Sookie’s eyes flew open just knowing the baby did something outrageous. She caught him just as he was headed off the side of the bed.
“Alex, what are you doing?” she cried out as she pulled him to her. She took a minute but her eyes didn’t adjust to the darkness, and when she reached for the lamp on Eric’s side of the bed nothing was there. The entire top of the nightstand was empty.
Sookie heard someone running up the steps and then Alicia was at the door, knocking. “Sookie – are you alright, dear?”
“Hey, Alicia, can you hit the lights so I can see what’s going on?”
Alicia opened the door and hit the switch for the overhead light, which made Sookie cringe, but now they could see the mess on the floor. The lamp, along with the alarm clock and everything Eric had left on the nightstand, was in pieces on the floor with Eric’s pillow on top of them.
“What the…” Sookie couldn’t make sense of it all.
“It looks like the pillow knocked everything over. The lamp is broken, so you stay in bed until I get it cleaned up – I don’t want you getting cut. Is the baby alright?”
Sookie looked him over quickly as he sat with his back against her belly. “He seems fine, but I caught him heading for the edge of the bed. Alex, did you knock that stuff over?”
He pointed and said, “Uh oh!”
“I’ll take that as a yes.” Sookie said as she plopped back on her back. “You say the lamp is broken? Any other damage?”
“I don’t think so – Mr. Northman’s wallet is here, and there’s a knife that doesn’t seem any worse for wear and there are some papers and the clock seems fine – looks like the lamp is the only casualty,” Alicia laughed.
“I guess we need to start thinking about baby-proofing?” Sookie wasn’t really awake enough to deal with this yet, but she knew that this was part of being a mommy – at least she didn’t have to sweep up the pieces. “Do they make lamps out of rubber?” Sookie was only half kidding.
“With a baby this precocious, it might be time to start thinking strategically.” Alicia agreed. “Today is Monday, so we can go shopping for a new lamp if you want, or we can just move one from one of the other rooms and deal with it later.”
“Let’s just take one from one of the other rooms. I’m going to have this room re-done anyway, so there’s no sense in spending money on something I’ll just replace in a month.”
“Speaking of redecorating, I talked to Ms. Antoine-de Broux and she said she could see you today or tomorrow if you wanted her to get started on some ideas. She said you can do a lot of your communications over the Internet and she can upload sketches then messenger any swatches that need your approval. I got the impression she was very anxious to work for Mr. Northman again. Did you want to work on that today?”
“We’re leaving tomorrow night, right? Did Eric leave me a note?”
“I think so – let me see.” Alicia straightened up and threw some pieces of lamp into the wastebasket beside the bed, and walked around to retrieve the note on the side table, handing it to Sookie.
“Want me to open the curtains so you can see?”
“No, thanks, the overhead light is enough,” she said as she snuggled the baby and tore the note open.
My lovely wife, Sookie~
You look very sweet lying there as I write this. Alex and I are very lucky to have you in our lives.
I’d like you and the baby to be ready to go in to the offices with Bill and me after dinner tonight. Some of the girls have been asking to meet you and they probably have some paperwork for you to do. You’ll want Alicia to come, too, so she can meet your liaison and help you with any gifts they might have for the baby. When we come back to stay a while, you’ll be going in regularly, so you can pick out your little office there and see if there are other changes you’d like.
Alicia has the decorator’s number and she’ll see when she is available to you. Have fun today and enjoy the baby. I love you both more than you can imagine.
Your loving husband,
- “My only instructions are to be ready to go in to the office after dinner and he wants you and the baby there, too. I think he expects me to remodel an office there, or something. We’ll meet my liaison and see what’s going on, I guess. So, you said the decorator is available today? Did she give you a time?”
“I told her I’d ask you if one o’clock was convenient.”
“OK, let’s do that, then and if we get done early enough I can spend some time in the pool. Hey, did you happen to bring those catalogs of furniture and artwork for the Las Vegas residence?”
“Yes, I did – I have all your business papers in a suitcase downstairs.”
“Awesome – I want to bring some of the furniture from there to this house. I was thinking the red velvet furniture might be nice in the living room. It might be a little bordello, but I kind of like that,” Sookie laughed. “It is New Orleans, after all. There was a really big bed there in the master suite I thought about using here, too, and I thought I’d let her look through it and see if she has any ideas for any of the rest of the art and stuff.”
“That’s a wonderful idea! There’s a lot to choose from and a decorator will go wild to see all those amazing art pieces.”
“Cool. I love the way she did the downstairs in the Shreveport house. I’d be very happy to have this place full of dark cherry furniture and velvet,” she laughed.
“She did do a marvelous job there – did you give her any input on that?”
“No – according to Margaret, Eric hired her when we started dating and he told her that he met his Scarlett O’Hara and wanted the house to be a Southern girl’s dream.”
“Oh, that’s so sweet.”
“Yeah, and she ran with that and did a perfect job. I can’t wait to see what she thinks of this place.”
“Alright, I’m going to change the baby’s diaper, call her to confirm the one o’clock meeting then get the sweeper to make sure I’ve got all the glass up. You can sleep a bit longer if you want, and I’ll wake you at 11 so you’ll have time to shower and eat before she gets here. Come here, Baby E, let’s get you a fresh nappy.”
While Alicia had the baby in the bathroom, Sookie looked around. If she put him in the crib he was likely to teleport into the bed anyway. How was she going to keep him from falling off the bed?
“Here we are, he’s all fresh now.” Alicia brought him back and headed downstairs for the sweeper.
Sookie scooped the baby up and sat him on her tummy as she lay on her back. She was using his little arms to sort of have him do the Twist as she sang “let’s Twist again, like we did last summer, let’s Twist again, like we did last year”, and he was cracking up. She pulled him forward so she could give him a kiss and a little tickle.
“Happy birthday, Pookie! Did you know you’re one week old today? Yes, you are!” She snuggled him and tickled him again.”So what are we going to do with you, Sweetie Pie? I can’t let you fall off the bed and you won’t stay put if I put you in the crib.”
“Ee, Mamee,” he giggled.
“OK, eat.” She pulled the covers down so he could reach her and he hummed happily as he gorged on milk and blood. Sookie ran her nails gently up and down his little back, making him giggle as he tried to feed.
Alicia came back and looked in the door. “Are you under the covers, dear?”
“Yep, why?” She asked as she continued to scratch the baby’s back gently and tease him a little.
“Bjorn’s coming in with a surprise for you.”
- Bjorn came in carrying the little co-sleeper that had been delivered about an hour ago and which he had assembled for her. “Good morning, your majesty – you’ve been waiting for this?” He gave her a dazzling smile, so pleased with himself for putting it together for her.
“Oh, that’s so cool! Thanks, you all!”
“I just ordered it,” Alicia said, “Bjorn gets the credit for putting it together. We thought it might keep your little buddy from throwing any more pillows and trying to dive off the side of the bed.”
“That’s exactly what we need!” She was tickled to death as Bjorn came around to her side of the bed and moved the portable crib so he could attach the new co-sleeper and adjust its height. “Lookie, Alex, what Bjorn’s got – a little bed for you just like the one at home! Mommy won’t have to worry about you there! You won’t be able to get hurt and you’ll be right here with me! Isn’t that cool?”
“doo!’ Alex said, then went back to suckling.
“Did he just try to say “cool?”” Alicia asked, laughing.
“Yeah, I think he did,” Sookie laughed.
“Hey, Alex – don’t talk with your mouth full!” Bjorn teased him. The baby didn’t understand him, but he giggled anyway because Bjorn made a funny face at him.
Alicia started the sweeper and it startled Alex, who shot forward and shrieked, throwing his arms around Sookie’s neck then hissing at the sweeper, his fangs down.
“Shh, Alex, it’s OK, that’s just the sweeper! It’s OK – see, look, Alicia’s just pushing it back and forth. It just cleans the floor. It won’t hurt you. Mommy’s got you, darlin’, it’s OK.” She was petting him and talking to him, not really aware that she was flashing Bjorn because the baby kicked the covers back almost to her waist. Bjorn was trying furiously to finish with the co-sleeper and not to look up, no matter how full and luscious those breasts were, and man, were they. The baby started to calm down and Sookie realized she was exposed, quickly pulling the sheet up and blushing right down to her toenails. She was afraid to look to the side at Bjorn and Bjorn was afraid to look up or move, though he was sure she had covered herself. Alicia was oblivious to everything but the sweeper.
“Ah, Bohrd” The baby waved at Bjorn and he looked up, then he and Sookie both laughed.
“Are you saying ‘hi’ to Bjorn, Pookie?”
“Omba, Mamee, Bohrd.” He pointed at him.
“Hi, Alex.” Bjorn said as he stood up and he tickled Alex’s ear, which sent the baby into a fit of giggles, so he did it again. Alex reached toward Bjorn and opened and closed his little hand.
“I think that means “come here”” Sookie told him as she helped the baby sit up and he reached for Bjorn with both arms, making the same gesture with his hands.
Bjorn reached back and the baby leaned toward him, obviously wanting to be picked up, so he picked him up and brought him up to his chest. “Hey, Alex!”
“Ay, Bohrd!” Alex leaned forward and hugged him.
“Aww, isn’t that sweet!” Alicia said as she finished with the sweeper.
“He likes you, Bjorn.” Sookie was delighted.
The baby leaned back and looked at Bjorn, then threw his arm up and said “VBEE!”
“VBEE!” the baby yelled back and giggled like crazy.
“You going to be a warrior like your Daddy, Alex?” Bjorn teased him.
“Dadee seep,” Alex said and pointed to the coffin in the corner.
“Yeah, Daddy’s asleep. You should go back to sleep for a while.”
“Nah.” He shook his whole upper body.
“Yeah, you and Mommy should sleep a bit longer. You can try out your little bed! Let’s see…” he took him over to the portable crib and took the blanket out of it. “Here’s your blanket, and we’ll tuck you in right next to Mommy, see?” He put him in the little bed next to Sookie and he made his “Haaaa!” sound.
“You like your new bed, Pookie?” Sookie shook his little hand to get his attention.
“Omba, Mamee!” He giggled and turned on his side toward Sookie as Bjorn tucked the little blanket in around him.
“Thank you, Bjorn,” Sookie was pleased the way he was being sweet with the baby.
“Day-oo, Borhd!” The baby tried to repeat what Sookie said and Bjorn cracked up as he folded up the portable crib and took a seat at the side table. The baby was already asleep by the time Bjorn sat down.
“You gonna watch us sleep, Bjorn? It’s really not necessary…” Sookie tried but Bjorn wasn’t having it.
“Eric asked me if I’ve been watching you two in the daytime and I had to tell him I haven’t been while you’re up here. He said he wants me in here with you two, especially since the baby is becoming more mobile.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered
“Nothing to be sorry about,” he said softly. “Roll over and sleep a while. Bobbie will come keep me company when she gets up.”
“OK, cool. I don’t feel so bad if I know you’ve got good company.” Sookie settled down and rested her hand on the baby’s side, falling asleep almost immediately.
Bjorn smiled to himself – Sookie and the baby were just alike in that respect. Either one of them could fall asleep instantly and sleep through almost anything. He almost wondered if that was one of the things the baby inherited from Sookie. He got Eric’s taste for blood, of course, but he had Sookie’s ability to sleep when he wanted and go out in the sun, plus he had her telepathy. He also knew that there were some powers that might be coming from Sookie or the baby or both, and it would be interesting to see who could do what as the baby grew up. Sookie, too, he laughed to himself.
He always thought of Sookie as a little girl, Goddess or not. She was so sweet and innocent, in spite of her extreme sexuality, that he just couldn’t see her as “Mommy” in his mind – not that he had any real experience with what a real Mommy is like. He’d hardly call the people he grew up with “parental.” There was certainly no affection in the home.
He’d never admit it out loud but he enjoyed watching Sookie and the baby sleep, because the second he woke up she had him in her arms, kissing him, feeding him, looking at him that way she did, like he was the most precious thing in the world. Maybe that is what a real Mommy is like? Somebody who would do anything for you – feed you, keep you safe, worry about you, play with you and make you giggle?
Bjorn couldn’t remember ever laughing as a child. As a teenager, yes, but not when he was small. There just wasn’t anything fun or funny in his world then. Alex would never know what that was like – he giggled all the time, and who could blame him? Sookie was beautiful and sweet and even when she was feeling overwhelmed or unsure of herself, she was never unsure of her love for that baby. Bjorn often admitted to being jealous of Eric but he was even more jealous of Alex.
If he could have himself made an infant again and have THAT Mommy raise him – he’d do anything for a chance at that. He had already made up his mind that he would make sure that Alex never took Sookie for granted. He wanted him to grow up knowing how lucky he was to have the parents that he had. He knew Eric would be strict with the boy for his own good, but he would still dote on him and Sookie was never going to be anything for that child but a source of pure, unconditional love. Bjorn wondered what it would feel like to be that small and have waves of Sookie’s love just wash over you that way. To have that smile be the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing at night, and to know that it was always going to be there for you, no matter what. Sookie was even considering being turned so she could be there for the baby after he was grown.
Bjorn would also never admit that if he’d met Sookie first, he’d actually have considered having kids of his own. He never wanted that before, but watching Eric and Sookie with Alex made him wonder if he’d be a good father. He always thought the answer was a resounding ‘no’ but Alex liked him and that was definitely unexpected. He always thought babies knew whether a person was good or not. That baby in particular should know if you’re a good person or not, and he definitely liked Bjorn.
If Bjorn wanted to have kids, he’d have to do it soon if he was going to stay with Bobbie, and he had no plans of going anywhere else. He was quite content with Bobbie in every way, and that was a surprise, too. He couldn’t believe Bill let her go without a fight. Bjorn would definitely have fought for her. He honestly never felt this way about a woman before and that was not an easy thing for him to admit. Until Bobbie, women were just sex to Bjorn. He didn’t care what they thought and he didn’t tolerate anything that even remotely resembled a relationship. He might see a girl every night for a month, but that was just 30 one-night stands strung together. He didn’t make commitments and he didn’t allow anyone to put their expectations on him.
The irony was that he wouldn’t mind if Bobbie pushed for a commitment, but she wasn’t really the type to do that. She still didn’t get that Bjorn had actual feelings for her. She expected him to get tired of her any day now and start blowing her off but he wasn’t going to do that. He was in this job for the long haul and so was she, and that suited him fine. It was even his idea that they should share a room here and elsewhere and that had shocked Bobbie. He wanted to tell Bobbie how he felt, but he had never opened up to anyone that way before and to be honest, it was terrifying. Eric had told him to leave no doubt, but Bobbie sort of came with the doubt built into her own mind and he didn’t know how to get through her defenses to let her know he really did care. He wondered what she’d do if he showed up with an engagement ring…?
“Engagement ring?” Sookie was awake. Damn.
“What did you hear?” Bjorn was scared to death that Sookie had been listening to his entire train of thought.
“Are you really thinking about that – with Bobbie?”
“I’m just thinking, Sookie, don’t say anything to anyone. I was just thinking that might be a way to convince her that I’m not going anywhere.”
“Wow – she’d be floored!”
“Would she be upset, though, or would she trust it?”
Sookie looked toward the hallway. “Make sure the door is shut then bring your chair closer to the bed.”
Bjorn closed the door then brought the side chair right next to Alex’s crib.
Sookie pulled the sheet tightly up to her chest and leaned toward Bjorn so she could speak softly. “OK, now listen. She’d love it, but she might be afraid to admit it. She doesn’t expect a commitment from a guy so she sort of keeps them at a distance in the first place. She’s as scared of being rejected as you are. Neither one of you ever completely opened up to another person, so just keep that in mind and give her the same kind of room you need yourself.”
“She never has, either?”
“Not since she was really young and she got hurt really badly. She would have opened up to Bill, but he just sort of reinforced her lack of self-esteem, which is a shame because none of that had to do with her – it was all him.”
“I’m not good at this stuff – the emotional stuff. I never cared about anyone before.”
“Not anyone. The closest I’ve ever been to anyone would be in combat, you develop war buddies, but as far as girls go, I never really had feelings for a girl before, and I didn’t let girls get attached to me.”
“Not even in high school?”
“I was emancipated at 16 and joined the Navy at 17 and that’s where I got my GED and took some college courses. I never had to work at getting a girl, and when I did I had no problem cutting them off.”
“Wow – how come all of a sudden you’re open to it?”
“I don’t know – part of it might be meeting you and Eric, seeing what it can be like when two people love each other, and a big part of it is Bobbie. She’s soft and sexy and fun. I never had fun with anyone the way I have fun with her.”
“That’s what Eric says about me.”
“Yeah, I know. I’ve been talking to him a lot about stuff I never talked to anyone about before. He knows so much about everything, and I value his opinion. He’s a great warrior but he’s a great Lover, too. I never thought a person could be both.”
“Eric is definitely good at opening up new horizons for people,” she laughed. “I never even dreamed of some of the stuff I’ve learned from him, and I’m not just talking about sex. I learn all kinds of things from him.”
“He’s a smart man, and I don’t say that about many people. He’s been everywhere and done everything. Some of the stories he tells are amazing.”
“Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. If I were you, I’d keep talking to him. Tell him what you just told me, and get his perspective on it. He’ll help you figure out what to do. He’s gone through some huge changes over the years. He used to be very different than he is now – so different that I can’t even imagine it, but I know he’s telling me the truth. He used to be a lot “darker” than he is now, is the way he describes it. Maybe that’s what’s going on with you – you just aren’t as dark or detached as you used to be.”
Bjorn considered this and nodded. “Yeah, maybe. I’m not getting soft, though…”
“No, you’re just growing, you know? Like, extending who you are to include this, too.”
“Yeah, that makes sense. I don’t have to be one way or the other, I can be both.”
“Knock, knock?” Bobbie looked in the door.
“Hey, Bobbie,” Sookie gave her a big smile.
“Hey, Sookie. Alicia said you might want to consider getting up now so you have time to shower and eat.”
“Yeah, it is about that time, isn’t it? Can you throw me my robe?”
Bobbie picked up the pink robe Sookie pointed at and threw it to her. “You want to take the baby in the shower with you?”
“Yeah, I probably should.” She looked at the baby, who was awake, sucking his thumb and watching Sookie with big eyes. “You want to take a shower with Mommy, Pookie?”
“Omba!” he giggled and then stuck his thumb back in his mouth. Sookie handed him over to Bobbie and then slipped her robe on while Bjorn turned his back.
“Hi, Alex!” Bobbie hugged him and gave him a big kiss on the cheek. “Happy one week birthday! Are you having a good morning?”
“Omba!” Alex giggled as Bobbie hugged and tickled him.
Sookie was in the shower quickly and washed her hair while Bobbie got the baby out of his diaper.
“You going to take a shower with Mommy, Alex?”
“Sthowa?” He was trying to say the word but he didn’t know what it meant yet.
“Yep, shower. He’s ready when you are, Sookie.”
“OK, here – c’mon, Alex, let’s take a shower!”
Alex went to Sookie eagerly and giggled when she took him under the water. She washed him off quickly and washed his hair gently. Alex was smiling and closing his eyes, and at one point made his “haaaa!” noise.
“He must be loving that – I heard his happy noise,” Bobbie laughed.
“Yeah, he loves the water. Don’t you love the water, Pookie? Huh?
“Yep, water – Alex loves the water. Pookie likes to take a shower. Pookie likes the shower.” Sookie was saying it a little differently each time in a sing-song way and the baby was trying to say “water” and “shower” in the cutest ways, holding his hands up to feel it run through his fingers and closing his eyes when she’d pass him under the gentle spray.
“Awek uf a wada!”
“Yeah, Alex loves the water! Are you ready for him, Bobbie?”
“Yep, got his fluffy towel all ready for him!”
Sookie handed Bobbie the baby and she wrapped him in a towel then handed one back to Sookie. Both women were cooing and kidding around with the baby and he was loving the attention. Bobbie rubbed baby lotion all over him and he made his happy sound again when when she used a huge powder puff to fluff powder all over him.
“Wow – big puff!” Sookie said.
“Yeah, I got one for myself the other day when I went shopping and it occurred to me that Alex might get a kick out of being fluffed. I figured you might want to use one occasionally, too,” Bobbie laughed, “so I bought three of them.”
“Oh, that was sweet! Thank you!”
“Day-oo!” the baby repeated, making both of them laugh.
“That seems to be his new word for the day – he said it to Bjorn earlier, too,” Sookie told her as she combed out her wet hair.
Bobbie took the freshly diapered baby out and laid him on his back on the bed, which Alicia had already made, and took Sookie’s pink sleeveless nursing dress dress and undies for the day back into the bathroom for her. As soon as she laid him down, Alex flipped over on his tummy and pushed up on all fours facing Bjorn.
Bjorn cracked up and leaned forward in his chair, looking the baby right in the eyes. “Hi, Alex. Did you have a nice shower?”
“Omba, sthowa!” He giggled and reached for Bjorn with one hand, opening and closing his fist in his “come here” motion.
Bjorn picked him up and sat back down with him, holding him up so they could talk face to face. “Mommy must have given you a good shower – you smell a lot better.” Bjorn teased him. The baby didn’t understand him, of course, but he heard the reference to Sookie so he pointed to the bathroom and said “Mamee wada.”
“Yeah, Mommy was in the water and now she’s getting dressed then we’ll all go downstairs and have lunch,” Bjorn explained to him. The baby was hanging on his every word, watching him with big eyes.
Bobbie and Sookie came out of the bathroom, and Sookie slapped on a little makeup while Bobbie packed up the diaper bag to take downstairs with them.
“Are we ready to go down, ladies?” Bjorn said, standing with the baby still his arms, the baby with his little arm around his shoulder.
“Yep, we are,” Sookie said, tickling the baby as Bjorn held him. “Are you ready, Pookie?”
“Omba!” He nodded with his whole body.
Everyone laughed as they headed downstairs. Alicia made BLT’s for lunch and had the table all set. Bjorn was getting the baby settled into his high chair and sat beside him, with Sookie on the other side of the baby. Bobbie went over to the pool table to get some of the little teethers for the baby to play with on the highchair tray.
“Hmm – I don’t know if my skin can take bacon right now…” Bobbie said.
“This is a new kind of natural bacon – no sodium nitrite,” Alicia explained.
“Oh – cool, I can eat that then!”
“Bacon is bad for your skin?” Sookie asked.
“Any kind of cured meat that contains sodium nitrite – bacon, hotdogs, lunchmeat of most kinds – it can cause cystic acne in a lot of people. One of the reasons some kids have so much trouble with their complexions is that foods they eat tend to have it in them. Pizza can be the worst if it has pepperoni on it.”
“Why do they put it in the meat then?”
“It’s a preservative, and in some cases the government requires it, but it’s horrible if you’ve got bad skin, plus it’s a carcinogen.”
“A carcinogen – it causes cancer.”
“I never heard about that and skin though – I always heard chocolate was bad, but I never heard anything about meat products.”
“Even most doctors don’t know the connection. It can take up to two weeks for it to affect your skin and most people never figure it out. Not to mention the fact that a lot of doctors, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic companies make millions of dollars selling people cures for acne. All that profit goes away if people learn how to eat. ”
“Damn – you know, sometimes it feels as if everything is a conspiracy.”
“A lot of things in our culture are – there are overlapping agendas, some ancient, some new, that are used to control people and direct money upward in the social strata. When you get down to it, it’s all about money.”
“Even the religious, patriarchal stuff?”
“Especially that. Do you know how much money the Catholic Church rakes in every year? And some of these televangelists?”
“Yeah – a friend of mine went to Mexico once and she told me she went into a church there one time where the walls were literally painted with gold, but there were women outside pinching their babies to make them cry so people would give them money.”
“Right. Jesus is called “the Prince of Peace,” right? So why do so many avid Christians support the wars in the Middle East? Or oppose abortion while they support war or the death penalty? Why do they oppose welfare and universal health care and other social programs when Jesus said give everything you have to the poor, yet they have no problem increasing our already bloated defense budget, where money literally disappears in the billions and no one is accountable?”
“OK, you’re losing me, and I want to understand this. Isn’t there a lot of waste and fraud in social programs?”
“OK, picture a hundred pennies on the table here. They represent one tax dollar, right? Now, take 96 of those pennies and put them to the side – that’s our defense budget. We spend more on defense than all the other countries combined. Now, take one penny, and say I have some cutters that can cut it into slivers, so I cut out a sliver that is less than one tenth of that penny. That sliver represents all the money we spend on any kind of social program – health care, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, you name it.”
“So little – and they are constantl wanting to reduce that spending. Now, back to the 96 cents – they tried to do an audit of the Pentagon’s budget and there were literally BILLIONS unaccounted for that just disappeared into some black hole somewhere.”
“And they’re not spending it on the soldiers, either,” Bjorn said. “They send men into war without proper armor or equipment, they pay them shit and make them do tour after tour, they avoid paying to care for the wounded ones, then they turn around and pay mercenaries ten times what a soldier makes, and those guys have no limits on them.”
“Mercenaries are paid soldiers, right?”
“But they work for private contractors who get big no-bid contracts from the government and they aren’t responsible to any civilian or military law in any country. The biggest one is run by a guy who is running his own modern version of the Crusades – he thinks it’s his mission to rid the world of the Islamic religion.”
“You could make a lot of money working for a company like that, couldn’t you, Bjorn?”
“I could, but I want nothing to do with them. I’d rather work for a Vampire king than some religious zealot. There’s always a weird undercurrent of sexual perversion and homoerotic sadism in those far-right groups. There’s a line where sex stops being twisted and intense and starts being just plain sick. They’re firmly into the sick territory.”
“Well, what’s sick, exactly?” Sookie was dying to ask a ton of sex questions but she didn’t know how far she should take it.
“This idea that they’re holier than everyone else, but they’re swapping wives and paying underage prostitutes a dollar a blow-job. I’m into a good orgy every now and then but not with repressed Jesus freaks who think they can do anything they want because they’re “chosen.””
“But like, multiple partners…”
“Nothing wrong with consenting adults doing whatever they want in whatever configuration they want, but that’s just sex. It’s the war crimes and the child prostitutes and stuff like that that gets so sick and I don’t want to be around it.”
Bobbie and Sookie looked at each other and Bobbie thought right at her, sending a picture of the big round bed in the basement at Fangtasia and Sookie cracked up. Bjorn looked at the two of them. “OK, you two, what was that about?” He was pretty sure he knew but he was going to bust on them anyway.
“We just both had a picture of that big round bed at Fangtasia…” Bobbie said as matter-of-factly as she could, but then she giggled and Sookie hadn’t stopped.
“You know about that?” Bjorn asked Bobbie.
“Oh, yeah, I’ve seen it.”
“You have? Have you….”
“No, haven’t had the pleasure yet, but I’d love to. Sookie likes it, right, Sookie?”
“The few times I’ve been there, yeah. I think I still have a lot to learn, though.”
Bjorn just closed his eyes and shook his head. He was SO trying not to picture Bobbie and Sookie on a big round bed. He was glad Eric was asleep right now because he’d know in a flash Bjorn was turned on. He was praying again that he wouldn’t need to stand up, but Alicia came out with the BLT’s and a pitcher of sweet tea and that provided a change of subject.
Everybody took sandwiches from the tray, which were cut in half and held together with toothpicks topped with bright colored ruffles of cellophane.
“These look great, Alicia!”
“Thanks – you’ve only got about 40 minutes before the decorator will be here, so eat up.”
Sookie hesitated, not knowing what to do, when Alicia suggested, “I’ll get him a bottle of RM.”
“OK, that’s good. Alicia’s going to get a bottle for you, OK, Sweetie?”
“Ee!” he pointed at the sandwiches.
“You can’t eat this, Sweetie, you don’t have any teeth. Just hang on and Alicia will be right back, OK?”
“Alex, what is this?” Bjorn held up the fish-shaped teether.
“Pish!” he giggled and reached for it, putting it right in his mouth. Bjorn teased him with it, pulling it out of his mouth and he’d put it right back in, giggling like crazy. He played with him several minutes, letting Sookie eat her sandwich, knowing he could always eat in the kitchen if the decorator got there before he finished eating. Sookie knew he was distracting the baby for her so she dug into the sandwich, watching the two of them play. They were so sweet together. She noticed Bobbie watching them, too and could see Bobbie being a little misty about it.
“Hey, where are Amelia and Octavia today?” Sookie asked.
“They had things to do at Amelia’s house apparently,” Bobbie told her.
Sookie actually ate a sandwich and a half, Bjorn assuring her he would eat the other half as well as the sandwich he already had and probably another one, too, as he stood and took the platter and his plate into the kitchen. Alicia had the dining room table completely clear and was going through the catalog of furnishings from Las Vegas with Bobbie and Sookie when Kerik brought the decorator in.
She was a tall, elegant woman who reminded Sookie of Jackie Kennedy or a young Roslyn Carter, with a short bob with bangs and fair porcelain skin. “Mrs. Northman? I’m so pleased to meet you. I’m Giselle Antoine-de Broux.”
“I’m so pleased to meet you! Please, call me Sookie, and this is my assistant, Alicia, and my doula, Bobbie and this is little Alex.”
Everyone said hello and Giselle asked about the catalog. “What’s this?”
“First, I just want to say that I love what you did in our Shreveport house. It’s really perfect. I wanted you to look through this catalog because there’s a lot of furniture and art work that we already own that might be usable in this house. I really like these red velvet couches and chairs, for example. We don’t have to use this stuff, but we’re going to sell the large residence that it’s in, so what we don’t use, we’ll probably sell.”
“Oh, my – well, there are some marvelous pieces here! I’ve been doing a few sketches since I spoke to Alicia this morning, and I can see several pieces here that go with the ideas I was working on just perfectly.”
“You were doing sketches without seeing the house?”
“Oh, no, honey, I know this house well. It’s a landmark, you know, and there are photos available online even if I hadn’t been in it before. I was beside myself when I heard that Mr. Northman owns it now. He’s such a kind, generous man, and working for him was just wonderful. It’s nice to meet his “Scarlett O’Hara” in person!”
“Oh, thank you. I couldn’t believe he told you that!”
“Oh, I could. I almost knew what you’d look like, he described you so well. He said you were a petite blonde with lots of spirit and that you had good taste, but weren’t used to having money, so he wanted me to give you the finest of everything.”
“Well, I guess that’s pretty accurate. I mean, I know what I like and what I don’t, but I don’t really know a lot about what is available or possible. I don’t want to change the character of the house too much – I like the traditional stuff as opposed to anything too modern – but I want it to feel more like it’s mine, you know?”
“I know exactly what you mean. If you haven’t changed it yet, some of the rooms look a little like they belong in a museum instead of a home.”
“Right. And, we’ll need to use some of the rooms a little differently. I’d like to use this main room more for hanging out and turn the den into offices for Eric and myself. And I want you to completely re-do our bedroom. It’s kind of blah, right now. I want a much bigger bed – there’s one in here that might work – and I want it to be cozier. The bathroom needs to be state of the art, too, with a bigger tub and the closet needs serious work to make room for our clothes.”
“Are you using the master bedroom down here?”
“No, Eric doesn’t feel it’s secure enough and we also want to be on the same floor as the nursery.”
“That makes sense. What kind of colors do you like?””I like strong colors – jewel tones, like purple and deep blue, bright blues or especially pink like you used in our other house. I’m not crazy about earth tones or greens. I know the red velvet furniture might be a little bordello, but I just love it – it’s so soft and I know the pieces have to be well made or the previous owner of the house wouldn’t have had them. I want things to be comfortable AND pretty.”
“We can handle that. Did Mr. Northman give you a budget?”
“No, he said just get exactly what I want and don’t worry about the cost. He wants me to love it here – though I already do!”
“Which room do you want me to do first?”
“The bedroom – it just doesn’t feel right. I want it to be a really special place where Eric and I can escape, you know?”
“Yes, I do – I remember Mr. Northman being very tall and very… uh…”
“Gorgeous is how I describe him,” Sookie laughed.
“Exactly,” she laughed.
“Right, well, my favorite time of day is when Eric, the baby and I go up to our room – just me and my two boys. I want it to feel cozy. There also has to be a sitting area, though, for getting my makeup done and for my body guard to use in the mornings when he watches us.”
“Are you going to keep the baby in your room or did you want a formal nursery.”
“Both, actually. I’ll keep him with us until he’s older, but we want to have a nursery set up that has everything he needs in it. We’ll probably be spending a lot of time in this house so I’ll have most of his toys here. Most of the furniture in his room in the other house came from Pottery Barn.”
“Oh, they have some nice children’s things. Did you want to recreate that here?”
“Unless you have a better idea. The stuff I got for him there was espresso colored wood and the crib was called a sleigh style but it looked like a little Viking dragon ship. I had a storage unit with some cubbies, a glider and ottoman, red curtains and some Dr. Seuss bedding. The walls were a really pretty robin’s egg blue.”
“That sounds sweet.”
“If you want to go that way, Mrs. Northman, I can have duplicates of what you bought shipped here while we’re gone,” Alicia offered.
“That would be helpful, then I’d just set the nursery up for you and it would be ready when you come back,” Giselle agreed.
“That would be great. For my bedroom, would it look too strange to have it in black and pink?”
“Not if that’s what you want, as long as Mr. Northman won’t mind.”
“No, he said he’ll like whatever I like.”
“That’s fine then. Black and pink can look very expensive together if you use it correctly. Those colors would look really nice with a sort of art deco theme – do you mind if the bedroom is a different style than the rest of the house?”
“Not at all. Our bedroom can be completely different. Now, there will be a little apartment that Bjorn and Bobbie will use, and Alicia and our maid, Margaret will live on the third floor – I want their rooms done according to their tastes. The master bedroom down here will be used as a work out room, but I want it to look really nice, and I want the spa in there done in pink, too. We might need a couple of travel boxes there for Vampire guests. My husband works out with swords, so that room has to be mostly empty, but there can be some equipment in it and maybe a really good treadmill for me.”
“Swords! Oh, my – how romantic!”
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool. You should see him. He’s going to teach me, too – I already had a lesson and he said I did really well.”
“That’s so exciting! I know that it’s marvelous for the arms and legs, too. Why don’t we walk through the house, I’ll make some notes, then we’ll go through your catalog here and I’ll show you my sketches. You wanted this done while you’re in Shreveport, yes?”
“As much as possible, yes – at least our bedroom, though, that’s the main thing. I need it to feel like home. Is it going to be hard to get people to do the work?”
“Not at all. I have sources that are reliable and they’re available for the right price. We can get a lot done while you’re away. Just make sure you check your email a few times a day in case I need to send pictures or something, and Alicia and I will be in touch frequently, I assume?”
“Yes, that’s right,” Alicia said, “I’ll keep track of it all for her.”
“OK, well, let’s do a tour,” Sookie said. The elegant woman set her cream leather case on the table and took out an expensive fountain pen, a folding yardstick, a tape measure, a steno pad, and a small digital camera. They went through each room of the house, Sookie explaining what was needed in each room, except for the tiny apartment, which Bobbie gave her preferences for, and the third floor rooms, where Alicia stated some preferences she and Margaret had agreed on by phone.
“I didn’t know you had spoken to Margaret, Alicia?” Sookie was surprised.
“Oh, yes, dear, I check in with her every morning. We’ve been trying to decide what kind of help we’ll need to maintain the Shreveport house while we’re away.”
“Oh, OK – good thinking.”
Giselle took meticulous notes in her lovely handwriting, and listed everything from window treatments to closet needs to the size of television everyone wanted in their rooms. She already knew the dimensions of all the rooms and she had suggestions for each one, including that she had already located a tub comparable to the one in Eric’s room at the Shreveport house that she could get at wholesale. Once she had spoken to Alicia that morning, Giselle had worked for almost 5 hours on this already.
She really wanted to impress Eric and Sookie, not just because she knew he paid exceptionally well, but also because if it were known that she had been the decorator for that house, owned by the Vampire King and Queen, she’d have the upper classes of New Orleans beating a path to her door. This could take her career to a whole new level, especially if she got Sookie to allow a photo shoot for the magazine in town that catered to the New Orleans elite.
“Oh, I almost forgot – I may need you to re-decorate an office in town for me. I haven’t seen it yet, but if it’s up to me, I’ll want it pink with lots of dark cherry furnishings like home, too,” Sookie said as they returned to the dining room table.
“That’s no problem at all. You want me to start with the house first though, yes?”
Giselle started going slowly through the huge catalog with Sookie, asking how she felt about each piece of furniture and art.
“Please, call me Sookie.”
“Alright, Sookie, may I make a suggestion? Some of this art is priceless and I’d hate to see you break up this collection. Have you considered loaning some of it to NOMA?”
“The New Orleans Museum of Art. I know the curator there, and I know she’d be wild to have some of these on display here. There’s enough here that they might actually be able to show it as The Northman Collection and make its own exhibit. It’s very prestigious and it would be a lovely gesture to the community to share this with everyone.”
Sookie looked at Alicia who raised both eyebrows and gave her a nod. “Well, that sounds like a good solution. I’ll have to speak to Eric about it, of course, but …”
“What will you speak to me about, my Angel?”
“Eric!” Sookie jumped up and kissed him. “I had no idea it was so late!”
“Hello, my darling wife. Ms. Antoine-de Broux, how lovely to see you again!” Eric was in bullshit mode now.
“Oh, Mr. Northman, I was so thrilled when Alicia called and told me you were living here! I’ve had a lovely time going through the house with your beautiful new wife. She has some fantastic ideas.”
“I’m pleased you were available to help Sookie out. I want her to have everything to her liking, and don’t be afraid to suggest things she might not know about. I’m confident she’ll make good choices and that the two of you will make this place even more spectacular.”
“We were just going through this catalog of furniture and artwork from your other residence. I was suggesting that you consider lending the art that we don’t use here to NOMA – I think it would be a wonderful gift to the community to share it with everyone.”
“Interesting – you think there is enough here to bother with?”
“Oh, yes – the Impressionist works alone would nearly double their collection. And the Chinese pottery and artifacts, then the South American indigenous art…”
“Alright, well, you and Sookie choose what you want for the house, then I’ll leave it to you to see if NOMA is interested in housing part or all of what is left. I’ll need to have a secure place for it when we sell the residence.”
“I was wondering, is this the only copy of this catalog you have?”
“Alicia?” Eric turned to her.
“No, sir, there is an identical book in your papers as well.”
“Would it be possible for me to take one with me? I can come up with some suggestions as to what to use and I’ll be having lunch with the curator next week. She can look at the pieces and we can go from there.”
“Sookie, is that alright with you?” Eric asked her.
“Yeah, of course – that way we can refer each other to the books if we need to talk about a specific piece or something.”
“I assume it will be secure in your hands,” Eric asked the woman, “I don’t want everyone knowing what we own to that extent…”
“Oh, don’t worry, Mr. Northman, she’ll be the only other soul that knows I have it.”
“Alright. There will be at least two security guards here at all times, and I’ll let them know you are making changes. I’ll trust you with a key, but I need your assurance that you won’t make copies for anyone else – no contractors, or anything like that.”
“No problem – they won’t leave my hands and I won’t make copies. When work has to be done, I’ll be here to let them in and to lock up myself. ”
“Good. I want Sookie to be comfortable when we come back for a while.”
“We’ll have your bedroom and the nursery complete by then, at the very least. We’ll need to make arrangements to have some furniture shipped here from the other residence.”
“Speaking of nurseries, where is the baby?” Eric looked at Sookie.
“He’s in the kitchen hanging out with Bjorn,” Sookie told him.
“Do infants “hang out?”
Eric laughed out loud at that. “Alright, when you know which pieces you need, we’ll send a truck with guards from this office to that residence to bring whatever is necessary.”
Bjorn came through the kitchen door with the baby.
“Dadee!” Alex was reaching out with both arms, opening and closing his hands.
“He heard you laughing,” Bjorn explained
“There’s my boy!” Eric lifted the baby up in the air and shook him a little, making an animal noise that thrilled the baby, then brought him down for a kiss.
“What have you been doing, my son?”
“Eh, Borhd!” the baby said brightly.
“What?” He looked at Sookie.
“He says he was with Bjorn – that’s how he says Bjorn. Watch – Alex – who is that?” She pointed to Bjorn.
“Who am I?” Eric asked.
“Dadee,” the baby giggled and hugged him.
“I’m sorry, Giselle, everything stops when Dadee and son get together,” Sookie explained.
“Oh, that’s alright – they’re so sweet together.”
“Yeah, they are,” Sookie laughed and agreed.
“Actually, I think I’ve got everything I need to get started. Now you’re leaving tomorrow night?”
“Yes, as soon as Eric gets up.”
“Would you be available around 3 o’clock tomorrow? I’ll have more to show you then and I’ll have some arrangements already in place.”
“Sure – that would be great!”
“Alright, I’ll say good night and get to work, then.”
“Well, thank you so much! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.”
“Good night, Giselle – thanks for your help.” Eric said to her, then went right back to playing with the baby, walking through the living room holding him out as if he was flying. The baby was giggling like crazy.
“Alex, did you tell Daddy that you’re one week old today?” Sookie teased him.
“He is?” Eric was thrilled.
Bjorn escorted Giselle to her car, carrying the huge catalog for her and seeing she was safely on her way before he went back in.
When he came back in, Eric was playing peek-a-boo with the baby, who was inside the tunnel on the floor, laughing and zipping back and forth. Bill came downstairs and asked if everyone was ready to go. Sookie said she needed 5 minutes then ran upstairs to brush her hair and check her makeup while Alicia got the diaper bag ready with some bottles of RM. Eric was already dressed so they were ready to head out. Bobbie decided to stay home and relax, so Alicia sat in the back with Sookie and the baby and Eric sat in the passenger seat next to Bjorn, who was driving. Bill and Kerik took another car and they all headed out before 7:30.
Sookie was a little bit nervous about going into the office but she didn’t say anything and tried not to think about it.
“Sookie, my Angel, remember that these people work for you. You needn’t be afraid of them or their opinions.” Eric was obviously paying attention to the feelings she was silently wrestling with in the back seat.
“OK,” she said unconvincingly.
“They’re going to love you, Sookie,” Bjorn was sure this was true.
“I hope so.”
“I hope so, too, Sookie,” Eric said, “but if they do not, it should not upset you. You are in charge. Everyone in that office answers to you – you answer to no one but me. They have all been told that whether I am there or not, your word is law. I will not contradict you in front of them – I’ll show you the same respect you would show me because we are partners – you are their Queen, so you stand up straight, be confident, and take charge, alright?”
“Alright,” she was a little more definite this time.
Sookie cracked up. “OK, OK, I’m outnumbered by all these Swedish men.”
Alicia laughed at that, and the guys all followed.
“Admit it, Sookie – you wouldn’t have it any other way. You like having Swedish men taking care of you,” Eric teased her.
“Yes, I must admit, I do like being surrounded by Viking warriors,” Sookie said proudly as she tickled Alex.
Eric could already tell that when they arrived she would rise to the occasion, just as she always did, and charm everyone there with her innate sweetness. He was not disappointed.
When they reached the office, which was in the second floor of a converted apartment building, Bill led the way and made the introductions. Both of Sookie’s liaisons were there – Emily Jacobs, a sort-of pretty, brunette human about 25, had stayed late to meet her and Jasmine Raj, a pleasantly plump Were-something with short, shiny, jet black hair, was on duty normally. They were jumpy and excited to meet Sookie and Eric, though Jasmine had seen him briefly the night before. They were standing by the elevator with gifts when Eric’s party stepped off the car on the right next to the wall.
“Hello, girls,” Bill began, “Sookie, these are your liaisons – you know Emily and Jasmine, believe?”
The girls curtsied and said, “Hello, your majesty,” to Sookie nearly in unison.
“Hello, Emily and Jasmine?’ Sookie turned to each in turn and shook her hand. “I’m Sookie and I suppose you have both spoken to Alicia?”
“Yes, I have,” Emily replied, “nice to meet you, Alicia.”
“Hello, Alicia. Your majesty, we have gifts for you and the Prince.”
“Oh, thank you – that’s so thoughtful!”
“Sookie, why don’t we all go into the lounge and you can open the presents and see what the girls gave you?” Bill suggested.
“Oh, that sounds nice…”
“Right this way, your majesty.” The girls led the group on into the office and into a very nice lounge with a table and chairs, a couple of nice couches and chairs in a pretty navy print with a floral pattern that were arranged around a nice walnut coffee table and a small kitchenette with coffee and other amenities. Bill got a Beer for Bjorn and a True Blood for himself and Eric.
Sookie sat in one of the chairs and the girls put the gifts on the coffee table in front of her and stood back to watch.
“Oh, please sit down!” Sookie motioned to one of the couches for the girls. Eric and Bill stood back talking, Eric holding the baby and watching Sookie proudly as she dealt with the star-struck girls. Bjorn took his spot behind Sookie’s chair, Alicia stood by to help Sookie with wrapping and boxes and Eric handed her his pocketknife to help Sookie with tape. As Sookie ooh’d and ahh’d over the pretty packages, some other office workers came in with gifts and Bill nodded that they should join the group on the couches and chairs. Sookie greeted each one with a handshake and repeated his or her name, giving them a brilliant smile and an enthusiastic thank you as they placed the gifts in front of her.
Jasmine gave Sookie a shawl made of delicate sari material in a gorgeous pink, embroidered on the edge with gold thread. “Oh, this is so beautiful!”
“I hope you like it, your majesty. I’ve seen pictures of you in pink dresses and you look so beautiful in them.”
“Oh, thank you! I can’t wait to wear this!” Sookie wrapped it around her shoulders, “Eric look at this!”
“That is very becoming, Sookie and it’s your favorite color. You’ll have to wear that to the next ball we attend.”
“Definitely! I’ll be trying to find outfits I can wear it with all the time. This is really very sweet.” Sookie leaned forward and squeezed the girls arm to emphasize her appreciation.
Jasmine was about to burst with pride. She was sure Sookie wouldn’t act so enthusiastic about it if she didn’t like it, and it did look wonderful on her. The color suited her perfectly.
“This one is for the Prince.” Emily said as she pushed a large rectangular gift wrapped with paper showing vintage toys and dangling ribbons.
“Ooh, Alex, lookie! You got a present!” She held it up to him and Eric brought the baby over where Sookie was and knelt down next to her. She took Alex on her lap, still wearing the pretty pink shawl, and said, “this is for you, Sweetie.”
The baby was fascinated with the ribbons so she let him play a little then she tore a little corner and said “here, baby, pull this” and he did, making a big tear in the paper and taking sheer delight in doing it.
“HHhaaaaa!” he squealed, his eyes big and his other arm waving
“Yeah, that’s for you! Here,” she got rid of the paper, “let’s see what it is. First 100 Words – Bright Baby! It’s book, Alex. Daddy can read this to you later tonight! Oh, look at all the cool pictures!”
“Yeah, cool. And it’s a board book so you can’t hurt it.” Sookie happened to open it to the next to the last page. “Lookie, Alex – what’s that?”
“Yeah, that’s a fish! I’ll bet Daddy will have you saying all the words in no time, won’t you, Daddy?”
“Oh, yes, we’ll be learning names for all these things!”
“Hey,” Sookie said, “I just realized why he says “omba!””
“Why is that?” Eric asked.
“He’s trying to say “Oh, yes” the way you do! Alex – what does Daddy say?”
Eric cracked up. It had never occurred to him that the baby was trying to imitate him that way. He had to cough to keep from crying and wiped his eye. He couldn’t get misty over the baby right now, but he was bursting at the thought that the baby was trying to imitate his speech.
“Emily, this is just wonderful! I know Alex is going to have a blast learning all these things, won’t you, darlin’?
Everyone one in the room cracked up. They talked for weeks afterward of how proud the king was of his baby and how smart the little one was. They marveled over how sweet and warm Sookie was to them all and how the king knelt down next to her and the baby and looked at them with such love in his eyes. They knew Eric to be a fierce warrior, but he was obviously very much in love with his little family and they had never seen that in a Vampire regent before. They felt very lucky to serve him, especially after having worked under Victor. Bill was much preferable with his kind manner, and they felt as if they were working for the best king ever, and that was before Eric told them they were getting a 15% raise. He told them he was sorry Victor had paid them so poorly and gave them all a little bonus to make up for it, in addition to the new salary.
Sookie opened the rest of the presents with equal enthusiasm. One of the boys from the mail room, only in his late teens, Sookie thought, gave the baby a little purple dragon with shiny wings and the baby went wild for it. He squealed when he unwrapped it and pulled it out of the box, hugging the plush critter to him.
“You like that, Pookie?”
“Omba!” He squeezed it and pressed his mouth to its head, then reached to where Eric was kneeling to get his attention.
“What is that, Alex?”
He didn’t say anything but he held it forward for Eric to see, then looked back and said “Borhd!” and held it up.
“Wow, Alex, nice toy!” Bjorn smiled at him.
“DO-EE!” Alex repeated and hugged it back to him.
“Aw – that’s sweet – I’ve never seen him that excited about a stuffed animal! Thank you so much!” Sookie beamed at the boy and then kissed the baby on the head as he snuggled his dragon. “Ooh, it’s really soft, too!”
“Eesh!” Alex held the dragon to the other side so Alicia could see it, and she cracked up.
“That’s very nice! You going to take that home with you?” Alicia teased him.
“Omba!” and he hugged it again.
That was the last of the presents, so Alicia gathered them up into a pile but Alex wasn’t about to let go of his dragon, so when Eric took him from Sookie, the dragon went with him. Eric didn’t say anything but he took great pride in the fact that Alex was so attached to a dragon specifically, because his people had used dragon ships and the symbol was important in his culture. He held the baby up and kissed him and whispered in his ear, “I love my little Viking.”
Sookie was watching Eric with the baby again, melting into her shoes. At this point, she didn’t think this was ever going to wear off. She’d just have to get used to having the urge to fall at Eric’s feet when she saw him cuddle his son.
Bill showed them to Eric’s office, which was organized and maintained for him, and pointed Sookie and Alicia to two smaller rooms that could be used as Sookie’s offices if she wanted. Emily and Jasmine went with them, since they’d spend the most time in the room or rooms Sookie chose. The accountant had arrived by this time and he, Bill and Eric, baby in tow, sequestered themselves in Eric’s office.
Bjorn took a post at the door as the four women discussed the possibilities and decided that since the rooms were small and connected by a door way, they would use both. One would house the files and other things that would need to be stored, and the other would be used for two desks – one for Sookie and one which would be used by Jasmine and Emily on their alternating shifts. Sookie described what she wanted for furniture and explained that she had a decorator, so Emily would work with Ms. Antoine – de Broux since that would take place in the daytime. Emily and Jasmine both loved the idea of dark cherry furnishings and pink walls, and even offered to paint the file cabinets to match on their own time, which Sookie thought was an awesome idea.
After they knew what they were doing, they had some items that needed Sookie’s attention, so Alicia pulled out her calendar and they synchronized the activities for the upcoming holiday season. There was a sort of Vampire convention in Chicago on the Autumnal Equinox, then there was a ball they had to host in New Orleans on Hallowe’en, which Sookie learned was called Samhain and pronounced “SOW-en” and this would be a very big deal since it would be the first costume ball since Eric had taken the throne. There was a formal dance and dinner for Regents only in New York City, hosted by Carolina, over the Thanksgiving weekend. There was a holiday ball in Las Vegas on Dec 21st and a huge New Years bash in New Orleans.
“Wow, that’s a lot,” Sookie said.
“Actually, that’s not all of it,” Jasmine explained, “it’s just the major Vampire events. You’ll get lots of invitations for dinners and lunches and gallery openings and things like that after the first of September. The King wouldn’t allow us to book anything social for you sooner than that because he wanted you to have time to adjust to having the baby.”
“Lunches and gallery openings?”
“Yes, the society ladies in New Orleans will want you to attend different parties. We have many invitations, but we haven’t accepted any yet. His Majesty said you’ll deal with it all after September 1st.”
“Are there any in September? I shouldn’t wait until the last minute.”
“Well, yes, there are these: a NOMA fundraiser on September 12 at 9 pm, a charity luncheon for the Children’s Hospital on September 16 at 11 am, a tea party fundraiser at the Audubon Tea Room at the zoo at 1 pm on the 29th , and then a cocktail party at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas on the 18th.”
“I got that many invitations?”
“No, ma’am, you got many more than that – these are just the important ones we thought you might want to attend,” Emily said apologetically.”
“OK, NOMA on the 12th – confirm that; I can’t say ‘no’ to the children’s hospital so confirm that. The cocktail party on the 18th – I always wanted to go to a party at an aquarium, so that’s a yes,” Sookie laughed at herself, “and what’s the date for the Tea Room at the zoo?”
“The 29th, your majesty,” Jasmine repeated.
“Alright, confirm that one. If you get anymore that you think are important, let Alicia know immediately. Anything that benefits kids, cancer or victims of crime is a priority for me. Reconstruction is a priority for both Eric and me. Any invitations that come in for after October first, we’ll look at in September. Do remind all these people that it’s not just me by myself – I have a royal… what’s the word for it?” she looked at Alicia.
“Retinue or entourage.”
“Yeah, so when they invite me, they’re inviting a lot of people, my baby included. Be sure they know that.”
“Yes, your majesty – most of the invitations expressly include the Prince. He gets many invitations to children’s birthday parties, too.”
“OK, those are VIP’s only – if it’s a politician’s or a movie star’s kids, after January we might consider it, but again, he’ll have a lot of people with him. I don’t want to surprise or inconvenience anyone, so this is very important. I don’t want to show up and be embarrassed or put anyone on the spot.”
“Oh, no, your majesty, we would never let that happen!” Jasmine assured her.
“OK, good. Now you had forms to sign?”
“Contracts, your majesty, for administration of your houses – groceries and such.”
“OK, Alicia you’ll want to look at those. Should Eric sign them?”
“Normally the lady of the house or her maid would do this, so I’ll make recommendations and you’ll sign them. Your signature carries the same weight as Mr. Northman’s.” Alicia explained.
“Yes, ma’am” Alicia assured her. She thought it was sweet how Sookie still didn’t comprehend her position, but she still managed to handle it all smoothly with just a little help.
“Alright, you know what we need in terms of food and supplies, yes?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Great. One of these is for gardeners. Let me check with them on this – Bjorn?”
“Yes, your majesty?”
“There’s a contract here for gardeners – that’s a security issue, too, right?”
“Yes, ma’am, it is. They need to be bonded and background checks done before we let them on the grounds.”
“OK, you want to take this?”
“Yes, ma’am, I’ll talk to Bill about it.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Bjorn was loving listening to Sookie give orders. He wished she knew how good a Queen she really was when it came to things like this.
There was a knock on the office door just as Bjorn went out and Eric looked in. “How are we getting along, ladies?”
“Really well, but boy, are we going to be busy!”
“Yes, my Lover, we are. Is there a bottle in that diaper bag? The little Prince is getting restless.”
“You want me to take him, honey?”
“No, I’ll feed him. You keep doing what you’re doing,” he winked at Sookie as Alicia handed him a bottle.
“Can I put this in the microwave?”
“Only for about 20 seconds and only if you take the top off.” Alicia told him.
“Be careful to shake it up, Sweetie, and be sure it’s not too hot. The glass might be hot too, so don’t let him get burned.”
“I’ll be very careful, Mommy.” Eric beamed at her and then left them alone.
“OK, this contract is for organic produce to be delivered to the house.”
“How much and when?”
“We’ll be setting up a purchasing agreement which allows them to get paid and then I’ll call them with the specifics of what we want when we’re in town.”
“OK, so it’s a contract but not for a specific amount?”
“Right. There’s one here for organic meats, too, through Whole Foods, and there’s one with a local seafood supplier.”
“OK, then, I’ll sign them.” Sookie skimmed through the contracts, which weren’t too complicated – they just set up an account and a way to pay when they ordered anything.
“Sookie, may I come in?”
“Yeah, Bill, what’s up?”
“Let me show you what we’ve got on the contract for the gardeners.”
Bill took a few minutes showing Sookie the contract and explaining a few items she might need to know about. There was a provision that gave them responsibility to use only bonded personnel that had passed a background check to be conducted by Bjorn or Vincent in advance of their showing up at the house. They would report to the captain of the guard and answer directly to Sookie or to her representative, which would be Alicia, and all work was guaranteed to meet Sookie’s satisfaction or there would be a penalty regarding payment. After answering a few questions, Bill assured her the contract was fair and reasonable and Sookie signed it.
The girls were just finishing up and chatting a bit when they heard Eric and Bill cheering in Eric’s office.
“Was that Bill and Eric?” Sookie was amazed.
Bjorn looked in the door, “they located the missing funds. The accountant was able to crack Victor’s code and they got access to the big accounts.”
“Oh, that’s fantastic!” Sookie was very happy for Eric – she knew he had been a bit worried about this and that this was a major accomplishment for him. The Council would be thrilled and this would let them kick the construction into high gear.
“Hello, my Angel.” Eric was standing at the door, baby with plushy dragon in arms, grinning like a Cheshire cat.
“Eric – you found it?”
“Yes, we did. It’s all being put back where it belongs as we speak. We found more than we ever expected, too. There’s no telling how long or from whom Victor was stealing, but all that money will be going to my kingdom now and we’ll get things up to speed.”
“That’s great! You’ll have to call…” she caught herself before she said Niall in front of the others.
“Yes, I will, as soon as we get home. Some very important people are going to be very happy about this. We’ll be able to help a lot of people who really need it. How much longer will you be?”
“Me? I’m done for the night, am I not?” Sookie looked to the other women and everyone said she was.
“Excellent. Did you talk to the decorator about your offices here?”
“I mentioned it today. The house is the first priority of course, but she’ll work on this, too. Emily and Alicia will be coordinating it and they all know what I want.”
“Good. And you signed contracts?”
“Purchasing agreements,” she looked at Alicia for confirmation, and she nodded, “for the house for organic produce and meats, and for fresh seafood, and there was a contract for the gardeners at the Prytania Street house.”
“And you set up your calendar for the rest of the year?”
“The major Vampire events, yes, and social engagements for September. I’ll handle October and beyond when we get back.”
“Good. We’ll need to synchronize our calendars tonight. I may have a couple of dates you don’t have yet and I’m sure you’ll have things I don’t.”
“Are you going to put my tea parties and things like that on your calendar?”
“Yes, but in a different colored ink. I need to know what you do during the day so I know when you are under stress or have obligations, but I’ll be able to tell by the color that they don’t require my attendance.”
“Oh – that’s smart.”
He laughed. “Emily and Jasmine, are you going to be able to work with Sookie and Alicia effectively in these rooms?”
“Yes, your majesty, it won’t be any problem at all.” Jasmine assured him.
“Alright now, remember, if a problem arises, the sooner Sookie knows about it, the better. Don’t let things fester and then tell her last minute that something is amiss. She’s a very kind mistress and she can handle almost anything if you give her fair warning. I expect excellent work for her as well as for myself, though, so don’t abuse her kindness.”
“Oh, no, your majesty, we won’t let the Queen down.” Emily said.
“I’m glad to hear it.” Bill called Eric’s attention then and said he could go if he wanted to, that he would finish up and be home later.
“It appears I am done for the evening. Shall we go home?”
“We shall!” Sookie popped up out of the chair behind the old desk and headed around it as Alicia pulled her calendar and the diaper bag together so they could go.
“Emily and Jasmine, thank you so much for your help. I’m looking forward to working with you.” Sookie gave each girl a little hug.
“Oh, it’s our pleasure, your majesty!” Emily said, amazed that the Queen would hug them.
“Have a wonderful and safe trip home, your majesty!” Jasmine said with complete sincerity.
“Oh, thank you. You girls have a good night!” Sookie beamed at them as she grabbed Eric’s arm and gave him a big kiss, then gave the baby a big kiss, too and a little tickle to make him laugh.”
“Don’t forget your gifts in the lounge, your majesty.” Alicia reminded her.
“Oh, yeah, I’ll get those since you’ve got your hands full.” Sookie said as she bounced down to the lounge to retrieve her goodies. She came back with her things, showing Alex the book. “Lookie, Alex – I’ve got your book!”
“Yeah, your book – Daddy can read to you later.”
“Bood, Dadee.” The baby said to Eric, his little hand on his cheek.
“Yes, book. When Mommy goes to sleep and you and I have our quiet time, I will read to you and we’ll learn some new words, OK?”
“Oday,” he said and hugged his dragon with both hands.
“Has he been holding that all night?” Sookie asked Eric.
“Yes, he has. I’m surprised that he likes it so much.”
“Most babies wouldn’t have that kind of focus, would they?” Sookie looked at Alicia.
“No, most babies would give an initial reaction then forget about it until someone brought it to their attention again. I wonder what it is that he likes about it so much?”
“What do you mean?’ Sookie asked as Bjorn led the way to the elevators and pressed the button.
“Well, it could be that he loves the color purple, or that it feels soft, or he likes the shiny wings. I don’t think he could like that it’s a dragon, since he can’t know what a dragon is yet.”
“I wonder?” Sookie said as they all entered the elevator.
Eric didn’t say anything, but he knew it WAS that is was a dragon, and he considered that a very good sign. It meant that the baby had some sort of race memory or instinct that made him a Viking already. He had thought this before when the baby came out of the womb trying to say “víg” but now he was sure of it. His son already had a clear sense of who he was, and what would be required of him. Eric found great comfort in this. He wouldn’t have to teach Alex to be a warrior – he already had the heart of a warrior. The rest was just training and technique.
When they got down to the car, Eric handed the baby to Sookie so she could put him in the car seat, but when she took the dragon from him he let out a piercing shriek that nearly knocked Sookie out it was so loud in the car. Before she could react, Eric yelled, “Alex – NO!”
The baby was so shocked he froze long enough for Sookie to get his belt fastened then she gave him back the toy dragon. Sookie was afraid to say anything, either.
“Sookie – has he behaved this way before?” Eric wasn’t going to let it go.
“That’s what he did when I moved the cheesecake out of his reach.”
“He let out a shriek like that because you said ‘no” to him?”
“Yeah, he’s just a baby…”
“He’s an exceptional baby and that behavior is not going to take root. If he does that again, you tell him no, be firm with him and stand your ground. We’ve been warned that he will be willful. There may be times when doing what we tell him to do will be a matter of life or death. He needs to learn immediately that we will not tolerate tantrums.”
“That wasn’t really a tantrum…”
“That’s as close to a tantrum as he’d better ever get. Am I making myself clear?”
“Yes. I’ll teach him not to scream like that.”
“Good. That would be completely unacceptable if he did that in front of others.”
“He’s always been perfect in front of strangers…” Sookie reminded him.
“Yes, he has,” Eric’s mood lightened, “he was very charming at the office tonight. Even the accountant was taken with him.”
Bjorn laughed to himself.
“What’s that, Bjorn?” Eric asked.
“Yeah, I heard that guy doing baby talk to him. Did he say he had grandkids or something?”
“Yes, he did. He likes babies a lot.” Eric laughed, too. “And people even came up from the offices downstairs to see him. The women were fawning all over him.”
“Just like his daddy,” Sookie laughed. “Hey, Alicia, I know it’s late, but is there any chance I could get something to eat when we get home?”
“Of course, dear – you didn’t have dinner, you know. Bjorn, you must be hungry, too?”
“Yeah, I could definitely eat.”
“I’ll fix us a late supper, unless you’re in a hurry to go to bed…?”
“Sookie should eat,” Eric agreed. “I don’t want her missing meals. She’s still recuperating from the birth and she’s breast-feeding. It wouldn’t be good for either one of them if she went to bed hungry.”
“Do I still seem like I’m “recuperating?”
“Yes” Alicia, Bjorn and Eric said in unison.
“You aren’t quite your normal self yet, Lover. You’re still tired and not quite as bouncy as you normally are.”
“How come I don’t know this?”
“You’re too busy to notice how tired you are,” Alicia told her, “but we’re all aware of it. It’s good you’re going to have a couple of weeks to do nothing.”
“I guess if everybody knows it but me, it’s good that I’ll get some rest. Are we really going to take two weeks off, Eric?”
“You are. I’ll need to work a bit, but I’ll do that when you sleep. I’ve put things in place so I can work via webcam should the need arise. You’re going to do nothing but play in the pool and play with the baby for two weeks.”
“For real? I thought you were kidding – or that something would come up -”
“Two weeks, my Angel. No appointments, nothing but playing in the pool, enjoying the baby, and maybe we’ll make a trip or two to Fangtasia once you’ve rested up a bit. I was looking at the calendar and it occurred to me that you’ve had hardly any rest that didn’t involve taking a sedative for months now, and that’s not really relaxation. I think it will be good for you to sleep late, float in the pool and play with Alex. The two of you have hardly had any time to just play.”
“You know, that’s kind of true. It would be cool to just throw a blanket on the floor in the den and spend some time with him instead of worrying about what time I have to be somewhere.”
“Exactly, and once Niall and Ludwig leave tomorrow night, no company other than Amelia and Octavia because you don’t need to dress up for them.”
“Or Jason, right? He hasn’t seen the baby yet.”
“Yes, of course, my Angel – no need to dress up for him, either. Invite him over for a cook-out at the end of the two weeks if you want, when you’ve had time to relax and unwind. You need to spend some time in some shorts or sweatpants and just be Sookie for a few days. You can go back to being Queen Sookie on August 1st.”
“OK, cool. That’s the Wiccaning thing, right?”
“Right. Your Witches have filled you in on that, yes?”
“Not yet, but I’ll go through that with them between now and then. Maybe I’ll actually get to read a book on my vacation! I’ve got the books Bobbie lent me that I’ve hardly looked at.”
“You may have some rainy days to do just that – there will be a few thunderstorms through the week, according to the weather reports. That’s a good time to relax,” Alicia suggested.
“Cool. Hey, we’re home already!”
“Yes, this house is very convenient to the offices. I could get from one to the other very quickly if I had to for any reason. That’s a very large advantage to it,” Eric agreed.
Once inside, Alicia immediately set about making supper for everyone, who agreed that they’d like to have tacos once Alicia confirmed that all of the ingredients were already in the kitchen. Bobbie took the baby to the downstairs bathroom for a fresh diaper, then Bjorn actually set the table while Eric and Sookie spent some time with the baby in the little tunnel. Bobbie was in the kitchen shredding lettuce while Alicia fried hamburger.
Eric knelt at one end of the tunnel and Sookie was lying at the other end.
“Here Alex,” Eric said to the baby as he was right in front of him, “take this kiss to Mommy,” and he kissed him on the cheek. The baby turned and crawled at normal speed to Sookie and gave her a kiss on the cheek as best he could. Sookie laughed, delighted that Alex was so sweet and smart. She was getting over her worries about him being so advanced. He was too much fun and too lovable to regret anything about him.
“OK, Pookie, take this kiss to Daddy,” she said and planted a kiss with a loud smacking noise on his cheek and he zipped back to Eric and tried to imitate the sound Sookie had made, pressing his mouth to Eric’s cheek and making a “MA!” sound that had both of them cracking up.
“That’s Daddy’s smart boy!” Eric said as he rolled on his back and put the baby up in the air. “Time to fly, Alex!”
“Haa!” The baby squealed with delight as Eric helped him feel as if he was flying, making “swoosh” noises as the baby giggled and squealed. He did the thing where he dropped him, catching him just as he reached his chest and kissing him, then pushing him right back up in the air several times. “When we get to Shreveport, my son, I’m going to take you on your first real flight so you can see the stars. You want to fly with Daddy?”
“Fly!” Eric said as he held the baby up and quickly levitated them high up in the room. “Wave at Mommy!”
“Ah, Mamee!” He waved his little arm as he giggled.
“Hi, Alex! Are you flying with Daddy?”
Sookie loved seeing Eric and the baby having so much fun together. It was obvious that the baby loved this as much as Eric loved showing it to him. She was laughing up at them as Eric sort of rolled over in the air, holding the baby at arm’s length so he made a huge circle and ended back up in the air over him. The baby’s eyes were HUGE and his mouth flew open. What was that? He was beside himself. Sookie and Eric would never know it, but this was what Alex wanted when he cried for Eric. It wasn’t just that he missed Dadee – it was that Dadee wasn’t there to help him fly. It was obvious to Eric and Sookie both, though, that he was having a fantastic time.
Amelia and Octavia arrived just in time for the air show, both of them laughing out loud at the baby’s reaction as Eric turned over giving him another big circle around.
“Ah, Ay-vbee!” Alex waved at Octavia, then looked at Amelia – he didn’t know her name yet, but he waved and said “ah! AH!” and she realized what he was doing so she said “hey, Alex! I’m Amelia!”
Bjorn came in and said, “Alicia’s going to bring dinner in now.”
“OK,” Eric told him, “one more circle and we’re done, Alex. Ready? Fly!” Eric took him around the big circle one more time and then landed standing up and hugged him close, kissing him a bunch of times. The bond between the three of them was positively singing as Eric reached down to Sookie and helped her stand up.
“You ladies are just in time for dinner!” Eric said to Octavia and Amelia.
“We didn’t mean to break up a party!” Octavia joked.
“Oh, no – that was about all he was up for anyway – we don’t want to over-do it, do we, Alex?”
Alex pointed up and said “Fy, Dadee!”
“We were flying but now it’s time to stop. We will fly again soon, alright?”
“Alex – not now. Now is dinnertime. Time to eat.” Eric spoke firmly and looked the baby right in the eye.
“Mamee ee?” Alex pointed to Sookie as she was taking her seat by his high chair
“Yes, Mommy has to eat now.”
“Excuse me, Eric? It’s an hour until midnight. Kerik and I will be leaving for tonight, so I’ll see you all tomorrow.” Bjorn had some tacos wrapped in aluminum foil for the car ride.
“Full moon already?” Eric had lost track, he’d been so busy. He was putting the baby into his high chair as they spoke.
“Yes, but there are good Vampire guards on duty tonight.”
“Alright, then, be safe.”
“Be careful, Bjorn, both of you!” Sookie said as Kerik and Bjorn left.
Alicia and Bobbie came in with the dishes of garnish for the tacos and Bjorn kissed Bobbie on the cheek then headed out. Kerik waved at Amelia and followed him.
“Where do they go around here?” Alicia asked.
“It’s a closely guarded secret, but it’s supposed to be a lot of fun and relatively safe. I think it masquerades as a game preserve or something,” Amelia said. “Some rich Were who’s a big deal on the City Council runs it or donated it or something like that.”
“He owns it but it gets government funding as a game preserve,” Octavia explained, “Wouldn’t the Feds have a fit if they knew it was a place for wolves to run?” She laughed at that.
“Is it… dangerous, when they go out?” Alicia asked as she put taco shells full of meat, lettuce and cheese on everyone’s plates.
“It can be,” Sookie said, “because things have been known to get out of hand when they’re changed, and there can be conflicts and pack wars. Hopefully that won’t be a problem since Bjorn and Kerik aren’t local. I think some of the other guards are locals, though, so they’ll vouch for them.”
“And they have to be there by midnight?” Alicia was fascinated by it all.
“Pretty much. At some point around midnight, they’re turning whether they want to or not, so they’ll make sure to be there before it happens.” Sookie explained as she loaded up her tacos with sour cream and chopped tomatoes.
“What is it like when they change?”
Everybody looked at Sookie, who had the most experience with this.
“There’s a feeling – like they’re shimmering with energy- then suddenly they just are. You can see the transformation take place if you really watch but it happens quickly. I have seen people get injured while partially transformed, though.”
“Are they immortal like Vampires?”
“No, but they live a really long time and they’re hard to kill. They’re much stronger and more energetic than humans. Their endurance is incredible.”
“Hard to kill?”
“Yeah, if you aren’t packing silver bullets, you’re going to have a hard time taking one down. They can kill each other but you could empty a whole gun into one and it might not necessarily stop him if you didn’t hit a major organ. They heal fast – not as fast as Vampires, but faster than humans. You can’t injure them with a punch but a car can stop them pretty effectively. I saw one poor girl get hit by a car once and it wasn’t pretty. She changed back when she got hurt and I had to drive her to the hospital and tell them I found her beside the road with no clothes on.”
“Oh, my god!” Alicia had no idea about all of Sookie’s misadventures with Supes.
“Yeah – she’s alright now, as far as I know. She healed up and was back home, last I heard. Hey, what’s this little saucer with the cheese cubes?”
“Oh, I thought maybe you’d want to let the baby try it if he started wanting what you’re eating.”
“OK, here, Alex, this is cheese. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t like it.”
“Yeah, cheese, see?” Sookie picked up a little square and popped it into her mouth.
The baby picked up a little cube and held it in his mouth with his fingers, half licking, half sucking on it and them, then he took it out and looked at it like he was really concentrating on it. He put it in his other hand and popped it in his mouth the way he had seen Sookie do, then he put his face down to the high chair tray and let it drop out of his mouth, drooling along with it. He picked it up and started to put it in his mouth again but Eric stopped him, “No, that’s enough cheese. We’ll try this when you are older, my son,” he laughed.
Before he could remove the plate, the baby grabbed a chunk of cheese and threw it on the table, “Uh-oh!”
“Alex!” Eric was trying not to laugh. He didn’t want to reinforce that behavior, but he got a kick out of Alex when he got mischievous.
Alicia didn’t say anything but she got up and went into the bathroom around the corner.
“What’d he do?” Sookie asked, starting her third taco.
Eric took a napkin and wiped the baby’s hands and mouth. “He obviously doesn’t like it much – he’s playing with it instead of eating it. It’s one thing to give him food if he likes it, but why risk him choking on something he can do without?”
Alicia came back with a wet washcloth and gave it to Eric, who thanked her and repeated his cleaning efforts with the baby.
“He’s making you sick, isn’t he?” Sookie was trying not to laugh.
“It’s a bit much, yes – that cheese smells disgusting, and he’s got saliva stringing all over his hands and this tray. I know I’ve handled much more disgusting things in my life, but this is my son, and I’d prefer not to see him wallowing in filth this way.”
“OK,” she said, “he really didn’t seem to like it all that much. It’s like he couldn’t decide if it was food or a toy.” Sookie finished up her tacos, because she had a feeling she knew what was coming next.
She was right. “You’re getting hungry, aren’t you, Pookie?” She started to get up, but Eric took the baby out of the high chair and handed him to her, then wiped down the tray. She snuggled him up to her breast and he fed eagerly. “It’s nice to know I’m not obsolete, yet,” she joked.
“He needs you plenty, little girl,” Octavia told her.
“Yeah, I know he does. He’s my buddy – even if he does break up the furniture,” she laughed.
“He what?” Eric said.
“He broke the lamp on your nightstand this morning, but don’t worry, I think we’ve solved the problem.”
“How did he do it?”
“He threw your big pillow off the bed and it took the lamp, clock and all the rest of it with it.” She made a sweeping motion with her arm and laughed. “The first thing I heard this morning was “uh-oh!””
“Do you think he did it on purpose?” Eric was trying to picture that little baby doing that kind of damage.
“I don’t think he meant to break anything, but he wanted that pillow out of his way so he could get off the bed. I barely caught him. Don’t worry, though, the co-sleeper came today so he won’t need to be in bed with me.”
“Alright. Is there a light up there?”
“I took one of the pair in Mr. Compton’s room and put it in there,” Alicia said as she began to gather up dishes.
“Good thinking,” Eric laughed. “And thank you, Alicia – I assume you were the one to clean up his mess?”
“Yes, I didn’t want Mrs. Northman to get out of bed until I had the glass cleaned up.
“Which reminds me, the vacuum cleaner scares the bejeesus out of him. He grabbed onto me, popped fangs and hissed at it.”
“That’s not unreasonable – he didn’t know what it was. He might have been trying to protect you.”
“I never thought of that. I just assumed he wanted me to protect him, but now that you mention it, he could have been protecting me, the way he was hissing at it. I told him it was OK, though and he relaxed.”
“Well, this old lady needs to hit the sack. Thanks for dinner, folks. We still leavin’ tomorrow night?” Octavia said as she picked up her sweater and purse from the end of the table.
“As soon as I awake. I think Bill might be planning to stay here. Sookie, that reminds me – make sure they pack that little tunnel up to take with us. Alex seems to love it, and I enjoy playing with him in it.”
“Will it be hard to pack up?” Sookie wasn’t sure how it worked.
“Not at all,” Bobbie said as she came back from the kitchen for more dishes, “there are a couple of little supports in it that slip out then it folds up like a slinky. I’ll make sure we don’t forget it. Do you want to take any other toys?”
“Let’s take the blue teddy bear, and his dragon – speaking of which, where is it? – and his two books. We’ll leave the blocks here, and the things that attach to the crib. I guess we have to leave his bouncy seat here?”
“I could take it apart, but you’ve got lots of toys at the Shreveport house he hasn’t even seen yet,” Bobbie reminded her.
“True… Good night, Octavia!”
Octavia patted Sookie on the back as she went by.
“I’m going up, too,” Amelia said. “Jerry might come up when he and Bjorn get back so I hope he doesn’t disturb anyone?”
“I’ll probably be up then, so I’ll know to expect him,” Eric said, smiling. “Have a good night, ladies.”
“I think I’m going up, too,” Bobbie said, “so I can wake up when Bjorn gets home. He should be in a good mood then,” she wiggled her eyebrows and Sookie laughed, knowing exactly what she meant – nothing like a little bloodlust to jazz things up in the bedroom.
“Yeah, this house will be rocking for the full moon,” Sookie laughed.
“Speaking of rocking the house, my beautiful wife…”
“Yeah, I’m ready to go up, too. Let me see if Alicia needs any help…”
“No, Sookie, we’re going upstairs.”
Sookie started to object but Eric gave her that look that says don’t even think about contradicting me so she yelled, “Good night, Alicia – thanks for dinner.”
“Good night, dear. See you in the morning.”
“Would you like me to carry the baby, my Angel?”
“No, he’s really eating hard so I’ll hang on to him. Let’s go up.”
Eric put his arm around her and kissed her on the head as they headed for the stairs. Sookie yawned as they started up the stairs, so Eric swept her, baby and all, up into his arms and carried them the rest of the way.
“Ooh, big strong Daddy, huh, Alex? Someday you’ll be big and strong like him won’t you? Yes, you will! You’ll be a big, strong warrior just like your daddy,” she teased him as Eric put them down on the bed with a little bounce. The baby was humming as he ate, his eyes twinkling as Sookie looked into them.
“What do you want to do, my Angel – bath or directly to bed?”
“Bath, so we can all snuggle,” she said as she sat up on the side of the bed.
“You don’t think he’ll be asleep soon?” He was kicking his boots off.
“Hmmm – good point. We already had a shower today, too, so he’s clean until tomorrow.”
“Did you get to take a shower with your beautiful Mommy, my son?”
He pulled away from Sookie’s breast long enough to say “sthowa” then went right back to eating.
“That’s some lucky little boy you’ve got there, Mrs. Northman.” He went into the bathroom
If and came out with a bottle of… something. Sookie didn’t recognize it.
“The luckiest,” she joked. “Look at his Daddy. I’ll bet other people get sick of us being so sweet to each other all the time,” Sookie laughed.
“We do tend to drift into the saccharine now and again, but who cares? We are in love, so why not celebrate that? People in love owe it to those who are lonely to make the most of what they have.”
“Think about it. There are many lonely people in the world, yes?” He was pulling off his shirt as he spoke.
“Yeah, there are.”
“If you were lonely, and you knew people who were in love, would you feel better if they took that for granted or would you feel better knowing that they knew how lucky they were and made the most of it?”
“I never thought of it that way, but now that you mention it, I used to hate girls in high school who had cute boyfriends and treated them like crap. I always wished I had a chance to treat them like they deserved to be treated.”
“Exactly – we should be happy while we can. Life can change in an instant, so we should never take for granted all the gifts we have.” He was down to nothing but his jeans now and Sookie couldn’t believe how gorgeous he was as he knelt down in front of her, slipped her shoes off her feet, and began massaging one of them, smiling up at her with a look that nearly melted her panties.
“That feels really good…”
“Consider this an amuse-bouche , my dear – or should I say an ‘amuse-pied?'”
Sookie cracked up. “So what you’re getting at here is that there’s more to come, and this is just the beginning?”
“Yes, indeed, little one, I’m going to massage every inch of you until you are melting in my hands and then… I’m going to do something you probably can’t pronounce until you pass out.”
“Just don’t forget that we need to exchange blood before we sleep.”
“I would never forget to taste anything so sweet, my Angel.” He kissed the top of her foot and kept rubbing it in that deep, soft way he had that made her bones feel like they were just jelly. She lay back on the bed, baby still suckling, only her feet hanging off the edge of the bed. Eric opened the bottle and squeezed some thick lotion onto his hand, warmed it between his palms, which was hard for a Vampire since they have no body heat, then went back to rubbing her foot very thoroughly, then worked his way up her leg to just below her knee. He took her other foot and rubbed it slowly, just as thoroughly, also up to her knee. Eric looked up and knew the baby was asleep, and Sookie nearly asleep as well, so he gently took the baby from her breast and took him around to the little co-sleeper.
He came back and reached under Sookie’s skirt, pulling down her panties. She let him move her, staying completely still with her eyes closed, knowing all she had to do was let him take over and she’d be a happy, happy girl. He slipped the bottom of her skirt up beneath her, and she let him slip it up, under and over her head, then he picked her up, turned down the bed and laid her lengthwise in the middle of it, gently urging her over on her tummy, her hands folded under her head.
He dropped his jeans and straddled her legs, putting no pressure on her at all, covering her back with lotion in long, luxurious strokes. It felt so good, to just let go of everything, feeling his strong hands on her body, fingers pressing tenderly into her flesh, into her muscles, all her stress just melting away.
Sookie completely lost track of time. She had no idea how long he’d been massaging her – it felt as if it could have been hours, and she may have fallen asleep – it just felt wonderful and endless. His hands worked their way down her arms and gradually back to her neck. He used long, deep strokes to move down her back to her lower cheeks, stroking them lovingly, thumbs pressing into the center of each to help the muscles relax.
He moved down and rubbed the backs of her legs deeply, completely, then he stroked his way back up her body and whispered in her ear, “roll over, sweetheart.” He helped her gently turn over, then began to rub her arms, her shoulders, then breasts, ribs, stomach and back up. He avoided her nipples deliberately, but they were standing at attention anyway. He moved down the front of her legs, taking his time, eventually exerting a gentle pressure so she opened her knees and let him spread them apart.
She was melted butter by the time he began to lick her center, his talented tongue, lips and teeth bringing that area to life even as the rest of her was feeling like she was floating. Her mind was wandering when he began to use his fingers, and it flashed through her mind that she wondered if you could have sex on a waterbed, which made her laugh out loud and she almost thought she felt Eric laugh a little, too, though he kept eating her enthusiastically.
Now she couldn’t be still, though he was trying to hold her legs in place, and she reached above her to grab the bottom of the headboard. Once she got a good hold on it she was able to brace herself and she was really writhing, but Eric kept up with her and before long she was coming hard on his tongue and fingers, trying not to yell out as he drew it out for a long, long time. She finally collapsed into a mass of jelly, out of breath and floating again as he rose up on his knees and raised her hips to him, entering her with a slow, deep stroke and continuing with a very deliberate pace, then gradually taking her harder and faster.
She was holding the bottom of the headboard again. She loved this when all she could do was hold on and wait for the wave to come crashing over her again, and she was thinking about waterbeds again. Eric laughed out loud and leaned forward over her, kissing her hard, moving more slowly, but really hitting the right spot now, eliciting an “uh, uh, uh” from her every time he hit home.
“I love you, Sookie – you are so funny,” he said as he nuzzled her neck, “I’m trying so hard to drive you wild and you’re thinking about waterbeds. I swear, when we get to Shreveport, I’m going to buy one and put it in the basement there so we can try it, ah, ah, ahhhhhh!” He reached an intense release, and the slamming and growling he did at the end pushed Sookie into another as well.
He collapsed on top of her, both of them laughing, Eric smoothing her hair back and kissing her face and neck. After a minute he laid his head on her shoulder and she ran her nails gently up and down his back. She could feel through the bond that he was content and happy, so she didn’t say anything, she just scratched his back and kissed his head. When they were both leveling out a little, she whispered, “Eric, roll over on your back,” and he did. She stroked him firmly to bring him back, then straddled him and lowered herself onto his erection. She took control of the movement, the two of them joining hands, entwining fingers, Sookie bracing herself that way and really bearing down.
Eric smiled to himself as she threw her head back and ground away on him. He couldn’t believe how strong her internal muscles were now. He had known Vampiresses that couldn’t produce that kind of “grip.” He wondered what sex would be like once he turned her – would she be even stronger then, or was she near Vampire strength now? He didn’t have much time to dwell on it because she began to moan and growled “feed me” as she gave him a look he had never seen on her before – she looked positively predatory as she leaned forward and braced her hands on his chest as he bit his wrist. He held it to her mouth, then bit the wrist she offered him and let himself feel the full brunt of the Faerie blood, which was not as strong as before, but strong enough to make him feel high and intensify the orgasm he had as they “completed the circuit” and were surrounded by a swirl of purple energy.
Sookie went wild as she came, slamming herself downward with such force Eric was afraid she would injure herself, so Eric broke the circuit by pulling his wrist from her, releasing hers and sweeping her down and under him as they finished.
When they were calmer, Eric actually checked her with his fingers to make sure she wasn’t bleeding.
“Eric, what are you doing?”
“I was afraid you might have injured yourself. Are you in any pain?”
“No, I feel fantastic.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah – why are you so worried?”
“You have never been that wild before, Sweetheart. I just want to be sure you didn’t over do it.”
“No way – it was awesome,” she laughed and then yawned.
“Time for you to sleep, my Angel.”
“Yeah, I think you’re right. Hold me a while?”
“Of course I will.” He moved to the side and pulled her close. “I’m going to check you again before I sleep to make sure you aren’t hurt.”
“OK, but I’ll probably sleep through it,” she yawned again and snuggled up to him.
He held her close for almost an hour, his arm stretched across her so he could rest his hand on the baby’s belly. This was heaven, listening to Sookie and the baby breathe, feeling the subtle but very real cloud of energy that surrounded them when they were together this way.
Eric reached across Sookie and pulled the baby into his arms, giving him a kiss and saying, “hello, my son. Time for our quiet time.”
He got the bottle he brought upstairs with them and popped it into the warmer on the dresser and grabbed the baby’s new book off the side table while they waited. The baby had his little head resting on Eric’s shoulder and Eric spoke to him softly as he got the bottle from the warmer, then the baby made his “come here” motion toward the side table and Eric realized he had spotted the purple dragon, so he retrieved it for him. He quietly closed the door behind them so that the light wouldn’t disturb Sookie, and they headed to the little sitting area upstairs.
Eric settled them into the chair he used every night and turned on the reading lamp.
“Which would you prefer first, Alex – read the book or eat?”
“Alright, we will read first. I suppose the bottle will stay warm a while. I might have to have Alicia put a warmer out here for us to use until your nursery is set up. So, let’s see now – My First 100 Words, Bright Baby. Hmm – this is not a story, my son, it is a book of pictures and their names, so you have to see the pages.”
Eric adjusted the baby and his dragon in his arms so he had a good view of the book, and he opened it to the first pages, which were “Colors” and “Things that Go.” Eric thought those were too advanced, but the third page had “Bathtime” and “Bedtime” and he thought the baby might know some of those words. Before he even began to point at pictures and say the words, the baby pointed to the top middle of the third page and said, “pish!”
“Very good, Alex! That is a fish!”
“Bood!” He pointed to the outer top corner of the fourth page, which showed a little boy reading a book.
“Yes, that’s a book! Now, what is this?” Eric pointed to a picture of a lamp to the left of the Book picture.
“Yes, that’s a lamp like the one you broke this morning. Can you say lamp?”
“Pretty close,” Eric laughed.
“Seep.” He pointed to the middle square, which showed a boy with his head on a pillow.
“Yes, that boy is sleeping – it’s bedtime.”
“Sleeping, that’s right.”
“Yes, Mommy is sleeping.”
Alex pointed to the bottom of the other page, to a picture of a little boy in a bathtub with suds on his head. “Sthowa!”
“That’s very close to a shower. He’s taking a bath. Can you say ‘bath?'”
“Baff…” he pointed to the baby in the center picture who had his hands on his head like he was washing his hair, “wada,” and patted his own head.
“Yes, he’s washing his hair in the water.”
“Omba!” the baby pointed toward the front door and Eric heard the key in the door and Bjorn came up the stairs while Jerry went back to the elevator.
“Hello, Bjorn! Have a good run?” Eric smiled, looking very content with his son in his arms.
“Very – reading his new book?”
“In a manner of speaking. It’s just pictures and words, but it’s surprising how many he already knows.”
The baby motioned to Bjorn then pointed at the book, “sthowa.”
“Shower? Yeah, you took a shower with your Mommy this morning, didn’t you?” Bjorn laughed.
“Yeah, you like the water! Maybe Mommy will take you in the pool again tomorrow – you liked that the other day, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, remember you were in the pool splashing Bobbie?”
“‘Pasheen’ Bahbee,” he giggled. “Oo-hoo!” he tried to make the “whoo” sound Sookie had made, raising his eyebrows and making the cutest face.
“Yeah, that’s the noise Mommy made when she dunked you.”
“When did all of this happen?”
“Yesterday when you told Sookie to play in the pool all day.”
“She took him in the pool?”
“Yeah, he loved it. You should have seen his face when she’d bend her knees and dunk him in the water. His eyes were huge, like he couldn’t believe how good it felt.”
“I had no idea…”
“OK, time to eat.” Eric put the book down, picked up the bottle and shifted the baby so he could take the bottle. “I feel as if I am missing out on things,” Eric said a little sadly.
“You know, Bobbie and I were talking – maybe you should get a video camera? Between me, Bobbie, Amelia, Octavia, even Kerik, we could video some of this stuff for you.”
“I considered that early on, but the baby came so early I never got to it. I think you’re right. I’ll get a good camera and you can all work together to make sure I don’t miss all these things. I feel as if he learns so much just while I sleep.”
“He’s so smart – he picks up on things really fast.”
“Yes, he is very smart,” Eric looked at the baby affectionately.
“Well, I think I’m going to turn in…”
“Yes, I think Bobbie went to bed early so you could wake her when you got home.”
“Awesome. Good night – nite-nite, Alex!”
“Na-na, Borhd!” The baby waved at him and then went back to his bottle.
Eric looked at the baby carefully as he fed, and he kissed his little hand when he reached up to pat Eric’s cheek. He did want to remember this and the baby was changing so rapidly, he knew he’d better get on with it. There was no way he could have anticipated that the baby would advance so rapidly in only a week, but now that he knew this to be the case, he would act decisively. He would leave a message for Alicia and ask her to purchase a very good video camera as soon as possible, and to buy Sookie a digital camera while she was at it, because the one he had ordered for Sookie still hadn’t arrived.
The baby finished his bottle and Eric snuggled him up with his head on his shoulder, rubbing his little back as he yawned and buried his face in Eric’s neck, playing with his long hair as Eric rocked him gently. When the baby was sleeping soundly, Eric took him back in the room and tucked him into the co-sleeper with his little dragon next to him, then he wrote Sookie a note, called Alicia’s service, checked in with Sandy, and said goodnight to Bill as he came in from the office. He checked to make sure Sookie wasn’t bleeding or in pain, kissed her lips, then went to rest for the day thinking about the things he wanted to do when they got home to Shreveport.