LATE Chapter 081

…Magick is afoot!

 

Eric lay on the cool floor thinking about what he needed and wanted to do next. He could go up and watch Sookie and Alex sleep, and maybe wake Sookie up for more sex, but he had things he should do. As much as he intended to spend his whole night with her, their uninvited visitors earlier were a symptom of a much larger problem. The recon on the New Centurion group was not promising. Garner, the leader of the group, was surrounded day and night by some of the finest warriors in the modern world and he had a security system that rivaled the one Eric just had installed in his home. He would be hard to get to under the best of circumstances.

Their best bet was going to be to get a mole on the inside of the organization. Bjorn would be ideal for that but he had been photographed standing next to Sookie more than once so he was out of the question. He did, however, still have some contacts in the murky world of Intel, and he had made some veiled inquiries of some old colleagues. His feelers had already revealed that Garner was lobbying SEALS and Rangers aggressively to join him for literally 20 times what they were making in the military. Eric could easily top that, but it would be better to have someone who was sympathetic to the Vampire cause, rather than simply selling his services to the highest bidder. He needed loyalty if at all possible.

The two men caught back in the woods today were apparently supposed to establish surveillance on the compound because they had small wireless cameras and listening devices. They had apparently underestimated the level of security Eric had during the daytime. He could not count on them making this mistake again. Their van was at the bottom of a lake in the next county and Eric had had the foresight to be sure that from this point forward, there was no security at the Bayou Bandit alligator farm at night so he could access the alligator pens in a pinch. This wouldn’t be the last time he had to improvise where Jubal Garner’s spies and soldiers were concerned and he well knew that.

The gators had quite a feast on what was left of the two mercenaries after Eric got done getting the information he needed out of them. These men had been trained to withstand torture, but Eric was a lot more adept at it than your average Jihadist, and SEER school or no, there was no way to train a man to withstand what Eric could dish out. He was glad no one had noticed that he had flown back to the house and changed his clothes before he returned to the picnic out back. He had been covered with blood, but he had many pairs of jeans and many Fangtasia t-shirts, so no one had noticed that it wasn’t the same jeans and Fangtasia t-shirt he’d put on when he first arose.

When he was through with the prisoners at the alligator farm, he had dismembered them and thrown them to the gators then he had burned his clothing while he watched to make sure all pieces were consumed. The guards had been warned that he would be flying back to the house and were told to leave the garage door open and not to bother him when he did. He came back naked, showered in the basement, scrubbed the walls and drain of the shower with Oxiclean to hopefully destroy traces of blood (he had read that forensics teams were running into problems when detergents with active oxygen in them had been used in crime scenes,) and put on one of 3 clean outfits he kept stashed in his hidey hole at all times. He dried his hair with a crazy strong hairdryer he kept down there and hoped no one would notice it was freshly washed. He then flew back to where the vans were parked and walked back to the house as if he had never been gone.

He knew Sookie had noticed his hair when he came in but he also knew she would never mention it. She was learning to take these things in stride, as much as was possible, anyway, and she was becoming very disciplined in not reacting in front of others or exploding at him when they were alone. So far, she had managed to develop a tougher core without losing her natural sweetness. He prayed that she never lose it – it was part of what was so special about her.

He counted himself blessed in many ways for having Sookie in his life and he was beyond grateful that she was not afraid of him yet. Now that she could read his thoughts, he believed it was only a matter of time before that changed. He no longer thought she would leave him, though, because he was sure that she wouldn’t do that to Alex. The other baby was a complication he could have lived without, because it was more likely to come between them than bring them together. He would never love another child as he did Alex, no matter how much alike they might be.

Fair or not, Alex was and always would be Eric’s only son. Only Alex had been in Sookie’s womb. Only Alex had responded to Eric’s voice and exchanged feelings with him as he dressed for the evenings. Only Alex cheered him on when he fought or fucked. Only Alex was lying on their bed, bloody and screaming when he disappeared from the birthing room, so that Eric was the first to touch him and to kiss his bloody lips. Only Alex spent some time every night in Eric’s arms, reading books and looking into each other’s eyes. If Sookie succeeded in bringing the other baby home, Eric would try to be fair and to show him love – he just hoped Sookie didn’t hate him when he failed. There was only one Alex and he was all Eric could or would ever want.

He sat up suddenly, feeling Alex reaching out to him in his mind. He moved very quickly to get back up to their room, hoping Alex didn’t wake Sookie. She was going to try to go to Faery again tomorrow night, so she needed as much sleep as she could get. He might dread what would happen if she brought Eric Auberon to live with them, but he still considered it his duty to do everything in his power to help her if that’s what she wanted. Her happiness would always come first for him.

Alex was sucking his thumb, waiting patiently for Eric. It was a little early for him to be up, but Eric had a feeling he was reacting to the turmoil he was feeling. He also realized that Sookie usually fed him about now. He quickly put some clothes on and picked him up, then silently slipped out the door with him. He gave him a fresh diaper and took him down to the kitchen because there were no bottles in the little fridge upstairs. Everyone was still up, sitting around the table chatting about nothing in particular. Margaret had closed the kitchen and gone to bed, but Bobbie was keeping everyone supplied with coffee and tea. Alicia was sitting at the table in a robe, having moved in completely as of this morning.

“Hello, everyone,” Eric greeted them all warmly as he came into the kitchen with Alex in his arms.

“Eric – we wondered what had happened to you,” Bjorn said as if he had no idea.

“I spent some time with Sookie and then did a few things after she fell asleep. Alex was hungry so I thought I’d see about getting him some RM so he won’t wake her.”

“Margaret just made up some bottles for him, but we haven’t had a chance to take any upstairs,” Alicia said, going to the fridge and heating a bottle for Alex. Eric sat at the head of the table and cuddled Alex, who was very quiet for some reason. “She might want to consider expressing some milk so you have options when you need to feed him.”

“That’s not a bad idea – is it difficult for her to do that?” Eric had no idea about breast pumps.

“Not at all. I can help her with that, if you want. It might actually make her more comfortable, though she hasn’t expressed much discomfort from feeding so far,” Bobbie suggested.

“I believe her back is bothering her when she feeds him. I notice she is using that pink pillow a lot now,” Eric had noticed it was beside the bed again. He tested the bottle Alicia handed him and then got Alex settled to drink from it.

“That could be from her chest being so much heavier than she’s used to. If that’s the case, then it probably would help her to do that,” Alicia agreed. “Of course, Alex is gaining weight, too, and she’ll feel more strain as he grows.”

Eric made a mental note to talk to Dr. Ludwig about Sookie breastfeeding the baby and when she would be past things like backaches – an immortal wouldn’t have such complaints, but who knew when Sookie would attain that status?

Amelia came in from the den in a pair of blue short-sleeved pajamas with a tulip print on them. “Hey, Eric – I hope you don’t mind me crashing on your couch in the den…”

“Not at all if it’s necessary – are the bedrooms all full now?”

“Yep, they are. I could drive home tonight if you want me to…”

“No, I’d prefer you stay when you can for Sookie. Those chalets will go up out back soon and this won’t be a problem. I could put a bed upstairs in the meditation room or the gym in the mean time if that would help.”

“Would you like me to order a bed or a roll-away cot in the mean time, sir?” Alicia offered

“Yes, Alicia, why don’t you do that? It never hurts to have an extra bed around,” Eric agreed.

“I’ll get one brought to the house tomorrow if I can find a place that’s open.”

“Thank you.”

“Eric, if I wanted to stay here full time once a chalet is available, what would you do with Sookie’s house?” Amelia was thinking she’d like to be around more since she had a feeling they’d be safer and they’d want to do magick.

“Bill and I discussed having a security firm look after the two houses for the time being, and we’d close them up when no one is staying there. I’ll hire someone to tend the grass and keep the bills in order. Are you leaving your job at Merlotte’s?”

“I will be once I can live here full time. I warned Sam I might not be there much longer.”

“Good. I think you will be much safer here, and I know Sookie loves having you around. She would be devastated if you were hurt while you stayed there.”

“Yeah, I just don’t feel right there since they blew a hole in the front door. Who knows when they might get drunk and stupid enough to try again, you know? I find myself jumping at every little sound now when I’m there alone.”

“Construction on the chalets begins Wednesday and I believe they’ll be livable by the following week.”

“Wow – that fast?”

“Yes, these kits go up very quickly, but they’re very nice. I told them I want them up as quickly as possible and I’m paying them to do exactly that. I thought we’d have Ms. Antoine de Broux decorate them for you, though you can move in as soon as they’re under roof.”

“That sounds fantastic!”

“I’ll engage a mover for you if you like…” Eric offered.

“That’s not necessary – I’ve only got a few things with me. Sookie’s car will more than suffice.”

“Are you still driving it? I would have thought Sookie’s brother had it now?”

“He said he doesn’t really have a place for it right now so he said I could drive it while I’m there. I might leave it there for him after I move here.”

“Is Sookie ever going to sell that house?” Bobbie asked.

“We’ve never discussed it, but I assume not. It has been in her family for many generations, so I doubt she would let it go. I’ll leave it to her, of course, to decide if she wants to do something else with it.”

Alex finished his bottle very quickly and Eric put him up to his shoulder to rub his back so he could burp if he needed to. He patted his back for a few minutes, then said, “I’ll need a couple of bottles to put in the fridge upstairs. He’ll probably need at least one more bottle before I rest.”

“Coming right up,” Bobbie went to the refrigerator because she was getting more iced tea anyway. “Here you go, Eric.”

“Thank you.” Eric smiled at her, “I’m going to take Alex back upstairs and say good night, now.”

Everyone called goodnight and Alex waved and said “na-na” which was as close as he could get to “night-night.” Eric walked slowly back through the house and up the main stairs, Alex laying his little head on his shoulder and nearly asleep by the time Eric got him back up to the bedroom. Eric put the bottles in the fridge and then settled Alex into the co-sleeper. He didn’t feel like working at the moment so he took off his clothes and lay down next to Sookie. He turned the light off and took her hand in his, folding their arms up between them as their fingers were intertwined. He went into down time so he could enjoy the sound of her breathing and the peaceful expression on her face.

Sookie was dreaming. She was on the shore again and the waters were very calm. She walked into the water’s edge and looked into the flat surface of it, surprised to see that she was watching a woman rocking a baby as if it were on a TV screen.

“This is scrying, My Angel.” Freyja was suddenly but gently beside her. “You must learn so You know when to visit him. It will be very easy for You when You are in Our rose-colored room if You burn roses and think of Me. You have the gift of sight – one of many gifts You’ve only begun to discover. You will find Me there whenever You seek Me.”

“Our rose-colored room…” Sookie was saying out loud as she opened her eyes. It was dark but she could see Eric in front of her so she reached up and stroked his cheek. He came out of his down time, took her hand from his cheek and kissed the palm. They automatically moved together, he putting his arm under her head as she raised it for him, she wrapping her arm around his waist.

“What were you saying, my Angel?” he spoke very softly, in case she wasn’t really awake yet.

“She called it “Our rose-colored room.””

“She? You mean Freyja?”

“Yes – She considers the room in the basement Ours, not Mine.”

“Sookie, you must remember that those words mean the same thing where you and She are concerned.”

“See, Eric, in my head, logically, I know what you mean by that but in the front of my brain, I’m still Me and She is still She.”

“It won’t always be that way, my Angel. Soon, “me” and “We” will mean the same thing for you.”

“Do I want that?”

“Yes, my Angel, you do. That will be the point when you can channel Her power when you choose to do so.”

“So I’ll understand what She can and can’t do and I’ll be able to call those powers up when I want to?”

“Yes.”

“That would be pretty handy, especially if we were under attack.”

“Yes, it would.”

“Octavia thinks Alex already can and that it ought to be even easier for me, but there’s something in me that thinks I ought to have to work for it, so I do.”

“I have a feeling that you will make the shift more easily than you expect.”

“Why?”

“Because Freyja’s energy is strong in that room. When you’ve spent some waking time talking with Her, you will realize how similar You are, and it will make more sense to you.”

“How do you know Her energy is strong in that room?”

“I met with Her there earlier.”

“Oh, really?” Sookie didn’t know why, but she didn’t like the sound of that.

“Yes, She was speaking through you and I told Her I needed to speak to Her. She told me to meet Her in the circle in that room and I did.”

“And what did She have to say?”

“That the three of us will always be together as one as long as I meet my challenges.”

“And what might those be?”

“Keeping you alive.”

“Nice – not too ominous, now is it? She couldn’t give you something more positive?”

“It is what it is…”

“What about Aubie?”

“She told me to have faith in Her and to have faith in you and your mother’s heart would tell you what to do.”

“My mother’s heart tells me to do whatever I have to do to get my baby.”

“Then that is what you should do.”

“I know you have doubts, Eric, but he’s our son, too.”

“Sookie, I will do whatever I must do to make you happy. Do not worry about my fears. You and I will handle all of our challenges together, one step at a time.”

“OK, good, I just….”

WAAA-EEEE! Alex was suddenly wailing, so Sookie rolled toward him and took him in her arms. She put him to her breast, though Eric told her he had just fed him RM, and did her best to calm him. Eric didn’t tell her that he knew why Alex was crying – Alex reacted this way whenever Sookie was focused on the other baby.

“He couldn’t be jealous of Aubie, could he?” Sookie had heard Eric’s thought.

“Yes, I believe he is.”

“So he’s aware of him?”

“Yes.”

“And he doesn’t want him?”

“Right. He wants his Mommy and Daddy to himself.”

“But any baby would feel that way at this age. He’ll outgrow that…”

“Human children often do not. Alex is exceptional – he knows who he is and what he wants, and he wants our exclusive attention.”

“You’re going to be mad at me because I forgot to tell you that I talked to Dr. Ludwig about Aubie the other day.”

“Was she here?”

“Yeah, she popped into the den and talked to me.”

“What did she tell you?”

“He’s with a young widow who lost her husband and daughter. She loves him very much and will do everything in her power to keep him safe. I think I got a glimpse of her just now when I dreamt of Freyja. She seemed very fond of him.”

“So she could be hurt if you took him from her?”

“Yes, she could.”

“And she is the only mother he has ever known?”

“Yes, I guess she is. Look, I need to know if I have the option of having him. I also think my feeding him is a good idea because it might give him some immunity to all the things he’s sensitive to. I’m going to proceed as if he’s coming to live with us, but I’ll keep in mind that there are others involved and we’ll do whatever is best for the kids, OK?”

“Yes, my Angel, that sounds reasonable.”

“I was thinking about how he might reflect on you and Alex the other day, as Vampire King and Prince. I’m not sure this would be quite fair, but I was thinking maybe we act as if he’s a cousin? Cousins can look a lot alike and they’ll have enough differences to reinforce that they’re not identical. If he’s able to come out of Faery for short periods of time, at least they could know each other and we could know that he’s alright, don’t you think?”

“That would seem a possible compromise, if his Fae mother was amenable to it. You must be prepared, though, Sookie, she might not want our interference.”

“Yeah, I guess. I know that a Fae baby would be hard for you to explain.”

“There’s no point in expending energy toward a hypothetical situation. Learn your magick and find out what is possible, and then we will act accordingly. We won’t abandon him, no matter what. Even if he cannot leave Faery, we might be able to visit him and see that he is provided for.”

“Niall will see to that, though…”

“Niall might not always be around. When you have honed your skills and discovered what can be done, we will consider approaching the Fae mother and working it all out. I’m sure Dr. Ludwig will act as intermediary if we ask it of her.”

“Ok –oooo-aah-00ooh! Wow, big yawn!” Sookie laughed.

“I think you should sleep now, Dear One. You need to be well-rested to do your magick tomorrow night.”

“I thought we’d take a bath together, though…”

“That would be nice, but I think rest is more important. If you can sleep, you should.”

“OK, then, I will. Alex is asleep,” she said as she moved him back to his little crib.

“I’ll set the monitor and listen for him so he doesn’t wake you later. He and I will have our quiet time and I’ll tuck him in with you before I rest.”

“OK, good. He learns a lot from you, you know. He blew everybody away today naming all those colors you taught him.”

“I enjoy that time with him very much. Before I forget, Bobbie and Alicia mentioned that you might want to consider expressing some breast milk for him for times when we don’t want to wake you.”

“That might not be a bad idea. I don’t really know how to do it…”

“Bobbie said she will assist you.”

“OK, cool. Before you go – you fed from me tonight but I didn’t feed from you.”

“You are right. Turn your back to me and I’ll give you my wrist.”

She rolled over and he spooned up against her, tearing his wrist and letting her feed from him. He held her tight against him as they both had a deep but quiet release. Sookie was very nearly asleep when Eric kissed her and said, “Sweet dreams, my Lover.” Sookie closed her eyes and drifted off in a gentle pink cloud of bliss.

Eric made his nightly calls to Sandy and Bill, both of whom seemed to have things under control. He told Bill about their two uninvited guests via a code they’d worked out so if anyone were listening on the line they’d think they were talking about Kingdom business. Eric was glad he had thought to set this code up with Bill before they left New Orleans. From this point forward, they needed to assume that they were being recorded.

Eric checked his messages and got an important one from Vincent that said Holy War was playing in Dallas this weekend and might be available tomorrow night. Hearing that, he wrote a note to Sookie that he had business to attend to this night and would be gone for a good part of it. He had email from his accountant, several from his various personal businesses and there was paperwork to do for the Kingdom. Before he knew it, it was after 4 am and Alex was awake. He heard “Dadee” over the monitor, Alex knowing that it was their time now. Eric was next to him immediately and swiftly but silently brought him and a bottle out of the room, leaving the note on the dresser for Sookie.

They went into the nursery, and Eric popped the bottle into the warmer.

“Bood, Dadee.” Alex rubbed his little eyes, and pointed to the pile of books on the shelf that came from the Witches’ shopping expedition. Eric looked at a few of them, not really feeling up to making weird noises for Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? Alex pointed to First 100 Words so Eric went back to it.

On the first page, Alex identified two balls and a “wed pish.” On the next, he immediately pointed out a yellow truck that was similar to the bulldozers and said “Una Dastha!” Eric laughed and said, “yes, Uncle Jason drives a yellow truck.”

“Una Dastha dwibes a ewwo dwug,” Alex repeated proudly.

“That’s very good, my son. Remember to tell that to Mommy tomorrow, OK?”

“Oday!”

Eric turned the page and Alex saw many familiar things: “wed pish, peek towa, wath ayr, baf dub, seepeen, bood, and uh-oh, wamp!” Then Eric asked him to show him blue and he quickly pointed out a potty, bathtub, lamp, pajamas and slippers, plus the squares that contained a brush and a teddy bear. Alex pointed to the teddy bear and looked at Eric, “Do-ee?”

“Yes, that’s a toy like your dragon, but this one is a teddy bear.”

“Tay baya?”

“Yes, you probably have a teddy bear around here somewhere.”

“Ware di tay baya doe?’

“Would you like me to find you a bear?”

“OMba!”

Eric laughed and stood up with Alex, laying the book in his chair and they looked around. Eric always laughed to himself out of sheer delight when he saw all the clothes and toys and other things in this room because it was visible proof to him of Sookie’s love and care for his son. Alex looked around with big eyes, too, and Eric said, “This is your room, Alex. Some day you will have this room all to yourself. You can play with any of the toys in here when you want,” he told him as they looked at shelves and piles of toys. When he looked into the crib, Eric found a soft blue teddy bear and pointed to it, “What is that, Alex?”

“Boo tay baya!” He was giggling and waving his little arms, so Eric picked the bear up and gave it to him. Alex squealed and hugged it to him, then gave it a big kiss on its head.

Eric was thrilled to see how excited it made him. “I think you are going to love stuffed animals as much as your Mommy does,” he laughed.

“Mamee seepeen?”

“Yes, Mommy is sleeping. When she wakes up later, you can show her your new bear!”

“Omba, Mamee ma tay baya.”

“Say, “I’m going to show Mommy my new teddy bear.”

“Ahm gowin do chow Mamee ma do tay baya.”

“And you will say, “Lookie, Mommy, I have a teddy bear!”

“Woogie, Mamee, Ah abah tay baya!”

Eric laughed and lifted Alex up over his head, teddy bear and all, and shook him playfully. “That’s very good, Alex. You are a very smart boy!”

“OMba!” Alex giggled.

Eric hugged him close and kissed his head, then Alex said, “badow, Dadee!”

“Bottle? Do you know what is in the bottle?” Eric asked as he reached for it.

“BUD!”

“Yes, blood! Daddy’s little Vampire loves blood!” Eric kissed him again.

“Dadee’s widdo bapaya wuvs bud!” Alex said then took the nipple aggressively, smiling.

Eric was smiling at him so proudly – he felt as if he could burst. He thought briefly of his life before Alex, before Sookie – he never imagined back then that such happiness was possible, and even if it was, it certainly was not for him. He had thought he was too old and jaded to enjoy anything on this level any more. Holding Alex, looking into his eyes as he took his blood, was worth every minute of the thousand years he had to wait for it. Maybe there was more human left in Eric than he had ever believed, because he loved this child fiercely, and he didn’t think that was possible for a Vampire of any age. He wondered if this was an effect of taking Sookie’s blood, to feel love so intensely? If it was, then he would never stop tasting her. He never wanted to lose this feeling. It was very good to be Eric Northman.

When his bottle was finished, Eric held him up to his shoulder and gently patted his back until he burped and began to doze off. Alex loved this best, his head on Daddy’s shoulder, fingers entwined in Daddy’s long, soft hair, the smell of Daddy in his nose and the lingering taste of blood on his tongue. He smiled as he gently fell asleep, snuggled safely on Daddy’s big shoulder. It was very good to be Alex Northman.

Eric smiled to himself, feeling the sense of safety, comfort and love pouring out of Alex. When he had held him as long as he dared, he tucked him and his teddy bear in next to Mommy, then went to rest in the glow of his little boy’s love.

Sookie woke up when a surprisingly sharp baby fingernail scratched her stomach. She opened her eyes to see Alex trying to crawl up on her.

“Good morning, Pookie. Are you trying to come eat?”

“Ee, Mamee,” he gave her a big toothless smile as she pulled him up and got him settled. Sookie said, “Pillow!” and the pink pillow was in her lap, much to Alex’s delight. “Omba, Mamee!”

“Oh, you like that, huh?” Sookie laughed, knowing Alex was proud and amused that she beat him to it. She sat up a little more on the wedge pillow, which she was still using because she thought she breathed better with it, and snuggled Alex as he had his breakfast. She leaned her head back for a bit and dozed as Alex fed, grimacing a bit when he extended his fangs. She had no idea how long she dozed there, but at some point Alex said “woogie, Mamee!” and she opened her eyes to see him pointing at the crib.

“Ah aba boo tay baya, Mamee!”

“You have a blue teddy bear? You sure do! Did Daddy get this out of the crib for you?” She held on to him and leaned over so she could reach it for him.

“Omba, Dadee.”

“Oh, that’s so cool! Isn’t he soft?” She petted the soft, light blue Gund bear as Alex snuggled it close. Alex snuggled with his Mommy and his bear for a few minutes, then he moved to the other breast, never letting teddy go. Sookie helped him settle and leaned back, smiling at him. She could feel that Alex loved his stuffed animals as much as she did. She didn’t know why that made her so happy, but it did. He was such a lovable and loving baby. ‘What Mommy could ask for more!’ she thought, then she darkened as she remembered Aubie, but Alex quickly distracted her by patting her cheek. That always made her melt, and Alex knew it. He loved his Mommy more than anything, except maybe Daddy.

“Well, good morning, you two!” Alicia said as she came in with some laundry.

“Hey, Alicia. How’s it going today?”

“Well, so far, it’s quiet, but it’s early. There’s a little bit of paperwork for you from the New Orleans office and there are a couple of items Ms. Antoine de Broux wanted you to see so you can pick which one you like. Today is the last day for the bulldozers so your brother and his friends will have dinner with us again tonight. I’ve got a platter of salmon ready for you when you’re up to eating.”

“Yum! I’d love that!”

“Sthama?” Alex raised his head.

“Yes, I’ve got some salmon for you, too, Baby E.”

“OMBA, Eesh!”

Sookie and Alicia cracked up at him being so excited about salmon. “Alright, then, I’ll be right back with breakfast for both of you,” Alicia set the laundry down, handed Sookie the note from her dresser and headed to the second floor kitchen.

“Oh, boy, Pookie, we get fish for breakfast!”

“Pish?”

“Yeah, salmon is a fish!”

“Sthama itha pish!”

“Oh, that’s so good! You’re so smart!”

“Ee-ahh!” he giggled and Sookie pulled him up to sit on her waist.

“Are you ready to dance today, Pookie?”

“OMBA!”

Sookie shook him gently, singing “well, shake it up, baby, now – shake it up baby! Twist and Shout! Twist and Shout…” and on and on and Alex cracked up and giggled and drooled because Mommy’s smiles were all his again, like they were every morning. He loved Mommy’s bright light – she shined “peek an ewwo” all around her and made him feel safe and warm. She always smelled sweet, too, like “inthen” and “wosthesth” and she tasted better than anything he’d ever tasted yet, even the stuff Una Dastha let him try then Dadee fed him out by the “poo.”

“Knock, knock! Everybody decent?”

“Ah, Borhd!”

“Hey, Bjorn – come on in, I’m under the covers,” Sookie laughed. “We’re just dancing and singing like we do in the mornings, right, Pookie?”

“Omba, dantheen!” Alex was giggling and Bjorn came in and said “hey, buddy!” and tickled him so he clapped his hands, then walked around the bed and sat at the table where he usually did. He had a big book with him today, which Sookie found odd, but she didn’t know why.

Sookie kept playing with Alex, lifting him up and down above her and kissing him, sort of the way Eric did, but in a softer, smoother way, or as Alex would think of it, in a “Mamee” way. Sookie hugged him to her and patted his bottom, then sat him back up and sang some more while she jiggled him. Bjorn sat watching them with a big smile on his face. That was the luckiest kid in the world as far as he was concerned, and the cutest, too. There was a lot more of Sookie in Alex than she realized, but Bjorn was acutely aware of their similarities.

Alicia came back with Sookie’s breakfast and Bjorn offered to feed Alex so Alicia could finish with Sookie’s and Eric’s wardrobes. Alex liked attention from Bjorn, too, so he was happy to go to him. Bjorn crossed his leg so it was parallel to the floor and put Alex with his back against the knee so he was at an angle but sort of sitting up. He fed him that way, just fascinating Sookie.

“Bjorn, where did you learn to do that?”

“I’ve done it before, caring for younger kids.”

“You have brothers and sisters?” Sookie knew this was a sore point with him, but she knew he wouldn’t yell at her, either.

“Not exactly. There were much younger kids where I grew up. I used to feed them when no one else would do it.”

“Oh, well, that’s good that you were there, then…”

“It was good for the younger ones, yeah.” He wasn’t really paying attention to what he was saying because he was intent on getting the salmon into Alex’s mouth rather than on his face.

“Do you see them very often?”

“I haven’t seen any of them since I was 17. That’s when I went into the Navy.”

“Don’t you miss them?”

Bjorn suddenly realized what he was saying. “The two smallest ones, yeah, but getting in touch with them is out of the question.”

“Don’t you think they miss you?”

“I never thought about it. I left as soon as I could and I never looked back.” His tone indicated that he didn’t want to talk about this.

Sookie opened to listen to Bjorn’s thoughts and realized there was some sort of violence in his childhood he didn’t want to think about so she changed the subject.

“I’m glad you get along with Alex so well. It’s good to have a man he cares about with him in the daytime. I think it keeps him from missing Eric so much.”

“He’s a great kid. There’s no way to not like him. I like to see him with Eric, too. Eric is a perfect father, I think. He’s better than a TV father in a lot of ways, too. The fathers on TV don’t teach their kids how to be warriors. I never saw a father that would hold a baby and read to him the way Eric does. I mean, I guess a lot do, but I’ve never seen it before. He’ll just sit and rock Alex for a long time, even when he’s asleep.”

“Yeah, I’m amazed at how patient he can be with him,” Sookie agreed.

“He told me he wants to remember every minute of his time with Alex because it’s more important to him than he ever imagined.” Bjorn was scraping the last bits of salmon off the sides of the bowl for Alex

“Yeah, I can’t believe how positive he is about the whole thing, but I’m so glad. I couldn’t picture it early on, you know, I was afraid he’d be too stoic or detached the way most Vampires are.”

“I asked him about that,” Bjorn said as he fed Alex the last bite, “and he said Vampires practice being detached because people around them inevitably die, and after hundreds of years, you’d go insane if you let yourself be attached to so many people. It’s like a suit of armor they wear to protect their own sanity. He said he couldn’t stand it when you got to him in spite of him trying to forget about you, and then he said when he saw Alex for the first time, all bets were off. He couldn’t be detached from Alex even if he tried.”

“Yeah, I know. I hope they stay close as Alex grows up. I know fathers and sons can have difficult relationships.”

“Only if the son feels too much pressure or if the son disappoints the father. Alex won’t disappoint Eric. They’re too much alike.”

“Sthama, Mamee!”

“Do you want more salmon, Pookie?”

“Omba!”

“I think Alicia went back downstairs. I don’t know if there’s anymore, but we’ll ask, OK?” She reached for the monitor and Alicia answered. “Alicia, is there more salmon stuff for Alex?”

“Yes, Mrs. Northman, I’ll be up with it directly. Tell him to hold on.”

“OK, Alex, Alicia will bring more but you have to be patient. Talk to Bjorn while you wait.”

“Shtama dood, Bhord!”

“Yeah, salmon’s good. I had some for breakfast, too! It will make you big and strong…”

“Por FIDEEN!”

Sookie and Bjorn cracked up, and Bjorn said, “Yes, for fighting and it makes you smart, too.”

“You know, he wanted to go out back with Eric last night.”

“Is that why you disappeared?”

“Yeah, I barely kept him from flying back there. Any time there’s something like that going on, we need to be very careful that he’s secured some way. Eric is going to talk to him about it if he didn’t already.”

“Good. It would not have been good if he had come out back when…” he stopped himself, thinking that it might not be such a great idea to tell Sookie they had tortured their prisoners for information before they killed them.

“Yeah, believe me, I know. I don’t want him exposed to that so early. I know it’s inevitable, but the later, the better. I don’t want him to be a sociopath.”

“That won’t happen, Sookie – he’s got two loving parents. It takes serious trauma to produce a human who can’t feel empathy.”

“It might not take as much to create a Vampire who can’t though, you know what I mean?”

“Yeah, I do. Not with this kid, though, Sookie. He’s got too much love around him and he’s already tapped into people’s feelings.”

“Good, I want him to stay that way. Is it safe to go out today?”

“It should be. We’ve got extra guards all around and the fences are up. It’s supposed to be sunny – you heading for the pool?”

“Yeah, as soon as Alex and I are done eating. We could both use some fresh air. I feel like I haven’t been in the pool in ages!”

“It’s only been a day or two,” Bjorn laughed.

“Yeah, but still. I feel better when I’ve been in the sunshine.”

Alicia came in with another bowl of salmon mousse. “OK, Baby E, here you go!” she laughed as she handed the bowl to Bjorn.

“OMBA, dayoo, Eesh!”

“You’re quite welcome, sir!” she teased him and he giggled then opened his mouth to let Bjorn know to get on with the feeding. Bjorn laughed and gave him a big bite that made him purr.

Sookie looked at the note from Eric, scowled a bit, then put it in her bottom drawer and finished her breakfast. Bjorn closed his eyes so she could run into the bathroom. Alicia took a bathing suit in to her and then began gathering her sun bathing equipment – books, journal, sunglasses, iPod, suntan oil, etc. – then changed Alex’s diaper and got a plastic cover for him to wear swimming.

By the time they all migrated to the back yard it was after 11:30 and it was sunny and hot. Alex was waving his little arms like crazy saying, “Sthimmeen, sthimmeen!” from the minute Alicia put the diaper cover on him. He knew the plastic pants meant he was going “ina poo!”

As soon as they were out back, Alex flew out of Sookie’s arms and landed in the water. She panicked and jumped in after him with her cover-up still on, only to find him paddling along when she caught up to him. “Alex! Don’t do that! You only come in the water WITH Mommy or Daddy, understand? You don’t go in the water by yourself that way!”

“Did he dive in again?” Bobbie laughed as she took off a white terry cover and headed into the pool, too.

“Again?” Sookie didn’t know he had done this before.

“Yeah, the other night,” Bjorn told her as he settled at his table, “when Eric was flying with him, when he was done he just landed in the water and scared the shit out of all of us. He was fine, though.”

“I forgot about that. How are we going to keep him safe if he does things like that?”

“He’s a Vampire, Sookie. I don’t think you need to worry about him drowning,” Bobbie reminded her as she waded into the pool and Alex swam toward her.

“That’s probably true, but we don’t know for sure so let’s not find out, OK?”

“We’ll watch him, Sookie, don’t worry,” Bjorn was mostly humoring her because he was pretty sure Alex couldn’t actually drown.

“Hey, girls, want some company?” Amelia called as she came out the door in a bathing suit and put a towel on a chair.

“Ah, Ameeah!” Alex yelled as Bobbie was holding him.

“Hi, Punkin’!” Amelia waved at him.

“Hey! Is that Bobbie’s suit?” Sookie asked

“Yeah, I forgot to bring one, but she was kind enough to lend me one.”

“Oh, good! It will be fun with the three of us plus Alex.”

“The four of us plus Alex. Octavia is putting her suit on as we speak,” Bobbie told her.

“Octavia is going to swim? That’s awesome!” Sookie was really glad to hear that. “Hey, how did you guys know I was swimming?”

“Alicia spread the word after she got done in your room,” Bobbie laughed, “and it just so happened that everybody felt like swimming, too. AND… you’re going to start working out today.”

“I can work out?”

“Yep, you’re doing so well, I thought we’d start with some aerobic stuff and some general toning and pretty soon, I’ll have you doing crunches like Bjorn does,” Bobbie teased her.

“How many crunches a day do you do, Bjorn?” Sookie had never thought to ask before.

“I do several types, so altogether, 2000.”

“Two THOUSAND? Holy smoke! Noa  wonder you’re so buff!” Sookie didn’t stop to think that she might not ought to say that in front of Bobbie, but Bobbie didn’t mind.

“You should see how he does push ups, Sookie,” Bobbie bragged.

“Why – what does he do?”

“You know those things on TV that rotate to work your arms better?”

“Yeah…”

“He uses those with his feet up on the bed.”

Amelia whistled as she waded into the pool – that was impressive.

“Wow! You can do that, Bjorn?” Sookie wanted to see him do it, but she didn’t say that.

“Yeah, it’s no big deal.”

“Can you help me get that strong, Bobbie?”

“With you drinking so much of Eric’s blood, yeah, I probably could,” Bobbie said as she pointed Alex at Amelia and let him swim to her.

“Let’s go for it!”

“You want to get that muscled up, Sookie?” Amelia was surprised she’d want that.

“I don’t want big bulky muscles, no, but I’d like to get really strong and in great shape so when I get turned I’ll be buff forever,” she laughed but she was dead serious.

“That’s a good idea!” Bjorn liked this, and he knew Eric would like it, too. “I can tell you some supplements that will help you add muscle in the right places.”

“Yeah, if you’re serious about it, Sookie, there are some amino acids that can help you gain muscle if you take them at the right time. You’d have ridiculously perfect abs if you worked them seriously,” Bobbie agreed. This actually was a really good idea.

“OK, so let’s get serious.”

“You want to start now?”

“Yep – what do I do?”

“The first thing you should do is swim some laps. How many can you do?”

“I hardly ever actually swim, but I could probably do two up, and back.”

“OK, then, give me four, up and back.”

“What about…”

“We’ll play with Alex, Hon, you just do your laps,” Amelia assured her. Sookie was on her second time to the end of the pool when Octavia came out and put her stuff next to Amelia’s.

“Is she actually swimming?” Octavia laughed as she grabbed an air mattress and headed into the pool.

“Yep, she decided she wants to get in really good shape,” Amelia explained as she held Alex up so he could hug Octavia.

“Good morning, little Vampire,” Octavia hugged Alex.

“Dadee’s widdo bapaya wuvs bud!” Alex said proudly, and Octavia, Amelia, Bobbie and Bjorn nearly wailed with laughter.

“Did your Daddy tell you to say that?” Octavia asked him, laughing.

“OMba, Dadee bud!”

“Daddy feeds you blood every night, doesn’t he?” Octavia took him from Amelia for a bit, since he was lighter in the water.

“Omba, bud an bood.”

“Blood and… book?” She thought she understood him, but wasn’t sure.

“Omba, boog!”

“Daddy reads you a book and feeds you blood every night?”

“Ee-ah.”

“You like when Daddy reads to you?”

“Ee-ah! Ah aba boo tay baya.”

Octavia looked at Bobbie and Amelia, who both shrugged.

“You know what that means, Bjorn?”

“No, but you can ask Sookie if she can talk,” he laughed. Sookie was hanging on to the edge of the pool at the end of her fourth time up there, catching her breath.

“Hey, Sookie, what is Alex saying?” Amelia called to her

“Say it to Mommy, boy,” Octavia urged him.

“AH ABA BOO TAY BAYA!” Alex yelled to Sookie, who laughed in spite of being out of breath.

“He’s saying “I have a blue teddy bear.” I guess Eric found it for him last night. It’s his new buddy,” Sookie laughed, partially at herself for being so out of breath.

“DO-EE!” Alex said and instantly had the blue bear, and Octavia barely managed to keep it from getting wet.

“Hang on, child, you don’t want to get him wet!” Octavia told him.

“Sthimmeen.”

“He can’t go swimming with you, Alex. How about you let him keep Bjorn company until you get out of the pool, OK?” Octavia walked to the side of the pool and handed the bear to Bjorn.

“Oday, Borhd.”

“He’ll be right here waiting for you when you come out for your nap, OK, buddy?” Bjorn assured him.

“Ee-ah.”

Sookie had slowly made her way back to the front of the pool by this time.

“Here, Sookie let me check your heart rate,” Bobbie went over to her, “That’s good. Now, while you’re really pumping, let’s go through a work out and we’ll focus on some arms and abs work.”

“OK, what’s first?”

Bobbie worked with Sookie while Octavia sat on one of the steps and let Alex play in the water. Amelia was floating on the mattress Octavia had brought into the pool. Alicia brought out some little pool toys she had picked up for Alex on her last shopping trip and he was delighted with the bright, rainbow colors of the little plastic rings and animals and cups. Octavia had him naming all the colors and he was enjoying showing off for her.

“Here, Bjorn, why don’t you make yourself useful while you’re sitting there,” Alicia teased him, handing him a toy to blow up and setting a glass of sweet tea next to him. Bjorn laughed and blew up the yellow fabric-covered duck, and when he saw what it was he asked her, “what’s this for?”

“It’s a little seat for him. See, he sits in the middle and he can float around.”

“Oh, OK, I guess he’ll like that. Maybe he’ll like to float the way Sookie does.” Bjorn closed the air valve and said, “hey, Octavia, here’s a ride, or float or something for him.”

Octavia took the seat and said, “Here, boy, you want to ride in this ducky for a bit?”

“Wide?”

“Yeah, watch this,” she said to him as she sat him in the middle of it.

“HAAAA!” Alex made his happy sound as she settled him into the seat, just thrilled with his new ducky. “Woogie, Mamee!” he called to Sookie, waving at her to get her attention.

“Wow! What have you got, Pookie?” She had been so intent on her exercises she had missed the conversation between Bjorn, Alicia and Octavia.

“Ewwo duggy!”

“A yellow ducky? Where did you get that?”

“Borhd?” He knew Bjorn had blown it up and given it to Octavia, so he pointed to him.

“Alicia brought it out,” Bjorn told her.

“I got it in town the other day. I thought he might like to float like you do.”

“That’s so cute! Thanks, Alicia! He loves it!” Sookie walked over to Alex to play with him a bit.

“Ah wuv ma duggy, Eesh!” Alex agreed, hugging it’s head and making everyone laugh. He giggled and kicked in the water, knowing he was the center of attention for the moment. Sookie played with him a while, pulling him around the pool, having him paddle to some of the others. Alicia brought the playpen out and set it up, knowing Alex would be getting sleepy soon. Before long, he said, “ee, Mamee,” to Sookie and she scooped him up and headed up to the table where Bjorn was sitting, taking one of the other chairs.

Alicia brought her a gorgeous beige nursing cover with dark pink flowers on it so she didn’t have to worry about other guards being around as she fed Alex outside. By the time he was done eating, he was dozing off, so they took his plastic pants off, gave him a fresh diaper and tucked him into the playpen with his blue teddy bear.

Margaret had lunch ready then, so Sookie ate some grilled chicken and two big servings of Caesar salad, visited with Jason and the boys a bit, then went to float in the pool when they returned to work at the back of the property. They were nearly done, but said they might be back one evening during the week to dig for the plumbing on the chalets.. Bobbie decided to sit with Bjorn a bit and chat, Octavia took a lounge chair to nap in and Amelia needed to call her dad in New Orleans, so Sookie got to just float and think a while.

‘This is so nice!’ she thought to herself. She mused about how much her life had changed in just 67 days – she had counted it up as she floated. She told Eric she was pregnant on Cinco de Mayo and today was only July 12. She felt like it had been years since she first told Eric she was pregnant. She remembered one time Eric told her that time could be manipulated, and he said that he had no doubt Niall could do that. That was before they knew about Freyja, though. She could certainly manipulate time, right? But why? Why did She need for Sookie to move from being a single girl whose biggest problem was what to wear to Eric’s house and how she was going to pay the light bill, to being a Queen with an entourage and a precocious baby who was already talking and calling up his own toys, in just a matter of days? Was it all for Her? For Sookie? For Eric? For someone else – the whole two kingdoms maybe? She sure hoped she’d get a chance to ask Freyja why, and she hoped She’d tell her the truth.

Not that Sookie didn’t love her life the way it was now, but she didn’t want to miss out on any of it. Alex was so advanced that she was afraid he’d be spouting Shakespeare by the time he was 5. She loved that he was bright and funny, but she wanted him to be a baby, too. She thought about the other baby, Aubie, and that dampened her mood. She would see him tonight, Freyja willing, and feed him again. The thought of it made her ache. Her poor little baby, being raised by a stranger, not even knowing Eric existed. She wondered if he’d remember her.

She thought about what Eric had said about the Fae mother not wanting their interference. Surely she’d understand that Sookie needed to have her own baby with her? Or was Sookie being selfish? Aubie wouldn’t be able to play in the pool like Alex could, at least not in the daytime. She wondered when he slept. Was time the same in Faery as it is in the human world? Where exactly was Faery? Is it in Ireland or is it in a different dimension, or what?

Freya had told Sookie she needed to do scrying to know when to go see Aubie. She guessed she shouldn’t go when his mother was there? Maybe it was best to keep it all between him and Sookie for the time being. Sookie was sure Aubie would have some positive effect from her feeding him. She was sure that’s why Freyja told her how to do it as soon as she found out about him.

What exactly was scrying, anyway? She knew she remembered Octavia saying something about it, but she didn’t understand it at the time. She looked around. Bobbie and Bjorn were chatting and she didn’t want to interrupt. Octavia was still napping, but Amelia was coming out the back door. She hoped she was coming back into the pool. Sure enough, Amelia waded back in and grabbed an air mattress.

“Perfect timing,” Sookie laughed.

“Really? What’s up?”

“I have a question for you – what is scrying?”

“It’s a type of divination, like Tarot or crystal gazing. There are a couple of ways to do it.” Amelia explained as she got on the mattress, “some people use a dark bowl of water and some use a scrying mirror, which is usually a concave black glass. It might be painted black or made of naturally black material. You can get other colors, too, but black is most common. We bought you a really nice one.”

“You did?”

“Yeah, it’s on the table downstairs. It’s in a square frame that has Celtic designs around the outside. It’s one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. Octavia picked it out.”

“OK, do I use water with it?”

“You can fill it with water or you can just use it dry. The main thing is the dark surface. You focus your attention on it and sort of relax your mind. It’s hard to explain, but it’s the opposite of concentration. You let it all go and just let the images come to you. Some people get symbols, some see visions or get flashes of reality, some people might hear or smell things, too.”

“I had a dream last night that I was standing in the water on the shore and it was very calm. I looked down into the water and I saw Aubie and his Fae mother just like I was watching them on TV. Freyja said I should do that to know when to visit.”

“Wow – She’s really moving right along with you, kid. That’s great. If I were you, I’d put water in the mirror since you always see Her on the shore and I’d add a little salt. You might be able to zero right in on them, just like you did in your dream.”

“Is that possible?”

“‘Possible’ is a fluid concept in most situations – in your situation, it’s nearly infinite.”

“OK, do I use white salt or black salt? You got me both, right?”

“Right. I’d use white salt to call up the ocean. Black salt has lava in it, so you use it more for the element of fire.”

“Air, Earth, Water, Fire, Spirit – those are the points of the pentacle, right?”

“Right.”

“And I’m working with Water?”

“In your case, since you’re seeing Freya on the shore and She’s known as “shining on the sea,” yeah, I’d stick with water. I’d talk to Her on Fridays and I’d keep roses and rose quartz around for Her.”

“You all got me all those things, right?”

“Right.”

“Do I need to do a full ritual to draw a circle?”

“I don’t think so. It’s good to know how it’s done, but Freyja told you “thrice around, deosil” and it worked for you so you probably just need to do that.”

“Thrice around, deosil – you girls talkin’ about Freyja?” Octavia was stretching as she woke up.

“Yep, Sookie was asking me about scrying. Freyja told her about it.”

“How did She have you do it?”

“I waded into calm water and watched the surface.”

“I suggested she might want to use water with the mirror you got her, and a little salt to call up the ocean.”

“Sounds right to me. She tell you why to use it?”

“To see when it was OK to see Aubie,” Sookie just said it since there was no one around right now that didn’t know.

“She doesn’t want others knowing that you’re visiting him and feeding him.”

“That’s what I thought,” Sookie agreed. “So what’s our next step? Eric has to go out tonight to take care of some crisis at one of his businesses so I’m going to be free all evening.”

“Alright, then, when he goes out we’ll consecrate your tools so they’ll be charged up for your work later on,” Octavia said.

“Hey, Bjorn, what time is it?” Sookie called.

“Almost 4:30.”

“Thanks. Octavia, is there something I could work on now. I feel like I want to get started.

“Sure, you can go in and take a ritual bath. Soak a few minutes and wash, then scrub yourself with salt, anoint your head with van van oil and visualize white light all around you. By the time you’re done with that, Eric will be up and everyone will have dinner. Once he’s out the door, you’ll be ready to work.”

“OK, I can do that.”

“Before you go upstairs, stop down in the basement. There’s a long black tank dress folded on the table. Take it up with you and put it on when you get done with your bath, with nothing under it. No one will notice and it will keep a part of you focused on your work, even while you deal with dinner and all.”

“OK – will it look weird if I wear that in front of people?”

“No, your hair will be wet from the bath and it’s just a little summer dress you threw on. Only you will know the significance of it, and more importantly, the you deep down inside will know the significance of it.”

“Can I wear make-up?”

“If you want.”

“Shouldn’t I do this right before I do magick?”

“Ideally, but you’ve got company, and a husband that needs to see you before he gets out the door, so this is how you’ll do it this time. Remember, we do what works. You’re taking the bath because you’ve got the time. If you didn’t, you’d skip it, but you don’t have to so do it.”

“OK, Alex will be awake soon…”

“We’ll watch Alex while you do your thing, Sookie,” Amelia encouraged her.

“We won’t give him time to miss you – we’ll play with him and let him show off for us – he’ll have a great time,” Octavia assured her.

“OK, so I need the dress, van van oil and salt from downstairs…”

“Right. Go to it. Think about what you need to do – to charge up your tools, to see your baby. Don’t worry about anything else. Get your mind and your energy clear.”

Sookie hopped off the mattress and headed for the steps. “Hey, guys,” she spoke to Bobbie and Bjorn, “I’ve got something I need to do, so I’m going to go in for a bit. You all will keep an eye on Alex, right?”

“Right. Do what you need to do, sugar,” Bobbie smiled, knowing Sookie was going to do some preparations.

Sookie went into the pantry and down the steps to the basement. She went to the back, past Eric’s hidey-hole, which made her smile, and she looked at the things on the table. She found the scrying mirror, which was really pretty, though she didn’t know why they called it a mirror when you couldn’t really see yourself in it. She found the tank dress, which was simple but would be sexy, too, on the table. She smiled to herself that if Eric saw her in it, the way it would flow over her curves, he was going to be sorry he had to leave the house. That thought cheered her up a lot, because she was a little bummed about him going out, though she didn’t know why.

She looked over some other stuff on the table, and noticed a big fat quartz crystal point that almost seemed to throb in her peripheral vision. She picked it up and found that she loved the feel of it in her hand. Octavia had told her that Quartz was an amplifier, so Sookie took it with her to amp up her power a bit.

As she came back up the stairs, she heard Margaret say, “Mrs. Northman,” and as she reached the door of the pantry, Alicia said, “There she is!”

“What’s going on?” Sookie asked, hoping it wasn’t trouble.

“You got a special delivery, Missus,” Margaret said proudly, nodding toward the table, which had a huge arrangement of pink roses on it.

“Wow! Where did those come from?” Sookie was stunned.

“Read the card and find out.” Alicia said as she handed it to Sookie.

Sookie opened the little envelope and looked at the card:

For Sookie, My beautiful Goddess, Love, Eric

“They’re from Eric! Oh, this is so sweet!”

“Is it an anniversary or something?” Alicia asked.

Sookie knew this was for her first official ritual, to take downstairs with her to share with Freyja, but she just said, “Yeah, it sort of is. I can’t believe he thought to do this! How many are there?”

“The delivery man said three dozen. He could barely carry it,” Alicia and Margaret were obviously thrilled for Sookie. “Would you like them up in your bedroom?”

“This is going to sound a little crazy, but I’d like to have them in my pink room in the basement, if there’s a little table or something you can put them on.”

“Oh, well, whatever you want. I think we moved some little tables and such in there earlier, didn’t we, Margaret?”

“Yes, Miss Octavia looked through the storage outside and downstairs and picked a couple of end tables and side tables for that room, and a very nice little writing table and a chair. Leroy took them down early this morning. I’m surprised you didn’t notice when you were down there, Missus.”

“Oh, yeah – I didn’t look into the room, I just needed something off the table outside of it. I’m sure it will fine. Octavia knows what I need down there better than I do.”

“Alright, then I’ll get Leroy to take these down now, if that’s what you want?”

“Actually, if they’re not in the way, could you leave them there and I’ll get Eric to do it? It would mean more that way.”

“Alright, then, we’ll leave them here.”

“Thanks! I’m going to go soak in the tub for a bit, so I’ll see you at dinner time, OK?”

“Alright, Missus. Enjoy your bath.”

Sookie took a big whiff of the roses then bounced on through the living room and up the stairs. Her mood was soaring right now. She knew the flowers were to attract Freyja, but they were for her, too, and she loved them. Besides, Eric thought she was Freyja, so really, they were just for her, she laughed. She didn’t even feel like she was missing Eric when she ran the bath because it was like he was there with her. He always was.

Sookie looked at all the bubble bath gels and powders Eric had in the big basket and found one that was rose scented, which was perfect. She stripped and climbed in, washing her hair right away and shaving her legs. She leaned back and relaxed, thinking about the ritual. She was going to charge her tools so they’d work as well as possible for her and she was going to feed Aubie tonight, and if she was very, very lucky or good or whatever, she might get to speak to Freyja directly. Sookie closed her eyes and tried to picture Freyja as she appeared to her in dreams.

In her dreams, Freyja was much taller than Sookie. They had the same color hair, though, and similar eyes, though Freyja’s were bright blue like Eric’s and Alex’s… and Aubie’s. They might look different when they were older, but at the moment, if you put Aubie and Alex next to each other, you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart if Alex didn’t speak. Sookie remembered how it felt when she held Aubie and breastfed him. Would that be possible in the black dress she was supposed to wear? Sookie sat up, leaned over the side of the tub and said “dress” and the folded dress was in her hand. It had a low scoop neck, so it wouldn’t be a problem to pull it down to feed Aubie. Good. Now, Aubie’s eyes – she wondered if they sparkled like Eric’s and Alex’s when he was excited? She didn’t even know how he smiled or laughed. She knew he was warm, unlike Alex and he had a certain softness when he looked in her eyes that was different from Alex’s… what was the word? Intensity, maybe, or confidence? Alex was cute, but Aubie seemed sweet, if that made any sense. She was trying hard to act as if she was handling this, but knowing she had a child who wasn’t with her was hell. She started to cry, but berated herself and got focused on clearing her energy and focusing her purpose. Crying wouldn’t bring Aubie to her, but doing her magick well just might.

Sookie closed her eyes and focused on what Amelia had said earlier – it’s the opposite of concentration. She slowed her breathing, cleared her mind and she felt energy swirling around her. It was almost like the energy she and Eric generated together but not as intense – it didn’t have as much electricity in it. It was more of a gentle current than a whirlpool. After a few minutes, she realized that the pure white energy was expanding and contracting in time with her breath and it was huge – it easily encompassed the property and more. She pictured the property lines and saw them as an invisible wall that no one with harmful intent could penetrate. The energy moved up and down, reaching into the earth and up into the sky in a perfect sheer golden bubble. It flashed in Sookie’s mind that nothing and nobody was getting through this to hurt them and when the thought registered, she said “so mote it be,” and she meant business.

Whoosh! Sookie felt her intention fly out from her, and she knew the Goddess was making it happen. She figured she’d need to reinforce that bubble now and then, but she knew it was there and knowing it gave her a new sense of peace about their new compound. She felt filled with bright, calm energy, so she grabbed the salt, scrubbed the back of her neck and her whole body with it, then took the hand held and let a little bit of salt water from her palm wash over her as she drained the tub. She picked up the van van oil and, remembering the self-blessing ritual, she touched some to her forehead at her third eye, to her lips, between her breasts, just above her clit, the top of each foot, then she put a little on the sole of each foot and in the palm of each hand. She wanted to put lotion on, so she picked one with little fragrance to it and mixed in a little van van oil there, too. It couldn’t hurt, right?

She wrapped a big towel around her and combed her hair out in front of the mirror over the sink, and for a second she almost thought her eyes were sparkling like Eric’s. Wow – wouldn’t that be cool if they did? When she felt comfortably dry, she slipped the black dress over her head, and was very pleased with the way it looked on her in the full-length mirror on the bathroom door. Eric would love this. It was casual and sophisticated and yes, a little Witchy, and she loved it. She felt grown up and sexy and powerful.

She looked at her self closely in the mirror. Her skin was flawless these days, thanks to Eric’s blood, but she wanted to wear some makeup to match the feeling of the dress. She put a lot of black mascara on her lashes and even lined the inside of her eyes with a black kohl pencil that she’d had a long time but never really used, and she put on a deep pink lip gloss that she thought looked really sexy. She left her hair wet and combed back and she couldn’t wait for Eric to see her this way. As a matter of fact, she was pretty sure he was up and down by the pool. Could she sense where he was in the house now? Wow! She knew he could feel that she was thinking about him, too, so she headed down to dinner.

Sure enough, everybody was gathered around picnic tables eating steaks grilled to order, potato salad and corn on the cob. Eric was at the end of their table talking to Octavia and Amelia as Sookie stepped outside. Every man in the place dropped his jaw to the ground when they saw Sookie, even Jason. Wow! Nobody noticed what she was wearing, they just noticed she was gorgeous.

She looked at Eric and smiled as she approached the tables. His fangs were partially down, so she knew he liked it, and she was nearly knocked down by waves of lust pouring out of him toward her. Alex was in his high chair next to Eric, so Sookie bent down to him, “Hi, Sweetie! Have you been having fun?”

“Omba, Mamee, sthimmeen!”

“Oh, did you swim some more?”

“OMba, Ah-mee-ah me sthimmeen!”

“Good evening, my Angel,” Eric couldn’t wait until she finished that conversation before she acknowledged him. It was all he could do not to take her right there in front of everyone. She was all Freyja all over right now, and utterly irresistible. Even Hoyt and Catfish were drooling over her and they’d known her practically all of her life, but they’d never seen her so… so… well, neither one of them could have come up with a word for it, but DAMN!

“Hi, Sweetie! Have you been up long?” She bent to kiss Eric but he held her head down so the kiss lingered longer than she’d intended it to, so she stayed long enough for him to caress her cheek as he spoke.

“Not long at all. You look very ethereal tonight, my Lover. I hear you have plans while I am gone.”

“Oh, thanks, yeah, but I’ll be done by the time you get home, right?”

“Yes, my Angel, I won’t stay gone a minute longer than I have to with you looking like that.” His eyes sparkled at her and her whole body throbbed. She wished they didn’t have to wait until later, but later promised to be a lot of fun if they did. Alicia brought Sookie a rare steak and she sat on the bench of the table next to Eric’s and Alex’s chairs and said hello to everyone. Octavia was tickled to see everyone reacting to Sookie’s power, though none of them could have told you what it was about her that was different. It wasn’t necessarily the sexy long dress or the makeup, but something about her was, as Eric would say, intoxicating. Sookie felt different, too. She wasn’t bouncy tonight, she was more feline in her movements and her mannerisms. She managed to finish her steak and some potato salad before Alex said, “ee, Mamee.”

Sookie didn’t even think about the fact that there were other men around – she just picked Alex up and put him to her breast. Jason and his friends almost died right there, but Alicia rushed over with the pretty cover Sookie had used earlier and that made everyone a little more comfortable. Eric laughed to himself that Sookie was getting so bold with things like that. She was developing a Supe’s attitude toward the body and she was less and less worried about what people thought. Not that he wanted her flashing all these people, but after all, she was feeding her child and women in most cultures would do exactly what she just did with as much ease. He would be much more uncomfortable if her breasts had been fully covered but the rest of her was displayed in a bikini than he was with her pulling out a breast while the rest of her was clothed.

Eric waited until she was done with Alex, then asked if she’d walk him to the car because he needed to go. He helped her stand, saying good night, and thank you, to Jason and the others, adding that Jason should feel free to visit whenever they were home. He put his arm around Sookie and they walked through the house to the garage.

“I took your beautiful flowers downstairs for you earlier.”

“They are gorgeous – thanks so much for thinking of me! I wish you didn’t have to go out tonight,” she told him as he took her in his arms.

“I do, too, my Angel, but this is very important. I talked to Alex and told him I had something very important to do, so I hope he doesn’t cry while I am gone. Believe me, I would not leave if it was avoidable.”

“Where are you going to be?”

“I will drive to Fangtasia, but I’ll be flying from there. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be home well before dawn. Focus on your magick, and by the time you are done, I’ll be home. Bjorn will tend the door while you do your ritual. Octavia, Bobbie and Amelia will entertain Alex once they leave you alone. Let him see you make your preparations and he’ll know that Mommy needs space to work. He knows instinctively what is involved.”

“Yes, he does. OK, I’ll do my thing, then go to bed, but you promise to wake me later, no if’s, and’s or but’s about it, OK?”

“Yes, my darling, I promise.” He suddenly kissed her softly, for a long, long time, and didn’t end it until he felt her knees buckle. He laughed, kissed her on the forehead and got into the car. She waved to him and then went back to her company, who were all getting ready to enjoy some watermelon. Bobbie was cutting some watermelon into tiny pieces so Alex could have it and he was bouncing up and down humming as she fed him. Sookie was smiling to herself about that kiss, refusing to think about where Eric might be going that he couldn’t tell her about.

Once Jason, his friends, and the other workers were on their way, Sookie and her Witches got serious. They took Alex with them, Bobbie grabbing the little bouncer for him to sit in while they set the stage. Once Alex was settled in the corner of the room, Octavia took charge and everyone, especially Alex, hung on her every word.

“OK, now, first thing you need to know about ritual is be polite. You don’t command or summon elements, spirits, or especially Goddesses or gods. You invite them in, then you thank them for their attendance, just as you would an honored guest. Your circle serves two functions – it protects you from negative influences and it makes a welcome space for the friendly spirits to commune with you. Now, first thing we’ve got to do is clean this room. Sookie take this broom,” Octavia handed her an old-fashioned broom of branches that smelled like cinnamon. “They make these of several things, but this one is anointed with cinnamon. What did I tell you about cinnamon?”

“That it’s fiery and it adds “kick” to your spells.”

“Right, now see your circle on the floor – the girls have marked North, East, South and West. Now some Witches start in the North, some in the East. Freya told you East, so we’re gonna do things Her way. Now, this is anisette. It’s sort of a licorice liqueur, which people in these parts think pleases the spirits. Sprinkle a little on your Broom, or Besom as some call it, and start in the East and beat the walls of the room in a clockwise direction.”

Sookie held her thumb over part of the neck of the bottle to keep the flow low so she could sprinkle just a little liqueur on her broom, then beat the walls of the room, sprinkling more at each point of the compass.

“Wow –the air smells like candy!” Sookie observed.

“Right – the spirits like sweets, hence the practice of giving them candy on Samhain night.”

“Ok, what’s next?”

“Walk three times around the room counter clockwise and say this:

Thrice around the Circle’s bound, evil sinks into the ground, no spell nor adverse purpose be not in true accord with me and as I will, so mote it be.

Sookie did as she was told, the Octavia said, “Now, you’re going to set up your altar. That’s that little table over there with the pentagram on it. Bring it into the circle and spread this cloth on it,” she handed Sookie a white cloth.

Sookie did that, and she continued, “Now come out to the table,” so Sookie followed her. “Now, you’re going to need water, which is what I’ve got in this jar, you need a candle for the element of fire, you need incense for the element of air –you can use this little cauldron, you put one of these charcoal disks in it and set it on fire so it catches and turns hot, then you sprinkle incense or herbs on it.”

“Freyja said I should burn roses to see her,”

“OK, so you’ll use this protection incense and when you need to invite Freya in, you throw some of these dried rose petals on it. Now, you still need your earth element which is salt. You also want this little bell to ring when you invite the Goddess, and you’ll ring it three times. You need oil to anoint your candle – this rose oil will do that, and you need your image of the Goddess, which is this statue of Freya we paid a pretty penny for, plus your Athame, then set it all up on your altar so they look good. Take one of these Ho-Hos in with you to eat when you’re done.”

“Ho-Hos?”

“Traditionally you use cakes and ale. You’re going to use Passover wine and Ho-Hos. That’s close enough and besides, the Goddess loves chocolate and sweet red wine.”

Octavia, Bobbie and Amelia helped Sookie carry all the stuff into her room. The statue of Freyja went in the center-back of the altar, which was set in the West quarter. The censer and charcoal disk went in the East position on top of the altar, the candle to the south, the water in the chalice to the west, and a bowl of salt to the north. The bell went to Freyja’s left and the dried roses, scrying mirror, “cake” and bottle of wine sat to the side of the altar.

“OK, next step is to set your altar. First, take these matches – notice they’re wooden matches from a box. I’ve seen Bic lighters explode during rituals so I don’t allow them in my circles.”

“I thought some people didn’t like matches because of the sulphur smell?” Bobbie asked

“I’ll take sulphur over my altar catching fire every time,” Octavia laughed. Take that little disk of charcoal and light the side of it, then blow it out so it glows.”

Sookie lit the disk, finding that it let off little sparks as she did.

“Good, now put it back in that little censer, then sprinkle a bit of that incense on it, saying Blessed Be thou Creature of Air.”

Sookie did and Alex giggled “inthen!” and popped his thumb in his mouth as Sookie smiled at him. When she was done, Octavia told her:

“Take that white handled knife, which is called a Bolline, and carve your name at the bottom of that candle, and Freya’s name at the top,” which Sookie did. “Anoint the candle with rose oil, remember how?”

“Two fingers, middle to the top, middle to the bottom,” Sookie said as she did it.

“Good. Light the candle and say “Blessed be, thou Creature of Fire.” Pour some water in the Chalice and say “Blessed be, thou Creature of Water.” Good. Now, breathe these words into the salt: “Blessed be thou Creature of Earth,” and Sookie repeated the words into the dish of salt.

“OK, Sookie, now I’m going to lead you into opening the circle. I’m keeping this simple and logical so you can remember it. Take the black handled knife, the Athame, and point it down to the edge of the Circle starting in the East. Make three complete circles as you envision energy holding a circle of light all around it and say, “As I cast this circle, I invite the Goddess to my ritual and ask that I be protected from all negative influences, so that only positive energies participate in my work.

Sookie started around the circle and as she began to speak, to everyone’s surprise there was an actual beam of light, like a laser, that lit up the floor where the circle was drawn.

As I cast this circle, I invite the Goddess to my ritual and ask that I be protected from all negative influences, so that only positive energies participate in my work.”

Octavia continued, “Take that fan and open it, then carry that censer with you by the handle and go to the East. Draw a pentagram in the air with the fan, say “I welcome the Air of the East to attend my circle and assist my work,” then open it and wave the smoke about as you move to the South.”

“Then I repeat that at each point with each Element, right?”

“You got it.”

Sookie called the Four Elements as she made the circle, drawing a pentacle at each point:

I welcome the Air of the East to attend my circle and assist my work.

I welcome the Fire of the South, to attend my circle and assist my work.

I welcome the Water of the West, to attend my circle and assist my work.

I welcome the Earth of the North, to attend my circle and assist my work.

When she came all the way back to the starting point, Octavia directed her back to the altar.

“OK, now you’re going to consecrate your tools. You do this normally on the full moon, whenever you feel they need a charge. You use each of the four elements. Take the tip of your Athame and pick up a bit of salt, drop it in the chalice, and do it three times. Stir it counterclockwise and say:

“Water and earth
Where you are cast
No spell nor adverse purpose last

Then sprinkle the salt water on your athame three times.”

Sookie did that, then Octavia told her to pass the blade through the candle’s flame and incense smoke three times as she said:

“Creature of fire
this charge I lay,
no phantom in thy presence stay.”

“Good, Sookie, now face the Goddess, hold the blade up with both hands and repeat:

“By water and fire
I conjure thee

to work my will judiciously

Ban such things as named by me

Swift draw the Good I ask of thee,

My spell is worked and now be done

With Good for All and Harm to None.”

As Sookie repeated that the blade actually glowed and throbbed three times.

“OK, girl, it’s late now. You burn some roses, ring your bell and call on Freya. She’s probably going to take you to that baby again. When you and She are done, thank Her, put some wine in the chalice and open the cake, ask She bless them so that they ground and center you, start in the North and work backwards, counter-clockwise, thanking each direction for attending you. You say “The Circle is open but never broken, For the Good of All and Harming None, My Spell is Cast and My Will is done.” Drink the wine, eat the cake and relax until you feel grounded. Then you’re finished. Can you remember all that?”

“Yeah, I can.”

“OK, I’m going to close this door and send Bjorn down to guard it while you’re occupied. You take your time, remember to be polite and grateful, and we’ll see you when you come upstairs.”

“Blessed be, Sookie,” Amelia added, and Bobbie repeated it as she picked Alex and his bouncer up and the three of them closed the door and went back upstairs.

Sookie sat on her knees and opened the bag of roses, sprinkling them on the charcoal with the incense.

“Freyja, my Goddess, show me the way to see my baby now, today.” She had no idea where that came from as it came out of her mouth, but she picked up the scrying mirror and sprinkled it with the salt water, passed it over the flame and through the smoke then looked into it and it was like a bank of mist parting before her. The Fae Mommy was tucking the baby in, turned out the light and left the room.

“Freyja, if you like the time, take me to that child of mine.”

Sookie was in the room with Aubie. He looked at her and gave her a big smile, and she scooped him up and put him to her breast. The relief she felt was enormous, tears streaming down her face as she talked to him and played with his little hands. At one point, he surprised her by extending his fangs. She tried not to laugh out loud, but she was amused at herself not realizing he would have that in common with Alex. Time must have passed very quickly because she heard Freyja say, “come home now, My Angel,” so Sookie kissed the baby, tucked him in, and by the time she straightened up she was back in her pink room, in front of the altar.

“Freyja, will You talk to me?”

“Of course, My Angel,” She said as She appeared before Sookie in exactly the same dress Sookie was wearing. Sookie felt woozy because Freyja’s face kept turning into her own face and it was unsettling. “Are you beginning to see, now, Sookie? Look in the mirror and speak to Me as Alex will Auberon when they are older.”

“All I have to do to talk to You is look in the mirror?”

“Yes, My Angel.”

“How do I learn to channel Your power?”

“There is no learning for You, My Angel, only doing. Attend to your husband, he is home,” and with that, Freya was gone.

Sookie didn’t know how to feel but she was leaning toward being pissed off. These cryptic messages were getting old. She centered herself, though, asked that the wine and cakes be consecrated, said thanks and good night to Freyja, then the Four Directions, and opened the circle. She poured the saltwater into the censer to douse the incense and then she ate the Ho-Ho and washed it down with the syrup-y sweet wine, which actually gave her a little buzz. She forgot to bring her candle snuffer in, so she licked her fingers and said “Blessed be thou Creature of Fire” as she pinched the flame out. She heard voices outside, knowing it was Eric and Bjorn, so she got up and opened the door.

“My Angel! You are finished?”

“I am finished. Are you?”

“I am.”

“Hey, Bjorn – thanks for watching out for me.”

“Any time, your majesty,” he smiled warmly at her.

“Well, let’s all go upstairs, shall we?” Eric was being lord of the manner again, Sookie laughed to herself.

“We shall. Do I want to know why you smell like smoke?” Sookie answered and asked as Eric pulled her toward the steps and Bjorn followed.

“You do not.”

“OK, then. Can I eat before we go upstairs? I’m starving!” Sookie said, surprised at herself.

“Of course you can, Lover.”

As they all came from the pantry, they saw that the Witches were all waiting in the kitchen, drinking coffee and playing cards. Octavia spoke first.

“Did you thank Her?”

“Yeah, I think so, and I thanked the four directions and I ate the cake and drank the wine and the circle is open but not broken, etc. etc. Is it OK that I ad-libbed here and there?”

“Yeah, if it fit and it worked.”

“It did.”

“Did you see the baby?” Octavia wanted to get to brass tacks.

Sookie looked around, worried and Amelia told her, “Alicia and Margaret already turned in.”

“OK, yeah, I fed him again. He’s got fangs, too!”

“He has?” Eric was pleased to hear that.

“He has, and I think he recognized me because he gave me a big smile when he saw me.”

“OK, then, that’s a successful night. Next time, I want you to literally just do a circle thrice around and see if that works. My guess is, it’s going to be just that easy for you, kid. Now, I’m takin’ these old bones to bed if you don’t need me anymore?”

“Oh, no, that’s great. Thanks so much, Octavia!” Sookie went over and hugged her tight. “Hey, where’s Alex?” Sookie noticed he wasn’t there as Octavia left the room.

“He’s in the den. He went to sleep as soon as we brought him upstairs. I swear, it’s like he knew you were busy so he just went to sleep until you came back,” Bobbie reported. “We expected him to cry since you and Eric were both gone. The only peep out of him was at one point he was dreaming and said “Dadee fideen, but then he stuck his thumb in his mouth and went right back to sleep.”

“I’m glad he didn’t pitch a fit on you guys. I was worried about that.”

“I’ll get him and we can go to bed, too, alright, Sookie?” Eric asked. He was anxious to take a bath.

“Let me eat something and I’ll be right up, OK?”

“Do you want me to wait?”

“Nah, go ahead. I’ll take the elevator up and be there in no time.”

“Alright.” Eric kissed her on the forehead then went into the den and took Alex out of the bouncer, saying good night to everyone as he came back through the kitchen. He didn’t want to get too near anyone because he smelled of gasoline and smoke and he’d rather they not notice.

“I’ll walk up with you, Eric,” Bjorn said and left with him.

Sookie found some steak and potato salad in the fridge and took it to the table. “I can’t believe how hungry I am! You’d think I didn’t have dinner at all!”

“Between the ritual and the breastfeeding, you’re burning tons of calories, Hon,” Amelia reminded her.

“I feel like I’ve run a marathon, though.”

“You’ve been walking between worlds, Sookie,” Bobbie laughed, “that’s a lot further than a marathon.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Sookie laughed.

“So did you speak to Her?”

“Yep, and it was weird because Her face kept morphing into mine.”

Bobbie and Amelia exchanged a knowing look at that, then Amelia asked, “did the scrying work?”

“Yep, right off.” Sookie talked while she wolfed down her food. She couldn’t remember ever being this hungry. “At first, I saw mist or clouds and then they just parted and I saw the Fae woman tuck him into his crib. Next thing I knew, I was next to him and he was smiling up at me.”

“How does it feel when you feed him?” Bobbie asked.

“Overwhelming. I feel such a mix of love and happiness and grief. Leaving him is so hard, I can’t tell you…”

“Did you ask Freyja why it turned out this way?”

“I didn’t get a chance! She has this way of just making some cryptic remark and then She’s gone before you can ask a follow-up. She says all I need to do to talk to Her is look in a mirror like Alex will be able to do with Aubie.”

“Wow – Alex can see Aubie in a mirror?” Amelia never thought of that possibility.

“I guess. I’m going to try to talk to Her in the mirror tonight or tomorrow – whenever I get the chance,” Sookie said and guzzled the rest of her milk. “I better not keep Eric waiting. I’ll see you all in the morning!” Sookie said as she quickly rinsed her dishes and left them in the sink.

As they reached the stairs, Bjorn asked Eric, “You were at Fangtasia?”

“Yes, my car was in the lot out back all night and Vincent and Pam will state that I was in my office all night if necessary, and the computer in my office will show when I logged in and out.”

“Sounds good. I’ll see you tomorrow night,” Bjorn laughed as he continued up to the fourth floor.

Eric tucked Alex into the co-sleeper and stripped immediately, dumping his clothes in the shower and running water on them. He poured shampoo on them and swished them around, then he ran the bath. He poured some Chanel No. 5 bubble bath under the faucet, hoping Sookie would join him.

She came into the bathroom just as he got relaxed.

“Min Vackra Gudinna!”

“Min Make!”

Eric was startled, but he didn’t say anything because he was pretty sure she didn’t know she was speaking Swedish again. She wiggled out of the black dress and Eric held her hand as she stepped into the tub, where she instantly straddled his lap and kissed him hard, which he didn’t expect.

“No magick tonight, just knulla mig!” Sookie said as she lowered herself onto him. Neither of them spoke again for at least an hour. Sookie rode Eric like she’d never done before, with an air of self-assurance that shocked and delighted him. Freyja didn’t come into her as She had with other Lovers, but there was no doubt in his mind now that he was fucking Freyja in all Her glory. If there had been any doubt in his mind before now, She left none there after this night. Sookie was most definitely Freyja. She even did a trick with her internal muscles that Eric remembered only ever feeling about 300 years ago, and he nearly sobbed with relief as he drove his fangs into her shoulder. Sookie’s eyes glowed and sparkled blue in the darkness of the bathroom, and without warning, She sank Her teeth into Eric’s shoulder and repeated the little trick he’d done to Her the night before, using Her teeth and tongue to draw orgasm after orgasm out of him.

Tonight, it was Eric’s turn to wonder if this is what it felt like to die. He was Hers and he had never been more thrilled about that than he was at this moment. Suddenly, a cloud of orange and blue light gripped them, contracted and then exploded.

When Eric regained consciousness, Sookie was spraying cool water gently in his face.

“Since when do Vampires faint?” She asked, happy and pleased with Herself and her beautiful husband.

“I did not faint,” Eric tried to play a little macho but did it poorly because he felt as if he’d been turned inside out. “I was merely resting and enjoying the afterglow.”

“Uh-huh – you were enjoying the afterglow for a good ten minutes with me shaking you and slapping your face trying to wake you up. I was starting to think you were dead for real but I heard Freyja say you were just overwhelmed.”

“I have never been overwhelmed by…”

“by…?” Sookie dared him to finish that sentence.

“Never mind,” he laughed. “I love you, Sookie, so much more than I can ever tell you.”

“You told me pretty good just now,” she laughed. “Sit up and let me wash your hair. It still smells smokey.”

“As you wish, min Vackra Gudinna.”

Sookie laughed because She knew he really meant that and She gave him a long, luxurious shampoo and massaged his scalp, his neck and his back. Something had shifted between Them, something wonderful, and She could feel him surrendering himself to Her more completely than ever before. Not that they weren’t still Sookie and Eric, and all that entailed, but this couple, this Sookie and Eric, shared a much broader, deeper connection than anything Sookie could have conceived of before She felt it. She felt like She was his equal now, in a way, where before She’d only felt like a pet, even after he married Her. They’d still play their kinky games, of course, but She was Eric’s partner now in a new and wonderful way.

They were dried off and heading for bed when Alex woke up and cried for “Mamee,” so She pulled him to Her and the three of Them snuggled while Alex fed. They were all quiet for a long time, but gradually Alex started patting their cheeks and talking a little and they played and had fun for a bit until Alex yawned again and Sookie tucked him back in. She and Eric were lying face to face, whispering to each other when they heard Amelia on the stairs.

“Anybody awake?”

Eric drew the covers over them and said, “Come up, Amelia, we are awake.”

“Hey, sorry to horn in, but I thought you guys might want to watch the news. Steve Newlin is dead.”

“What?” Sookie couldn’t believe it. She hadn’t thought of that bible-thumping maniac for a while but he had tried to kill her more than once, so she wouldn’t be shedding any tears for him. Eric used the remote to raise the TV from the cabinet at the foot of the bed and tuned in the local news. A reporter was standing in front of what was left of the Newlin mansion and stating that “Controversial Minister Steven Newlin and his wife Sara were the apparent victims of a fire believed to be set off as Newlin was building a bomb in the basement of their Dallas home…”

“I guess you don’t have to worry about him and his crazies any more, Sook,” Amelia said, oblivious.

“No, but there will be others. I wish I could feel sorry for him, but I can’t,” She looked right at Eric.

“There’s little doubt why such a man would be building a bomb,” Eric said with absolutely no emotion, settling back with his hand back under his head.

“Yeah,” Sookie said, “no doubt at all.”

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