Part 12 My Very Art Itself
Adele was up by 8 AM so she took a shower, got dressed, and went downstairs.
“Good morning, Mrs. Stackhouse!” Margaret greeted her warmly as she came into the kitchen.
“Good morning. I didn’t know if I should bother Sookie, so I thought I’d see if you had some coffee ready?”
“Yes, ma’am, I just made a fresh pot. What would you like to eat this morning?”
“Oh, I don’t want to be any trouble…” Adele sat at the table as Margaret motioned to her.
“No trouble at all, Missus.” Margaret poured her a cup of coffee and brought it to her at the table. “How would you like a western omelet?”
“Are you sure…?”
“Absolutely no trouble – I just fed the gardener’s boys, so I’ve got everything all ready. It’ll take just a few minutes. Would you like to sit by the pool while you wait?”
“No, thank you, I was actually wondering if you had the list of foods for Sookie?”
“Yes, ma’am, it’s right here,” Margaret brought a fax over from the counter. “You can keep that copy.”
“Where are we going to get all these organic foods?”
“Oh, I’ve already found a good market in the area and we’ll order enough that you can take whatever you need for you and Miss Sookie from here. I don’t want you to worry about that at all,” Margaret reassured her as she whisked three eggs in a bowl with a little milk and poured them into a hot pan that was on the cook top that was installed in the island that ran parallel to the table. .
“They want her to eat so much rare meat!”
“Yes, I think it has something to do with the unusual nature of the baby. If you notice at the bottom, the doctor wants her to try to drink True Blood if she can.” Margaret deftly swirled the eggs in the pan, raising the edges with a spatula to let the uncooked part run underneath.
“Oh, my, I hope she can tolerate it, if that’s what he needs. She’s been sick the last few days.”
“Has she taken anything for the morning sickness?”
“No, we only just realized what was going on.”
“I’ve got ginger ale and that Diet Rite cola she likes, so hopefully one of those will settle her stomach. The doctor was very specific about her not taking medications of any sort at this stage.” Margaret added cheese, chunks of fried potato and chopped ham to the skillet and began to fold the omelet.
“Is the diet cola still allowed?”
“A little bit. She says not to over-do it with artificial sweeteners. They think the baby will actually have fewer vulnerabilities than a regular baby, but they want us to be careful early on, just in case.”
“Well, we want to be sure Sookie follows the doctor’s instructions to the letter. She tends to skip meals if you don’t keep after her and she fudges on things she knows she should and shouldn’t do.”
“We’ll pay particular attention to that, then, especially since she’ll be getting up and staying up late.” Margaret expertly turned the omelet out onto a plate.
“Did the doctor make allowances for that?”
“Yes,” she explained as she set the plate in front of Adele, “she suggested she eat no later than 2 PM for her first meal, then dinner at about 6 PM, a small meal at 10 PM and another small meal or snack at 2 AM and a glass of milk and some crackers and peanut butter just before she goes to sleep.”
“That sounds reasonable. Eric will have to make sure she gets those late meals, so I hope he’ll see to that.”
“He will, he’s very excited. As a matter of fact, he had me open a box from a bookseller today and he already ordered a book on pregnancy for Miss Sookie to read, though I’ll bet he reads it before she does,” Margaret laughed.
“I’m very glad he’s so positive about the whole thing.”
“Yes, it’s very endearing. It’s been my experience that he does everything well, so you can depend on him to rise to the occasion. He thinks ahead and he’s already making adjustments. She’ll have a ladies’ maid beginning Monday that will help her a great deal.”
“A ladies’ maid?”
“Yes, to help her with her wardrobe and personal things so all she’ll need to do is rest, swim, read and eat well. I gather the doctor said she’s going to be very tired. I think he’s planning to hire a masseuse and/or a personal trainer, too, but I don’t know if he’s done anything about that yet or not.”
“Is all of that really necessary?”
“Not ‘necessary,’ perhaps – more like ‘optimal.’ Instead of an adequate situation, Mr. Northman is trying to create an ideal situation for her.”
“I’m afraid I’m just not used to all of this. I’m not complaining, and I am grateful, but this all seems so much!” Gran was fiddling with the napkin under her coffee cup, and Margaret could tell she was nervous about everything.
“I can see how it might be a bit overwhelming when you aren’t used to the kind of financial resources Mr. Northman has, but look at it this way – he’s not an extravagant person, he’s a practical one. He wants a happy wife and a healthy son, so he’s doing everything in his power to create an environment that supports that goal. If that means getting her help so she doesn’t have to spend time washing diapers or cleaning bathrooms with harsh chemicals when she could spend that time with the baby, or even having a healthier baby because Sookie had pure foods, and naps when she needs them and a masseuse to help her body adjust to the pregnancy, and he’s easily able to do that, there’s really no reason not to. He would see failing to do all that he can as a kind of neglect.”
“It’s just the complete opposite of everything she’s been taught. I hate to see her get spoiled. She was raised to be hard-working and independent.”
“Well-heeled and well-cared for doesn’t necessarily have to equal spoiled. I’d be very surprised if she became demanding or developed a sense of entitlement. I think she knows she’s lucky and she’ll continue to appreciate the advantages she has with Mr. Northman. She’s always polite and very appreciative for everything we do for her. You’ve done a fine job raising her, Mrs. Stackhouse. Trust her to take those values with her as she goes forward. Being wealthy is not a bad thing.”
Adele laughed, “no, I suppose it’s not.”
“Hey!” Sookie came through the living room with her hair freshly washed, wearing the blue dress from the night before. “How are you all today?”
“Good morning, Miss Sookie.”
“Good morning, Darlin’. Did you sleep well?”
She bent down and gave Adele a kiss on the cheek. “Yeah, like a log. Think I can get away with wearing this again today, Gran?”
“You didn’t have it on that long last night – you should be fine for today.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
“Can I make you something to eat, Miss?”
“Uh – I can’t handle eggs…”
“How about a small rare steak, some Texas toast and strawberry jam, fried potatoes and a glass of juice.”
“I’m sorry to be a pain, but I can’t do orange juice, either…”
“You’re not a pain, Miss. I was thinking blueberry pomegranate juice.”
“Ooh – that sounds great!”
“Yes, and much easier on a sensitive stomach,” Margaret assured her.
“That sounds so good – you’re going to spoil me!”
Adele and Margaret laughed, and Sookie looked at them as she took her seat at the table, wondering what was up.
“We were just talking about that,” Gran told her, “Margaret assures me she doesn’t think you’ll get spoiled from all this pampering.”
“Am I being a brat? I don’t mean to, honest!” Sookie was genuinely alarmed.
“No, no, Honey, you’re fine,” Adele assured her.
“You just relax, Miss. We want you to tell us what you want so we can make you more comfortable. Your Grandmother and I have been going over the diet the doctor sent over. You’re going to be eating very well, though you might get a little tired of rare steak.”
“Rare steak – for the baby?”
“Yes, and the doctor wants you to see if you can drink True Blood, too, though I don’t know how you’ll do it,” Gran said with concern.
“If the baby needs it, I’ll handle it,” Sookie assured them, “I can always just chug it down without breathing if I need to. It’s a small price to pay for getting to have Baby E.”
“Baby E?” Margaret thought that was enchanting.
“Yes, Eric is the Big E and he’s Baby E, for Baby Eric, of course,” Sookie patted her tummy and made them laugh.
“They’re already sure it will be a boy?” Margaret just wanted to confirm that.
“Yes, and Big Eric is beside himself,” Sookie laughed. “I was teasing him night before last, telling him this “MY SON” thing is going to get out of hand and he just laughed about it and said he was perfectly justified.”
“Did he tell you about any changes in the staff?” Margaret wanted to know if Sookie knew yet. She put the Texas toast in the large toaster and threw Sookie’s steak in a skillet with some butter.
“About the ladies’ maid? Yeah. I don’t know what she’s going to do for me, but I told him I’d give her a try.”
“I think you’ll like her very much,” Margaret told her.
“Do you know her?”
“Yes, I worked with her several years ago. She’s very skilled. You’ll be very happy to have her help, I’m sure.” Margaret was dishing up the fried potatoes as the steak sizzled.
“Is she nice?”
“Very, and very sophisticated. She’ll make sure you always look good and have what you need for your activities. She’s going to start tomorrow so she can help you prepare for that party next weekend. I understand it’s a very important affair.”
“I guess. I know it’s a fancy thing at the … well, I guess she’s Eric’s boss, so it’s at her house or estate or whatever. There will be a lot of important vampires there, I think.”
“It’s the first time you’ll be meeting his associates, I gather. You’ll want to make a good impression.” Margaret got a glass of juice from the fridge for Sookie,
“Yeah, I don’t want him to be ashamed of me…”
“SOOKIE!” Gran was shocked at that.
“Oh, no, Miss, it’s not about that at all! He’s very proud of you and can’t wait to show you off to his friends. He said they’re all going to be green with envy when he walks in with you on his arm, and you’ll be the prettiest girl there, by far. He just wants you to feel confident that you’re prepared so you can have fun that night instead of worrying about things.”
“Yeah, I guess I can see that…”
“Sookie, you know he thinks highly of you, don’t you?” Gran didn’t want her losing confidence in herself.
“Yeah, I do. To be honest, I really don’t know what’s expected of me at that thing or how to dress. It will be nice to have a little help.”
“Do you have to work this week, Miss?” Margaret was putting the rest of the plate together – toast, jam, steak and potatoes.
“No, I’m sort of unemployed now,” Sookie laughed.
“Nothing unpleasant, I hope?” She sat Sookie’s plate in front of her.
“No, my boss just didn’t want me in there wearing an engagement ring that was worth more than the whole bar!”
“Did he give you the ring?” Margaret was very excited to hear that. “I haven’t seen it yet!”
“Yeah, see.” Sookie held her left hand up and Margaret’s eyes were huge.
“How beautiful! You must have been thrilled when you saw it?”
“I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t sometimes. I keep wanting to pinch myself to see if it’s true.” Sookie was digging into her breakfast like she was starving.
“It looks just lovely on your hand, Miss. I’m sure they’re top quality stones, too. I know he had it flown in from London, you know.” She knew Eric wouldn’t have told Sookie about that.
“London, England? Really?”
“Yes, indeed, he had to go to the airport to take receipt of it. I know he went straight from the airport to your dinner together. He was praying nothing would go wrong and it would be on the scheduled flight.”
“I had no idea where he got it. So, he really went to trouble to get it, then.”
“Yes, he wasn’t happy with what was available in the States, so he called a wealthy friend and asked her who her diamond broker was, and then told them what he wanted.”
“Wow.” Sookie laughed at herself, “I feel like all I say anymore is “wow” – there’s just so much amazing stuff going on, it’s hard to process. My whole world has evolved in just over a week to a place I never dared dream it could be. It’s like being on a rollercoaster that just keeps going up and through another loop and up again. I just hope there’s not a big crash coming.”
“I don’t think there’s a crash at the end of the ride, Miss,” Margaret teased her.
“I hope I don’t come off as dumb. I mean, anybody would be blown away by all this, right?”
“Frankly, Sweetheart, I don’t know how you’re keeping up with it all. Just watching from the sidelines is overwhelming,” Gran told her.
“I need a thesaurus or something to come up with new words,” she joked, half-serious, “what else do you say when something just blows you away, and then another and another…?”
“I think “wow” pretty much sums it up,” Margaret said proudly. She liked this girl so much. The better she got to know Sookie, the more pleased she was for her boss. He really found a lovely young woman to share his life, and the baby was just icing on the cake for her. It was going to be fun seeing this young family grow.
“So, is it way too early to shop for the baby?” Sookie said apologetically.
“What did you want to get, Sookie?” Gran knew what she wanted.
“I don’t know – just a little something to make it real. Some baby clothes or something, maybe a toy or two.”
“That doesn’t seem unreasonable,” Adele and Margaret exchanged a look, knowing Sookie’s nesting instinct was already kicking in. She needed something tangible that said “BABY” to focus her energy on.
“What time did you want to leave, Sookie?”
“I’m ready any time. I just need my wallet and I’ll bring your bag down if it’s ready, Gran.”
“It’s in the living room, Honey.”
“You want to go with us, Margaret?” Sookie cleaned her plate and was getting ready to head upstairs.
“No, thank you, Dear, you go have a good time. You can show me what you bought when you get home. On your way upstairs, look on the desk in Mr. Northman’s downstairs office.”
“OK – be right back, Gran,” Sookie ran through the living room and looked on Eric’s desk. YAY! Eric bought a copy of What to Expect when You’re Expecting! Sookie ran up the stairs to get her wallet and her phone, and bounced back down the stairs. She hesitated at the bottom, wondering if her breakfast was going to come up, but she breathed deeply and slowly for a minute and it didn’t. She grabbed the book from the desk and took it back into the kitchen.
“Did Eric buy this?”
“Yes, he ordered it online and it got here very quickly.”
“Cool, I’ll read it while I’m in the sun tomorrow. Oh, let me run out and see what the pool looks like, OK, Gran?” Sookie didn’t really wait for an answer. Adele just waited patiently while Sookie ran out back and she came back practically jumping up and down. “It’s so gorgeous out there! That’s going to be so great!”
“Do you think you’ll be eating dinner here, Miss Sookie?”
“Probably – I want to be back before Eric gets up. Gran and I will probably grab some lunch somewhere after we shop a little.”
“I’ve got your food list, Sookie. If we decide to eat while we’re out, we’ll try to find a place where you can get a salad and some protein.”
“Yes, most places have a chicken Caesar salad that would meet your requirements, and here’s a copy you can carry with you, Miss.” Margaret handed Sookie her own copy of the diet list.
“Wow – lots of instructions!”
“Yes, and do notice that she asks that you not eat lemons. She said something about a severe allergy being a family trait?”
“Oh, good point! I wouldn’t have thought of that. So no lemonade or even tea or pop with lemon. Thanks for pointing that out!”
Adele came back from getting her bag in the living room. “I’m ready when you are, Dear.”
“OK, let’s go. Thanks so much for that delicious breakfast, Margaret. I’ll see you at dinner time, right?”
“Right! Anything special you want?”
“It says I should eat a lot of fish – have you got anything like that?”
“How about a nice salmon steak and some fresh asparagus?”
“Yum! Am I allowed to have French Fries?”
“In moderation, of course. I’ll make some fresh ones with the peel if you like them that way.”
“Yeah, I love that. ‘K, see ya later!” Sookie led Adele out to the garage and put her bag in the trunk of the car. They were only a few minutes from downtown Shreveport once they got on the highway and they decided to start there and see what kind of shops were available. Following some signs, they found their way to the Mall St. Vincent, which had about any kind of store you’d want.
Adele couldn’t do a lot of walking, so she’d find a centrally-located seat and snack on a pretzel or have a soft drink and a cookie while Sookie zoomed in and out of the adjacent stores, then they’d move a little farther down the mall or to another level. Sookie didn’t buy a lot of clothes, but she did find a couple of sweet dresses in one shop. She bought a sexy hot pink night-y and a cornflower blue satin push-up bra with matching panties at Victoria’s Secret, but she found her favorite purchase of the day at GapKids, which was a dark blue “creeper” with a tyrannosaurus “drawn” in light blue “chalk” that said, “I’m kind of a big deal.”
“Gran, look at this!” Sookie couldn’t wait to show her, and she was practically jumping up and down as she pulled it out of the bag.
“Awww – that’s adorable!” Adele bragged on it, loving it almost as much as Sookie did. “It’s also true in a way the person who designed it could never have predicted,” she joked and Sookie laughed and agreed.
“I can’t wait to show it to Eric! He’ll bust when he sees it,” Sookie sighed, picturing the look on his face when he saw it.
Sookie went a little nuts in Bath & Body Works, buying Eric a pewter shaving set and some aftershave lotions she thought smelled masculine and sexy, then buying a bunch of bottles of anti-bacterial gel and some sexy black raspberry vanilla shower stuff for herself. While she was in Banana Republic, Gran did a little looking of her own in a children’s store and bought something she wouldn’t show Sookie until they went to have a bite to eat at Roman Delight. Sookie had a salad and she and Gran split a calzone and debated whether they wanted to hit any of the other stores. When they were done eating, Gran gave Sookie the bag with her gift in it, and it turned out to be a blue baby book.
“Oh, Gran! It’s so sweet! Thank you so much!” Sookie was teary and hugged her Grandmother tightly.
She tried not to cry too hard, but she knew that Gran was going through a lot of huge changes to make her happy and the enormity of it hit Sookie all at once. Gran knew she was having an hormonal reaction and managed to joke her out of it by getting her to concentrate on shopping together at Dillard’s. Sookie insisted on buying Gran a real Dooney & Bourke handbag she was looking at and they stopped in the cosmetics department so she could buy Gran some of her favorite Estée Lauder White Linen cologne. She wound up buying some fancy bubble bath she thought she and Eric might enjoy and she splurged on some Frederick Fekkai hair products and one of his crazy expensive hairbrushes because she had always wanted a really good one.
Their packages were starting to weigh them down, so Sookie and Gran headed for the car and got on the road to Bon Temps. It took them longer than they expected to get on the highway, so after Sookie dropped Adele off and got on her way home, she called to tell Margaret that she was on her way, but she was going to be late. Margaret told her not to rush, that there was no hurry and she wouldn’t start the fish until she got there.
Sookie was driving faster than she should, but she didn’t get stopped, and she got home about half an hour after dark. Eric was sitting at the table when she came in, trying to act as if he hadn’t been pacing the floor. Lonnie, the gardener’s helper, carried Sookie’s packages in behind her, leaving them on the kitchen table where Eric indicated.
“Eric! I’m sorry I wasn’t back before you got up!” She wrapped her arms around his waist and kissed him.
“Hello, Sweetheart. That’s alright, Margaret told me you and your Grandmother spent the day shopping.”
“I’ll start your dinner, Miss.”
“Thanks, Margaret. Yeah, Eric, I spent some on the card – that’s OK, right?”
“Yes, of course it is! Did you have fun?”
“Yes, and I got some things for you and – OH! I forgot! Wait ’til you see it!” She started to rummage through the bags on the kitchen table. She had put some bags inside of bags when they divvied their stuff up at Gran’s house but it didn’t take her too long to find the little body suit for the baby. “Look!” She held it up proudly, letting him take it.
“”I’m kind of a big deal.”‘ Eric read with a big smile on his face. “Yes, he will be a very big deal, even when this tiny thing fits him,” he laughed.
“Yeah, this is the smallest they make, 0 to 3 months, so he’ll be able to wear it right from the start.” She held it down over her tummy. “It’s hard to believe he’s going to fit this before he’s ready to come out!”
Eric laughed as he helped her take things out of bags and get rid of boxes and wrapping and tags. He loved hearing her chatter about her purchases, telling him why she bought what she did and especially why she chose the things she did for him. When she slowed down a little, he asked “how are you feeling today, Sookie? Were you sick?”
“I had a few pretty intense waves of nausea, but I never really threw up, which was good.”
“Ooh – I like this,” he held up the hot pink nightgown and wiggled his eyebrows at her.
“I was hoping you would,” she teased him and kissed him again.
“Mmmm” he hummed with approval as he pulled the satin underwear out of the bag. “Did you eat anything while you were out?”
“I had a salad and split a calzone with Gran.”
“What is that?”
“It’s basically pizza dough stuffed with a mixture of cheeses.”
“Margaret, does that work with her diet?”
“There’s nothing in one that would hurt her. She’s allowed to have cheese for the calcium, then the bread is fine and they’re usually baked.”
“Yeah, it was.”
“So no harm done. She’ll eat lots of this fresh asparagus I’m making and the fish, and that will round out what she’s had today. Miss Sookie, I’ll be leaving a large salad with chopped turkey for you to eat at 10, then you’ll have a fruit salad at 2 and peanut butter and crackers for just before you sleep.”
“That’s a lot of food,” Sookie said, wondering if she could eat all of that.
“You need to eat often for the baby, Sookie,” Eric stated the obvious.
“Yeah, well, I guess I’ll try to eat all those times. I may not be able to eat much so late, though.”
“Well, let’s try this schedule the doctor gave us for a few days and see how it goes?” Margaret suggested, as she put Sookie’s plate in front of her while Eric piled things to the side in one large bag.
“Yeah, we’ll do that. Ahhh-hhhhhh!” Sookie let out a big yawn.
“Sookie, you might want to try to sleep for a while after you eat. The doctor said you’d be very tired,” Eric said with concern as he gently brushed her hair back from her face.
“I don’t want to waste time I could be spending with you sleeping, Eric. I’m OK, it’s just warm in here.”
“I don’t want you struggling to stay awake, Sweetheart. When you feel sleepy, just doze off. I can work those hours and then we’ll be together when you are comfortably awake. I’m working things out so I can do most of my work here so I’m available to you at nights. I’ll still need to go to Fangtasia on Wednesdays and Saturdays, though.”
“I can come, too, though, since I’ll be living here, right?”
“Right.” He smiled,” though I don’t expect you to go every time. You’ll want time to yourself or to spend with your Grandmother, and, again, you will be tired.”
“Yeah, I don’t want to be a drag, though…” Sookie was already almost done with the salmon steak.
“Doing what you need to do for my son to be healthy is not being a “drag,” Sookie. You need to be well-rested for him.”
“Yeah. You know, I was looking at some baby stuff at the Mall today. There’s a lot to buy for a baby.”
“You will have Alicia to help with that starting tomorrow, right, Margaret.”
“Yes, sir. She’ll be here at 7 and I’ll show her the house and Miss Sookie’s diet and she’ll start seeing to her needs immediately.”
“I brought some more clothes from home, by the way – I guess I should put them away?”
“She’ll take care of that, dear. We’ll just set them by the closet and leave it to her. She’ll want to know what you have so she knows what you need. I believe you and she will be going shopping at least one day this week, too.”
“Oh, OK…” Sookie was munching on the fries Margaret made in between munching stalks of asparagus, both of which she was eating with her fingers.
“She told me she has some items on hold at one of the specialty shops in town that might be appropriate for next weekend.”
“Wow – already?”
“Yes, when Mr. Northman gave me the go ahead, she started looking for formal things in your size. I think she’s planning to take you Tuesday so there will be time to have alterations made if need be.”
“What if I don’t like anything she picks out?”
“Then you keep shopping. I think you’ll like what she picks though, Miss, she has very good taste. Her job is to make you look good, and part of that is learning what you like and what looks good on you. After she gets to know you, she’ll be able to shop and know what you’d buy if you were there yourself.”
“OK, I’ll take your word for it,” Sookie laughed. She still couldn’t wrap her mind around it.
“I know you aren’t comfortable with the idea yet, Sookie, but you’ll like it once you’re used to it,” Eric explained, “she’ll also help you with the wedding and setting up your nest…”
“My nest? Oh – you mean ‘nursery?’ Yeah, that will be good. Like you said, I’ll have three women around who have had kids. Between Gran and Margaret and… Alicia, is it?… I’ll have plenty of people to ask questions, and boy, do I have questions!” Sookie laughed. “I was thinking about things as I was driving home alone and I realized “I don’t know nothing about birthin’ no babies.””
She and Margaret laughed but Eric didn’t get the joke.
“That’s from Gone with the Wind.”
” A book?” he asked
“Yes, but the movie is really famous – you’ve never seen it?”
“Put that on our ‘must see’ list, then. You can’t live in the South without seeing that movie.”
“Alright. I ordered a book for you…”
“Yeah, I saw it! That was so sweet of you!” She gave him a big kiss. “I’ll read it while I lie in the sun this week.”
“Good. I want to read it, too. There’s also a website by the same author you’ll want to explore,” he told her.
“Am I allowed to use your computer?”
“You could, of course, but you’ll have your own laptop.”
“Yes, it should be here Tuesday or Wednesday.”
Sookie just looked at him. Why would he buy her a laptop? “You think I need a computer?”
“Of course – you’ll need it for shopping, checking your email, looking at websites for mothers, medical questions, planning our wedding – have you thought about that, by the way?”
“I haven’t asked her yet, but how would you feel about having it at Gran’s house, like, out in the yard?”
“If that’s what you would like, that’s fine with me.”
“Did you have other ideas?”
“Only if you wanted to travel – we could do New Orleans, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Paris…”
Sookie laughed, “I never even thought of anything like that. Honestly, though, I want Gran and Jason there, so it should be close to home.”
“Alright, then, confirm it with your Grandmother the next time you talk to her and set a date. As soon as you have that done, I’ll arrange my calendar around it.”
“OK, so if we only have 22 weeks, and I don’t want to be showing, it’s going to need to be no later than 12 weeks, right?”
“More like 8 or 9 weeks,” Margaret figured, “I’d say you’ve got 2 months for the wedding, then your last few months you’ll want to concentrate on the nursery.”
“Two months is not a lot of time,” Sookie said, suddenly realizing what this would take.
“Remember that you have Alicia and you can hire anyone you need to set up the event,” Eric told her. “You’ll want a caterer to do the cooking, and if Alicia finds it’s too much, you can hire a wedding planner, too, for other things.”
“Caterer, yes, so Gran doesn’t try to cook. All I need other than that is some invitations, a dress, a few decorations and flowers… I don’t want anything fancy, except maybe the dress,” Sookie laughed.
“Don’t skimp on anything, Dear One – get exactly what you want. You’ll want video and photographs, too.”
“Right – that’s not a huge amount of things. I know people make a big huge deal about weddings, but we don’t have to go crazy. It’ll be mostly friends from Merlotte’s and school and Gran’s club and church. We’ll have some good dance music and a lot of crawfish and shrimp, and just make it fun.”
“That sounds very pleasant,” Eric smiled at her, paying more attention to the sound of her voice than what she was actually saying.
“You’ll come, won’t you, Margaret?” Sookie asked hopefully.
“If you want me to, Miss,” Margaret was tickled to be included.
“Yeah, of course I do, you’re family! Eric, you’ll need to invite people from Fangtasia and some other people you know or work with, right?”
“Yes, if you don’t mind, I have several people who should be included in such an occasion. You do realize I am the first Sheriff in the Americas to wed, yes?”
“Is that what you meant when you said I’d be the only wife of a Sheriff?”
“Yes. Our situation is unique in several ways. We want to be sure we don’t neglect certain important people when we make our plans.”
“Of course not. You should start working on your guest list right away, and I’ll get mine together, too.”
“Good idea, because you’ll have to order invitations almost immediately.”
“Right. So we’re looking at what, the end of June?”
“That sounds about right, Miss.”
“Wow – that also means I’m going to be pregnant in the hottest part of the year!”
“Fortunately, you have a pool and good air conditioning, so that will make you a great deal more comfortable,” Margaret reminded her.
“Yeah – I’m not used to having air conditioning. That’s going to be great!”
“Your Bon Temps house has no air conditioning?” Eric had never thought about that.
“No. We always talked about buying one to put in the window, but we never did.”
“You should buy one for your grandmother. It will make her a great deal more comfortable,” Margaret suggested.
“Yes, we’ll see that’s taken care of soon. How many will she need?”
“I’d suggest a minimum of one for the bedroom and one for the living room,” Margaret told him as she took Sookie’s plate.
“Sookie, find out when it’s convenient and I’ll send Howard and the boys to install them for her.”
“OK, great! I know she’ll sleep a lot better if she’s got one. Margaret, this dinner was just fantastic.”
“Oh, thank you, Dear. Did you want dessert?”
“Actually, I think I’ll skip it since I’m supposed to eat more later.”
“Alright, your meals for later on will be in the fridge labeled with the times you’re supposed to eat them. Mr. Northman, I’ve got everything done. If you don’t mind, I’ll start the dishwasher and head home for the night.”
“Thank you so much for your help, Margaret.”
“Yeah, I really appreciate everything you’re doing for me!”
“Alright, good night, then!” Margaret went to the pantry for her purse and her little jacket and went out the sliding back door with a wave.
“Where’s she going?”
“To the garage.”
“But it’s that way…”
“That’s the main garage. There’s an extra garage out back that looks like an old barn. I had it converted so servants can park there.”
“Oh, that’s what that is? What about this long building to the right?”
“Old servant’s quarters. The gardener and his men use it for storing their personal things and eating lunch or dinner.”
“What’s the little house to the left with the porch?”
“That’s what they call a “summer kitchen.”
“It’s really old then.”
“Yes, but I had it reinforced. It’s used for storage at the moment.”
“Is the porch sturdy?”
“Yes, very – why?”
“Can we put a porch swing on it?”
“If you’d like, of course. What kind do you want?”
“A white one made of wood. I like the kind with the straight slats, you know?”
“I think I know what you mean. I’ll find one on line and you can approve it before I order it, alright?”
“Cool. I always wanted my own porch swing. We were always afraid it would damage our porch, our house is so old.”
“That’s easy enough to accomplish here. I can see you and your Grandmother sitting on a swing talking about babies and weddings,” he teased her, nuzzling her ear.
“So what are we doing now-OOWWW?” Sookie let out a huge yawn.
“I think we should choose a movie and watch it in bed.”
“Because you think I’ll fall asleep before it’s over?”
“I’d argue, but I am kind of tired.”
“What kind of movie do you want to watch?”
“What’s the shortest Jane Austen movie?”
“Probably Persuasion. I remember a copy of that in there from the other night.”
“OK, grab it and let’s go up. My feet hurt.”
“Wait right here.” Eric zipped into the other room at vampire speed and was back with the movie, scooping Sookie up out of her seat before she realized it. He let her grab the bag of new things and flew her upstairs quickly, dropping her playfully on the bed as she laughed, she hoping silently that her dinner would stay down. He pulled her sandals off her feet and then pulled the little dress over her head. She disposed of her bra and panties as Eric turned the bed down and she crawled in as he undressed. Eric unwrapped the video and threw the cellophane in the basket on Sookie’s side of the bed, then raised the TV and slipped it into the slot at the side.
“Hey, what’s that?”
“That’s where the DVD player is.”
“Yes,” he told her as he sat beside her and got under the covers.
“And that one remote controls all of it?”
“Yes, see….” He took his time and explained to her how to raise the TV, control it, how to set it to control the DVD player.
“Thanks. I might want to use that some time if I’m not feeling good.”
“Of course – if you ever feel sick or just want to sleep in, have someone bring you a movie. Or, if you want, bring a few you’d like to see up here and keep them on your nightstand so they’re here when you want them.”
“I might do that. I’ve never been one to sleep in, but I have to be honest, I’m wiped out and I know I was on my feet too much today. I might need to be lazy tomorrow.”
“Be lazy the whole pregnancy, Sookie. I’m going to stay after you to get enough rest, so don’t be surprised if Alicia and Margaret try to get you to spend a lot of time in bed. The doctor was very specific. She said this baby will draw a lot of energy from you – much more so than a normal baby.”
“She might be right.”
“Have no doubt that she’s right, Sookie.”
“When do I get to meet her?”
“I can summon her now, if you want.”
“She won’t care. Supes are very casual about nudity. She’ll want to examine you, anyway…” Eric’s house phone rang. “Hold on,” he told her as he stopped the video and picked up the handset. “Yes, doctor, we were just talking about you. She’s worried that we are not dressed. Yes. Alright, 5 minutes.” He hung up the phone. “The doctor will be here in five minutes. Here,” he got up and went to the table beside the bed, where he had put Sookie’s new purchases. He pulled out the hot pink gown and said, “put this on – she said no panties.”
“Yikes. She’s going to do a real exam, huh?” Sookie hurried into the gown.
“Oh, yes. She’ll need intimate knowledge of what is happening with you and the baby.”
“Put your pants on, please? Did she know we were talking about her?”
“It’s possible.” He went back around to get his jeans.
“That’s a little freaky.”
“You’ll understand when you meet her. I told you, she doesn’t look human.”
“What does she look like?”
“An elf, maybe, or a troll? I’ve never asked her affiliation.”
“Would that be considered rude?”
“A bit, if the situation did not require such information.”
There was suddenly a strange – and he wasn’t kidding – little woman with a big carpetbag at the end of the bed.
“Northman,” she nodded.
“Doctor Ludwig, please allow me to present my fiancée, Sookie Stackhouse.”
“How are we doing, little girl? Niall was right, you’re a very pretty little thing. Stick your tongue out for me?”
Sookie did and the doctor looked at it very closely. “Hmm – you are avoiding citrus, I hope?”
“Yes, I can’t stand the smell of orange juice all of a sudden.”
“It’s just as well. You know no lemons under any circumstances, yes? And nothing with added iron. No cooking with iron skillets or pots, either. Alright, lie back and let’s see how you’re doing.”
Ugh. Sookie scooted down in the bed as the doctor pulled back the covers. She felt Sookie’s throat, then held her stethoscope on her breastbone, abdomen, womb and then did the dreaded internal, pressing on her womb with one hand as she pressed inside with the other.
“You’re moving right along. I think you can forget about a nine-month pregnancy. I’ll be very surprised if it goes 6 months.”
“We were talking about that possibility earlier,” Eric told her, “we were thinking that we’d better have the wedding within two months.”
“Wedding? Are you actually going to marry?” The doctor was shocked.
“Yes, I think we must.”
“Niall said you were thinking that way, but I didn’t believe you’d go through with it. And you’re already bonded, I see?” She was pressing on Sookie’s legs to check for swelling.
“Yes, and very happy to be so,” Eric smiled affectionately at Sookie.
“Have you broken the news to Sophie Ann yet?” She rotated each of Sookie’s feet in turn and looked closely at her toes.
“No, I was planning to do that at her Dark Moon observation.”
“Think very carefully about how you go about it. Don’t put her in a position where she embarrasses herself in front of others, or she’ll never forgive you. You can’t be insensible to her feelings for you?” The little doctor was nearly scolding him as she looked closely at Sookie’s fingernails.
“I am not, however, I have never sought such attentions from her…”
The little doctor checked Sookie’s glands in her throat. “That doesn’t make a whit of difference and you know it. You’ve most certainly enjoyed the benefits of them. Are you prepared for backlash?”
“From Sophie Ann? No. From André, always.”
“Is there any truth to Niall’s theory that Sophie Ann wanted this girl for herself?”
“Possibly. I’m sure she wanted control of her ability.”
“You’re a telepath, yes? Has the pregnancy affected that at all?”
“It might be a little stronger, but I’m not sure.”
“I want you keeping notes. This pregnancy is historic. We’ve no record of it happening before. Get her a journal Northman and both of you write in it. I want to know everything that happens. Niall already has protection around Sookie and the baby, but I think you need to sweet talk Sophie Ann into protecting them by decree as well. It might help if she announced the pregnancy. It would emphasize that it really is your child.”
“She’ll offer protection if she wants Sookie to employ her talents for her.”
“Don’t be over-confident, Northman. There’s too much at stake here.”
“I know this child will be a deliverer,” Eric said confidently as Sookie gave him a look of curiosity.
“Then you know people’s lives depend on him growing up. You may have to do some things you don’t want to do to see that he does.”
“You don’t expect me to oppose Sophie Ann?”
“Who said anything about Sophie Ann? Keep your eyes and your ears open, Northman. Things change when you least expect it.”
“I’d like an invitation to the reception at Fangtasia, by the way.”
“Yes, if you’re going to marry, you’ll need to present your new bride to your area after you are wed. It could be the most important night of your life,” she turned back to Sookie, “you get lots of rest, eat well, stay off your feet. No more days like today, you understand?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Sookie said, thinking it was not like she would actually argue with this odd little thing.
“Alright, Niall will be calling you with the name of a masseuse who can also act as personal trainer. Hire her. Call if you need me.” And she was gone.
“What was that?” Sookie was in shock that she just disappeared like that.
“That was Dr. Ludwig being Dr. Ludwig. Many Supe elders are that way. They say their piece then disappear before you can ask questions. It can be quite irritating,” he said as he kicked his pants off.
“What did you mean “deliverer?”” Sookie pulled the covers back for him.
“One who leads in a revolt or a war to save his people.”
“Is that definite?”
He slid into bed and looked her straight in the eye. “Yes, it’s his destiny.”
“You know this? Before he’s even born?”
“Yes, I knew it the minute I knew him to be mine.” He stroked her cheek softly as they lay facing each other, speaking softly.
“What if I don’t want that?”
“Do you want the baby?”
“Then you must accept his destiny. Don’t worry, Sookie, I told you – he will be magnificent.”
“OK, and what’s this bit about Sophie Ann’s feelings for you and seizing power?”
“Sophie Ann has wanted me for half a century or so. I could be her consort if I chose to, but I chose you instead. She might be unhappy about that. Her current consort is jealous of me, so he’s always a danger that must be considered. That might not matter if I understood what Ludwig just implied.”
“What did she imply?”
“A coup or an assassination.”
“No, but I might have to oppose the person who seeks to take Sophie Ann’s throne.”
“I’m the logical person to do it. I’m her most powerful Sheriff. If she is attacked, I will protect her. If she is killed, I will avenge her.”
“Because it’s your job?”
“No, Sookie, because she is my Queen. You can’t expect anything less of me. This is who I am.”
“You know I don’t understand all of this… what do you even call it? Politics? War?”
“War IS politics, Sookie. I hold a political appointment. I have pledged fealty to my Queen. I will not hesitate to do what I must.”
“What about your son?”
“When the time is right, he will do what he must, too. We are warriors, Sookie. That will not change.”
“What if he’s not a warrior?”
“Sookie, I will love my son, no matter what or whom he is, but I already know him to be a warrior.”
“And Niall and Dr. Ludwig know all about this?”
“Niall, possibly with the help of Dr. Ludwig and definitely with the help of Freyja, made this all possible. They all know. If you will stop and think, Sookie, you know, too.”
“Because I’m Freyja or part of Her or connected to Her or whatever?”
“What if I don’t believe any of it?”
“It will still come to pass. The dice have been thrown.”
“I want to talk to someone about this. Did I tell you that Niall said I’ll teach the baby magick?”
“No, you didn’t, but it doesn’t surprise me.”
“I know absolutely nothing about magick, Eric.”
“You know nothing yet.”
“It’s something you can learn? You don’t have to be born with it?”
“You were born with it, Sookie, you just haven’t been taught how to use it.”
“Have you known this all along?”
“Not exactly, but I always suspected that your telepathy was just the tip of the iceberg.”
“OK, so who can I talk to?”
“I might be able to introduce you to a Witch.”
“A real Witch?”
“Yes, a real one.”
“At Sophie Ann’s party.”
“This coming weekend?”
“Yes, if you can wait until then.”
“Where does she live?”
“I guess I’ll have to wait. Will she definitely be there?”
“Yes, we have an appointment of sorts.”
Suddenly, it dawned on Sookie. “You were already going to talk to her, weren’t you?”
“About me or the baby?”
“All of it.”
“Confirmation. And to see if I missed anything.”
“That book you ordered got here really fast.”
“Yes, it did. There’s a distribution center near here so they often arrive very quickly.”
“Are there books about magick? Can you get me one?”
“Yes. Here, let me send her a text and get the name of one for you.” He pulled his phone out of his pocket and sent a text message to Amelia Broadway as they continued to talk.
“So, do you have this Witch on retainer like you do the doctor?”
“Have you met her?”
“How did you find her?”
“Sophie Ann recommended her.”
“Does she know what it was for?” Sookie yawned again.
“No, I told her it was a personal issue that had nothing to do with my office.”
“You lied to her?”
“No, at the time I thought the matter really was private. It was before I knew about the baby or Niall’s connection to you.”
“So you were going to talk to her about me, then?”
“Because you didn’t trust me?”
“No, Sweetheart, because I wanted to be sure I was right about who you are. I have no doubt, but I am in the habit of being very thorough, so I was going to seek independent verification.”
“Did you make your appointment before or after we bonded?”
“But you didn’t cancel it?”
“I still want to talk to her about how this sort of thing works.”
“Like whether there are rules or something?”
“Something like that.”
“What if you’re wrong?”
“I’m not – Niall confirmed it all for me. Still, I would like more information from a source other than Niall.”
“Me, too. I don’t trust him.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I was afraid you would favor him because he’s your Grandfather.”
“Loving him and trusting him are two different things. I have other family that I don’t trust, either, but I still love them.”
He reached up and kissed her on the forehead. “I love how smart you are.”
“Yeah, right – I was just saying today that I hope I don’t come off as dumb because it seems as if all I say anymore is “WOW,”” she laughed.
“You’ve gone through some extreme things since we first met – anyone would be at a loss for words. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” He kissed her lips softly and then told her, “Now, let’s watch the movie and forget about all this intrigue for the night.”
“Sounds good to me,” she purred as she snuggled up against him and he started the movie. She was asleep in less than 10 minutes. Eric lay with her a while to be sure she was sleeping soundly before he tried to move. He let the movie continue to play and stepped into his office, knowing he’d hear her if she woke up. He worked for a good three hours before he heard her turn over and say his name softly.
He was by the bed instantly, smiling softly, “hey, sleepyhead.”
“Did you get some work done, at least?”
“Yes, I’ve been very productive and I’ve been checking on you occasionally. How do you feel?”
“I don’t know,” she laughed softly.
“Can you eat something?”
“Yeah, actually, I am a bit hungry.”
“I’ll go get your salad.”
“Don’t forget the blue cheese dressing, please?”
Eric zipped down to the kitchen, and got back as Sookie restarted the movie, zooming up to the last part she remembered seeing. Sookie cracked up when Eric came back with a beautiful tray for her – salad, bottled dressing, fork, glass of ice, can of soda, napkin and a pink rose.
“Now that’s what I call service!”
“There’s nothing too good for the mother of my son,” he teased as she sat up and he unfolded the legs of the tray so she could eat.
“I can’t believe you even brought me a glass of ice and a straw!”
“I can’t take too much credit – Margaret left me a note of what you would need and had the tray mostly assembled.”
“She really DOES think of everything.”
“Believe me, it won’t be long before you will find her as indispensible as I do.”
“She’s an awesome cook, too. This salad is amazing! She took some of the stuff I brought with me and added all kinds of good stuff to it. There are toasted pecans in this!”
They watched the movie as Sookie munched happily on her salad but she actually dozed off before she was done eating. Eric took the tray away and left it on the dresser, then lifted Sookie and moved her down in the bed a bit so she wouldn’t hurt her neck. He let the movie play to its conclusion again then he put the TV away and turned out the light in the headboard.
He spent some time filling up Sookie’s new iPod, and he answered some email from the New Orleans office regarding new subjects moving into his area. He was cruising the Internet looking for more baby information when it occurred to him that the baby needed a nursery. Thinking of the unused rooms, he decided that the storage room next to their bedroom would be the logical place for a baby’s room, so he wrote Sookie a note and told her to plan on using it, and left a message for Alicia and Margaret that they should have the stuff in the room moved into the basement. He knew that the baby romper Sookie bought that day was only the first of many things she’d accumulate for the baby in the coming months, so he’d make sure she had a nesting place to gather it all.
He smiled as he remembered the joy in her face when she had shown the little suit to him, and he was looking forward to seeing that bright smile and those slightly teary eyes many times between now and … October? That would be about six months from now, and Ludwig said the baby would be here before six months so maybe they’d have a Halloween baby! It occurred to him that Sophie Ann would especially hate that and he was surprised that he found that amusing. He would have expected not to care one way or the other. Anyway, he went to rest that day with the feeling that all was right in his world.
“Yes, as you can see, Mr. Northman cleared half of the closet here and the entire dresser is available for her.”
Sookie heard voices as she tried to open her eyes, but she passed back out again.
“Miss Sookie? Can you wake up now?”
Sookie looked up and realized this tall brunette woman must be the new maid. She was embarrassed at being caught naked again, but she was more interested in making the best impression she could. “Hi – you’re Alicia, I guess?”
“Yes, Miss, it’s very nice to meet you.”
“Well, welcome to the family,” Sookie laughed.
“Thank you, Miss. Your orders from the doctor say you’re supposed to have your first meal no later than 2 PM, so I brought this up for you. This steak is very rare – if you’d like, I can…”
“Oh, no, that’s OK – I’m supposed to have it that way for the baby,” Sookie smiled as she set the tray across her lap. “So, I guess Margaret showed you around and everything?”
“Yes, Miss, and I’ve already got your clothes squared away. Margaret said she told you that we’ll need to go shopping tomorrow so you can try on the clothes I have on hold for you?”
“Yeah, do I need to get up early for that?”
“I’ll get you up at noon – that should give us plenty of time. I noticed you didn’t seem to have any evening purses or dressier shoes here, so I assume we’ll need several complete outfits?”
“Yeah, I guess so. Any idea how long before I’ll need maternity clothes?”
“Margaret and I were thinking you’ve got a couple of months before that’s necessary, but I’ll make sure you have a couple of things on hand now, just in case. Here, you have a note from Mr. Northman,” she handed her the envelope from the dresser.
“Thanks,” Sookie said as she took the envelope and opened it. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to ask you and what not to, so you’re going to have to bear with me…”
“You just relax, Miss. I’m here to help you figure all those things out. Nothing you ask will offend me and there’s no such thing as a silly question, OK?”
“OK, for example, Eric leaves me a lot of these notes and I want to keep them in some kind of special box or something. You wouldn’t have any ideas about that, would you?”
“Yes, I think you might want a little cedar box, of the sort they give to brides, that’s large enough to hold quite a few of them, or you could get a full size cedar chest for those and other keepsakes you’ll acquire as you go along.”
“A cedar chest… yeah, Gran has one of those. That’s a really good idea.”
“We can see what’s available while we’re out tomorrow, if you’d like.”
“Yeah, I would. I guess it should match this room, huh?”
“Well, that’s kind of a personal item, so if you find one you really love, get it even if it doesn’t match. You might change the look of the bedroom some day.”
“Yeah, Eric was telling me to talk to Giselle if I didn’t like this room, but honestly, there’s so much going on, I can’t even begin to think about it.” Sookie confided as she sawed into her steak.
“I understand you’ve been through quite a few changes in a very short time. It would be easy for anyone to be overwhelmed by a new relationship, a new home and now a new baby. Just remember that you’ve got lots of help. You’ve got me to help you keep yourself together and Margaret to look after the house. You’ve got your Grandmother for emotional support, and you’ve got Mr. Northman, who apparently goes to great lengths to see that you have what you need…”
“Yeah, so far, he really does.”
“That’s a really good support system you’ve got going. We’re not going to let you flounder, Hon, so you relax and enjoy all this good stuff. We’ve got your back.”
“Thank you! I don’t want to seem like a bumpkin, you know what I mean?”
“Yes, and I understand that Mr. Northman’s associates are very wealthy. I’ll tell you a secret, though – you’re already miles ahead of the game.”
“Yes – you’ve got good manners. It wouldn’t matter how you dressed if you didn’t treat other people kindly, but you do without even thinking of it. With a solid foundation like that, all we need to do is make the outside match the inside.”
“You can tell that already?”
“Yes – you welcomed me before you were even awake,” Alicia laughed. “Is there anything else I can get you?”
“Oh, no, thank you. Is there anything you need me to do?”
“Well, if you’re up to it, I’d like to get an idea of what kind of clothing you like. I know what Mr. Northman’s requirements are, but I need to know what you like and what you don’t.” Alicia sat in one of the side chairs by the table.
“What did Eric tell you?”
“Mostly that nothing is to be too short. He prefers skirts and dresses, but he wants a little coverage on your lower half…”
“Yeah, I knew about that one…”
“He said he prefers tops that bare your shoulders and emphasize your bust, especially in evening wear…”
“OK, that I didn’t know…”
“And he prefers that you not wear black.”
“Yep, knew that one,” Sookie laughed. “All the women he meets in his club wear black and he’s sick of it. He likes it when I look like I’m going to a church picnic.”
“Very feminine and pretty “like a summer day,” is the way he put it.”
“Aw – that’s sweet.”
“Yes, it is. And I hear your favorite color is pink.”
“Yep, I love it. I’m not like, obsessive about it, but it’s a really strong preference,” Sookie laughed.
“What other colors do you like?”
“bright and light blue, turquoise, peacock colors, purple, red sometimes. I don’t like browns or grays and I’m not crazy about green except for an occasional Kelly green item I’ll see now and then. Pastels are good, but I’m not crazy about muted colors, if you know what I mean…”
“Yes, I think I know what you mean. What shapes do you like?”
“I like stuff that’s low-cut and I always wear a bra, though I need better ones and I don’t know where to get them. I prefer full skirts, above the knee, and I guess I won’t be wearing shorts much because Eric wouldn’t think they cover enough. I’d like a few to wear around the house, though. I also need some more bathing suits and cover-ups because I plan to spend a lot of time in the pool and I’ve only got one suit. I’d like to have two pairs of jeans in case I need them, but that won’t be frequent. I like high heels when I can get away with them. If I never see another pair of tennis shoes, it will be too soon. That was all I could wear at my old job and I’m sick of them.”
“Do you play tennis or have any other sports you do?”
“No, because I was always working. Most of my exercise will probably involve floating in the pool,” Sookie laughed. “Eventually, I might want a good treadmill, but for right now, I want to rest. I can’t believe how tired I am.”
“That’s to be expected in your condition.”
“My condition,” Sookie said softly as she patted her tummy. “I never thought of it that way. The idea of being pregnant is so foreign to me. I bought a little baby suit, though, to make it seem real.”
“With the dinosaur? It’s in your top right drawer in the dresser there. It’s very sweet.”
“Eric loved it. He tries not to get misty about the baby, but he does. It’s so cute!”
“I hear he’s very tall?”
“About 6 foot 5, I think, and he’s really gorgeous. He has long blond hair and amazing blue eyes, and arms like tree trunks. He’s like something from a romance novel.”
“That’s the way Margaret described him. I’ve only spoken to him on the phone, but he was very kind and generous.”
“You’ll like him – every woman that sees him does. My Gran even flushes a little bit around him,” Sookie laughed and Alicia joined her.
“It’s a gorgeous day out, Miss. You could probably get in some time in the pool if you want to.”
“Good idea. I need some sun. Sunbathing is my only vice,” Sookie laughed as she finished her breakfast. Alicia took her suit out of the top left drawer and got her one of Eric’s white shirts to use as a cover-up since the gardeners were around. While Sookie went to the bathroom and put her suit on, Alicia took a pink package out of the bottom left dresser drawer and pulled a pink “eco” grocery tote out of it, then put Sookie’s iPod, some sunscreen, her book from her nightstand, a Carmex lip balm and a pony tail holder.
Sookie came out of the bathroom rarin’ to go, and Alicia presented her with the bag then followed slowly as Sookie bopped down the stairs to head for the pool.
“Hey, Margaret! Good breakfast!” She said as she rushed through the kitchen.
“Good morning, Miss,” Margaret called after her, laughing.
“She’s fast!” Alicia laughed as she came into the kitchen.
“Like a hurricane,” Margaret agreed. “She loves the sun, that one does.”
“The fresh air is good for her. You know, water aerobics is very good for expectant mothers…”
“You should mention that to Mr. Northman.”
“I will. What does she like to drink?”
“That soda pop in the blue cans.”
“Alright, I’m going to take a glass out to her. I don’t want her getting dehydrated. You said she can’t have lemonade, right?”
“No, but she can have an occasional sweet tea. That would be better for her than soda.”
“Yes, it would. Do you have any made up?”
“Yes, in the fridge there.”
“Alright, I’ll take her a glass of that. I don’t trust those artificial sweeteners.”
It was a perfect, hot spring day and Sookie was reveling in having a pool all to herself. There was a rack with a selection of pool toys, so she grabbed an air mattress first thing and was floating when Alicia brought out the tea and set it where Sookie could reach it from the pool.
Sookie was only able to float face up about half an hour before she felt nauseous. She rolled off the mattress and tried to focus and keep her breakfast down, holding onto the side of the pool, sipping the sweet tea slowly. Eventually, her stomach felt stable enough to hold onto the mattress sideways and float, which she did for hours, lost in her thoughts. Part of her was really excited about having a baby, but a larger part of her was afraid. She realized she knew nothing about kids and she dreaded the pain of childbirth. She knew that when the time came, she’d get through it, but the anticipation was not going to be fun. She made up her mind to focus on after the birth, having a sweet little boy who looked like Eric. She also decided that she was glad Eric ordered her a computer. She was going to do what he was doing and use the Internet to learn as much as she could about babies. No matter what else happened in her life, Sookie was going to make damned sure that she was a good mom.
The more she thought about it, the more she realized that the situation couldn’t be much more ideal. She’d be able to give this baby everything she and Jason never had growing up. She and Eric were bonded, so she knew he’d be faithful and never leave them. She’d never have to worry about money or housework. The only real problems she saw came from the Supe world. Niall was too involved in it all for her tastes, which was bad enough, but she still hadn’t really experienced Eric’s world where other vampires were concerned. She was actually very glad to have Alicia’s help getting ready for the Queen’s party. She wanted to make a good impression that night so Eric would be proud of her. She knew he had an important position and she knew, from the way Bill and Eric treated each other, that other vampires might be jealous of either one of them and most of them would be scared of Eric. She decided that was probably a good thing, especially since Eric would be the first vampire Sheriff to get married.
It occurred to her that she didn’t really know if the vampires should know about Niall or not. On one hand, they had to explain how Eric was able to father a baby. On the other hand, she knew Eric didn’t like or trust Niall, and that would probably be true of the other vampires, too. She was so intent on remembering to ask Eric about how they would explain the baby that she didn’t notice it was almost sundown.
“Miss Sookie?” Alicia called from the side of the pool.
“Huh?” She “woke up.” “Hey Alicia,”
“Did you want to change before dinner, Miss?”
“Oh, wow – it’s almost time for Eric, isn’t it? Um, actually, I think I’ll just wear that white shirt. I’ll get out now, though, so I don’t drip all over the kitchen,” she laughed, heading for the shallow end of the pool.
Alicia met her at the edge with a big beach towel and gathered up Sookie’s things while she sat at a table for a few minutes, drying off. She retrieved the glass from the far side of the pool and Sookie put Eric’s white shirt over the bathing suit just as the outdoor lights came on and he came out the door.
“Eric!” Sookie ran and jumped in his arms and kissed him. “This is Alicia!”
“Nice to meet you, Alicia,” Eric shook her hand and gave her a dazzling smile, “did you girls have a good day?”
“Yes, sir, I think we got off to a good start,” Alicia couldn’t believe she was blushing – he was GORGEOUS!
“Good, I’m very glad to hear it. Did you talk about Friday?” He put his arm around Sookie and guided her toward the door as Alicia walked with them.
“The party? Yes, we’ll be going shopping tomorrow. I have some dresses on hold at a specialty shop in town that I think she’ll like very much.”
“Excellent. I didn’t expect you to have anything yet.”
“Well, I started yesterday so I’d know where we need to focus our energy. I’m hoping we find several options so she’ll have some things before she needs them.”
“Alright, now Sookie’s new car won’t be ready for another week, so you two take my Corvette tomorrow. It’s a little more comfortable than her current car.”
“Huh?” Sookie didn’t know what he was talking about.
“I’ll explain later,” he kissed her hair and then held the door for both of them.
Margaret served Sookie a gorgeous slice of turkey tenderloin with broccoli and a yummy cold carrot salad, then she and Alicia said good night as Sookie and Eric settled into the den, ostensibly to watch a movie. Once they left, though, Sookie pulled Eric onto the big couch and they had sex in the dark without even turning on the TV. After the second “round” Eric flew them upstairs naked and left Sookie on the bed while he ran a warm bath.
“Not too hot, Eric, Gran said I have to be careful about the baby.”
“Yes, I read about that,” he came back, leaned over her and kissed her.
“We left our clothes downstairs, you know?” she said as he nipped at her neck.
“The maids will get them…”
“What? They’ve all been warned they’ll need to clean up evidence of sex frequently.”
“You actually told them that?”
“Oh, yes – we’re not going to be inhibited in our own home. Everything can be cleaned or replaced. We have two priorities and one of them is pleasure…”
Sookie cracked up, “you did not just say that?”
“Too much? It seemed a little cheesy as I said it,” he laughed as he tickled her, making her squeal with laughter. She was still laughing as he carried her into the bathroom and let her down gently in the water.
He settled in behind her and she snuggled up to his chest. “So, I think I’m glad you hired Alicia.”
“You are?” This was very good news.
“Yeah, I have no idea how I’d find a dress for the Queen’s party. She asked me all kinds of things about what I like, and I just have a feeling she’s going to know what I want as well as what I need.”
“I am very glad to hear that.”
“She’s really nice, too. She went out of her way to reassure me and answer questions for me – it’s almost like having a mentor or a mom or something.”
Eric kissed her hair and rubbed her back. “That’s exactly what we want – an experienced woman who understands your needs. I’m glad you two seem to like each other.”
“Yeah, I can’t wait to see what she picked out for me!”
“Just remember, if you don’t like anything, tell her. It will be a learning process for both of you.”
“She’s even already thinking about shoes and evening bags, too – I know I’d never have thought about a bag, even if I remembered I need shoes.”
“Exactly. Ready to have your hair washed?”
“Yeah, that sounds great!”
Eric used the hand-held to wet her hair as she kept talking.
“So, you want to hear something weird?”
“While I was floating in the pool today, I almost felt like I could feel the baby.”
“It’s only been a few days…”
“Yeah, but it’s weird, like, normally a baby is just cells and they reproduce and eventually grow into hands and legs and fingers and toes, but I have this really clear picture in my head of this tiny, fully formed baby that likes being warm and comfortable.”
“You do?” He lathered up her hair and gently rubbed her scalp.
“Yeah, and I don’t think he likes it when I float in the pool.”
“You do that a lot, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but sometimes it makes me nauseous, like it did today, and I swear I felt him get fussy.”
“Isn’t it common for the hormonal changes to make a woman have strange thoughts and dreams?”
“Yeah, I guess, but this is really clear in a way I can’t describe. It’s like, instead of prompting cells to go through the process of becoming a baby, they made a whole teeny tiny baby and put it in there and he’s just waiting until he’s big enough to come out.”
“Ludwig was right,” Eric said as he conditioned her hair, “you need to be making notes of these things. I’ll get you a steno pad from my office for right now, and I’ll get you a blank book where you can transfer your notes. This might just be your imagination, but while there is magick involved, we should be very aware of any unusual sensations or feelings.”
“I want to remember everything, anyway, even the rough parts, and some day I’ll tell Baby E how he was born.”
“Mmmm – “Baby E” – I never heard sweeter words in my life,” Eric whispered as he hugged her from behind. They were quiet for a few minutes, just enjoying the sense of being together, then Sookie washed Eric’s hair and asked him questions about what life was like when he was a child.
“How many people in your human family, Eric?”
“Seven kids, two aunts and a very young uncle, three cousins, all living in one sort of lodge.”
“Lots of people!”
“We were sort of tribal, and families stayed together in large numbers for survival. It takes a lot of people to produce or gather enough enough food to feed themselves. When you have no modern conveniences, it has to be a group effort. Children were a kind of wealth, especially sons.”
“Where were you in the family line?”
“Eldest. I was almost five years older than the next sibling.”
“How’d that happen?”
“In those days, nutrition was so poor that women didn’t get pregnant while they were breast feeding, and children were breast fed for a long time. As I got older, the family became wealthier so there was often milk from goats or sheep for the kids, so the children came closer together.”
“And your mother was Fae?”
“Yes, but she didn’t raise me after I was weaned. She left when I was young, then my father took another wife who bore the younger kids.”
“Did you all look alike?” He helped her step out of the water and wrapped her in a towel.
“No, I was taller even than my father and I was the only one who stayed blond as I got older. The others were blond as kids, but their hair got darker as they aged.”
“Were you ever married, then?” He started to comb out her hair.
“Yes, I had an arranged marriage and had four kids but I have no idea what happened to them after I was turned. I was always on a raid or at war, so I never really knew any of them. I’m going to know this son we are having. I’m going to be very close to him and enjoy every minute of being a father.”
“Do you remember your mother?”
“Yes, she looked very much like you.”
“Really? Put some of this on my back, please?” She handed him some lotion from beside the sink.
“Yes, when I met with Niall, he asked if you reminded me of anyone, and my mind flashed back to her. He was speaking of Freyja, but you also look like my mother.”
“Could they have been connected the way you think I’m connected to Her?”
“It’s possible, but Freyja never mentioned it.”
“Did you ever ask?”
“There was no reason to – I never thought of her until I met you.” They walked to their own sides of the bed and got in.
“Make me a promise?”
“What is that?”
“If you ever talk to Freyja again, ask her?”
“I will, but I have a feeling you will get the chance before I do.”
“For real?” She faced the window and he spooned up behind her, wrapping her in his arms.
“I’d be very surprised if you did not, but we’ll know more when we talk to the Witch.”
“What’s her name?”
“Amelia…” Sookie said, mostly to herself. “What’s a real Witch like?”
“Most people wouldn’t be able to pick one out of a crowd, though if a person is sensitive to such things they might recognize one. Their life force is very focused and they often have a big sort of energy about them.”
“Do they wear black all the time?”
“Some, but not all. The majority are older women, but there are exceptions. They tend to be very opinionated and have psychic abilities of some sort. They are often scholarly and read a lot.”
“Will she mind if I ask her questions?”
“I don’t know. I’ve only spoken to her briefly.”
“I always wanted to meet a real Witch, I just didn’t know there really was such a thing.”
“Miss Sookie? Sookie, can you wake up?”
Sookie’s eyes flew open to see Alicia there with her morning steak. “Morning already, huh? How are you today?”
“I’m fine, Miss. Ready for our shopping trip today?”
“Yeah, I am. Man, I don’t even remember going to sleep last night!”
“Mr. Northman said you fell asleep in mid-sentence. We’ll try not to keep you out too long today.”
“Did he leave me a note?”
“Looks like he did,” Alicia went to the dresser and retrieved the blue envelope. “I’ve put an ensemble out for you that should be easy to get in and out of so you can try on dresses. We’ll go as soon as you finish breakfast and shower…”
“Would it be OK if I just put my hair in a pony tail and skipped a shower? We bathed right before bed last night.”
“Alright, then, whenever you’re dressed, we’ll go.”
Sookie was ready in twenty minutes and they decided Alicia would drive because Sookie was afraid she’d mess up Eric’s car. Alicia kept Sookie focused on what they needed to do that day to distract her a bit.
“The main problem we’re going to have,” Alicia told her, “is finding something that’s sophisticated without being dour, and bright without looking like it belongs at a prom, in a wedding or in a beauty pageant.”
“Also, I find that when the dresses are short, they’re very short, and we know how Mr. Northman feels about that.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” Sookie laughed.
“How do you feel about strapless dresses?”
“Well, I’ve never really worn one because my bust is kind of big and I usually wear a bra, plus I’m afraid I’ll pop out of it,” Sookie joked.
“With the right foundation garments and a little double-sided tape, we can handle those problems.”
“No, it’s a special wardrobe tape that models and actresses use. I have some in my kit, so if you decide to go that route, we’ll make sure you’re secure. There’s always eyelash glue, too, though I think the tape works best.”
Sookie laughed, “do people really do that?”
“Yes, they do, especially if the dress gapes or moves.”
“I always wondered, when I’d see these actresses in skimpy dresses, how they were keeping them in place.”
“That’s how – tape and glue. You wouldn’t believe what’s going on under those pretty dresses at the Oscars,” Alicia laughed.
“I don’t know why, but the idea of some big movie star gluing on her dress makes me happy,” Sookie giggled.
“And they tape their breasts together, use brown eye shadow to emphasize their cleavage, and most of them have extra hair woven or clipped in.”
“So it’s all an illusion?”
“Most of it. You take a naturally thin girl with a nice face, add extra hair and the right paint and you’ve got a glamorous movie star. Most of them aren’t nearly as naturally pretty as you are.”
“Thanks,” Sookie blushed.
“Have you ever worn false eyelashes?”
“No, I bought a pair one time just to try them but they didn’t stay in place.”
“There’s a little trick to it. You don’t have to wear them if they make you uncomfortable, but if you want to try it, I can help you.”
“Do I need extra hair?”
“No, your hair is thick and healthy. The color is natural, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I’ve never put anything on it except a little SunIn a few times. I didn’t like the way that looked as it grew out, though.”
“If you spend a lot of time in the pool, that’s more likely to turn green, too.”
“The pool turns hair green?”
“Blonde hair can take on a green tinge if you don’t wash the chlorine out, but it’s much worse with lightened hair. You can get special shampoos to boost your natural color, though.”
“Sometimes I use this blue shampoo that makes it look a little brighter.”
“That’s a good idea, every once in a while.”
“You said you’ve got a kit of some kind?”
“It’s a large case that has makeup and things to do hair.”
“Are you trained to do stuff like that?”
“Oh, yes, I’m a trained aesthetician. My first employer sent me to school so I could do her hair and makeup for formal occasions.”
“She sent you to school for it?”
“Yes, she got tired of having to track someone down to come to the estate when she had a formal event and I had been with her a few years at that point, so she just sent me to school so I could do it for her.”
“Yes, it was convenient for her and having the skills were a great boost for my career. It makes me more valuable.”
“Margaret said you have some clerical skills, too?”
“Yes, I can take dictation, type, I’m familiar with Macs and PCs, and I’ve had a little business training.”
“Eric is buying me a laptop and I know nothing about computers. Can you help me learn how to use it?”
“Sure, I can. We’ll have you shopping on line and sending emails in no time.”
“Great! I want to do research about babies like Eric is…”
“That’s a very good idea. There are a lot of books you can get, too.”
“Eric already bought me one – isn’t that sweet?”
“Yes, it is.” Alicia smiled at her. “He seems very attentive.”
“He’s so excited. He never dreamed he could have a baby.”
Alicia didn’t pry as to why and how a vampire was able to have a child. She figured she’d learn the whole story eventually and she didn’t want Sookie to think she was nosy. So far, this was a nice position. Sookie was very sweet and the house was beautiful. She liked Margaret a lot and looking at Mr. Northman was certainly no hardship. She liked the idea of having a baby in the house, too. It had been a long time since she’d cared for an infant, and she was looking forward to it.
“Alicia – is everything OK?”
“Oh, yes, dear, I was just thinking how nice it will be to have a baby in the house.”
“I can’t wait. I never thought I’d get married and I always wanted to be a mommy. There’s a lot to do to get ready, isn’t there?”
“Yes, but we’ve got time. I think Margaret is having the nursery cleared today and you can pick what color you want it painted, then we’ll think about furniture and all that good stuff.”
“I know what color I want – a really pretty robin’s egg blue.”
“Alright, if we’re near a store that carries paint, we’ll look at paint chips.”
“Ooh, good idea! Any little thing we can do to make it more real, let’s do it!”
“Alright, here we are,” Alicia pulled up by Bella Bridesmaids, “we’re a bit early for our appointment.”
“Yes, this store is by appointment only.”
“They’re holding dresses here?”
“No, that’s another store we’ll go to later. There’s no appointment time there.”
“Hello, may I help you?” An older woman with blond/grey hair and black half glasses perched on her nose greeted them.
“Yes, I called yesterday about some dresses for the Northmans.”
“Oh, yes, you must be Alicia? And this is Mrs. Northman?”
“Soon to be, yes,” Sookie shook her hand.
“It’s very nice to meet you both. I did find a few things for you to try that would work for a formal party.”
The older lady had 12 dresses for them to look at. There was one satin dress with a scoop neck and a full skirt that Sookie really liked, but she wasn’t crazy about the dark green color, so they ordered one like it in pink. It wouldn’t be ready by the weekend, but she’d have it in her closet for future events. Several of the others were too tight in the bust, but there was a very pretty Jenny Yoo dress in a bright blue that they decided to take, but it was a little more conservative than she’d want for the party. Sookie tried on a few others that she picked out herself, but she really needed something they could take with them that day, so they finished up their reserved hour and moved to the next place.
“I like that dress we ordered, and the one I bought, but it doesn’t feel right for Friday night, does it?”
“I think we can do better. Don’t panic just yet. I also ordered several dresses from different stores online yesterday that should arrive today and tomorrow.”
“Yes – you can try them and keep the ones you want and I’ll send the others back.”
“Where did you order from?”
“Nieman-Marcus, Bergdorfs, Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret.”
“Wow – you must have ordered a lot.”
“I did. I’m not taking any chances – you’re going to be ready to dazzle your hostess Friday night.”
“Cool. Are they all fancy dresses?”
“No, some are just little summer dresses that will give you some room to grow before you need maternity clothes.”
“I had a feeling you might want to put that off as long as possible,” Alicia laughed.
“You know it! As soon as I have this little guy, I want the baby weight off, too. I’m not going to get frumpy, no matter how big I get, and I’m not going to stay big after,” Sookie laughed, but Alicia knew she was serious.
They hit Bev Formal Wear, Lavender & Lace, and Sue Peyton, and Sookie was acquiring quite a few cute dresses.
“Ooh! Look at this!” Sookie said, jumping up and down in one of the later stores. “Do you think I could ever get away with wearing this?”
“Oh, my, well… why don’t you try it on and we’ll see how it looks.”
Sookie bounced into the dressing room with one of the wildest dresses they had seen all day. Sookie hesitated a little when she pulled her dress off in front of the full-length mirror – was she actually showing already? Her tummy sure didn’t seem as flat as normal, but it was way too early, right? Anyway, she shook it off and wiggled into the dress, Alicia coming in to zip up the back for her. The bodice was shaped pretty much like a bra and covered with blue and white rhinestones, then there were five tiers of light to bright cerulean blue feathers, each delineated by a row of rhinestones, the color moving from light to dark as it moved down toward the hem. Alicia would never have looked twice at the thing, but she had to admit, Sookie looked stunning in it.
“OK, is it too tacky? Because I think it’s wonderful!” Sookie said as she turned and posed in front of the mirror.
Alicia just laughed. “I would never have guessed it, but there’s something about you in the dress that makes it less tacky and more … retro, I guess and sexy. It’s got a Goldie Hawn – slash – flapper feeling.”
“Yeah, like a flapper or a go-go dancer, but not cheesy or sleazy, right?”
“No, not at all. We’ll need to see what Mr. Northman thinks of it, just to be sure, but I’d say you’ve got your dress. Let’s take it and the pink one with the sequins, then we’ll hit Dillard’s at the Peirre Bossier Mall. Between the dresses we’ve got now and the ones I ordered, you’ve got a good selection if you decide against this one.”
Alicia also knew a very exclusive shoe shop and Sookie found a pair of Badgley Mischka spike-heeled sandals with a jeweled strip from the vamp to the ankle strap that took her breath away.
“Have you ever walked in heels that high, Dear?”
“No, but I want to!”
“Alright, try them on. You’ve got time to practice before Friday.”
The salesman, a young, gangly man with light brown hair who obviously found Sookie attractive because he was blushing, strapped them on her and she wiggled up and down the aisle of the store.
“How do they feel, Dear?” Alicia thought they’d go very well with the dresses they had in the car.
“Not bad, really.”
“Alright, you seem graceful enough in them. I’ve got some of those “petals” that you can put in them to make them more comfortable.”
“OK,” Sookie turned to the man, “do these come in any more colors?”
“Yes, ma’am, they come in black and gold, too.”
“I want a pair of each in my size, please.”
“That’s a good idea. Then you’ve got something to go with almost anything and that will give us time to add to your collection more slowly and find things you really want.”
“I really want these! I always dreamed of having shoes like this, but where would I wear them in Bon Temps, even if I could afford them?”
“You’ll get to wear these. You’ll have various functions Mr. Northman will need to attend and they’ll look good with any kind of clubwear, too, so you can wear them if you go with him to… what’s it called again?”
“I take it you’ll be dressing up when you go there in the evenings, too?”
“Yeah, Eric wants to show me off, if you can believe that.”
Alicia noticed the salesman nodding his head as he packed up the sandals when Sookie said that. He apparently thought she was worth showing off, too. Alicia laughed to herself that he ought to see her in the blue dress. She would knock his eyes out.
As they put the shoes into the trunk of the Corvette, Sookie asked Alicia, “Do you think we can make it home before Eric gets up? I want to put on the dress and the shoes and do my hair a little.”
“We’ve got time if we go straight home now.”
“I still need an evening bag, though,” Sookie remembered as they got into their sides of the car.
“Not to worry, Hon, I’ve got you covered. I ordered a few of those, too and there’s a white one that will match that first pair of sandals.”
“Oh, good. Let’s hurry then. I want Eric to get the full effect. I hope he likes the dress.”
“I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t. It looks like it was made for you,” Alicia assured her as she headed for the highway.
“Thanks. This wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected today.”
“You expected it to be bad?”
“I don’t know – sort of. I didn’t know if we’d like the same things or not.”
“My job is to help you be the best “you” you can be. I’m not here to impose my taste on you, just to guide you to develop your own.”
“OK, I can handle that,” Sookie laughed.
They chatted about babies all the way home and when they got there, Sookie told Margaret breathlessly to please keep Eric downstairs so he could see her once she was in her outfit. She and Alicia took the bags and bundles up in the elevator, and Alicia got her makeup kit from where it was stored in Eric’s office closet.
Sookie put on a push up bra they bought at Dillard’s and Alicia did her makeup, then had her bend over and brush, then spray, her hair. As she tossed it back, Alicia teased it a bit and added some eyeliner, lip liner and bright pink lipstick, plus a little blush on her cheeks. Finally, she helped Sookie into the dress and buckled the gorgeous sandals on her feet. They took the elevator back downstairs, Alicia going into the kitchen to see if Eric was there.
“Good evening, Mr. Northman!” She greeted him as she came into the kitchen.
“Hello, Alicia! I hear you had a successful shopping trip today?”
“Well, we hope so. Are you ready?”
Eric stood beside the table and nodded, “ready.”
“Sookie? He’s here!”
Sookie came in wearing the sparkly, feathered blue dress and Eric was speechless.
“What do you think? Is it appropriate for the Queen’s party?” Sookie forgot that Margaret and Alicia didn’t know about vampire royalty but they didn’t react or say anything.
“Sookie, you are a vision!”
“You like it? It’s not tacky?”
“It’s very attractive! A little short, but that’s the fashion, I suppose.”
“I can still sit down in it without a problem, though it crushes the feathers. I guess we’ll be in the car a long time to get to New Orleans, huh?”
“Not really, we’ll be taking Sophie Ann’s private plane from the airport here. We’ll be there in just over an hour once we’re on the plane.”
“Oh, yes, Sophie Ann insisted when I RSVP’d and told her I was bringing a guest.”
“Does she know about us?”
“No, but I’m not too worried. Her consort might actually be pleased by this development. At any rate, I think we’ll have a good time. I can’t wait for them all to see my beautiful bonded. You’re going to be quite a hit, I’m sure.”
The rest of the week was a blur for Sookie. Between playing in the pool, reading the pregnancy book, trying on dresses Alicia had ordered for her, getting together some new undergarments she needed and practicing walking in her heels every day, the days whizzed by. Before she knew it, they were on their way to the Shreveport city airport.
“Eric, are you nervous about this at all?” she asked as he buckled her into her seat on the plane.
“No, this party. What if they think I’m cheap? Or stupid?”
“Sookie, they are going to be dazzled by you just as I am. Do not fear,” Eric reassured her, though he was lying. He wasn’t nervous that they wouldn’t like her – quite the opposite. He was afraid he’d have to fight their way out of there because they’d all want her for themselves, even if they didn’t know about her telepathy. Still, this trip was necessary. He had to give Sophie Ann fair warning about the wedding and it would have political ramifications. He also needed to get Sophie Ann alone and tell her about Niall and the baby. He had decided it would be best to do that early in the evening, in case she chose to make an announcement of the birth and extend her protection to the family.
The longest black limo Sookie had ever seen picked them up at the plane and in almost no time they were arriving at the Queen’s residence. It was amazing, with rectangular gazing pools on either side of the walk that went up to the front door. It was sort of Spanish on the outside, but the inside was a funky mix of Art Deco and Egyptian styles and there were big guards with strange thought patterns at all the entrances.
“Eric?” Sookie asked, holding his arm tightly as they approached the door.
“Yes?” He was going into “Sheriff” mode now, and Sookie knew it. He had warned her he’d have to have a certain badass quality and she could see him put it on like a suit of armor.
“They’re not human, right?”
“No, they are Weres.”
“OK, well, now I know what they sound like.”
Eric raised her hand to his lips and kissed it as they reached the front door.
The party was already in full swing, the room full of people dancing and mingling. The Queen, a tall, lithe woman with porcelain skin and ginger hair, was on a throne in her ballroom in a low-cut, white lace gown with long bell sleeves which looked as if she had nothing on under it. Andre was hovering, as always, at her side as people milled around, bowing to her and engaging her in conversation of different types.
What happened next was in such rapid succession that the words were like machine gun fire. Everyone reacted at once:
[Sophie Ann, with delight] “Eric!”
[André, sternly] “Northman.”
[Eric] “Your majesty, Andre, Bill!”
[Sophie Ann, noticing Sookie on Eric’s arm] “ERIC?”
Everyone was stunned for a minute and Eric was trying not to laugh. He apparently had the upper hand on them all just now. A woman, who turned out to be the Witch, Amelia, stood to the side looking amused at them all.
“Your majesty!” Eric bowed low to Sophie Ann. “May I introduce my bonded, and my fiancée, Miss Sookie Stackhouse.”
No one had ever seen Sophie Ann speechless before. She was utterly frozen, not knowing what to do.
“Your fiancée?” André interrupted.
“Yes, Miss Stackhouse and I are to be wed. You will all be invited, of course.”
“You’re going to marry? A HUMAN?” Sophie Ann was trying not to lose it in front of everyone.
“Oh, not exactly.” Eric looked her dead in the eye, letting her know he was aware that Sookie wasn’t human and he knew that she knew it.
“Sookie, is it?” Sophie Ann decided to pretend she didn’t know exactly who Sookie was. She looked Sookie up and down – she was stunning! Everything about the girl sparkled and she smelled sweeter than anything she could remember and Eric got to her first! DAMN!
“Yes, it’s nice to meet you,” Sookie said a little shyly.
“Sookie, what are you doing here!” Hadley was excited to see her, oblivious to the political context of it all.
“Hadley, girl, where have you been? We haven’t heard from you in ages!” Sookie said as Hadley came forward and gave her a big hug. “I’m so glad to know you’re OK!”
Sophie Ann was still in shock, not knowing what to react to first, and Bill looked scared to death. Eric was enjoying himself immensely.
“Eric, this is my cousin, Hadley!” Sookie introduced her.
“Your cousin?” Eric said with delight, suddenly putting the last piece of the puzzle in place. Sophie Ann had learned about Sookie’s talent from a new lover, who happened to be Sookie’s cousin, and who, frankly, didn’t seem too bright. The girl probably had no idea what she was doing to Sookie’s life by exposing her to vampires. Eric had been right – Sophie Ann sent Compton to Bon Temps to acquire her for her own use. He’d not forget that the two of them tried to go around him.
“Hadley, Sweetheart, you didn’t tell me you had such a pretty cousin,” the Queen tried to recover herself.
“Good looks seem to run in the family. I’m very pleased to meet you, Hadley,” Eric said graciously, shaking her hand and still trying not to laugh.
“Sookie, my dear, allow me to introduce you to my consort, André,” Sophie Ann continued, “and Hadley’s landlady, Amelia Broadway, and you seem to know Bill Compton.” Sophie Ann shot daggers out of her eyes at Bill.
“Nice to meet you, sir,” Sookie nodded to Andre. “Amelia, I’ve been looking forward to meeting you!”
“You have?” Amelia was surprised Sookie knew who she was, and looked at Eric, who nodded to confirm that Sookie knew she was a Witch.
“Yes, I hope we have a chance to talk at some point,” Sookie said with complete sincerity and enthusiasm.
“Yes, so do I,” Amelia said, sizing Sookie up pretty quickly. She was much brighter than Hadley, and her energy was huge. This girl was definitely more than human. It wouldn’t take much at all to convince Amelia that Sookie was exactly whom Eric thought she was. Her aura glowed like a candle in this room, and not just because she was the only woman, aside from herself and Sophie Ann, not dressed in black. If she learned to focus her natural power, this girl could light up all of New Orleans.
“Well, we know you have others to greet, your majesty, so we won’t keep you. I would ask that you grant me a private audience before the night is over so we can discuss a matter of some importance. If you’ll excuse us, everyone, I’d like to dance with my bonded,” Eric nodded and guided Sookie out onto the dance floor as the others all tried to deal with their own angle of the situation.
“Smile, Sweetheart,” he told Sookie as he swung her around the floor, “all eyes are on you.”
“So I notice. Is it my imagination, or is everybody talking about us?”
“It’s not your imagination.” He bent to whisper in her ear, pulling her close, “we’ve created quite the sensation. Everyone is stunned by your beauty.”
“I don’t think that’s why they’re stunned, Eric.”
“Well, that’s part of it, at least. What can you tell me about your cousin, Hadley?”
Sookie motioned for him to bend down and let her whisper, “she’s a drug addict. Gran paid for her to go to rehab but she ran away and we weren’t even sure she was still alive. I haven’t seen her look this good in years.”
“Interesting. You know she’s the Queen’s pet, apparently?”
“I thought something must be going on between them.”
“You also know she’s the one that put them on your trail?”
“She wouldn’t deliberately hurt me, though.”
“No, I don’t think so, either. I’m sure she had no idea what she was doing. She probably bragged about you to Sophie Ann and, knowing her as I do, she took it upon herself to enlist Compton’s aid. I’m very glad I got you away from him.”
“So am I! I can’t believe he was plotting against me.”
“Not against you, exactly, but certainly not for you.”
She motioned for him to bend down again. “That guy, André, hates you, you know?”
“Yes, Dear One, I’ve known that for a long time. I never turn my back on him.”
“Good. He scares me.”
“I’m glad to hear it. I want you to be careful of everyone else while you are here. Stay as close to me as you can.”
“Oh, I will, believe me. I’m afraid to let you go. Everyone is looking at me like they’re hungry!”
“It’s your special scent. Now that you are with child, it’s practically rolling off of you. Every vampire within twenty feet of you can smell it.”
“I forgot to ask you – are you going to tell them about you-know-who?”
“Yes, I’ll tell Sophie Ann. It will be up to her whether she reveals it to anyone else. My guess is, she won’t.”
“But you have to tell her?”
“Yes, it’s the only way to explain about the baby,” Eric twirled her again and dipped her backward just to dig at Sophie Ann, who was summoning them. “Our presence is requested.”
Eric led Sookie back up to Sophie Ann’s seat where she was trying to look cool and a little bored, but Eric could see through it.
“Eric, darling, you asked to speak to me?”
“Yes, your majesty, if you could spare a moment. It’s not something I can tell you in public, I’m afraid.”
“Alright, follow me,” she stood as André held her hand, but she motioned for him not to follow them. “Sookie, you will excuse us, please?”
Sookie hesitated, but Amelia stepped up. “Sookie, why don’t we find a seat and talk for a few minutes?”
“Alright,” she said reluctantly as Eric nodded to her, “that’d be nice.”
“I’ll be right back, Sweetheart. You and Amelia get acquainted.”
Amelia steered Sookie to a couch on the perimeter of the room as Eric followed Sophie Ann into another room as guards flanked the door on both sides.
“Alright, Eric, you have another surprise for me?” Sophie Ann said with a little bitterness.
“Yes, my Queen, I have news I must share with you.”
“You know Niall Brigant, of course?”
“Yes, of course…” What the hell could this be?
“Niall, as it turns out, is Sookie’s great grandfather. Probably Hadley’s, too, now that I think about it. Niall has worked magick so I could impregnate Sookie. She is with child and I am his father.”
Sophie Ann looked as if she would faint. “With child? Is this possible?”
“You know Brigant’s power, my Lady. Have you any doubt?”
“That’s why her scent is so strong…” Sophie Ann was talking to herself now.
“Yes, it became so once the pregnancy occurred.”
“It couldn’t belong to someone else?” She was grasping at straws and she knew it.
“No, your majesty, there is no doubt I am his father.”
“His father. You are going to have a son…” This was just getting worse and worse. She would never have him now – not while Sookie lived and if Niall was her grandfather, she’d never dare harm her. She needed to think. Maybe André would kill Sookie for her…?
She snapped out of it, “yes?”
“I thought perhaps you’d like to make the announcement, and extend your protection to my child and his mother?”
“Yes, I suppose that would be the thing to do for such a progressive… arrangement. Is there a date for the wedding?”
“Not yet, but it will take place some time in June.”
“When will the child be born?”
“Fewer than 6 months hence.”
“Very well. Leave me. I will make the announcement within the hour.”
‘Thank you, your majesty,” Eric bowed very low to her and left the room.
Sophie Ann just sat and stared for a few minutes. There was nothing else to be done. She would never have Eric killed and she knew he’d kill anyone who harmed Sookie while she carried his child, even if it were she or André. If she wanted to make use of Sookie’s skills, she’d have to go through Eric, which wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it was a good deal more expensive than having her bonded to Bill as she had planned.
“Sophie?” André, the only one who dared to call her Sophie, came into the room, “do you want me to take her?”
“Eric will never allow that.”
“He can be killed.”
“If we try and fail, he will end us both. There is too much at stake for him now.”
“Because they are marrying?”
“Because she is carrying his child.”
“Impossible! Why would you believe such a thing?”
“Fae magick – apparently, Sookie and Hadley are the progeny of Niall Brigant.”
“Hadley certainly shows no Fae tendencies, but it explains Sookie’s special abilities. If you think about it, they both have elfin qualities in their looks. I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.”
“You are going to allow one of your Sheriffs to marry, and to have a child?”
“What would you have me do?” She was getting aggravated now.
“Kill them. Kill him, kill the baby, use the girl as we had planned.”
“That is madness. Remember, Brigant has a strong part in this. We risk war with the Fae if we interfere with his plans.”
“Tell me the true reason, Sophie.”
“Yes – your feelings for Northman. You are letting your lust for him cloud your judgment. You will appear weak if you allow a Sheriff to outshine you. A child and a wedding for a Sheriff – it is unheard of.”
“Sheriffs are not forbidden to marry – no one has, but there is nothing in the law that prevents it. He will be the first, but it was bound to happen eventually, now that it’s legal. This child – if the gods have allowed this, there must be a reason.”
“What are you afraid of? It is not like you to cower before the Fae.”
“It is not only the Fae, it is the Council. This kind of magick must have required their approval.”
“ENOUGH! For now, we do nothing. I will make the announcement and extend them my protection. I will broach the subject with the Council in my own time. We will speak no more of this until I have had time to think.” Her tone told him that he had better not pursue the subject further. He bowed to her and she left the room.
Amelia grabbed two glasses of wine from a waiter they passed as she and Sookie made their way to a green silk settee.
“Thanks.” Sookie said as she accepted a glass of wine, intending just to sip a little, “So, Eric told you about me?”
“Yes, he asked me to meet you and see if I agreed with him about your… nature.”
“My ability, you mean?”
“The Freyja thing?”
“It’s crazy, isn’t it?”
“I don’t think it’s crazy at all. You must have noticed the way people here are reacting to you.”
“Yeah, I smell extra-sweet to vampires, especially because of the baby.”
“Baby?” What baby?
“Attention, everyone!” Sophie Ann stood on her platform and commanded the crowd’s attention. The music stopped and everyone grew silent. “I have a most unusual announcement. You all know Eric Northman, Sheriff of Area 5…”
The crowd nodded and mumbled as Eric stood behind the couch where Sookie and Amelia sat, Sookie reaching up to take his hand.
“Eric has some joyous and unexpected news for us. First, this coming June, Sheriff Northman will be wed to Miss Sookie Stackhouse.”
Shock rippled through the crowd. A Sheriff married?
“… And, shortly thereafter, as a result of miraculous magick, Sheriff Northman will become a father. Miss Stackhouse is with child.”
“Yes, it is shocking, but it is true,” she continued, “he has fathered a child. Eric Northman will be the first Sheriff to marry, and the only vampire in the world, apparently, to be blessed with a son.”
People stared in their direction. Some were incredulous, some overwhelmed at the possibility, a few wanted to know how to do it themselves. Bill was standing behind the Queen’s dais looking sick.
“And, naturally, I will be extending the protection of the Crown to include Sheriff Northman’s future wife and child. All who are in my realm shall protect them. Let us drink a toast!”
Waiters rushed through the crowd with wine and blood as the Queen stood with her glass held high. “To the Northman family – the first of its kind.”
“The Northman family” the crowd repeated, raising their glasses and drinking. It did not escape Eric’s notice that André neither toasted nor drank. Hadley skipped over to Sookie and gave her a big kiss, then ran back to her spot beside Sophie Ann like a puppy.
Other vampires slowly approached Eric with congratulations and questions, which he fielded while Sookie and Amelia continued to talk. Everyone wanted a look at Sookie, nodding to her as they passed and then whispering to each other about her unusual scent.
“Well, you really know how to make an impression,” Amelia laughed. “When did you find out about the baby?”
“Just a few days ago, really.”
“That must have been quite a shock!”
“Yeah, it was. That’s the first I ever knew about real magick.”
“Don’t feel pressured to answer if you don’t want, but may I ask who did it?”
“Um,” she looked at Eric and he shook his head, “a fairy?” He nodded that telling that much was OK.
“Fae magick, huh? I knew some of them were powerful, but that’s big magick, making a vampire fertile.”
“Yeah, the doctor said there’s no record of it happening before.”
“A regular doctor or a Supe doctor.”
“A Supe doctor – Dr. Ludwig.”
“Holy smoke! Dr. Ludwig is involved?”
“Yeah, you know her?” Sookie was surprised.
“Only by reputation, but she’s a very big deal.”
“I hope she’s as good as everyone says she is,” Sookie was still naturally nervous about the whole thing.
“Oh, don’t worry, Honey. You couldn’t be in better hands from what I hear of her. It’s quite an honor if she agrees to invest her time and talents in you.”
“Oh – good!”
“So what did you want to talk to me about?”
“Magick – how do I learn?”
“Have you ever studied it before?”
“No, I never knew there was such a thing. The thing is, I was told that I’m going to teach my baby magick, but I don’t know any, so how can I?”
“Ever hear the saying “when the student is ready, the teacher appears?”
“Yeah, once, from the person who told me about teaching the baby,” she laughed.
“That’s a good sign, so now’s the time to learn, kid. You live in Shreveport, right?”
“I’m not doing much in New Orleans. I might consider coming north for a bit if you know a place I could crash.”
“Like with us?”
“No, that doesn’t sound right, but you know someplace else for me to stay.”
“Actually, now that I think about it, how about staying with my Gran?”
“That’s a little ways away, right?”
“Yeah, it’s in the country, in Bon Temps.”
“She’s by herself now?”
“Yeah, that sounds right. She needs someone around to help with the cleaning since you moved out, right? Make sure she’s OK with it, and if she is, I’ll be up next weekend.”
“How do you know all this?”
“My teacher read cards for me about it.”
“You have a teacher?”
“Yeah, you’ll meet her at some point, from what she told me. Everything is swirling around you, like a whirlpool, pulling the things that you need toward you. You’ve got big, Universal forces on your side, but there’s a force or two against you, too, so you do need to learn how to protect yourself and fight back if need be. Did Eric get the list of books I sent for you?”
Sookie looked up at Eric, who was talking to a couple of creepy male vampires who looked like they died on a golf course, and he looked at her and said, “they’re on their way,” then went back to his conversation.
“OK, good. When you get them, read as much as you can. Don’t try to memorize everything – scan through it all quickly at first and get your brain working on it, OK?”
“I might need to get a car I can use while I’m there…”
Eric held his hand up to get the other vamps to bear with him a moment, “Amelia, you can use Sookie’s Camaro. She’ll be getting a new car.”
“That’s the second time you’ve said that! Why am I getting another car?”
“For the baby – you need room for a car seat and a bulletproof exterior.”
Amelia laughed at the look on Sookie’s face. “He keeps you on your toes, doesn’t he?”
“Yeah, I can’t keep up with it all. It’s like being on a rollercoaster that only goes up, through a loop, and up again.”
“So tell me about the baby?”
“He’s probably going to be born in October. They’re not really sure what he’s going to be…”
“As in “Fae, human, or vampire?””
“Right. All they know is it’s a boy and it’s going to look a lot like Eric.”
“Nothing wrong with that, girl, he’s a doll,” Amelia teased her and Sookie laughed and looked at Eric, who also laughed because he heard it, too.
“So, a person can actually learn magick?”
“Yeah, it’s a matter of learning to work energy, mostly, though it’s a religion, too.”
“I don’t know a lot about religion.”
“Do you know anything about the Goddess?”
“Like, one in particular?”
“Yeah, the Goddess, the Source of all Life.”
“No, I don’t think I do.”
“OK, well, read those books and that will get you started. For right now, think of that phrase and roll it around in your head, “The Goddess, the Source of all Life.””
Sookie felt the strangest sensation when Amelia said it the second time, and put her hand on her lower tummy.
“Something wrong, Hon?”
“I just get these weird feelings sometimes. Like when you said that, I could swear the baby agreed with you.”
Eric looked over and he and Amelia exchanged a look.
“Are you writing this stuff down, Sookie?” Amelia asked her
“No, but I’m supposed to be.”
“When you get home, I want you to promise me that the first thing you’ll do is write that down. Write the date, the time, where you were, what you felt and what was going on around you. Do that every time you feel those strange feelings, alright?”
Eric was nodding as Amelia was talking to Sookie. This was the first he had heard of strange feelings and he knew this could be important. He was impressed that Amelia told her to write things down, too. Eric’s intuition was humming, quite happy with the way Sookie and Amelia were talking. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think they were old friends. They leaned toward each other as they spoke and he liked the energy between them. Sookie didn’t have any girlfriends, and he knew she needed a confidant near her own age. Amelia was a bit older, but not so much that they couldn’t interact as equals. If nothing else came from this night, at least he found Sookie a potential teacher and friend.