LATE 063

TRIGGER WARNING: There’s some extreme Bondage & Domination in part. If that’s not your thing, skip this chapter and the story will still make sense.

Stripes

 

Sookie lay there looking at the clock:

1:17 am.

Eric said he would be back at 4 o’clock. Did he really think she would sleep knowing he might come back and punish her? She knew she should never have spoken to him that way, especially in front of Alicia. Did that really deserve a physical punishment, though? Considering what she was punished for the night before, she guessed he would certainly think so. She might as well make up her mind that he was going to punish her, it was going to hurt, but then it would be over. She was dreading Friday now, not at all sure she could handle a TV interview, but she knew she had no choice and she was pretty sure Eric would have refused the interviews if he had any doubt she could handle it. What was she thinking speaking to him that way in front of Alicia? And on his first night in Las Vegas as King!

She wished she could go after him and apologize, but she knew he’d be furious if she got out of bed after he told her to stay put for 24 hours. She really was too tired to be roaming around this big castle anyway. She hated to admit it, but he was right – she was tired and the travel was a lot for her. She was tense, too. She thought about calling Bobbie on the intercom and asking her to rub her back, but she didn’t know if that was disobeying him or not since he told her to sleep. She figured he was down in the offices. She could buzz down and ask him. He was pretty angry, though. Her back really hurt though and this was health related. Bobbie might not even be awake.

Oh, hell, he’s going to be pissed off anyway, might as well ask for what she wants. She turned the light on and buzzed the offices.

Eric left Sookie in the dark and headed for the offices where he would call Bill to check in and see how the preparations for the Ball were coming along in case he needed to leave notes for Sookie. He would leave instructions for Janet Stevens to help Sookie prepare for her interview and for her to go over all the details in case something got missed. He was still a little angry, but he knew this was a lot for her. He might not even punish her. Lying in the dark for almost 3 hours wondering if she would be punished might be punishment enough. He was pretty sure she wouldn’t backtalk him again any time soon. She did ask to be trained, though, and in that context this was a serious infraction.

He’d have to improvise if he did decide to punish her – he didn’t have anything with him specifically for that. He couldn’t think of much to do, other than a few swats with a belt. That wouldn’t hurt her a lot, but it would get her attention. He’d have to find a place to do it privately, though, if he didn’t want the others to know about it.

He’d have to keep in mind that if he marked her, others might see it. He also needed to careful not to let punishment be confused with abuse. If he did this, it was intended to correct her behavior, not to assuage his anger.

The offices were a long way from his rooms, but with his long legs he covered the distance quickly. As he entered the outer offices everyone, 3 clerks and a Supervisor, knelt before him. He liked that.

“You may rise and continue your work. Where is Sandy?”

“In your office, sire.”

“Through here?”

“Yes, your majesty.”

He opened the door and found Sandy sitting behind the desk – his desk, technically – but she jumped up instantly as he entered.

“Good evening, your majesty.”

“Good evening, Sandy. I thought I’d see if there was anything I needed to take care of.”

“Yes, there are several items. I was going to wait until tomorrow to bother you with them.”

“No bother at all.” He said as he moved back to sit in the chair behind the desk. Sandy sat in one of the large black leather chairs in front of the desk.

“That green folder there has contracts that need your signature, sire. One is for the closing of that small bar we are selling, one concerns a construction project the Mayor referred to you. There are three new purchasing agreements for the administration of the residence that need to be transferred to your name, and contracts for services for the grounds, the pool and security.”

“Alright, let’s go through these one at a time,” he opened the folder. “Now the bar will be completely—”

BZZZZ the intercom lit up. Sandy hit the button from her seat and answered, “Yes, Sheila?”

“The Queen calling for the King on line one, Miss.”

“Thank you, Sheila.” Sandy showed Eric how to open line one.

Eric spoke into the receiver, “Sookie?”

“Hi, Sweetie,” she sounded very unsure of herself. “My back hurts and I can’t sleep. Can I ask Bobbie to rub my back if she’s still awake?”

“Yes, of course, Sookie – and wake her up if you need to.”

“OK, thanks, I’ll see you later?”

“Of course, sweetheart, I’ll be back at 4.”

Sandy smiled, “she’s very sweet.”

“Yes, I never need to worry about her putting a strain on the servants. She’s still very unsure and asks permission for many things she doesn’t need to. She’s fairly unspoiled and I intend to keep her that way. Now, the bar – are we almost rid of it?”

Sookie was relieved that Eric didn’t seem angry now. She buzzed Bobbie’s room.

“Hey, Sookie?”

“Hey, are you still awake?”

“Yep, sure am. What do you need, hon?”

“Would you consider rubbing my back? I’m really tense tonight.”

“Sure, Sweetie, I’ll be right in.”

Sookie was so glad to hear that. She would have someone to talk to and she would feel more relaxed, plus it would kill some time between now and 4. Bobbie knew a little bit about Dominance, too, so maybe she could tell her what to expect.

“Hey, honey!” Bobbie said as she came through the door carrying a bottle of oil and a towel. “Having a rough night?”

“Yeah, in more ways than one. I really appreciate this.”

“Not a problem. What’s going on?” She helped Sookie lean forward so they could get her gown over her head.

“I really fucked up.”

“What happened?” She helped Sookie turn on her side, wondering to herself if they brought this wedge pillow with them or if they just had it here for her.

“See, it turns out I’m supposed to go on Good Morning Las Vegas on Friday and then Good Morning New Orleans next Friday to talk about the balls.”

“Wow – OK – you’re worried about doing a good job?” Bobbie put the towel under her side and warmed some oil between her hands.

“Well, yeah, but that’s not the biggest problem. The biggest problem is I got really sassy with Eric in front of Alicia and he’s really angry with me.”

“Oh – what does his majesty do when he’s angry?”

“See, I insisted that he… train me…”

“as a Submissive?”

“Yeah, so…”

“He’s going to punish you?”

“Probably. He said he’d let me know at 4 am whether he would and how he would.”

“So he was going to let you stew in your own juices until 4 thinking about what he might do to you?”

“Yeah.”

“He’s good at the psychological part of this. Does he know you called me?”

“Yeah, I buzzed him in the office and asked first.”

Bobbie laughed. “Well, at least you didn’t do it without him knowing. That might have made him even angrier.”

“And that’s the last thing I want. He was really pissed off that I spoke to him that way in front of Alicia.”

“I’ll bet. He’s trying to establish himself as king, and if he can’t control his own wife…”

“Exactly. What do I do now?”

“You let him know that you’re really sorry, and you’ll never do it again, and if he decides to punish you, you take it like a woman because that’s how you show respect for him.”

“What do you think he’ll do to me?”

“Has he ever punished you before?”

“Last night was the first time.”

“OK, what did he do last night?”

“He tied my arms way up behind my back so I cried.”

“Tied them how?”

“He wrapped something all the way up them to force them together.”

“OK, elbow binding. How long did he leave you?”

“It felt like forever but I’m pretty sure it was less than 10 minutes.”

“Well, you don’t seem to have any problems with your arms today so he must have known what he was doing. I hope he knows how to check your circulation, but I’ll bet he does.”

“He said that was about all he could do since I was pregnant.”

“Yeah, that does present a challenge. Did he say what he’d do if you weren’t pregnant?”

“He said he’d give me a choice – 10 swats on my bare bottom with his open hand or one stripe with a riding crop.”

“That’s pretty light punishment. You must have done something minor.”

“Yeah, it was a small thing, but I insisted that he punish me.”

“Well, then, you can probably count on him doing something tonight.”

“Am I being silly to be scared?”

“No, you’re supposed to be scared, that’s the whole point. It’s supposed to teach you not to do it again. Whatever he does, he’ll make sure you cry so you take it seriously, so don’t fight the tears.”

“Yeah, I guess so. I know I wanted this…”

“…but it’s different when you’re looking at an actual punishment. A little domination to spice up sex is one thing but actual punishment is something else again.”

“Yeah.”

“You can always tell him you changed your mind. Ultimately, the Submissive is in control of the relationship.”

“But I didn’t – I mean, I haven’t, I just… I don’t know.”

“Sookie, you’re feeling guilty because you disappointed him. That’s the whole point of training – to teach you to please him. The punishment is corrective – it helps mold you into what he wants. It won’t be done out of anger. That’s why he’s waiting until he’s calm. If you guys are going to have that kind of relationship dynamic, this comes with the package. It’s your choice whether you do it or not, so make your choice and be definite about it in your own mind. Either call it off completely, or submit to your punishment to show your respect for him. Once you make the decision, the pain is easier to take. Every stripe shows your love for him.”

“You’ve done this before, huh?”

“Yes, I’ve been in a couple of relationships that involved D/s, mostly when I was younger. It’s hard to find a good Dominant. I don’t know your whole story, of course, but from what I’ve seen, that’s just basically who Eric is, especially now that he’s King. He’s most comfortable when people are serving him and he’s in charge. His instincts just naturally make him “Master” in any relationship he’s in. People who are into D/s would kill to find a Dom like him. It’s very rare to find someone that masterful and that beautiful. He probably has people crawling on their hands and knees to serve him.”

“Yeah, he does. The first time I ever laid eyes on him, that’s what was happening. This man crawled up to him and touched his knee and Eric kicked him across the room.”

“Damn – see, that makes him even more desirable to a sub, because then if he accepts you, you’re “chosen.” You’re the most “chosen” of them all, Sookie, because he actually married you and bonded with you. From a D/s standpoint, he really honors you.”

“Yeah, he does. And I need to honor him and make up for showing disrespect earlier. Thanks for talking to me about this, Bobbie. I don’t think most people would understand.”

“Most wouldn’t. You have to have a certain yearning for D/s to understand it. Average people confuse it with abuse, but it isn’t. It’s just a structured expression of a very special kind of love.”

“I like that description. I need to remember that – that it’s about showing my love for him. He does so much to make me happy – I should be happy to do this for him.”

“Right. You want to roll on your back and I’ll rub your tummy a while?”

“Yeah, thanks.” Bobbie pulled her arm to help her shift her weight and they both laughed because it was a bit of a struggle for Sookie.

“Is it just me, or am I big as a house?” Sookie laughed.

“Well, I wouldn’t say that just yet, but Baby E is definitely making his presence known,” Bobbie tried to minimize it for her.

“What time is it?”

“Ten to three,”

“Ugh, one more hour.”

“I’ll stay with you until about a quarter to 4. I’d better not be here when he gets back. I’ll rub your arms well, too, just in case.”

Eric had signed all the forms and contracts Sandy had for him and she went out to get some plans for the downtown project, so he had a minute to lean back and look around his new office. Horses. Felipe seemed to be obsessed with horses. There were paintings, statues, a saddle, riding gear. Riding gear? Hmmm. Eric got up and looked around. Riding boots sitting beside the door, a saddle… come on, Felipe, I know there’s a whip or a crop in this office somewhere, Eric thought to himself. He went over to what looked like a cabinet but was actually a shuttered shelf displaying all kinds of guns, hand weapons, a sword and crops. Bingo.

‘Nice selection,’ he thought to himself. There were thin straight crops that were obviously not intended for horses, plus a traditional crop, a flogger, even a bull whip.

“Oh, I see you discovered Felipe’s toys – well, your toys, now.” Sandy laughed as she came back in.

“Felipe was into horses?”

“Well, there is a very large horse farm in your holdings, but mostly he was into equestrian… games… of a certain kind.”

“Really?” Eric laughed out loud. That was hysterical!

“Oh, yes, he had quite a collection of little “ponies” who got paid very well to tolerate his… proclivities.”

“Interesting!”

“I even remember him putting a certain Sheriff through her paces a few times.”

“NO – Sabrina?”

“Um-hmm. He liked to flog Vampiresses because they heal so quickly and you can torture them for hours. She paid dearly for the favor he showed her.”

“She stood still for that?”

“No, he had some cuffs and chains made that were coated with silver he used just for her. They were padded so the silver didn’t touch her skin, but when she was secured with them, she was nearly as weak as a human. She made him angry once and he surprised her with those and kept her for a week against her will. He only stopped long enough to let her vocal chords heal so she could keep screaming. I almost felt sorry for the bitch.”

Eric laughed again. “Do these chains still exist?”

“No, your majesty, I had them destroyed.”

“OK, good. Ponies, eh?”

“Is that something that you would be interested in? We can always…”

“No, no, I’m not into ponies – not in that context. I do have need of a couple of these little implements, though. I’ll take a couple with me tonight, if you don’t mind.”

Sandy was a little shocked and a little impressed. Maybe the little Queen was tougher than she looked? “They’re yours now, your majesty, do with them as you will.”

“Good, good, Ve-ery good.” He said, almost to himself. He was suddenly looking forward to 4 o’clock. One hour to go. “Well, let’s take a look at these plans.”

Bobbie rubbed Sookie’s left arm first.

“Oh, that feels so good! Maybe I was a little sore and didn’t know it?”

“That’s possible. He must not have tied you too tightly since there’s no bruising.”

“I never saw what he used, but it was wide straps of some kind. Bobbie, have you ever been hit with a riding crop? I mean, he doesn’t have one with him, but that was one of the things he said he would do if he could. I guess it hurts more than a spanking?”

“Well, it depends on where you get hit and how hard, but generally, a spanking just stings and reddens your bottom. A crop can leave a stripe of red, or blue, or it can even draw blood depending on how it’s used.”

“That sounds horrible.”

“It can be, but it’s not so much you can’t take it. I’ve been whipped with one for fun and for punishment.”

“For fun?”

“Yes, Sookie, some of us like pain – it’s a turn on. There’s a point where the pain clears your mind of all the chaos and you get this kind of focus that is amazing. Plus, your body releases endorphins after a while that make it pleasurable. That’s when it’s used with sort of a light to medium stroke. Punishment with one hurts like hell. You definitely think twice before doing anything to bring that on, believe me.”

“Does it scar?”

“Not usually, and you can be pretty sure Eric will never do anything that will scar you. He likes your skin too much.”

“Yeah, he said that one time. Before we were together, he needed something and considered torturing me but he said he didn’t want to ruin my skin because one day he would see all of it.”

“Wow – that’s intense.”

“Yeah – the whole thing seemed to turn him on but it didn’t do a thing for me. I was scared to death of him then. That’s before I ever saw the real him. At that point he was just the big scary Vampire Sheriff that kept telling me he wanted to fuck me and trying to get me to leave Bill for him.”

“What changed your perception of him?”

“He was cursed and I found him running on the road in the cold in nothing but a pair of dirty jeans. I stopped for him but he didn’t know who I was. He was scared enough to trust me and I took him home and wound up taking care of him for a few days while we waged war with some warlocks.”

“Oh, yeah, I remember hearing about that.”

“When he didn’t know who he was, he was sweet and romantic and he talked to me like nobody ever had before and I fell in love with him and he fell in love with me. When he got his memory back he didn’t remember his time with me and it hurt so much, but then he remembered it all. I was still afraid of the Vampire Sheriff thing, though, so it took a while but we eventually worked it out and he got comfortable being himself with me without the façade.”

“He has no problem being romantic now,” Bobbie said, “he’s amazingly sweet to you.” Bobbie got her an RM out of a small fridge Alicia had arranged for Sookie and gave her a sedative.

“Yeah, he is. A lot of it is because of the baby, but I like to think some of it is for me.”

“It is, Sookie. Nobody who knows you two would be able to doubt that he loves you.” She switched to rubbing Sookie’s other arm.

Eric looked at the clock. 3:20. He gave Sandy his final instructions and had already called Bill so he decided he was done for the night. Sandy said good night to him and went to leave orders for the day staff. Eric went to the cabinet. He took down one of the long thin whips, the flogger and the riding crop and headed back up stairs, considering exactly how he would use these when he got there. Since he had the tools and since he had punished her the night before for a much less serious infraction, he decided to correct the situation definitively.

No matter what he did, he could not have her showing disrespect to him in front of the help. She’s lucky, he reasoned, that he didn’t punish her in front of the help. That’s what he would have done to Pam if she had been so insolent to him in front of others. In fact, he HAD done that to Pam a few times early in their relationship, and much more severely than anything he would do to Sookie. Pam always thought he was too easy on Sookie, and in truth he was. He preferred to ply her with words and gifts, but he knew that in this case, physical punishment was more than warranted. Even in front of a servant as close as Alicia, Eric could not afford to let his authority be questioned without consequences, particularly not by his wife. Above anyone in the world, he needed to be seen as having control of her without question.

Bobbie was gently rubbing Sookie’s belly, and they decided the baby must be asleep because he was neither moving nor communicating. They were chatting and giggling when the door opened and Eric came in with the whips in his hand. He was perfectly calm as he said “Bobbie, are you almost finished?”

“Yes, we were just finishing up.” She scrambled to get the oil and towel and get out of there, saying a quick “good night” to Eric as she rushed past him and noticing what he was carrying. She hoped he wasn’t planning to use them all. He sat on the bed next to her and looked her right in the eye.

“Your back is better?”

“Yes. Thank you for letting me call her.”

“Does she know what is going on between us?”

“Yes… I’m sorry, I just…”

“Quiet.”

Sookie stopped talking and watched him with huge eyes. Her breathing was becoming ragged. She didn’t know exactly what those things he had in his hand were, but she was pretty sure they were bad news for her.

He stood up and looked around the room, tapping his leg with the things in his hand. Sookie couldn’t take her eyes off of them. She knew from the way he was looking around that he was deciding where and how to do this. He stepped into he little alcove that housed the two coffins, noticing very faint remaining scents from Felipe and Sabrina of all people. He realized that the alcove was solid stone and there was a sliding door. When closed, it would be fireproof. It would also, conveniently, be sound proof. There were switches on both sides of the wall and a manual lock for emergencies. He stepped inside the alcove and flipped the switch. The wall closed securely. There was plenty of room to walk around the marble platform, room to swing a crop and the platform was plenty wide enough to stand on and then some. He struck the top of one of the coffins and the sound fell dead. Perfect.

He flipped the switch and the alcove opened up. Sookie hadn’t moved. She was afraid to. He walked to the bed and spread the whips out in front of her, sitting down behind them.

“Do you know what these are?” He asked her quietly and that stern, commanding voice of his.

“Not exactly, Eric.”

“These are whips. This one is longer and thinner than would be useful for a horse, so it is intended for much softer flesh.”

She swallowed hard and she felt dizzy.

“This one, with the 5 flails, is called a flogger. It strikes 5 spots at once.”

Now she was shaking, but she was determined that she was going to do this and get through it.

“This one is a riding crop that is used to whip the tough hide of a horse and make him run or obey.”

She took a deep shaky breath.

“Now, Sookie, you will choose. You can take 10 lashes with the small whip. You can take 5 lashes with the flogger. You can take 3 stripes from the riding crop. Consider carefully.”

Her head was spinning. She was relieved he didn’t plan to use them all, but how could she possibly choose a whip to be used on herself?

“I…”

“Shhhh, Sookie. No words necessary. Pick one up, take a pillow and carry them into the alcove.”

She knew she’d better not hesitate and she figured 3 was better than 5 or 10 so she grabbed the riding crop and stood up, taking her pillow, and she walked into the alcove. Eric was impressed. It took a brave soul to choose the crop over the other two less painful alternatives. He didn’t plan to use the crop on her very hard, but even soft use of it would make an impression, which was his intention. He got up and slowly walked in behind her, flipping the switch. Now the wall was closed, the wall sconces lit and she was in there alone with him.

“No one will hear you scream while we are in here. This room is fireproof and therefore, soundproof. I don’t particularly want to hear your moans, though, so you’re going to use the pillow to muffle your cries. Hand me the crop.”

She handed it to him, afraid to look at him.

“Step up on the marble, Sookie, facing the box.”

She stepped up, her hand on the top of the box to keep her balance.

“Spread your legs and get firm footing so you don’t fall. Put your pillow on the top of the box, bend at the waist, and put your face into the pillow.”

She did as he said, and she realized this raised her ass up to the perfect striking position for him.

“Now, you will keep your legs straight, but you won’t lock your knees. You will not fall, and you will not let your abdomen touch the box. You keep your emotions under control so you don’t wake the baby. Do you understand me?”

“Yes, Eric.”

“Do you know why I am doing this?”

“Yes, Eric.”

“Tell me why I must whip you, Sookie.”

“Because I challenged your authority in front of a servant and you can’t allow me to seem as if you can’t control your own wife or it will make you look weak and put us all in danger.”

“Very good, Sookie. And why are you going to stand there and allow yourself to be whipped?”

“Because I love you, and submitting to the punishment honors you the way you honored me by choosing me.”

“Excellent, Sookie. Bobbie helped you with that, did she not?”

“Yes, Eric.”

“I could tell from the way she looked at the whips. She had that combination of fear and longing in her eyes that a well-trained sub displays. She’d probably give anything to be standing where you are right now, would she not?”

“Yes, I think she would, Eric.”

“Would you rather she be here than you, Sookie?”

“No, Eric, I’m here because I asked you to train me. I could say no at any time if I wanted to but I choose to su- submit.”

“Alright, Sookie this is your last chance. Once I begin, you will receive 3 stripes no matter how you scream or plead because you WILL scream and plead, though I expect you to do it into the pillow so I don’t have to listen to it. Shall I proceed?”

“Yes, Eric.”

“Brace yourself,”

The whistling sound it made was deafening before the world exploded into blinding white fire. Sookie screamed into the pillow and reflexively pulled her legs together.

“Back into position, Sookie.”

She struggled to catch her breath and spread her legs. It took everything she had to stand there waiting for the second stripe, but she didn’t have to wait long. The second one fell perfectly parallel to the first, just about an inch lower.

“Breathe slowly and deeply, Sookie. There’s only one more to go.”

Sookie was having trouble getting herself to bend down so Eric pushed her head down and held his hand in between her shoulders.

“Straighten your legs, Sookie. Spread them further so you don’t fall. That’s it.”

The third was the worst of all. It landed a little sideways because he was holding her down and crossed the other two so they flared in reaction as well as the unmarked skin. She screamed and cried into the pillow for a few minutes, her hand reaching out for him and he took her hand and stroked her back gently. She was pulling him toward her and he knew she wanted to be held, so he helped her stand enough to move toward him, and wrapped his arms around her. She clung to him like her life depended on it, hugging him hard and trying to say she was sorry in between sobs.

“Alright, Sookie, it’s all over now. It’s all forgotten. You’re my good girl now and I love you more than anything. I know it won’t happen again, now will it?”

“No, I promise, I’m so-sorry. I want you to be pro-proud of me.”

“I am proud of you sweetheart. That was very brave and strong and now it’s over.”

‘Come to bed wi- with me and hold me.”

“Of course I will, Lover, it’s alright now.” She was calming down so he opened the sliding wall and picked her up as gently as he could. He tried to put her on her side on the bed and he went around to his side and pulled her into his arms. He flooded the bond with all the love and comfort he could and she was absorbing it like a sponge, she wanted it so badly. He never felt anything like it before. He never felt such need from another and it took his breath away even though he didn’t breathe. He could tell she wasn’t angry or resentful – if anything she was afraid – afraid of being alone.

“Shhh, Sookie, I love you. It’s OK, now, sweetheart. It’s all over.”

“Do you still lo-love me?”

“Yes, Sookie, I will always love you, my Angel. I will always love you. Remember I promised that we will always be together and I will always love you, no matter what.” He was still flooding the bond with love and he could tell that she was feeling it now. “I will always love you, my Angel and we will be together forever.”

“You still promise to turn me when the baby is old enough?”

“Yes, sweetheart, whenever you want.”

“I want to rest with you today-ay.”

“Sookie, you don’t want to spend the day in the box with me, you wouldn’t be able to breathe.”

“I can’t stand to be away from you. Stay in bed with me. There’s no light in here, there aren’t any windows. Stay in bed with me today. I’ll lock the door and tell everybody to stay away, but stay with me.”

Eric considered this. He had been known to sleep in a bed in Vampire hotels. This was technically his home. Bjorn would be there to watch the door and he could tell she was desperate for him to say yes. “Alright, Sookie, I’ll stay here in bed with you.”

She leaned back and looked at his face. “You will? Really?”

“Really. I’ll stay here. I’ll call the office and tell them to send the information about the ball up and let you study it alone. We’ll put Bjorn at the door and only let Bobbie, Alicia, Amelia or Octavia in and we’ll be together all day. Will that make you happy?”

“Yes. Thank you!” She kissed him over and over.

“You know I’ll just be lying here like a cold lump, right, sweetheart?”

“Yes, but I’ll be able to touch you and snuggle up to you and I’ll know you love me.”

“Alright, if someone comes in just throw the blankets over me, ok?”

“Call the office now and tell them. I promise I’ll memorize it all and then she can help me Thursday, OK?”

“Alright, Angel, hold on.” He rolled back to his side of the bed and buzzed the intercom.

“Yes, your majesty?”

“Is Sandy still there?”

“Yes, master, just a moment.”

“Your majesty?”

“Sandy, I’ve changed my mind about having Stevens school Sookie on the details of the Sheriff’s ball. She’d like to be alone, so please have the information prepared in writing and send it up to her maid, Alicia. Stevens can go over it with her on Thursday.”

“Alright, your majesty, as you wish.”

“Thank you, Sandy, Good night.”

Sandy smiled to herself. She was pretty sure Sookie wanted to be alone because Eric had tanned her pretty hide over something or other. She didn’t know he had that kind of control over her. Everyone thought she was running the show, but that apparently was not the case. He was very much in charge if he used any of those whips on her, even a little bit. Good to know. She had been afraid that he was too apt to bend to her considering what she had heard about the tiger episode, but Quinn was still missing and no one expected to see him again. The conventional wisdom said Northman killed him and disposed of the body but there was not a shred of proof anywhere which only made her more sure that it was Northman. He was the only Vamp that old, strong, and clever who had reason to want Quinn dead. When she first heard the story of the little love triangle, and knew that it was Eric Northman he was opposing, she had made a bet that Quinn would meet an untimely end. Quinn’s disappearance made her a thousand dollars.

She knew he killed Felipe, too – she knew that would happen the second she heard about de Castro molesting Sookie. She knew Northman would kill anyone that messed with his little pet and she had warned the staff that they’d better be good to her because he meant what he said – make her unhappy and you make him unhappy. If you planned to go on living you’d better make damned sure you stay on the new King’s good side. If anyone doubted it, she just told them the story of Eric’s ascension, and how he turned Victor Madden to dust in front of a club full of Vampires and didn’t care who saw it. That was already legendary – when anyone doubted it could be true, all she had to do was confirm that she had been there and had seen him do it.

Most Vampires had trouble picturing such a public coup against one as powerful as Victor, and the presence of the Ancient Pythoness added to the mythic quality of the story, but talking to an eyewitness quickly got their attention. She was proud that she had started that Eric the Untouchable meme. She was just out to make it less likely that anyone would mess with him, but it caught fire and grew not just into a legend but seeped into the popular culture, too. She saw great things coming to the Vampire community as the popularity of the awe-inspiring new King and his lovely Queen grew. They were ideal representatives of the community where humans were concerned – young, attractive, sexy and amiable. And that baby! She prayed the baby would get mummy and daddy’s good looks because he would be a moneymaker if he was even a little bit cute. People were absolutely giddy at the prospect of the first Vampire Prince in recorded history. That little family was a Vampire publicist’s dream. Everything the Council had wanted was falling into place so easily, Sandy was beginning to believe the rumor that there was a Goddess behind it all. Sandy didn’t usually go for men, but if she were a Goddess with a taste for males, Northman was certainly fit for a divine offering.

Eric was stroking Sookie’s hair and talking quietly to her. She was calm now but still clinging to him. He was going to have to think about this. Why did she react so intensely and become so clingy? He loved it when she did, but he was thinking he was missing something in her personality that he should know about. Something he should take into account if he ever punishes her again, though it would have to be something really serious for him to do that again. He knew she’d need to be held but the desperation he was feeling from her about him staying with her this day was completely unexpected. He couldn’t say no to her while she was feeling that. It would have been too cruel. There was more going on here than a little pain and a little remorse. What had he missed?

Sookie shifted a little in his arms and moaned. She would be in pain the next day and there were three gorgeous stripes across her perfect backside. He only had a little spy camera with him but if she went to sleep he hoped to get pictures of them while she slept because it was one of the sexiest things he had ever seen. He got up and took his clothes off and got back into bed so he could hold her.

“‘s five o’clock,” she whispered.

“You ready for an RM?”

“Two, if possible. I’m really thirsty.”

“Alright, Lover, hold on.” He grabbed a few of bottles of RM and a straw and brought them back to bed.

“I only asked for two,” she laughed.

“One is for me.”

“Aren’t you going to feed from me tonight?”

“I didn’t want to weaken you. I still need to give you my blood, though.”

He gave her a bottle with a straw and opened a second, beginning to drink.

“No, Eric, me!”

“Sookie, I told you, I don’t want to weaken you.”

“I’m going to be really pissed if you drink that instead of drinking me.”

“Sookie, what…?”

“Drink!” She pulled her hair to the side and bared her neck for him.

His fangs snapped down in spite of himself. The animal in him was going to win this struggle – the sight of her offering herself to him, naked and wearing his stripes, was too delicious and he was already aroused from the whipping. He struck hard and sucked hard. Oh, she was so sweet. He was fighting with himself now – in the front of his mind he knew she was in pain and he needed to be gentle, but the Fae blood was overwhelming him. He couldn’t remember the last time he had to struggle this way. His mind flashed back to the night in his office, when he told her she should be afraid of him and then he wasn’t thinking at all he was just fucking and flying on a Faerie high. He could hear muffled crying and he was coming so hard – someone was drinking his blood. He felt like there was electricity running through his whole body, and it was so good but that noise wouldn’t stop. What was that… whimpering? He shook his head trying to clear it, trying to get that noise to stop. It sounded like… Sookie.

Sookie! His eyes flew open and he realized he was in her, and his wrist was across her mouth. She was digging her nails into his arms, making him bleed. He backed off of her and pulled his wrist away, horrified.

“Sookie, did I hurt you?”

“Whew,” she was struggling for breath, “that was weird.” There were tears streaming down her face.

“Why, what did I do? I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“I don’t know what to call that. You bit me and we both started to come, then there was like this electrical current and I was trying not to cry because my butt hurts so much but I couldn’t help it but then you bit your wrist and almost smothered me with it and we were both STILL coming and I never felt so much pain and orgasm all at the same time. It was all extreme and intense!”

“The baby, Sookie, did I hurt the baby?”

“No, he slept through the whole thing. You bent my legs back but you didn’t put any pressure on him – I don’t know how you managed that. You know what, he slept all day today. There was all kinds of stuff going on and he slept through it.”

“Do you think he’s alright?”

“Let’s both concentrate and see if we feel anything.” They held hands and closed their eyes. The baby was almost visible in their minds. He was sleeping, sucking his thumb, his little heart fluttering like baby hearts do.

“He seems fine, don’t you think?” Sookie asked him.

“Yes, he seems very content. Maybe the traveling made him tired? Your blood pressure was very low on the plane – maybe that would make him quiet? I don’t know what the effect of that would be.”

“I’ll ask Bobbie when I wake up. If she doesn’t know, she’ll know how to look it up on the internet AAAHHHHH –hhhhhh!” Sookie ended the sentence with a huge yawn.

“Alright, little one, time for good girls to go to bed.” He smoothed her hair back and smiled sweetly at her.

“Help me roll over so you can spoon me.”

“Spooning might be uncomfortable with a sore bottom, my Angel.”

“Try, just don’t get real close down there. I like falling asleep with your hand on my belly.”

“Well, I think we can manage that.” He helped her turn over which wasn’t easy with her sore bottom. He held his hand over the stripes and could feel the heat pouring off of them. She’d be pretty tender tomorrow, but tomorrow night he’d rub his blood on them to make them go away if they were still there so she could enjoy her cook out Wednesday. For tonight, though, she needed to feel the pain, and a day dealing with a sore bum would build character as well as insure there would be no repeat performance of tonight’s insolence.

He turned the light off and sent love and comfort to her, and she was sound asleep in no time. He focused his attention on the baby for a while and got the distinct impression that the baby was dreaming. He was a little sad about not being able to spend his nightly time in the nursery. He didn’t know why, but being in that room comforted him in a way nothing else did. Seeing all the little baby clothes and the toys and the many fine things Sookie was accumulating for Eric Alexander all had such an air of love and care about them. There was something… eternal, and good… about a mother gathering her nest. She would be an ideal mother, like she was an ideal Lover and an ideal Queen, and only becoming more so as he trained her to please him in every way. She was a jewel and he was so proud of her strength and beauty.

When Sookie was dreaming, Eric slipped into the bathroom to leave his nightly message for Alicia. He told her not to be alarmed that he was in the bed with Sookie when she came in to feed her. He asked her to post Bjorn at the door as soon as he was up and to limit entrance to the room to members of their immediate party only. He repeated that Sookie was to stay in bed except for using the bathroom and that meant in the bed – not in the living room, not in the pool, in bed. He told her about the information for the ball.

He pulled the little spy camera out of his brief case, and pulled the blankets back to expose Sookie’s stripes. Beautiful! He took dozens of pictures, praying that they’d show up clearly in them. When he was done, he put the little camera away, and gently covered her back up. He remembered there would be people in the room this day, so he put some silk boxers on and hid the whips in one of the coffins.

As he returned to bed, he knew the light was approaching and he began to slow down, so he put himself in position next to her, covered himself with the blankets, and let himself go to rest.

“Sookie? Sookie, wake up!” Alicia was there with her 7 am feeding.

Sookie opened her eyes but she grimaced and cried out as she tried to move.

“Are you alright, dear?”

“Um, yeah, is there any ibuprofen? I’d like to have a couple along with my sedative.”

“Of course, dear. You aren’t having cramps, are you?”

“No, I’m just a little sore from last night.”

“Oh, alright, then, I’ll be right back.” Alicia just assumed Sookie meant they’d had strenuous sex, which was nothing unusual, so she got the medicine for her and didn’t think any more about it. Sookie drank 2 RMs and went right back to sleep once she settled in and stopped trying to move.

At 9 o’clock Bjorn brought a chair inside the door and took a post at a respectable distance from the bed. Bobbie gave Sookie her RM and asked her if she was in pain.

Sookie said “Like nothing I’ve ever felt before.” So Bobbie got a soothing spray from her room that would ease the pain a little.

When she pulled up the covers to spray it on she said “Yikes!”

“You have no idea,” Sookie said weakly.

“Yeah, honey, I do, but the good news is, there are only three of them.” Bobbie took the wedge pillow away and helped Sookie get situated on her side facing Eric. Sookie kept her arms tightly around the closest of his arms as she went back to sleep.

Bjorn was trying to figure out exactly what they were talking about, especially when Bobbie uncovered Sookie and sprayed something on her back or lower body. Bjorn was trying to reason it all out – the logical assumption would be that her bottom was sore from sex, but that wouldn’t require an anesthetizing spray.

“I’m going to get some ice – I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Bobbie told her.

Why would Sookie need ice and why was Eric not in a coffin? What the hell went on in here last night? He knew they had some wild sex but this didn’t seem like a sex injury. He looked around the room, but he didn’t see anything that looked out of place. He looked around the room very slowly. There were a few clothes on the chair that Alicia probably put there because they were folded and neither Eric nor Sookie hesitated to throw their clothes on the floor. Their luggage was beside the dresser and under the bed. Why wasn’t Eric in one of those coffins over there?

Bjorn couldn’t take the curiosity so he went into the alcove to see if there was something wrong with them. He used his Were sense of smell to examine this little room and he knew that Eric and Sookie had been in it. He opened one of the boxes and found that it was empty. That was a relief. He opened the other one, and found the whips lying in there. He felt a cold chill. Did he use these whips on that sweet little girl? Eric loved her so much, but Bjorn also knew they were into kinky stuff. The more he thought about it, the more it made sense. That’s why Sookie’s backside was sore. That’s why the spray and the ice to come. He whipped her.

Bobbie had said there were only three of them. Three welts, maybe? Bjorn was pure turmoil for a few minutes. On one hand, he was very protective of Sookie. On the other hand, he had used a belt or a riding crop on a girl more than a few times – hell, he had whipped Felicia more than a few times – and knew the attraction of it for both parties. Eric was his boss, and Sookie was HIS in every way possible – he understood that now. If he whipped Sookie, he was sure it was because she agreed to it. Eric never forced her to do anything – he didn’t have to. She’d gladly bend over his knee and say “please, sir, may I have another?” if she thought it would make him happy.

The curiosity was killing him. He tried to tell himself he wanted to peek out of concern for her, but if he were honest he’d admit that he was dying to see if she had any stripes or marks. If Eric was going to apply a whip to a girl’s ass, Bjorn was quite sure he’d make sure he left his mark. Bobbie would be back in a few minutes. Fuck it, he was her bodyguard, and he needed to know what was going on with her. He walked quietly over to the bed and gently pulled the covers back.

Holy shit! Three beautiful red lines on the most perfect heart-shaped white ass, ever, framed perfectly by her tan lines. Well, there was no evidence of the thinner whip or of the flogger, so it looks like she got off with three strikes of the riding crop. If you were doing that for fun, you’d more than likely use the thinner whip and make lots of lighter strokes. These were pretty serious stripes so Bjorn wondered if this wasn’t punishment for something. He’s glad he knew them as well as he did now because otherwise he’d be thinking about staking the son of a bitch where he lay. Knowing them, though, he knew there was a story behind this. He couldn’t take his eyes off those perfect marks.

“Bjorn!”

Shit.

“What are you doing?” Bobbie asked him.

“So was this a recreational whipping or instructional?”

“It was punishment, and she agreed to it so don’t you say anything to anybody about this. You’d better not let Eric know you were looking at her ass, either.”

“Yeah, probably not, but I’m glad I did. That’s a fucking work of art.” He admired a good set of stripes as much as any Dom.

“I’m sure she’d appreciate that.” Bobbie sat down a bucket of ice and went into the bathroom for a large towel, which she wet in the sink and squeezed out, then she grabbed 2 dry ones as well.

“What did she do?”

“She cursed and talked back to him in front of Alicia.”

“So she disrespected him? Here?”

“Last night.”

“Yeah, he can’t have that. Alicia wouldn’t mind but if anyone else gets the idea he can’t control her, that could compromise his authority.”

“Exactly. People can’t get the idea that he’s got any weaknesses or that puts us all in danger.”

Bjorn went back to his seat and watched Bobbie fill the towel with ice and fold it into an envelope to hold it. She put another towel slightly under Sookie to catch any draining moisture, and Sookie moaned a little as she pressed the mattress down to get the edge of it under her. She gently lifted the covers and laid the envelope of ice on her as best she could since she was on her side, then she wrapped the other dry towel around it to hold it in place. Sookie flinched a little when she felt the cold towel, but she settled right back down and Bobbie was able to cover the marks pretty well.

“You’ve done this before,” Bjorn said with a sly smile.

“Yes, and you seemed to have a pretty good idea how it works, too.” She gave him a wicked smile.

“Maybe we’ve got more in common than I thought?” OK, so he was flirting a little. He knew Bobbie was crazy about Bill but he wasn’t sure how committed Bill was to her. Bobbie was a little older than he normally hooked up with, but she was pretty and had a cool vibe about her. Might as well keep his options open. Should the opportunity present itself, he’d definitely “hit that.” Plus, she did bodywork and he would love to have those soft hands all over him. His favorite part of the day was watching her massage Sookie because that evoked all kinds of lesbian and three-way fantasies.

He knew Sookie had done that before with Eric and Pam – one of his favorite scenarios from his “spank bank” – so it didn’t take much to imagine Sookie with Bobbie with him directing the action. The thought of Eric sitting in that big chair at the end of that round bed at Fantasia, watching Sookie and Pam, sent chills through him. He wanted to be that guy for one night. If Bjorn had heroes, Eric would probably be at the top of the list. He was definitely “the Master” in more ways than one. He wondered if it was true that male Vamps didn’t have any “down time” between orgasms. If it were true that Eric was able to keep going and going all he wanted – well, it wouldn’t be hard to understand why a girl as sexual as Sookie would worship a guy like that. ‘She’s completely spoiled for humans,’ he thought. ‘Even a Were might not impress her at this point.’

Bobbie came back in with Sookie’s 11 o’clock RM and a straw.

“Where’s Alicia?” Bjorn asked since he hadn’t seen her in several hours.

“She went shopping for Sookie. She’s got to have clothes for two TV appearances this Friday and next.”

“She’s going to be on TV?”

“Yes, she’s going on the Good Morning shows to talk about the ball and the fund raiser.”

“So they’re going to introduce her as Queen of the Vampires?” he laughed.

“Something like that.”

“Does she know this?”

“She found out last night which is why she got cheeky with Eric.”

“Oh, man. I wonder how long he knew about it before he told her?”

“I don’t know but you’ll notice he told her just early enough for her to prepare for it. He probably knew she’d have a fit, then she’d calm down, learn her lines and blow everybody away. I gather that’s her usual M.O.”

“If she does a good job, she’ll make the Vamps look awfully good.”

“That’s the idea, apparently. I’m not sure who the driving force is, but the plan seems to be to use them and the baby as the new face of the Vampire community because they’re so pretty and charming.”

“O0-hh, OK – a couple of gorgeous, blue-eyed blondes with a miracle baby? Hollywood couldn’t come up with a better casting than that. Somebody’s really thinking.”

Bing-bing-bong!

“That must be the door bell? I’ll get it,” Bobbie said, setting the blood down before she woke Sookie and hurrying to the front of the suite.

Bjorn stood and listened at the door, just in case, but it he could hear it was just Bobbie and another female voice. Bobbie came back carrying a clipboard full of papers. “Sookie’s briefing on what to say on TV.”

“I’m surprised somebody isn’t quizzing her on that.”

“She said that her Supervisor would review it with her on Thursday.”

“OW!”

“Sookie, honey, you alright?” Bobbie rushed over to her.

“Yeah, I’ve just got a little Viking dancing on my bladder. I need to get to the bathroom.”

“OK, Sweetie, I’ll help you. Is this your gown over here?”

“Probably – it’s pink.”

“OK, uh – Bjorn, would you turn around for a minute?”

“Sure.” He stood and faced the wall, but noticed he could see Sookie in the mirror to the right. Oh, man. He berated himself for looking but she was just gorgeous as she backed slowly out of the bed and Bobbie helped her stand and slip the gown over her head. How could a chick that pregnant look so hot? Look at the curve of those hips and those full breasts! He loved curvy girls, and those curves were smokin’!

Bobbie helped Sookie as she walked gingerly to the bathroom and closed the door behind them. Sookie needed help with everything this morning and she apologized profusely to Bobbie, but she assured her she didn’t mind at all. When they came back out Sookie noticed Bjorn for the first time.

“Hey, Bjorn.”

“Good morning, your majesty. Anything I can do to help you?”

“No, it’s just going to be a rough day, I guess. Just make sure nobody but family comes in here since Eric is vulnerable.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, why isn’t he in one of the coffins?”

“I begged him to stay in the bed with me. I was feeling kind of insecure and I couldn’t stand the thought of being away from him. I’m so grateful he said yes. I was afraid he wouldn’t but he did because he loves me.”

Bjorn realized she was still half asleep and not quite aware of what she was saying. So he whipped her and she clung to him to the point he couldn’t go to rest safely? Wow. He’d never seen that reaction in a girl. He watched as she climbed carefully into the bed with Bobbie’s help, and pretended he wasn’t watching as Bobbie sprayed her backside again and put more ice in the towel and tucked it all in around her.

“Bobbie – can I get some ibuprofen?”

“Sure, Sweetie, they’re right here.”

“Can I have some water? I’m really thirsty and I want water.”

“OK, honey, just a second.”

“I’ll get it, if you want.” Bjorn offered.

“That would be cool. I think there’s more ice in the kitchen. Thanks, hon.” Bobbie said

“Sure.”

He quickly went to the kitchen and found a glass. The refrigerator had ice and water in the door, so he was all set and back in the room in just a minute.

“Thanks, Bjorn,” Sookie said to him. “Bobbie, does he know?” She gulped the water straight down.

“Yes, Sweetie, I’m sorry – he figured it out.”

“You gonna give me a hard time?” Sookie asked him.

“Did you agree to it of your own free will?”

“Yes.”

“Then that’s your choice. If he had forced you, that would be a different story.”

“Thanks. Please don’t tell Alicia. She wouldn’t understand.”

“OK, we’ll try to run interference so she doesn’t find out.” Bobbie assured her.

Sookie struggled to raise Eric’s big arm, but Bobbie helped her and she managed to get it across her pillow so she could lay her head on it, and she snuggled up as close to him as she could. Once she was settled, Bobbie adjusted the ice pack, and before long, Sookie was asleep again with her arm across Eric’s chest.

Bobbie took one of the bedside chairs and sat next to Bjorn.

“I can’t believe that doesn’t creep her out.” Bjorn said.

“If she were easily creeped out, she wouldn’t have married him.”

“True. She really loves that guy, doesn’t she?”

“Yes, she does, very much.”

“I hope he deserves it.”

“Oh, I think she’s a pretty good judge of character. She knows his flaws and accepts them. She’s perfectly suited to be his wife in most ways. I think she feels lucky to have him. Most women would.”

“Women do seem to fawn over him. Even Alicia and Margaret look at him with stars in their eyes.”

“He’s very generous – you know that. Plus, he’s big, beautiful and very romantic toward her. He’d make any woman swoon.”

“I guess. I’ve never heard a woman say anything about him that wasn’t positive. I swear the guy could get away with anything.”

“That guy HAS gotten away with almost everything at one point from what Bill tells me. Vampires fear him as much as women love him.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard a few stories. The gossip is that he killed Sookie’s ex, and he killed de Castro, too.”

Bobbie didn’t dare tell Bjorn she was in the hotel suite when Felipe met the edge of Eric’s sword and helped clean up the evidence. “Is there any proof of that?”

“Not a trace of anything. They just vanished within a month or so of each other. The only thing they had in common was that they challenged Eric’s claim on Sookie.”

“I’m sure there were other connections, but it’s good that people know better than to mess with him. Bill said Eric would kill someone like Quinn and laugh about it with absolutely no remorse if he felt like he was entitled to, and messing with Sookie would certainly make him feel entitled. I can’t imagine it, but he assures me he’s capable of it.”

“You know about him killing Victor Madden, right?”

“Yeah, I was there.”

“You were?”

“It was their wedding reception. I was there with Bill. They were expecting trouble that night because Eric showed us some security exits and stuff in case we needed to escape. I was in Eric’s booth up front watching the whole thing. One second Victor had a head and the next one he didn’t. Eric moved so fast it was nearly invisible, and he didn’t blink afterward. Fighting broke out in the street, and Eric went out and gave this blood-curdling war cry and everyone froze and he told them to swear fealty or die, and they did or they did.”

“There were Weres working for him that night, weren’t there?”

“Yes, it had something to do with the Council and Sookie is considered a Friend of the Pack by the Shreveport Weres so they were honor-bound to help, I think. They took out all of Victor’s men, as far as I know, except 2 that were killed by other Vampires.”

“I didn’t know Sookie was protected.”

“Oh, yeah, she’s connected in the Supe community. Eric had a lot of rivals for her – he might still, for all I know, but I’m pretty sure their marriage quelled a lot of that. Between the wedding and the baby, plus the backing of the Council, I don’t think anybody is going to try to take her any time soon.”

“They want her because of the telepathy?”

“That’s part of it. Being in such a pretty package is the other part. The combination of looks and ability makes her a feather in anyone’s cap. Bill told me that marrying Eric was the smartest thing she could have done in terms of being protected. Bill would have tried to protect her, but he’s young. Eric was old and powerful and people were already afraid of him. Of the available options, Eric was the best choice. Sophie Ann’s consort tried to enslave her and Eric stepped in and stopped it. That’s how they became bonded. He offered himself to keep her from being bound to Andre, and Andre was forced to accept it. That would have happened over and over if not for Eric.”

“Wow. I guess it’s lucky they love each other so much. It sounds like they’re stuck with each other.”

“Yeah, especially now that they’re having the baby.”

“What about the baby?” Sookie was awake.

“We were just saying you guys are stuck with each other.”

“Yep, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Ouch.” Sookie laughed.

“So you’re awake and in a good mood now?”

“Yes, but my ass is still on fire.”

“It’ll heal pretty quick since you’re drinking Eric’s blood.”

“I think it’s not working as well as it used to. Like when I first drank from Bill, it caused this miraculous healing, but now, I think I’ve had so much of Eric that I’m immune to its effects a little bit. Either that or it all goes to the baby. I think if Eric rubbed his blood on the welts they would go away, but I don’t know if he’ll consider that. If he’s in a good mood tonight, I’ll ask him but I think having to suffer is part of the punishment.”

“Did it work? Are you going to do it again?” Bjorn asked her.

“Uh, NO, I am never going to get smart with him again in front of a servant. I could have said anything in the world to him if we had been alone, but I shouldn’t have mouthed off to him in front of anyone else and I knew that but I forgot.”

“You aren’t likely to forget again, are you?” Bjorn laughed.

“NO, I won’t forget EVER.” She reached over and kissed Eric’s cold cheek and stroked his broad chest lovingly.

“So you talked him into staying out in the open like that? Isn’t that dangerous?” Bjorn asked.

“Yeah, but I wanted him with me and he said we’d have you at the door and we’d just tell you not to let anyone but family in. He won’t make a habit of it, of course, but I just really needed him with me today. I miss him so much when he’s not around.” She was stroking his chest and his arm like he was the most precious thing in the world, and Bjorn figured maybe he was to her.

“Are you getting hungry, sweetheart?” Bobbie asked her.

“Yeah, I could definitely eat. What time is it?”

“12:20.” Bjorn said.

“They won’t bring your breakfast until 2 unless you call them, Sookie.”

“There’s a buzzer on Eric’s nightstand that goes to the kitchen – Bobbie would you buzz them and ask them to bring my breakfast?”

“Sure, I will” Bobbie went over to the nightstand and saw that the buttons on the intercom were clearly labeled so she pressed the one for the Kitchen.

“Yes, your majesty?”

“The Queen asks that her breakfast tray be brought up now, please and two lunch trays for her doula and body guard. Thank you.”

“Right away.”

“Hey, where are Octavia and Amelia? I just thought about them!” Sookie felt like a terrible hostess.

“They went shopping with Alicia. The three of them were going to get lunch and get you something to wear on TV,” Bobbie told her.

“How’d they get into town?”

“Eric has cars available for all of us if we want to go anywhere. He even gave us all gift cards this morning with money to spend and gamble with,” Bobbie was laughing because she barely believed it herself.

“Gift cards?” Sookie hadn’t heard about this.

“Yeah, American Express cards with money already on them. Every one of us got $5,000 dollars to spend.”

“Everyone? Like Amelia, Octavia, Alicia, and you two?” She counted on her fingers, “So he just handed out $25,000 dollars this morning? Wow, that’s good, even for him.”

“Yeah, they had our names on them and everything. I don’t know when he ordered them, but Ms. Stevens gave them out early this morning and said they were compliments of the King. We’re going to get 3,000 more when we get to New Orleans.”

“He also said he’ll make sure that each one of us gets at least one afternoon and one night off to do what we want.” Bjorn said.

“OK, well, I don’t want anybody getting in trouble, OK?”

“Trouble?” Bobbie said.

“Nothing to worry about, Sookie. We’ll behave.” Bjorn assured her, knowing she was talking about him. He was pretty sure she hadn’t told anyone about his problem with poker, and he fully intended to stay far away from all cards on this trip.

Bobbie had no idea what they were talking about but she just let it pass without notice. The doorbell rang so they all got busy getting their lunch and breakfast trays, which were rolled in on a serving cart that Bjorn and Bobbie used as a table while the cook who brought them put Sookie’s tray on the dresser as she asked. When she was gone, Bobbie helped Sookie get settled with her tray, which wasn’t easy because Sookie had to sit up for that and Bjorn had to help her move up on her sore bottom which hurt so badly her eyes watered, or so she said when she insisted that she was NOT crying.

“Mmmm- I got steak and fried potatoes. What did you guys get?” Sookie was really hungry.

“We got huge roast beef subs.” Bobbie said. Bjorn was busy digging in and tearing open the bag of chips. They had a tray with all kinds of fixings for their sandwiches – red and white onions, sweet peppers, hot peppers, green peppers, mayo, oil, lettuce – and Bjorn was loading his up as Bobbie and Sookie exchanged amused looks. They had diet Cokes, too, but Sookie had grape juice and caffeine-free iced tea, plus a bowl of strawberries and whipped cream.

“How come I never get a diet Coke?” Sookie wondered.

“Because Eric said you are to have no artificial sweeteners or colors. Your drinks have to be caffeine-free, chemical-free, and sweetened only with small amounts of sugar. He doesn’t even want you having stuff sweetened with corn syrup because he read that was making children fat.” Bobbie told her.

“I need to hide his computer,” Sookie laughed.

“or find a filter that will keep him off certain sites,” Bobbie laughed.

“I’m on Eric’s side in this.” Bjorn said.

“Oh, really?” Sookie teased

“Absolutely. He’s trying to raise a warrior. His son needs good food – protein, quality carbohydrates, good fats – to grow tall and strong. He doesn’t want a little fat, lazy American son. He wants a tall, lean muscular Swedish boy that can fight and run. If he eats food, Eric won’t let you spoil him with candy, he told me so on the way to Fangtasia the other night. When I told him I didn’t want cake, he asked me about nutrition and what a boy needed to be muscular like me and I told him. I wrote down the names of books he could read about bodybuilding, and I explained that he must have foods without chemicals and hormones. He’s going to arrange for organic foods for us all.”

“Wow – that’s great,” Bobbie said.

“Is that really expensive?” Sookie asked just out of curiosity.

“Worth every penny. We can have it shipped in. It will be better for all of us.” Bjorn said. “He said the cost is nothing if it helps his wife and son be healthy and he will be happy to have us all eat healthy foods so we do our jobs well. He told me to use the gym on the fourth floor any time I want and wants me to teach the boy to take care of his body as he grows.”

“How come I didn’t know any of this?” Sookie said.

“We just talked about it, and there’s been a lot going on so he probably just hasn’t had time to tell you. Or he might think it’s something between men. I don’t know. He’s going to teach me to use a sword – you and Bobbie, too.”

“Yeah, I had my first lesson a week or two ago. He said I was good with the Japanese one.”

“The katana – he told me. He was very pleased that you seemed to have a natural feel for it. He said he’s seen people work for months to reach where you are. As soon as he can build up your forearms and the baby is born he will get very serious in teaching you to fight.”

“And he’s planning to teach me, too?” Bobbie asked.

“Absolutely. You are working for a Vampire King and you are dating his second in command. You might find yourself in a situation where you have to defend yourself. Swords are the most commonly used weapon in a Supe war. I have some experience with one, but nothing like Eric. He’s in a class by himself. He showed me some moves with a sword in his office – amazing that a guy his size is so graceful and quick. He’s an army all by himself. He can strike a human being in half with one blow.”

“I’ve seen him do it. It’s unbelievable. He does it as easily as a hot knife through butter.” Sookie said.

“You’ve seen that?”

“We were at a ball and a fight broke out where Sophie Ann, the old Queen, was under attack. He put me in a safe spot, kissed me hard, then he let out this war cry and knocked a guy down with a Vampire’s head and went to protect her. He just split this one guy in half – swoosh!” She made a cutting motion.

“He’s so strong. I asked him how strong he was and he picked up Sookie’s car over his head. I never saw anything like it and I’m a Were,” Bjorn said.

“That’s nothing – did he fly up in the air with it?” Sookie said. He’d see it eventually, anyway.

“What?” Bjorn said.

“He can fly with a car in his hands. He’s dumped plenty of cars in swamps to get rid of them.”

“You’re telling me Eric can fly?” Bjorn was stunned.

“Oh, yeah – it would be nothing for him to take a car the size of mine or bigger and fly for miles with it.” Sookie bragged.

“Bobbie, did you know this?” Bjorn asked.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him fly. I saw him fly off a balcony in Las Vegas, go out to the desert and come back.”

“Holy shit – he’s like Super Man.” Bjorn laughed.

“Only taller, blonder, hotter, and better in bed,” Sookie laughed and Bobbie just cracked up.

“Jesus! Is there anything that guy can’t do?”

“Haven’t found anything yet. He even managed to father a baby with just a little help.” Sookie laughed.

“Damn, no wonder you let him whip your ass. Small price to pay for being married to Super Vamp.” Bjorn laughed and the girls joined, Sookie sticking her tongue out at him.

“Speaking of my ass, I could use some more ibuprofen.” Sookie said.

“OK, honey.” Bobbie jumped up and got her some from the bottle on her nightstand. Sookie took the pills with the last of her juice. “You done with your tray, Sweetie?”

“Yeah, thanks.”

Bobbie and Bjorn stacked the dirty dishes and put everything on the cart, then Bobbie took it out to the hall way where the maid told her they would pick it up. She went back in and sat next to Bjorn and they were talking about it being almost 2:00 when they heard noises in the front room. Bobbie went to see what was up, and Bjorn stood at the door again listening. It was Alicia, Octavia and Amelia coming home.

“Hey, girls!” Bobbie went out to welcome them. “You’re home early!”

“We had some good luck shopping, and after lunch we wanted to come back so we thought we’d come back before Sookie wakes up.” Alicia said.

“She’s been up and had breakfast already.” Bobbie told her. “I hope you didn’t hurry back for that.”

“They hurried back for me,” Octavia said, “the old lady needs a nap.”

“We were more than ready to come home. The driver will bring up the packages and you can see what we bought.” Amelia said.

“I even got me a couple of dresses,” Octavia said, “but I’m not going to wait for them. I’m going to take my nap and I’ll get my packages from you all later.”

“OK, Octavia, rest well,” Amelia said

“Sweet dreams” came from Alicia and Bobbie told her “sleep tight,” as Octavia headed back out to her room. Amelia went to make sure she found her way, then came running back to talk to the girls. Alicia put her purse in her room then came back out to the living area for Eric and Sookie’s suite to wait for their packages and Bobbie stayed to get the dish on their trip.

“Well, we got a good look at this place in the daylight,” Alicia said. “It’s even bigger than I realized.”

“Seriously, it even seems bigger to me this time than it did for the wedding,” Amelia said. “And there are still “fans” or whatever waiting outside the gate hoping to get a glimpse of Eric or Sookie.”

“Still? Damn, that’s persistent.” Bobbie laughed.

The driver and another guard came up with the ladies’ packages and Amelia and Alicia spread things out on one of the couches to sort it all out.

“We had the best time, Bobbie, I wish you could have gone with us,” Amelia said.

“Yeah, but Sookie needed me so I was glad to stay.”

“Has she had any more ibuprofen?” Alicia asked

“Yeah, about half an hour ago, I think.”

“Is she having cramps?” Alicia asked.

“No, just a little back pain. She’ll be fine.” Bobbie wanted her to drop this line of questioning so she tried to deflect her attention. “Did you buy anything for yourself, Alicia?”

“Yes, I bought a couple of things. Amelia and Octavia found some nice things, too. The most important thing, though, is I found some very pretty dresses for Sookie to wear that should work even with the baby.”

“Great – she’ll love that. She probably won’t be up to trying them on until tomorrow, though. She’s pretty wiped out.” Bobbie said.

Amelia knew something was up, but she didn’t say anything yet. Whatever it was, Bobbie was running interference for Sookie with Alicia. “At least she’s doing what Eric told her and staying in bed.” Amelia said.

“Yeah, she’s pretty tired. She woke up early and she was hungry, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she went right back to sleep.”

“I’m just going to look in on her and say hi before she goes back to sleep, ok?” Amelia said.

“Sure – she’ll be glad to see you. She was asking where you all were.” Bobbie smiled.

Amelia slipped into the room. “Hey, Bjorn.”

“Hey.”

“Amelia! Did you have fun shopping?”

“Yeah, we found some great stuff.” She sat on the bed next to Sookie and saw her grimace. “Alicia got some nice dresses for you but Bobbie told Alicia you’d wait until tomorrow to try them on. What’s up – and don’t try to bullshit me.”

“It’s personal.”

“Bullshit.”

“Alright, my bottom is sore but don’t you dare tell Alicia or Octavia.”

“Sore from anal sex?”

“No, sore from a whipping. I got smart with Eric last night in front of Alicia and he tanned my hide, OK? I let him do it, it was my choice, so please don’t give me a hard time about it.”

“Are you guys into bondage or domination?”

“Domination, yes.”

“So was this was a punishment you agreed to?”

“Yes.”

“There’s no force or coercion involved?”

“None. It’s my choice, I swear.”

“OK, kiddo, it’s not my thing but you’re a big girl and Eric is kind of a natural Dom from the ground up so I respect your choice. I’ll help Bobbie run interference for you. Bjorn is in on this, too, I guess?”

“Yes, I have to know about her physical well-being.”

“Why is Loverboy in bed and not in a coffin?”

“I begged him to stay with me and I made it impossible for him to say no to me. I know I was being selfish, but I really wanted to be with him today.”

“Interesting.”

“He’ll be awake in 4 hours so it’s not much longer and Bjorn is guarding us, so he’s almost as safe as he’d be over there.” She pointed at the coffins.

“Sookie, you know that’s not true. You know I care more about your well-being than his, but this puts him in danger, honey. You want to do what’s best for him, right?”

“Yeah, of course, I just couldn’t stand the thought of being away from him today.”

“Sookie, you’re being a little bit selfish. My guess is he felt a little guilty and let you talk him into this, but he really does need to be in a secure place, so don’t put him in the position of having to do this to make you happy, OK?”

“I didn’t mean to be selfish, I just really miss him in the day time.”

“It might be one thing doing it at home, but this place isn’t really secure yet. How would you feel if someone hurt him because he was easy to get to?”

“Of course I’d feel terrible. I’d die if I lost him.”

“Then you make sure he’s as safe as he can be every day at dawn. That’s what he needs to do to take care of you and the baby. If you love him, you make sure he’s safe when he’s asleep, ok?”

“Yeah – I know you’re right. I don’t know what got into me. I just… I don’t know. I needed him.”

“What’s going on with you, Sookie?”

“I don’t know – too much going on maybe? Too much to absorb?”

“Maybe you and Eric need some time alone tonight? We could all go out and get out of your way if you want, or just stay out of this suite.”

“You guys do whatever you want to do. We should probably find out what Eric wants, although I think he wanted me to stay put and we’d go to bed early. Well, actually, I’d go to bed early and then he’ll work after I’m asleep.”

“When was the last time you and Eric were completely alone for an entire evening?”

“2 or 3 weeks, I think.”

“Right. You’ve been really busy. How about we all take care of ourselves tonight and you two just stay alone and talk? You’ll be in the pool all day tomorrow and around people then you have dinner out, then we’re moving, then the ball…”

“Yeah, don’t forget my television debut Friday morning.”

“What?”

“I have to go on Good Morning Las Vegas Friday morning, then next Friday I’m on Good Morning New Orleans to talk about the Fundraiser.”

“When did you find this out?”

“Last night, which is why I got mouthy with Eric in front of Alicia. That’s what the dresses she bought me are for.”

“Wow, well, like I said, you’re going to be busy so take this night for just the two of you.”

“I’ll see if he’ll do that. I would like it.”

“Maybe you guys could just sit around and watch TV. How long since you’ve done that?”

“Feels like months.”

“Knock, knock! Mrs. Northman – may I come in?”

“Sure, Alicia, how was your shopping trip?”

“Very productive. I got you a couple of very pretty dresses and a simple short sleeved suit with some white gloves and I got shoes for all of it. Would you like to see them?”

“Yeah, sure.”

OK, this was chick time, so Bjorn took his chair out in the hallway, in case anyone needed to get naked, and closed the door behind him.

Alicia hung the garment bag from the store on a hook on the back of the bedroom door and untied the bottom. First she took out a yellow floral dress with a low-cut bodice, and empire waist and lace trim.

“I thought you might like this one for Friday. It’s very feminine and it will draw attention to your bust while it accommodates your baby bump.”

“Nice,” Amelia said.

Bobbie came in the door, “Oh, are we looking at clothes?”

“Yes, we are,” Alicia said, “What do you think about this for Friday morning?”

“Pretty – it’s sort of Jane Austen with cleavage. Does she have the right bra for that?” Bobbie asked.

“Yes, I bought her a push up a little larger than she normally wears to allow for the current growth. I think it will be very pretty on her, and it will look lovely with her complexion. Do you like it, Sookie?”

“Yes, it’s pretty. It’s probably about the best I can do while I’m pregnant.”

“You’ll look gorgeous in that, Sookie! How are you going to wear your hair?” Bobbie asked. She knew the dress was a little bit conservative for Sookie’s tastes, but it was lovely for a bright young Queen.

“Good question. Any ideas, Alicia?” Sookie was a little lost in all of this.

“Well, you can go sweet and simple, where we just blow it out and put a white headband in your hair, which I think is very pretty with your face, or we can curl it, brush it out and tease it and do that sort of Ursula Andress look we did for your reception.”

“You looked amazing that night, Sookie.” Bobbie confirmed

“I’ve seen those pictures, Sookie – you really did look lovely,” Amelia agreed.

“Speaking of Friday, did they ever send up the information I’m supposed to learn?”

“Yes, it’s over here,” Bobbie picked up the clipboard on her dresser.

“Let me have it so I can start working on it when we’re done here, please.”

Bobbie handed her the clipboard. “So what else do you have, Alicia?

“Well, I have this little shift dress in blue.” She took a boxy little dress out of the bag.

“It’s cute but not… It’s not really me, is it? There’s no shape to it.”

“Ok, let’s try his one.” She pulled out a long, sleeveless, cotton dress in a beautiful lavender floral print with a loose drop waist, full skirt, scoop neck and gathered elasticized back that would make the bodice form fitting.

“Oh, I love that!” Sookie said.

“Would you rather wear it this Friday, dear? You would probably want the more conservative and feminine of the two to wear in New Orleans. This one is a little more modern.”

“OK, let’s do that. Now I feel better, knowing what I’ll be wearing.”

“Alright, the same push up bra should work with this. You did want to play up your cleavage, yes?”

“Yes. If I’ve got it, I might as well flaunt it. I might be pregnant but I can still be sexy, damn it.” Sookie laughed and everyone joined her.

“Alright, then,” Alicia hung that dress back up in the bag and brought down another hanger. “This is the little suit. This would be for something like a tea party or some daytime function. There are white gloves and shoes to go with it, and if you do accept such an invitation, I thought we’d buy you the hat in New Orleans.”

“A hat?”

“For a tea party, yes dear.”

“I’ll think about that later. So let me see it up close.”

Alicia carried it over to her. It had a drop waist dress with a very full skirt in black with yellow flowers and a short-sleeved yellow jacket that would make it look like a top and skirt if she buttoned it.

“Ok, that’s for some kind of uptown, society thing, right? I could live with that. What kind of shoes did you get me?”

“I got you a pair of low-heeled lavender pumps to go with the lavender dress and yellow ones to match the other two outfits. There’s a pair of blue ones for the shift dress but if you don’t like it, I’ll have the staff here return it and the shoes.”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind, because after I drop this kid, I’m never going to wear anything shapeless again.” Sookie laughed. “I’m sorry, Alicia.”

“Don’t apologize, dear, I’m glad you liked the other ones.”

“I really appreciate you shopping for me. I know it was short notice. Now I just hope I don’t embarrass myself or Eric or the entire Vampire community.”

“Sookie, if Eric thought that were a possibility, he would never have agreed to let you do it.” Bobbie reminded her.

“All you have to do is know the basic information about the events and be yourself, Sookie,” Amelia added, “Just look nice, smile pretty, speak clearly and charm their pants off, and you could do that in your sleep.”

“She’s right, Sookie. You ooze that sweet Southern Belle vibe. The hosts on those morning shows will eat it up.”

“I agree with them, Sookie. All you have to do is be just who you are and they’ll adore you.” Alicia said.

“I’m glad you all have so much faith in me because I sure don’t. I’m afraid I’ll give away some kind of Vampire secret or slip and say something about W… uh… something I shouldn’t say.” She caught herself just as she was about to say Weres. She forgot Alicia didn’t know. She couldn’t mess up like that Friday. “I hate to be a drag you guys, but do you think I could have some time to just read through this stuff and then you all can quiz me after while?”

“That’s a good idea,” Alicia said, leaning over to open the mini-fridge. “Drink this RM and we’ll get out of here so you can study a while, then you buzz the living room if you want us to come back. Otherwise I’ll bring your dinner around 5 o’clock, alright?”

“We’ll be in the living room if you need us, Sweetie.” Amelia said.

“Right, and you buzz if you need anything at all or need help in the bathroom, OK?”

“OK, thanks, Bobbie. Thanks, Amelia.”

“Oh, wait – Sookie, can I use your laptop?”

“Sure – if you can find it.” She laughed.

“It’s right here, Bobbie” Alicia reached into an armoire and pulled out the pink computer bag.

“Great, thanks. See you in a bit, Sookie.”

“OK, thanks.”

Whew! Thank heaven they were gone! Sookie needed to get off her bum and it was going to hurt to move so she needed Alicia out of there. She reached over to Eric’s arm and used it to pull herself on her side. Ow, ow, ow!

FUNNY.

Great. Baby E was awake and laughing at her sore bottom. She knew he was going to be a miniature version of Eric just from his attitude. Mommy was just a constant source of amusement for this kid. She bet he liked her breasts as much as his daddy did, too, because Eric had already told her he would demand to be breast fed often. She’d be lucky if she ever managed to wean this little rascal.

LOVE!

“Mommy loves you, too, Eric Alexander.” She smiled. She could already tell she would never be able to stay mad at him – also just like his daddy.

LOVE! FIGHT!

He could tell that Eric was near. Sookie laid the clipboard on Eric’s stomach and scooted down in the bed a little. She just wanted to close her eyes for a few minutes and commune with the baby because he had slept all day yesterday.

“Sookie? Can you wake up, dear?”

“Huh?”

“It’s dinner time, dear. Can you sit up and eat?”

“Did I fall asleep?”

“Yes, I guess you did. Are you ready for dinner?”

Sookie knew she’d need help sitting up.

“Um – my back hurts. Could Bobbie or Bjorn come help me, please?”

“Of course they can. I’ll go send Bobbie in.” Alicia sat the tray on the dresser and went to ask Bobbie to help Alicia. Bjorn slipped in to help her sit up while Alicia was gone in case she came back with Bobbie. He slipped his arms under her legs and back and gently brought her upright. She grimaced as she settled on her bottom but had herself together by the time Alicia came back with Bobbie.

“Thank you so much, Bjorn.” She looked up at him with those soft blue eyes that made him feel warm and protective.

“Any time, your majesty,” he said softly, giving her a warm smile. Man, she smelled good. She had that sex/food smell that he had only ever smelled from her. He loved getting to pick her up – she was so soft and round, and she weighed almost nothing at all. She sort of laid her head on his shoulder as he settled her, too and he could smell the perfume in her hair. Eric Northman was the luckiest son of a bitch on earth, alive or dead. At least, Bjorn reasoned, he seemed to know that. It would be worse if he had her and didn’t appreciate her. He was definitely making the most of her, Bjorn thought, not a little jealous that those weren’t his stripes on her bottom.

“Alicia, do you have any idea how long I usually sleep from taking a Soma?”

“They knock you out for a good 8 to 10 hours. Are you thinking about taking one?”

“I’ll see what Eric has planned first but if he has to work and I have to stay in bed, I might want to sleep just to get through the night and then I’d be able to get up for the cook out tomorrow. Did you ask the kitchen about that?”

“Yes, I did and I went down earlier to check on it and they’re all set. The live seafood is to be delivered in the morning and they’ve already got watermelons and strawberry shortcakes in the fridge.”

“Ohh – that sounds good,” Bobbie said.

“Did you ask Octavia about swimming with us?”

“She said she might get in the water with us, but she’ll definitely spend time with us all. She said she’s more likely to lie in the shade, nap and read a book.”

“Well, whatever she wants to do is cool. And you’re swimming, right?”

“Right.”

“And Bjorn?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Oooh, we get to see Bjorn in swim trunks?” Bobbie teased him.

“Yes and he’ll be the only boy so he’ll get all the girls’ attention, won’t you, Bjorn?”

“I’ll make sure I do my sit-ups tonight so you ladies get a good show,” he laughed, “and I’ll use the weight room in the morning so my arms are pumped.”

“Yummy,” Sookie said,

“Yes, indeed,” Bobbie gave him a sly grin.

“You know, we’re all talking about going into town tonight to give you and Eric some privacy,” Bobbie said.

“I don’t want you guys to feel you have to do that…” Sookie started.

“It’s no big deal, hon, we’re talking about going to play slot machines and see a little show,” Bobbie explained.

“That sounds like fun…” Sookie said.

“Maybe we’ll get to do that at some point this week,” Alicia said, “Tomorrow night might be a good chance for you to do that, or Sunday or Monday nights. You have dinner plans Thursday night, and Saturday will be completely devoted to the ball, but we should be able to get you into a casino a couple of times this week. You know, you and the mayor’s wife might be able to get the men to let you play in the casino while they talk business.”

“That’s not a bad idea – it might keep her from talking my ear off!” Sookie laughed. “She’s a trip, and she just adores me for some reason. She likes Eric, too.”

“Naturally,” Bjorn laughed.

The women all reacted with Oh’s and Aw’s.

“Jealous, Bjorn?” Bobbie teased him.

“Not jealous, but if she’s female, it kind of goes without saying. All you women fawn over him.”

“We fawn over you too, Bjorn” Bobbie said.

“Only when he’s not around. He’s taller, blonder, richer. I don’t have a prayer next to that guy.”

“Yeah, wait until you walk into the ball in your tuxedo – there will be plenty of women checking you out.” Sookie said.

“Yes, but they’ll be bowing and scraping and swooning over Eric. That is the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”

The women all laughed and agreed with him.

“Did they tell you about the plan for the ball, Sookie?” Alicia asked.

“What plan?”

“Normally there would be a sort of reception line where you would greet people, but because you’re pregnant and they don’t want you on your feet, they’ll formally introduce you and Eric, then put two large chairs…”

“Thrones,” Bobbie interjected.

“…In one area of the room and have a path for people to approach you. There will be some matching divans if you want to invite someone to sit with you for a bit. Eric will walk around the party a bit and mingle, but you’ll be able to stay put.”

“And I’ll be right next to you all night.” Bjorn added.

“I thought you weren’t necessarily going to the balls, Bjorn?” Sookie asked. “Or at least not for the whole time?”

“Change of plans. They couldn’t come up with adequate female guards for you and I don’t know anyone in our guard with the qualifications I want for you, so I’ll stay with you myself. It’s too big of an event and you’re going to be the center of attention, so I want lots of good security around you at all times. I just wouldn’t feel right not being there if anything happened.”

“You don’t have to do that…” Sookie said.

“Yes, I think I do. My job title is the Queen’s Personal Bodyguard. More than anyone except Eric, I have responsibility for your safety. Eric would have given me the night off, but after seeing the crowds at the gate and that shot that was fired at the house the other night, I told him you aren’t leaving my sight during the ball unless it’s in the ladies’ room and I’ve already cleared it first. He agreed with my assessment, so we’re all set.”

“You are going to get some time off during the week, though, right?”

“Yes, but it will be a day when you are staying in and I’ll have 3 guys on the doors. Anytime you move outside of this suite, I’ll be with you.”

“Wow.” Sookie said.

“And my job is to make sure you get all the best hors d’ oeuvres and your RMs on time.” Bobbie said.

“I’ll be going to see a magic show that night.” Alicia said.

“And Octavia and Amelia?”

“They’re going to the ball. Octavia might spend a lot of the night sitting with you, and she might leave early.” Bobbie explained. “They bought clothes for it today.”

“Oh, that’s cool. You guys got a lot of shopping done!”

“We found one place that had most of what we all wanted. We lucked out.” Alicia laughed.

“Mmm” Eric made a noise and began to stir.

“Quick, take my tray and leave us alone for a bit.” Sookie said, and Bobbie grabbed it and ushered Alicia out of the room. Bjorn followed and shut the door.

“FEED!” Eric’s eyes popped open and his fangs dropped down.

“Eric, Sweetie, wake up. It’s Sookie.”

Whoosh! The covers were on the floor, the canopy half pulled off the bed and Sookie had been jerked down the mattress and her leg forced back. Eric was feeding from the artery in her groin in a total frenzy. Sookie pulled a pillow over her face to muffle her screams. She knew when he had his fill he would fuck her just as hard as he had bitten her because he would be high on her blood. She might as well brace herself. Her butt really hurt and when he started to take her it would only get worse. She had completely forgotten that smelling her as he awoke would do this to him. She needed to try to get his attention to make sure he didn’t hurt the baby but she couldn’t risk letting the others hear her crying or they might come in. She couldn’t believe it but she had a spectacular orgasm. She was tapping him on the head, trying to get his attention, but before she knew it she was on her knees and he was behind her. At least he was in the preferred “place” and she hoped he stayed there until he calmed down. She was gritting her teeth as he slapped up against her sore bottom time and time again, tears streaming down her face. She couldn’t believe that she was coming again, but fortunately so was he, and she knew he’d calm down a bit once he reached his release. He growled loudly and jerked a few times then slowed way down.

“Sookie? What is going on?” He was back. Thank Goddess, he was back. She had her face buried in her pillow and she felt him gently run his fingers over the welts on her bottom. Moving quickly he pulled her arm toward him so she faced him and he held her by both arms. “Sookie,” he whispered in her ear, nipping at her earlobe and taking little nips all the way down her throat and onto her shoulders. He was still a little high but he was being gentle now and that was fine. This would have been fun under other circumstances, but the sore bum made it less than pleasant, though she needed to figure out how the hell she had two really strong orgasms with all that pain, it was almost like a part of her liked it.

He still held her arms so she was facing him and he held her up on her knees while he sat back on his and bent his head to her breast. He teased her nipple with his teeth, sucking on one and then the other, then he rested his cheek on the top of her belly.

“Eric? Eric, I need you.” She said to him, finally getting his attention.

“Did I hurt you, Lover?” He wiped tears from her face and was just beginning to understand what happened.

“Well, not really, but my ass is really sore and you didn’t do that any good.”

“Did it hurt you today?”

“Yes, like crazy.”

“I just fucked you?” He was still in the thrall of the blood because he was running his hands over her and looking at her like he had never seen her before and her body was the most fascinating thing he had ever seen.

“Yes.”

“Did you come?”

“Twice – once when you fed from my groin and once when you fucked me,” her voice was shaky.

“In spite of the pain or because of it?” He was still holding her up on her knees with one hand, but the other slipped between her legs and began to gently stroke and penetrate her.

“I don’t even understand what that means, Eric.”

“How strong were they? Your orgasms?”

She raised her loose arm up to brace herself on his shoulder and she found herself moving her knees apart so he could pet her more easily. He rose up on his knees, slipping his arm around her back as his fingers stroked in and out of her. Her eyes were closed and her head fell back as he held her and probed her.

“Did I ever teach you about your g-spot?”

“Uh, no, I thought that was a myth?”

He laughed the way he laughs when he’s in control and he likes it.

“It’s not a myth, my Angel. Yours should be right about here.” He slipped his fingers deep into her and curled them forward and stroked a sort of rough spot she never knew was there. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she was coming again, his arm being the only thing that kept her from collapsing. His thumb was stroking her clit and he was working her with his hand in a way she never remembered him doing before.

She had an orgasm and he literally controlled it with his hand, showing her that he was the one in charge. He’d make it intense, he’d back off, then he’d change the pressure or the angle and it would change again. Her whole body seized up and he stretched it out, and out and out until she finally went limp. He gently let her down on the mattress on her side. She felt like he had reached right into her soul and… what? What the hell was that? He played her like some sort of instrument and let her know in no uncertain terms that he was the one making her feel that pleasure. If she never felt owned by him before, she certainly did now. She was shaking as he kissed her face gently all over.

“I love you, Sookie.”

“I…I love you, too.”

“You are not angry?”

“No, of course not. Why would I be angry?”

“Those are very pretty stripes on your bottom.”

“That doesn’t make them hurt any less,” she laughed weakly.

“What would you give to make the pain stop?”

“A lot.”

“You’ll have to be more specific than that, my Lover.”

“I don’t have anything to bargain with, Eric. There’s nothing I can offer you that you don’t already have.”

“Actually, there is one thing I would like to have that would require your cooperation.”

“What is that?”

“A picture.”

“What?”

“A picture. If you will pose for a few photographs of your lovely stripes, I will make them go away.”

“Are you blackmailing me?” She teased him.

“Of course not. You accepted the punishment willingly, did you not?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“And part of that punishment would be to bear the pain until they healed, yes?”

“Yes.”

“But if you would allow me to photograph them so that I can remember how lovely they looked on you, I might be persuaded to make them fade more quickly. That is not coercion, Sookie, it is generosity.”

“What kind of pictures?”

“Very simple ones – you facing the wall in the bathroom, where it is well-lit, showing your bottom with those lovely stripes. It will make things much more pleasant for you later tonight.”

“Why, what’s later?”

“We’re going to try out that big lovely bathtub, remember? Those are going to be awfully sensitive to hot water.”

“What do you want the pictures for? What would you do with them?

“I would keep them just for myself. No one would ever see them. They would simply be a record of the love you showed me by accepting them.”

“And if I do that, you’ll make them go away for the bath?”

“Yes.”

“Is the bath something you’d let me skip?”

“No, you agreed we would use the bath and have an early night. You aren’t going back on your word, I hope?”

“No, I… uh…. Well, do you even have a camera?”

“I have a small digital camera I could use if you would consent to pose for me. You don’t have to do it, Sookie. It’s completely up to you. It would mean a lot to me, though, if I could have a little memento.”

“Nobody would ever see them?”

“No one. I promise.”

“And after you’re done taking them, you make them go away?”

“Of course, Sookie, that is what I offered.”

“OK, get your freakin’ camera and let’s do this.”

“I think that’s a wise decision, Sookie. It will make your cookout tomorrow much more pleasurable and you’ll sleep much better tonight.”

“Help me up.”

He picked her up gently and sat her on her feet. He got the little spy camera from his brief case, and led her into the bathroom.

“I need to go, first.”

“Go right ahead.” He was fiddling with the tiny camera.

“I didn’t know you had one of those.”

“I sometimes find them useful in business. Come here.”

He put her in front of the mirror and began to brush her hair. “I thought this was going to be a picture of my ass?”

“It will, but it will show your whole body from behind. I want your hair to look silky and pretty. There. Very nice, Come here.” He indicated a large blank space in the wall of the bathroom. “Face the wall and put your hands on it up above your head.” He showed her how he wanted her to pose, hands above her as if they were tied or something, back curved outward, ass prominently displayed. There were track lights along the ceiling in the bathroom and he adjusted them so the stripes on her bottom were well lit and clearly displayed. “Alright, my Angel, hold still and this will be over before you know it.”

She heard the shutter clicking. She was praying he never showed these to anyone. She didn’t understand the attraction to being reminded of how they looked, but she figured it was a guy thing or an Eric thing or something. He changed her pose so she was bending over a little with her hands on the wall and her ass sticking out. More clicks of the shutter.

“Just one more pose, alright, sweetheart?”

“OK.” All she cared about was getting this done. He went out to his luggage and got a long black silk scarf. “I’ve never seen that before.”

“I’ve never used it on you before. Face the wall, Lover.”

She turned to the wall and he wrapped the scarf around one of her wrists. He reached for the other and she started to object but he said “Shhh, Sookie, you agreed” and she let him tie her hands together behind her back.

“Rest your forehead on the wall, Sookie and hold your hands up so the stripes are visible.

Click, click, click.

“Alright, Sookie, stay put.” He started the water running in the bath and went back out to the bedroom, leaving her there with her head resting on the wall and her hands tied. She heard him use the intercom to buzz someone, but she couldn’t tell what he was saying.

He came back in with her train case and locked the bathroom door. He lit the candles that were all around the room and she heard him set a few items around the tub. Sookie thought about asking him what was up but she knew he’d tell her to be quiet so she just waited. He turned off the lights and came back to her. He moved her hair to the side and kissed her neck, his hands running around to squeeze her breasts. She laid her head back on his chest and he pressed his lips to the top of her head as he teased and played with her nipples. Eric moved faster than her eyes or her mind could process – one second they were standing by the wall, the next millisecond she was on her knees in the tub and Eric was settling down behind her. The water was hot and almost 2/3 of the way up her thighs.

“Eric, you said you’d make the stripes go away.”

“I will, just as I promised.”

“So do it, please.”

“First sit back on your heels, then I will.”

“Eric – that’ll hurt like crazy and you know it.”

“Yes, I know it, but you don’t. You think you know it. I want you to know exactly what it feels like, and as soon as you do, I’ll make them go away. Now, you either sit back on your heels and count to 10, out loud, or you can stay up there and the water will eventually reach you anyway.”

“Eric, come on. Aren’t you going to untie me?”

“I wasn’t planning to, no – at least not for while. I want to have some fun first.”

“Eric, you promised me.”

“Yes, and I have every intention of doing as I promised – after I know that you know what I am sparing you. Now sit back, count to 10, and they’ll be gone almost instantly. And, by the way, the only sound I want to hear is you counting to 10. I don’t want any screaming. There’s a terrible echo in here.” He settled back and watched her. She seemed frozen. “That water is rising awfully slowly because the tub is so big. It would take quite a while for the water level to rise from the lowest stripe to the top stripe, and that’s how long you’ll wait before I make them go away if you don’t sit back. You’ll have to sit there until they’re completely submerged.”

“Eric, please!”

“Sookie, it’s completely up to you. They can be gone in 30 seconds. 30 seconds and no more pain.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“So you’ll remember.”

“You think I’m going to forget this pain?”

“It’s possible. People forget much worse. If I were you, I’d sit back and count to 10, or you’re going to be in pain for – oh, about 10 minutes, I’d say.”

She looked back at him. Absolute stone face.

“Are you really going to put yourself through ten minutes, Sookie? By the way, I think you should face me. I wanted to see the stripes, but now I think I’d rather see your face. Turn around.”

She did as he said because she was hoping if she was cooperative he would cut her a break.

“Mmmm – you are so beautiful, Sookie. Do you know what one of my fantasies is?”

“What?”

“One of my fantasies – it’s not even technically sexual. Know what it is?”

“No, Eric. Come on, Eric, ple…?”

“Shhhh, Sookie, take a guess. It’s a fantasy inspired by your beauty.”

“Eric, I can’t think. Let me out of this, please!”

“Once that water hits the first stripe, your 10 second option is over, you know. Then it goes to 10 minutes. I’d sit back if I were you, and get it over with.”

The water was getting to the point where he would start his ten minute clock so Sookie sat back.

“One, two, th-three, fourrr, five, si-ix, sev’n, eightnineten!” She popped up like a cork and Eric instantly had her in his arms spreading his blood on the stripes, which were already fading. Eric was gently stroking her bottom, which was already back to its usual flawless condition. He gathered her up in his arms and sat back, smoothing her hair and licking her tears. She was trembling, nuzzling his neck, and he turned the cold water faucet on to lower the temperature of the water. He was talking to her softly, stroking her breasts, teasing her nipples. “My pretty, pretty girl,” he whispered, “so soft and sweet. You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, Sookie. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone or anything in this world.”

“You like me this way, don’t you – with my hands behind my back?” She asked softly, completely giving herself over to him in her mind as she had her body.

“Yes, I do. We’ve never done this before, but I find I like it very much. It’s like you’re more mine this way.” He raised her up in his arms so she stretched out more and he could reach her nipples with his teeth. She moaned and writhed in his arms as he nipped hard enough to make her gasp. “Sounds like you like it, too, Sookie,” he purred at her. His hand explored her, beginning with his big hand spread over her throat, taking broad strokes down over her, “Mmmm – I don’t know what I want to do to you first, my Lover. I feel as if everything is new this way. Promise me you’ll let me bind you this way often so I can know you all over again.”

“I promise. You know I’ll do anything you want.” She was completely focused on the feel of his hand on her.

“First I’m going to wash your hair and bathe you, then I’m going to have more fun with you.” He wrapped his hand around the back of her neck and nibbled at her ear, whispering “who do you belong to, Sookie?”

“You, Eric, I belong to you.”

“My Lover, my beautiful Lover,” he whispered, He used the handheld shower to wet her hair and he washed it slowly and lovingly, massaging her scalp gently and thoroughly, then rinsed it very well. He put the Pantene conditioner she liked on her hair and combed it through, then rinsed it out, combed her hair again and twisted it up, holding it with a clip that he obviously got from her train case. He took the soap and slowly slid it over one part of her, then washed and stroked every little fold and every little bit of skin thoroughly, repeating the process until he covered every part of her body in minute detail. Sookie noted that he had never done such a thorough job before, nor did she think he had ever enjoyed it as much as he enjoyed this particular bath. He pulled her so she straddled his legs, and was back up on her knees. He held her body against his and suddenly they both laughed because the two of them could feel the baby kick.

“He’s asleep – he must be dreaming ” she said.

“Did you send or receive anything from him today?”

“Yes, and he laughed at me for having a sore butt. He is just like you, I swear.”

Eric laughed loudly, thrilled to hear her say that. “Speaking of the baby,” he said, “he will be here soon and I have not prepared your nipples adequately for breast feeding as I had planned to. I’ll need to concentrate on them more from this point forward.”

“Uh-huh, and you’re going to do that for the baby, not for you?”

“For you, really, Sookie. Breast-feeding a child can be very painful under any circumstance – what if he is born with fangs? The doctor expects him to take blood as well as milk – how else could he do that but with fangs.”

“Well, you bite my breasts every so often so it probably won’t be any worse than that.”

“Yes, but I might do that 3 or 4 times in a month – the baby will be doing it 12 times a day. You need to be prepared.” He squeezed her now smooth and healed lower cheeks.

“I know this is just an excuse for you to rough up my nipples, you know.”

“The baby will be here before you know it, Sookie. You just passed your three and a half month mark and everyone expects you to go early. He is already so large and active that you need help moving around and I had to tell him not to kick you so vigorously.”

“So you’re going to do me a favor by torturing my nipples…?” She laughed, teasing him.

“Exactly. I’m going to begin now. You be a good girl and show me how much you can take without crying out – you don’t want to scare the baby.” He latched onto one of her nipples and sucked so hard it took her breath away. He scraped his teeth against it, nipped at it several times, then sucked hard again. He stopped and she thought he would let her rest, but he quickly latched onto the other and followed the same pattern – hard sucking, scraping, nipping, sucking – then we went back to the first and repeated the pattern, for a total of five times each. It hurt but it was exciting, too and she couldn’t keep from flexing her pelvis back and forth.

Before long it was making contact with his erection and after the fifth round he stopped just long enough to lift her onto it, then he grabbed both breasts in his hand and squeezed them rhythmically several times. He took her nipples between the thumb and forefingers of both hands and pinched them hard, pulled them, pinched them, pulled them, for what seemed like an eternity, but every pinch and every pull reached all the way down to her clit and she felt her internal muscles squeezing at nearly the same rhythm.

She was grinding wildly and part of her wanted him to stop but another part of her wanted to take it as far as it could go. He was stretching and pulling them hard and far and the more it hurt the more aroused she became. He was helping her move up and down, alternately biting and sucking on one nipple then the next, really pulling them out like he was trying to pull them off. Sookie was trying not to cry out but her moans got louder as she approached a climax that made her shudder all over so her knees gave out.

Eric had to hold her up to keep her from falling, wrapping one arm around her and using the other hand to rub her clit and squeeze a few more tremors out of her. He put her head on his shoulder and she lay there panting and shaking as he untied her hands, but he wasn’t done yet. He pulled them in front and re-tied them and for the first time she noticed a hook on a chain high above them. Eric turned what looked like a dimmer switch and the hook came down dead center over the tub. He turned the switch the other way and it went upward, taking her bound hands with it. He let it go up until she was pulled up on her knees again with her arms fully extended and taut. This time he took a towel and put it in the water, folding it and arranging it under her knees to give them some protection.

She couldn’t get over the fact that Felipe had something so kinky in his bathroom, or that Eric knew exactly what it was for. Eric turned the water on to warm it up a little since it was starting to get chilly. As the tub warmed, he took a jar of cocoa butter – she had no idea where he got it, but later found out it was in the cabinet and hadn’t been opened but there was a another nearly empty jar that had been – and spreading a small amount between his hands he reached around her and massaged it into her breasts. He continued with more of the butter, working all the way up her arms, kneading and massaging.

He worked back down her arms to her back, deeply rubbing the muscles and spreading the butter down her sides, down her legs, all the way to and including her feet. He worked back up the insides of her thighs, rubbing a generous amount between her legs, and an almost excessive amount up the back. The King was about to reassert his sovereignty over her body and every part of her was awake and aware and hungry for it. He held her hips and pushed into her slowly, her entire body trembling as she felt she was being split in half. He rubbed her clit, forcing her back onto him as he began to move slowly in and out of her as she trembled violently and moaned, her flesh breaking out in goose pimples from the mixture of sensations running through her.

“Do you like it, Sookie?” He whispered.

“Yes, Eric.”

“If you ever make me stripe you again, I’ll do this to you while they’re fresh, so remember that, my sweet girl.”

He moved faster in and out of her and she felt like she was losing her mind – there were so many sensations! From being bound and stretched to opened and pumped and the relaxation she still felt from the massage and the oil, it was like nothing in the world existed except the cock inside her, the hands on her body, the voice whispering dark promises of pain and pleasure in her ear. And just when she thought it was all she could take, she started to come.

It was like someone plugged her into an outlet – electricity ran through her in a soft warm current that made every part of her tingle. The next thing she knew, Eric had drained the tub and was cleaning them up carefully, then rubbing her with a soft towel to absorb the excess cocoa butter and leave her skin velvety smooth. He scooped her up and floated them up out of the tub, carrying her into the bedroom and putting her on the bed.

“It’s almost midnight,” she said to no one in particular.

“Yes, that was quite a nice bath, was it not?” He was pulling out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt to wear later.

“I’ve got that feeling like I don’t have any bones again. How do you do that? Nobody else ever did that to me except you.”

“Well, you don’t have a very large sample for comparison, Lover, thank Goddess.”

“Why thank Goddess?” she asked as he lay on the bed beside her.

“I wouldn’t want all those men to have to hunt down and kill.”

“You would, wouldn’t you?”

‘You know I would, Sookie, but don’t dwell on it.”

“Not like you have a problem hunting people down…”

He took her face in his hand and made her look at him “…but I’d rather spend my time fucking you. The time I spend doing anything else is wasted as far as I’m concerned. The only part of the day I care about is the part when my cock is in some part of you.”

Sookie giggled. It was silly and obsessive and crazy and in all probability absolutely true.

“Do you think I am lying?”

“No, I don’t at all. I think you’re probably dead serious.”

“I am,” he said as he ran his hand over her, studying her as if he had never seen her before.

“You’re going to fuck me again tonight, aren’t you?” she asked though she already knew the answer.

“Oh, yes, I’m sure I will. Unless you would prefer I let you sleep instead?”

“No, I just figured it’s only midnight and you aren’t likely to go five hours without fucking me again.”

“At 2 o’clock they are supposed to bring you something to eat – unless you’d rather eat now?

“I think I’d better and I’d better have an RM. If I have another orgasm, I’m pretty sure I’ll fall asleep.”

He called the kitchen and told them to bring her meal now rather than later. He sat her up on the wedge pillow and brought her an RM. He pulled the covers up over her, then put on a pair of silk boxers. She had finished the bottle, so he set it on her bedside table and he came back to lie next to her.

“Is that all you’re wearing when they bring my meal?”

“Yes. Why – do you object?”

“I’m not crazy about the idea of the help ogling my husband.”

“Say that again.”

“What? That I don’t want the help ogling you?”

“No, the last two words.”

“My husband?”

“Yes. I never heard words more thrilling than those unless it was when I found out I was to be a father.”

Sookie laughed. “I’ll have to call you that more often, my husband.”

“Mmmm – yes!” He said as he kissed her lips, then he got up and went to the armoire for a robe.

“Thank you, Eric.”

“Not at all. I must honor our bond. If you do not want me to be seen by the servants then I have to honor your wishes.”

“OK, good. They already look at you like you’re the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen. If they see how buff you are they’ll be plotting to get rid of me,” she laughed.

“Buff? What does that mean?”

“Muscular and sexy.”

“Buff – so Bjorn would also be buff, yes?”

“Yes, very. I hear you were asking him about what he eats so you can plan our son’s diet,” she laughed.

“Yes, he’s the only person I know with such developed muscles. I wanted to know how to make sure Eric Alexander can grow so big and strong.”

“He said you’re going to start having organic food shipped in?”

“Yes, I am. He assures me it is much healthier for you all. He’s going to help me put together a state of the art gym for when the child is older.”

“Are you going to make him work out?”

“No, Sookie, he will want to.”

“You’re sure about that?”

“Positive. Look how eager he is to Fight! Fight!” Eric laughed, “He will certainly want to work hard to be a great warrior.”

“Good point. He can’t wait to kick ass with Daddy.”

FIGHT! FIGHT!

They both laughed. “The little warrior is awake, Daddy. He knows you were talking about fighting.”

“My son is very intelligent and every bit a warrior already. I am anxious for his birth – more anxious than I have ever been about anything. To be able to hold him will be a dream I never dared hope for. Our sex life will improve greatly after you deliver as well.”

“It’s going to get better than it is now?”

 

 

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