LATE Chapter 071

Sookie’s New Friend

 

WAAAHHHHH – HHHHHHH!

Sookie’s eyes flew open as Eric Alexander woke up in a mood. It took her a second to realize where she was but she knew she had to feed her baby, so she scooped him up out of the portable crib and put him to her breast. She looked around the room – New Orleans, the gorgeous house, Eric’s in that huge box over there – and she started to get her bearings. The baby was whimpering and tears flowing out of his eyes even as he fed.

“What’s the matter, Sweetie? Don’t you feel good? Huh? Can you tell Mommy what’s wrong?”

COMFORT!

“That’s your Mommy feeling – did you just miss Mommy?”

She was shocked as the baby reached up with his little hand and touched her face. She took his hand and kissed his palm then held it against her cheek and she could tell she was right – he wanted his Mommy.

“Did you wake up in a strange bed and not know where Mommy was? I’m right here, darlin’, Mommy’s always close. I won’t leave you alone, Alex, you go where Mommy goes, OK? We’re a team, me, you and Daddy. It’s daytime now, so it’s me and you.” She adjusted the pillows so she could sit up comfortably and she kept talking to him. “This is the New Orleans house. We’ll be staying here sometimes. I really like it. I hope you do, too. We’ll have to see about getting you a crib here. Maybe I’ll get one just like you have at home and leave it here so you’ll have a familiar place to stay? Maybe that’s what I should have done. I didn’t know you would know the difference already! You’re so smart!”

She stroked his cheek and kissed his little hand over and over, looking him right in the eye and she could tell he was feeling safe. “Let’s see now – it’s about 8:30 so you slept a whole three hours! That’s good. Me and you will both sleep some more when you get done eating. I’ll have to put some clothes on because people will be coming in to keep an eye on us. I’m pretty sure you need a new diaper, too, before we go back to bed. We won’t get to sleep very late today because we’re going to look at properties to see where we want to live around here. Honestly, I’d just stick with this place but we really probably need something bigger – though this is pretty big! We just need to make sure we have room for Bobbie and Bjorn and Alicia and Margaret. I don’t know what we’ll do about gardeners, but there must already be some because the place looked immaculate, at least in the dark.”

Sookie yawned and then had to laugh because the baby yawned, too. “Ooh, we’re sleepy! Sleepy! Sleepy!” she teased him and his eyes twinkled at her.

There was a knock at the door. “Excuse me?” Alicia looked in. “Are you up?”

“We’re up, Alicia! I’m not dressed but come on in!”

“You want a gown, hon?” Alicia offered as she turned on the overhead light.

“Yes, that would be good. I haven’t done anything but feed my little buddy here so I didn’t get around to getting one yet. I don’t think he knew where he was when he woke up.”

“It’s awfully early for him to know where he is, isn’t it?” Alicia got her yellow gown with the blue flowers from the closet and gave it to her.

“Well, maybe it was just that he couldn’t see me…”

“That I can believe. He’s used to you being right there when he wakes up. Come to think of it, he also does seem to know when he’s in that little crib – he likes it there.”

“I was thinking I might get one for here, too, so it would seem more familiar to him.”

“We should have brought that one with us. I didn’t think he would know the difference yet.”

“Neither did I. He does, though, I’m sure of it. You think it would be safe to let him stay here in bed with me?”

“Honestly, it’s a big bed – we could put a pillow over here to make sure he doesn’t roll, though he’s too young to do that yet, and then you’d have room to sleep comfortably and still have him where he could see you. I don’t see any harm in that. I’ll be checking on you regularly, so I’m sure it will be fine.”

“Good,” she shifted the baby to the other side, “because he was really upset when he woke up. I want him to know he’s safe.”

“Are you going to try to sleep some more? You don’t need to get up until about 10:30.”

“Yeah, we’ll lie down a while more. He needs a new diaper.”

“When he finishes up there, I’ll take care of that.”

“What do you think of this place, Alicia?”

“It’s gorgeous! The stained glass is really something.”

“I really like it here. Do you think it’s big enough for us to live in?”

“I’m sure we could fit everybody in here – we did last night.”

“Yeah, we need room for Margaret, too, though.”

“Well, there might be room – I heard Amelia say that if you decided to stay here, she and Octavia might just live at her house. They’d be within walking distance and they’d come to visit often or you could go there. That would leave that little apartment upstairs open – Margaret and I could stay there and that would leave you a guest room here in the house, or room for a nursery.”

“That would be cool. I noticed a little sitting area that would make a nice little office.”

“I saw that, too – good idea. There’s an armoire in the parlor that has office equipment in it but it won’t be sufficient for Mr. Northman’s needs, I’m sure. He’ll need a proper desk in there and a full-sized computer.”

“Yeah. There are little tweaks we’d need to make. I think my buddy here is done.”

“Alrighty then,” Alicia took the baby, “let’s get you a fresh diaper, OK, Baby E? Yeah, let’s get a fresh nappy.”

She took him into the bathroom and changed him on the vanity while Sookie put on her gown and stretched out. Alicia brought him back in no time. “Thanks so much, Alicia!”

“No problem. Let’s put this pillow here, and Baby E goes right here,” she was teasing the baby who was smiling,” and then he’s right next to Mommy!”

Sookie turned on her side and shook his little hand and spoke to him “Alex! Look at Mommy. You sleep there and I’ll sleep here and everything will be OK – right?’ The baby gurgled and played with his toes, happy as a clam.

“I’ll see you two at 10:30 or so,” Alicia said quietly and turned off the overhead light.

Light was coming in around the closed windows so Sookie was able to see the baby and he looked at her and yawned. “Go to sleep, little darlin’ and I’ll see you when you wake up.” She put her hand on his little tummy and the two of them were asleep in no time.

Alicia turned the lamp on Eric’s side of the bed on low and spoke softly to Sookie, “Time to get up, dear. Sookie? Wake up, Sookie.”

Sookie blinked and rubbed her eyes, “that time already, huh?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. You just have time to get ready to go and eat a little breakfast. Do you want to eat with the others or shall I bring it upstairs for you?”

“I’ll come down there. Can you keep an eye on him while I wash my face?”

“Sure, I can.” Alicia said as she pulled out a simple black nursing dress and a chic pair of sunglasses for Sookie to wear that day.

“What should we do with my hair?”

“Let’s just pull it back in a barrette and do just a touch of make-up. You want to look natural but well put together for looking at houses. We do want some nice jewelry ”

“OK, that sounds good.”

Sookie was on her way downstairs in about 10 minutes, Baby E in a sling, looking the proper young society wife of a very rich man, which is what the real estate agent would want to see.

Bjorn, Bobbie and Kerik were sitting at the table having breakfast. “‘Morning, everybody!”

“Hey, Sookie.” Bobbie, who was facing her, said. The two men stood and said good morning as Sookie sat down.

“Are you going with us today, Bobbie?”

“No, I’m going to go shopping with Amelia and Octavia. We’ve still got those cards Eric gave us and we’re going to put a dent in them today.”

“Oh, that’ll be fun!” Sookie said as Bobbie put together a plate of bacon, eggs and hash browns for her.

“You’ll have a blast seeing all these fancy houses you’re going to look at. What’s it like knowing you can buy anything you see?”

“Weird. Honestly, if it would handle us, I’d be happy with this house.”

“Didn’t Eric tell you last night that this was your house no matter what?”

“Yeah, he did, but I still have to look at these other places.”

“You sound like you’re being forced, Sookie,” Bobbie teased her.

“Yeah, well… I don’t know. I like this place.”

“Eric knows that, Sookie, he just wants to see if there’s something bigger and easier to defend that you like. You’ll still keep this place and stay here as much as you want.” Bjorn told her.

“Yeah, I know… I guess I’m a little nervous about this. What if I see the place we need and I pass it up? What if the real estate agent thinks I’m an idiot?”

“You’ll know what works and what doesn’t and she won’t think you’re an idiot – she’ll be kissing your ass, Sweetie – Bill told me she was told you have no budget limitations, you just have to choose what you want.” Bobbie told her.

“Yeah, I guess. And then we’re going back to whatever tonight with Eric. I want him to be proud of me.”

“He will be, Sookie – he always is.” Bjorn assured her.

“Hey, Jerry – did you stay here last night?” Sookie asked as she dug into her breakfast.

“No, ma’am, I was quartered nearby with the other soldiers.”

“They are soldiers, aren’t they, not just guards?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“That’s a little bit scary…”

“Nothing to be scared of ma’am, not while we’re on the job.”

“Yeah, but it means there’s going to be trouble.”

“It also means we’re ready for whatever trouble finds us. Focus on the idea that we’re ready.” Bjorn advised her. “Nobody in New Orleans is as safe as you and that baby.”

“Yeah…. Yeah.” She said quietly to herself. She didn’t have time to think much about it because the baby woke up then. “Hey, sweet boy, are you awake now? Huh? Are you hungry? No. OK, here.” She raised him up and put him on her shoulder. “Look, Alex, there’s Bobbie!”

“Hi, cutie.” Bobbie tickled the baby and he loved it.

“And there’s Bjorn, and Jerry – Jerry have you met Alex?”

“Not officially ma’am”

“OK, then, Alex, this is Jerry, he keeps us safe like Bjorn. Jerry, this is Eric Alexander.”

“Nice to meet you, Prince Alex.”

“Ooh – nobody ever called him that before! Did you know you’re a Prince, Alex? You are – you’re a Vampire Prince! The first one, ever! That anybody knows of, anyway.”

Everybody laughed at that and the baby laughed, too.

“He loves it when people laugh.” Sookie said proudly. “You just like to laugh, don’t you, Alex? You don’t even know your Daddy is a King!”

HEE! The baby yelled and threw up his arm.

“That’s right, Alex – VÌG!”

“EEB!”

“VÌG!”

“VBEE!”

“He’s getting it – he’ll be able to say it soon, you mark my words.” Bjorn insisted as the rest of them laughed.

“Bjorn’s gonna have you speaking Swedish, Alex, just like he and Daddy.” The baby laughed and waved his arms.

“He goes crazy when you say D-A-D-D-Y.” Bobbie laughed.

“Yeah, he does. It’s so sweet,” Sookie agreed.

Alicia came downstairs with the diaper bag, Sookie’s purse, a little jacket in case Sookie needed it and she took it over to the dining table where her own purse was waiting. “OK, we’re waiting for Sookie to finish eating and…?”

“That’s it,” Bjorn said. “We can roll any time now.”

“OK, just let me finish my plate and we’ll go,” Sookie said, still nervous. “OK, I’m done – let’s get this over with…”

“Sookie’s a little nervous,” Bjorn told Alicia as they went out to the car.

“Why are you nervous, dear?”

“I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake and not pick the right one. And I really like this house.”

“It’s not an either/or situation, Sookie. You can have this house and a bigger one, too,” Bjorn reminded her.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Just try to be positive, dear, and let’s see what’s out there,” Alicia told her as they settled the baby into his car seat.

They got to the real estate agent’s office at 11:30 sharp and the agent, a perky but intense, overly polished woman named Mary Jo Dupree was waiting for them.

“I’ll bet money she’s an ex-beauty Queen.” Sookie said when she saw her and everybody laughed.

“Hello, there! Mrs. Northman? I’m Mary Jo.”

“Yes, I’m Sookie Northman.” Sookie put on her emergency smile. She was glad she had the baby to hold – he made her feel grounded and more secure. “This is Alicia, my assistant, and Bjorn and Jerry are security, and this is little Alex.”

“Oh, I know who you all are – I have all the tabloids in my office – all the girls have been absolutely beside themselves that I was going to take the royal family house hunting. I understand your husband, the King, will be joining us this evening?”

“Yes, ma’am, he wants me to pick the ones I like and then we’ll take him back to them tonight.”

“That’s just fine. I’ve got some gorgeous places picked out for us today. You all just follow me, and we’ll get started.”

“Alright, we will.”

The first property Mary Jo took them to was in the French Quarter.

“Now, don’t let the location fool you – the Jolie-Pitt family lives in this neighborhood so it has some very nice homes. This house was originally built in the 1830’s and has private parking for two cars – that’s a rarity in the Quarter. It’s recently renovated and has gorgeous chandeliers, crown moldings, fireplaces, custom cabinetry, architectural details, an absolutely grand spiral staircase, and an elevator. There’s a gourmet kitchen with top of the line appliances. There’s a large courtyard and a separate two-story guest house.” The woman barely took a breath as they walked through the house and out into the courtyard.

“Is there a swimming pool?” Sookie asked.

“Is that a requirement? I wasn’t aware…”

“Yes, I really want a nice swimming pool now that I’m used to having one.”

“OK, then, let’s head for the next property.”

The next house was on Oriole St. and was the least expensive property they looked at all day in that it was less than a million dollars. It had a large pool and seven bedrooms, but Sookie didn’t like the inside of the house at all. “It feels a little – cramped.”

“You like larger rooms, then?”

“My husband is 6’5″ tall – we need high ceilings.”

“Alright, let’s go to another.”

The next one was really nice, and had 8 bedrooms, a gas heated pool and hot tub, a rec room, two kitchens and nice grounds but it really didn’t do much for Sookie. “This one is definitely big enough, but I’m not crazy about being in a gated community. We were thinking more in terms of a private compound that wouldn’t have other people so close.”

“It’s a very exclusive neighborhood, most people would just love to get in there.” Mary Jo explained.

“We need more privacy, and a lot of security.”

“Yes, I suppose you would, what with the FOTS and all… that was just awful what they did the other night.”

“Exactly.”

The next place was in Lafayette, so they had to drive a while. It was situated on 36 acres of land that stretched from the main road to the river. The estate included an 11,000-plus square foot home, a guest house, a pool, lighted tennis courts, a gazebo, and artist’s studio.

“So it’s 6 bedrooms, plus the guest house? OK, let’s put this on the list to show Eric.”

“Wonderful! Now, let’s go on to the next one. Here, you can read about it on the way out to Folsom.”

Sookie didn’t put the baby back in the car seat this time because she was tired of messing with it and he was a little hungry anyway so she fed him on the way. “OK, Alicia, listen to this: 7061 luxurious square feet in the main home boasts 6 bedrooms, 6 baths w/wood, marble & tile floors, library, gym, office, movie theatre, pool, outdoor kitchen & bath. Other buildings on property include guest house & garage, boathouse & dock, golf course, basketball court, dance studio, bowling alley, workshop, RV garage, 3 car garage, tennis court, luscious landscaping, gazebos, sauna, pond, all on 47 fenced acres!”

“Sounds impressive! 6 bedrooms and a guest house is about the right size.”

“It has a lot of stuff we don’t need, though, and it’s one of the more expensive properties.” When they got to the property, Sookie wouldn’t even get out of the car. “No, this is not what I want at all.” She was more concerned with the fact that the baby needed a new nappy.

They headed back into New Orleans and the agent took them to a large house she said was done in “Greek Revival” style. “This one is actually a licensed hotel, but I want you to see it anyway. It has 13 bedrooms, each with a private bath, and large central halls that have been used for weddings and such. It was built in 1857 and has 18 foot ceilings in the main hall.”

“It’s really nice, but it’s just not what we want.”

“Will you all still be in town on Sunday? Maybe I can find some more properties in the surrounding area that will meet your needs, now that I have a clearer picture of what you want.”

“OK, that would be good. I think Eric would agree to that. Are we going to take him back to the one property tonight or do you think we should wait?”

“Why don’t I do some more research, and we’ll get together on Sunday. He can see it then, and maybe we’ll have some other places to show him then, too. I hate to bother him if we only have one to show him.”

“OK, that’s great. I really appreciate all of your help today- I’m sorry if I was difficult.”

“Oh, not at all, dear. You’re going to be spending a lot of money and you want to find a place that suits your needs. I’m going to check some of the little towns in the surrounding area and see if I can’t find a place with more room and a little more history.”

“That’s great. Here’s my card with my cell number. Let me know Saturday what time you want to get together on Sunday. I’m sure I’ll be home recuperating from the fundraiser.”

“Oh, yes – the social event of the season! Everyone is so excited to see your little family there!”

“Well, thanks, that’s nice. So I’ll talk to you Saturday.” And with that, Sookie was done looking at properties for the day.

“OK, Bjorn, get me home before Eric wakes up if you can.”

“We’re almost home now, hon. I’m sure he’ll be waiting for you when you get there.”

“Yeah, I can’t wait to see him. I guess they don’t make a lot of homes with more than 6 bedrooms.”

“No, and they don’t go on sale very often. You’ll work out what you want though, dear,” Alicia told her. “And there’s always the option you prefer anyway – just working with what you already have.”

“Was I a pain today? Was I too picky?”

“Not at all, Sweetie. You’re talking about spending millions of dollars – you should be over the moon about a place before you even consider it.”

“Yeah, that’s how I feel, too.”

They were already home and Eric was waiting for them as they came in through the kitchen.

“Hi, Sweetie!” Sookie bounced over to him with the baby and gave him a long kiss. “Your son is asleep, but he was talking about you today, sort of.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, doing that noise he makes when he talks to you or someone mentions you.”

“He’s almost able to say it – mark my words,” Bjorn laughed.

“Say what?” Eric asked.

“VÌG! He’s trying – he’ll get there.” Bjorn laughed.

“Can I hold the baby, Sookie?” Eric asked, as if she’d say ‘no’ to him.

“Of course, Sweetie, here,” She extricated him from the sling and he yawned and rubbed his nose as his Daddy held him up and looked at him. He gave him a kiss on his forehead and hugged him to his chest.

“So, my Angel, are we looking at properties tonight?”

“I only saw one I’d even consider so she wants to take me out again Sunday and maybe we’ll look at them Sunday night.”

“Alright. How many did you look at today?”

“5 or 6, I think. There aren’t many that have as many bedrooms as we need, and when they do they’re crazy big.”

“What’s the best house you saw today?”

“This one,” she said and cringed, afraid he’d be unhappy with her answer.

“Well, then, if the house you already have is your favorite of the day, I’d say you’re doing pretty well.” He kissed her forehead and hugged her to him with his free arm. He knew she had been worried about looking at properties and didn’t really expect her to go through with it. He was proud of her for going at all. “You know, Sookie, I’m very proud of you for doing that today.”

“You are?”

“Yes, I am. That’s a lot of responsibility, looking at real estate. I knew you could handle it, but I thought you might not go. I’m very happy that you did.”

“I didn’t think I had a choice.”

“You always have a choice, Sookie, you know that.”

“Yeah, I guess I do.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him tight. He planted three kisses on the top of her head and squeezed her tight.

“Since we are not going out, let’s get you some dinner and get comfortable. We’ll just hang out tonight.”

“Hang out? Does Eric Northman just hang out?” she was teasing him now.

“He does with his wife and baby – what could possibly be more fun than snuggling on the couch or in bed with the two most wonderful people in the world?”

“Not exactly the basement at Fangtasia…”

“The basement at Fangtasia could never compare to an evening spent with you, my dear… unless, of course, I spent the evening with you IN the basement at Fangtasia…” He laughed.

“We haven’t done that in a while.”

“Now that you are no longer with child, we will be spending some quality time on that big round bed, my Angel, have no doubt of that.”

“Oh, really?”

“Oh, yes, my dear Mrs. Northman, I have plans for you.” He wiggled his eyebrows and gave her a wicked grin.

“Ooh – I like the sound of that!” She reached up and kissed him and Alicia came back into the kitchen. “Hey, Alicia!”

“Hey – do you want me to make dinner for all of you or do you want to order in?”

“Are you up to cooking?”

“Sure, that’s no problem. I’ll see what’s in the fridge. ”

“Can I help you?” Sookie offered.

“No, you can’t – what you can do is go into the living room and spend time with your husband and baby while I pull dinner together. Now, scat!” Alicia shooed them all out of the kitchen and started pulling things out of the refrigerator. Bobbie came back and helped her by putting together a salad and getting drinks for everyone, which was basically Alicia, Bobbie, Bjorn, Jerry and Sookie. Everybody congregated at the dining room table. Eric was leaning back, his long legs stretched out under the table, the baby snuggled under his chin, Sookie next to him with her head on his shoulder as he talked to Bjorn and Jerry. Bobbie brought the salad out and sat next to Bjorn.

“Bobbie did you find the note from Bill?” Eric asked her.

“Yes, I did. I guess I should be happy he bothered to tell me at all.”

“What happened?” Sookie asked.

“He decided he just had to go to Bon Temps tonight, so he left as soon as he got up and just left me a note.” Bobbie said.

“Did you see him at all?” Sookie couldn’t believe it… but then, yes, she could.

“Only by accident. Amelia, Octavia and I got back just as he was leaving. He’ll be back for the fundraiser tomorrow night.”

“How is he going to manage that?” Sookie couldn’t picture a Vamp being able to do it.

“He’s driving there and back tonight. He’ll be back just in time to hide in his box.”

“Did he ask you to go with him?” This still wasn’t making sense to Sookie.

“No, he didn’t, and I didn’t offer. I can find better things to do with my time than sit in a car for the next 12 hours.”

‘Yeah,’ Sookie thought, ‘like Bjorn.’ She happened to know that Bjorn and Bobbie were both thinking the same thing so she didn’t berate herself for being catty. It’s not catty if it’s accurate, she decided.

“Are Amelia and Octavia coming down for dinner?”

“Octavia is wiped out so Amelia is going to stay up there with her and get her settled for the evening. Truth be told, I think Amelia is more wiped out than she wants to admit.” Bobbie laughed. “We did some serious, power-shopping today.”

“Did you find anything good?”

“Tons of stuff. I had all I could carry. I found a great dress for tomorrow night!”

“I didn’t know you didn’t have a dress for the fundraiser?”

“I did, but I found one I like better – something a little slinkier.”

“Ooh – nice!”

“Yeah, I can’t wait to wear it and get all dressed up. Anyway, we’ll all be together tomorrow – we’re all going with you to the morning show and then we’re going to find an expensive place for brunch before we come back to get ready for the ball.”

Alicia came out with a big pot. “I hope everybody likes chicken and dumplings?”

“Yum! I haven’t had dumplings in ages!” Sookie said.

“Well, everybody eat up, because there’s a ton of it,” Alicia laughed.

“Alicia, did you change your mind about going to the fundraiser?” Eric asked.

“If you don’t mind, I do think it’s a good idea if I go to help with the baby. Bobbie might be busy at some point and I think the more help Sookie has with him, the better.”

“You’re going to go, Alicia? That’s great – you’ll have a good time!”

“Yes, and so will you. Somebody has to hold the baby while you and Mr. Northman twirl around the dance floor. Everyone is dying to see you two dance together. We can’t disappoint your public.” She laughed.

“Aren’t you going to eat, Alicia?” Sookie noticed she was short one bowl as she passed them out.

“I’ll eat in the kitchen, dear.”

“NO, you won’t. You sit with the rest of us.” Sookie insisted and Eric just smiled and nodded, knowing Alicia would argue if he didn’t tell her it was alright. Sookie still didn’t understand the line between employer and employee, but it wasn’t important enough to hold up dinner to try to explain it to her. He knew that as far as Sookie was concerned, they were all family. If she needed to feel that way to be happy, he was more than happy to go along with it.

Alicia came back with a bowl for herself and they all dug into the creamy dumplings while Eric drank an RM and talked to the baby in his arms. Everyone was talking and having a good time, and it was a very pleasant meal. At one point, the baby reached for Sookie and whined a little.

“What’s the matter, Sweetie?” she asked him, kissing his hand. “Are you getting hungry?”

WANT.

Eric laughed. “That’s a yes, Mommy. Are you ready to take him?”

“Sure I am. I knew he’d be getting hungry soon – it’s been a while since he ate. He was a very good boy today. He didn’t cause me a bit of trouble, did you, darlin’?” She was cooing at him as she took him and put him to her breast.

The dinner conversation continued and Sookie didn’t miss a beat, talking a little to the baby, then to the others. Eric was blissfully watching her with the baby. Was there anything more beautiful than the sight of his wife feeding his son? She was so natural with it, and the two of them were so in sync with each other already. He had read that some women have difficulty learning to breast feed and some babies take time to learn, too, but Sookie and Eric Alexander just fit together naturally right from the start. Eric especially loved the way they looked into each other’s eyes as he suckled, and the soft, adoring way she spoke to the baby, and played with his fingers as they tried to grip her thumb.

“Your Majesty,” Kerik spoke, “if you don’t need me anymore tonight, I think I’ll head back to headquarters. I’ll be working tomorrow night, of course…”

“That’s fine, Jerry, go and have a good evening. Thank you for going with Sookie today.”

“My pleasure, sire. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“What’s everybody else going to do tonight?” Sookie asked.

“I’m going to clean the kitchen and turn in early. I’m in the middle of a very good book I want to finish.” Alicia said, clearing the table.

“I was thinking about going to see the new Johnny Depp movie. Want to go to a movie, Bjorn?”

“That’s not a bad idea. Do you need me tonight, your majesty?”

“Not at all – we’re going to have a quiet evening in, so you and Bobbie go and have fun. Unless you want to go to the movies, Sookie?”

“Oh, no, an evening where I don’t have to do anything sounds good to me. Tomorrow is going to be crazy busy and I have to get up really early.”

“As you wish, my Angel.”

“OK, well, let me grab my purse?” Bobbie said to Bjorn.

“Good, I’ll finish up and we’ll go.” Bjorn said.

“Do you know where the theatre is, Bjorn?” Sookie asked.

“Yeah, I think I remember the neighborhood. We’ll roam around until we find it,” he laughed. “We might stop and have a drink somewhere along the way. Worse comes to worse, there’s a theatre on this street a few blocks away showing Harry Potter and King Kong,” he laughed.

“Will you guys be safe wandering around?”

“We’ll be fine – I’ll keep my eyes open.”

“OK, well, then, I guess that leaves me and my two Vikings,” Sookie laughed. Eric wiggled his eyebrows at her.

“What do you want to do, my Angel?”

“Is snuggling with you and the baby and watching TV too boring?”

“Being with you is never boring, Sookie. Do we watch down here, in the den or in the bedroom?”

“You choose.”

“Bedroom it is,” he laughed and Sookie laughed with him. “Bjorn, do you have a key?”

“Yes, your majesty, Mr. Compton gave me one.”

“Alright – on your way out, tell the guards that we are retiring upstairs and lock the door, please.”

“Will do – enjoy your evening in.”

“Oh, I will.” Eric laughed.

Bjorn knew it was very unlikely they were actually going to see any TV. Sookie had been indisposed for a while and she was feeling a lot better right now. He figured Eric would tire her out, then let her sleep while he worked, since she had to get up early and stay up late the next day.

Eric and Sookie met Bobbie on the stairs and told her good night and to have fun, then they went into the bedroom. This room had a chest with a TV in it similar to the one they had at home, so Eric put it up and found an old movie on TV he thought Sookie would like while she put her nightgown on and washed off her makeup.

“We could soak in the tub, you know…” Sookie said to him as she came out of the bathroom.

“We could, but you are too tired for that. I can feel what you feel, Sookie, and you are exhausted. Today was very stressful for you, I’m afraid,” he said as he held the baby with one arm and turned the bed down.

“Yeah, it was. I was so glad to get back here and see you! I always feel so much better when I’m with you.” She crawled into bed from his side of the bed and he handed her the baby so he could undress.

“I don’t like being away from you, either. If you had been much later getting home, I’d have been pacing the floor. I feel much more secure when you and the baby are in my presence.”

“I guess that’s the blood bond, huh?”

“Part of it, but I also think we’re right to be apprehensive. We just had an attempt against us, so it’s natural for us to be nervous and protective. And everything with the baby is so new, I confess I want to keep you both to myself as much as possible.” He got into bed wearing just his silk boxers. They propped up pillows behind them and snuggled together, cuddling the baby between the two of them. The baby gurgled happily, playing with his feet, and making little baby noises.

“So what are we watching?”

“Steel Magnolias.”

“Oh – that’s about Southern women, you know?”

“I wondered about that – I thought I had heard of it. We can watch something else if you want. I just stopped on the first thing I thought might interest you.”

“This is fine. What we watch isn’t really important.”

“I know, what is important is this,” and he kissed her very softly for a long time.

“Exactly.” She said softly, resting her head on his chest as he kissed her hair. “We just like to snuggle, don’t we, Alex?”

“ba-ba-ba-ba-ba.”

“I think that’s a yes,” Sookie laughed. “Is that a yes, Pookie? Huh? Is that a yes?” She tickled his feet and the baby kicked and gurgled, wiggling his fingers in the air like he wanted to grab something. Eric stroked a finger inside his little palm and Alex grabbed it and held on. “Uh-oh, Daddy – he’s got you – he’s got a hold of you! Alex – have you got a hold of Daddy?”

“VBEE!” the baby said and threw his other arm up.

“Always ready to fight, my son!” Eric shook the baby’s hand a little and he held on tight. “That’s Daddy’s good boy!”

Sookie picked the baby up and turned him around, raising her knees so he was lying against her upper thighs facing Sookie and Eric. “Hey, buddy! Hey, Alex!” The baby laughed and pulled his fists up to his chin. He reached toward Eric and Eric let him grab onto his finger again. He looked at Eric with big eyes. His head was shaking a little but he was looking Eric up and down. “Are you looking at Daddy? Alex, are you looking at Daddy?”

The baby laughed and threw his arm toward Eric and said “VBEE!” and kicked his feet and laughed.

“It really does sound like he’s trying to say something, doesn’t it?” Sookie laughed.

“I think Bjorn is right – he’s trying to say “vìg.””

“EEEAaAHH!” the baby squealed and kicked.

Sookie laughed, “You might be right – he loved it when you said that.”

“Vìg, Alex, vìg!” Eric said enthusiastically, looking the baby right in the eye.

“VBEE!” the baby cracked up, waving his arms like crazy.

“It must be a Viking thing,” Sookie laughed. “Hey, that’s the first time I ever heard you call him ‘Alex.'”

“It’s probably from hearing you say it so many times tonight as you play with him. To me, he is usually Eric Alexander.”

“I noticed Alicia always calls him ‘Baby E.'” Sookie said.

“And to the guards he is ‘Prince Alex.'”

“Think we’re going to confuse him?”

“No, he’s smart – he knows who we mean, don’t you, Alex?”

“ba-ba-ba!” the baby said as he stuck his fingers in his mouth.

“You know he’s really advanced – Octavia said he’s more like a 3 month old than a new born.”

“That is not too surprising, is it?”

“No, but she also told me she knew a human girl who started talking at 3 months old.”

“Are you sure she was human? A normal one?”

“Well, she said she was a natural born Witch and she was gifted, you know, with a really high IQ.”

“And so is Alex.”

“Right, so he might really be trying to talk, even as small as he is.”

“Might? Sookie, he is obviously trying to talk and has specific words and actions for certain things. He already communicates with us through emotions. He watches everything around him very closely.”

“Yeah, he can recognize people, too. I’m pretty sure he knows Bobbie when he sees her now, because she massaged him and talked to him while she did it. He’s starting to know Alicia and I kind of think he knows Bjorn.”

“None of this surprises me. It’s good that he’ll know who should handle him and who is a stranger. Should someone unauthorized try to touch him, he can send to us and alert us.”

“True. We’ll know if anything is wrong with him.” Sookie gave a huge yawn and the baby did, too. “Alex is sleepy, too! Yeah, you’re sleepy, too!”

“Why don’t you just lie down and sleep, Sookie. You don’t need to fight to stay awake, Sweetheart.”

“But I want to spend time with you and I thought maybe we’d … you know… after Alex is asleep.”

“You are too tired to have sex, Sookie, and tomorrow will be a very long day for you.”

“Do you not want to…?”

“It’s not about wanting, Sookie. I always want you. I’m not going to push you to the point of exhaustion, and you are nearly there as it is. Here, give me the baby.” He took the baby from her, “lie down, and Alex will lie here between us, and I’ll lie here and talk to you both until you fall asleep.” He put the baby on his back next to Sookie, then scooted down in the bed and rested his head on his hand, leaning on his elbow.

“I don’t want to be boring.”

“You are not boring, you are tired. This is to be expected. You have many activities that require your time and you need to be sharp for them. You want to be well-rested for your TV appearance tomorrow, do you not?”

“Yeah…”

“You want to look beautiful for the fundraiser and be able to dance and enjoy it, do you not?”

“Of course.”

“Then sleep a while. If you wake up later, maybe we will have sex, but it is not the first priority.”

“OK, I’ll sleep a while if you promise to wake me up no later than 4 so we can do it before you go to rest.”

“Alright, that’s fine, I will wake you at 4.”

“Promise?”

“I promise to try, but if you do not wake easily, I will not persist.” He smoothed her hair away from her face gently.

“Alright, I guess. If you can’t wake me up, before you go to rest, put Alex on your side of the bed and put a pillow at the edge of the bed so he doesn’t roll off, OK?”

“You want him in the bed with you?”

“He slept there this morning for a bit. He was really upset when he woke up in the portable crib because he couldn’t see me, so Alicia put the pillow there and left him with me and we were fine. You know I don’t move around a lot when I sleep.”

“True – you are the soundest sleeper I have ever known. I think it is because your conscience is clear.”

“I don’t know about that… I’ve got stuff to feel guilty about.”

“Not really – not by Vampire standards, certainly. You’ve never killed anyone you did not have to.”

“That’s some standard,” Sookie laughed, “but I know what you mean.”

“All right, I like the idea of him sleeping next to you.”

“What would you think about me buying a second co-sleeper to keep here?”

“That would keep us from having to carry one around with us, and it would feel familiar to him. If you have time tomorrow, go ahead and order one.”

“You don’t mind? Even though it will only be a few months?”

“Do not hesitate to make a purchase such as this if it will add to his comfort or your convenience. The goal is to make things as easy as possible – cost is not a factor. In fact, order 2 and we will keep one in Las Vegas, too.”

“He’ll be too big for them pretty quickly…”

“Then we will donate them to charity and other mothers will benefit from their use.”

“Oh – I didn’t think about that! I wouldn’t feel so bad about buying them if I knew someone else would get some use out of them after we do. I didn’t know that was an option.”

“You shouldn’t feel “bad” in any case, but of course you may share things with others as they become obsolete. Is it not common for mothers to pass baby equipment on to mothers with younger children?”

“Yeah, very much. They give them to family or neighbors or to the Salvation Army or sell them in garage sales…”

“The Salvation Army does much good for poor families, yes? They would certainly see that your things find good use after Alex no longer needs them.”

“Wow – why didn’t I think of that before now? I feel much better buying stuff if that’s the plan. Thank you!” She planted a big kiss on his lips as the baby gurgled happily.

“Good – then you buy what you need, and as many as you need and when you don’t need them anymore we will see that they go to others who do not have our advantages.”

“I hope I don’t seem ungrateful. I know I gave you a hard time about things when we first got together – I do appreciate everything you’ve given me and the baby.”

“I know you do, Sookie. You do not seem ungrateful. You seem unnecessarily apologetic. Some part of you feels guilty about having money and even guiltier about enjoying it.”

“I guess that’s from growing up poor. We were taught to be proud and we were taught not to want things we couldn’t have. More than anything we were taught not to take too much of what others offered. Southern people tend to be very hospitable and they’ll offer more than they can really spare, so you’re supposed to just take what you need when somebody shares something, or just take a little even if you need or want more. It never occurred to me that someday I’d have all the money I could ever want. You know how people grow up imagining what it would be like to be something they’re not? Well, I never imagined being rich. I didn’t even dare dream about it because that would have reflected badly on Gran, and she did the best she could for us.”

“I wish I had known your grandmother.”

“So do I. She would have loved you right from the start. I didn’t realize it when she was alive, but my Gran loved the exotic. She liked good-looking men and she liked anything that was out of the ordinary. She loved Bill, so I know she would have been impressed by you.”

“Why did she like Bill so much?”

“Well, the Comptons were an old Bon Temps family so that counted in his favor. He was handsome and he was very polite, but mostly I think she liked that he was a Vampire. She always knew I wasn’t going to find a human husband. I didn’t realize that was because she knew I wasn’t strictly human myself. I wish she had told me – maybe she would have at some point as I got more involved with Vampires. She told me that I should consider myself lucky to know Bill because he was different and knew a lot of things. She thought I needed someone worldly, I think, and you are definitely worldly.” She laughed softly. “She would have asked you a million questions and listened to all of your stories. She’d have wanted to know every place you’ve been and everything you’ve done, probably even the bad stuff. She was so accepting of new people and new ideas – not at all like the other women at her church or the Descendants of the Glorious Dead…”

“The what?”

“The Descendants of the Glorious Dead. It’s a club she belonged to, of a bunch of people who had ancestors in the Civil War. That was another thing she liked about Bill – he was actually in the Civil War and he came to her church and spoke to her group about his experiences.”

“I did not know about that. So he talked to them of war?”

“Yes, and they were fascinated. And the mayor brought an old, old photograph he found that turned out to be a picture of Bill and his human family. He cried when he looked at it. I nearly melted when I saw that,” she laughed. “I was mad at him at the time and that just wiped it all away, when I thought of everything he had lost.”

“You are a romantic,” he brushed her hair back, “I love that about you.”

“You do?”

“Yes, I do. Romance is underrated in this culture. Modern people find it cheesy or saccharine, but they are cheating themselves when they do. It takes a certain amount of innocence and hope to be romantic.”

“I think you’re a romantic and I wouldn’t really call you “innocent,”” she laughed.

“I am not afraid of being emotionally vulnerable because I know I am strong in mind and body. I’ve weathered great sadness and survived, and I’ve known great love and lost it. I am the opposite of innocent – I am experienced – but I have hope. I know the true value of things. The only thing I cannot get for myself by myself is romance. I have money for anything I could want. I can get sex any number of places, and I have no shortage of places to feed. My ambitions have all been met, many times over. But the feeling I have lying here, talking to you; as our son sleeps between us – this I can only get from you, my Angel. No one else would mean as much to me, even if we did the very same things.”

“Have I ever told you how glad I am that you were cursed that time? As awful as I know it was for you, if it hadn’t been for that time together, we wouldn’t be here now.”

“I’m so relieved that I still knew enough to love you then…”

“I don’t think you loved me before that…”

“Yes, I did, but I would never have admitted it because I knew you didn’t feel the same way. When I remembered – when I walked into your room and the smell of you made it come flooding back – and I knew that you had loved me, too, I knew then that I could get you back. I knew it was in you and I would bring it out again eventually, no matter what I had to do. The feelings I was getting from you made sense – loss, resentment, sadness, wanting. I knew you were grieving for what we meant to each other.

A tear slipped out of Sookie’s eye and ran across her nose, dripping onto the sheet.

“Don’t cry, Sookie – you know I can’t take it when you cry.” He placed his open palm against the side of her face and she turned her head a little to kiss it. Sookie sat up and picked the sleeping baby up, then turned to put him in the portable crib. She then scooted right up against Eric, and told him, “Just don’t forget to put him in bed with me before you go to rest.”

“I thought you were going to sleep.”

“I”ll sleep after. I really, really need you inside me right now.”

Eric squeezed her tight and turned off the light on his nightstand. Tonight wasn’t a rock-the-house sort of night. This was a quiet, almost reverential night for two people who loved each other more than either ever thought possible. After their second release and a mutual feeding, about 2 hours later, Eric knew Sookie needed to let go and go to sleep, but also knew she wouldn’t do it willingly, so he peeled the covers back from her and kissed his way down her stomach, which was already flattening nicely, and settled into his favorite spot – between her legs. He ate her slowly, luxuriously, but gently, knowing that one more orgasm would put her to sleep, if it didn’t happen before. He continued his attentions even after her soft, deep breathing told him she was asleep now. He loved it too much to stop even if she wasn’t participating. He laughed to himself knowing she thought he did this for her, but truth be told, he loved it more than she did. He had literally never tasted anything sweeter. He also laughed to himself that some men acted as if this was a chore. A man that stupid was wasted on a woman, as far as Eric was concerned. If she had been awake, he would have bitten, but he would leave that for another night, very soon.

After a good long while, the baby fussed a little, so Eric quickly scooped him up and got a bottle of RM out of the diaper bag by the closet door. He put a fresh diaper on the baby, then slipped his underwear on and took the baby out to the sitting room at the front of the house. He was sitting back quietly rocking the baby when Bobbie and Bjorn snuck up the stairs and into his room. Eric didn’t let them know he was there. After all, there was no point. They knew he would hear them, and they didn’t care. He wondered briefly if Bobbie would make it back to her room before Bill came back and went to rest, but he had a feeling she wouldn’t bother. Bobbie was getting pretty brazen about preferring Bjorn, and it was all Bill’s fault. Eric normally felt a little sorry for Bill because he was so young and so controlled by his impulses, but this situation with Bobbie had lowered Eric’s respect for Bill considerably. Bobbie was a good woman – she was smart, she was pretty, she was physically attractive and active and had a strong libido. She would also be turned in a heartbeat if it were offered, and considering her age, the sooner the better.

What did Bill think he was going to find out there? He was never getting Sookie back, and a woman like Sookie only comes along every two or three human life spans. Bill wasn’t going to appeal to a hardcore fang banger because of his young age. He wouldn’t turn anyone of his own accord. He was only moderately wealthy and had no status within the Vampire power structure that was not conferred upon him by Eric. From what Eric knew of Bill’s conquests other than Sookie, they were rather plain and uninteresting. He hadn’t even managed to make Sookie jealous when he brought them into Merlotte’s, he had only managed to irritate her. Pam said he was enjoyable but not as strong or masterful as most Vamps who dated Vampiresses usually were. Lady Vamps tended to go for older, established males or females who could move them up within the hierarchy. Eric didn’t know any females that would want a sentimental young Vampire like Bill, especially with his unfortunate empathy for humans, which most would view as a weakness.

Bobbie and Bjorn, on the other hand, seemed emotionally well suited for each other. Both had a certain detachment about sex, both were physically oriented, and Bobbie’s hippie/gypsy style softened Bjorn’s rough edges when they were together. Eric knew for a fact that they clicked better sexually than Bobbie and Bill did. Bill was a little conservative for Bobbie, especially in bed. Bjorn, on the other hand, was energetic and controlling and Bobbie loved it. He also knew that Bjorn liked Bobbie a lot more than he would admit to anyone, probably including himself at this stage of the game. Bjorn’s heart always beat faster when Bobbie was near him – noticeably faster. Eric had actually known Bobbie was coming into the room once not from sound or smell but from the way Bjorn’s heart sped up. When a tough guy like Bjorn has a physical response that intense, there are real feelings involved.

Eric was still sitting with the baby around 4:30 when Bjorn came out to use the bathroom.

“Eric – hi.” Bjorn was surprised to see him as he came back out.

“Hello. Good movie?”

“What?”

“The movie you took Bobbie to – was it good?”

“Uh…. We never actually made it to the movies. We spent the evening at a bar in the Quarter.”

“Really? Did you dance?”

“No, it wasn’t really a dancing kind of place. It was more of a hide in the corner booth and talk kind of place.”

“That’s a long time to talk.”

“It didn’t seem like long…”

“That’s a good sign. It’s good to have someone you can talk to.”

“Yeah, it is kind of nice for a change. I’m not usually much of a talker.”

“I know what you mean. Some women seem to make a man want to talk about things he normally wouldn’t even mention out loud.”

“Or things you didn’t even know you wanted to talk about.”

“Right. I find myself saying things to Sookie I wasn’t even aware of myself. She makes me want to explain myself.” Eric smiled at him, still rocking the baby.

“Does she ever… feel a little… down on herself? Like, insecure or something?”

“Oh, yes – that’s a given with 21st century American women. Everything around them tells them they are not good enough – not thin enough, not tall enough, not smart enough, not blonde enough.”

“What do you do about it?” Bjorn sat on the love seat across from Eric and the baby.

“You make sure she never has to wonder how you feel about her. You make sure you know yourself, and then you tell her, and you keep telling her. Follow every impulse to say something nice to her, to compliment her. More than anything, she wants your attention, and your good opinion. She wants to know that she’s good enough for you, just the way she is. If she isn’t, don’t waste her time. If she is, let her know it.”

“Yeah, but they know, right, they’re intuitive?”

“Not about themselves. They can tell you everything about you, and about the people around them, but they all have a blind spot about themselves and how you feel about them. Your job is to let them see their reflection through your eyes. Most of the things they worry about don’t matter to us at all, but they don’t know that unless you tell them. Never assume that they know what you feel. Say it plainly and keep saying it.”

“That’s hard for most guys to do…”

“Is she worth the effort?”

“Yeah… yeah, definitely.”

“Then make the effort. I recently warned a colleague of mine that he was taking his woman for granted and she was about to find someone more attentive. He didn’t listen to me, and he’s going to be sleeping alone for a while.”

“You don’t seem like the type to give advice about romance.” Bjorn wondered if Eric had actually told Bill what was going on?

“You’d be surprised what I’ll do to keep my wife happy – to keep her self-made family around her, so she feels loved and supported. I care about Sookie’s happiness above everything else, and sometimes that extends to the happiness of those around her. And in my colleague’s case, I don’t think much of a man who has a good woman and doesn’t appreciate her. The good ones are few and far between. When you find one, you fight for her.”

“Weren’t you kind of a hound dog before?”

“I was a Vampire – I had to feed, I had to have sex, I didn’t know any women of quality and I wasn’t in an environment likely to produce any. I got lucky one night, when Bill Compton walked through the door with a sassy little blonde in a red floral dress. I knew she would be mine the minute I saw her – it just took a little time for her to agree – but I let her know the minute I saw her that I wanted her and I still let her know it every chance I get. She will never have to wonder if I love her. I won’t leave any room for doubt.”

“What about playing hard to get?”

“That’s how a woman attracts a man, not how a man keeps a woman worth keeping. In my long life, I’ve known 4 women, including Sookie, worth keeping. Every one of them stayed with me to the end of her life. Once I was old enough to figure out what really matters, I made sure they knew they were valued.”

“Is Pam one of them?”

“Pam is my Childe – I was speaking of human women, blood bonds. Pam has always been a companion, and we love each other, but it isn’t a great romantic love as the others were. Pam was grateful I saved her from a life of boredom in Victorian England, but she wasn’t a romantic person – she was adventurous and wicked – she still is…”

“Yeah, she is. You never turned any of those women?”

“One. It ended badly. She didn’t live long after.”

“Are you going to turn Sookie?”

“We’ve talked about it. At first she was against it, but once she knew her child would be Vampire, she began to be open to the idea. She told me she wants to be with me forever. She can’t be turned while he’s breast feeding, of course, so we’ve decided to revisit the subject when that is no longer necessary.”

“She’d make a good Vamp.”

“Yes, she would.” Eric smiled. “She’d be magnificent. She already is.”

“She’s special.” Bjorn agreed. “Bobbie’s special, in a similar way.”

“Yes, she’s very strong and smart. She’s open-minded and sexy and very physical. A man would be lucky to grow old with her. She deserves a man smart enough to appreciate her.”

“Yeah, she does. So you’re not against it – me and her?”

“Not if it keeps you both happy. I want happy people around my wife and child, and Sookie cares a great deal about both of you. I’m sure she already knows about you two and she hasn’t expressed any objections.”

“You think she knows?”

“I’m sure she does. She’s smart and observant in addition to being telepathic. She probably knew before you did.” Eric smiled at him.

“Aren’t you close to Bill, though?”

“I work with Bill, but he’s only alive because of Sookie. I have cause to want him dead, but it would make her unhappy. He and Bobbie were a good idea as long as it made Bobbie happy, but he took her for granted, in spite of being told he would lose her. He created this situation himself. This was a logical result of his lack of commitment. He’ll have to live with the consequences.”

“Yeah, I guess so. She said she’s not going back. She’s going to move into my room, if that’s OK.”

“I expected that. I think Bill expected it, too, which is why he decided to spend the night driving to Bon Temps and back so he wouldn’t have to face it. He’s not hurt, mind you, just not wanting to deal with it. He knows I think he’s a fool for neglecting her, and he knows I care whether she’s happy or not. My guess is he’ll act as if nothing has happened. He’ll continue as if nothing is wrong. He’s not confrontational and he’s not willing to make the kind of commitment it would take to change her mind. His best bet at this point is to try to maintain his new connection to Pam. That could be politically beneficial for them both. Time will tell if he’s smart enough to make the most of it.”

“Yeah, well, I guess I should get back to her…”

“Yes, you should. Remember my advice – leave no room for doubt.”

“I won’t. Good night.”

“Good night, Bjorn.”

By the time they were done talking, dawn was immanent. Eric sat rocking the baby as long as he could, then he took him back into the bedroom as he heard Bill slip quietly into his empty room. Sookie was sleeping soundly as Eric moved his pillow to the side of the bed and put the sleeping baby next to her. He kissed Sookie, then kissed the baby and went to rest for the day with a sense of contentment.

The baby woke Sookie at quarter after 6, and she was still feeding him when Alicia came in to wake her.

“Good morning,” Alicia said softly, smiling at how sweet they looked together.

“Good morning. Time to get up, huh?”

“Yes, you have about an hour to shower and get your makeup done before we head to the TV station.”

“OK, I think he’s done eating.”

“You hop in the shower and I’ll give him a fresh nappy. Do you want to take him into the shower with you for a minute?”

“Yeah, we liked that, didn’t we, Sweetie? Can you hand him to me once I get started?”

“Sure I can. I’ll just clean him up a little first, then hand him to you for a wash. His baby soap and shampoo are in the shower with yours.”

“Great!” Sookie was pleased to see that this shower had that rain-like setting the one at home had, so the water fell gently without making a lot of noise. When she was sure she had the temperature right, She took the baby from Alicia and washed him off well, the baby occasionally closing his eyes and smiling. Sookie could tell he liked the feel of the water washing over him. She thought of how much fun it would be when she could take him in the pool with her. When she was done, Alicia was waiting for him with a soft, fluffy towel and she diapered him while Sookie finished her own shower. Alicia had everything set up and did Sookie’s hair and makeup quickly while the baby lay on the bed and played with his toes, making the little noises he made almost constantly when he was awake now.

“He’s trying to talk,” Alicia said as she dried Sookie’s hair.

“Yeah, I think he is – Eric and Bjorn both have him trying to say a Swedish word and he can almost do it.”

“Oh, really? What word?”

“Víg – it’s old Swedish for ‘fight.’ You know that noise he makes when he throws his arm up when anybody mentions Eric or he walks into the room? Bjorn is convinced that’s what he’s trying to say.”

“That’s a little far fetched but the idea of those two big men trying to coach a little baby is precious.” Alicia laughed.

“Oh, you’ll see it – they’re both convinced. It’s too funny. Yesterday Bjorn was saying it to him and every time he said it, the baby responded. Then Eric was doing it last night and the baby seemed to really be trying to respond. Wait until you see it.”

“If you don’t mind my asking, is he going to age normally?” Alicia started putting some powder foundation on Sookie since she was going to be on TV.

“Well, sort of, but he’s going to do everything really early. He’ll walk and talk very early.”

“As in, very soon?”

“Probably, yeah. He’s going to be very bright.”

“He already recognizes people, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, he does.”

“I could tell. At first he looked at me very strangely, but now when I handle him, he seems to know that I’m supposed to be caring for him. He seems as if he knows me now.” She put a little blush on Sookie’s cheeks.

“He does, I’m sure. Octavia said he’s more like a 3 month old than a baby who’s only a few days old.”

“That makes sense. I notice he’s doing those things they do when they discover their fingers and toes. Is Octavia some kind of specialist?”

“In a way, yes. She’ll be important in helping us teach him as he grows.”

“So she’s not a doctor, she’s a …?”

“Witch. Yes, a real one. So is Amelia, and so will Alex be when he grows up. I might be, too.”

“Oh, my! Alright, I’m just going to ask – Bjorn and several of the guards are not Vampires but they’re something other than human…” Alicia was putting eyeshadow on Sookie and penciling her brows.

“Why do you say that?”

“They sniff things in a strange way, and they seem freakishly strong. They all seem to take the same couple of nights off every month and Vampire guards work those nights. I’m sure they’re the best available, but I know they’re something other than human.”

“Are you sure you want to know?”

“Yes, I do – don’t worry, I’m not going to freak out. I’m here and I like Bjorn enough to know he’s a good guy, whatever he is. I just think I should know in case of an emergency.” Now she put some mascara on Sookie’s long lashes.

“They take off the nights of the full moon. They’re Weres – what people call werewolves.”

“You mean Bjorn…”

“Turns into a huge wolf when the moon is full or he needs or wants to. They have to turn on the full moon, but they can also turn at will any other time. Within the Supe world, they’re the tough guys – a lot of them work as security guards, bouncers, any kind of muscle job. They’re bad-asses. If there’s trouble, you want them on your side.”

“So werewolves are real and Bjorn is one?”

“Right.”

“OK – I guess that’s no weirder than Vampires. It certainly explains the keen sense of smell. Do they ever turn into other animals or just wolves?”

“There are others called Shifters who can turn into other animals. Some turn into specific animals like werepanthers or weretigers, but a few can become any animal they want. My old boss was one of those. He usually takes the form of a collie, but I saw him turn into a lion once – it was amazing. He saved my life in the middle of a pack war.”

“And all of these creatures have managed to avoid detection?”

“Not completely. It’s just that most people think reports of them are Superstition or fantasy and they’ve been part of the campaign to ridicule anyone who tried to expose them. Most of the mythical creatures people have read about or whispered about have some basis in fact. They’ve managed to stay out of the limelight for centuries, but new technology is forcing them into the open. There’s talk of the Weres coming out of the closet the way the Vampires did. It may happen some time this year. They’re discussing it in their packs and voting on it.”

“OK and you said something about some kind of world?” she asked as she lined Sookie’s lips.

“The Supe world. Supe is short for Supernatural. It’s the way they refer to themselves to distinguish them from humans.”

“So they all know about each other?” She added hot pink lipstick.

“Oh, yeah, and they’ve helped each other stay hidden. Now that the Vamps have been out and had a relatively peaceful transition, the Weres and Shifters are thinking about following suit. There are some types of Supe that will never come forward, of course, but Weres are very well integrated into society. A lot of them are cops or soldiers and being able to turn would enhance their ability to serve.”

“Bjorn was a soldier, yes?” She handed Sookie a pair of panties to wear.

“Yeah – a Navy Seal, and some kind of spy or something – all he says is that he did some “intelligence work.” Weres are drawn to those types of work because of their physical strength and endurance. Bjorn is one of the smartest Weres I’ve ever met, too. With his size and his strength, and him being Swedish, he’s the closest thing to Eric available in the daylight. That’s why he was hired – so the baby and I’d have a big Swedish warrior guarding us day and night.”

“He and Mr. Northman didn’t like each other when he first started working here.” She helped Sookie into a nursing dress.

“No, they didn’t, but I got them to work together, and there were some circumstances that made them reach an understanding. Once Eric knew he could trust him around me, he realized that he was the best available man for the job. If he couldn’t protect us himself during the day, he had someone almost like him who could.”

“That makes sense. What do you want the baby to wear today?”

“Just a diaper and t-shirt. He’s too small to make him wear real clothes, and it’s too hot and sticky besides. Plus, he has to wear clothes tonight, so let him be comfy today.”

Alicia got a little t-shirt while Sookie stepped into her shoes. She gave the shirt to Sookie who put it on the baby, talking to him the whole time, while Alicia got her purse and a touch-up kit for her makeup ready.

“Hey, sweet boy! Let’s put a little shirt on you, OK?”

Alex gurgled and giggled as she tickled him and put the shirt on him, then picked him up and snuggled him under her chin.

Alicia went across the hallway and knocked on Bjorn’s door. He answered and said he was almost ready and he’d be right down. Sookie had the baby in a sling and she and Alicia went downstairs. Bobbie came down just before Bjorn with a big smile on her face and Alicia had orange juice and BLT’s to make a quick breakfast. Everyone ate quickly as Amelia and Octavia came down to join them.

It took a caravan of four cars to get them to the TV station – Bjorn, Jerry, Sookie and the baby in her car; a car with two guards plus Bobbie and Alicia; two more guards with Amelia and Octavia, plus a van with 6 guards. There was a crowd outside the TV station, including a group of about 30 FOTS protestors across the street. New Orleans PD was keeping them away from the station itself, but there were still fans, for lack of a better word, behind ropes on both sides of the only available entrance to the station.

Bjorn and Kerik were on either side of Sookie and the baby, and they were surrounded by 6 other guards as they moved Sookie from the car to the interior of the building. The 6 guards went back out and helped move the other four women from cars into the station as the producer of the morning show introduced herself to Sookie and then led all of them into a small waiting room where they could watch Sookie on TV. Bjorn, Jerry, and two guards would accompany Sookie to the set, staying off camera of course, and Sookie would keep the baby with her, taking him out of the sling for the show so her pink appliqué dress would be visible. Alicia put Sookie’s smaller crown in place and held the baby while they fixed Sookie’s mic, then blotted Sookie’s face with a little powder.

The hostess was a tall brunette with too many, too white teeth named Carolann Carmichael.

“Good morning, your majesty!” Carolann was very excited about this interview.

“Hi, you can call me Sookie. Is it alright if I keep Alex with me?”

“Oh, please! Everyone is dying to see the little Vampire Prince! Is it true he’s the first one in recorded history?”

“As far as we know, yes. It’s a very rare occurrence.”

“Vampires normally can’t reproduce, can they?”

“No, these were very special circumstances.”

“I guess it must have been. So I’m going to introduce you, and you’ll just tell us that you’re in town for the fundraiser tonight and talk a bit about it. Is it true you might be living here?”

“At least part time. We’ll probably be spending half of our time here and half in Las Vegas.”

“I saw pictures from the… Sheriff’s Ball, I think? Of you dancing with your husband, the King. He’s very tall!”

“Yes, he’s 6’5″.”

“He’s just gorgeous, too. You’re a lucky girl!”

“Oh, thank you. I think he’s beautiful, too.”

The producer said it was time to begin and began to count down the time as Sookie sat up straight and held the baby up straight. He was awake and very aware, looking all around him, squinting a little now and then into the bright lights.

“3…2…1….”

“Good Morning, New Orleans! I’m Carolann Carmichael and I’m here with a very special guest, Vampire Queen Sookie Northman! Welcome, your majesty.”

“Oh, thank you, but call me Sookie, please.”

“And who is this little darling?”

“This is Prince Eric Alexander and this is his first time on TV, isn’t it Alex.”

The baby made an “om-ba” sound as if in response.

“Well, he’s just a doll! Look at all that blonde hair! And those big blue eyes! I did see a picture in some of the tabloids though – he has fangs, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, he does have little fangs. They’re very cute and very sharp.”

“Is there any chance we could get a peek?”

“Well, we can try.” Sookie held the baby up facing the camera and tickled his gums with her finger. They got a perfect shot of his fangs shooting downward.

“Oh, my!”

“His Daddy’s very proud of them. He loves to show them off.”

“That could be hard on Mommy, though. You aren’t breastfeeding, I hope!”

“Oh, of course I am. It’s not as bad as you might think. No worse than most breastfeeding babies, I imagine. He doesn’t use them all the time, either.”

“This is kind of personal, I guess, but you’ve probably been bitten a few times?”

“His father and I have to exchange blood almost daily so that my body can support him.”

“Forgive me for asking but how was he conceived? Was there any in vitro fertilization or anything like that?”

“No, we did it the old fashioned way,” Sookie laughed. “It was just a really rare occurrence. You might say all the stars aligned and there he was.”

“There’s a rumor that some sort of magick was involved. That’s not possible is it?”

“Being with Eric – the King – is always magickal, so maybe that’s where the rumor comes from.”

“There’s also a theory that he’s so old that he’s fertile again.”

“That one gets his vote – he’s happy to take all the credit,” Sookie laughed.

“So you’re hosting a fundraiser tonight here in the city?”

“Yes, it’s at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Ballroom at 9 pm and we’re raising money for the reconstruction efforts.”

“I hear it’s going to be a star-studded event!”

“That’s what they tell me. I just hope we raise a lot of money – there are so many people still in need! I just know that New Orleans is going to come back stronger than ever.”

“So the King is involved in some of the reconstruction projects?”

“Yes, he’s going to be. His predecessor didn’t do much at all, but Eric is very interested in getting involved and getting the city back on her feet. We’ll be spending a lot of time here so he can see to it personally that the work is getting done to his satisfaction. He’s going to do everything in his power to help.”

“He sounds very generous.”

“He is generous and he’s smart, too. He knows that it’s in everyone’s best interest to have New Orleans humming again. He’s a great boss to work for – he pays really well and gives all kinds of perks as long as people do their jobs well.”

“Did you work for him before you got together?”

“Not officially, though I did help with a couple of special jobs he had for me.”

“Is he romantic?”

“Oh, very! We were in Las Vegas last week and he paid for a big spa party for me and my friends, then when I came back to the hotel room, he had filled it with every pink flower in Nevada!”

“Wow!”

“He’s always doing things like that. He’s very thoughtful and he makes sure I have everything I could possibly want or need.”

“How does he like being a father after all these years?”

“He’s over the moon! You should see them together. The baby looks just like him and I think they’re going to have similar personalities. Eric spends a lot of time holding him and rocking him, and he’s good about taking care of him at night so I can get some sleep. I’ve never seen a father more involved with an infant. He’s so proud of him he’s about to bust!”

“Well, I can see why – he’s so sweet. He’s being very well-behaved, too.”

“He doesn’t fuss a lot, at least not so far. He pays attention to everything – see, he’s checking you out, wondering who you are,” Sookie laughed.

“Those big blue eyes do seem to take everything in, don’t they?”

“Oh, yes, and he’s very bright, if I do say so myself,” Sookie laughed again.

“You seem pretty over the moon about him yourself,” the hostess laughed.

“Oh, I am. I’m thrilled to be his mommy. My life is like a dream right now.”

“There were some problems at the parade in the Quarter the other night, though.”

“Yes, we do have to watch out for religious fanatics using their faith as an excuse for their bigotry. Some people automatically fear anything they don’t understand. It’s such a shame they can’t open their minds and their hearts. Vampires are little bits of living history walking among us. They have experiences and insights most people can’t even imagine. They have a lot to share with us and to teach us. Everyone can benefit if we all just get along and treat each other with respect.”

“Yes, we can. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us, Queen Sookie, and you, too, little Prince!” She tickled the baby and he laughed. “And now, back to Matt in New York!”

“And we’re out…” the producer said as the red light went off the camera.

“Thank you so much, Sookie, this was just wonderful. I can’t tell you what an honor it was to have you both on my show.”

“Oh, well, thank you. We’re happy to help, aren’t we, Alex?”

“Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba” the baby said as he chewed on a finger and smiled.

“He almost sounds as if he’s trying to talk,” Carolann laughed.

“Oh, he is, he just can’t manage it yet, but he’ll start early, I’m sure.”

“Good luck with the fundraiser tonight. I might actually be there, if everything goes according to plan – they’re trying to get me in so I can cover it.”

“Oh, that would be nice! If there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know. I can leave word at the office if you’d like.”

“Could you? We haven’t been able to get a press pass yet.”

“Here, hang on – Alicia, do you have my iPhone?”

“Yes, it’s right here,”

Sookie took the phone and called the New Orleans office.

“Yes, Your Majesty?”

“Hi, Emily? Carolann at the Morning Show needs a press pass to cover the fundraiser tonight. Is anybody working on that?”

“Just a minute, let me check. Uh, we have the request, but we haven’t responded yet.”

“OK, well, she was very nice to me this morning so I want you to approve her request now so she can join us tonight, alright?”

“Yes, your majesty, I’ll do that right now.”

“Oh, good, thank you.” She hung up, “OK, Carolann, you should be hearing from them any minute now. I told them to approve you, so you should be all set. I’ll see you tonight!”

“Thank you so much, your majesty.”

“No problem at all. Say ‘bye-bye,’ Alex!” She waved the baby’s hand and he said “ba-ba,” and everyone laughed.

Bjorn wouldn’t allow Sookie to talk to anyone outside the station so she was swept straight into the car with Alicia.

“That was just a coincidence, right?” Sookie said as she put the baby to her breast to feed.

“What was, dear?”

“Alex saying “ba-ba” when I told him to say ‘bye-bye?'”

“Oh, it had to be. Doesn’t he make that ba-ba-ba sound all the time?”

“Yeah, that’s right, he does. It had to be a coincidence.” Sookie had her doubts, though. How was she going to explain a tiny baby that could talk? People were calling him “spawn of Satan” as it was. He wasn’t even a week old yet and he’s already trying to talk? She couldn’t lie about his age – everyone knew when he was born. How far would being a Vampire go toward explaining his advanced abilities?

“Where are we going now?” Sookie asked.

“We talked about having brunch at one of the restaurants at the Ritz-Carlton so we could check it out in the day light – unless you aren’t up to it?” Alicia asked.

“No, brunch sounds fine – I hope they don’t mind me bringing a baby with me.”

“He’ll be fine, you just keep him in your sling and he’ll probably sleep the whole time. He’ll doze off as soon as he finishes eating.”

The restaurant, on the third floor lobby level, was called Mélange and it was beautiful. They had a Summer Brunch Menu and Sookie insisted that the guards all be seated and eat as well. Sookie was tickled to see that they had Smoked Salmon Flatbread served with crème fraiche and Choupique caviar on the menu and that one of their special entrees was Fried Chicken and Waffles, which she and Octavia were both excited about. Sookie’s entourage took up quite a bit of the restaurant, but they were all treated very well and the service was flawless. The baby slept the whole time.

“This place is gorgeous,” Sookie said as they left the restaurant, “do you suppose they’d let me see the ballroom?” she asked Alicia and Bjorn. The group stopped on the second floor and Bjorn inquired inside the ballroom, which was being set up for the evening’s activities. He explained that the Vampire Queen hosting the event was outside and would like to see the room. An hotel representative, a petite, flirty woman with auburn hair, came to meet Sookie and took her and her entourage into the ballroom.

“Mrs. Northman? I’m Evelyn Reed, I’ll be happy to show you the rooms. We had to expand quite a bit with the extra requests for tickets. We’re using the entire Grand Ballroom, which can be divided into 4 smaller Salons on other occasions, as well as the Lafayette ballroom and several smaller rooms on this floor. There will be large video screens in the extra rooms so everyone can see the speakers and the main room will have a video screen showing the dance floor. The music will be piped into all of the rooms. Please come in and look around.” She directed Sookie into the Grand Ballroom and Sookie tried not to act like a hick when she saw it because it was stunning. Evelyn continued, “In our brochures, we say that “in the Grand Ballroom, all that glitters is gold.” We feature these fine French draperies, Czech crystal chandeliers and this wonderful carpeting is less than two years old. We’ll be adding some red accents to our normal cream and gold color scheme in honor of the Vampires, but what you’re seeing right now is the standard decoration. The staff will have it all set up by 8 o’clock.”

“It’s just beautiful – Is there some sort of program planned for tonight?”

“Yes, dinner will be served at 11, and there will be a few speeches, appeals by celebrities, mostly and there’s an MC. As I understand it, you’ll be introduced at the beginning of the evening, 10 o’clock, I think, but they didn’t plan much for you to do because of the baby. They were afraid you might need to leave early, so you and your husband, the King, really only need to show up and have dinner. Of course, everyone is wild to see the Prince.”

“Well, this will be his first public appearance, unless you count the parade, so I hope it goes well. Is there going to be adequate security tonight?”

“Yes, ma’am, your offices have been working with us and NOPD. There won’t be any protestors allowed outside tonight and there will be public and private security throughout the hotel. Every precaution is being taken to assure a safe and successful event.”

“That’s great – and where is the dance floor?”

“The Lafayette Ballroom will be used for dancing and an orchestra will play throughout the evening. We’re hoping you and the King will dance tonight.”

“I’m hoping that, too. I’m sure we will – Eric loves to swing me around the dance floor. It’s always my favorite part of the night.”

“Wonderful! You’ll be seated at this bank of tables over here where the VIPs will be concentrated. You’ll be sitting with the Jolie-Pitts and the mayor and his wife.”

“Oh, I had no idea…” Sookie was stoked now. How cool was that!

“Do you need us to provide a high chair for the Prince… Is that he, may I ask?”

“Oh, yes, this is Eric Alexander,” Sookie held the baby up in the sling so she could see him. “He’s asleep right now.” The baby’s hand rubbed his little nose.

“Oh, he’s a doll – look at all that blond hair!”

“Wait until you see his blue eyes,” Sookie bragged. “Thanks, but I don’t think we’ll need a high chair. My husband will probably hold onto him all night, for safety. He likes to keep him close.”

“Oh, that’s fine. The rest of your party will be seated at this table right beside you, except I understand that two of them will be right at the table with you – a body guard, I believe, and someone to help with the baby?”

“Yes, that’s the plan. Bjorn here is my shadow,” she laughed.

“Oh, nice shadow,” Evelyn smiled and gave Bjorn a little bat of her eyelashes, which Bobbie didn’t appreciate at all. Bjorn enjoyed the reactions of both women, of course, because he liked that Evelyn thought he was cute and Bobbie thought he was hers. He was starting to feel possessive about Bobbie, too, and he was very happy it was reciprocated. “Would you like to see the dance floor? The orchestra is probably setting up now.”

“Oh, sure! That’d be great!”

Evelyn took them through the opposite side of the Ballroom to a hallway and pointed out 4 smaller rooms that would have between 30 and 50 tables in each, then took her down the long hallway to the Lafayette ballroom, which would have it’s own bar, about 50 tables where people can sit and chat and lots of room to dance, plus the orchestra, which was getting ready to rehearse and check out their sound equipment.

“Oh, I hope a lot of people come in here to enjoy the music and dance,” Sookie said.

“Well, we have a little surprise that will draw them back at a couple of points in the night.”

“Really?”

“Please don’t tell anyone, but Harry Connick Jr. is going to do a couple of numbers and some local musicians will play throughout the evening. We’re hoping that will encourage people to come in here throughout the night.”

“Well, that’s wonderful. Mr. Connick played at the Sheriff’s Ball in Las Vegas last week and everyone just loved him. He seems very Vampire-friendly.”

“Yes, he is, most of New Orleans is, you know, and he’s a local favorite. Everyone will love it, I’m sure.”

“Well, you’ve probably got lots of work to do before tonight. Thank you so much for taking the time to show us around. I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful!” Sookie really wanted the lady to know she was pleased with the arrangements.

“Thank you so much for stopping by, your majesty. If there’s anything at all my office can do to make your evening more enjoyable, just give me a call,” she handed Sookie her card, “we’re very excited for your family to attend tonight.”

“Oh, thank you – you’ll be here tonight?’

“Yes, your majesty, I’ll be seeing that everything runs smoothly.”

“Well, great! We’ll see you then!” Sookie shook the lady’s hand and turned to Bjorn, who directed her back to the way out as he answered his phone.

“Sookie, they need me at the territory headquarters to confirm some arrangements for tonight. I’m going to get you home then go there and I may have to come back here, but I’ll be home in time to get ready to go with you tonight,” Bjorn explained.

“That’s fine, Bjorn – we’re going to nap when we get home, so there’s no point in you sitting there watching us sleep – there are guards all around the house.”

“Well, we won’t make a habit of this, but considering the level of security we need for tonight, it’s necessary.”

It was almost 3 pm by the time they all got back to Sookie’s new house, and the baby was awake and fussy, so Sookie headed to the bedroom with him with Alicia close behind. Alicia took him to give him a clean nappy and he seemed to settle a bit, as if he knew what was going on and liked it. She talked to him the whole time, of course, and he gave her some giggles and big smiles. By the time he was changed, Sookie had put her nightgown on and was in bed ready to feed him and then take a nap before she needed to get ready for the fundraiser.

“What time do you think I need to get in the shower, Alicia?” Sookie asked as she brought the baby back to her, then helped her get situated with her pink nursing pillow.

“Well, we’ll probably leave here at 9 since that’s when the fundraiser starts and you want to get there about a half hour later. I’d say you should sleep until Mr. Northman wakes up, then have family dinner, take your bath together from 7 to 8 and I’ll help you get dressed after. I’ll get ready a little early so that once your hair and makeup is done, we’ll be ready to go.”

“OK, so looks like we’re going to take a nap, Alex. Are you ready for a nap? Huh?” She smiled, looking into those big eyes that just sparkled when he was happy as he was now. He reached up and patted her cheek, and she kissed his palm three times.

Alicia put Eric’s pillow to the side so Sookie could put the baby next to her for their nap. They knew he wouldn’t want to be in the portable crib where he couldn’t see Sookie. Alicia was going to look through Sookie’s laptop and see where she ordered her co-sleeper. If she could find it, she’d go ahead and have one sent to this address.

“What are you going to do this afternoon, Alicia?”

“I’m going to plan dinner, soak in the tub, get myself ready to go and make sure your dress is steamed and Mr. Northman’s tux is pressed, then make dinner…”

“I hate for you to do all that, Alicia – why don’t you just order pizza for us and spend that extra time in the tub? We’re eating again tonight so we don’t need anything complicated for dinner. Make it easy on yourself.”

“Are you sure you want to do that?”

“Actually, yeah – I haven’t had pizza in ages. Just order enough for us all and be done with it. I like all the vegetables but no meat on mine, and ask Bobbie and Bjorn what they like, and Amelia and Octavia. Now that I think of it, this is a great idea – I’m so used to being in Bon Temps where they don’t have anything like a Papa John’s that I never think of it. It’ll be a treat for everybody, right, Alex?”

The baby made a cute little noise like he was trying to respond, but of course it was muffled by Sookie’s breast. Alicia got Sookie’s dress, a pink chiffon gown that looked like something a Greek Goddess would wear, out of the closet and Eric’s tux and took them downstairs with her while Sookie finished up with the baby and laid him down beside her.

“OK, baby boy, we’re going to sleep now. Sweet dreams to you.” She talked to him as she put him on his back and lay down on her side with her hand on his tummy. She closed her eyes and straightened her arm, taking it off of the baby, and a few minutes later she suddenly felt something against her. The baby rolled over into her, reaching out and trying to raise his little head. “Alex – did you just roll over by yourself?” Sookie knew it was way too soon for that, but here he was, on his tummy gurgling and laughing, and she knew she didn’t make any movement that would cause him to roll that way. “You aren’t supposed to be able to do that yet, Pookie.”

She put him over to the side again, on his back and before she got settled he flipped himself over and cracked up. “Oh, you’re pleased with yourself, now, huh?”

“Mm-ba!” he said and then laughed and laid his cheek on top of his hand, looking at Sookie with that mischievous twinkle in his eye that Sookie had a feeling she was going to be seeing a lot of in the next few years.

“I can’t risk rolling over on you, Alex. If you won’t stay put, I’ll have to put you over here in the crib.”

“Ba-ba!”

She put him on his back once more, but he only stayed 5 minutes before he was over against her, so she put him in the portable crib. “Now, listen, Alex. Mommy is right here, OK? I’ll be right here if you need me, so don’t get upset. You sleep for a bit and then when we wake up, Daddy will be awake, OK?”

“Da! VBEE!” He threw his arm up and then giggled again.

“Yeah, I know, VIG! OK, baby, please, go to sleep now.” Sookie lay back down and was asleep very quickly and slept peacefully for about an hour and a half.

“OW!” Sookie’s eyes flew open to find the baby on her chest, biting her breast through her gown, but not near her nipple. “Alex – you’re supposed to stay put when I put you in bed, remember? Here… Ow!” She was trying to pull him away without pulling his little fangs, which were caught in her nightgown. She finally got him untangled and managed to get the gown down and he latched onto her nipple with a vengeance. “OW! Alex! I just fed you!”

“Sookie?” Bobbie looked in the door. “I heard you yell “ouch” – are you OK?”

“The little Viking attacked me!” She said, half kidding, half serious.

“What?” Bobbie was sort of laughing, but trying not to.

“I tried to put him down for a nap, but he kept rolling over next to me, so I put him in the crib and I woke up and he was biting me.”

“Wait – you’re saying he can turn over on his own already?”

“Yes, and he teleported out of the crib on top of me. Look!” Sookie showed her the spot on top of her breast where she was bleeding from two little puncture marks.

“He bit you there?”

“Yeah, apparently he knows the general area where he gets fed but he hasn’t figured it out completely.”

“You usually feed him through a feeding dress or in a gown, right? Maybe you need to feed him a few times with bare breasts so he learns to look for nipples?”

“Well, if he’s able to come looking on his own, I guess I’ll have to teach him what to look for. This is unreal… are we going to have to watch him every minute?”

“We may have to – maybe I should watch him while you sleep?”

“I don’t know – I want to teach him to stay put if I can. I can’t have him popping in and out of his crib like that.”

“Any idea how to do that?”

“None whatsoever. Maybe we can all put our heads together at dinner? Surely between you, me, Octavia, Amelia, Alicia, Eric, and Bjorn, we can come up with something? He can’t be smarter than all of us, can he?”

“At this point, Sweetie, I believe just about anything. I can’t wrap my mind around him rolling over.”

“Here, he’s taking a break, so let’s see if he’ll do it.” Sookie put the baby next to her on the bed on his back and called him. “Alex – come to Mommy!”

Without missing a beat, the baby reached for her with his far hand and flipped onto his tummy, laughing and drooling on the sheet a little, his hand on Sookie’s arm.

“Oh, my Goddess!” Bobbie couldn’t believe it.

“I know, right?” Sookie picked him up and cuddled him against her chest. “He’s months ahead of where he should be. And did you hear him this morning when I waved his hand at Carolann and told him to say bye-bye?”

“Ba-ba!”

“He’s been making that ba-ba-ba sound, though Sookie – that’s got to be a coincidence.”

“Try him.”

“Alex – bye-bye,” Bobbie smiled and waved at him.

The baby waved his arm toward her and said “ba-ba!”

“Coincidence, huh?” Sookie said, “That’s some coincidence.”

“Wow – yeah… well, I originally came up here to find out if you and your buddy wanted a massage before dinner?”

“I know I would. Do you have a table here?”

“Yes, the office had one purchased for your use while you’re here. It’s in my room – should I bring it in here?”

“Yes, I’d really appreciate it. I’m a little tense. I hope everything goes OK tonight. I’m worried about taking Alex out around people.”

“Don’t worry about that, Sookie – he was a doll this morning on TV, and Eric will be there to control him. He’ll listen to Eric, right?”

“Probably. Watch him for a minute while I go to the bathroom?” Sookie got out of bed and left the baby lying on Eric’s side of the bed.

“Sure, go ahead. We’ll wait here, won’t we, Alex?” Bobbie sat on the bed next to him and tickled his feet, which made him kick and squeal with delight, scrunching his little fists under his chin. “So, little Vampire, you’re learning fast, huh? Are you learning fast, Alex? Huh? You’re ticklish, I know that,” and she tickled him again and he laughed.

“Wow, Bobbie, you’ve got him cracking up. What are you doing to him?” Sookie said as she came back out of the bathroom.

“Your little buddy here is ticklish, aren’t you, Alex?”

“Om-ba!” he said as he laughed.

“He’s been making that sound a lot, Sookie – do you suppose it means something?”

“I have no idea – but I did notice that he usually means “yes” when he says it. I also noticed he always tries to respond when we speak to him, don’t you, Alex?”

“Om-ba!” he said followed by giggles and squeals. Sookie and Bobbie laughed along with him.

“I’ll get my table and be right back, hon.”

“ba-ba-ba-ba-ba!” The baby was repeating the sound over and over but he was changing his voice from a normal tone then going up to almost a squeal.

“You learnin’ how to talk, Pookie?” Sookie smiled and tickled him.

“Om-ba!” and off with the giggles again as he played with his toes.

“At least you’re a happy baby! You are! You are the happiest baby I ever saw!”

He smiled and looked at her with those blue eyes, chewing on his finger and kicking his feet. Sookie blew raspberries on his tummy and he howled with laughter as she moved him to the middle of the bed and put a pillow on each side of him to keep him from rolling off.

Bobbie set up her table and spread it with sheets and Sookie just got naked since they were in her bedroom and she got on the table. Sookie was beginning to relax into Bobbie’s skillful hands, watching the baby watch her on the table. She actually dozed off after a few minutes and Bobbie let her sleep right up until she heard Eric opening the lock on the coffin in the corner, when she pulled the sheet up over her bottom and left the room, closing the door behind her.

Eric knew Sookie was in the room before he even lifted the lid. The wonderful sweetness of her filled the box and he came out hungry for her. He was instantly up beside her, licking her back, caressing her soft skin, trying to decide how to take her when he heard “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba!” At first he was startled and the animal in him reacted as if there was another predator stalking his prey, but when he looked at the baby lying there Eric sort of snapped back into himself. He stood frozen for a minute. He wanted to taste Sookie in every way, but he knew not to do it in front of the baby. The Daddy in him was at war with the animal. The ancient part of him, the part that usually wins, wanted to fuck her and feed from her and wanted it right now… she smelled so good and was so vulnerable… but the baby was vulnerable, too. As he fought with himself he forgot that he had his hands on Sookie’s arms and didn’t realize he was squeezing.

“Ow – Eric!”

“Sookie?”

“Eric, what are you doing?”

“I… I…” He was confused but he let her go.

“Eric, help me up.” She reached for him and he helped her sit up on the table, the sheet falling away and leaving her naked. Suddenly he was kissing her hard, running his hands over her, taking her breath away.

“Ba-ba-ba-ba…”

Sookie tried to push him away but wouldn’t let her so she bit his lip, which caused him to growl and force her head to the side. He struck hard and the blood spurted from her neck as he sucked harder than he ever had before. Sookie and Eric were nearly lost in their feeding frenzy when Eric heard hissing – the baby was on his stomach, fangs down, hissing at the sight of the blood. At Vampire speed, Eric pulled his bloody lips away and picked up the baby, letting him lap at the blood streaming down Sookie’s neck. Sookie was less aware at this point than Eric was, but then she turned her head toward where Eric had been and yelled “NO!” when she realized the baby was feeding, too. Eric was startled and pulled the baby away, but then held him up laughing and kissed the baby’s bloody lips.

“Da!”

“That’s my boy, Eric Alexander – that’s Daddy’s little Vampire.” Eric laughed

“Eric –what were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t thinking – I was feeding. Why are you so upset?” Eric licked Sookie’s neck to help the wound close as he held the baby to the side.

“Eric, you know the effect that has on us – you can’t bring the baby into that!”

“He’s a part of the blood bond, Sookie – how will we keep him out of it?”

“I don’t know… but that has to stay between us. I can’t be having o-r-g-a-s-m-s in front of him and neither can you!”

“Why are you spelling? He doesn’t understand…”

“He understands PLENTY, Eric, you haven’t been with him all day. At this rate he’ll be talking by next week and he already bit me once today after teleporting out of his crib, and on top of that, he can roll over already!”

“He can? But that’s wonderful!”

“I can’t believe you let him feed from my neck that way!”

“He feeds from you many times a day, Sookie – what difference does it make?”

“Breastfeeding a baby is normal, a baby licking an open wound is….”

“Yes?” Eric was interested in what she would say – he was nearly offended.

“It’s… sexual.”

“Sexual?”

“Yes, it’s something we do when we have s-e-x.”

“So he will never be allowed to feed until he is… how old will he be before he can have s-e-x?” Eric was amused now, knowing Sookie hadn’t thought this through. She was having an emotional response, not a rational one, and he was going to have to talk her through it.

“He doesn’t need to feed or hunt – he can drink RMs until he’s… he’s…”

“You do realize there will be no other teen Vampires, do you not? If he has s-e-x, it will be with a human girl his age or a much older Vampiress. How old is old enough?”

“How old were you when you first had sex?”

“13.”

“What?”

“I was 13. I married at 16. I went to war at 17.”

“Our son is NOT going to have sex at 13, Eric.”

“How do you know? You are his mother – you won’t be involved in that part of his life.”

“Oh, but you will?”

“Of course – it is not unheard of for sons and fathers to share such things, but a boy will not tell his mother that he fucked…”

“ERIC!”

“What?”

“No F words in front of the b-a-b-y, please.”

“Sookie – he is not a human child. His needs will be different than a human boy – they will be much more intense and feeding will always be attached to fucking once he reaches puberty. Even before that, I’m not sure we can teach him not to hunt. He will need willing donors regularly.”

“Starting when?”

“Probably when he is weaned.”

“So at 2 or 3 you’re going to start getting him human donors?”

“Do you see any way around it? He must feed, Sookie. Even if he eats food you know he will need blood. You know his instincts will tell him to bite, even if RM is available. We will be lucky if we manage to teach him not to attack our servants.”

“Great… I never even thought about that.”

“I have thought of these things, my Angel. We can handle this, but some of your preconceived ideas about raising a child will not apply here. Certain moral or social expectations you might have for him will not be practical or realistic.”

“I just worry about people thinking he’s a devil baby.”

“Some will think that no matter what we do. You cannot let fear of small minds affect the way we parent our child.

There was a knock at the door, “Sookie?”

“Yes, Bobbie?”

“The pizzas are here – are you all coming downstairs for family dinner?”

“Yes, we’ll be right there. Thanks!” She realized for the first time she was naked. “I have to put some clothes on. I can’t believe I’ve been standing here like this!”

“What’s wrong with that? No one here but family.”

“I really shouldn’t be naked in front of the baby.” She pulled her dress from earlier in the day on.

“That’s ridiculous, Sookie – why would it matter? He’s a Supe, so nudity will never matter to him, and he is an infant. I’m sure he will bathe and shower with both of us at times and probably sleep in our bed when he’s big enough not to get hurt. There’s no harm in it, especially when he is small.”

“See, Eric, I know you are making perfect sense, but my conservative Christian upbringing is hard to get past. I’m afraid I’ll always react certain ways and he’ll see that and it will create some kind of conflict in him.”

“May I make an observation?”

“Please…”

“You are feeling overwhelmed. I take it he gave you a hard time today?”

“Not a hard time, but he raised a lot of questions about whether I’m really able to handle him and yes, I am feeling overwhelmed.”

He hugged her with his free arm and kissed her forehead. “Do not fear, Sookie. We will talk this all through, as often as necessary, and we will work it all out one step at a time. Let’s go down to dinner now. It’s getting late and we have much to do tonight.”

They reached the dining room as Alicia was passing out plates and cutting pieces of pizza for everybody.

“Good evening, everyone,” Eric greeted the “family” and held a seat out for Sookie with his free hand, the baby leaning on his other shoulder sucking his thumb and watching everything that moved.

“Eric – I see you have the new TV star with you,” Bjorn laughed.

“TV star? You mean Sookie?”

“No, I mean Prince Alex. He made his TV debut this morning.”

“He did? Sookie, you took him on TV with you?”

“Yeah, I just felt like keeping him with me. He was really well behaved and showed off his fangs and laughed when the interviewer tickled him. He was adorable, if I do say so myself.” Her mood was brightening now.

“They’ve been showing clips of him popping his fangs and giggling all day on local and national news. It’s even airing overseas.” Bjorn told him.

“How is he being received?” Eric asked hopefully.

“99% positive, but the FOTS types are losing their minds,” Bjorn said.

“Oh, great,” Sookie said, “like we need more trouble with them.”

“Remember what I said, Sookie – don’t let small minds keep you from doing what is right for your family,” Eric reminded her.

“Everybody thinks he’s just precious,” Alicia assured Sookie. “The women on the news were all bragging on his hair and his eyes and saying how much like Mr. Northman he looks. They even put their pictures up side by side to show how much they look alike.”

“Good – no one will question whether he is my son.”

“Yes, and they’re talking about doing all kinds of commemorative things for him, like a Prince Alex collector’s doll and things like that,” Bobbie added.

“Anyone that uses his image had better be sure they license it through us. I’m not going to tolerate bootlegging.” Eric said definitively. “That’s money that will go to secure his future.”

“We’ll have people watching out for that tonight as they patrol.” Bjorn said proudly. “The security is going to be tight as a drum. We already have people stationed on the hotel grounds sending away protestors. NOPD is going to arrest anyone that steps on the hotel property with a sign or anything like that. They’re still pissed about the attack at the parade the other night. One of their sergeants told me confidentially that they’ve been told to take no crap against Vamps tonight. The word came from the top that New Orleans is going to be the most Vamp-friendly city in America and nothing and nobody is going to compromise that.”

“They need our money. That’s good. They know it is in their best interest to keep us safe and happy. I’ll feel much better about living in this area knowing that,” Eric said as he snuggled the baby under his chin, petting his back and kissing his head. The baby tried to lean back and Eric put his hand behind the head and let him move out so he could look him in the eye. “Are you having a good day, my son?”

“Om-ba!” Alex giggled.

“I think that means ‘yes,'” Sookie laughed and everyone joined her.

“Are you kidding or does he actually seem to be answering?” Octavia asked her.

“I actually think that’s him trying to say ‘yes’ – he says it whenever you would expect him to say yes. He can say ‘bye-bye,’ too.”

“Ba-ba!” Alex said and waved his arm, to Eric’s delight.

“Alex – who’s got you?” Sookie asked him. She pointed at Eric, “who is that, Alex?”

“Da! Vbee!” and up went the arm. The baby giggled like crazy.

“Did he just try to say “daddy?” Amelia was amazed.

“Yeah, I think he did,” Sookie said. ” Watch – Alex – who is that?”

“Da!”

“Is that Daddy?”

“DA-da!” he giggled as he reached forward and touched Eric’s face. Eric was beside himself.

“Is that possible? That he could be speaking so early?” Even Eric knew this was out of the ordinary, though he was thrilled beyond belief.

“It’s more than possible,” Octavia said, “it appears to be a fact. I hear he can roll over on his own already, too?”

“Yep, he can, and he bit me today and not in the right spot, see?” She pulled the top of her dress down a little and showed the little punctures on top of her right breast. “I don’t think he quite understands the feeding thing yet – he just knows the general area where the food comes from.”

“You’ll need to teach him, then. As smart as he is, he’ll pick it up pretty quick. Just feed him topless a few times and show him where to latch on.” Octavia advised.

“That’s what I said – she needs to show him how to find the nipple.”

“Don’t fret if it doesn’t work – he’s a Vampire. All flesh invites biting.” Eric said.

“Yeah, but we need to teach him when to bite and where, and when not to, or he’ll be on everybody.”

“You might need to hire a wet nurse or two to give him blood if he insists on feeding on something other than Sookie or a bottle.” Octavia said.

“What would a wet nurse do?” Sookie asked.

“Traditionally, they breast fed a child, but in his case, you might need someone who’ll let him feed from their wrist so he doesn’t start hunting on his own.”

“I’ll let him feed from my wrist,” Bobbie said.

“So will I,” Amelia offered. “No reason not to, he won’t take that much.”

Alicia didn’t say anything, but she was considering it.

“I’d offer, but I don’t think he’d want mine…” Bjorn laughed.

“Yes, he’s not likely to want to feed on a…” Eric stopped himself and looked at Alicia.

“It’s OK – I know about the Weres and Shifters now.” Alicia laughed.

Bjorn was taken aback and Eric was shocked. “You do?” Eric asked.

“Yes, I asked Sookie and she told me. I knew some of the guards were something other than human or Vampire, so I asked. I figured if Vampires were real, there might be other beings that were real, too.”

“Thank you for understanding, Alicia. I appreciate your open-mindedness.” Eric said sincerely.

“It’s mostly Bjorn you have to thank for that. I might have been a little freaked out if I didn’t know him before I figured it out. I know he’s a good guy so by the time I figured out there was something else going on, I was predisposed to be open to it. I also knew that they must be the best available if you had them guarding your family, and I trusted that meant we were as safe as possible.”

“They’re the very best available, and a lot of them have an obligation to protect Sookie even if she were not my wife. That’s a commitment they take seriously.” Eric explained.

“I told her that Weres were the badasses of the Supe world,” Sookie said.

Bjorn laughed loudly at that. “Good description. We do tend to do a lot of the security work that gets done. A lot of us are cops or soldiers, too.”

“Like I said,” Sookie agreed, “if there’s a fight, you want them on your side.”

“Then I’m glad we have them. They kept the parade from being a lot worse than it might have been, didn’t they?”

“Oh, yeah, we were ready for the FOTS. We’ll be ready if they try anything tonight, but they’re going to have a hard time even getting near the place. From what I hear, the police chief’s job depends on making sure this goes off without a hitch. The Mayor said there damned well better be no disturbance tonight.”

“He’s sitting at our table tonight.” Sookie said.

“He is?” Eric asked.

“Yeah and, supposedly, Brad and Angelina, too. You think they’ll actually show up?”

“From what I hear, they will. They went to a lot of trouble to secure their seats at our table, according to Bill. Speaking of Bill, where is he?” Eric asked.

“Already at the hotel,” Bjorn said. “He took off as soon as he awoke to make sure everything is set up. He wants to do a good job since this is the first event the New Orleans office is hosting since you put him in charge.”

“Good. I have no doubt they can handle it, but I like seeing him take an active role.” Eric said.

“Not to rush anybody, but it’s almost 7 o’clock. I thought you and Sookie would want to bathe from 7 to 8 and then I’ll help her with her hair and makeup.” Alicia said.

“That sounds good to me – what do you say, my Angel?”

“Just let me finish this last piece of pizza – this is really good, Alicia, make sure you keep their number so we can order from them again.”

“May I have a bite?” Eric asked.

“Sure, Sweetie, here,” she held up the slice and he tried it. ”What do you think?”

“It’s good. These are different, though, yes? There’s a strong smell from that pizza that this slice does not have.”

“This is a vegetarian pizza – those have meat on them.”

“Hmm – interesting. I like this one, but the other doesn’t smell good at all.”

“You probably smell the goat in the pepperoni,” Bjorn explained.

“Goat?” Sookie was horrified.

“Yes – pepperoni is made from goat meat.” Bjorn confirmed.

“It is?” Sookie looked around the table.

“Yep,” Bobbie laughed, “that’s why I’m eating the vegetarian one.”

“Which pizza are you eating, Bjorn?”

“The tomato pie, remember. No cheese on mine, and no fatty meat or sausage. Just carbs and vegetables.”

“Cheese is bad?” Eric asked Bjorn.

“Not completely – it has a lot of calcium and protein but I need to watch the amount of fat I eat this week. It’s actually good for Sookie right now, because she’s breastfeeding and needs the extra calories as well as the protein. As long as she stuck with the vegetables, this was a good choice for her.”

“Interesting. Alright, then what time do we all leave for the hotel?” Eric asked as he stood up with the baby, who was holding onto his finger as tight as he could as Eric teased him.

“We should leave here at 9 o’clock,” Bjorn said, “So everybody has two hours to get cleaned up.

“Alicia will you have time to get ready?” Sookie asked.

“Yes, I will, hon – I’m already bathed and my hair is done – all I have to do is change out of this house dress and into my fancy dress – I’ll do that before I work on you.”

“OK, cool. I guess we’ll go up now and see you all in two hours.” She took Eric’s hand and he pulled her up, and they headed upstairs as Bobbie and Alicia cleared the dishes, and Amelia and Octavia took the elevator up to get dressed.

As they walked into their room, Sookie took the baby and said, “I’ll bet he needs a new diaper.”

“Bring him in the tub with us,” Eric said as he ran the water and checked the temperature so it wasn’t too warm.

“What if he goes… potty… in the water?”

“Then we drain the tub, clean it out, and finish in the shower. It’s not a big deal, Sookie.” Eric pulled off his shirt and dropped his jeans.

“OK, I guess not. I’ll just leave him naked until we’re done.” She carried him over to Eric who held him with one arm and helped Sookie into the tub with the other. Once she was settled, he handed her the baby and got in behind her. “This tub isn’t as big as the one we have at home.”

“We can have a bigger one installed if we want to.”

“This one is big enough for us, but just barely. I’m so used to having all that room at home, I’m spoiled,” she laughed and the baby laughed too. “Oh you think that’s funny, huh? That Mommy is spoiled.”

“Mmmm” Alex said.

“That’s a new one. Mmmm” Sookie said to him.

“Mmmmm,” he repeated.

“Eric Alexander,” Eric spoke to him and the baby looked at him with huge eyes. “Is Mommy holding you? Is this your Mommy?”

“Mmmmm.”

“He’s trying to say it, Sookie.” Eric said softly, knowing she was dying for him to say “mommy.”

“Yeah, I think he is.”

“Alex, say “Mommy,” Eric tickled his chin so he looked him in the eyes, “MOM – MY!”

“Mmmmaa!” the baby giggled.

“Good Boy, Alex, MOM-MY” Eric encouraged him.

“Mmmmma! Mmmma!”

“Alex, where is Mommy?”

The baby reached forward and patted Sookie’s cheek.

“He knows me!” Sookie was so happy she was near tears.

“Of course he knows his Mommy, my Angel.” Eric kissed her hair.

“Mmmma!” the baby patted her cheek again and giggled.

“I’ve never seen a baby that laughs this much.” Sookie said with wonder.

“He has much to be happy about. He will never want for anything. He has the most beautiful mother in the world, and the fiercest father. He is a Prince, he is rich and he is more beloved than any child has ever been. He has every right to giggle, have you not, Alex?”

“OM-ba!”

Sookie and Eric cracked up and so did the baby.

‘We only have an hour so I guess we better get on with it,” Sookie said. “What’s first?”

“First I will wash your hair, then soap you up and you hold onto him. Then, I will hold him as you wash my hair, then we will wash him and shampoo his blond hair so it sparkles in the lights tonight.”

“Yep – he’ll want to be beautiful tonight for his first public appearance, won’t you Alex?”

“Om-ba, ba-ba-ba-ba,” he sang as he splashed in the water. Eric used the hand held to wet Sookie’s hair and wash it with baby shampoo, being careful not to splash the baby as he splashed and giggled in the water. The baby reached back wanting Sookie, so she turned him to face her and hugged and kissed him as Eric combed conditioner through her hair. He rinsed her hair carefully and clipped it up as he soaped and washed her off with baby soap, then he took the baby and she got behind him, up on her knees so she could wash his hair.

Eric held the baby out in front of him so he didn’t get splashed with shampoo, and Sookie soaped and rinsed his broad, muscular back and his chest as Eric looked the baby in the eye and talked to him, making him chatter and giggle. The baby watched everything Sookie did to Eric’s hair and shoulders with big eyes. Sookie combed out Eric’s hair and he turned to face her in the tub so she could use the handheld, on a very low setting, to wet the baby’s hair and she washed it as Eric held him, then she soaped him thoroughly. They drained the tub and Eric turned the hand held to a setting that made a broad, gentle spray, almost like rain, and he held it up to fall over all of them. The baby giggled and closed his eyes, loving the water as it rinsed them all off. Sookie held the baby again as Chanel No. 5 lotion, a surprise from Eric, was gently rubbed all over her damp skin.

Eric took the baby and floated up out of the tub, then helped Sookie step out of the bath. He wrapped the baby in a towel, held him down so Sookie could kiss him again, then took him to the vanity to give him a fresh diaper while Sookie put on her thong panties and threw two little things shaped like flower petals on the bed.

“What are those, Sookie?”

“I can’t wear a bra with this dress, so I’m wearing those to keep my nipples from showing through. It will also keep them from leaking on my dress,” She explained as she wiggled into a flesh colored garterbelt.

“Mmm – garters!” Eric wiggled his eyebrows at her.

She laughed and the baby in Eric’s arms said “Mmmma!”

“Yes, that’s what I say when I think of Mommy – mmmmm!” Eric said to Alex as Sookie laughed

“Mmmma!”

“Speaking of mmmm – When does the baby feed next?” Eric asked as he laid the baby in the middle of the bed.

“Any time now. As soon as I get these stockings on, I’ll try to feed him while Alicia does my makeup.”

Eric pulled his silk boxers on as Alicia knocked on the door. “Are you ready for me, yet?”

“Yes, Alicia, come on in. I’m going to try to feed the baby while you work on me, OK?”

“That’s a good idea. We have bottles of RM in the diaper bag, but if he’ll eat now, it will make your life a lot easier.” Alicia handed Eric his freshly pressed tux, and hung Sookie’s dress, freshly steamed, on the back of the door.”

Sookie bent over the baby on the bed. “Hey, Pookie! Are you hungry? You want to eat? Here, come eat.” She picked him up and held him to her breast and he latched right on, humming happily as he suckled. Sookie sat in the side chair and Alicia dried and curled her hair with hot rollers, then worked on her makeup. Eric took his time getting into his tux, watching Sookie feed the baby.

“You look very lovely, my Angel.”

“With my hair in curlers, in my underwear, with a hungry baby hanging off of me?” she laughed.

“Yes, my dear wife, you have never been more beautiful to me.”

“Hu-ush!” she said to him, blushing and smiling. She loved it when he talked that way, even if it was a little embarrassing. He could feel what she was feeling and he bounced love back to her and to the baby. The baby was sending HAPPY! HAPPY!

Alicia finished Sookie’s makeup and took her hair down, teasing it at the crown to give it some height and using two pins to hold the sides back, flipping the ends up and pinning her small, heart-shaped diamond crown in place.

Eric whistled as Sookie stepped into a pair of pink Marc Jacobs pumps with silver stiletto heels.

“Oh, you like these, huh?” she teased him.

“I like those very much, indeed. I think I have plans for you and those shoes later tonight…”

Alicia helped her step into her dress and pull it up, then worked on fastening the back of the skirt at the waist. Eric didn’t see her get into her dress because he was putting on his shoes and playing with the baby who was back on the bed. Alicia went to get the steamer to freshen up Eric Alexander’s little tuxedo. Once the petals, the dress straps that left her back exposed, and everything were in place, Sookie turned to Eric and asked “What do you think?” a little nervously.

Eric looked up and was speechless. He hadn’t felt the presence of Freyja so intensely since the night of their wedding reception at Fangtasia, when he had been afraid to take Sookie out of the house.

“Is it OK?”

“No, my Angel, it is stunning. You’ve done it again.”

“Done what again?”

“Reminded me that the Goddess is real and standing in my bedroom.” He gave her a brilliant smile.

“Really?”

“You will be the most beautiful woman there.”

“Uh – don’t forget, Angelina is supposed to be there…”

“Our table will look like the Living Pantheon tonight,” he laughed, “but rest assured, min Vackra Gudinna, I will only have eyes for you.”

“Vackra Gudinna… that’s “Beautiful Goddess?”‘

“Exactly.”

“Hey, I know a little Swedish!” She was impressed with herself, and Eric was delighted to feel the wave of pride she felt.

Alicia came back with the steamer and touched up Eric Alexander’s little white satin tuxedo, then Sookie dressed him in it.

“Oh, that’s so precious!” Alicia said as she helped Sookie with his little shoes.

“Look how handsome we are, Daddy!” Sookie said as she showed him to Eric.

“Da!” The baby pointed at Eric.

“Yes, indeed, that is my very handsome boy!” Eric took the baby from her. “Well, Eric Alexander, are you ready to meet your public tonight?”

“Om-ba!”

“You all look just marvelous!” Alicia gushed over them. She was very proud of the way they looked, and couldn’t wait to see how the other guests at the benefit reacted to them.

There was a knock at the door.

“Eric?”

“Come in, Bjorn,”

He walked through the door but was stunned for a minute when he saw Sookie, but quickly recovered himself, “the cars are downstairs so we can go whenever you’re ready.”

Eric loved the expression on Bjorn’s face when he saw Sookie. He was going to revel in watching men drool over his wife tonight, and knew he would be bursting with pride as men and women alike admired her.

“Are we ready, ladies?”

“We are,” Sookie said, “Do you have your Baby Bjorn carrier?”

“I put it in the diaper bag. He can use it later but I want him to get to the event relatively unwrinkled,” Alicia laughed. Sookie agreed that was a good idea. This way, he and the baby would be more visible when they made their entrance.

They all gathered in the living room, and were assigned their security forces by Bjorn. Sookie admired everyone’s dresses – Alicia in long, pretty navy gown, Octavia in a simple black gown with a shawl and a huge crystal brooch, Amelia in a summery yellow floral dress and Bobbie in a gorgeous, slinky satin 60s style print gown that hugged her curves perfectly. Pam was wearing a gorgeous aqua dress with a satin bodice, empire waist and a chiffon skirt that hit just above her knee, showing off her gorgeous legs.

“Everyone looks so nice!” Sookie said.

“Yes, we will all stand out tonight.” Eric began, “I want everyone to relax and have a good time, but stick close to your security. I may be busy at various points tonight, and I want you all to be sure that Sookie is never alone, especially if Bjorn is occupied. I’m planning to keep the baby with me as much as I can, but if Sookie, Alicia or Bobbie has him at any point I want three guards around them at all times. Any questions?”

The Ritz-Carlton was lit up like a chandelier and buzzing with activity. Eric’s party was swept into the Grand Ballroom and situated at their tables very quickly, the only problem being that Pam and Bobbie decided to trade tables so Bobbie could sit with Bjorn and Pam could sit with Bill. Eric didn’t say anything, since they had apparently worked this out themselves.

The Mayor of New Orleans and his wife, Mrs. Beaulieu were already seated and Eric greeted the Mayor with a firm handshake and a perfect line of bullshit. Brad and Angelina arrived looking as if they’d stepped out of a magazine, he in a flawless tux and she in the most perfect black halter gown with a slit up the side, and the men at the table all stood up as Angelina was seated, and Brad shook hands with the Mayor, Eric, and Bjorn.

“Allow me to make the introductions,” Eric began as they were all seated. “I am Eric Northman, and this is my wife, Sookie, and our son, Eric Alexander. This is Bobbie James and Bjorn Anderson. Mayor and Mrs. Beaulieu, Ms. Jolie and Mr. Pitt.”

“Please, your majesty, I’m Brad and this is Angie.”

“And you will call me Eric, please. No need to stand on a lot of ceremony.”

“Sookie, I’ve really been looking forward to meeting you,” Angie spoke up as she asked Bjorn to let her borrow his seat next to Sookie for a few minutes, “I’m dying to hear all about your pregnancy and the baby.”

“Oh, well, there’s not a lot to tell, but I’m happy to talk about him, of course.”

“I saw the clip of you on TV this morning, and I’m just dying to see his little fangs! Do you think I could hold him for just a minute?”

Sookie looked at Eric, who brought the baby over to Angie and let her take him in her arms. She sat him on her lap, supporting his back, and tickled his little gums with her finger. Alex bit down and she laughed, letting him lap at the blood coming from her finger.

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Sookie started to take him, but Angie insisted he was fine for a few minutes. Bill and Eric exchanged looks across the aisle and Eric remembered that Bill had said he thought the couple were attracted to Vampires. She was certainly not squeamish about letting the baby lap at her blood.

“He’s just gorgeous,” she bragged on him, “Look at all that blond hair! You both have blue eyes, I guess – his eyes are such a pretty shade of blue. How old is he now?”

“Um, he’s 4 days old now,” Sookie began.

“Really? He seems much older!”

“Yes, he’s very advanced for his age – probably an effect of Eric’s blood.”

“You exchange blood regularly?

“Yes, we do, for the baby.”

“So you and the King are blood-bonded?”

“Yes, we are, and the baby is included in that.”

“Really? So you know how he’s feeling, too?”

“Yes, it’s very nice. He seems to like you, by the way.”

“Oh, I just love babies. If you ever want to arrange a play date with our kids, I’d love to have them get together.”

“Oh, thank you, that would be nice…”

“I’ll give you my number before we leave tonight. I’d just love my kids to get to know such a unique child. I want them to have very diverse experiences and be tolerant of all kinds of people.”

There was movement at a lectern that made it look as if they were going to start with the speeches.

“Oops – looks like they’re getting ready to start. Thanks so much for letting me hold him. Bye-bye, little Prince!”

“Ba-ba!” the baby waved his arm at her and everyone at the tables except Sookie, Eric, Alicia and Bobbie were shocked.

“He’s good at imitating sounds.” Sookie was talking fast again.

“So I see,” Angie laughed, “that’s fabulous!” She gave Sookie a brilliant smile and went back to her seat.

“Here, Sweetie, go back to Daddy…” she said as she kissed him and handed the baby to Eric and the baby said “DA!”

Bjorn was feeling a little wicked so he said, “Hey Alex! Víg!”

“VBEE!” he yelled and threw his arm up and everyone laughed.

“What’s he trying to say?” Brad asked, fascinated.

“Víg – an old Swedish word for fight or battle. He wants to be a warrior like Daddy, don’t you, my son?” Eric was busting, he was so proud.

“Om-ba! DA-da! Ba-ba-ba-ba-ba” the baby giggled and chattered as he patted Eric’s face and Eric kissed his hand and beamed at him. He snuggled the baby under his chin, letting him squeeze his finger as he leaned back to listen to the speeches. The Mayor excused himself and went up to welcome everyone to this event and thank them all for their generosity for the city. He talked for about 5 minutes before he began to introduce Eric and Sookie.

“As you all know, this fundraiser was a project of the New Orleans Vampire community, and we are privileged tonight to have the new King and Queen of the Lousiana territories with us. Please give a warm welcome to His Royal Highness Eric Northman and his lovely wife Sookie,” everyone applauded as the lights dimmed and highlighted the family, “and of course you all recognize the first Vampire Prince in recorded history, Prince Eric Alexander Northman!” Every one applauded and ooh’d and aah’d that the baby was there. The mayor then pulled a fast one, “This isn’t in the program, but I thought if we all asked nicely, King Eric would come up here and say a few words?”

The audience went wild, so Eric kissed Sookie, and stood up, taking the baby with him, and walked across the room to the lectern as a hush fell over the room. People were stunned at how tall and beautiful the King was, and he actually had the Prince with him!

“Good evening, everyone. Eric Alexander, my lovely wife, Sookie, and I would like to thank you all for your attendance at this marvelous event and for your continuing generosity for the restoration of this great city. New Orleans is the shining jewel of the Gulf Coast and has been an integral part of the history of this nation. My predecessor, I’m sorry to say, was slow in reacting to the needs of this city after Katrina had Her way with the Gulf, but that situation is being rectified as we speak, and I promise you that restoring New Orleans to her former glory and beyond will be the number one priority of my organization here. Mayor, if there’s anything I, or my offices, can do to assist you in the restoration, you have only to ask. We are honored to serve.” Eric nodded and whispered to the baby “Say “bye-bye”” and the baby waved his arm at the room and said “Ba-ba” as Eric held him toward the microphone. Everyone was completely enthralled and applauded.

Eric walked proudly back to the table and the mayor called Brad up to thank him for his work with his organization, Brad squeezing Eric’s arm and patting him on the back as they walked past each other.

“Sweetie, that was great! Did you know they were going to ask you to speak?” Sookie asked as Eric and Alex returned to the table.

“No, I didn’t, but it wasn’t too hard to just say thank you and tell them my plans.”

“That was just wonderful, your majesty,” the mayor’s wife said.

“Yes, it was. You looked fabulous up there and the baby was adorable the way he was watching you talk.” Angie said.

“Thank you, ladies. I was very proud of my son up there.”

“He answered right on cue,” Bjorn laughed, “like he’d been rehearsing his whole life.”

“He practically has,” Bobbie laughed. “He’s a ham!”

“Yes, he does love attention, does he not?” Eric said proudly.

Brad returned to the table and handed Eric his card. “I’d really like to talk with you about some ideas I had for the Quarter. We might get more done if we worked together.”

Eric handed his card back, “Certainly, I’d love to hear your ideas. Have you met Bill Compton? My second in command? Come, let me introduce you.”

Eric and Brad stepped to the next table, and the men stood and talked for a few minutes while the servers were moving through the room serving dinner. The Vampires received gold goblets at their places and the humans received chicken for the most part. Bobbie and Pam had to trade dinners, but no one said anything about it. There was a lot of schmoozing going on in the whole room, since the crème of Vampire and human society in the area was in attendance. People were chatting, drinking, talking, moving around and some were going into the other rooms to say hello or to dance. Lots of people walked past Eric and Sookie’s table to get a look at the baby, nodding and saying hello, and commenting on how precious he was.

Angie took Eric’s seat next to Sookie while the men were talking, “I saw the clip of your appearance in Las Vegas, too. Brad asked me if what you said was true and I told him absolutely, based on my own experience. Your husband is really big, and gorgeous, though, so that must make it even better.”

“You… dated a Vampire?”

“More than one, but that was before the Great Revelation, when I was in school. I always just knew, you know, and I was always drawn to them. If there had been anything like Fangtasia in those days, I’d have begged them for a room in the back,” she laughed. “Does Eric have any Vampire children?”

“Oh, yes, you see the girl in the aqua dress?”

“The Vamp with the great legs? She’s his? Lucky girl. I can see why he made her. She doesn’t like girls, does she?”

“Actually, she prefers them.”

“Really? That’s interesting.” She was really studying Pam now. “Is she from New Orleans?”

“No, she’s the Sheriff of Area 5 now that Eric is King. She’s running Fangtasia for him while he’s away.”

“Looks and power – my, my. Brad’s probably talking his ear off – he says Eric is exactly what he always dreamed a Vamp would be, right down to the long blond hair and the mysterious past. He said something about being a warrior – is it true about him being an actual Viking?”

“Yes, it is. You should see him fight with a sword.” Sookie was joking a bit but the idea sent a visible shiver through the other woman.

“Is it true what they say about the basement at Fangtasia?”

“How do you know about that?” Sookie was amazed.

“From somebody who worked on a film I was in – she had been in the basement.”

“Well, then, it’s probably true, or it least it was back when. Eric only uses it with me now.”

“Only with you, or only when you’re there, too?”

“Uh…”

“Sookie, the baby is beginning to fuss,” Eric knelt next to the women who were talking head to head. “Do you want to try giving him a bottle?”

“Yes, let me take him, Sweetie. Alicia?”

Alicia was already on her way with a bottle of RM. Sookie settled pretty quickly with the baby and he was happy to take the bottle.

“That’s not True Blood is it? It looks like RM.” Angie said

“Yes, he needs it now and then in between breastfeeding.”

“Breastfeeding? Does he take milk and blood both?”

“Yes, he does.”

“You know, some Fae are like that…”

“Sookie, my Angel, you are not eating?” Eric noticed she hadn’t touched her dinner.

“No, we’ve been chatting…”

Eric stroked her cheek. “We can dance as soon as you get done. I want everyone to see your lovely gown and those amazing shoes.” He winked at her and she laughed.

“Dancing is always my favorite part of the night. Are you all going to dance tonight?”

“Well, we usually don’t, but we’ll probably migrate in there with you if you don’t mind?”

“Oh, no, of course not! Just let me eat a little chicken,” Sookie laughed.

“I’ll do the same so we’ll all be ready to go.”

The men and Angie returned to their seats and everyone turned some attention to their meals. Sookie felt bad about not having more time to spend with Octavia and Amelia, but she could hear them laughing and having a good time at the other table, so she hoped they’d understand. Eric took the baby and finished giving him the bottle as he drank from his goblet.

“Sookie, you should make sure you eat the chicken and the broccoli – you haven’t had any protein tonight to amount to anything,” Bobbie pointed out from her seat on the other side of Bjorn.

“Yeah, you’re probably right. We ate so early today, and then I only had a couple of pieces of pizza – I want more when I go home, if there’s any left.”

“There was plenty. You and me were the only ones eating the veggie stuff and I ordered three,” Bobbie laughed.

“Cool – I love cold pizza. Are you having a good time, Bobbie?”

“Not as good as you. You know, of course, I want every juicy detail.”

“I don’t know how juicy they’ll be but, yeah, of course!”

Bjorn was just laughing to himself, enjoying the view from several directions. He was getting lots of material for the old spank bank, picturing Sookie and Angie putting their, ahem, heads together. He also saw Angie checking out Pam, and that was going to be fuel for the old fire, as it were, too.

Dessert was a gorgeous chocolate éclair that Sookie inhaled, then she and Bobbie split Bjorn’s as he laughed at girls and their chocolate. Eric leaned over and licked a bit of cream filling off of Sookie’s lip and kissed her.

“Ooh, what was that for?”

“That was for the fact that you are wearing those shoes and that garter belt to bed tonight.”

Sookie laughed and noticed Bobbie and Bjorn laughed right after.

“What?”

“That was your dirty laugh.” Bjorn said.

“AH! Eric, do I have a dirty laugh?”

“Oh, yes, my Angel, and I love to hear it because it usually means I will be having a very good time.” He put his forehead against hers and wiggled the eyebrows and she let loose with the dirty laugh again.

“Excuse me,” Bill came over, “Eric, Sookie, I wanted to warn you that a few people might take the opportunity to pledge fealty tonight. We have a table for you in the Lafayette Ballroom that you can use in between dances.”

“Oh, wow, I didn’t expect that.” Sookie felt a little weird about that in front of humans.

“We haven’t had a Vampire only event in the Louisiana Territories since Eric’s ascension, so this is the first chance they’ve had other than the Sheriff’s Ball or your wedding reception and that only included Area 5.”

“OK, I guess…” she looked at Eric. “Won’t that weird out the humans?”

“They all know we’re King and Queen, some of them might enjoy the idea of it.”

“Right…. OK.”

Carolann from the morning show came by to thank Sookie for helping her get into the fundraiser, but Sookie knew she was really just wanting to see Eric up close, because she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. When she left, Eric decided to move the evening forward.

“Are you ready to dance, my Angel?”

“I’m ready when everybody else is.”

Eric spoke to the others at the table. “I’d like to dance with my wife. Anyone care to join us?”

Everybody, even Mayor Beaulieu and his wife, who just got back after working the room, got ready to go down to the Lafayette Ballroom. Guards got in front of them, the Eric, Sookie and the baby walked out, followed by Bjorn and Bobbie, Alicia, Pam, Bill, Amelia, Octavia, Brad, Angie, Mr. & Mrs. Mayor, more guards, and half the room followed Eric’s party into the Ballroom in a wave.

“Eric, everybody is following us.”

“Stand tall and smile, Sweetheart, they want to see how pretty you are on the dance floor.”

They entered the Ballroom as one song ended and made it to the middle of the dance floor as a new one began. Eric handed the baby to Alicia, who was instantly surrounded by guards, and he led Sookie, her pink Goddess gown flowing over her curves, to an empty spot on the dance floor. As the music picked up, Eric instantly had Sookie twirling and laughing, swinging her around as everyone stopped to watch. When the song was over, Eric bowed and Sookie curtsied as they always did and people applauded, then a slow song started up and Eric pulled Sookie close. He stretched out their arms between them and then spun Sookie slowly with one hand over her head and brought her back to him. Brad and Angie danced up beside them and Brad said, “Want to swap?” And Sookie’s eyes grew big as Eric laughed, bowed to Angie and danced off with her, leaving Sookie there in Brad’s arms. Sookie was flushed as she looked up at the handsome face. He was not nearly so sure on the dance floor as Eric, but it was nice and he asked her questions about how she liked New Orleans and whether she liked being Queen. She didn’t have to make conversation, really, she just answered all the questions that he was trying to squeeze in while he had her to himself.

“So, you still have a home in Shreveport?”

“Yes, we do, but we’ll be spending a lot more time here now and in Las Vegas.”

“Sometime when everybody is around, we’d love to visit Shreveport. Angie is dying to check out Fangtasia, but she wants to make sure you and Eric are there. She thinks the four of us would have a really good time. She knows somebody that used to know Eric and said she had a pretty wild time there.”

Sookie was shocked. Was he asking what she thought he was asking? “Yeah, Fangtasia can be a lot of fun, if you know the Master,” she was trying to be funny but it came out sort of suggestively and Brad tightened his grip on her and gave her a huge smile.

The song ended and Angie grabbed Sookie’s hand and said, “let’s go to the ladies’ room and fix our lipstick.” Sookie looked around and Bjorn nodded, leaving Bobbie on the dance floor and bringing two other guards along. Eric took the baby from Alicia and she handed Sookie a small evening purse she didn’t even know she had, and off the two of them went, arm in arm, followed by a cadre of bodyguards. Bjorn emptied the room so only Sookie and Angie were in there. Sookie figured she’d take the opportunity to use to facilities and she did, and so did Angie, but more quickly than Sookie so she was sitting at the vanity mirror when Sookie came out and washed her hands. Sookie sat down and looked in the mirror, deciding she could use some lipstick, so she looked in the small bag and there it was. Angelina was blotting her face with a powder puff, watching Sookie put her lipstick on. Sookie realized she was watching her and looked at her.

“What?” Sookie smiled, unsure of what was going on.

“I love that lipstick. Can I try it?”

Before Sookie had a chance to respond, there were soft lips against hers and a soft, warm tongue in her mouth and to her own surprise, Sookie kissed her back as soft hands caressed her bare shoulders. Sookie was speechless as Angie stood up with a Cheshire cat smile on her face, taking Sookie’s hand and puling her up and out of the ladies’ room, without another word.

Harry Connick Jr. took the stage as they got back to the ballroom, and Angie took a card out of her bag and slipped it into Sookie’s evening bag before she gave it to Alicia. Eric was sitting at a table with a red cloth embroidered with gold on it – the only one in the room that had anything other than white – talking to the baby and to Brad, who was cooing to the baby in Eric’s arms. It was obvious people were beginning to line up and were waiting for Sookie to sit down. Bobbie, Alicia and Octavia were at the next table, Amelia was dancing, Bill was dancing with Pam, and Bjorn stood directly behind Sookie as other guards took strategic positions around the room. Eric kissed Sookie as she returned to his side, motioning for her to sit next to him.

Eric smiled and continued his conversation, but motioned for the first person to approach. Brad watched several pledges of fealty with complete fascination, then he and Angie said their good nights as the pledges and the presents accumulated, extracting a promise from Eric to keep in touch. Eric and Sookie were able to concentrate then on their subjects, all of whom said something nice about the little Prince. The baby looked everyone over as they approached, and didn’t chatter while they were speaking to Eric and Sookie. He giggled and gave big smiles when people spoke directly to him and people were completely charmed by him. The line wasn’t very long so after about 45 minutes, Eric and Sookie said goodbye to the Mayor and his wife, plus a few key Vampires from the area, and their party left. Eric offered to make arrangements for any of the others, including Bobbie and Bjorn, who wanted to stay but everyone was happy to go home after an elegant and enjoyable evening, though Pam decided to stay with Bill, who had to close the event down.

Once in the house, everyone gathered around the dining room table to talk and eat pizza. Amelia, Bobbie, Octavia and Alicia were talking about how many stars, musicians and politicians were there and Bobbie tried to pump Sookie for information about everything Angie had said to her but Sookie sort of gave her a silly look that let her know they’d save the details for when it was just the two girls and they could dish. Bobbie knew there was something juicy so she was fine with waiting.

Alicia was handing out plates and everybody dug into the pizzas as she brought them in.

“So Eric, you’ve got a new boyfriend, eh?” Bjorn said.

“Excuse me?” Eric said, surprised, holding the sleeping baby against his shoulder.

“Your movie star has a boy-crush on you, you know.” Bjorn laughed.

“Yes, he was very… attentive. She was very attentive to you, too, was she not, Sookie.”

“Very, very.” Sookie said in a voice that said there was something more there.

“Come on, Sookie, spill. What went down in the ladies’ room?” Bobbie teased her.

“I fixed my lipstick, she asked if she could try it and before I could say yes she kissed me.”

“WHAT?” nearly everyone at the table said in unison.

“Kissed you how? Where?” Eric wanted to know immediately.

“Kissed me on the mouth.”

Bjorn was cracking up, the other women were scandalized, and Eric didn’t know whether to be jealous or turned on.

“Sookie,” Bjorn said, “please tell me she slipped you tongue.”

“Yep, she did.”

“Sookie, are you telling me that woman kissed you, on the mouth, with tongue, and you said nothing to me until now?”

“I couldn’t say anything when we came back – he was right there. Did he ask you about Fangtasia?”

“He said something about it – why?”

“She worked on a movie with somebody who had apparently spent time in the basement, with you, and they’d like to visit Shreveport sometime when we’re there.”

“Holy shit!” Bobbie exclaimed.

“Damn, Sookie – why didn’t you bring them home tonight?” Amelia teased her.

“I was in shock.”

“Sookie – did you kiss her back?” Bjorn was loving this.

“Yeah, of course, who wouldn’t?”

“Sookie!” Eric couldn’t believe his wife kissed another woman – and that woman in particular – and he wasn’t there to see it.

“I didn’t know what else to do, Eric, it just happened.”

“Is she a good kisser, Sookie?” Bjorn wanted to know every detail.

“Oh, yeah, those lips are amazing.”

Everybody cracked up and Eric just shook his head.

Amelia and Octavia said goodnight and headed upstairs, Amelia knowing Octavia was really tired and wouldn’t go up without her. Bjorn finished one of his tomato pies and Sookie and Bobbie finished one veggie pizza and made a big dent in another. Bobbie helped Alicia clean up as Bjorn spoke to the guards outside and locked up.

The baby woke up hungry, so Eric and Sookie took him upstairs, Eric undressing the baby and talking to him while Sookie got out of her dress so she could feed him. Per Eric’s request, Sookie kept the garter belt, stockings and shoes on, but her panties didn’t last long as Eric shredded them after she took the baby from him.

“Eric, hang on – wait until he’s fed and asleep!”

“Take all the time you need, my Angel, but you can look sexy while you do it,” he laughed as he helped her get settled with the baby in the side chair.

“You’re out of hand,” she laughed as the baby fed enthusiastically, but she crossed her legs to give Eric a good view of them, anyway. Eric lay upside down on the bed, hugging a pillow under his chest, so he could watch her as they chatted about the evening.

“I was very proud of both of you tonight,” he said softly, smiling at them. Sookie smiled back at him, said “we were proud of you, too.” then stroked the baby’s face as he looked up at her and patted her face with his hand. Sookie kissed his little hand and Eric just enjoyed the sight of them communing with each other as the baby looked into Sookie’s eyes.

“I can’t tell you how many compliments I heard about you. I heard people call you a Goddess, a Princess, a true Queen, a beauty, an Angel, a shining star. I heard them talk about your dazzling smile, your glorious blonde hair, your beautiful face, your kindness, your sweet manner, and how beautiful your dress was. It created quite a little stir when you and your new friend walked out of the room arm in arm,” he laughed. “I heard several people say they didn’t know which one was prettier, though, of course, there was no doubt in my mind that you were the prettiest.”

“That’s sweet, but you don’t have to say that.”

“I am only stating the truth, my Angel. I love nights like this, when I can show you off and hear everyone envy me. I think even the movie star envied me a bit.”

“I don’t know about that, but I know he told her that you were exactly what he always imagined a Vampire would be, right up to your long blond hair and mysterious past. She knew you were a Viking.”

“She knew about the Fae, too, and I interrupted so you wouldn’t have to stumble around the subject. I think the lady knows a lot about the Supe world – she has experience with us, apparently.”

“I was wondering if you caught that. She also knew I was feeding the baby RM. Did you see her let him drink blood from her finger?”

“Yes, I did. What a story that will make for him when he grows up – his first conquest was a movie star,” Eric laughed.

“I didn’t know what to do – should I have stopped it? I started to take him from her but she insisted he was fine. She said she really likes babies…”

“I think she does, and she really likes Vampires, too, so Alex was doubly interesting to her.”

“She offered to have him over for a play date with their kids.”

“That might be a good idea. He won’t have many opportunities to be around other children, and at least they are sympathetic to Vampires.”

“I guess so. He won’t have many friends growing up, I guess?”

“We will find some children he can interact with when he is older. He would probably be fine around Were or Shifter children – they won’t have any aversion to him, I don’t think, and he won’t be tempted to feed on them.”

“He might smell like food to them – Bjorn said he and I both sometimes smell like food.”

“I think that is unlikely to be a problem, but we will Supervise closely in those cases.”

“Yeah – Alex really liked her, by the way.”

“Yes, I felt that from him when she held him. Of course, he was tasting her so that would predispose him to like her.”

“Did you like them?”

“They were very attractive and personable. There was nothing to dislike as far as I could tell.”

“When they talked about Fangtasia… were they asking what I think they were asking?”

“Yes, they were.”

“Would you ever do something like that?”

“Would you ever do something like that, Sookie?”

“I want to know if you would.”

“My point is, that I would do it only if you would do it. Would you?”

“What if I said ‘no’ and what if I said ‘yes?'”

“If you said ‘no,’ that would be the end of it. We are bonded – we do it together or not at all.”

“But would you be mad at me?”

“Of course not, Sookie. I want you to be happy. I don’t ever want you to feel obligated to do anything you don’t want to do.”

“What if I said ‘yes?'”

“Then we would get to know them better and revisit the idea at a later date.”

“So we could get to know them before I say for sure?”

“Of course we would. I also think you and I need to spend some more time there before we bring anyone else into it. ”

“OK, that’s cool. Would you ever do it with anybody else?”

“Whom did you have in mind?”

“I don’t know…. I was just thinking…”

“About Bjorn and Bobbie? Or Bill and Pam? Or maybe just Bjorn by himself?”

“I don’t know. Let’s talk about it later. My buddy here is done – you want to talk to him while he falls asleep? It won’t take long – he’s sleepy, sleepy,” she beamed at the baby yawning.

Eric took the baby and sat in the other side chair, cradling him and speaking softly to him.

Sookie went to the bathroom. She laughed at herself when she realized she still had the crown on her head, and finally took it off. She brushed through her hair to soften it since the spray was a little stiff. She also posed a little for herself in the full-length mirror, deciding that she looked pretty damned good for someone who gave birth less than a week ago and she had to agree with Eric – the stockings and shoes were HOT. When she finished up, she came back out into the bedroom, which was now lit only by a few candles around the room that smelled heavenly. Eric was out of his tux, lounging on the bed, waiting for her.

“I guess he’s asleep?” she said as she walked quietly to the side of the bed.

“Yes, and he had a busy day so I expect him to sleep very soundly.” Before Sookie knew what was happening he had her face down across his lap, her bottom and heels high in the air.

“Eric!” she said in a loud whisper, “you’ll wake the baby!”

“Then you had better be very quiet, Sookie. Yell into your pillow if you must.” Before she had a chance to respond there was a loud crack on her bottom. He stroked the warm spot on her cheek with his large cool hand, then CRACK! Right on the same spot! Sookie knew this was sex play, not punishment, so she went with it, squealing a little into her pillow, but giggling, too.

“Oh, you think that’s funny, Dear One?” CRACK!

She knew it wouldn’t last long because the ever-ready Gracious Plenty was against her and the wiggling she was doing had it hard as steel. There was a flurry of smacks she couldn’t even count that left her bottom stinging and warm to the touch, then suddenly she was on the bed on her knees and Eric was behind her and in her fast and rough, slamming her at something more than human speed, but not quite full on Vampire speed. She was panting, trying not to make any noise, knowing that she was going to be flat on her face if he let go of her hips. He slammed her hard a few times more slowly, reaching his first release in almost no time at all.

Suddenly, Sookie was on her back, Eric’s arms hooked behind each knee, folded in half as moved slowly and deliberately, letting her feel every inch moving in and out of her. Sookie pulled her pillow over her face because she could feel that sensation of being wound tight like a spring and she knew it wouldn’t be long. Eric knew it, too and as she was reaching her peak he moved quickly down to bite her inner thigh, and she lost it, yelling into the pillow as she squirmed in his iron grip. He didn’t let her get away from him as he fed from her, and the orgasm would “grip” every time he sucked on the wound, and it went on for what seemed like forever. When he finished feeding, he moved her up straight in the bed, and collapsed beside her, both of them trembling, Sookie completely out of breath.

Eric rolled over on his side facing her, running his fingers down over her stocking-clad legs, planting kisses randomly all over her.

“Eric?”

“Yes?”

“Did you bring that dagger with you?”

“The one from my nightstand?”

“Yes. Get it if you have it with you.”

Eric growled his approval and went to his garment bag, bringing the dagger back as Sookie tried to sit up. He offered his hand and helped her get up on her knees and she patted a spot between where their pillows would rest and said, “sit here.” He did so with great enthusiasm, wanting to see where she was going, though he had a pretty good idea. Sookie straddled his lap and reached down, stroking him firmly, bringing him back to fully hard and ready. She lowered herself onto him, wrapping her arms around his neck, kissing him deeply and repeatedly.

She nibbled at his neck and shoulders as she moved up and down with his help, She threw her head back, shaking her hair, leaning back and running her hands all over his face, his broad shoulders, the muscles in his arms and chest, then braced her hands on his shoulders and pressed her forehead against his, continuing to move until just the right moment. When she could feel him tensing up, she said, “Now, Eric, feed me,” and he cut his neck and she lapped up the warm, sweet nectar as both of them reached a deep, intense release, shimmering red and warm. They clung tightly to each other feeling waves of it wash through them, almost afraid to move because they didn’t want it to end. Eric held her tight against him as she wrapped her arms tight around his neck, tears streaming from both their eyes. Sookie’s breathing hard, she was nearly sobbing, stoking his hair over and over.

“I love you so much, Eric. I never knew it was possible to love somebody this much. I never even dreamed of feeling this way.”

“I didn’t know either, Sookie. When I saw you in that little red dress that first night, if I had understood what you would mean to me, I would never have let you leave. I would do anything to keep this, Sookie. I will do anything that will let me continue to love you, min Vackra Gudinna.”

Eventually, Sookie leaned back and wiped Eric’s bloody tears from his face and then he licked hers away. Slowly, gradually, they moved apart and settled down into their places next to one another, Sookie falling asleep in Eric’s arms. The baby woke up about 5 o’clock, and Eric took him and a bottle of RM out to the little sitting area. Bill and Pam heard him in their room, and went out to tell him about the results of the night.

“Eric? Are you busy?” Bill came out of the room.

“Just rocking the baby. Come sit down.”

“Hello, Master.”

“Pam – are you staying down here, today?”

“No, actually, if you don’t need me, I was going to head up my box on the third floor.”

“Have a good rest, Pam.”

“Good night, Pamela,” Bill said as she kissed him on the cheek before she headed upstairs.

“Pamela. It’s been a long time since anyone called her that.” Eric said as Bill sat down across from him and the baby.”

“It’s a very pretty name – it suits her, I think, better than Pam does.”

“To each his own, I suppose. How did we do tonight at the fundraiser?”

“3.2 million plus pledges for almost 4 more.”

“Excellent. That was a well-heeled crowd, then.”

“Very much so, and many of them made large gifts just to get in there, in spite of being put in those little side rooms. So we’re going to be working with that actor’s organization?”

“On a few locations, yes. I think he’s right – we’ll get more done working together.

“They spent a good deal of time talking to you and Sookie.”

“Yes, they were very attentive.”

“Star-struck is more like it.”

“Well, whatever the motivation, it will enable us to get some very important work done. I want our properties in the Quarter up to 100% by Mardi Gras.”

“That’s awfully ambitious.”

“Do you think it’s not possible?”

“It’s possible, but it will take a lot of time, attention, and a minimum of two contractors – no single contractor in the area can handle everything we need done all at once.”

“We’ll go lot by lot if we need to, and hire several that can each handle a small part. It’s worth paying a little extra to get us to the front of the line, too. I want those properties earning money as soon as possible. I have no intention of falling behind in our tribute, and we aren’t even covering that right now. Our investments should more than cover that without even tapping the individual tribute we get from subjects and businesses in our territories.”

“Have you spoken to Sandy tonight?”

“No, why?”

“There’s been some interest in the residence.”

“Excellent. That would be a huge boon to our entire organization to get rid of that expense.”

“When will the villa at the Bellagio be available?”

“September. We may make one more trip before then, but I’m not sure. We need to visit several sites in both territories and allow more subjects to pledge fealty now that the Prince is here.”

“He was a smashing success tonight. Humans and Vampires both adored him. How did you get him to say “bye-bye” and wave?”

“Sookie taught it to him, apparently. She’s a little dismayed that he seems to be picking up speech already, but the sooner he can communicate, the better.”

“I agree. For his own safety, he needs to be able to talk.”

“He’s very bright, and he seems to understand what the words mean, so I have no doubt he will be able to very soon.”

“Good. What’s on the agenda for tomorrow night?”

“Tomorrow night, you, Bjorn, and I are going to go over this place with a fine tooth comb and find whatever money and information Victor had hidden here. I know there’s got to be more.”

“What are the girls going to do?”

“I don’t know – Sookie will be looking at properties on Sunday, I believe, but there’s no set plan for tomorrow night.”

“Have you considered asking the Witches to help us?”

“I thought of it – I don’t know what they can do, but I’ll certainly ask Octavia tomorrow evening if they have anything in their repertoire. I’ll leave a note for Sookie to tell her what we’re doing and ask if there’s anything she can do.”

“Alright, well, I’m going to rest now. Good day.”

“Good day, Bill.” Eric looked at the baby, who was finished with his bottle and yawning, and raised him to his lips for a kiss. “Daddy loves you, Eric Alexander.”

He rocked him until he fell asleep, tucked him into the bed next to Sookie, and went to rest for the day.

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