LATE Chapter 091

 

The Grimoire

Bobbie woke up to see Bjorn, a towel wrapped around his waist, taking a t-shirt out of the dresser.

“Mmmm – nice view!”

He laughed, “I was trying not to wake you up.”

“I wish you didn’t have to leave yet,” she said wistfully as she hugged her pillow.

“Yeah, me, too, but I need to get down there and relieve Jerry.”

“At least you’re getting to sleep in a little longer now.”

“Yeah, it’s nice not to have to get up so early. It’s easier to get my work-outs in before I have to start.”

“I’m going to work out before I get my shower, and I’ll be down in a bit.”

“No hurry. I hope she’ll sleep a long time. I might even put the TV on.”

“I wonder if the boys woke up yet?”

“I wonder – we’ll have to try to distract her today if they didn’t. She’ll be a wreck.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet. So did I miss anything good while I was gone.”

Bjorn laughed as he was pulling on his white briefs, “yes, you missed a trip to Fangtasia.”

“What? When?”

“Monday – they had to meet with the Ancient Pythoness and decided to have some fun.”

“Oooh – sounds yummy. Did you get any?”

“Yep.”

Her eyes bugged, “You DID? Details, I want details!”

He was pulling his jeans on as he spoke. “OK, well, Amelia was in the bomb shelter with the babies, and I was standing my post up at Eric’s desk, but Eric left the door open so I knew something was up. At one point, when she was almost out of her head, he said she was getting a reward and told her to call me to join them.”

“And she went for it?”

“Yep, I was down those steps in a heartbeat.”

“You lucky shit!”

“You have no idea. When I got there, he had her impaled in her back entrance, sitting on the edge of the bed, and he told me to take her from the front.”

“Two at once?”

“Yeah, and she loved it.”

“I’ll bet – was she as good as he says?”

“Unreal – he’s right about her being warmer than other women, too.”

“I had a feeling that would be true. Do anything else?”

“Yeah, he sat in his big chair and watched while I tied her down and did her, then I did her doggie style as she faced him, then at one point he said “that’s enough for tonight” and I grabbed my clothes and ran upstairs,” he laughed.

“You think they’ll do it again?”

“I’m pretty sure he’s planning to have me and you both join them at some point.”

“I hope so. You think she’ll go for it again?”

“Yeah, I do. She hasn’t shown any embarrassment at all since then – she’s perfectly natural around me and I noticed she doesn’t bother to cover up around me anymore. She’s fine with it. She was worried how you’d feel about it, I think, but I told her you knew what was up.”

“That’s sweet, but I’ve been waiting for this since they hired me,” Bobbie laughed, “especially since I saw that round bed. I hope he doesn’t wait too long for a four way.”

“I don’t think he will. He was pretty pleased with her and she didn’t give him any reason not to do it again. He seems to be gradually introducing her to discipline and I got the idea from a conversation we had the other day that he wants us to show her what’s up.”

“I’m always up for Master Eric, believe me!”

Bjorn laughed as he put his wallet in his pocket, “yeah, he knows that. Trust me, it won’t be long.”

“Yuuuh – meee!” she giggled as he bent to kiss her, gave her a wink and headed down to the third floor.

Jerry was sitting at the table waiting for him. “Good morning, Bjorn”

“Hey, Jerry. Everything quiet?” He looked into the playpen where the babies were tucked in with their toys.

Jerry came around the bed and looked at them, too. “Yeah, the Princes haven’t moved. It’s going to be a long day when she wakes up. Alicia’s not handling it too well, either.”

“Yeah, it will be a long day for them if the boys don’t wake up soon.”

“You think this will last until sunset?”

“Probably. You going to get some sleep now?”

“No, I’m headed to my apartment to let the movers in, and we’ll be back this afternoon.”

“Oh, yeah – you and Amelia are setting up house! Are you excited?” Bjorn kidded him.

“Actually, I am. I can use the money I won’t be paying for rent anymore, the King gave me a raise since I’m here 24 hours, and the chalet is gorgeous even though the decorator hasn’t been here yet. Did you hear him say he might extend the parking?”

“Yeah, he was talking about that. He’s not sure if he wants to build another garage or just pay for us to store our cars somewhere nearby.”

“I think he’ll decide to build. There’s a ton of room out back. He can get a kit that will go up even easier than the chalets and have all our cars under roof. He’s very focused on making the compound self-contained.”

“Yeah, he is, and I don’t blame him.”

“Neither do I. I can’t believe we’ve gone this long without some kind of assault from New Centurion. We’re on borrowed time as it is.”

“Yeah, I know. My guess is that they’re doing additional research since those guys never reported back. I just hope they don’t get wind of the Wiccaning.”

“Me, too. I think the one thing that might work in our favor there is that they don’t seem to be plugged in to the Supe community.”

“Let’s hope they stay that way. The less they know, the better.”

“That was right before our Revelation, too – they’re probably trying to figure out if there are Weres on our team.”

“Luckily they still don’t know about daemons. That’s a big advantage.”

“True, and you know they have no idea about the Fae. Then we’ve got the Secret Weapon, too.”

Bjorn tried to laugh quietly and looked at Sookie to make sure she wasn’t awake. “She doesn’t know we call her that, does she?”

“I’m not going to tell her,” Jerry tried not to laugh.

“Yeah, after she took out Cullach the other night, there’s no telling what she could do if we were under attack. I’m pretty sure she’s better than an army if we can just get her to remember to use her powers.”

“What are we going to do to develop that?”

“We’re going to drill her on things. There probably won’t be much of a moon tonight, but as soon as there’s even a sliver, I want her in that pool shifting. Eric’s going to start the sword training this week. I think we need to exercise her telekinesis, too, and see if she can materialize anything.”

“I never thought of that – you think she can?”

“Honestly, Jerry, at this point, I think she could do anything she wanted. Everything she’s done so far has been so effortless, I don’t think she’s tapped into but a fraction her powers. Look at all that energy she raises when they have sex – can you imagine if her kids were in harm’s way? Look at what she did to Cullach – that MF never knew what hit him. Octavia said she couldn’t even imagine the kind of power it would take to do all she did that night, and she didn’t even think about it or make a plan – she just did it on impulse.”

“Hey, do you think she can command the elements?”

“That’s a good question. We should write out a list of what she might be able to do and test her.”

“When’s the meeting with the Daemon Master? Couldn’t they come up with a better title for that?”

Bjorn laughed, “I know – it’s a daemon thing, apparently. Probably tonight if he shows up. He’s coordinating with Vincent and he said he’d come for a security meeting as soon as he can. Did you put him on your speed dial?”

“Yeah, I did. He reports to you now, right?”

“Yeah, I’m considered Vincent’s second in command now, even above the captain of the guard. The captain of the guard and the Daemon Master are parallel positions, then each is in charge of the troops below them.”

“Am I still considered a regular guard?”

“No, you’re my second as the Queen’s guard– that’s in everyone’s morning briefing. If I’m not around, you’re number one on the compound.”

“Thanks for giving me the promotion.”

“It was the logical thing to do. Between the two of us, we should be able to cover all daylight hours, then Eric covers the dark hours – that’s 24 hour coverage for the Queen and the Princes, and that’s the goal.”

Meow! The kitten came prancing up the stairs talking to itself and walked between Bjorn and Jerry to the playpen. It looked up at them expectantly, as if to say “well, are you going to put me in there or what?”

Bjorn picked the little black cat up, scratched it behind the ears and put it in the pen where it curled up at the boys’ feet.

“How did that thing get out of the pen?” Bjorn asked

“It jumped out on its own about 7. I guess it didn’t want to jump back in on top of the Princes. Did they ever figure out what it is? It’s not a normal cat, right?”

“Dr. Ludwig says it’s a Pooka.”

“Oh, OK, I’ve heard of those. They’re Shape Shifters, right?”

“Yeah, but they usually have a preferred form. She said this one is a cat most of the time, but she might decide to be something else if need be.”

“She’s a familiar for Alex?”

“Or a protector – we aren’t sure yet. She might be here for Sookie, too, but she seems to stick right with Alex. If nothing else, she taught him to shape shift.”

“Yeah, that was quite a surprise. The Queen nearly fainted,” Jerry tried not to laugh, remembering how Sookie looked that first time Alex became a kitten and chased Erin.

“Yeah, that was a trip. I didn’t know what to think – I just tried to chase them and they went different ways. What a day that was. Were you in there when Eric went in to get Alex and there were two kittens in the playpen?”

“No, what did he do?”

“He was in shock for a while. I don’t think it ever occurred to him that Alex would be able to shift. You know how Vamps are about that…”

“Yeah, I do. He knows it’s an advantage, though, right?”

“Yeah, once he got used to the idea. I think Alex turning into a merbaby when Sookie was showing off went a long way toward making him accept it.”

“That was hysterical. I’m glad I was there for that.”

“Me, too.”

“Well, I’m going to head out – have a good day.”

“Thanks, Jerry. Good luck with your move.”

Bjorn went over to the side table and sat in his usual chair. He figured Sookie was dreaming because he could see her eyelids fluttering. He hoped she’d sleep really late today, so she didn’t worry about the boys.

Sookie was standing on the shore in the dawn light. She could feel that it was early, and a little chilly, and she was wearing nothing but her black ritual dress. The sand was damp beneath her feet. She could see the ship in the distance, the giant dragon’s head lit by the emerging sunlight.

“Come to me, Sookie,” she heard Freyja’s voice all around her, and instantly took to the air as a huge bird of prey. She soared into the sky, then zig zagged through the air to the huge ship where something was shining on the deck. As she touched down next to the dragon’s head and rose up into herself, she saw Freyja, in her red robe and cape of feathers, laughing and clapping her hands.

“Excellent, My Angel! You are learning to fly very well.”

“Thanks. Are my babies alright?”

“Yes, of course, Dear One! They’re only resting. Use the Dark Moon to spend time with Our husband and to study Your magick. You can’t cast on those nights, but You can learn. Are You ready to study?”

“Study?”

“Come with Me, My Angel.” Freyja led Sookie down a steep flight of stairs and Sookie had a feeling that they weren’t in the bowels of a ship anymore because the walls in the hallway were made of stone and there were torches lit on the walls. At the end of the steps was a short corridor, and at the end of it a pair of huge doors. Freyja hesitated in front of the doors and they opened outward to Them. Sookie recognized the white and gold room as Niall’s chamber where She threw Cullach’s head at him.

“My Goddess – why are We at Niall’s house?!”

“This palace is Yours, My Angel, and everything in it. Niall is but a caretaker who presumes too much. Come.” Freyja motioned to a table in front of a fireplace, where a large chair sat before the biggest book Sookie had ever seen, sitting on a stand right in front of it.

“This is Your Book of Shadows, My Angel, handed down from 13 generations before you. Sit here and read all you can.” And with a wave of Her delicate hand a large hourglass with golden sand appeared on the table. “When the last grain has fallen, close Your eyes, and say “trygg i min säng ” three times. That will always take You home, no matter where You are.”

“”Trygg i min säng “” Sookie repeated.

“Very good. Remember it, Titania.”

Titania? Did Freyja make a mistake? She was Sookie. Can a Goddess make a mistake? If she and Titania were the same person, why couldn’t she remember it?

“Remember!” Freyja’s voice rang in her head and in her ears and she saw herself clearly as Titania, sitting at this table and writing in this book. Sookie’s eyes flew open and she noticed that the sand was quickly pouring to the bottom of the glass so she opened the huge book and began to read. The first pages seemed to be family history so she decided to skim through the book first and see what was in there. The pages were carefully written and illustrated for the most part but there were some that had cross-throughs and little notes between the lines and in the margins. There was a family tree, stories of her ancestors, a section on herbs and their properties, planets and some charts of some sort, a list of types of Fairies and daemons with numbers behind the names. There were stories of heroic battles and grand romances. There were pages that talked about souls, ghosts, Vampires, Weres, and Shifters; how to attend a birth; ceremonies to mark death; cures for illnesses and some other sections she didn’t understand, then the back of the book was spells. When Sookie found that section, she felt like she hit the Mother Lode. She flipped quickly through the pages, trying to remember what all was there, noticing that there were blank pages at the very back of the book and the last pages with writing were done in what she was sure was Titania’s hand. She was almost too excited to read when she came on a page with a beautiful ink drawing of Eric!

“Time to come home, My Angel” rang Freyja’s voice as the last golden grain fell.

“But, I…”

“Say it now, Sookie, quickly!”

“Trygg i min säng, trygg i min säng, trygg i min säng.”

Sookie opened her eyes and found that she was “safe in her bed” once again.

“Bjorn are you here?” She was too exhausted to move.

“Yes, your majesty, I’m right here.”

“Have I been saying anything?”

“You called out for Eric a minute ago. Did you have a bad dream?”

“No, but I know I was doing something about him or around him… Is my journal over there?”

“I don’t see it, but your tote bag is here – want me to look for it?”

“Please, and a bring a pen with it if you find it?”

“OK, yeah, here it is. And there’s a pen in here, too.”

Sookie could barely lift her arm as she reached to take the journal from him. “Why am I so tired? What time is it?”

“Almost 3:00.”

“Why didn’t Alex or Aubie wake me up? Where are they?” Suddenly Sookie remembered about the Dark Moon and sat straight up. “Oh, My Goddess! They didn’t wake up?”

“Don’t panic, Sookie, we knew this was a possibility,” he tried to calm her as she scrambled to get out of bed and over to the playpen.

“Oh, my poor babies!” She had barely enough strength to lift Alex as she picked him up and moved him to Eric’s side of the bed. Aubie was lighter, of course, but it was still a struggle. The kitten jumped up on the side of the playpen then down on the carpet and up on the bed. “Hey, Erin,” Sookie petted her a few times then crawled up on the bed below the boys and up to her usual spot. She snuggled under the covers and pulled the boys close, Aubie closest to her and Alex on the outside, but both of them close and in her arms. She kissed them both and cooed at them, smoothing their hair and trying not to cry.

“Don’t cry, Sookie, it’s just a few hours to sundown. Call Alicia to bring you some breakfast and by the time you eat and get ready to meet with the caterers, Eric will be up and the boys will be wanting you.”

“Where’s Bobbie? And Amelia and Octavia?”

“Octavia went to the movies,”

“She did?”

“Yeah and Bobbie is helping Jerry and Amelia move into the chalet.”

“That’s today?”

“Yes, they’re living there as of today. I think they slept there last night, but the truck came to get Kerik’s stuff today so he’s out of his apartment now.”

“That’s cool. I won’t feel so bad about him coming in so early.”

“Yeah, starting later is working out great for me. I get a good workout in every morning, and he works out at night when he wants to, which is not that often,” Bjorn laughed.

“Bobbie doesn’t mind you getting out of bed that early?”

“By the time she wakes up, I’m done and back in bed, or in the shower. If she’s awake, she works out, too.”

“You go back to bed after you worked out? How do you sleep?”

“When I go back to bed while I’m pumped, sleep is not the goal, Sweetheart.” He wiggled his eyebrows at Sookie and she actually laughed. That’s more than he thought he’d get out of her under the circumstances.

Sookie used the monitor to call down to Alicia, who was on her way up with a rare steak and blueberry pancakes in just a few minutes.

“Good morning, sleepy head,” Alicia was trying to be positive, though she was almost as upset about the boys as Sookie.

“‘Morning, Alicia. I guess you haven’t had a lot to do today…”

“Well, I got caught up on a few things, and I had a lot of packages to open. I’ll need you to try on some clothes later on.”

“Clothes?”

“Yes, some things I ordered from the internet. If there’s anything you don’t like or that doesn’t fit, we’ll send it back. I’m trying to get you ready for all your activities coming up over the next couple of months.”

“I hadn’t even thought about that. Every opening and every party is a new dress…”

“Well, we can rotate some of them to be worn more than once, but some of the bigger events, yes, we’ll need a different dress for each one. I’ve got a list of your planned activities and we’ll make sure there are a couple of extra in case of emergency.”

Sookie laughed, “I never thought I’d need emergency formal wear.”

“You’re going to be very busy. There’s the opening on the 25th in Dallas, then the Wiccaning on the first, then 7 more openings in August…”

“What?”

“That’s right, and 4 in September, plus a Vampire ball in Chicago and several afternoon functions while you’re in New Orleans the second time…”

“HUH?”

“You haven’t seen your calendar since Mr. Northman updated it, have you?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“We’ll have to go over it, then. Mr. Northman put quite a few new activities on it and it’s quite full. You’re going to be on the road every weekend through the end of September, if you’re going to travel with him.”

“Not traveling with him is not an option. We all stay together.”

“Do you think he would mind if I used the gym to prepare your wardrobe? It would be nice if I had a clothing rack to hang things on and a place to set up luggage.”

“Bjorn, there’s room up there, right?”

“Yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“It was either that or the basement…” Alicia continued.

“No, it’s way too damp in the basement to have expensive clothes down there. I don’t think we’ll be in Eric’s way too much upstairs,” Sookie said. “If he can drag us all over the country, we can use his sword room for a bit.”

“OK, well you finish your breakfast and I’ll get your calendar so you can look at it. If it’s alright, I’ll go ahead and take the clothing you need to try on upstairs and then when the packages come in I’ll just have the screeners take them on up there. Will that disturb you and Bobbie, Bjorn?”

“Not at all. Do the girls have a copy of the itinerary?”

“Well, I’ve got the list of events, so once Sookie sees it, I’ll make copies for them and they can decide what they need to wear. Mr. Northman’s tailor is coming to the house tomorrow and he wants you and Jerry to have fittings for formal wear as well.”

“He does?” Bjorn was surprised by that.

“We’re going to be so busy that he wants you two to have two tuxes you can rotate between, and three suits. Pull out what you would take with you and he’ll want it to be checked for fit. The other guards will be in uniform, I guess.”

“I knew about the uniforms but I didn’t know he cared what Jerry and I wear.”

“He just wants to make things more convenient for you,” Alicia assured him.

“He doesn’t want you to have to think about clothes, I’ll bet. Then you can focus on security,” Sookie said. “That’s a part of taking care of us.”

“That makes sense. Did he get confirmation on the plane?” Alicia asked.

“Yes, I believe he did and they’ve got it at least through October, with an option to buy.”

“Buy? A PLANE?” Sookie hadn’t heard this.

“Yes, he’s got a private plane just for our use reserved and he’s got the option to buy it if he wants to.”

“We need a plane?”

“Yes, we do,” Bjorn laughed, “We’ve got 30 people, plus or minus a couple, to move from point A to point B – there’s no way to arrange all that for that many events using commercial flights. Some weekends have two or three openings. Our own plane is the only way to do that. It’s also much safer since Eric will have to travel during the day so often.”

“Oh, shit – I just realized – we need clothes for two babies, too!” Sookie was feeling overwhelmed already.

“You won’t need a lot, but we’ll have some nice outfits for them to wear to clubs and balls and such. If you want, you could do a little on line shopping for them, but I’ve ordered some things for them already,” Alicia told her. “Speaking of which, how do you feel about matching outfits?”

“It’s not necessary all the time, but I love that so I do want some cute sets that match for them. They need little shoes and we should probably have little jackets for them, just in case, too. How are we going to do all of this? Is it always going to be this way?”

“No, Dear, it will probably never be as busy as the next three months will be again. It’s the club openings that are putting the crunch on us.”

“Great.” Sookie wasn’t that wild about the clubs to begin with…

“Remember, Sookie, 13 kick ass parties. Pretty dresses, champagne and caviar, and making Eric look like the luckiest King who ever walked the earth. You’ll have fun,” Bjorn reminded her.

“Where will the babies be?”

“In your private suite in each building.”

“We have a private suite in each club?”

“Yep, and they’ve already got double-sized cribs in them. He’s got you covered, Sweetheart, all you have to do is show up and smile, have a drink, have a dance, charm a wealthy Vamp or two and make your way to the penthouse after.”

“Who’ll be with the babies?”

“Margaret and I,” Alicia started, “those special new guards and regular guards and Octavia, Amelia, Jerry, Bobbie and Bjorn will all rotate to give you time to do what you need to do, then you can make it an early night and get ready for the next party.”

“Yeah – hey, I can’t even drink champagne because I’m breast feeding.”

“You can have one or two – you wouldn’t drink more than that anyway, would you?” Alicia asked her

“No, I wouldn’t – I didn’t know I was allowed any drinks at all?”

“Breastfeeding mom’s are able to have a little wine now and then – you had wine all during your pregnancy, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I did, now and then.”

“As a matter of fact, starting tonight, you get red wine with your dinner every night except the nights we go out,” Alicia told her.

“Is that part of the new diet?”

“Yes, it is. You get dark chocolate every day, too.”

“Yum – that’s my kind of diet,” she laughed.

“OK, I’m going to move the clothes and get your calendar. Don’t panic. It’s going to be fine,” Alicia said affectionately.

When Alicia left the room, Sookie asked Bjorn, “does Alicia understand what kind of clubs these are?”

“No, she’ll never need to know.”

“How are we going to keep her from knowing.”

“Everyone is under orders to be very discrete. She and Margaret will probably only ever see the private suites and the people who deliver room service.”

Sookie finished up her steak and was swirling a fork full of blueberry pancakes in syrup as she thought out loud. “I have to step up for this. I’m whining too much.”

Bjorn didn’t know if she was talking to him or to herself so he didn’t say anything.

“I have to get out of this habit. I have to stop acting like it’s all too much for me. Eric is counting on me, and there’s nothing here I can’t handle. I’ve got all the help anyone could want, and all the blessings I can imagine. I’m supposed to be a Goddess, for heaven’s sake and I’m complaining about going to parties? People would kill to have my problems.”

Bjorn was just smiling at her when she looked over at him. “You got anything to add?”

“You’re doing just fine on your own, Sookie.”

“Yeah. It’s habit, isn’t it? Eric said that to me before – that I pitch a fit, then I rise to the occasion. I’ve got to stop pitching the fits and take things in stride. I need to learn to roll with it.”

“I had a buddy in the Marines that called it ‘surfing.’ You just ride the wave, wherever it takes you.”

“Surfing. Yeah. Can you surf?”

“Yeah, I’d done it a few times. Eric can surf, you know?”

“He can? That figures – he can do everything else.”

“Yeah.”

“Maybe we can surf when we all go to Mexico?”

“That would be fun. Have you ever tried?”

“No, I’ve never been anywhere it was possible. If I can fly, though, I bet I can surf!” She brightened as the idea dawned on her for the first time. “Hey, what’s the weather like today?”

“It’s overcast but hot. You want to go out?”

“No, not without the boys. I should probably get in the shower and try on those clothes.”

“That’s a good idea. You’ll probably get done right when Alicia is ready for you if you start now.”

“OK, I’m going. Watch the boys, please,” Sookie got up naked and walked down to the end of the bed on her knees then went into the bathroom, never acknowledging or recognizing that she hadn’t even thought to cover herself in front of Bjorn.

“Yes, ma’am!” Bjorn was happy he was in the room by himself when that happened, because he didn’t know if he could handle seeing that in front of Alicia. DAMN, she was hot. This Sookie Syndrome was just never going to go away.

Alicia came back for her tray, laid out a nursing dress for Sookie to wear, pulled a couple of boxes of shoes and several dresses out of the closet and left the calendar for her to look at. Sookie came out in a towel and lay on the bed, looking through the pages of the calendar, completely unconcerned about Bjorn being in the room when her towel slipped. “Wow – there’s one weekend where we’re going to be in Philly, New York and Atlantic City on Friday, Saturday and Sunday!”

“They’re all relatively close to each other, so with our own plane, we’ll have plenty of time to relax in each place.”

“And we really have a suite in each club?”

“Yep, with places for our entire entourage plus guest suites if Eric needs to entertain.”

“They sound like hotels.”

“In a way, they are – they have rooms people can stay or live in and they have party rooms within them. Some regents and important Vamps will stay there instead of in hotels when they travel.”

“That seems so expensive for us to have rooms just for us.”

“These are crazy expensive clubs. Only the richest Vamps are even invited and they pay a lot to get in. Eric considers having places to stay for all of us cost effective. Think about it – one suite probably costs what 2 or 3 nights in a Vampire hotel would cost. It won’t take many trips to make that a cost saver, and he wants to be sure we all have places to stay in the major cities for when he needs to visit there.”

“Is that going to be a frequent thing?”

“It might be, depending on our security needs.”

“You mean where the war is concerned?”

“Yeah, if we have a place to go, we aren’t at the mercy of what’s available at hotels. It’s no different than keeping a villa in Las Vegas, really.”

“Are you sure the other regents are all behind him?”

“There are a couple who are dragging their feet, but they’ll change their minds if New Centurion decides to get serious. If their defense contracts get pulled, they could be back here with a lot of time on their hands and nothing better to do than harass Supes.”

“Why can’t people just get along?” she said, exasperated at the thought of being under constant threat.

“I don’t know, but they don’t.”

“Ugh!” she dropped the calendar on the bed and stood up, taking the dress and a thong into the bathroom with her and putting them on. She put on a bit of makeup and she and Bjorn headed upstairs with the babies in two little bouncer-rocker seats that could sit on the floor while Mommy tried on dresses. The kitten was hot at their heels and quickly found a beam of sunlight coming in one of the gym windows to curl up and nap in.

Alicia had a rolling clothing rack already set up in the gym, and there were several boxes on the table that normally sat against the wall down under the swords. Bjorn and Sookie got the babies settled next to each other and then he went to wait in the hallway so Sookie could change clothes.

“Alright,” Alicia had her list at the ready, “we need up to 13 dresses for the club openings, probably a formal dress for the Wiccaning, the Vampire ball and the NOMA fundraiser. There’s an afternoon engagement at the Tea Room at the zoo, there’s a charity luncheon for the hospital, a cocktail party, then we need at least one extra formal, one party dress and some every day clothing. ”

“OK, lets see what you’ve got here,” Sookie started with the Bergdorf-Goodman boxes and the first thing she pulled out was a ball gown by Carolina Herrera in shades of deep purple, light blue, orange and red flowers. “I love this! Do you think the strapless would work on me, though?”

“You’d be amazed what we can do with a strapless bra and some wardrobe tape,” Alicia laughed as she looked through the boxes for the new, larger strapless bra she got her.

“Tape?” Sookie asked as Alicia helped her into the bra.

“Yep – trust me. Try it on and let’s see if you want to keep it.”

Sookie wiggled out of her dress and Alicia unzipped the ball gown, then helped her step into it. “The colors are amazing!”

“They’re very unusual for a ball gown. Slip these shoes on and twirl in front of the mirror over there and see if you think you’d want to dance in it.”

Sookie let Alicia help her with the jeweled, high-heeled sandals then twirled a few times in front of the mirror making the very full skirt fly out to its full potential. “I love this. It’s a keeper!”

“OK, one down,” Alicia said happily. She had a feeling Sookie would love that one. They were still trying on dresses hours later when the boys started crying at almost the same instant.

“Mamee!” Alex wailed as Aubie cried “Mmamma!” The kitten jumped up and rushed over to Alex, meowing eagerly.

“Thank Goddess!” Sookie dropped the pink ruffled dress she was about to try on and was on her knees talking to the boys, kissing them and trying to get the harnesses on the little bouncers they were in unlatched. “My Sweeties! I’m so glad you’re awake! Yeah, Mommy’s glad to see you awake!”

Alicia was trying not to cry from relief. She had been nearly as worried as Sookie. Bjorn was standing his post in the hallway about to bust, he was so happy.

“Sookie?” Eric came in the door in a rush, feeling the panic in the boys as they awoke confused and fussy.

“Eric! They’re awake! They’re OK!” Sookie had tears streaming down her face as she kissed the boys and stroked their little faces, cooing at them. Eric helped her get them both into her arms so she could cuddle them, then knelt next to them stroking the boys’ backs and heads. “They’re hungry, Eric! Help me get this bra off.”

Eric unhooked the back of the bra she was wearing, and Sookie shifted around as she could to move from her knees to sitting on the floor “Indian style,” which wasn’t easy with both boys in her arms but she did it. She managed to get the boys situated at each breast and they fed voraciously. “Here, Sweetie, take these shoes off of me,” Sookie tried to move each foot so he could unbuckle the straps and he managed to get them off of her so she was a little more comfortable as she sat on the floor.

Once she was settled for the moment, Eric looked around, noticing Sookie was wearing next to nothing and that the gym was full of clothes. “What are you doing in here?”

Sookie was too tickled and focused on talking to the boys to answer, so he looked to Alicia who said, “We needed a place to open packages and try on clothing for your travels. I hope you don’t mind if we use your gym for a bit?”

“That’s fine. I know you have a lot of preparations to make. Is she finding some nice things?”

“Oh, yes!” Sookie said between kissing the boys’ heads, finally paying attention, “She got me some gorgeous things.”

“She hasn’t tried all of them on yet,” Alicia explained, “and there are some more that should arrive this week. She had a few she bought a while back that will work, too.”

“Alicia – show him that ball gown!”

Alicia held up the purple print gown so Eric could see it.

“That is very unusual,” Eric nodded with approval.

“Isn’t it pretty? It looks good on me, too, doesn’t it, Alicia?”

“Gorgeous. It looks like it was made for her. I thought it would be a good choice for the NOMA fundraiser in September.”

“Yes, it’s very lovely. I’m sure she’ll be the prettiest girl in the room,” Eric smiled and kissed her. Aubie giggled as he fed and Eric tickled his ear. After about 20 minutes, Aubie reached for Eric, saying “nnDaa!” and Eric took him from Sookie for a few minutes.

“How is my little elf today?” Eric hugged him and kissed him. Aubie laughed and said, “Dada!” as Eric tickled him a little and then held him up over his head, shaking him a bit and making animal noises. Alex was laughing as he fed, enjoying the feelings of delight Aubie was pouring into the bond as Eric played with him. “Obee wyg Dadee!” he laughed then went back to Sookie’s breast. It was at least ten more minutes before Alex got done feeding, and Aubie was ready to go back to Sookie, so they traded babies and Eric played with Alex while Sookie snuggled Aubie.

“So, Alicia, there are more to try on?” Sookie asked as she hugged Aubie to herself.

“Yes, a few more, but we can do that tomorrow if you want. I’m sure Margaret has dinner ready by now.”

“Yeah, I am kind of hungry.”

“Alright then, we know we’re keeping the ones you’ve already tried, so I’ll hang them up and we’ll see about the others tomorrow,” Alicia planned as she began to organize the packages still left.

Sookie sat Aubie back in his bouncer for a minute while she tried to get back into the nursing dress she had worn upstairs. Alex was flying around the room turning loops in the air so Eric came back and helped her stand.

“I’ve never seen this dress before, Sookie.”

“Yeah, it’s not the sexiest thing I own but it makes feeding the babies easier.”

“Not sexy perhaps, but sweet. The purple color is very becoming.”

“Thanks,” she reached up and kissed him as he wrapped his arms around her. “You might be seeing it a lot as we travel because it’s really comfortable.”

“I take it you had a long day today?”

“I tried not to think about the fact that the boys weren’t awake but it was so quiet without them, wasn’t it, Alicia?”

“Yes, I hardly knew what to do with myself not needing to feed or change them. I’m very glad they’re back to normal,” she agreed.

“Well, this will probably be a monthly thing so plan for it. Use those days to catch up on things and know that they’re only resting. As odd as it may seem, that rest is good for them, I’m sure,” Eric said.

“Ware di Mahdwid doe?” Alex asked as he hung in the air in front of Eric and Sookie.

“Margaret is downstairs fixing dinner. Would you like to go eat?” Eric said to him.

“Eeah, ee dinder!”

“I can’t believe he’s still hungry!” Sookie said with surprise.

“Ahm undwy, Mamee, Mahdwid.”

“You want some solid food, don’t you, Sweetheart,” Alicia cooed at him as she finished for the evening.

“Eeah! Pood!”

Everyone, including Bjorn in the hallway, cracked up at that. Alex flew into Eric’s arms as Sookie picked up Aubie and everyone headed for the elevator. Bobbie, Amelia and Jerry were already at the table and Margaret and Carrie were dishing up lamb chops, fried potatoes and gravy, peas and biscuits as the others entered the kitchen.

“Mr. Northman! I was just going to send one of the girls to look for you all. Is everything alright?” Margaret was obviously pleased to see them.

“Yes, Margaret, everything is fine. The boys wanted to breastfeed when they woke up, but now Alex is asking for “dinder,”” Eric laughed.

“EEah, Mahdwid, pood, pweezth!” Alex reached for her and patted her cheek.

“Food? Well, you get settled in your chair, Darlin’, and I’ll bring you some dinner straightaway.”

“Dayoo!” Alex clapped his hands and giggled.

Bjorn had pulled the highchairs out of the pantry and was setting them up next to Eric’s chair at the head of the table.

ZZIIIIZZZZZ! ZZIIIIIIZZZZ went the little food processor that Margaret was using to chop vegetables for Alex, which made him jump and pop his fangs while Aubie calmly looked around to see what the noise was.

“It’s alright, Alex, that’s just a… what is that thing, exactly?” Eric asked

“It’s a food processor, Sweetie,” Sookie stroked Alex’s cheek. “Margaret uses that to make dinner.”

“Dinder?” Alex relaxed a little and snarled as he retracted his fangs.

“Yep, just relax and let Daddy put you in your chair, OK?” Sookie encouraged him

“Oday, Mamee.”

Eric kissed him and settled him into one chair while Sookie put Aubie into the chair closer to her seat and fastened the little safety harness to hold him up. Carrie put a big platter of cucumber spears, tomato slices, and green onions on the table behind them as Bjorn took his seat next to Bobbie and kissed her.

Carrie was back with a warm blood for Eric and two small, warm bottles for the boys, then Margaret brought two little plates for them. Aubie was having turkey gravy and pureed peas, while Alex was having minced lamb chop, pureed peas, mashed fried potatoes, gravy, chopped cucumber and grated fresh carrots.

Aubie wasn’t that anxious to eat, but he was fascinated watching Eric feed Alex. He giggled every time Alex took a bite and he opened his mouth wide when Eric turned to give him a spoonful of turkey gravy. Alex hummed while he ate and bounced his leg and Aubie looked him up and down the whole time. Aubie tried to hum while he ate a bite of peas but he choked just a little, prompting Sookie to fuss over him much more than the situation warranted.

“Jerry, are you and Amelia settled into the Chalet now?” Eric changed the subject so Sookie would relax.

“Yes, your majesty, we’ve got the last of our stuff in there, but we still have unpacking to do. I turned my keys in today.”

“Very good. Amelia has the security firm started at Sookie’s house yet?”

“They’re supposed to start on Monday, but Andy Bellefleur said he’d drive by a few times this weekend just to make sure it’s OK.”

“Alright, that should be sufficient. Bjorn, we have a meeting at 8 o’clock, yes?”

“Yes, your majesty. Crescent Moon Catering is sending two people, and I’m pretty sure Robin Prentiss and at least one other representative from the coven will be here to meet with us. I’d recommend that Jerry and I both attend along with you and the Queen.”

“Alright. Bobbie, you’ll watch the boys, I assume, since Alicia and Margaret will be closing the kitchen and such?”

“Yes, and Amelia will help me.”

“Thank you, Amelia. Where is Octavia tonight?”

“Already in bed. She went to the movies today and went shopping and came home really tired so she’s eating in her room,” Alicia interjected.

“Good, I’m glad she is enjoying herself and doing what she wants.”

“Did she have a good day?” Sookie asked

“Yeah, she had a great time,” Amelia answered. “She’s getting used to having people help her out with things.”

“So one of the guards took her around today?” Sookie was just curious how it all worked out.

“Yes, Lane drove her in your car, your majesty and he said she had a fine time.” Jerry answered her, “She saw a movie, had a late lunch, got some new clothing and a few personal items. He took her anywhere she wanted to go. He said he had fun, too – it was like taking his grandma shopping.”

“Lane is the friendly young guy from Texas, right?” Sookie thought she remembered him.

“Yes, and Octavia said he was very kind and helpful,” Jerry added.

“Oh, good. I’m so glad she did that!”

“She was a little shy about it at first,” Amelia said, “but I told her it would tickle everybody to death if she took a day to do whatever she wanted. She had a blast. I think it’s been a long, long time since she had time, money and transportation to do anything like that.”

“I hope she enjoyed herself, and I hope she won’t hesitate to do it again whenever she wants. I really do consider her family and I want her to be happy here,” Eric said emphatically as he was spooning “beejes” into the babies’ mouths. Aubie’s eyes popped when he tasted peaches, making Eric laugh with delight.

“After dinner I’m going to run upstairs and check on her, OK, Sweetie?” Sookie asked him. “I want to make sure she’s comfortable and has everything she needs.”

“That’s a very good idea, Sookie,” Eric smiled at her and took her hand, raising it to his lips and kissing it. He loved to see her taking on responsibilities that the Lady of the Manor should do. Alicia filled in when need be, but Sookie was learning her roles as hostess and Queen admirably, he thought.

“What are we doing after the meeting?” Sookie asked as she took another lamb chop from the platter

“Did you have anything in mind, Sookie?” Eric asked her

“Well, first, Amelia, when can I see the chalet?” The curiosity was killing Sookie but she hadn’t said anything.

“Give me until tomorrow to make it presentable, OK?”

“OK, the only thing we have to do is make sure we bathe the babies. How we’re going to manage that with two of them, I don’t know, but I guess we’ll figure it out.”

“There are some new supports up in your bathroom, Mrs. Northman, that should help with that,” Alicia told her.

“Oh, OK, thanks for thinking ahead, Alicia!”

“I think it might be a good idea if we all met back here after the meeting and go over the itinerary for the next couple of months as it stands now so we’re all on the same page. You girls especially will want to know what we’re doing since you’ll need formal dress for some of the events. If there’s something you want and can’t afford, by the way, feel free to have Alicia order it for you and I’ll be happy to treat you.”

“Wow!” Bobbie said as Amelia said, “Thanks Eric, that’s very generous.”

“I want us all to have fun on our travels. We’ll be very busy, to be sure, but we’ll be in very glamorous parties and events and we should all enjoy ourselves as much as possible. There should be enough of us that no one is stressed about baby care and Sookie should be able to have some fun as well as represent the Kingdom.”

“And I’m going to try not to whine so much and take things more in stride, so if I start, remind me that I said this and keep me on track, OK, y’all?” Sookie figured that was the best way to break her habit.

Everyone laughed and agreed to that as Eric beamed at her.

“Alright, it’s a quarter to eight, everyone,” Eric said when Alicia caught his eye and tapped her watch. “Let’s plan to meet back here at 9:30. Attendance is optional, but greatly appreciated. Let’s get Amelia and Bobbie set up in the den with the boys and Bjorn, you and Jerry can watch for our guests and turn the lights on in the dining room, please. We’ll meet in there.”

“I’m going to run up and check on Octavia, Sweetie,” Sookie said as she kissed each baby on the head and ran to the stairs.

Bobbie and Amelia each took a baby and headed for the den, where Alex requested “dee bee” and “bosth” as soon as they were out of the kitchen. The wooden bouncer was still down there, so they put Aubie in it where he could watch Alex and then Alex and the kitty did their thing with the dino full of plastic balls. Aubie giggled and kicked with glee watching Alex, even if he didn’t know what was going on – he knew he liked it and he liked what his big brother was sending into the bond. He loved all the feelings he was being flooded with in this bright, busy new place where pretty Mmamma had brought him. Everything here was bright and exciting, just like she was!

“Knock, knock?” Sookie knocked softly in case Octavia was sleeping.

“Come in?”

“Hey, Octavia,” Sookie stuck her head in the door, “I’m not interrupting, am I?”

“Not at all, Queenie, come on in!” Octavia was propped up in bed watching TV and reading.

Sookie came in and closed the door. “I just wanted to see if you had enough dinner and ask how your day went.”

“Dinner was as good as it always is, and I had a great day. That nice guard took me all over Shreveport today! I’m worn to a frazzle!”

“I’m so glad you had fun! Eric was really happy that you did that and he wants you to feel free to do things like that any time you want.”

“Oh, I will, though from what I hear, we’re going to be doing plenty of traveling for awhile. That’s one of the reasons I went shopping. I don’t need a lot of fancy clothes, but I thought a few new outfits would be a nice pick-me-up.”

“If there’s anything you need from the Internet or a catalog or anything, just have Alicia order it for you. Eric said he’ll be happy to treat for things for our travels.”

“He’s mighty generous, girl. He’s not like any Vampire I’ve ever known.”

“Yeah, he’s special.”

“He’s smart. He knows he’s got it good and he knows the key to that is keeping you happy, and part of that is supporting your extended family. I’m so grateful that includes me, I don’t even have words to tell you.”

“Oh, I’m so glad you’re here for us!” Sookie sat on the edge of the bed and gave Octavia a big hug. Both women were near tears, then Sookie asked “do you need anything?”

“No, Honey, I’m fine for the night.”

“OK, well, I have to go meet with the caterers…”

“You go ahead and have a good night, Queenie. I’ll probably see you in the pool tomorrow.”

“You betcha! Good night!” Sookie kissed her on the cheek and headed back downstairs.

The Caterers and Witches were just coming in the door when Sookie came down the hallway.

“Hi, everybody!” She gave them a big smile and held her arm out to guide them into the living room. “Come on in! I’m Sookie, and this is my husband, Eric Northman,” she motioned to him as he stepped out of the dining room.

“Welcome to our home!” Eric was in bullshit mode, so Sookie just smiled and stood back and let him do his thing. “I see you’ve met my lovely Queen. Ms. Prentiss, so nice to see you again.”

The thin woman with long, wavy auburn hair smiled at him. “It’s nice to see you, too, your Majesty. May I present Crescent Grove’s High Priestess, Laurel Moon.” She was a short, powerfully built woman with bleached white-blonde hair and long, orange fingernails.

“Priestess, you are most welcome,” Eric nodded to her.

“Merry met!” Sookie said and offered her hand to each of the women.

Eric turned to the two men in the party.

“We’re very pleased to meet you, your majesty. I’m John Wolfson and this is my partner, James Norris.” The two men nodded to Eric and then to Sookie, and the second man, who looked vaguely familiar to Sookie, spoke.

“I believe the Queen knows my uncle, Calvin Norris?”

“Oh, yes! How is your uncle?” Eric raised an eyebrow, not being crazy about Sookie knowing this man’s family but he knew better than to be jealous.

“He’s fine, ma’am, he sends his regards. He wanted me to convey his congratulations on your marriage and the birth of your… children?”

“Yes, it’s children,” Sookie laughed, acting as if it were no big deal. “Tell him thanks and I’m glad to hear that he’s well.”

“We were going to ask about that,” Robin said, “Our Fae contact gave us some very specific instructions about the second child. We had no idea…”

Sookie laid out the “official story” – “There was a very unusual problem with the birth and he was very small, so he was with a special nurse for a while. We kept it quiet so he’d be safe until he was big enough to go out with us. The Wiccaning will be his first public appearance.”

“Oh, bless his heart! Would it be possible for us to meet the boys before we leave?” The High Priestess was dying to get a look at the little Princes.

“Yes, of course,” Eric smiled. “Let’s bring them in for just a minute, Sookie, then we’ll look at the paperwork – is that acceptable to everyone?”

“Yes, of course!” Robin Prentiss said and the men were equally enthusiastic.

“Alright, you can put your paperwork in here, and we’ll be right back. This is Bjorn Anderson, and this is Jerry Kerik. They’re the Queen’s personal guard. Bjorn, will you show them to the dining room and ask if they’d like tea and cake?”

“Yes, your majesty.” Bjorn led them into the dining room and they politely declined refreshments as the men took their paperwork out of a briefcase and the Priestess took a folder out of her huge black tote bag. Eric and Sookie went into the den through the kitchen.

“Hello, ladies, we’ll bring them right back,” Eric laughed as he picked up Alex and Sookie took Aubie out of the bouncer, then they went into the dining room through the side door.

“Here are our little Princes,” Eric said proudly as they brought the boys in. “This is Eric Alexander Northman, and this is Eric Auberon Northman.”

Laurel took the lead. “How precious. If it weren’t for the size difference, you couldn’t tell them apart, could you? One thing, though, your Majesty, we were told that his full name was Eric Auberon H’Eloise Northman – is that correct?”

“Who told you that?” Sookie asked, squeezing Eric’s elbow so he wouldn’t say anything. Eric looked at her, wondering where she was going with this.

“The Prince… I mean, Mr. Brigant – he’s the Queen’s great grandfather, yes? He said it was important to include the H’Eloise in his name and that there were specific requirements for Eric Auberon’s vows – something about Fae tradition?” Laurel knew more than she was saying and Sookie knew it. Sookie felt as if she could read this woman like a book, and something was up. She was being careful in the way she was thinking, too, so Sookie knew she knew she was a telepath and was hiding something very carefully.

“H’Eloise is a family name – we hadn’t planned on using it, but we’ll talk about it. When did he contact you?” Sookie was being as sweet as she could to hide the fact that there might be a problem with this. She bounced Aubie a little and nuzzled him, acting as if nothing was wrong.

“He called us yesterday. He sent us a fax with the child’s name spelled out and some vows that he needs the Queen to say for his part of the ceremony. He wanted to be sure that the Fae guests would be satisfied with the content. They take these naming rituals very seriously, you know.”

“Do you have the fax with you, by any chance?” Sookie was gently swinging Aubie from side to side as he smiled and chewed on his fingers.

“No, actually, but I have the ceremony written out as he signed off on it.”

“I’d like to read through it, if you don’t mind, just to make sure we’re all on the same page?”

“Of course, I brought a copy for you.” She handed Sookie a stack of parchment pages that said: Notes for Wiccaning LUGHNASADH 2009, NORTHMAN at the top of the first page.

“Why don’t we put the boys back with the sitters so you can take a minute to go over that, Sweetheart,” Eric said, following Sookie’s lead, “and I’ll go ahead and look at the caterer’s figures.

“Good idea, Sweetie. We’ll just be a minute.”

Eric whispered “Say “bye-bye” Alex.”

Alex waved and said “Ba-ba!” and everyone fawned over how sweet and smart he was.

Sookie and Eric took the boys back in to Amelia and Bobbie, closed the door, then sat at the dining room table, Eric in his spot at the head and Sookie at the other end next to the Witches. The others took seats and continued to talk about the food, security and decorations while Sookie was reading the papers. She was trying to really focus on them but still listen to what Eric and the men were saying, but it wasn’t easy.

The first thing she noticed is it was spelled out that Eric had to hold Alex and Sookie had to hold Aubie. There were also certain instructions that the Priestess should touch Aubie with her left hand but Alex with her right. She knew there would be a reason, but she didn’t think that was such a big deal. She was reading the vows to be read by the Priestess, repeated by Eric, then by the Priestess, then by Sookie, and she almost missed it. She was ready to assume that all the vows were identical until her eye caught the word “Elfyria.” She backed up and read the vows she was to say for Alex:

Eric Alexander Northman, I am your Mother. I will keep you in my arms as you grow, in my thoughts as you learn and in my spirit as you manifest the Will of the Goddess, I will love you forever, So mote it be.

Then she read the vows she was to say to Auberon:

Eric Auberon H’Eloise Northman, I am your Mother. I will keep you in my arms as you grow, in my thoughts as you learn and in my spirit as you manifest the Will of the Goddess. I will love you forever and at the end of my life, or on your 20th birthday, I will pass to you my title as the True Heir of Elfyria, So mote it be.

Son of a bitch. Sookie sent panic into the bond and Eric looked up at her as Norris was showing him the figures on the food. He could tell from her eyes that there was something he needed to see.

“These numbers seem very high – is this within reason for the number of people you are expecting?” Eric asked the men

“We were told 1,000 to 1,200 people.”

“WHAT?” Sookie couldn’t hold that back.

Laurel Moon spoke up again, “That’s the total from the estimate we were given by the King’s regional offices, which said about 400, 100 for us, 150 or so from local packs, other covens and individual practitioners and from Mr. Brigant, who estimated 350 to 600. It’s a lot of people, but we have the room for them. It should be fabulous. Imagine a Spiral Dance of that size!”

“Yeah, imagine, my grandfather is bringing 600 people, Eric.” Sookie knew that couldn’t possibly be good news.

“That’s a lot of people, but I suppose it explains all the mead, milk, honey, butter and whole grain bread on the menu,” Eric said

“This is going to be the largest ecumenical ceremony in several centuries, you know?” Wolfson reminded them, “We’re pretty sure there has never been a gathering of this diversity on this continent. We believe that nearly every possible order will be in attendance. There are Were packs of every type, nearly all types of Fae and Nature Spirits will be represented, daemons, Angels, Pagans of every stripe, and representatives from indigenous cultures from the four corners of the world. ”

“Even members of the Council and the Pantheon have RSVP’d,” bragged the Priestess, “we’re very excited.”

“Yes, we’re very excited, too. You will let us know, of course, if you expect more than 1,200?” Eric was trying to wrap this up so he could find out what was in the vows that had Sookie in a panic.

“Do you have a phone number where I could contact you if I have questions about the ceremony?” Sookie asked hopefully.

“Yes, of course, here’s my card.” Laurel handed her a hot pink card that said Laurel Moon, . Divination, Counseling, Ritual Design 555-327-1313. “That’s my cell number, so feel free to call or text any time. We want you to have wonderful day to remember.”

“Thanks, I appreciate that.”

Eric signed the contracts and laid on the bullshit required to get them up and out the door, with thank you’s and promises and well-wishes all around. Sookie waited in the doorway to the dining room, gnawing on her lip. This was a problem, but she didn’t know what kind. She knew Niall’s goal was to have Aubie named Heir before he had to relinquish control, but why was he passing her over? She was surprised when it occurred to her that maybe she didn’t want to give her title away, and maybe she didn’t appreciate Niall keeping an office that was rightfully hers. Did she want to rule Elfyria? Is that possible if you’re a Vampire Queen? What would be required? How much time would she have to spend there? She started to wish that she’d read more about her family history when she had the chance. Why was she never given the option? What if SHE wanted to take the throne in 2027?

“Such turmoil, my Angel!” Eric said as he walked back to her with a smile. Whatever was wrong, they would handle it.

Sookie handed him the pages and pointed to the relevant passage. “Read this.”

Eric read the passage and his blood boiled. Niall was just going to have them spring this on Sookie at the Wiccaning? “Nice of him to tell you about your birthright, wasn’t it?” Eric was being sarcastic, partly because he was pissed, partly to empathize with Sookie who was a seething pit of ambivalence right now.

“We need to talk about this, Eric.”

“Should we be alone for this?”

“Yeah, maybe, until the two of us know where we are.”

Eric wasn’t sure what there was to talk about, but he could feel that Sookie needed something from him. “Let’s meet with the family and go over the calendar, then we’ll go up for family time and talk about it then.”

“Good idea.”

“Alright, Alicia has our calendars in the kitchen and I think they are all assembled,” he kissed her head and put his arm around her, gently guiding her back into the kitchen. Bjorn, Jerry, Alicia, Margaret and Carrie were in the kitchen with their calendars and organizers and Bobbie was coming in from the elevator with her Day Timer.

“Are we all here?” Eric asked as they came in

“Amelia went out to get her calendar. She’ll be right back,” Jerry answered.

“Alright, Alicia did you make those print-outs?”

“Yes, sir, the preliminary ones. There’s no information about flights or departure times yet, of course.”

“We probably won’t have most of that information until just before we travel.” Eric explained as Amelia came in the back door.

“Sorry, everybody,” she said cheerfully. You could tell she was relieved to be living out back now.

“That’s alright, Amelia, we’re just all getting here,” Sookie assured her with a smile, then she asked “where are the boys?”

“Asleep in their little bouncers in the den,” Bobbie told her.

“Oh, good! Thanks for putting them down.”

Eric opened his calendar, which Alicia had left at his spot at the head of the table. Sookie’s was in her place, too. so she opened it up to July, as did the others, and Alicia passed around the sets of pages she had prepared. The top page was a chronological list of activities, the next three pages were calendar pages for July, August and September.

“Alright, everyone, I’m just going to go through the list event by event and you let me know if you have any questions about each one. Today is Wednesday, the 22nd. First, there’s the cookout Friday night that Sookie invited her brother and friends to. It’s not a big deal, but it is the day before we travel to Dallas for the first Sang Riche opening. We’ll be using the bus we used once before to move us all to the airport, and we’ll be leaving at 9 in the morning. The plane will leave at 10:15 and we should land in Dallas before 12. We’ll be picked up by 1 car, 1 limo, and one bus, and that will be the standard at every club opening. 4 guards will be in the lead car, Bjorn, Jerry, Sookie, the boys and I will take the limo, everyone else will be on the bus. Any questions?”

“Are we just going to hold the boys in the limo?” Sookie asked

“No, each limo has two car seats on the bench that faces backwards. They’ll be able to see us as we drive.”

“And you’ve got cars like that at every club?”

“Yes, they’re a part of the club’s standard equipment so we needn’t worry about engaging cars in the various cities.”

“Are you going to make any money on these?” Sookie couldn’t fathom the amounts of money Eric was going to generate with this deal.

“Hundreds of millions at least, maybe into the billions.”

Sookie just nodded and tried to wrap her mind around that.

Eric continued, “we’d be back from Dallas on Sunday night. We could fly right back if we wanted, but I thought since it’s our first time out, we’d stay the night so we can enjoy some of the amenities.”

Sookie started to say something so Eric hesitated, but she said, “I’ll ask later,” so he went forward.

“Alright, Bjorn and Jerry, you know the tailor will be here tomorrow night at 7, yes?”

“Yes,” both of them said, since Bjorn had filled Jerry in.

“Monday through Thursday next week we have no engagements so use the time to get ready to travel. Shop if you need to, order what you need from the Internet, ask Alicia for help if you need it and let she and Carrie help you with laundry or mending if necessary. Monday, furniture will be delivered for both Chalets. Amelia you can arrange your chalet any way you’d like. Sookie, I’d like you to make sure the second chalet is ready for guests on Friday, so if you’d check the progress of the decorators through the week, I’d really appreciate it.”

“Sure – I want to be sure they look nice. Is anyone staying there for the Wiccaning?”

“Pam and Bill will be staying there from Friday the 31st through possibly August 7th.

The 3rd through the 7th we’ll be going out every night – formal attire is not necessary, just wear what you’d wear to any bar or nightclub – Bill and I will be holding audiences through the territories. We’ll leave at 7 every night, arrive at our destinations between 9 and 10, hold audiences until 2 AM, be home between 4 and 5. We’ll be traveling with one lead car, Sookie’s car, and three vans, so dress comfortably. Amelia, your attendance, and Octavia’s, is optional these nights. Margaret won’t be going with us. Alicia and Bobbie will be needed for help with the boys, of course. Any questions?”

“Jeans are OK?” Bobbie asked.

“Yes, if you’d like, or even shorts. The places we’ll be using for audiences will be tourist traps, mostly, and they’re not considered public appearances. Be comfortable so you can focus on the boys and Sookie.”

“OK, thanks.”

“Alright, Saturday the 8th is Sang Riche Austin – we’ll leave at Noon, stay until 1 AM and be home by 3 am Sunday. Sunday is our last day home in August. We’re leaving for New Orleans at 7 PM Monday and we’ll be flying this time. While we are gone, we will be attending the openings of Sang Riche New Orleans on the 15th, Philadelphia, New York and Atlantic City on the 21st, 22nd and 23rd, Seattle on the 28th, LA on the 29th. NOTE that the Dark Moon is on August 20th. We’ll be staying in LA until Monday the 31st so you’ll have a couple of days to rest or shop if you’d like.

We’ll be going from LA to Las Vegas on the first of September to take possession of the Villa at the Bellagio. While we are in Vegas, Bill and I will be holding audiences so he’ll join us the 4th through the 7th. Sang Riche Phoenix is the 4th, Las Vegas is the 5th, and we all return to New Orleans on the 8th. Bjorn and Jerry, note that the 4th is the Full Moon so that will be an extra problem for security.”

“Why the hell did they pick the 4th for that?” Bjorn wasn’t looking forward to dealing with that.

“I don’t know, but you’ll have back up from the Las Vegas office. We’ll be in New Orleans from the 8th through the 20th. We’ll all need to attend the NOMA fundraiser on the 12th. Sookie has a charity luncheon at the Children’s hospital on the 16th and she has a cocktail party at the Audubon Tea Room on the 18th.”

“Isn’t the cocktail party for both of us, Eric?” Sookie thought cocktails meant it was an evening function.

“Good question – Alicia?”

“My notes say it’s at 8 PM at the Aquarium.”

“Alright, then that will be both of us. We need to keep in mind that that day is the Dark Moon, too.”

“Maybe we’ll leave the boys home with Alicia and Margaret that night?”

“That’s not a bad idea. We’ll think about that as it approaches. Now, from the 21st to the 26th we’ll be in Chicago. There’s a Vampire Autumnal Equinox Ball on the 22nd, Sang Riche Chicago opens the 25th and Detroit opens the 26th. We’ll be flying straight from Detroit to New Orleans. Sookie has an event at the Audubon Tea Room at the zoo on the 29th, the 3rd is the full moon, and on the 4th we return here to Shreveport for about 24 days. October 31st we are hosting a Costume Ball in New Orleans.”

“Ooh, cool!” Amelia piped up.

“That should be fun,” Bobbie agreed.

Eric laughed and finished up. “Briefly, through the rest of the year, we have the Regent’s Ball in NYC on November 28th, a Winter Solstice ball we’re hosting in Las Vegas on the 21st of December, we’re hosting a New Year’s event in New Orleans and we’ve penciled in Sookie’s Mexican vacation to begin on February 28th. Any questions?”

“You know Octavia and I might opt out of a lot of activities, right?” Amelia asked.

“Yes, of course, and Margaret might elect to skip the side trips, too. Do what makes you happy. We appreciate your attendance when you do choose to go with us, but we don’t want you to feel obligated.”

“I just want to add that on July 29th, the boys will be one month old,” Sookie said as she looked at her calendar and circled that date.”

“This has to have been the longest month I’ve ever experienced. It seems like a year or more!” Bobbie observed

“I know – time is so compressed or something,” Sookie said absently.

‘The boys are so advanced. It’s just amazing,” Amelia gushed. “It’s so amazing just being around them, and not just because of that vibe they give off.”

“What vibe?” Sookie asked

“There’s something about both of them that makes you feel good just being near them.”

“Yeah, I’ve noticed that, too. You get such a sense of peace if you pick one of them up,” Bobbie agreed.

“It’s that Angelic energy of theirs,” Margaret agreed. “They’re just precious!”

“I’ve even noticed it, no more than I’ve been around them,” Carrie added. “Mr. Northman, would it be alright if I went home now?”

“Yes, of course, Carrie. I’ll be sure you get a little bonus for staying so late.”

“Thanks – I’m glad to know where you all will be, though. I’ll see you all tomorrow!”

“Good night, Carrie!” Sookie called and the others around the kitchen joined in with good byes.

“Alright, it’s going on 11 o’clock. I know Sookie needs to talk to me, and we’ll be taking a bath when the boys wake up. Does anybody else need me for anything?”

“There’s some mail on the desk in Sookie’s office you should look at, sir,” Alicia told him.

“Eric, does Vincent have this travel list yet?” Bjorn asked

“I don’t believe so.”

“I’ll go out to the guard’s office and fax him a copy.”

“Thank you, Bjorn.”

“I’m going to get some sleep, if that’s OK?” Jerry asked.

“Have a good rest, Jerry,” Eric smiled at him, knowing he had to be upstairs with Sookie and the boys in just about 7 hours.

Everybody called good night as Amelia elected to go with him and they went out the back.

“Alright, I’ll go check on that mail,” Eric said.

“OK, Sweetie, I’ll be in the den with the boys when you get done,” Sookie stood up and kissed him.

“I’ll be with her for a bit,” Bobbie said and the girls went off to chat and watch a little TV.

Alicia followed Eric and Margaret closed up the kitchen and turned in.

Eric looked through the stack of mail, some of which was Las Vegas business and some of which was about the household finances.

“Alicia,” he said as she came into the office, “has Sookie seen these figures on the landscaping and the decoration of the chalets?”

“No, sir, I didn’t know if she should see them or not.”

“I think she needs to be aware of projects that might reflect on her as hostess. Tomorrow I’d like you to go over these with her and from this point forward, just make sure she knows what’s going on around the administration of the houses, in case she wants to make changes to anything.”

“Of course, Mr. Northman.”

“How did she take the news of the calendar changes today?”

“She was surprised that we had so many activities in such a short span of time, but she’s handling it. We’re working on getting everyone’s wardrobe set. Hers is the most difficult, of course, but then we need a variety of things for the boys, too, since they’ll be out so much.”

“Have you thought about what we’re going to do with the cat?”

“I ordered an animal carrier and there shouldn’t be any problem taking her with us. All of your private suites at the clubs have litter boxes and we’ll set one up in the Villa – I just don’t want them to know about it until we’re actually there.”

“Good. I hope they’re not going to have misgivings about a second baby, too.”

“I don’t think that will be a problem. I’d expect them to object to the cat before they’d object to a second baby.”

“Really?”

“Yes, cats can be very destructive, though I though I’m pretty sure that cat won’t be a problem as long as she has a box and a scratching post. She’s very bright.”

“Yes, she is.”

“It’s not a normal cat, is it?”

“I don’t think so – Sookie’s doctor thinks it’s a type of Faerie called a pooka..”

“And it’s here for Alex?”

“That seems to be the case.”

“It stays right with him.”

“Yes, it does, but so far it hasn’t made a nuisance of itself.”

“He just loves it, and I think Sookie’s very fond of it, too.”

“Yes, that’s true. She used to have cats when she was a girl. I didn’t know she was missing that, but apparently she was. The boys are awake. I’ll leave you a note if I need you to take any action on these.”

“Alright, then, I’ll say good night. There are snacks in the downstairs fridge for Mrs. Northman. She should eat another small meal tonight.”

“Thank you – good night, Alicia.”

Eric zipped into the den where Sookie and Bobbie were picking up the babies and getting Sookie in position to feed them again.

“Hey, Sweetie!” Sookie smiled at him as he came in. She was sitting cross-legged on the couch and Bobbie was helping her get a baby balanced on each leg.

“Hey!” He was so relieved to have his family back to normal and together that it amazed him.

“Do you need me anymore, Eric?” Bobbie was pretty sure he’d want her to take off now.

“No, thank you, Bobbie, you can go for now. I’ll take it from here.”

“OK, good night every one!”

“G’nite Bobbie!”

Eric noticed Sookie’s camera on the end table next to the dining room wall and picked it up, moving out to the middle of the room in front of her and the kids, kneeling down to get a good shot.

“Eric, I look awful!”

“You look beautiful, and I never want to forget how sweet you look when you are feeding my sons.”

“Aw – you’re sweet.” She looked down at the boys, “isn’t Daddy sweet? Yeah, Daddy is so sweet to Mommy, sometimes she can’t believe it!” Eric snapped a several pictures as she cooed at the boys and rubbed their little backs, and she gave him a few smiles and even stuck her tongue out at him once, making him laugh.

“You are so funny, Sookie.”

“I’m a little bit giddy because my boys are OK.”

“Speaking of “giddy” where is the cat?”

“She went through the kitchen a few minutes ago, but I haven’t seen her since.”

Eric stood and walked in through the kitchen, then came back. “She is napping in her little bed,” he told her as he sat next to her on the couch.” What are we watching here? Seinfeld?”

“Yep, it’s the one where George wants to become Latvian Orthodox because his girlfriend broke up with him.”

“And Kramer has the “kavorka?”” Eric laughed

“Right. Snuggle up with us and let’s watch TV for a bit. We never get a chance to just chill.”

“Excellent idea,” he smiled and put his arm around her, sitting as close as possible and stroking he back of the boys’ heads as they fed.

“Ah, Dadee!” Alex leaned back and giggled, then went back to feeding.

“Dada!” Aubie tried to copy what Alex did.

“My very smart, very good boys!” E-ric beamed at them.

“I think I might have to change Aubie’s nickname,” Sookie laughed.

“Why? What is it?”

“I was calling him “Cookie” but I think I should have called him “monkey,” the way he tries to do everything Alex does.”

Eric laughed. “Hmm – I don’t know which I would prefer if I were a boy. Cookies are sweet to eat, but monkeys have a lot of fun.”

“Yeah. I’ll probably stick with Cookie, though, since it’s the first thing I thought of, right, Cookie?” She tickled Aubie a little and he giggled against her. Alex leaned back and said “googie!”

“Yeah, Aubie is a Cookie like Alex is a Pookie,” she teased them and they both giggled and looked up at her pink and yellow glow. “So, Daddy, what kind of “amenities” are we going to be enjoying in these clubs, or can you talk about it in front of the kids?”

“Designer suites set up just for us, world class chefs working in the kitchens at our request, 24 hours a day, private cars at our disposal, every possible convenience and luxury in some of the finest cities in the world.”

“That does sound pretty nice. Having some fancy chef cooking for us on these trips will definitely be a highlight. I love Margaret’s cooking, of course, but sometimes a little restaurant food is fun. They have things you never have at home.”

“Anything special you’d like to request?”

“I had squid ink ravioli stuffed with lobster one time that was out of this world. I wouldn’t mind trying a bottle of really, really good wine some time just to see if there’s a difference in it and the regular stuff. Hey, are we going to take toys and all that stuff with us all over the country?”

“Well, we have duplicates of some things in the New Orleans house and this house and we might want to add to what’s there, but each private suite has a few toys already in it.”

“Wow – really?”

“Yes, they’re designed just for us, including our kids.”

“So the babies won’t ever be exposed to the partying, right?”

“Absolutely not – they’ll go from the parking garage, to the elevator, the to private suite and see nothing in between.”

“Aren’t you afraid of the clubs being raided?”

“How would the police even know what they are? The outsides of the buildings are black glass and there are no signs of any kind as to what is in them. There is security on the door and no one is getting in, even with a warrant. Only members with a key can access the parking lots or get into the elevators. People aren’t going to be drifting in and out as they would in an hotel or a regular bar or club. There will be plenty of partying inside but you have to jump through hoops to get in.”

“OK. So we get shopping days in LA and Chicago, right?”

“Yes, if you’re up to going out.”

“Oh, I will be. I probably already know the answer to this, but if I wanted to go shopping on Rodeo Drive…”

“Then you go, take your black card, and get anything you want.”

“Can I go see the ocean?”

“Yes, you can.”

“I’d like the boys to see it, even though they’re so small.”

“Take lots of pictures and video so I can see them on the beach.”

“Yep, we need to do that. We don’t have any video of Aubie yet, do we?”

“No, we don’t. Remind Bobbie and Bjorn tomorrow if you make it out to the pool.”

“I definitely want a pool day. The boys love it.”

“Auberon, too?”

“Yep, he’s my baby, alright. He giggled like crazy the whole time he was in the water. Do you know, I don’t think he had ever been outside until I brought him home?”

“That’s terrible.”

“Yet another reason why I couldn’t leave him there.”

“Have you heard from Niall yet?”

“No, not yet, except, of course, for his little contribution to the Wiccaning ceremony.”

“Bosth, Mamee!” Alex was done eating.

“OK, Sweetie, go ahead.” Alex flew over to the ball pit, which was still lying open on the floor, and dived in. Aubie was trying to turn around to see what Alex was doing, so Sookie turned him so he was facing Alex and could watch. He was fascinated, waving his little arms and giggling now and then.

“What did you think of the changes he made?” Eric was going to proceed slowly here because he knew it stirred something up in her.

“Well, why do I get passed over? What if I don’t want to give my title away?”

“Do you want to rule Elfyria, Sookie?” Eric was taking this very seriously because he could feel it was important to her. He also knew more about the situation than he had told her because he was waiting for the right time, and this might be it.

“I don’t know. That’s what bothers me – I don’t know what that would mean and I’ve never been given the chance to find out.”

“So you are saying you want to learn more about it?”

“Yes, I do. I have to tell you what happened with Freyja this morning.”

“Alright.”

“I saw her in my sleep again. I was on the shore, then She had me fly out to the dragon ship. We went downstairs, but We weren’t in the ship anymore, We were wherever Niall lives – the room with the gold pentagram on the floor and the paintings. I said it was Niall’s house and Freyja said Niall was just a “caretaker who presumes too much” – that it was My house and always was, and She said “Remember, Titania,” but She was talking to Me. I closed My eyes and saw Myself very clearly as Titania, writing in this big Book of Shadows that She said was Mine from 13 generations and She set up an hour glass with golden sand and told me to read as much as I could before it ran out. When it ran out I was to close my eyes and say “trygg i min säng ” and it would bring me home – She said it always would, no matter where I am.”

“Did She tell you what it meant?”

“No, but I think it means “safe in my bed,” right?”

“Yes, it does.”

“That’s what I thought. Anyway, I wanted to see what all was in the book, so I just scanned through it instead of reading and toward the back I found an ink drawing of you, then Freyja told Me to come home, so I wasn’t able to find out why it was there or how Titania knew you.”

“I knew Titania, Sookie, very briefly.”

“You never told me?”

“I told you I’ve known you before, Sookie.”

“You never told me any specifics.”

“You must understand, Sookie, that I’ve lived for many centuries only telling people what they needed to know, keeping so many secrets I couldn’t begin to remember them all. When I found out Titania was your great grandmother, I thought that my knowing her might have been disturbing to you so I was waiting until the right time to bring it up.”

“OK, so this is the time – you knew her? Biblically?”

“Yes.”

“What happened?”

“She was murdered.”

“Do you know who killed her?”

“No, I do not know for sure. War broke out then and Elfyria was no place to be Vampire. I came back and wound up working for Sophie Ann when it was all over.”

“Niall killed her, didn’t he?”

“I don’t know, Sookie, but it was he who benefitted most by her death.”

“What would have happened if she had lived?”

“There is no way to be certain.”

“But…? I know there’s a ‘but’ coming.”

“He might have been replaced as her consort.”

“By you?”

“There’s no way to know if it would actually have happened. We weren’t together that long.”

“Is there any chance you and I are related?”

“No, her children were born long before I met her.”

“So she was married and a mom and she had an affair with you?”

“Yes.”

“She didn’t love Niall?”

“I was under the impression that her marriage to Niall was arranged. She found me in the woods one night when I had sheltered in the ground. She found my sword and my clothing hidden and she was sitting with them when I arose.”

“Wait – that would have been in 1927, right? Weren’t you in America then?”

“I spent most of my time here, but I traveled for various jobs. I have always been a mercenary, Sookie, it’s how I made my living.”

“When did you get crazy wealthy?”

“I nearly always have been. War pays very well, my Angel. The only times I struggled were when I had to flee with only the clothing on my back, but I often found ways to retrieve my wealth even then. I learned to keep my money in many places and to always be ready to travel.”

“Somebody paid you to kill her, but you didn’t – that’s the part you’re not telling me, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“Why didn’t you?”

“Everything about her was magickal. Sookie, you are so like her… When I saw her… when she confronted me in the woods, I could never have done it. If I didn’t do it, I knew someone else would, so I agreed to stay and protect her.”

“But you didn’t?”

“I could not taste her food for her.”

“She was poisoned with lemon?”

“Yes.”

“Confronted you how? What did she say when she saw you?”

“She asked if I was there to kill her. I said yes, and she just looked at me and took off her dress.”

“And you what, just fell at her feet and worshiped her?”

“More or less, yes.”

“So – WHEW! Alex needs a new diaper!”

“I was going to mention that,” Eric laughed.

“OK, let’s take them up and give them clean nappies and then we talk more about this right?”

“Right.”

They gathered up the boys and headed for the elevator. The kitten was hesitant to go into the elevator, but Sookie said “come on, kitty!” and she ran in behind them.

They took the babies into the nursery and Eric put Alex down on the changing table first, then took Aubie from her so she could change Alex.

“Ooh – stinky, Alex!”

“Thteekee!” Alex laughed.

“Oh, you think that’s funny do you?”

“Eeah! Pundy thteekee.”

“Um bumby!” Auberon was trying to twist around in Eric’s arms so he could watch the diapering process, so Eric turned him around and held him where he could see.

“I can’t believe he wants to watch this,” Eric said with surprise.

“Yeah, look at him – they love watching each other get changed, don’t you, Cookie?”

“MMmaa!”

“Obee wyg Mamee,” Alex giggled and chewed on his fingers.

“Yeah, Aubie’s a sweet boy, isn’t he?” Sookie tickled Alex and she wiped him off. “Eric, should we diaper them or just leave them off and take them in the tub?”

“I say we take them into the tub.”

“OK, then Alex is ready. Put Aubie down here,” she said as she handed Alex to him.

Eric let her take Aubie and held Alex, naked as a jaybird, up so he could watch Aubie get his diaper.

“So I want to picture this scene, Eric. You rise up out of the ground in the middle of the woods…”

“Yes?”

“Then what?”

“I swam in the river to get the dirt off of me, came out and walked to my clothing, and there she was.”

“Describe her dress?”

“It was in two pieces. The top part was made like a vest. It was dark red and heavily embroidered, held with heavy buttons all the way down the front. The under-dress was a kind of white shift with very full sleeves and small buttons down the front.”

“So you walk out of the water, naked and glistening in the moonlight, and go for your clothes and she’s there in this beautiful gown and who says what?” Sookie asked as she wiped Aubie, who was only wet, and then picked him up and they headed for the bathroom.

Eric continued as he put Alex on the bed and he started the bathwater while Sookie laid Aubie on the bed and shucked her dress. “She said “I know you’ve come to kill me.” I said “you are Titania?” She said, “Yes, I am, and you are the Vampire my husband has paid to murder me.” She was strangely calm about the whole thing. I said “Yes, I am Erik the Norseman.”” He stopped talking as he looked at the new supports for the babies which were lying in the bathtub. They were light blue with turtles on them, almost a full circle cushion with a drop down seat for the baby to sit in.

“Yeah, and?”

Eric leaned in the doorway and smiled. “She didn’t speak another word. She pulled at the top of her dress and the buttons fell open as if by magick, in one smooth motion, and she stood before me in the moonlight like the Goddess that she was, and I took her in my arms and we made love in the damp grass. And we rode to her home on the white horse she’d tied in the woods and I closeted in her chamber for the next several weeks and made love to her every night until she died.”

“She looked pretty amazing in the moonlight, I guess?”

“Look in the mirror and see for yourself,” he said as he kissed her.

“Did anyone know you were there?” Sookie picked Aubie up and Eric picked Alex up.

“Her servants, of course, but I don’t know if Niall ever knew, though it would probably explain the poison.” He took Aubie from her so she could step in the tub, then she sat down and he handed her Aubie, then floated up in the air and landed in the tub with Alex still in his arms.

“Niall paid you?” She said softly as Aubie was going crazy playing in the warm, but not too warm, water. She picked up two little rubber duckies that were sitting on the side of the tub and floated them in front of the boys, who were fascinated with them.

“He would have, but I never did the job. We never spoke of it after. I think he knew I couldn’t hurt her. Almost no one could have – that’s why he hired a Vampire to begin with. She was much beloved by her people.” Eric pulled one of the supports, which were floating in the water, to him and sat Alex in the middle of it. He made his “haaaa!” happy sound, liking the way the cushion wrapped around him, so he could lean back and enjoy the water. Eric helped Sookie get Aubie into his support.

“These are so cute!” Sookie loved the little seats and the way the babies’ backs were supported by the cushion. “If he hired an assassin, I guess slipping some lemon in her food isn’t much of a stretch. That’s why you hate Niall, isn’t it – you know what he’s capable of?”

“Yes, I do. When I found out that he was your great grandfather, it made me physically ill, Sookie. I felt like I was reliving the loss of her.”

“You aren’t losing me, Eric, I’m not going anywhere. How did she know where to find you?” She was soaping Aubie up and he was loving the whole process.

“I told you, Sookie, everything about her was magick. It would be nothing for her to seek me out and seduce me. She WAS magick.” Sookie handed him the soap and he washed Alex as she took the hand held and leaned Aubie back so she could wet his hair.

“Mamee wath Obee ayr?”

“Yep, Mommy’s going to wash Aubie’s hair,” she teased him. “Eric, why couldn’t she save herself?”

“It was her destiny, I suppose. I do know she must have arranged your birth, though, because she named you her heir. If you look through that book, you’ll probably find yourself.” Eric took the handheld and wet Alex’s hair while Sookie soaped up Aubie’s soft white hair.

“I can’t wait to get my hands on that book again. I think Freyja is planning to take me there frequently for a while.”

“That would make sense. And you will learn more about what it would mean to accept your title.”

“Yeah, here’s the thing – if Titania did specific magick to make me happen, it would be wrong of me to just give that away. Niall can rule until 2027, right? I want the option of taking my rightful place then if I decide it’s something I want. I’ve got 18 years to learn what that would mean. If I give it away at the Wiccaning, though, I’m out.” She was rinsing Aubie’s hair and he was scrunching his little shoulders and giggling, making her smile.

“Then don’t give it away,” he said emphatically as he soaped Alex’s hair.

“What should I do?”

“Niall made revisions without checking with you – make your own revisions to suit you.”

“Like making Aubie my heir, but not saying I’ll give the title away at a certain date?”

“Exactly. Of course, in order to do that, you have to announce that you’re the True Heir. Are you prepared for that?”

“No, but I might be once I’ve had some time to think about it.”

“What if they try to insist that you take the throne now?”

“If it’s my title, I can choose when to take it, can’t I?”

“Yes, I suppose you could.”

“OK, so I’m going to rewrite the vows and have it so I’m not giving it away, right? You’re OK with that?”

“I want you to be happy, Sookie. If it’s what you want, we’ll try to work it out. At least this way, you have time to learn what it would entail and you can always pass the title on if you decide you don’t want it and Auberon thinks he does.”

“It could make Niall want me dead, couldn’t it?”

“He probably already does, Sookie. I think Freyja is the only thing keeping him from killing you and taking Auberon. If Freyja takes you there again, read as much as you can, every time. The more you know, the better.”

“They said Niall owed a debt to the Goddess, right? And that’s why he agreed to me being Freyja’s? Could the debt that he owed be that he killed Titania and the Goddess let him live long enough for her to reincarnate as me?”

“That’s a very solid theory. You should explore that with Octavia, with Freyja and with Dr. Ludwig. Use all the resources available to you.”

“I feel like Freyja and Titania are counting on me. And don’t worry, Eric, you and my boys come first, but there’s more going on here than just us, you know?”

“Yes, I know. It’s the same way with my Kingdom. Many people’s lives hang in the balance. The better your understanding of the will of the Goddess and what fate might have in store for us, the better. We are who we are for a reason, Sookie, and in your case, I think there are many overlapping reasons that you are who you are in this place and this time.”

“I’m going to understand it whether Niall likes it or not. And, by the way, I want to use the name H’Eloise for Aubie – it was Titania’s name, not Niall’s, and I do want to pass it on down.”

“I suspected that might be the case. Do you want to use the name for Alex, too?”

“Honestly, even though they’re both entitled to it, I think this should be something special for Aubie – to balance out Alex being a Vampire Prince, you know? I think that’s his destiny – it’s what feels right to me. Alex would inherit your Kingdom. Aubie would inherit mine or whatever. I’m not sure what to call it.”

“I agree – this has to be why things happened as they did. It feels right to me.”

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