Eric put on the black jacket he was carrying with him and took the black lace thong
away from Sookie, refusing to let her have it until they were on the plane so she had
to go up the stairs into the craft with nothing under her dress. Eric was wishing he had the ability to control the elements because a gust of wind just as she reached the top of the stairs would have been perfection. As it was she blushed furiously because there were guards she didn’t know right behind her with Eric’s travel box as she got up there.
The crew was waiting in the foyer again to greet Eric and Sookie and the captain
went through the introductions and everything that he’d done for Sookie. Eric shook his hand and thanked all of them for being there and as soon as they dispersed Sookie reached in Eric’s jacket pocket and got the panties, making a beeline for the bedroom. She was wiggling into them as he came in the door.
“Are you sure you sure want to do that now?”
“I’m wearing a white dress, Eric, and I have to sit out there through take off. I need a
little something, you know?”
He laughed, “Yes, I suppose you do – for a little while, anyway. Do you like the room?”
“Yeah, I love it! Are the boys OK?”
“They’re still asleep. Bjorn and Jerry just buckled them into their little seats. Come,
we should take ours so they can get us off the ground” He put his arm around her shoulders and they went out to the seats across from the boys.
Sookie didn’t say much because she knew Eric was looking at every detail of the plane. She knew that he liked what he was seeing and he was calculating if it was worth the price.
Bjorn walked through making his last seating check as the captain made the announcement to be seated and buckle up, saying they’d be in Shreveport in 25 minutes.
“Are we all in place, Bjorn?” Eric asked.
“Yes, your majesty, the bags are all on board and the guards are in their seats.”
“Good – thank you.” Eric looked around at the others, “Octavia – I haven’t seen much of you this weekend. Have you had a pleasant trip?”
“Oh, yes, I’ve had a fine time. I’ve been an early riser, so we’ve been on opposite schedules. I had breakfast by the pool this morning, but I napped until dinnertime.”
“Are you feeling well?” Eric was a little concerned.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’ve got a sort of project I’m working on that I need to work at certain hours.”
“Alright. Bobbie and Bjorn, did you enjoy your stay?”
“It was fantastic,” Bjorn smiled at him and Eric knew they had sampled some of the club’s talent.
“And Amelia and Jerry?”
“Fabulous!” Amelia said.
“It was a great weekend,” Jerry agreed.
“Alicia, you were not too overworked, I hope?”
“No, I didn’t have much to do other than pack and unpack.”
“Alicia, you did way more than that! You helped with feeding and changing the babies, and arranging meals and you helped me with all my stuff!” Sookie said, wanting to make sure she got credit for everything she did.
“That’s not so bad, though. I can’t wait to tell Margaret all about the club! Did you have a good time, Mr. Northman?” Alicia asked.
“Oh, yes, I had a fine time. I was very proud of the club and especially proud of Sookie and the boys. The other regents were very impressed with them, too. All things considered, things could not have gone better.”
“Excuse me, your majesty?” JoAnn was standing there with a big smile on her face. “May I give you your tour of the plane?”
“Yes, we’d like that. Sookie, Dearest, come with me. Alicia, will you stay with the boys, please?”
Eric and Sookie unbuckled their belts and Eric stood, offering his hand to Sookie, and telling JoAnn, “I’d like to start at the back of the plane and work forward, please?”
“Yes, of course, sir,” JoAnn was a little surprised, but she led them to the back of the plane and began by showing Eric the bathroom for the guards, then the guards’ area. Eric nodded and smiled, listening politely as she told him things he already knew, holding Sookie’s hand the entire time.
He particularly liked the dining/conference room, and asked to see the office equipment in the corner hutch. Sookie followed behind him, smiling and nodding, making a comment here or there, knowing full well where the tour to the front of the plane would end, so she was blushing like crazy.
By the time they worked their way through the forward lounge where everyone else was seated, Sookie was beginning to fidget. She noticed as they walked toward the bar that the boys were asleep and Alicia was reading an Agatha Christie novel. Octavia was sleeping, Amelia and Bobbie were chatting and Bjorn and Jerry headed toward the back of the plane as they came forward. If you put a gun to her head, Sookie couldn’t tell you one word JoAnn said about the wet bar.
By the time the three of them walked into the master bedroom, Sookie’s cells were vibrating. If she didn’t feel Eric inside her soon, she was sure she would dissolve into a puddle on the floor. It was maybe 35 minutes since they had sex in the limo, and she was still absolutely on fire for him. At least she knew he’d have to get on with it, because they had to be more than half way to Shreveport by this time.
As soon as JoAnn finished pointing out the finer points of the room, Eric said, “Thank you very much. My wife and I would like to be alone now,” and locked the door behind her.
Sookie wanted to be mortified. She should feel embarrassed. Did she have no shame left? Because this was hot as hell and she wasn’t nearly as embarrassed as she felt she should be.
“Bend over the bed, Sookie, and rest on your elbows.”
She did, and her skirt was flipped up over her back, then her thong pulled down around her ankles.
Eric didn’t move or speak, and the only sound Sookie heard beside the plane’s engines was her own ragged breathing.
Sookie was trying to not even think at Eric, to just wait in silence inside and out. That’s harder than it sounds, even when you think you don’t have long to wait.
Eric pulled a pillow out from under the covers and put it under Sookie’s face. OK, she thought, here we go. She shoved her face down into the pillow just as the leather of Eric’s belt made contact with her bottom cheeks. YYYEEEOOOOOWWWW! Damn Vampire speed! He had his belt out of his pants and on her before she had a chance to brace herself.
She managed not to yell, but her knees almost buckled. Smack, smack, smack – three blows that sounded a lot worse than they were – did Eric actually know how to make them sound loud without hurting so much? Because they sounded like gunshots, but really just warmed her bottom after the first one. Anyway, this train of thought flashed through her mind in an instant because he was in her before she realized the last blow had landed.
She’d only had one other quickie with Eric, the night he killed the terrorists that tried to blow up Fangtasia, but she could learn to love this. He was quick, he was rough, he was done – loudly. He didn’t stop, though, he continued slowly and reached in front to stroke her gently until she stiffened, cried out sans pillow because she knew he’d like that, and shuddered beneath him. He leaned forward on her, nuzzling her neck and making her giggle.
“I think we’ll enjoy this room very much on longer flights, don’t you, Sookie?”
“Ye- yeah,” she said, out of breath and completely blissed out.
“Ready to go back out?”
“Not yet. I don’t have any bones in my legs.”
Eric laughed as he pulled his pants, then her panties, up, then pulled her up and scooped her into his arms, laying her on the bed. He lay next to her for a minute and took her in his arms.
“The captain’s getting ready to tell us to go back to our seats,” Sookie said with a little regret.
“Can you read his thoughts?”
“Yeah, they’re right above us.”
“That’s good to know. It might come in handy.”
“Yeah, you never know when you’re dealing with terrorists,” she said a little absently, her mood darkening just a little.
“Alex is awake,” Eric said to her as he got up and gathered her up in his arms again. He managed to open the door and carry her out to their seats, everyone else trying to pretend they didn’t hear the whole thing, Eric laughing to himself smugly and Sookie wanting to smack him, then fuck his brains out. Again.
The captain’s voice came over the speaker asking everyone to buckle their seatbelts.
“Music? Where is your music?” Sookie looked around. Alicia had run to the bathroom, so Sookie went to the closet and found the little music player in the diaper bag. Alex was happily pushing the button to play music when Aubie woke up and gave Alex an audience to play for. Every time a new tune would start, Alex would squeal and Aubie would clap his little hands.
“Oops! Here we go guys!” Sookie told the boys as she felt the plane descend, “they’re landing the plane!”
Alex and Aubie both made their “Haaaa!” sound this time as the plane descended a little more quickly than before and hopped on the runway a bit, but they weren’t disturbed by it.
When they landed, Bjorn had everyone else disembark and the luggage loaded before Eric and Sookie, and he and Kerik carried the babies behind them. That gave Eric time to thank the captain and chat a bit about the plane, which Sookie could tell Eric had decided to buy.
They all rolled onto the compound at about 11:30 and Margaret was still up ready to feed them when they got there. There were stacks of sandwiches in the HQ for the Were guards and bottles of RM for the Vamp guards, and Parmesan crusted turkey cutlets in the kitchen for Sookie, Bobbie, Alicia, Amelia, Octavia, Jerry and Bjorn.
The babies had a little feast ready for them because Margaret had cooked for them all weekend, and Eric was very content to have them tucked into their high chairs while he gave them their dinner.
Sookie was watching Eric out of the corner of her eye as she ate, smiling to herself. She knew that no matter how glamorous the clubs were, he was just as happy to be home as she was.
The black kitten was losing its mind, and wouldn’t let Alex out of its sight. Margaret told them it had cried for Alex several times over the weekend, and wouldn’t eat at all.
It wasn’t long before Eric and Sookie were settling the babies in the middle of the bed between them, each with a fresh diaper and a pacifier, which they were really starting to like. Eric and Sookie settled facing each other, propped up on one elbow, each of them playing with one boy’s hand. Erin was curled up at the bottom of the bed, very glad to have her Alex back.
Alex pulled his binky out of his mouth and said “Bundy!” and was instantly holding his soft bunny. “Woogie, Obee, bundy sopf!” Alex said as the two boys rolled so they were facing each other.
“Yeah, that bunny is soft, isn’t it?” Sookie cooed at them, rubbing Aubie’s hand on the bunny as Eric watched with a big smile.
Aubie made his happy sound and dropped his pacifier, which surprised him, and he made the cutest face, which tickled Eric to no end. Eric leaned over and kissed Aubie, rubbing his head, then Alex, then he put his palm against Sookie’s face and kissed her.
Sookie laughed, “You’re as happy to be home as we are.”
“If you never go anywhere, you never get this wonderful feeling of finally being home again.”
That cracked Sookie up, which got the babies started. Eric tickled everyone, one after the other, several times, and had them all riled up and laughing. At one point, the cat meowed, annoyed at the commotion, but then she bounced up the bed and jumped right between the boys. Eric tickled the kitty, too, much to its delight, and Sookie tried not to yawn, but failed.
Eric didn’t say anything, he just kept the boys occupied knowing Sookie would fall asleep watching them and she did. The sound of Sookie’s breathing had a calming effect on the boys and Aubie was out not long after Sookie. Alex was awake a little longer, Eric speaking softly to him until he dozed off, too. Eric levitated off the bed so there would be no movement, and he hovered over them in the air, gently moving the boys to their places in the co-sleeper, putting the stuffed bunny between them.
Erin walked over and looked around the situation, and curled up by Alex’s knee. Eric petted her, “Did you miss your master, kitten?”
“MEOW!” The cat replied, obviously irritated at having been left at home.
“Don’t worry, you’ll go with us in the future. We needed to keep things a little more simple this time, but I’ll make sure you can stay with Alex as we travel.”
“Maow,” she replied softly, still not happy.
Eric was laughing about talking to the cat as he went into his office to work. He’d been very occupied at the club and hadn’t checked his mail in two nights and things were piling up. He had a long talk with Sandy about some of the plans he and Bill had discussed during the week and prepared a package of papers which he left for Alicia to ship to her via Anubis the next day.
He wasn’t happy with the progress being made on the shopping center renovations and left a message for Bobby Burnham to take a trip over there and see what was going on. He really didn’t want to be bothered with this and was thinking that if Burnham couldn’t get things on track he’d just sell the damned thing and invest the money elsewhere. It was only marginally profitable in this economy, but he was sure he could get a reasonable profit from it and be done.
He was walking a tight rope, trying to strike a balance with keeping things as simple as possible and still being sufficiently diversified so that if one area fell short, the others would pick up the slack. His wealth was not in danger, by any means, but he needed to be sure all of their bases were covered just in case. This threat from New Centurion might be protracted and who knew where it would take them. Eric and Sookie had a very high profile, especially because of the boys, and there was simply no way to know what Eric might have to do, or where he might have to take them, to keep them safe. He prayed it wouldn’t come down to a choice between his family or his kingdom, because, by the Goddess, his family would come first and the Vampire power structure be damned.
He was lost in his thoughts when suddenly Alex was floating in the air in front of his desk.
“Hello, my son! Why are you out of bed?”
“Bottle? You just…” Eric stopped, looking at the clock and realizing he had been in here for almost four hours so it was actually time for the boys to be fed again. “Come to Daddy.” Eric held out his arms and Alex flew into them, giving him a big hug because whatever Dadee was thinking about, it was dark and Dadee needed it. Eric hugged him and kissed him as he sat at his desk, then said, “Is Aubie awake?”
“Is Aubie sleeping?”
“Nah seepeen.” Alex scrunched up his little eyes and made solid fists like he was really concentrating, which Eric had never seen him do before but as he was doing it, Aubie flew into the room, and Eric realized Alex had sent for him somehow.
“Good boy, Auberon! Come to Daddy!” Aubie got a big welcome kiss and Eric told him, “Daddy is very proud of Auberon for flying. That’s a good boy, Aubie. Alex, that was good of you to call him. You’re a good big brother.”
Eric took them into their nursery and found that there was a plate of food and two bottles on the chest of drawers by the bottle warmer. Eric put the boys down, settling them on their tummies, though Alex immediately rolled over and sat up. Aubie looked at Alex with big eyes, trying to figure out how Buddy did that, as Eric heated the bottles and set up their little carriers so he could sit on the floor and feed them.
Margaret had left the boys a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings and Eric tried not to wake Sookie laughing when Alex tried to teach Aubie to say “dwavbe.” When they’d had both food and bottles, Eric sat in the glider and said, “come to Daddy, boys, fly!” and both of them did, so Eric was able to settle them on his lap and read the Dr. Seuss “Pet” book to them for a bit. Eric laughed to himself that he better enjoy this while he could because he barely kept the twins from destroying it this time when they were pulling on the “hair” and strings and such in it.
When the boys quieted down, Eric just rocked them a bit and they fell asleep holding hands. When the sun was about to rise, Eric tucked them back into the co-sleeper, which made Sookie open her eyes and smile.
“Hey,” she whispered.
“Hey,” he came around the bed and sat on his side so he could kiss her and give her the nightly cup of Ambrosia. “I’ll see you tonight, my Angel.”
“Where’s Jerry?” she asked, licking her lips and the inside of the golden cup.
“Coming up the stairs as we speak.”
“Your majesty?” Jerry whispered from the hall.
“Come in, Jerry, I’m just leaving,” Eric said as he stood, put the bottle and cup away, and left the room.
Jerry settled into his usual seat, and Sookie noticed he had that big book that Bjorn always carried with him, but didn’t think much about it as she slipped back into a deep sleep.
“Open your eyes, Sookie,” Freyja spoke with some urgency, turning the pages of the book in front of her. Sookie was shocked to find herself sitting in the chair in front of the Book of Shadows, and Freyja flipping through it as if She was looking for something specific. “Here, Sookie, you need to read about the history of the arranged marriage between Niall and Titania. Read quickly, he’ll be back soon, and you need all of this information before you speak to him.”
“Speak to him?” Sookie leaned forward, preparing to read, but she wasn’t sure what Freyja was telling her. “You mean when he gets here? Now?”
“Yes, you’re going to stand up to him. Tell him you’re having cake for the boys’ one month milestone on Woden’s Day, and that you expect him and Dr. Ludwig to be there. Tell him you’d also like to talk about the Wiccaning, so that the two of you have a clear understanding of what will take place. Be very strong, Darling Girl, and show him no fear. Remember that We are One and the Same. He cannot hurt you with Me standing behind you, not in Elfyria. Read, quickly.”
Sookie took a deep breath and let it out, then focused very intently on the words before her. She read about centuries of bloody war between the H’Eloise clan, who had ruled in that time, and the violent opposition from the Brigant clan, who were pretenders to the throne, claiming it was theirs according to an old law no one else remembered. Titania’s mother and father, thinking Niall had the same limitations of any other Fae, wrongfully thought that if they merged the two clans, the fighting would cease. They never dreamed Niall would be able to harm Titania, let alone have her killed.
It had seemed a good match – Niall was dashing and handsome, very savvy politically, and Titania was beautiful and a gifted in prophecy and divination. They had no clue that Niall was secretly trained in Ceremonial Magick in addition to his innate Fae abilities. The blending of the clans should have created ongoing peace once they had children and eventually, if they had a daughter, she would rule both clans with equal influence.
Unfortunately, Titania had only sons, which she suspected had something to do with Niall’s magick. She tried to do magick to counter this effect, but to her great sorrow, it was not Titania’s destiny to have a daughter. Finally, she fasted and prayed for weeks, then rode into the wilderness to a far orchard on the night of the full moon, casting a circle and calling the Goddess down to her.
Titania was shocked when the Goddess Who appeared turned out to be Freyja, who was not normally associated with Fae magick. The two sat in the circle talking until dawn, Freyja telling her she was chosen to help Her fulfill a great destiny, that her prayers – to be safe, to be loved, to rule Elfyria in peace – were being answered, but not in the way she envisioned.
Freyja told her about Erik, the Norseman, one of the greatest warriors She had ever seen, and the very best Lover She’d ever enjoyed. She told Titania that her destiny was to be reborn as another, a true incarnation of the Goddess Herself, and to live in love, sensuality and luxury for many, many lifetimes together with Erik. Freyja foretold that Titania would meet Erik when Niall hired him to kill her, but that Erik would not be able to do it when he saw her naked and felt her power. Titania was shocked at what She was suggesting, but she trusted the Goddess implicitly. Freyja assured her that once she’d spent time with Erik, she’d be more than happy to fulfill her part in the Goddess’ plan, but that she must never explain it all to him – she should feel free to love him the short time they’d have together but never to mention Freyja to him unless he brought Her up, and then all she should say is that the Goddess will keep Her promise to him.
Freyja handed her a sheep skin scroll with the Great Rite of Return written out, explaining that only those approved by the newly formed Global Council were permitted to do such work and that no eyes but hers must see it. At the end of the rite, Titania was to burn the scroll, and scatter the ashes of the fire into the river. The Goddess told her that her future name would be given to her through scrying three nights hence, and that the Rite of Return must be performed on the Dark Moon. Titania had little experience with such volatile energy, but she had been warned not to vary from the written spell in any way, so she steeled herself to it, thanked the Goddess with fervent praise, poured a libation in her honor and opened her circle.
She barely made it back into her chambers before the house stirred, and she prayed that Niall would not find out she’d been out to the apple orchard, which he knew was a sacred and powerful spot for her. She opened a large chest at the foot of her bed and put the scroll deep inside under the piles of bed linens and quilts it held, then locked the trunk and hid the key in the pocket of her robe. Niall rarely visited her chambers anymore, but she knew she couldn’t take any chances of him finding the scroll, so she anointed the lock on the chest with her own blood and cast a cloaking spell on its contents while she waited the two weeks to the Dark Moon.
Sookie sat back and closed her eyes, clearly seeing in her mind how Titania spent the next two weeks in prayer, chanting with a string of beads that gave Sookie chills when she saw them. What were they? It wasn’t a rosary – there was no cross on the end, but that seemed to be the way she was using them.
“Stand up, Sookie, he is here,” Freyja spoke and was gone. Sookie stood before she realized what she was doing and braced herself, forcing herself to be centered, calm and firm. Niall came into the room and reacted with a start when he saw her standing there in her black gown, looking so much like the painting of Titania that hung on the wall behind her that it made Niall feel faint.
Niall tried to suppress his shock, but Sookie could feel his fear, his tension and his anger, and it only made her more determined not to back down.
“Sookie, how nice to see you. You’re full of surprises lately.”
“Things are changing so quickly I’ve had to become more decisive in my actions.”
“Yes, well, many women find that motherhood puts things in a new perspective for them.” Niall was trying to belittle Sookie and she knew it, but it only pissed her off.
“Yeah, I’ve got a new perspective on a lot of things. I’m here to invite you for cake on Wednesday. The boys will be one month old and we thought you and Dr. Ludwig might want to celebrate with us. It’ll just be family, and I thought you might like to be there. It will give us a chance to talk about the Wiccaning.”
“Am I still welcome at their ceremony?” Niall pointed to two huge carved oak chairs beside the white marble fireplace and Sookie walked over and sat down in one. The feeling of familiarity was overwhelming, but she held it together as he sat in the other, sitting back and trying to act as if he wasn’t scared to death.
“We are family, Niall, and the Fae will expect it. We’ll have to put our differences aside and do our duty for the sake of the boys.”
“Yes, my thoughts exactly. Have you… spoken to anyone with the coven?”
“Fine, let’s talk about it now. I’ve seen the changes you made to the vows if that’s what you mean. Nice try, but I’ll be making changes of my own. I have a compromise that I think is reasonable.”
“I’m intrigued. Do go on.”
“I understand that by law you are able to rule until 2027, at which point you must name the True Heir and step aside. Is that correct?”
“And I know I am Titania’s True Heir.” Sookie sat up very straight and looked Niall right in the eye, “I know all about Titania, Niall – all of it. I know exactly who I am.”
The color drained from Niall’s face.
“My proposal is that you retain your office until 2027, then I will decide whether I want to take the throne, or I will pass it to Eric Auberon, but it will be my decision when and if that happens. I’m not giving my title away at the Wiccaning as you’d planned. I’ll make it known that I am the True Heir, and I’ll name Auberon as my successor, but it won’t automatically go to him on a given date. You don’t lose anything that way, and neither do I. You get all the time you’d ever be entitled to anyway.”
“Well,” Niall was obviously not happy, but was trying to keep his head at this point, literally, and said, “I suppose that’s an acceptable plan. It solves all of our immediate problems.”
“What would those be?” Sookie knew he might lie to her, but she wanted to see what he’d say.
“My enemies are trying to claim that Titania died without naming the True Heir. If that were the case, the title would go to whomever could take it. As long as you acknowledge your birthright, and you specify that Auberon will be your Heir should tragedy befall you, I will agree to this.”
“Good. Believe it or not, Niall, I’d like you to be a grandfather to my boys. As long as you don’t try to interfere with my custody of them, we won’t have a problem. Agreed?”
“Agreed,” he said grudgingly.
“Good,” Sookie stood. “Now, I’m going home, but I’ll be back in the near future to look around this house and learn more about Elfyria. That won’t be a problem, will it?”
“Of course not, my dear, you are always welcome here.”
“I’m more than welcome here and we both know it.” Sookie disappeared as she uttered the last syllable.
Sookie sat bolt upright in bed, making Bjorn jump because it happened so quickly. She looked around a bit disoriented, then she understood what had happened.
“Are you alright, Sookie?”
“Yeah, good morning, Bjorn. Sorry if I startled you. I know I startled me,” she said and began to laugh.
“I was in Elfyria then suddenly I was here – there was no transition, just now you’re here, now you’re not. It’s a bit unsettling.”
“I can imagine… no, strike that, I can’t imagine it. The stuff that’s going on with you is way beyond my ken.”
“Imagine how I feel about it all. I swear, Bjorn, just when I think I know what’s going on, there’s another layer or another twist…”
“Eric says it’s always like that when you deal with Fae.”
“Yeah, so I’m learning,” she said absently as she looked over the boys who were snuggled up in the co-sleeper. Sookie was just beginning to realize how early it was.
“You know that includes you, too, right?”
“Those layers, with the Fae – that includes you, too, Sookie.”
“I’ve got layers?”
“Big, badass karmic ones. Eric says one minute he’s courting a little country girl and all of a sudden he’s married to a Goddess who’s the reincarnation of half a dozen former Lovers. You’ve got layers that put Niall to shame, Hon,” Bjorn laughed and Sookie did, too, realizing how right he was.
“So I’m up really early today…”
“Why don’t you try to sleep some more?”
“I kind of want to get up and get on with some things. I’ve got a ton of work waiting for me in my office.” Sookie laughed, “that sounds so weird – me having work in my own office.”
“Stuff for the Kingdom?”
“Yes, and I think I’m supposed to get a ton of final things to approve from Giselle for the New Orleans house. She’s putting the finishing touches on it now. OH – I almost forgot – they’re delivering furniture today for the chalets and I have to see what needs to be done for Bill and Pam!”
“People will do that stuff for you though, right?”
“Yeah, but technically, I’m the hostess so I need to make sure things are done the way I want them.”
“No one’s going to think less of you…”
“I will. My vacation is over and part of being Eric’s Queen is seeing to our guests and our home.
“Mamee!” Alex was up and a little fussy, pouting and rubbing his little eyes.
“Hi, Sweetie! Are you hungry?”
Bjorn handed Sookie the nursing pillow that was always beside his chair in front of the mini-fridge these days and she pulled Alex over and let him do his thing while she looked in his eyes and talked to him softly, kissing his hand and holding it to her cheek. Alex relaxed instantly when he tasted her milk, feeling safe again. He couldn’t explain in words, but he’d had a bad dream and was very happy to be snuggled against Mommy’s warm breast, looking into her pretty blue eyes and feeling that big, bright smile warming him all over.
Bjorn was smiling to himself, watching the two of them together, wondering how it must feel to be Alex at that moment. Bjorn was pretty sure he’d never had a moment like that when he was an infant, and it was both heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. Alex didn’t feed long, but he insisted on being held after, so Sookie pulled him into a hug and settled on her side with him, facing Bjorn, who watched the two of them sleep until Aubie woke up about an hour later.
Aubie was in his usual good mood and fed eagerly when Sookie put him to her breast. By that time Alex was more centered and was doing loops in the air above the bed, chattering “woogie, Mamee! Ahm fyeen, Obee, thirco!” and entertaining everyone with his antics.
Alicia came up the stairs with a load of laundry and was surprised to hear them all up and laughing so early. “Well – look who’s up at this hour!”
“Good morning, Alicia! I know I could sleep later if I wanted to, but I figured since I’ve got so much that needs my attention today, I’d better get on with it.”
“Do you want me to bring your breakfast up here?”
“Yes, please. When Aubie gets done, we’ll do some D-A-N-C-I-N-G, and eat, then I’ll tackle that paperwork in the office and see what’s going on in the guest house.”
“Alright, I’ll be back in a minute with your breakfast.”
Alex hovered over the bed at Eric’s side and let himself drop with a bounce, laughing as he hit. Aubie looked around to see what he was laughing at, but went right back to feeding as Alex crawled up onto Eric’s pillow and pulled himself up on the headboard so he was standing and bouncing by Sookie’s head.
“Hi, Pookie. Are you in a better mood now?”
“Eeah. Ahm undwy por bwepuss.”
“Alicia will be back with it in just a minute, OK?”
“Eeah!” he laughed and bounded into the air, flying at Bjorn very quickly, but Bjorn did manage to catch him when he got there.
“Ah, Borhd!” Alex put a hand against each side of Bjorn’s face so he had to look right at him. “Ee bwepuss?”
“Alicia is bringing it.”
“Eesha bweeneen id?”
“Right. Margaret is making it, then Alicia will bring it up, and I’ll feed it to you, OK?”
“Oday” That satisfied Alex so he put his arms around Bjorn’s neck and laid his head on his shoulder and closed his eyes. Sookie and Bjorn exchanged a strange look – was he going to sleep? – but before either of them could speak Alex raised his head and kissed Bjorn on the cheek and said, “Mamee, ah wyg Bhord!”
“Awww.” Sookie teased Bjorn and he laughed and told Alex, “I like you, too, Buddy. You’re a good kid,” as he patted his back and kissed his cheek. Alex cracked up as Bjorn swung him up over his head and growled and shook him a bit.
Sookie loved watching them together, and Aubie liked the whole scene because his tie into the bond was humming with HAPPY. Sookie looked into those deep blue eyes, stroking his cheek and adjusting the little copper chain around his neck so it lay straight and the copper pentacle was in front. She thought how well it had worked over the weekend and hoped the magick would hold out through the Wiccaning, but she wasn’t too worried about it.
Breakfast turned out to be pancakes for every one. Margaret made little ones that Aubie could gnaw on as Alicia dipped them in syrup and butter for him, then Alex was able to feed himself once Alicia tied a blue bib around his neck and Bjorn showed him how to dip it then eat it. Sookie inhaled a huge stack of pancakes and enjoyed them immensely, stopping only to tease Alex, “you’re going to be a mess with that syrup, Pookie!”
Alex didn’t know what she said but he giggled a little as he sucked on his syrup-covered fingers.
When Alex was done, Alicia gave Aubie back to Sookie and set her tray aside, then came out of the bathroom with a washcloth to clean Alex, who had syrup smeared on his face and running down his arms. When he was more or less clean, Alicia held him up so Sookie could position him sitting up on her stomach behind Aubie as if they were riding a horse. Sookie was able to hold two wrists in each hand as she started to shake them and sing “well, shake it up, baby, now, Shake it up, baby! Twist and Shout! Twist and Shout, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, c’mon, baby, now, come on, baby, come on and work it on out, work it on out. WOOOOO!”
Both babies were laughing hysterically, more from the fact that they liked sitting together that way than from the singing, but whatever the reason, everybody was having fun because of Mommy and that was all that mattered. A few minutes later, Sookie realized Bobbie was standing in the door watching them, messing around with an iPod.
“What’cha got, Bobbie?”
“Just this,” she said as she press PLAY and The Beatle’s original recording of Twist and Shout began to play.
“Yeah! Crank it up!” Sookie laughed and nodded and began to sing along with the song. The boys were tickled to death with the music and with Mommy singing with it. Neither of them had ever heard anything like that and it was the BEST thing EVER! Alex was squealing and Aubie giggled until he got the hiccups and the boys had so much fun they couldn’t believe it.
When things calmed down a bit, Alicia and Bobbie took the babies in for fresh diapers and Sookie pulled her hair into a pony tail and took a Super quick shower. Come hell or high water, Sookie decided, tonight was family bath night, so she didn’t need to be too meticulous. She’d wait and let Eric take care of the detail work and she flushed a little as she thought about him. Yum.
She wrapped a towel around herself and went out to the bedroom to see what she had that was easy to wear. Bobbie was lying sideways on the made-up bed, playing with the boys, who were freshly diapered and in plastic pants for the pool. There was a light blue sundress laying on the end of the bed for her and a matching thong panty.
“Hey, Sookie, do you trust me and Octavia to take the boys into the pool while you and Amelia tend to the chalets, or do you need me to help there, too?”
Sookie slipped the sundress over her head and pulled it over the towel, then dropped the towel from under is as they talked. “I would love it if you guys would play with the boys so I can really look things over. I want the house to be nice for our guests.”
“It’s just Bill and Pam, right?”
“No,” she replied as she wiggled into the thong, “Amunet and her husband are going to stay there the day after the Wiccaning, but Bill and Pam will be there alone in the mean time so we won’t be able to work on things much after Wednesday. Oh, and I need to write down about my Visit to Elfyria this morning – I talked to Niall – and I need to call Dr. Ludwig and invite her for Wednesday. I also need to make sure Margaret has plans for cakes for the boys and we have to think of what to do about gifts.”
“Are we having a party?” Bobbie hadn’t heard about this.
“Just a family thing, but I’ve invited Niall and Ludwig and Bill will be here. I don’t know about Pam, yet, but I hope so. Do you think I should invite Jason? He’s seen Niall before, right?”
“Yeah, but he didn’t know who he was.”
“Let me think about that, then. I’ll wait and talk to Eric at dinner and if he thinks we should I’ll call him then. Did he see Ludwig that day in Vegas? I barely remember what was going on.”
“That’s understandable. You were in a lot of pain. Yeah, he saw Ludwig and almost fainted. I think at this point Jason just knows to expect weirdness around your family, you know?”
“Yeah – I better clear it with Eric, though, just in case.” Sookie looked herself over in the mirror of the dresser. This dress must be new, she decided, and it was pretty. It was a very delicate blue with pleats on the bodice and rick-rack around the neckline. It buttoned all the way up the front, so breastfeeding would be easy, and it looked like church picnic wear so she knew Eric would love it. She sat briefly at her vanity table, which was back in its place, and added a little powder, blush, mascara and medium pink lipstick, deciding she looked sufficiently polished to deal with decorators.
She, Bobbie, Bjorn and the boys made their way down the stairs to the pool, though it was overcast today and Sookie thought to herself that Eric might be up if it got any darker. She sat with Bjorn while Bobbie and Octavia got Alex and Aubie into a green frog pool toy sturdy enough to hold both of them, and watched them splash and giggle as Bobbie pulled them around. Once Sookie was sure Aubie was OK in the water without her, she ran back to the chalet to see what was going on.
Men were carrying furniture through the front door, and Gerald Dupree stepped outside just as Sookie approached the house.
“Good morning, Mrs. Northman!”
“Hi, Gerald! How are we doing so far?”
“Well, it cost a pretty penny, but I got the carpeting installed yesterday, so once they get the furniture inside and we get rid of the packing materials, it will be ready to clean and do final touches.”
“OK, good. One thing – remember I said we just needed one bedroom ready? I was mistaken – we need two. There’s going to be more company than I expected originally.”
“Not to worry, Missus, we’ve got all three almost ready for company. By Wednesday evening it will be an absolute show place.”
“Oh, good! Now, what can I do to help?”
“Well, give us about two hours here and then if you want to come back we’ll go over some last minute details, room by room, then we’ll put the final touches on tomorrow. Alicia told me she has supplies – towels, bed linens, toiletries – all ready to put in the rooms once we have them clean.”
“Oh, good. I can usually count on her to be tho –” Sookie suddenly felt panic in the bond and realized Aubie had missed her. “I’ll check back later, thanks!” She spun on her heel and raced back to the pool. Bobbie was bringing Aubie, who was screaming for “MMMAAA_MMMAAAA!” as Sookie came running toward them, sending all the comfort she could through the bond to him.
“Aubie, hey, Sweetie, Mommy’s right here!” Sookie flew across the lawn at something well above human speed. She had Aubie in her arms in an instant and was so busy kissing him, cooing at him and rocking him that she didn’t notice the others staring at her in astonishment.
Aubie settled pretty quickly once he was in Sookie’s arms and he hugged her around the neck as she sat in the chair next to Bjorn and continued rocking him, his little body still shaking a bit from the fright. He let out a big sigh and they both relaxed and Sookie noticed for the first time that the others were staring at her. “What?”
Bjorn let out a little laugh in disbelief. “You don’t realize what you just did, do you?”
“What? My baby was crying and I got here as fast as I could.”
“Yeah, exactly,” Bjorn was continually amazed at how Sookie would do something Superhuman and not even notice.
“Was that wrong?”
“Sookie, were you ever on the track team in school?”
“Ew – no, I hated gym class. The last thing I wanted to do was spend my off hours hanging around the school sweating. Why?”
“I figured, because if you had been, running as fast as you just did, you’d have been in the Olympics.”
“Why? How fast was it?”
“Faster than I’ve seen anything short of a Vampire move.”
“He’s right, Sookie, you were a blur coming this way!” Bobbie agreed.
“Faster than human, you mean, for real?
“Yes, definitely,” Bjorn confirmed. “I don’t know if it’s from drinking Eric’s blood or the Ambrosia, but that was far beyond human capacity. Make sure you write this in your book, and tell Eric as soon as he gets up that you may have Super human speed.”
“I’m stronger now, too, right?”
“Yes, definitely,” Bjorn said.
“Hey, Bobbie, I’ve got 2 hours to kill. Could you do a massage on me and Aubie – Alex, too, I guess. Aubie has never had one.”
“That’s true and it’s been a while since I worked on you. You want to do it down here?”
“No, I’d rather do it indoors since there are delivery men around. Can we use the massage room on the fourth floor?”
“Good thinking.” Bjorn said, “Any objections to me being up there with you, Sookie?”
“No, I want you to stay close, for some reason,” Sookie said as her mood began to darken.
“Alright, let’s all go in,” Bjorn suggested.
“Where’s Alex?” Sookie realized he wasn’t out there.
“In the kitchen eating potatoes,” Bjorn laughed, “he asked Margaret and Octavia took him in. We should have taken Aubie, too, but he seemed to be having fun playing with toys in the water.”
“Let’s go in. Bjorn, I want to talk to you in my office before we go upstairs,” Sookie said in a more serious tone than anyone was used to hearing from her, walking quickly into the house, still hugging Aubie tightly to her.
Bjorn and Bobbie gave each other a look acknowledging Sookie’s suddenly dark turn of mood, so they quickly followed her.
Sookie stopped just briefly in the kitchen to tease Alex. “Are you eating potatoes, Pookie?”
“Eeah, dood tatosth!” he said with his mouth full. Sookie offered a bite to Aubie to see if he liked them but he didn’t even want to taste them, he just wanted to cling to Mommy, so she continued in through the living room with Bjorn following her. Bobbie told them she was going upstairs to prepare the massage room and went back through the pantry.
Sookie led Bjorn into her office and said, “close the doors,” to him as he followed her in, which he did. “Something’s wrong.”
“Can you be more specific?” He needed her to really focus if something was going on.
“Yeah – I’ve got this intense feeling that you need someone to sweep the chalet for bugs – you know, microphones.”
“OK, Sookie, answer me without thinking, just say what pops into your mind – are they still here?”
“I think 3 but only two inside the gates.”
“How’d they get in?”
“Any on our staff?”
“Yes and no.”
“It’s not human – what I’m getting, it’s not from a human. It’s in pictures but not like a Were.”
“Can you read daemons?”
“Never have before, but now, who knows?”
Bjorn pushed a button on his phone and someone who Sookie figured was out in the guard shack answered, “Yeah, boss?”
“Is Rafael here today?”
“Yes, he’s on the grounds.”
“I need him in Queen Sookie’s office on the first floor.”
“Bjorn, you need me, too?”
“Yeah, Jerry, come with.”
“Be right in.”
“Bjorn, what if I’m wrong about all this?”
“You’re not. You picked up on it when your “Spidey” senses were on alert because of Aubie.”
“No, but we’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
Jerry came in quickly with a tall man in all black. At first glance he seemed perfectly human – just a tall, thin man with black hair and very pale skin, but not like a Vampire. Vampires have soft, velvety skin, but this man… something about him said “slither” to Sookie and she hoped he wouldn’t touch her. She remembered hearing stories about nasty Fae that would pluck people’s eyes out for being able to see them and he gave her that sinister, Supernatural vibe, big time. She held Aubie a little more tightly to her when she saw him.
Bjorn briefed them, “Sookie picked something up – non-human, pictures, probably 2 in the gates, one outside, they got in with the delivery vans, and she thinks the chalet is bugged. Sookie, this is the Daemon Master, Rafael.”
“Your Majessssty,” he said with an exaggerated “s” sound that reminded her of a snake hissing, “have you any experiencsse with our kind?” He also rolled his “Rs” in a weird way like his tongue was too long and Sookie noticed he had vertical pupils.
“Daemons, you mean? Yeah, I’ve met a couple, but I don’t have what you’d call comprehensive knowledge of you all. I knew one that was a lawyer and his niece or something, but she was more like a Pixie…”
“Yesssss, well, many of us can mix with humans undetected, but you ssssseem to be particularly ssssenssssitive to variant thought patterns. I sssssusssspect there’ssss one of ussss with the enemy.”
“New Centurion, you mean?”
“Not necessssssarily. If a daemon mercsssssenary has been employed, I’d ssssay that our ssssssource is more likely of the Fae realm.”
“Would Fae bug our house, though?”
“My guesssss would be that newssss of your war councssssil has leaked out and sssssomeone would like to lisssssten in.”
“Can’t Fae do that without listening devices?” Sookie didn’t see why they’d need to.
“The quesssstion, My Lady, is which Fae and where. There is magick protecting thisss property, issss there not?”
“Yes, there is.”
“So what one is barred from doing onesssself, one might hire help to accomplish.”
“Niall? You think Niall is behind it?”
“Or Cullach’s hoard, but Brigant issss the most immediate danger and has mosssst to lose. He would naturally be very concssserned with your activities for the celebration.”
“I’ve invited him here Wednesday.”
“Precisssssely, My Lady. He wantssss to know if you’re laying a trap for him, and he wantssss to know what to expect at the ceremony the sssssabbat.”
“What do you recommend, Rafael?” Bjorn wanted to get to the bottom of this, fast.
“The matter requiresssss extreme dissssscretion sssso as not to alert any humans involved, asssss well asssss to keep newsss from going back to Brigant. You have your sssssecurity team do a ssssssweep of the chalet and my men will deal with the intruders away from here in a way that cannot be connected to the housssse.”
“What do you need from us?” Bjorn asked
“Ssssecure the property, ssssstay with the Queen, go on asssss if nothing is wrong. I will brief you on the disssssspossssition of the matter tomorrow, at the latest.” The man bowed to Sookie and left very quickly.
When he was well out of what Sookie thought “ear-shot” might be, she asked Bjorn, “are you sure we can trust him?”
“As sure as you could be with any mercenary. He’s got no love for Niall, so that works in your favor.”
“Is it safe for Niall to come here?”
“That’s entirely up to you.”
“As in I could have him killed?”
“As in you are the one most likely to kill him.”
“Was I wrong to invite him?”
“No, you pretty much had to. Royalty and protocol and progeny, and…”
“Blah, blah, blah, I get it. I need a massage, if you think it’s safe.”
“Yeah, I think you can risk it,” he teased her, nudging her shoulder to get her to lighten up a little, though he noticed she was taking these things more in stride lately.
Sookie decided to just trust Bjorn’s team to do what needed to be done and she figured if Rafael was going to be involved, it was better to have him on her side than working for the other side. She hoped Eric was paying them enough, but she knew he probably was and then some, just to be safe. By the time she was on Bobbie’s table, all was right with the world. Aubie went to sleep as Bobbie taught Sookie how to do infant massage on him, and Alex was brought upstairs when he finished his potatoes and got himself a massage, too. They were both tucked into little carriers napping while Mommy got one of the longest massages Bobbie ever gave her because Sookie was carrying a lot of tension she wasn’t even aware of in her shoulders. Bjorn was sitting outside the door in a chair and she knew that was mostly because of the threat on the compound.
At about 4:30, Sookie was lying there absent-mindedly wishing Eric was up when suddenly he was at the door.
She raised her head, excited to see him. “Eric!”
“Hello, my Angel. Have you got her nice and relaxed, Bobbie?” He came in and kissed Sookie on the back of her head.
“As well as can be expected.”
“Sweetie, you need to talk to Bjorn ASAP.”
“Alright, we’ll be right back.”
“OK,” Sookie finally let go of some of the tension she was carrying – Eric was here and all was right with the world, or would be very soon.