the wedding and offered to back you then. It wasn’t easy, though, because there are some serious players who insist on sitting with you, too. We don’t dare say ‘no’ to the Pitt family.”
“Pitt? As in Brad and Angelina?”
“Exactly. He’s heavily into the reconstruction efforts and they own a house here now. He specifically demanded they be seated with you and Sookie.”
“He has actually heard of us?”
“He knows all about you. He asked if you were really 6 and a half feet tall and looked like a young man, did you really have long blond hair, and he asked if Sookie was really that beautiful and whether it was true that she was telepathic. Eric, I’m telling you – he knew about Rhodes and what Sookie did there! I didn’t know any humans knew about anything but the bombs.”
“Why would they care about us?”
“Between you and me, I think they’re queer for Vampires. He played a Vampire in that movie, remember, and she was famous for practicing blood rites with one of her husbands. There used to be that rumor that she WAS Vampire. They’d be the first people I’d expect to show an interest in an attractive Vampire King and Queen, especially since Sookie is pregnant, and you know how they love children.”
“And humans know that there is a Vampire power structure? Is this going to be a problem?”
“I think as long as we aren’t in direct conflict with their authorities that they’ll leave it to us to organize ourselves as we choose. If it becomes a problem, though, I thought of a possible solution…”
“And that would be…?”
“Claim it’s a religion. If it’s a religion, we could insist on functioning the way the Catholic Church does, handling our transgressors internally and determining our own hierarchy.”
Eric laughed out loud. “You know, that might work. If it becomes a problem, I’ll take that to the Council. I’ll give you credit, of course.”
“I don’t know that I’d want it, but it’s one way we can approach the whole thing if there’s any backlash. You and Sookie need to be prepared for the receptions you’ll receive here and in Las Vegas – the mayor of New Orleans is considering a parade in your honor.”
“A parade? In the daytime?”
“No, midnight in the Quarter – to draw new Vampires into the area. We’re the only ones with money right now. It would be your own little Mardi Gras,” he laughed wryly. Bill didn’t know whether to be jealous, chagrined or amused by it all. “I hope you have enough security. I’ll be assigning extra guards to you while you are there and you should make sure Sandy does the same thing.”
“We’re bringing 7 with us.”
“I don’t think that’s enough.”
“No, Eric, I’m not. I think you need at least twice that many.”
“Do you have guards at your house yet?”
“Yes, I have two on each shift. I called Vincent as you suggested because there were signs someone had been around the outside of the house.”
“Good – I think we’d better err on the side of caution.”
“That’s even more true for you, Eric. You have a high profile right now. Everyone is watching you – don’t let them see any weakness in your defenses. Someone will use it against you.”
“Alright, then. Let me know if you manage to get hold of any of those missing funds. What are you going to do about contractors?”
“I went over the bids and made some notes. I think there are two companies we can get to do work at the same time. I want to get as much done as possible before the weather turns.”
“Alright then, we’ll talk more tomorrow night. Thank you, Bill.”
Eric was glad they were making some progress there. The Nevadas and the Louisianas should be two of the most lucrative Kingdoms in the country, even with the reconstruction, if they’d just had a little good management. Well, Eric was going to get things in order as quickly as he could so they’d be making a profit soon. Profitable Kingdoms didn’t have to kowtow to the Council as much as those that struggled, and Eric fully intended to set things up so he’d be as independent as possible. He needed to get in touch with the Council to find out if they were behind in their tribute and how much. Best not to wait until they came to him. He decided he couldn’t put it off any longer and dialed the phone.
“Northman – nice to hear from you.”
“Hello, Niall. I thought you might be able to give me some idea how far behind de Castro left me with the tribute to the Council.”
“He was approximately $5,000,000 behind. We would, however, consider forgiving the debt completely if you would be willing to do a little favor for the Council.”
Oh, shit – here it comes. Eric braced himself.
“And what might that be, Niall?”
“It’s actually a pleasant little task. When your son is 6 weeks old, we’d like for your little family to pose for some official pictures.”
“Pictures of my family? As in Sookie, the baby and I?”
“Precisely. You’ll work with a world-renowned photographer and they’ll be used for official purposes. Do this, and we’ll zero out your tribute and you’ll start completely fresh with the New Year.”
“What’s the catch, Niall?” Eric hated dealing with Fae more than anything. There was always an ulterior motive.
“No catch. Your little family will simply be the new face of the Vampire community. We’ve decided that we need to create a more positive image now that you are out among humans and what could be more pleasant than a family of attractive blue-eyed blondes, a mixed Vampire/human marriage, and a miracle baby to boot. One couldn’t design a better situation for our purposes, now could they?”
“In other words, you want to use my family to de-fang our image and make us more palatable to humans?”
“I knew you’d have an immediate grasp of the concept. We need to lighten the Vampire profile in preparation for the Weres’ pending announcement.”
“So when you say “official purposes,” you mean publication?”
“Yes, exactly. There’s a wave of excitement in the territories about your spectacular ascension and it seems to be spilling over into human society, so we might as well cash in on it.”
“I’ll have to speak to Sookie about this.”
“Speak firmly and persuasively because we’ll call you with the arrangements after the child is born.”
“So we have no choice in the matter?”
“Give my love to Sookie. I’ll expect a call when the child is born.” CLICK.
‘The son of a bitch hung up on me’ Eric thought to himself, ‘and now I have to explain to Sookie that we’re about to be the poster family for inter-order marriages.’
OK, might as well call Sandy and see what’s going on there.
“Yes, your majesty?”
“Good evening, Sandy, how are things?”
“Things are fine – we’re making final preparations for the Sheriff’s Ball. A lot of people are wanting to attend that wouldn’t normally be interested or included and we aren’t quite sure what to do about it.”
“What sort of people?”
“Famous people, government officials, wealthy people. What should we do?”
“How many guests are normally allowed the regents?”
“20 over and above their entourage.”
“Can we accommodate 30 per regent?”
“Yes, since the Queen changed the menu,”
“Alright, then, 30 more – outsiders must apply through the regent in their territories. I want this to remain a Vampire-centric event. If they aren’t connected enough to our world to get in through their regent, I don’t want them there. Fax a list of those in my territories that wish to attend and I’ll approve the 60 I want.”
“Yes, your majesty. Did you receive the travel arrangements?”
“I haven’t checked my mail yet.”
“They should have arrived today. You’ll be traveling at night for all legs of the trip so you can be with your wife as you travel – we heard there was a problem last time.”
“Good. There will be people there who could care for her but I’ll feel much better if I’m with her.”
“Yes, your majesty – it’s easier to keep you safe, as well.”
“Yes, I suppose it would be. Anything else you need?”
“Not tonight, sire – I’ll fax the offer on the bar we discussed and the financials for this week. If you decide to sell, you can sign the papers when you get here.”
“Alright. Good night, Sandy.”
‘Travel arrangements – those might be in Sookie’s office, and it’s time to check on her anyway, so that’s next’ he told himself.
He walked silently to the door of Sookie’s office to see if he could hear how she was doing before she saw him. She was discussing their calendar, and Sookie had clear ideas about how she wanted to handle events through the holidays. She was speaking with some authority and only occasionally asking questions of Alicia. She was learning the ropes quickly.
“Alicia, did I receive a package from Las Vegas today?”
“Yes, sir, it’s right here.” She reached for the inbox and handed him the envelope.
He tore into it and found their plane tickets and itinerary with a special card from Anubis welcoming the King and his entourage to their airlines and describing the security features they would provide. They would be traveling alone with their entourage because the airlines didn’t want to risk putting extra passengers whose identities couldn’t be verified in with them, so there was extra room on the plane if they needed to expand their party. Eric didn’t think doubling the guard was necessary, since it was easier to do at the destinations, but he did decide to tell Vincent to add a guard to each shift, so there would be 2 more total. He also planned to talk to Vincent about whether they needed female guards for Sookie.
Sandy had written that Felipe’s private chambers had been completely cleaned and set up for he and Sookie to use, and that the personal items had been sorted and boxed for their perusal. She had also arranged an armed guard to bring them from the airport to the residence, which seemed excessive to Eric, but Sandy insisted it was absolutely necessary. Eric couldn’t remember that ever being done for Felipe, or even Sophie Ann, but he also felt Sandy might know something about the situation that he didn’t.
“Yes, my Angel”
“You look concerned. Is everything OK?”
“Yes, I’m just mystified at the levels of security everyone is suggesting. Bill wanted me to double our guard for the trip and Sandy is arranging an armed escort from the airport. Bill even said they’re considering a midnight parade for us in the Quarter when we arrive in New Orleans.”
“You’re kidding – why would they do all of that?”
“Bill and Sandy claim we are drawing a great deal of attention. The Council apparently agrees because they’re demanding that we pose for an official photograph when the baby is 6 weeks old.”
“An official photo? What does that mean?”
“They’re planning to use our family to make the Vampire image more attractive to humans. They feel that we are young and attractive, we are an inter-order marriage, we have a unique child – we’re the face they want to put on the Vampire community.”
“Is that a good idea? To draw that much attention to us and the baby?”
“I’m not sure. On one hand, the more visible we are the harder it is for someone to attack us – on the other hand, the more attention we draw the more likely someone is to want to try. The point is moot, however, because the Council is insisting on it and they’ve offered to clear 5 million dollars tribute that Felipe was behind to them. The kingdom would start the New Year without debt to them. That would be a huge advantage for the entire kingdom.”
“5 million? Felipe was that far behind?”
“Oh, yes – I expected it to be a lot, because I could tell from the books that there was no way he’d be making his payments, but that’s far more than I had anticipated. Getting that debt cleared is a great benefit to everyone. It means that once our businesses in New Orleans are functioning again, the Louisianas would be solvent and making money again, and it would let me make the Nevadas even more profitable in a much shorter span of time. We could do in one year what might take 5 otherwise.”
“That is big. Why would they be so generous?”
“Good question. I think it is because they know we’d prefer not to do it, and ultimately they want what is best for the subjects in the territories. They’ll shoulder the loss if it lets us get the kingdoms functioning as they should again. I wonder if they’d have been so negative toward de Castro if he had been a better manager. His ambition led him to put not only his own territory in jeopardy, but Sophie Ann’s as well, and that was too large an area for them to tolerate losses in. Felipe and Victor were putting the entire country in jeopardy with losses like these. It really was the best for everyone to get rid of them and get a competent regent in place.”
“You’re more than competent, Eric. You’re honorable and smart. They saw a way to go from the worst to the best in a couple of easy steps.”
“I don’t know if Felipe and Victor would consider them easy, but they do seem to have been the best way to play the hand they were dealt. How are you progressing with your work, Sookie? When will you be done for the night?”
“Alicia, we’re wrapping up, right?”
“Yes, Mrs. Northman. You just need to sign these two faxes and I’ll send them off, then you’re done.”
“Alright, then, Sookie, when you are done, take the elevator up to the 4th floor. I want to show you some things.”
“Ok, I’ll meet you up there.”
He kissed her and zipped up the stairs to the gym, where he looked over his selection of swords. He was going to give Sookie a very basic lesson in fighting, just so she’d know the feel of a sword in her hand and know how to swing one. He’d start with a katana and a tachi, but then have her try a long sword as well. He was wondering if she’d be strong enough to handle one, but he was thinking that with the quantity of his blood she had consumed and the adrenaline if they were ever under attack she should be able to do what she needed to do.
He looked at the many swords displayed on the wall of the gym. He had killed with every one of them and there were at least 30. He used the katanas most because they were easy to smuggle the way he did when he put the lead-lined false bottom in the travel boxes for air travel. His guards would certainly have swords and guns with them as they traveled this time and he knew Anubis expected that from Vamps in general and Vampire royalty in particular. Sookie would never be unguarded but things happen, and if it came down to it, he wanted her to at least know the feel of swinging a sword.
He took down a basic, but razor-sharp, katana, a custom made jian, the $18,000 tachi, a modern version of a “Vikingsverd” and a long-sword. He didn’t want to wear her out, but he wanted her to do several swings with each one so she’d know what it was like. He laid them out on a table beneath the display, picking them up one at a time and swinging them around, feeling their balance, stretching his muscles a bit, trying to imagine how it would be for a small girl like Sookie to handle these weapons.
“Hey, Sweetie – what are we doing?”
“Sookie, I want to show you a bit about swords.”
“Is this like my first lesson or something?”
“Something like that. I want you to spend a little time working with them. Now, these are all deadly sharp, so you handle them with care. Also, don’t drop them or bang them around – you don’t want to ruin the blades.”
“Why so many different kinds?”
“I want you to try different sizes and I wanted to teach you a little bit about fighting.”
She puffed her cheeks out and blew out the air.
“Don’t worry, my Angel, we won’t work too long. This is just to get you familiar with the feel. Now hold this Katana.”
She took the sword in both hands and held it out. “What makes it a katana and not just another sword?”
“Good question. Some people think that all Japanese swords are katanas, but they aren’t. This is a katana because the blade is curved through the forging and folding process, it is single edged and light. See this wavy coloration in the blade? That’s from the manufacture process where the metal is folded to give it strength. Cheap swords will have such a discoloration etched into the metal to make them look like this, but this one is properly forged.”
“How do you know that?”
“I stood there and watched as it was created. It took weeks, but I watched the entire process, and the man who made it was a master,”
“OK – really valuable, huh?”
“Yes, my Angel, these are all valuable, but knowing what to do with them is more so. Now, there are four basic parts of a sword – the blade, the guard here that protects your hand, the handle, which may be long for use with 2 hands as this one is, or short for singlehanded use. The bulbous part on the end is called the pommel.”
“I thought a pommel was part of a saddle?”
“Same word, same source, different items. This pommel provides a bit of counterweight to add balance to the sword, and it can be used as a weapon, itself. The cover of a sword is called …”
“… a scabbard, I know that one.” She was proud of herself and he was pleased that she knew the word.
“Ok, good. Now, let’s step back here so we have more room.” He led her into the center of the room, facing the mirror. He stood behind her, squared off her shoulders and guided her arms and upper body slowly through two slicing movements as she held the handle in both hands.”
“Good, Sookie. Keep the blade up and picture where you want the sword to go. If you are facing an enemy, you don’t just want to strike at his neck – you want to aim through the neck to the other side. You are aiming for the other side, and using all your force to get there. Now, try this.” He guided her into a full, flat, side to side swing. “Now do that slowly, 5 times.”
She planted her feet and concentrated. He made little adjustments to her stance as she moved, but she essentially understood how to move the sword.
“That’s actually better than I expected, Sookie. Now, do that quickly, keeping the blade up and flat.”
She did it pretty well. He was impressed that she seemed to have a natural feel for this blade.
“Alright, Sookie, now do that quickly, 10 times.”
She gripped the blade and swung. She started to drop the blade around the 4th move and he told her “up, Sookie” and she brought the blade up where it should be.
“I kind of like this,” she said.
“You have a natural feel for it – I’m surprised at how well you can handle this blade, but it’s a small sword. I think I’ll use this one for your first training sessions. For this lesson, though, I want you to try several different types. You never know what you might have to fight with. This one is Chinese, and it’s called a Jian. Look at the tip of the blade, how it’s the same on both sides as it moves back toward the handle. This sword is double edged, so you can cut with either side, as well and stab with it. Now, let’s try those moves again,”
He guided her through the moves and she did all right, but not as well as with the katana. Interesting. He picked up the Viking sword.
“That looks more like a machete.”
“This is based on the swords Vikings used. It’s meant to be used one handed, so you could have another weapon in the other hand. It was used for chopping moves, like this.” He demonstrated a top to bottom chopping move. She took it from him.
“This is heavy to be so short.”
“Yes, the use of it means it has a heavier blade. Of course, the art of making swords was relatively new to us then, so they were not as fine as the swords used in Asia. Try to move it up and down, without letting it fall – keep control of it.”
He helped her make the moves and figured if she ever needed to she could chop away at someone with one, but it wasn’t going to be a weapon of choice for her. Her arms didn’t quite have the strength to control it on the downswing.
“Alright, let’s try this one. It’s a long sword, and you probably won’t run into many of these, but I want to see if you can lift it at all.”
She planted her feet and was able to raise the sword with some concentration. She tried the side to side move, but it was hard – her wrists weren’t quite strong enough to keep the blade flat.
“Good try, Sookie. As I said, you aren’t likely to encounter one, but at least I know you could swing it if you had to.”
“I’m not swinging it very well, though.”
“But you did swing it, so I know that if you had a rush of adrenaline, you could handle it well enough. We’ll build your arms with the smaller swords and soon you will be wielding this like a knight of the realm,” he teased her. “This is a very expensive sword. It’s a Japanese blade, called a Tachi. It’s a little longer than the katana and a little more curved. They were used mostly from horseback, but I want you to try it anyway.”
She took the sword and went through the movements he had shown her, doing a really good job, moving slowly at first, then speeding up. Eric didn’t have to tell her to keep the blade up and she handled it smoothly in spite of it’s length.
“Very good, Sookie. See how if you were on horseback, it would be good for slicing downward?”
“Yeah, it kind of naturally wants to go that way, doesn’t it.”
“OK, now let’s go back to the katana. Most of the fights you encounter these days will be with one of these.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen them around – you defended Sophie Ann with one, right after you kissed me, remember?”
“Yes, of course I remember. Kissing a beautiful blonde and defending my Queen in a fight is a great day in my book,” he laughed.
“A beautiful blonde, huh?”
“The most beautiful blonde I have ever seen. Now, show me your moves with the katana.”
She went through the side to side moves he showed her quickly and gracefully ten times.
“Very good, Sookie. You may be quite a swordswoman with a little work. Try this” He guided her through a vertical slicing move, then moved into a side swing. Sookie copied him slowly at first, then faster.
“Do that 10 more times, my Angel.” Sookie continued and Eric went to get another katana. He stood facing the mirror farther down the floor and when she was done, he said “follow me” and started slowly moving the blade in very graceful movements and Sookie did her best to follow him. He was amazed – it went very smoothly, and she took it seriously and did a good job. She really had a feel for the katana – something about the curve of the blade suited the way she moved and worked well with the level of strength in her arms. Even pregnant, she moved gracefully and he was proud that she didn’t complain.
Eric pushed a sort of gym mat over behind her and told her to step back on it. He stood behind her again and reached his arms around her, his hand over her right hand, his left hand on her waist and he took her through some new patterns which she picked up on immediately. She was concentrating on the blade, but suddenly she noticed something pressing into her back and Eric had put his sword on the table so it wasn’t the handle – it was him, every bit as hard as that handle at the moment. She was repeating a new pattern when suddenly Eric’s lips were on her neck and his hand was on her breast. He took the sword from her hand and whispered “Kneel down on the mat,” and she lowered herself onto her knees as he did the same behind her, gently laying the sword over to the side on the mat.
Sookie knew exactly what was up. Eric was asserting his dominance by marking the 4th floor with their scent. She was surprised he had waited this long. She pulled her dress up a little and spread her knees wide apart. Eric pushed her dress up the rest of the way and snapped her thong into one flat piece as she leaned forward on her forearms, arching her back to put her backside up to him. She knew exactly what he wanted – he wanted her to “present” herself and let him take her as he looked in the mirror. She couldn’t quite bring herself to watch, but she put her head down and raised her hips to him, holding on to the edge of the mat. At least she had that padding under her knees and elbows and honestly, watching him move around so gracefully with that sword had her in the mood, too.
He was staring at himself in the mirror intently, almost in a trance the one time she did look up, as he took her hard and quick. She was vocal because she knew he liked it and honestly, it felt so good it would have been hard not to be loud. She loved this as much as he did. She liked him when he was like this – it was primitive, and animalistic, and had absolutely nothing to do with anything or anyone she ever grew up with.
It was ancient, exotic, primal, and kneeling in front of him this way felt like the most natural thing in the world – like everything she is existed just for this moment, his hands holding her hips, his cock filling her over and over, crying out every time his hips slammed into her back side. He howled as he came, then bent his head to kiss her lower back, moving around placing gentle kisses and licking a little. It took him a few minutes to stop shaking, then he picked her up and carried her down to their bedroom. He left her panties laying on the floor and she hoped she’d get to them later before anyone else found them. She didn’t want to make a habit of leaving a visible trail. It was bad enough Eric was making sure every Vampire around knew whose nest this really was.
He put Sookie on the bed and went over to the side chairs where there was a large bag from a local department store.
“What’s that?” Sookie asked as he pulled a large wedge-shaped piece of foam out of its package and put a cloth cover on it.
“It’s something to make you more comfortable. Here, give me your hand.” He pulled her so her upper body was off the bed and then put the wedge behind her and told her to relax. This was apparently a special pillow and it raised her up so she could lie back without being completely flat. She was full of questions as he was putting her into the position he wanted, with her hips on the edge of the side of the bed and leaning back on the wedge.
“How did you know that was here?”
“I told Alicia to buy one today, and she told me earlier it was here.”
“You had Alicia buy a sex pillow?”
“It’s not necessarily a “sex pillow” – it’s for people who can’t lie flat on their backs, like pregnant women such as you. It’s a common purchase for the end of a pregnancy – though if I felt like having Alicia buy a sexual aid, I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to do so.”
“Like hell you wouldn’t!”
Eric looked at her in surprise. “No, Sookie, I wouldn’t”
“Eric, I’m telling you right now, if you want me to be able to look that woman in the face and work with her every day, you have to keep her shopping separate from our sex life. I stretch my ideas and values a lot to go along with you on some of the things we do, but you have to give me this one, please – just promise me you handle any sex-related purchases on line or at night, or something. Alicia is the closest thing I have to a mother.”
He was about to scold her about worrying what a servant thought of her until she said the part about having a mother, then he instantly softened and reconsidered. He bent over her, kissed her and said “all right, my Angel, I promise to keep Alicia out of our sex life as much as possible. I don’t want you to feel embarrassed in front of her.”
Sookie exhaled and relaxed visibly. “Thank you, Eric. I really appreciate that.”
Whatever he had planned to do, he stopped and lay down on the bed next to her, propping up on his elbow so when she turned her head they were face to face. He didn’t say anything. He reached up and stroked her cheek.
“Are you mad at me?” Sookie asked.
“No, my Angel, I’m just thinking I need to pay more attention to how you are feeling about all of this change. You have risen to the challenge admirably, but I forget sometimes how much is being demanded of you that you were never prepared for. You fit so well with me that I forget how young you are.”
“I’m doin’ OK, aren’t I?”
“You are doing magnificently, Sookie. I forget to tell you that. I just assume you know how proud of you I am.”
“I know you’re proud of me and I work hard to make sure you stay proud of me. It’s just that Alicia…”
“Shhh – Sookie, I understand. You create the family you wish you had from the people available to you. I should have realized how you felt about Alicia – I fostered the relationship specifically to provide you with help a girl would normally have from a mother. It’s perfectly logical that you would assign that role to her emotionally and have such a reaction to mixing her into your sex life in even the most peripheral way. If it makes you feel any better, the wedge was her idea, not mine. She suggested we get it because she noticed you aren’t breathing well in your sleep when she comes in to put your clothes away. I just saw an additional benefit of using it.” He wiggled his eyebrows in the way that makes her turn to jelly inside.
“Yes, and I have an idea I was really going to enjoy what you had in mind so stop being such a girl and get on with it,” she laughed.
“Being a girl? I’ll show you what a girl I am,” he was instantly between her legs, his head between her thighs and she was alternately moaning and laughing as he licked and nipped at her, penetrating her with his fingers. When he was sure he had her undivided attention, he moved his thumb to replace his tongue and nuzzled her thigh to warn her, then bit hard and she screamed, coming in his hand as he fed from her with great pleasure, enjoying the Fae essence of her blood, feeling the intoxication wash over him in great waves as she writhed and screamed in ecstasy.
After her release, as she was catching her breath, he leaned over her, his eyes glowing from the Faerie blood, and said, “now I am going to do to you what no girl ever can,” and he penetrated her deeply, pulling back and taking deep, slow deliberate strokes to demonstrate the fact that he most definitely was not a girl. The muscles in his arms were shaking, because the blood made him want to go wild, but his will wanted him to be slow and deliberate in fucking her this time, in particular. He hadn’t taken offense that she teased him for acting like a girl, but he was still going to leave her with no doubt as to who the man was in this deal. Sookie wrapped her arms tightly around his neck and wrapped her legs around his waist, hiding her face in the curve of his neck, pleading with him to hold her tight, and he knew she was fast approaching another orgasm.
He loved it when she’d get clingy this way just before she came – it was such a high to have such direct control of her, for her to be so desperate to feel his arms around her and his cock inside her. He would never tire of this – he loved the way she came, the noises she made, the strength of the contractions within her, the intensity of the convulsions that wracked her little body, especially now that she was feeding from him so much. She far surpassed any human female he had ever been with – if her skin were not so warm, he’d swear he was bedding a female Vampire. He had the best of all worlds right now, the intensity of a Vampiress and the heat of a human and all of it was mixed with Fae blood and pregnancy hormones. Praise Freyja, has anyone ever felt anything as sweet as this? Has such a woman ever walked the Earth before? Her release hit then and it was spectacular, dragging him straight over the edge and into the maelstrom with her. They were both hit with a white hot flash of bright light that left them shaken and stunned, lying next to each other, Sookie trying to breathe, Eric trying to sort out what happened and whether they had both just screamed like banshees or did he dream that? (Based on the reaction of the guards later, he was quite sure they had…)
“It happened again, Eric.”
“What is that, Sookie.”
“That exploding light thing that happens sometimes when we fuck. What is that?”
“It’s some kind of … divine energy, I think.”
“You aren’t sure?” She turned on her side to look at him.
“I told you, Sookie, I’m a warrior, not a shaman or a Witch. I know it’s Freyja, I know it’s you, and maybe the baby, but I don’t know if it’s me or if I’m just here when it happens, and I don’t know what it’s for or what to do with it or about it. You need to talk to Bobbie or Amelia and find out what it is and what we’re supposed to do with it.”
“Don’t you know Witches? Why don’t you ask people about it.”
“Sookie, Norse men… do not do magick, it’s considered… effeminate. It’s a woman’s realm.”
“Magick is woman’s work? You’re kidding?”
“No, I’m not. When Odin learned women’s magick from Freyja, Loki ridiculed him before the other gods for dabbling with women’s energies.”
“Dr. Ludwig said the baby will be a natural Witch. Are you going to think he’s a sissy if he studies magick?”
“A sissy? What is a sissy?”
“Girly, or gay or effeminate.”
“Sookie, I will never call my son gay. I could walk in on him fucking a man and I will not call him gay.”
“Yeah, that’s a guy thing, I get it.”
“It is not a guy thing, it’s just I don’t think that word has anything to do with who a person will actually fuck. It’s about fashion and politics.”
“OK, that’s a whole ‘nother conversation we’ll have at some point because I have no idea what you mean, but will you hold it against our son if he studies magick? Will you hold it against me?”
“Of course I will not hold it against you, Sookie – you ARE magick – you are Freyja. It is appropriate for you. If my son studies magick, I will… try to accept it. These are modern times, I realize, but if it were up to me, he would not. He will have natural abilities – that will be all he needs, I am sure of it.”
“I just think you should be a little more enthusiastic about something that might affect our son or be really important in his life.”
“I will support our son no matter what he does, Sookie, do not fear. His needs will always come before my preferences.”
“OK…Ok, yeah, I think you mean that.”
“If I did not mean it, I would not say it.”
“Oh, please – you’re not above lying to get what you want.”
“That is true, but I will never lie to you about our son.”
“Alright – that I believe.”
“I expect the same from you, Sookie.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I want you to promise me that you will never lie to me about our son. I don’t want secrets between us. Even if you think he is something or has done something of which I will not approve, I expect you to be honest with me.”
“I don’t want secrets between us, either, Eric.”
“Yes, but I can see you lying to me to protect our son if you thought I would be displeased with something. I will not tolerate that, ever. You must promise to always tell me the truth about our son.”
“OK, I promise.”
“I include lies of omission in that, Sookie.”
“I mean avoiding a subject is the same as lying about it. I want full disclosure.”
“Now you sound like you’re in a business negotiation.”
“Stop avoiding what I am saying.”
“All right, Eric, full disclosure. If I know, you know.”
“Good. Now climb on top of me and fuck me as only you can.” He purred at her and she did what he said, enthusiastically. They put their hands palm to palm and entwined fingers as she rode slowly him, and they locked eyes and maintained eye contact for a long time. At one point, Sookie took his hands and placed them on her belly, and he smiled and covered the bump with his big hands. The baby was asleep, but they could feel him and feel each other and for that moment, everything was right with the world.