Eric and Bjorn stepped down the hall into the gym.
“What’s the situation?”
“Sookie picked up on something – probably Fae or Daemon, probably paid by Niall – and we need to sweep the new chalet for bugs. Rafael thinks Brigant wanted to listen in on your war council.”
“What did he recommend?”
“We’ve secured the compound and his troops will take care of the intruders away from the house in a way that can’t come back to us.”
“How did Sookie pick this up?”
“Apparently, she can read Daemons. She said it was pictures, but it wasn’t a Were or Shifter. She thought they came in with the delivery vans, and that there were two on the compound and one outside.”
“She was scanning for this?”
“No, Aubie panicked because he couldn’t see her, and while her senses were focused on him she picked it up. Also, she may have Super human speed now.”
“How do you know this?”
“She was at the chalet when the baby cried, and she came across the lawn in a blur. The only thing I’ve ever seen move faster is a Vampire.”
“Has she mentioned her plans for Wednesday?”
“Yes, and she talked to Brigant in Elfyria this morning, but I don’t know the details. I believe he accepted the invitation.”
“Let’s get Sookie to brief us on that so we’re all on the same page. When will you sweep the chalet?”
“We might as well wait until Wednesday before Bill gets here, unless you want us to do it now?”
“I’ll do a walk-through and see if I pick up anything, then we’ll be very thorough Wednesday night.”
Sookie came out of the massage room with her dress back on, stopping a few feet from the door of the gym in case she was interrupting.
“Come in, Sweetheart. You visited Niall today?”
“I woke up in Elfyria. Freyja turned to a page in the book that told me how Niall and Titania came to be married, and told me to stand up to him and show no fear. I only intended to invite him and then talk about the Wiccaning after the party, but he pushed the issue so I told him I know all about Titania and exactly who I am and that I wasn’t going to give my title away. I told him I’d give him until 2027 and then I’d decide if I want it or give it to Aubie, so he wouldn’t lose anything. I also confirmed that I expected him at the Wiccaning.”
“How did he receive the news?”
“He said it seemed reasonable and would solve some immediate problems, but I could feel that he wasn’t happy about it. I also told him I’d be back soon to look around the palace and learn more about Elfyria. He said I was welcome any time and I said I’m more than welcome and we both know it, then I was back here.”
“Did you actually use those words?” Bjorn couldn’t believe she actually said that to him. That was pretty ballsy to talk to someone as powerful as Niall that way.
“Yep. I’ll never show him fear or weakness again. Niall’s marriage to Titania was arranged to end the war in Elfyria, and he thanked her parents, who were being more generous than they needed to, by killing her. I told him we’ll do our duty and keep up appearances according to our offices. What I didn’t tell him is that I have no feeling for him now at all and I consider him a threat to me and to Aubie. I did reinforce to him that he’d better never challenge my custody of Aubie. Remember what we were talking about, Eric – the preemptive strike?”
“He’s had his one warning. If he fucks with us again, I’m taking him out.”
“Sookie…” Eric couldn’t believe she was being so firm about this.
“I know he’s the one bugging the chalet. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, because they were probably hired before I talked to him today and he wouldn’t have had time to call it off. From today forward, any new threat will be the last.”
“Did you say that explicitly, Sookie?”
“No, I didn’t. I just told him if he’d leave my kids alone, we’d have no problem, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s enough. I made him a fair deal and offered to let him be a grandfather to the boys. If he doesn’t stick to it, that’s it.”
Eric could tell Sookie had made a decision, so he didn’t press the point. He’d wait until after the issue with the chalet was resolved and they’d revisit the idea. If Sookie still felt this way, they’d talk about making a plan. He’d much prefer that Niall take the 18 years and give Sookie time to learn more, but they had to be pragmatic. If she was going to have to kill Niall, the element of surprise would be necessary to accomplish it.
“What time is it?” Sookie asked
“Eric, do you need to feed from me to feel grounded?”
“No, I’m surprised to say I feel fine.”
“OK, I need to go back to the chalet and talk to the decorator. Can you stay with the boys?”
“Yes, of course. Should you take Auberon with you?” Eric didn’t know if Auberon would be afraid to be left with him or not.
“Actually, yeah, I will. I’ll put him in a sling. He was really upset and shaking earlier and since we’ve got him calm, we’ll play it safe.” Sookie took Aubie out of the bouncer and went down to the nursery for a sling, finding a blue floral one that looked cute with her dress. He barely stirred as she changed his diaper and got him situated, then she took the elevator down to the first floor.
“Hey, Margaret – you know Eric is up, right?”
“Oh, no, I didn’t see him.”
“OK, well he’s got Alex, and I’ve got Aubie. I’m going to go out to the chalet for a bit. If Alicia is looking for me, tell her I’ll do the paperwork when I get done out there, OK?”
“Sbe might already be out there, but if I see her, I’ll let her know.”
“Thanks!” Sookie gave her a big smile and headed out the back door.
Octavia was sitting on a lounge chair in the shade reading a book about astrology.
“Hey, Octavia! How are you today?”
“I’m fine. Just taking it easy until dinner time.”
“Oh, good. I’m going out to talk to the decorators.”
“Thanks,” Sookie was feeling better and bouncier now and Aubie must have been dreaming because he was sending happy vibes into the bond. Sookie smiled down at him and stroked his cheek softly as she covered the ground between the pool and the chalet. The door was standing open, so Sookie looked inside, “knock, knock?”
“Mrs. Northman! Perfect timing! They’re just finishing with running the sweeper one last time and – Alicia, I think?…”
“Yes, Alicia, she’s my assistant.”
“OK, well, she’s making the beds and putting all those boxes of linens into the rooms. We’ll be hanging pictures and we’re putting out little knick-knacks and such.”
“Is there still a lot to do?”
“The main thing is placing the art and getting the lighting right. Also, the vases will be empty until Wednesday morning when we’ll have the fresh flowers delivered.”
“Oh, good idea. Who will be in charge of replacing them? We might need to freshen them before the 2nd.”
“Your household staff will make those arrangements as necessary.”
“Why don’t you just look through the rooms and see if things are to your liking – everything is in the right rooms, but they aren’t necessarily in place in them all.”
“Oh, goodie. I can’t wait to see!” Sookie gave him a smile and started up the stairs. She peered into the bedroom on the left, and found that the bed had been made with an unusual and pretty blue floral spread and nice, soft blue sheets. The windows had very nice dark blue silk drapes with light blue sheers, and the furniture was in position. They were equipped basically like the guest rooms in the house – quilt rack under the window, walnut dresser, two nightstands, with matching lamps, a small bookshelf – but they had armoires in them instead of closets and really nice suitcase racks at the end of the bed. Sookie opened the armoire and saw that the top shelf had spare blankets and there were nice flocked hangers in a blue color that matched the room.
Sookie did notice that there was no television or clock in the room, so she’d ask Gerald about that.
She walked across the balcony, peeking into the upstairs bathroom which looked pretty good, but needed to be wiped down, then into the other upstairs bedroom and found Alicia taking a bedspread out of the packaging. “Hey, Alicia! Need help?”
“Hey! Nope, I’ve got it under control. This is the last bedroom for making the bed, the linen closet is filled and Leroy just took out the boxes.”
“Thank you so much for doing that! You don’t happen to know what the deal is with TV’s and clocks and such do you?”
“I believe they’ll all be delivered and installed tomorrow, the artwork should be finished tonight and tomorrow, then Wednesday we’ll dust, run the sweeper again, stock the fridge and put fresh flowers in the vases. Margaret is making those little baskets up for the dressers with the toothbrushes and socks and lotion and all as we speak and we’ll put one in each room Wednesday, too.”
“Oh, great! What do you think of the bedspreads – do you like them?”
“They’re pretty, but unusual, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, I expected something more traditional, but I really like these. They look like paintings.”
“I think they are actually watercolor paintings printed on fabric. They’re very modern but still cozy.”
“Cool. There’s a third bedroom, right?”
“Well, sort of. The bedroom downstairs actually has 6 very modern looking … I think they’re called travel boxes?”
“Only in the shape. They’re walnut, to match the rest of the furniture.”
“And they put them all in the same room?”
“Yes. Mr. Northman thought you might need extra room for an entourage. There are also three armoires in there. Did you see the electric blinds?”
“No, what do you mean?”
Alicia picked up a small remote control and pointed it at the windows and a cover slid down over them completely blocking out the sun. “Your guests can sleep in the beds if they want. All the bedrooms have these.”
“That’s fantastic! It’s like a Vampire hotel!”
“Exactly. It’s much more luxurious than most would expect in a guesthouse for a private home. All the rooms have deadbolts on the doors, too, for extra security.”
“Is Amelia’s chalet done in the same style?”
“No, I believe hers is done in green and cream with oak furniture and she’s using her own artwork. Her living room furniture is much sleeker, too – the overall look of it is more modern.”
“Is this one too old fashioned?”
“I think it’s lovely. The furniture is excellent quality and it’s got touches like the bedspread that make it more contemporary. It might not be the most fashion forward design, but it’s very cozy.”
“OK, I like that – guests should be comfortable, more than anything.”
“I think they’ll be very pleased with the accommodations. It’s Mr. Compton and who else?”
“Eric’s Childe Pam will be here with him, and then Prince Badru and his wife Amunet will stay with us the day after the Wiccaning.”
“Amunet needs food, yes?”
“Yes, so I hope we’ll have groceries as well as RMs.”
“Oh, you’re going to serve RMs instead of True Blood?”
“Yes, I think Pam is supposed to bring several cases with her. Eric feels they’re a little more upscale, you know?”
“Well, that’s good. If you have leftovers, the two of you can always drink them.”
“Yes, Gerald?” Sookie looked out into the hallway, then down over the balcony to the living room.
“Did you want to choose the artwork? We’ve got several options, then we’ll send the rest back to the collection in New Orleans.”
“Oh, great!” Sookie started down the steps and Aubie woke up as she jostled him a little.
“Hey, Sweet boy! Are you waking up?” She pulled him up so he could see around them and gave him a kiss. He sucked his little thumb and rested his head on Sookie’s shoulder as she looked over the art.
Gerald had a selection of paintings lined up for Sookie to look at, organized by size in three stacks. They started with the big ones.
“OK, of this six, you’ll want to pick two for over the beds, then probably two smaller ones for each room upstairs.”
Sookie noticed that the men were wearing the white gloves to handle the artwork because they were “real” art and needed protection. Sookie went wild for a work by Edward Robert Hughes called The Valkyrie’s Vigil and insisted it be used in the living room.
She found one for a bedroom called A Pastoral Scene by John Reinhard Weguelin that she felt had a Pagan feel to it, showing a nude woman from the back, sitting in a field with lambs surrounding her.
She chose another by Henry Meynell Rheam called Sleeping Beauty that was done in gorgeous shades of blue that would match the bedspreads perfectly.
There was a work by Edouard Bisson called The Goddesses on Mount Olympus that she insisted be taken to her house and put over her bed, so Leroy and Lonnie went up with Howard to see what they needed to do for that.
She picked one called The Crystal Gazers by Henry Siddons Mowbray for the wall outside the bathroom on the upper floor, and another Henry Meynell Rheam called The Sorceress for the other side of the door.
They needed a smaller painting over a table in the entry and Sookie loved a Herbert Draper called A Water Baby.
“Alicia – are they supposed to be merpeople?”
“Yes, I think that’s the idea, though they don’t have fins.”
“That’s what I thought. I love this. I never saw this stuff in Feli… I mean, in the Las Vegas residence.”
“Apparently there were quite a few of these stored there and Mr. Northman had all of it made available for your use…”
“Hey, Sookie!” Amelia looked in the door.
“Hey, Amelia! What’s up?” Sookie asked as she held Aubie forward and let Amelia give him a kiss.
“Eric said if I wanted to I could pick some art work from what’s left after you chose what you want to use.”
“I’m sure you’ll find something cool. These are just gorgeous. I wonder why Felipe didn’t have these displayed?”
“I don’t know – I love all this romantic/pre-Raphaelite stuff. Maybe he thought it wasn’t prestigious enough?”
“Yep – are these the ones you’re using?”
“Yes. Aren’t they amazing?”
“They should probably be in a museum, but if you’ve got them, might as well enjoy them,” Amelia laughed. “OOH! I can’t believe you have this!”
“What is it?”
“It’s called Bacchante with Grapes. See the Dionysian imagery with the leopard skin?”
“Bacchante – is that like a Maenad?”
“I think I’ll pass. Use it if you want to – it won’t go with anything in here.”
“Are you serious?”
“Sure, if you like it that much…”
“It would be amazing in the living room over in my house.”
“Have them hang it for you. Your stuff is green, right – that would look great with it.”
“Oh, look – this one is called A Bacchante!”
“You going to stick with that theme?” Sookie and Alicia both laughed.
“If you’re not going to use it, I’d love to.”
“Take it. Look through it all and see if there’s any more Dionysus in it. I know Eric knows him, but it scares me.”
“He’s not so bad, Sookie, you just had a bad run-in with a fanatic.”
“Fanatic – I never thought of her that way. I guess she was – she never did really invoke him – she just spreads her madness wherever she goes.”
“Here we go – Bacchus by Simeon Solomon! This one is pretty well known – he did two similar ones.”
“Pretty boy!” Sookie laughed.
“That’s Dionysus through and through – the eternal youth.”
“You taking that one, too?”
“Yeah, why not? It’s a fun theme – maybe it will keep the house rocking?”
Sookie laughed, but she couldn’t really picture Jerry rocking the house, though she didn’t really try because that would be weird.
“Did you just come from the house, Amelia?”
“Yeah, why?” She was paying more attention to the gorgeous paintings than she was to what anyone was saying.
“What’s Eric doing?”
“He took that Mount Olympus painting from Howard and the boys and took it up to hang it in your room. He was tickled to death that you chose it, by the way.”
“Sookie – that’s pretty much the way the Living Pantheon looks. He thinks you were destined to own the painting and it’s a very good sign that you had such a strong reaction to it.”
“I didn’t really think about it – I just instantly loved it.”
“He knows that, and he’s thrilled.”
Aubie whimpered a little then and made a motion that let Sookie know that he wanted to be breast fed, so she finished with the paintings and headed back to the house with him, leaving Alicia to direct the hanging of the art she chose. When she unbuttoned her bodice as she walked and as she reached the pool, she let him have her breast then continued on into the house with him and back to the elevator. Eric was standing back from the bed, admiring the painting as it hung over the headboard.
“My Angel! Look at your beautiful painting!”
“Oh, that looks so good there! I always thought we needed something up there.”
“This was an excellent choice, Sookie. I hear you jumped up and down when you saw it?”
“Yeah, I guess I did. I just instantly pictured it over our bed. It’s like that space was just waiting for it.”
Aubie didn’t stop feeding but he reached out to Eric with one hand and Eric bent to speak to him. “Hello, my little elf! Is Mommy feeding you?”
“Ah!” he leaned back and said, then went right back to suckling. Eric laughed with delight and kissed his little hand, then the top of his head.
“Hey, where’s Alex?” Sookie was gently swinging Aubie from side to side as he fed.
“Bjorn took him so I could tend to your painting. I didn’t really want the gardener’s boys up in our room.”
“Well, it was easier for you to do, right? Since you can fly and all?”
“Exactly – I didn’t have to stand on the bed. How did you find the chalet?”
“There’s still a lot to do, but it’s going to get done. If worse came to worse, it’s livable right now. Alicia made the beds and filled the linen closet, so it’s just finishing touches left, really – hanging the paintings I chose, filling the fridge, fresh flowers in the vases, one good final cleaning, the baskets of toiletries we keep in the rooms. You did say Pam is bringing a few cases of RMs, right?”
“Yes, so we can stock their fridge and ours.”
“OK, good. The carpeting looks really nice and I love those automatic shutter things that darken the rooms!”
“Those are nice, aren’t they? If our bedroom didn’t face the front of the house, I’d have them installed here. Our current system is fine, though – there’s no real light in here if we don’t open the windows.”
“You know my favorite part of the chalet? I love the view of the back of our house from there. It looks really nice from the upstairs. When the new flowers are in around the walks and the pool, it will be even better.”
“Speaking of new flowers, I got a message from Vincent that the landscapers will finish your fountains tomorrow and add the rest of the plants around the pool, the front walk and from the front gate back toward the house. All your water features and statuary should be in place by Wednesday evening.”
“Oh, good! I really want it to look nice when Badru and Amunet visit.”
“I thought you might. They might even be able to set your gazebo in back. If there’s one already together on the suppliers lot, it will go up tomorrow.”
“Oh, that’s so cool!”
“Anybody up there?” Bobbie called from the stairs.
“Yeah, Bobbie, we’re in here!” Sookie replied.
“Margaret said dinner is served.”
“OK, we’ll be right down.”
“I’ve got to run upstairs, so I’ll see you all down there,” Bobbie said as she bounced on up the stairs.
Eric led Sookie and Aubie back to the elevator since Aubie was feeding and they reached the kitchen as Bjorn was setting Aubie’s high chair next to Alex’s.
“So both boys got hungry early today, huh?” Bjorn asked as he held Sookie’s seat for her.
“Yeah, I guess they did – we’re not late, right?”
“No,” Eric said, “it’s earlier than we normally eat.”
“Honestly, I don’t think Aubie is feeding because he’s hungry – I think he needed the closeness,” Sookie said softly as she looked into his eyes and rocked him very gently. “I’m going to keep him close the rest of the night. He was really scared earlier.”
“That’s probably a good idea. I hope he isn’t frightened by Niall on Wednesday,” Eric said, stroking Aubie’s shoulder with the backs of his fingers.
“Shit – I never even thought of that. I hope he doesn’t think Niall is here to take him away.”
“Just be prepared for an adverse reaction, Sookie. If he is scared, you hold him close and if necessary, take him out of the room. As long as you hold him, I’m sure he’ll be fine. Being close to you soothes him,” Eric reassured her.
“I just remembered – I’ve got paperwork in my office I have to get to tonight. Can you stay with Alex? I’ll keep Aubie with me.”
Eric laughed. “You put Aubie in your sling, I’ll put Alex in one of mine and we’ll work with them in tow.”
“Alright, good. Also, we are, without fail, having a family bath tonight and going to bed early.”
Eric wiggled his eyebrows at her, “yes, ma’am.”
“Don’t get too excited – I’m more interested in cuddling the boys so Aubie will feel safe.”
“That’s a pleasant prospect, too. How scared was he today, Sookie?”
“Very – I’m telling you, his little heart was about to beat right out of his chest and he was shaking all over.”
“Is that around the time you got your intuition about the problem out there?”
“What are you thinking, Eric?” Bjorn asked him.
“Is it possible Aubie saw a familiar face? Someone he’s seen in Elfyria, with Niall, or one of Cullach’s assassins?”
“I never thought of that, but it was right when the delivery guys were taking furniture into the chalet,” Sookie remembered.
“Yeah, it was,” Bjorn agreed, “and he was looking in that direction when he screamed.”
“Margaret, can you hold Sookie’s dinner for about 10 minutes?” Eric asked
“Of course, Mr. Northman. It’s not quite ready to come off the stove.”
“Sookie, let’s take a walk out to the chalet. Bjorn, would you like to join us?”
“Yeah, I would.”
Eric stood and gave Sookie his hand. “Margaret, we’re going to leave Alex here, alright?”
“Yes, that’s fine. We’ll be fine, won’t we Master Alex?”
“Mm-mmm.” Alex nodded, his mouth full from his second bowl of potatoes. Alex was a hungry boy and these “tatosth” were rockin’!
“Bobbie will be down in a minute, too,” Sookie reminded her as they headed out back.
‘We’ll say we’re looking at the artwork you chose, Sookie,’ Eric projected to her.
“Bjorn, have you seen the inside of the chalets, yet?” Eric was pretending to make small talk and Bjorn knew it.
“No, not yet. I haven’t seen them since they’re under roof. Do they look good, Sookie?”
“Wait ’til you see!” Sookie said, playing along. “The blue one will be really cozy.”
‘The delivery truck is still here, Sookie. Walk around front of it with Aubie so he can get a look at the driver.’
Sookie split off to the left where the truck was parked and walked toward the front of it. Aubie looked right at the guy in back and had no reaction. As they reached the front, the guy in the driver’s seat glanced up, surprised to see someone coming that way, and when he showed his face, Aubie screamed like a banshee and popped his little fangs. The man bailed out of the truck and began to fly away, but Sookie threw her hand in his direction and said “NO!” and a blast of light struck him, leaving him on the ground, stunned. Bjorn ran in that direction as Rafael, who was at the guardhouse in back of the property, literally swooped in and covered the guy with an iron net that reminded Sookie of loosely woven chain mail. Rafael was wearing black gloves, so he and Bjorn were able to use padlocks to seal him inside the net before he regained his senses. Iron didn’t burn daemons and Fae as silver does Vampires, but it rendered them so powerless that the guy in the net couldn’t get away from them.
“Sookie, distract the decorator inside,” Eric said as he headed toward the prisoner.
Sookie snuggled and cooed at Aubie to calm him as she went into the house and looked around, but Gerald wasn’t there. That was odd. He was supposed to work late, wasn’t he?
She had an idea so she pointed at a throw rug in the entrance and said, “all the surveillance devices in this house” and there was a flash leaving a small pile of little boxes and “buttons” of some sort. She found an empty glass candy dish on the coffee table and put the “bugs” in it, then decided to go ask if his car was still here. She was able to tell that their prisoner had been taken to the guard shack in back, which was bigger than she ever realized as she got close to it. She thought she could see Eric inside, but she didn’t want to interrupt so she projected to him, ‘Eric! Can I come in?’
Eric stepped in front of the window and waved to Sookie and sent, ‘come in,’ so she and Aubie went on up to the building and Eric opened the door for her.
“I thought you might want these,” she held the candy dish out to him and his eyes popped.
“Where did you get these, Sookie?” Eric couldn’t believe it – there had to be ten of them there!
“I called them.”
“I pointed at a throw rug and called “all the surveillance devices in this house” and there they were. I grabbed this dish off the table to put them in.”
“The coffee table in the living room.”
“Alright, we’ll use it for a minute then I’ll put it back when we’re done. Anything else?”
“Ask them if Gerald left or if his car is still here – I thought he had more work tonight but he’s not in the chalet where he should be.”
“Any of you men recognize the decorator?” Eric walked on in and asked.
“Yeah, he’s still here, I think,” a guard Sookie didn’t know replied.
“Do you know his car?” Eric knew something was up.
“Yeah, it was in the barn a minute ago,” the man said as he went to a video screen to look inside the converted barn. “Yeah, that’s his car there.”
“I wonder why he’s not in the chalet? Where else would he be?” Sookie asked.
“Good question,” Eric agreed something was wrong. “Jerry?”
“Is there anybody in your chalet?”
“Just a hunch, but I think you and Bjorn should take a trip through it,” Eric suggested, so he and Bjorn quickly headed for the other chalet. Weres can move almost as silently as a Vampire when they want, so they slipped inside and followed the strange scent in to the utility closet, where they caught Gerald wiring a “tap” into the phone line. What happened next is hard to describe.
There was a flash of red light and Gerald was gone, then he was back, then gone, another red flash, then he was a pile on the floor. Bjorn and Jerry put some iron handcuffs Rafael had given them on him and carried him back to the guard stand as he moaned.
“Bjorn, what the hell was that?” Jerry was a little freaked out.
“My money says it was Sookie.”
“What’d she do?”
“She kept him from escaping, but I don’t know what she did. It had to be her, though – she’s the only one I know with that kind of power.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.”
They dragged him into the building and Eric said, “what do we have here?”
“He was trying to tap our phone,” Jerry said. “He tried to teleport out, but something stopped him.” He glanced at Sookie and Eric nodded that it had been she, but they didn’t go into how she did it just then.
“Do you need me, anymore, Eric?” Sookie asked hopefully. She was ready to go in now, because she was working up an appetite. Aubie was being perfectly quiet, knowing Mommy had it under control, and Daddy, too, but his big eyes were taking in everything that happened.
“Try one more thing.” Eric pulled a chair out from a desk. “Put their accomplice in that chair.”
Sookie took a deep breath and focused her energy and pointed at the chair – “the third man” and there was a POP and then a very confused daemon was being wrestled to the ground.
“Your Queen is very talented, sssssssire,” Rafael told Eric with a strange tone in his voice – it wasn’t really admiration, but there was a little of that.
“Yes, well, let’s find out who we’re dealing with here…”
“They’re double agents,” Sookie said.
“What?” Eric was shocked now – how did she know this?
“I can hear him like a radio. He is trying to decide whether to blame Niall or Liam under torture. He takes money from both. There were apparently more than two assassins when they went after Aubie. I only saw the two in the bedroom – the two that the falcons killed. Aubie recognized that first guy from that day – this one is remembering being outside and running like hell when the other guy ran out screaming about birds.”
“Yeah, Niall sent him in here. He didn’t know he was hiring one of Cullach’s assassins. They’re looking for a new source of income since their boss was killed.”
“Alright, Sookie, you can go in and have your dinner. We might be a while.”
“Jerry and Bjorn, I’ll tell Margaret to put some dinner back for you guys.”
“Thanks, Sookie,” Bjorn said, just shaking his head. She still had no idea what a formidable weapon she was.
The rest of the night in the guard stand was like a seminar in the handling and torture of various daemon life forms, conducted by Rafael. He seemed to take pleasure in teaching Bjorn and Jerry how to deal with lower orders of Fae and Daemon. Niall’s mistake was apparently hiring too low an order of daemon for two of the three positions on this team of spies. Gerald was able to keep Sookie from hearing his thoughts, but the other two had no such protections. They were only supposed to be lookouts, so they didn’t think they needed any. It never occurred to them that a baby would recognize the one who had been in Siobhan’s house the morning Sookie saved Aubie. Niall didn’t tell them anything about Sookie’s powers, and they knew nothing about Sookie killing Liam, so they had no way to know what she could do. Eric and Bjorn were both running different scenarios for using Sookie’s abilities through their minds as they dealt with their intruders.
Sookie chatted with Aubie on the way back to the house, “you were a really good boy, Aubie – that’s good, telling Mommy when there are bad people around. Mommy won’t let any of the bad people near you. Mommy’s going to keep you with her always. You’re my sweet boy, and I’m going to keep you safe.” She kissed him and cuddled him and she was trying to figure out what to tell Giselle, whom she had to contact tonight to make some final choices for the Prytania St. house. She was glad they’d made so much progress on the chalet – worse come to worse, Alicia, Carrie and Lena could finish what had to be done.
Dinner was grilled salmon, fried potatoes and spinach salad, which was good, but not at the top of Sookie’s hit list. She figured she was a little spoiled from the meals in Dallas that weekend. She tried to get Aubie to eat some food but he didn’t want to, and he didn’t want her to put him down, either, so she ate with him on her lap.
“Margaret, Jerry and Bjorn will be in later – can you keep a plate warm for them?”
“Of course, Missus. I know they’ve been busy with all this construction.”
Alex ate a huge dinner, with just a little help from Bobbie, and was yawning, so Sookie had Bobbie bring him and they went up to her room, black kitten at their heels.
“Any plans for tonight, Sookie?” Bobbie asked as they rode the elevator to the third floor.
“I have some work I need to do, but I’m more concerned with getting the boys a bath and keeping my poor little buddy here calm. He’s had a scary day, haven’t you, Aubie? Yeah, my baby’s had a scary day!” She swung from side to side a little and looked directly into his eyes, making him feel safe and loved. “I may blow the work off until tomorrow. I think as soon as Eric comes in, we should bathe and cuddle the boys.”
“What exactly happened? It was more than just missing you, right?”
“Yeah, he apparently recognized one of the people that tried to kill him out at the chalet – he was the driver of the delivery van,” Sookie explained as she led them into the nursery.
“Oh, my Goddess!”
“Niall sent them in here to spy on us. You should have seen the pile of bugs I called from the chalet.” Sookie put Aubie on the changing table and undid his diaper as Alex watched, transfixed.
“Bugs? Like, microphones?”
“Yep – Eric said there were about ten of them, then they caught the decorator trying to tap Jerry and Amelia’s phone. He was in on it, too.” She wiped and powdered Aubie, giving him a fresh diaper and a tickle and a hug, then she and Bobbie traded babies.
“The decorator? Who’s going to finish the chalet?”
“Well, it’s mostly done. I’ve got to come up with something to tell Giselle, though.”
“Tell her he told you he had a family emergency and never came back.”
“OK, that would work. Whoa, Alex! Stinky diaper!”
“Thteekee!” he giggled, so Aubie did, too. As she cleaned him up and got the new diaper on him, Alex began to yawn again.
“Are you sleepy, Pookie?”
“Eeah, an Obee.”
“Daddy will probably be busy for a while – why don’t we take a nap, then Daddy will wake us up when he’s done working, OK?”
Sookie tucked Alex into the co-sleeper, but Aubie still wanted to be held, so she took him from Bobbie.
“Bobbie, can you do me a favor?”
“Sure – what do you need?”
“Can you open my laptop there and get my email for me. I know there’s stuff I’m supposed to do – I’ll just do it up here.”
“Is it Kingdom business?” Bobbie was just curious.
“Mostly stuff about decorating – I’ve got like three choices I need to notify Giselle on and I think Emily left me a question about my New Orleans office, then I think there’s something about the Wiccaning in there, too.”
“What are you going to wear to that, by the way?” She had the laptop starting up on the side table.
“Alicia says she thinks she’s got something perfect that will be in tomorrow or the next day. She called it “hippie formal wear,” Sookie laughed as she settled cross-legged on the bed with Aubie still in her arms.
“That sounds perfect. What kind of shoes are you going to wear? You’ll need to be able to dance, you know – not ballroom dancing, Pagan dancing around in a big circle or spiral.”
“I don’t know – I can’t dance in Birkies and I know I won’t want to wear stilettos. I probably have some low-heeled sandals somewhere. I hope Alicia thought of that.”
“You’ve got time if she didn’t. Worse comes to worse, we run to the Mall on Thursday or Friday.”
“True. I’ll bet she has something, though – she’s always on top of stuff,” Sookie said confidently as Bobbie handed her the laptop.
“OK, so there are three sets of pictures. Can I drag a picture from one email to another?”
“You should be able to.”
“OK, because I’m just going to pick my favorite picture from each set and send that back, then I’m going to tell her about Gerald’s emergency and ask her if she has someone else to handle things or if I should just have my regular staff finish up. We’re still waiting for electronics tomorrow and for fresh flowers on Wednesday…” Sookie was sort of thinking out loud so Bobbie could follow what she was doing in case she had any suggestions.
“There’s not that much left to do, right?”
“Not really. The TVs need to be installed on their brackets or whatever and hooked to the cable, but worse comes to worse, Eric and the guys can do that. I heard Margaret tell Carrie that she’d need her and Lena to do a good once over on the place Wednesday morning, the art work is going up now, Alicia and Margaret usually do the flowers, so we really don’t need more help that I know of. I’m not above doing a little cleaning out there if I need to, too,” Sookie laughed.
“So, was the decorator human?”
“No – some kind of Daemon, I think, but a different kind than the two other guys. I’ve never been around them much, so I didn’t know what was going on until I picked up on the pictures from the driver.”
“Yeah, see, with people, I hear words most of the time – their internal dialogue or whatever. With Shifters and Weres, I get mostly a series of pictures. I was picking up pictures out there, but not like from a Were – they were… distorted, or something. Then the third one I could hear just like a human. Gerald was apparently able to block me – but then, I never really tried to listen to him. Maybe if I had, I’d have figured things out sooner. I’ve got to start scanning everybody we don’t know, no matter who sends them.”
“Yeah – that took some real planning to get Gerald in here, didn’t it?”
“Yeah, that had to be planned a while back, now that I think about it. I got the impression that Giselle had worked with him before.”
“Do you know who sent him?”
“I’m sure it was Niall.” Sookie finished her email and closed the computer, handing it to Bobbie to put back on the table.
“So he must have been planning to spy on you guys all along.”
“That’s what I think. Eric will tell me that’s typical for a Fae – no wonder he hates them so much.”
“Not all of them, Sookie.”
“Yeah, he loves me and Alex and Aubie,” she laughed. “And I’m supposed to be the Queen of ’em all,” she said softly. “I wonder if he can really handle that if I do?”
“He can handle that just as well as you handle him being King of the Vampires,” Bobbie laughed. “It’s all coming together the way it’s intended to, kid. Just let the plan unfold.”
“Yeah, that’s all we really can do,” Sookie said as she shifted Aubie so he was lying between her and Alex in the co-sleeper, Sookie facing Bobbie, her head propped up on one hand, the other hand on Aubie’s tummy. “So what are you wearing to the Wiccaning?”
They chatted for a while about clothes and spiral dances and nothing in particular, then Bobbie turned the lights off when Sookie dozed off and closed the door.
“Sookie, can you hear me? Sookie?” Eric was speaking softly, shaking her shoulder just a little.
“Hmm? Hey,” she gave hm a sleepy smile, “are you all done?”
“Yes, I am – the baby is asking for you,”
“Mmmammma!” Aubie called her again, his little hand patting her breast so she opened her dress and let him feed. Eric spooned up behind them and kissed Sookie’s ear, his arm over her resting on Aubie’s back.
“So they never report back, right?”
“Get any useful information?”
“Yes and no. We learned a lot about dealing with several types of Daemon and Faery, but you told us as much as we learned from them. They owed loyalty to no one – they were purely mercenary.”
“I told Giselle that Gerald said he had a family emergency and never came back.”
“Did you get rid of his car?”
“Yes, it will never be seen again.”
“What happens to them when they die?”
“They sort of disintegrate – similar to the way Vampires do.”
“So there’s nothing to find, as usual?”
“So we can all just finish the chalet ourselves?”
“Do you need my help?”
“Maybe – the TVs and clock radios will be delivered tomorrow, I hope, and you or the guys might need to install the wall brackets and hook up the cable or whatever.”
“That’s not a problem. What else?”
“That’s probably it. The rest will be handled by Alicia, Margaret, Carrie and Lena, then I’ll run through and see if there’s anything we missed.”
“Good. I put your candy dish back, by the way.”
“Did you choose the painting in the living room?”
“The Valkyrie one? Yeah, I did.”
“I like it very much,” he kissed her cheek and squeezed her shoulder.
“I thought about using it here in the house, but it didn’t really go with anything.”
“I like it there – a subtle reminder of their host,” he laughed.
“That’s what I thought. Did Amelia get her paintings hung, too?”
“Jerry is probably doing that as we speak. You might also hear Bjorn hanging a painting tonight. Bobbie saw one you didn’t use that she really liked so I told her she could use it in her bedroom.”
“A Dedication to Bacchus.”
“Damn – he got into the house anyway…” she said softly.
“Nothing. Have the boys been fed at all?”
“I fed Alex before I woke you and he went right back to sleep. By that time Auberon was trying to wake you and he began to fuss when I picked him up, so I decided to wake you and let you feed him.”
“He’s not as into food as Alex is,” Sookie laughed softly, looking Aubie in the eyes and playing with his fingers.
“No, he’s not. He’d rather have Mommy than anything else he’s offered.”
“That’s just fine with Mommy, isn’t it, Cookie?”
“Yep – Alex is Pookie, Aubie is Cookie. I know they don’t rhyme.”
“But Cookie and Sookie do,” he kissed her ear again.
“ha,” she laughed softly, “I never thought of that.”
“No – I completely spaced on it.”
“When you are done feeding him, you should eat, my Angel.”
“Yeah, I could definitely eat. Is it too late to do a family bath?”
“The boys look awfully comfortable. Are you sure you want to disturb them?”
“Maybe if they wake up later?”
“We’ll consider it. For the moment I think you should relax. Were you able to finish your work earlier?” He smoothed her hair back from her face.
“The emails, at least. There’s still some stuff in the office that I’ll do first thing tomorrow. Do you have things to do?”
“I thought I’d stay here with my beautiful family as long as I can.”
“Aww, Sweetie,” she turned back a little to kiss him.
“I talked to Dr. Ludwig earlier.”
“You did – did you call her?”‘
“Yes, actually, I did. I wanted to be sure she knew she was invited here for the little party Wednesday and I had a few questions for her.”
“How did you know?”
“It was either me, the kids or you – or all of us.”
“Mostly you. I had some questions about how your new skills might affect you.”
“You talked about that stuff over the phone?” That didn’t seem like a good idea.
“No, Bjorn and I met with her in the den.”
“He thinks I can do anything, you know?” she tried to laugh it off.
“Your powers are extensive, Sookie, and not yet fully formed.”
“What are you worried about?”
“Word getting around before you are sufficiently developed.”
“You mean someone killing me before I’m Goddess enough not to die.”
“What did the doctor tell you?”
“Never to skip a dose of your Ambrosia. In fact, she might increase it in a week or so. She’s probably going to have you dose before the Wiccaning, at least.”
“How would that work?”
“She might start having you take a dose with dinner, then another when I go to rest. That way, you would be at your lowest dose during the day when you’re most likely to interact with humans.”
“What would happen if a human drank it?”
“It might be fatal.”
“Yes, it’s only for those who are already metamorphosing. She’ll probably take another blood sample from you when she’s here for the party.”
“Sookie, did you know that you have no blood type?”
“Have you ever been told your blood type?”
“No, I never needed a blood transfusion or anything. Why?”
“Your blood is unusual. She told me that even when you first became pregnant, you had no “type” as humans do.”
“So it started out weird and it’s getting weirder, is that what you’re saying?”
“Was I ever human at all?”
“I don’t think so. I’m surprised it never came up before.”
“I never really got sick. I was never in the hospital until I met Bill and got into all my Supe adventures or fights or whatever. What exactly did the doctor say?”
“Not to be surprised if there are changes.”
“The color? Of what – my blood?”
“What color would it be instead?”
“We don’t know yet.”
“Will you still be able to feed on me if I change so much?”
“Yes, and they believe that you will always have an intoxicating effect on me. In fact, it might get stronger.”
“Why don’t the boys get high on it?”
“They have half your genes. It inures them to the effect.”
“I guess that makes sense.”
“They also think that my blood is becoming n intoxicant for you.”
“That’s why I’ve been acting drunk or high after sex?”
“Will it hurt either one of us?”
“Just the opposite – they think it will make us stronger and cause us to develop each other’s strengths.”
“We sort of knew that already.”
“Yes, but it is good to have confirmation.”
“You might have to take a trip or two.”
Sookie lifted Aubie, who was fast asleep, over next to Alex and rolled to face Eric. “Fólkvangr? What, to visit Freyja?”
“So I’d stay where – at Her hall or palace or whatever?”
“Would you go, too?”
“Not early on.”
“How long would I be gone?”
“Well, that’s the problem. It is outside of time…”
“It’s not one of those deals where I think I’m there a week and I end up being there a hundred years is it?”
“I’m not going, then.”
“NO, ERIC! If and when I ever go there, you and the boys will be with me or I’m not going.”
“If Freyja asks this of you…”
“Forget it. If I’m Freyja then She knows that I will absolutely not leave you three for any length of time. I have to breastfeed the boys. I won’t be away from you for any reason.”
“Watch the boys. I’m going to talk to Her.”
“Sookie, you can’t yell or be rude…”
“Eric, according to all the rest of you, I’m going to be talking to myself. Now stay with the boys. I’m going to the basement.”
“Let me call Bjorn…”
“No. You stay here. I’ll be right back.”
The next thing Sookie remembered, Eric was giving her a dose of Ambrosia.
“What happened?” she asked as she sat up to drink.
“I was hoping you could tell me, my Angel. Do you know what day it is?”
“It’s early Tuesday morning.”
“No, Sweetheart, it’s early Wednesday morning. You’ve been missing for over 24 hours.”