Change Of Plans
Friday, January 22nd…
“Sookie?” I didn’t feel like I had been asleep for long and I couldn’t remember a time when Alcide was up before me.
I reached over and grabbed Eric’s arm and realized that he didn’t wear a watch. My sleepy confusion irritated me almost as much as my urge to buy Eric a watch.
I was growling. “Sleeping.”
“We have a problem.”
I begrudgingly sat up and climbed out from between the sheets and went to the door. I stepped into the dark vapor lock, yawning with big arms and got serious quickly because of the look on Alcide’s face. I whispered. “Sup, Beb?”
“Janice went to check on Angela when she was up with Tommy and she’s missing. They can’t find her anywhere.”
“Oh,” I patted his chest. “False alarm. She came and got in bed with us last night. She didn’t want to be alone and everyone else sounded like howler monkeys. Call of the search.”
“She came and got in bed with you?” He sounded slightly more accusatory than he should have but I was too tired to care.
“Yeah, like a kid with a goblin under her bed. We were all asleep so fast, it was like a valium commercial. What time is it?”
“I’m exhausted. Tell Jason to CircleK his breakfast this morning, please?”
I left the door open behind me so that Alcide could put his protective nature at ease and see (and smell) that there’d been no funny business going on in the room. I climbed back to my spot that had already cooled since it was flanked by two icy bodies, so I warmed it and blew a kiss to Alcide as he shut the door. I was back to sleep before my head hit the pillow.
“Momma, wake up.”
My eyes opened and Hunter was on the bed next to me. “Good morning, Prince Hunter.” I reached up and mussed his hair and he snickered. “What can I do for you handsome?”
“It’s time for breakfast.”
I sat up like a bolt. “Oh fudge! I’m sorry Sweetie.”
“Angela and Tobin cooked.”
I stopped sliding off the bed, only now realizing she was gone. I looked at the clock on Eric’s nightstand and it was nearly 8 and I had a lot to do today. After I grabbed a pink bra and panties set, I went into my closet and put on a pair of no-rise black jeans, light pink scoop neck t-shirt and light pink boots with the sexy heel.
When I came out Eric had his head propped up on his hand while Hunter tried to explain why he needed to get up.
“But I don’t eat breakfast.”
“We still like your company.”
“Why couldn’t you eat in here?”
Hunter giggled. “Because it would make a mess. Why don’t you sleep in the kitchen?”
“Because it’s uncomfortable.”
“You could take a pillow.”
“Ah, ha. So if breakfast is as messy as you say, and you still suggest that I take a pillow to the kitchen, then that would bring us full circle to you eating breakfast in here.”
Hunter just stared at him for a moment, occasionally blinking. Hunter understood that Eric was joking with him and I was proud at him for standing his ground. “Or you could get up.”
Eric got a big kick out of that and chuckled. “Kapten, you make a fine argument. I’ll get up.”
Hunter was delighted that Eric let him win the debate. I reached my hand out to him and gave Eric a wink as we headed down to the kitchen.
The heart of the house was abuzz. I stopped just long enough to cheat and get a read on everyone’s mood and the general consensus was good. The kids were just finishing up their breakfast and everyone was present and accounted for, even Sara.
“Good Morning everybody.” I sat next to Alcide at his spot and kissed his cheek as everyone greeted me.
“Mornin’ again, Shug.”
Tobin set a cup of coffee down and Angela set my plate down. They both had very proud looks on their faces. They had made omelets and bacon and hash browns and grits and mixed fruit with honey and granola (I didn’t know we had granola).
“This looks great. You two did a fine job.”
Tobin snorted. “I don’t know how you do it by yourself and make it look so easy.”
I smiled at him while I chewed. “It just takes a little practice. You guys did great though, you should be proud of yourselves.”
Angela smiled as she came over to me with a true blood. “Orange Julius?”
I giggled. “Berry or banana?”
“Banana!” I smiled and touched her bottle. At least I got to make her breakfast.
Breakfast was delicious but the situation felt bizarre and I didn’t like being on the other side of my counter. I’ll admit though that it did set my mind at ease that Tobin could handle cooking for the family while I was trapped in Boston.
Alcide chatted me out of my especially weird moment. “Shug, what do you have going on today?”
“Tobin and I have a couple errands to run while y’all ride but we’ll be back by lunch time.”
“Can you run by my house and grab my ring.”
I smiled. “You should’ve been wearing it the whole time. Nightstand or dresser?”
“Nightstand, it’s in the box.”
“Where’s my Pam?”
“Unpacking so that you can use her luggage. Why don’t you have any?”
I shrugged, “Never got around to replacing the ones that blew up.”
Eric came up from behind me and leaned over to kiss my neck. “Morning, Lover.”
Pam came around the corner and dropped a duffle bag on the counter in front of me with a thud.
I leaned over and kissed her. “Morning Pam, what’s this?”
I whipped around to give Eric a chilly look. “I told you that I didn’t want Lorena’s stuff.”
Eric bent and laughed into my ear, sending a chill down my spine that woke up other parts of me. “Lover, those are the Queen’s Jewels. Your jewels.”
“I… I… I guess I need a jewelry box.” There were a lot of things worth saying, but none of them mattered since I would end up wearing them anyway… eventually.
Tobin was confused about what errands we needed to run together, but it didn’t keep him from putting on a fresh shirt (one without bacon grease spatters) and getting in the car with me.
“Ok, you’ve kidnapped me. Where are we going?”
“We need to go to the printer and the wedding coordinator’s office.”
He narrowed his eyes at me. “Both of them could be handled by either one of us.”
“Yeah, but I figure Gamma might be more comfortable with a visit if you’re there.”
“Why do you want to see Gamma?”
“Because there’s no sense in her having surgery when I can heal her ulcer.”
“With my hands, like everything else. Not like a vampire healing, don’t worry.”
“That’s good. I think Gamma’d rather have surgery than drink blood.”
“Oh, believe me. I’ve been there. The idea grossed me out for a long time.”
“What changed your mind?”
“It wasn’t really a change, it was more of a conditioning. I just got used to it. It was kinda hard not to when my options were drink or die. The first few times were an emergency… So how are things with you and Febes?”
“What do you mean?”
“Are y’all a couple or a convenient lay?”
I nearly sang my taunt. “You like her.”
He cleared his throat. “Mind your own bees wax.”
I giggled but decided to leave him alone. “You know I stay out of people’s head whenever I can… I never got around to asking what your major is.”
“Supernatural. We get orphaned a lot. Supes see a lot, even the kids. Sure, a Supe could go to a regular Therapist but how honest could they be?”
“We couldn’t. That sounds fantastic. Dr. Ludwig would fill your schedule with referrals in no time.”
“Yeah. She the local Supe Doc.”
“You have one here?”
“Shit. I wish I’d have known. Gamma hasn’t seen one. Ever.”
When he nodded, I fished my phone out of my purse and dialed her number.
“Oh, hi! It’s Sookie. I was expecting Jaya to pick up. I want to make an appointment for a friend.”
“She’s a 71 year old Were having diabetic problems. She has an ulcer on her foot that I’m about to heal, but her sugars are erratic. She’s been seeing human doctors.”
“Idiot. Can she come in Monday at 3?”
Tobin nodded. “Yes. She can do that.”
“She’s not diabetic. Tell her to stop the insulin and to eat extra veg, V8 by the gallon until then. It’s adrenal brought on by menopause. The symptoms of diabetes, including the neuropathy, are why she should have seen me all along. Unless… Can you just heal her damaged gland?”
“I can try. I know I can take care of the ulcer. I can call you when I’m done.”
“Do that.” She hung up.
I looked over at Tobin who was oozing with hope. I was concerned that I might not be able to do it so I tried to steer the conversation away from it for the last couple of miles. “So what’s your story? You have a mom and a Gamma and two human sisters but no father.”
“My dad was a Cop in Austin. He got shot by a strung out pro when he tried to arrest her. Nadine and Annabelle’ dad took off. He was a dick and didn’t want any kids and decided he’d take off when mom told him she was pregnant with number 2.
“Nice. At least they have you.”
“Well you’re a step up from the donor and they love the hell out of you. You do better by them than he could have.”
He was grumbling. “I still feel bad for them. A brother isn’t the same thing as a dad. You should know that.”
“Don’t look at it like that. You’re going to be the one that walks them down the aisle. You’re the one they’ve always looked up to and always will. The memories that most little girls have of their father, have you in them. And trust me, because I know, having a brother who does those things is better than an empty file.”
“How was Jason?”
“Not a fraction of how good you are. My Gran had to bribe him to spend time with me. I’d have killed to have you as a big brother.”
“But now I’m moving out. You don’t think they’ll feel abandoned?”
We were pulling up to park. When I cut the engine off, I turned and looked at him. “Maybe a little at first, but your mom will be exhausted on weekends so you can have sleepovers with them nearly every weekend and they’ll see that they didn’t lose you. Childhood is full of fear. They’ll be scared that they lost you until you prove to them otherwise. They can spend their whole spring break with you, maybe you can take a couple of days and go to Six Flags. Most of the trips we have planned they can go with us and you will have plenty of time for them. And when they grow up, they’ll know that you gave them the one thing that they never would have gotten from their ‘father’. Your time.”
He tried to force a smile.
“If you don’t want to live in, we’ll all understand.”
“No, I feel like I need to. I just worry about them.”
I patted his knee. “That’s what makes you an awesome big brother.”
I got a genuine smile from him, finally.
When we walked into Tobin’s apartment, his mother was vacuuming. Jocelyn (Joss) Speight was wearing a wife beater and a pair of sweats. Her dark wavy hair had been carelessly yanked into a ponytail and her socks didn’t match, but they were both hello kitty. Even sweaty and disheveled, sleepless and without makeup, she didn’t look old enough to be his mom. When she made eye contact with me, her bright blue eyes widened like she had just seen a UFO and she punched Tobin. He faked a wince and rubbed the offended shoulder.
“Tobin FitzWilliam Garrison Speight! You…”
I put my hand out to shake hers and interrupted her. I had smelled the bleach and Windex before the door had been opened. “Don’t worry Mrs. Speight, I wear the same uniform on cleaning day.” I said it with my warmest smile and a slight giggle. “Boys don’t think about this kind of stuff.”
“Joss, Please. It’s nice to finally meet you Febes.”
“Uh, mom… This isn’t Febes. This is Sookie.”
She punched him again. She was more angry than she had been embarrassed. “You brought the Queen, THE QUEEN, over without warning me first! Oh, you’re so lucky you’re stronger than me or I’d beat your…”
Tobin was smiling and trying not to laugh at her.
“Mrs… Joss, it’s fine. I’m here as a friend. Ask him, I chill around the house in a wife beater and sweats all the time, not even my own at that. Eric is so much bigger than me, I look homeless when I do it.”
“Mom, she came to try to help Gamma.”
“I can heal the ulcer so that she doesn’t need surgery.” I had to jump on the answer so that he didn’t deliver any false hope. I felt bad enough that he was holding onto it.
“She does it with her hands and it’s painless. Gamma will be up and around in seconds.”
Her eyes got wide and she flashed a beautiful smile. Tobin really favored her a lot and I hadn’t noticed until then. “Where are my manners? Can I get you anything. Coffee, coke, lemonade?”
I smiled at her. “I’ll pass, but thanks for offering. Are you excited to start training tomorrow?”
She blessed me with another smile. That isn’t sarcasm either. She really did have an amazing smile. “I am. I guess things are looking up. I was thinking about looking for another job. The dentist was just so boring. If I’m restocking and stuff, I’ll be happier. I was bored to tears at a desk. Do you know who’ll be training me?”
“Her name is Pam. She’s one of the owners. I have to apologize in advance though, I’m taking her man out of town with me and she might be a touch… testy. She’ll try to be nice though.”
“Pam? Isn’t she a vampire? I thought I was training during the day?”
I looked up at Tobin. “You mean you actually kept something to yourself?!”
Tobin laughed. “I’m not that bad… Mom, the King and Lieutenant are daywalkers.”
“No Shit!… Oh sorry.” Tobin and I chuckled at her appology. “So Toby, when do I get to meet Febes?”
He opened his mouth to be evasive, but I interrupted. “You can meet her tonight at the pack cookout.”
Tobin’s hand slapped the back of my head within a blink of an eye and I was too busy laughing to notice his mother had punched his shoulder again. When I realized she had, I looked up at him. “Maybe I should hire her as security instead.”
“I don’t usually go to pack functions because of the girls. I haven’t been to any since we moved here. ”
“Oh, you should bring them! Manen is joining the pack tonight, so is my brother. Manen and Hunter would love to see the girls. Most everyone at the house will be there. You’ll get to meet everyone Tobin spends his time with.”
I smiled up at Tobin and his face was all smushed together to the point that I couldn’t see his eyes. “Oh, don’t be such a pussy. It’s not like we’re that bad.”
Joss laughed at him. “He’s never liked that kind of thing. He didn’t even march when he got his AAS, even though he had a 4.0, he’s a little shy.”
I laughed at the thought. Maybe we were helping to break him of it. “Not MY Tobin. By the way, don’t call him Toby around Febes. I know my cousin, and she’ll use it against him.”
“Tobin is dating your COUSIN?” He left the room to go to the kitchen and get out of the line of fire while I dished with his mom like we were old friends.
“Tobin is dating the queen’s cousin? Wait, I thought she’s a shifter?”
“She is. My mother was second born. Her dad was the oldest.”
She took my arm and led me to the couch and sat next to me. “What can you tell me about Febes?”
“MOM!” He was back in the room in a flash.
I stuck my tongue out at him. “Hush. I don’t know enough to embarrass you.”
Joss fussed. “It’s not like you ever tell me anything. We never see each other.”
I turned to face Joss a little more and ignore the daggers he was shooting at my back. “Well, she is a pretty tough girl, total Tomboy. Raised an army brat after Uncle Paul died. She was a marine and just got home from Iraq. She doesn’t take any shit from anyone. She’s got two younger brothers; human in high school back in Maryland. She hides how much fun she is under a serious shell and she’s a hottie.” I pulled out my phone and pulled up a picture I had snapped of her looking bored in the dining tent.
Joss had been smiling the whole time I’d been describing Febes and looked up at her son. “Is it serious?”
His blushing was interrupted by his Gamma, who was limping down the hall on a crutch and in an air case to keep her from using it too much. “GAMMA! Don’t you listen? The doctors told you to stay off of it.”
“Then carry me to the couch. I’m sick of the bed and it’s rude to stay back there when we have company.”
Tobin went into the hall and reappeared carrying his Gamma like a sack of potatoes. She was a tiny woman, smaller than me, with beautiful silver hair pulled into a braid and bright green eyes. She didn’t look at all like a woman who’d just spent several days in a hospital. She was wearing jeans and a sweater covered in snowflake chotchkies and her jeans leg was tucked into a brown cowgirl boot. I took a pillow from behind me and set it on the coffee table in front of the easy chair as Tobin set her down and I lifted her leg to the pillow.
“So… are you the girlfriend?”
“No ma’am. I’m a friend. My name is Sookie.” I reached over to shake her hand and she had the grip of a longshoreman.
“You’re not a full Were, but you’re not much human. What are you?”
Tobin blew out a deep breath and looked at the ceiling. He was about to gripe at her when I cut him off by answering her. “Ma’am, I’m a little mixed up. I’m Were, Shifter, Fae, Witch and Dae with a little human mixed in as levening.”
“You’re the Infinite.”
I nodded. “So I’m told.”
“Then what the hell are you doing here?”
Joss and Tobin both yelled. “GAMMA!”
I couldn’t help laughing. “I’m here to try to fix your foot so that you don’t need to go under the knife.”
“Hell girl, I’m not afraid of surgery. Can you make my hair black again or un-sag my boobs instead?”
We all laughed. I was starting to see what I saw in Tobin. His family was really fun and Gamma really did remind me of Gran. “Is it ok with you if I heal you?”
“Hell yeah, I hate having anyone take care of me. I can’t even stand to have someone get a soda out of the fridge for me unless they’re already getting one for themselves.”
Tobin chuckled. “Gamma, Sookie understands. Me and Angela made breakfast for everyone this morning. She usually feeds 20 at breakfast and you should have seen the look on her face while she ate. It was like she was having a bad dream.”
She looked at me funny. “Why would the queen serve 20 for breakfast? Why don’t you have a cook?”
“Because I can’t even stand to have someone get a soda out of the fridge for me unless they’re already getting one for themselves.” She gave me a touché type of smile. “You ready to get this thing off?”
She leaned over without grunt, groan or grimace like I’d expect out of a woman in her 70s and un-velcroed her boot and set it on the floor to reveal a nasty sore in the arch of her foot. I stood up and stepped over her leg and went around the back of her chair and put my hands on her shoulders. Tobin moved to sit by his mom and hold her hand, knowing that I would start glowing like I did when I gave a wake up or fixed hangovers. I started by repairing her horrible wound and then reached deeper to search out her adrenal gland, hoping I even knew what I was looking for. It seemed to be pretty damaged, almost shriveled but as I worked, it seemed to get healthier.
When I was done and opened my eyes, Joss had misted up and Tobin had an expectant look on his face. “Got it.”
I nodded and crumpled into the empty loveseat. “Yeah, taken care of.”
I took my phone out and dialed Ludwig again.
“Did you manage it?”
“Yeah. I think so.”
“Did you see anything else?”
I stood up and stepped outside for some privacy. “Cysts, I hope. On her uterus and ovaries.”
“How does it work? Can you see or is it a feeling?”
“A feeling. They were just there. Not menacing or damaged like her gland was, just there.”
“Yup. More than likely cysts. Cancer is usually pretty scary, like that monster in a closet feeling. Let me talk to her.”
I went in and handed Gamma the phone, feeling pretty relieved. I sat back down because I was pretty drained.
Tobin came over and sat next to me. “Sookie, are you alright?”
“I’ll be fine.” I patted his hand. “That was a big healing.”
“That was amazing. You were glowing so bright we couldn’t see your face.”
“She’s fine now, Kiddo. I fixed her adrenal and she’s healthy as a horse now.”
Gamma came back into the room and hugged me before she handed my phone back. “Little girl, you are quite the miracle! I haven’t felt this good in decades!”
“You’re seeing the Doctor soon, right.”
Tobin looked confused. “What? Why? I thought you said she was healthy as a horse.”
She put her hand on his head and mussed his hair. “I am. Sookie found a cyst that I need to have removed. It’s harmless unless I were to get hit in the stomach. If it ruptures, I could get an infection. It’s like having a mole removed.”
I looked up at her. “Gamma, I’ll come back and take care of the incisions for you. That’ll be easy.”
“Like you haven’t already done enough. You’re a doll.” She was smiling from ear to ear with gratitude.
After many thank yous and a promise from Joss that she’d be at the cookout tonight, Tobin and I got on with our errands. I was very happy to see that there was a deli next to the printers. So that was the first stop. Tobin had a soda and watched me eat 2 Reuben sandwiches and a bowl of broccoli soup and wash it all down with 3 DePeach Mode Jones sodas. I had to explain to him about refueling.
The printer had a hard time finding our order but everyone’s business cards were ready and he was surprised to see that I had ordered some for him too. Why wouldn’t the Executive Assistant to the Queen of Louisiana and the Supreme Mystical Judicial Regent have a business card? We made a quick stop at the Coordinator’s office and picked up the invitations for him to put together over the weekend and mail out on Monday. We made a quick stop (as quick as we could) at Costco to get a boat load of easy things for him to make like frozen casseroles and lunch meat and staples. Just because he had to cook for everyone didn’t mean he had to make everything from scratch. I told him as much when he looked slightly offended at the basket full of frozen stuff. We grabbed a bunch of stuff for the bunkhouse too so that the 3 guys plus Sara didn’t feel like they had to come all the way to the house for snacks. Tobin opted for lots of ice cream and breakfast cereal which made me laugh to myself. A couple of years ago I would have guessed that a Were’s snack choice would have been jerky or something else meaty, but dairy seemed to be the prize taker. On the way home we stopped by to pick up the Packmaster’s ring.
No one was at the house yet when we got there. From what I could get, they were all at the barn still so Tobin and I were left to unload the groceries alone. We hadn’t been at work for long when I felt Eric getting closer and we were just finishing with putting together lunch when they all came in. Eric made his way over to me in a blur and wrapped his arms around me from behind and kissed my neck.
“Lover, I missed you. You are too busy these days.”
I spun around in his arms. “We just have to get through this trip to Boston and we can spend every second together until March when I have to go to Virginia.”
“Mmm, watch what you say. I might just take you up on that.” He started chewing on my neck and it made my knees weak.
“I depend on it.”
“Do you think you can pop home from Boston?”
“I can try, it’s 1700 miles though.”
He smiled at me. “I’m sure you’ll do your best.”
“Yes sir. I will. Did you enjoy your ride?”
He nodded. “Everyone is picking up on handling easily. What were you up to while you were gone.”
I smirked at him. “We picked up our business cards and the wedding invitations so that Tobin can send them out on Monday.”
Tobin interrupted and stuck his face between ours, looking at Eric. “She showed off.”
“I could feel as much. What did she do?”
“She healed my grandmother’s foot and cured her diabetes.”
Eric frowned and turned his attention back to me now that he had his answer. “It took a lot out of you.”
“I didn’t know it would. I didn’t expect it to. In fact, I only went to heal her foot. I didn’t want her to have to have surgery when her blood sugar wasn’t under control.”
“Then how did you end up curing an ongoing illness?”
“They’re new here, so they didn’t know about Ludwig. I called to make an appointment for her and Ludwig suggested that I try. So I did. It was hard, but I got it taken care of. Half an hour later, I ate and felt right as rain. You should have seen her. When I was done she was bouncing all over the apartment.”
“You should take it easy.”
“Eric, I’m fine, really.”
Slightly more stern. “You should take it easy.”
Alcide came into the room. “What’s up? Why is she taking it easy?”
“When I nearly fell from the saddle…”
“It was from the bond. She weakened herself that much.”
“I know better now. It was for a really good cause.”
Pam walked in and tensed when Alcide yelled at me. “What did she do?”
Eric relayed the same message to her.
Pam said nothing, she only frowned.
Tobin was confused and guilt was starting to roll off of him. “She seemed fine. Just a little tired.”
Alcide looked at him. “She should be taking it easy and she knows it. Don’t blame yourself. She’s a good faker.”
“GUYS! I’m fine. I used a power. I refueled. Done.”
Eric was getting angry at me and still had his arms around me because he knew I’d feel it more. “Damn it Sookie. You were not fine. Pam felt it too!… Alcide, will your schedule allow you to babysit her while you are away?”
Alcide was staring at me with a scowl and clenched jaw. “Every second.”
I’d had enough. “I’m going to go pack. Does anyone want to make sure that my clothes aren’t too heavy to lift?”
Pam, of all people, yelled after me when I was half way up the stairs. “Bloody Hell Sookie! Don’t make light of this!”
I spun around on the stairs to reply. “I’m only making light of it because you are all making a bigger deal out of it than needs to be. I told you that I didn’t know how drained it would leave me and that I know better now… Instead of listening to me, you chose to freak out. Now Shut Up!”
I was crying angry tears by the time I opened my bedroom door. I knew that the healing was too much. It really did suck the life out of me. Having them all gang up on me to tell me something I already knew made me angrier than a wet hornet.
I started pulling clothes to pack and I had an armload of clothes when Tobin knocked.
“Sookie, I’m sorry.”
“Come on in. It’s not your fault kiddo. They’re all worry warts. I didn’t know it would wear me out, you didn’t know, Ludwig didn’t know or she wouldn’t have suggested it. It’s fine. I just won’t fix anything that big again for a while.”
“I didn’t… none of us would have let you do it. I didn’t know it would cause any trouble.”
I snorted. “Really, it’s fine. Having people love me so much is more a blessing than it is a curse. Trust me.”
I half smiled at me. “I’m still sorry.”
“I know. Go eat your lunch.”
As he walked out Alcide and Pam walked in. “What? Didn’t you yell enough?”
They both looked at each other and Pam walked over to me and hugged me. I took her hands and put them on my stomach, just under my belly button. “Pam, I know now that it was too much. I won’t try it again before they come. I promise.”
“I know Sookie. I’m sorry that I yelled at you. I only felt a fraction of what Eric felt and it worried me.”
“Honey, I’ll take care of myself. Now more than ever.” I kissed her cheek as I promised again. “The more aggravating part is that it seems like it would have been less draining for me to make her self-healing than to do the individual healing.”
Alcide had been standing a few feet away and staring wordlessly.
“Are you still mad?”
“Shug, I meant what I said. You need to take it easy. I’ll make sure of it while we’re out of town. Eric is on the phone with the doctor now.”
Before I had the chance to fuss at him for being stubborn… again, Eric bellowed for me. “SOOKIE! Get your purse.”
I clenched my teeth.
I went to the catwalk and looked down at him. “I’m busy. What do you want?”
“We have an appointment.”
He did. Within half an hour, Alcide, Pam, Eric and I were pulling up in front of Dr. Ludwig’s office. When we walked in, Jaya showed us straight back to an exam room and handed me a hospital gown and a sheet. I quickly changed and sat on the table. Pam sat next to me and Eric and Alcide stared at me with locked down faces.
When Dr. Ludwig walked in she looked way up at my guys. “You two are un-fucking-believable.” She turned to me and Pam and offered a sympathetic grin. “You got weak from the healing? How long before you ate?”
“Within half an hour I’d eaten 2 large sandwiches, a bowl of soup and 3 sugary drinks. Probably about 3000 calories.”
She took my blood pressure and it was normal and then she had me lay back and put her hand to my lower abdomen. She groaned, cutting her eyes angrily at the men and pulled a large cart over to the bed. She pulled out a wand and squirted jelly on it and touched it to me. She reached over and turned it on and on the screen was a very vivid image (most likely magically enhanced) of… sea monkeys? They were the cutest sea monkeys I’d ever seen before, but still, a baby at 3 weeks gestation isn’t much to look at. Pam and I both got a little misty.
“THOSE, you two idiots, are the healthiest babies I have ever seen. Part of why she gets so weak is because her body is looking out for them first.”
Eric and Alcide just stared at her.
“She told you that she knows how much it drains her and that she wouldn’t do it again right?”
They both nodded.
“Then I guess you both owe her an apology for overreacting.” She turned her attention back to me. “You need to drink more alcohol. The babies are Fae enough to need it. Have you not been drinking?”
“Not much. I cut back a lot.”
She laughed and snarled, or maybe it was a smile, who knows. “Sunshine, you aren’t dealing with human babies. These babies are nearly all Fae and Were and they will thrive the more you drink. I’m not prescribing a fifth of 151 per day, but several drinks, several times per week will do. That will make the power use easier too.”
I snorted. “That explains why I didn’t need to eat constantly yesterday. The night before I had more than usual.”
“Yes it would, Sunshine. Booze and blood. That’s what the doctor orders.”
Eric still hadn’t settled down. “You are the same obtuse fool who suggested she try using a power blindly in the first place.” His tone was positively frigid.
I love that little Dr. Ludwig, standing knee high to a grasshopper, wasn’t scared of my giant Viking. “And you are the same jackass to ignore that your wife and daughters are in perfect health. The more she uses her powers, the stronger they will be.”
He clenched his jaw and stayed quiet as the doctor printed out 4 copies of the freeze frame and handed them to me.
I smiled at them. “Dr. Ludwig, can I go home and pack now? Alcide and I are leaving for Boston in a few hours.”
I got another smile/snarl. “You can do whatever you want. I’ve never seen such a healthy momma. Get out of here.”
She walked out of the room and I started getting dressed. “Are you two going to stop freaking out now?”
Alcide’s face softened slightly. “Probably not. I’m still going to watch you like a hawk, but I’m sorry I yelled.” I was willing to accept that.
When I was done dressing, Eric walked out of the room without a word and we all followed him to the car and rode home.
I felt defeated. I wanted more than anything for Eric to say something, but I got nothing. Nothing in the car. Nothing as I sadly walked to my room to finish packing. Nothing.
I silently worked through my frustration for a while, choosing outfits and cocktail dresses and a formal gown and laying them on the bed. I made sure to have the right underwear, and shoes to go with everything. I had several meetings and a formal to deal with while we are there. Plus Alcide and I had a hockey game and I wanted to pub crawl while we visit. I definitely wanted to make sure I had everything. I had grabbed the shopping bag from Macy’s with my new jewelry and sat on the bed to start going through it all when Eric came in.
He walked directly to the bed and started folding my clothes and setting them neatly into the suitcase. He gently put my shoes in and once it was all put away, he took the case and moved it to the settee and zipped my dresses and gowns into the garment bag and then hung it on the bathroom door. He came over to me and scooped me up and laid in the middle of the bed and held me tight.
“I’m a asshole when I’m scared Sookie. I’m sorry.”
“That I’m an asshole or that I’m sorry?”
He chuckled. “Forgive me?”
I reached up and ran my fingers through his hair. “Already done. I love you.”
He didn’t return the sentiment, he just held me closer. I let him hold me as long as he wanted to, which turned out to be nearly an hour.
“Lover, what is left to do for Fangtasia’s opening?”
“Next Thursday we need to hire the new staff.”
“I’ll train the servers on Monday while Doug trains the bouncers. Clancy and Felicia will train the bartenders.”
“Everything else is done?”
“Pam and Joss can use Bobby’s guys to move the office stuff over and all the booze and glassware will be delivered early next week. I’ll check on everything when I get back to make sure it’s done like I asked.”
“I can do that while you’re away.”
“Please don’t. I want to be with you. If you are excited to see it, then I’d rather leave a little early for the cookout.”
He finally made eye contact with me. “Can we go now?”
I looked up and smiled at him to see if he was serious. When I saw that he was, I popped him to just inside the front door and scared the shit out of Miranda who was finishing the window dressing.
“Ohmigod! Miranda, I’m sorry. I didn’t think anyone would be here.”
She laughed nervously until her heart started again. “It’s ok. I wasn’t supposed to be here but I wasn’t happy with the dressing. I wanted to add more flow.”
“Lover, is this the witch that did the bar top?” I nodded so he held his hand out and shook hers. “Thank you. I understand you had some very useful ideas. The lamp sample I saw was quite impressive.”
“I’m glad you liked it, Mr…?”
“You’re a vampire? I thought you were a Faerie.” Eric frowned at her. “Your power seems too organic to be Vampire.”
I decided to interrupt Eric’s obvious indignity. “Show me what you are worried about… in the windows.”
The three of us walked out front. I had told her about a tacky beer tap fountain I had seen once that seemed to perpetually flow with ale and asked her if she could make something like it to look like flowing blood. That is exactly what she did. She had hidden the works and the reservoir with red opaque Plexiglas and all you could see through the 12’ wide & 8’ tall windows flanking the front door was a ‘river of blood’, flowing over a custom made sheet of textured red glass and backlit.
“Sweetie, do you like it?”
“It’s amazing. What did you use to make it look so much like blood?”
“Halloween blood. Each window takes about 50 gallons but you’ll only need to replace it once a month.” He smiled at her. “Mr. Northman, it was all Sookie. Everything in this place was handpicked by her. She knew what she wanted before she hired any of us. We took no artistic license. Jared and Dawn have joked that if you weren’t getting married, they’d hire her in a heartbeat. We’re all amazed at how well this place turned out.”
His eyes lit up a little as he nodded at her. “Lover, give me the tour.”
I smiled at him and took him in, holding his hand the whole way. The first thing that caught his attention was that the bar ran nearly half the length of the space (3 times the length of the old one) and was tucked under the mezzanine. Red glass drop shaped pendant lights fell from the ceiling over the bar and over the sitting areas on the 2nd deck. The mezzanine itself looked like it had been pulled straight out of the French quarter as did the 3 wide spiral staircases leading up to it. 30 iron bistro sets lined the wall leaving plenty of moving room on the dark grey stained wood plank floor built onto it. Once I led him back to the 1st level he inspected the bar top that was ‘better than the picture’. Each barstool had an iron scroll base with a padded black seat and I took him behind the bar to show him the computerized ordering system and 2 dumbwaiters that I had installed to help the servers on busy nights. He called the idea ‘ingenious’. He was only mildly interested in the store room and employee lounge with a full bathroom and lockers, but he did nod at the uber dishwasher I bought with Clancy in mind.
Our next stop was the other side of the bar. Along the wall that was wallpapered with the black irredescent paper, were square sectional red leather couches, 14 in all. Behind each grouping there was a large black and white print photos taken of different cemetery gates around Louisiana. Where the backs met, a tall panel of sheer red organza hung from the ceiling to separate each grouping. Further out in the floor was groups of 3 round black leather sectional couches and round ottomans (eight groupings) and in the void where the couches butted together stood an old fashioned street lamp.
“Sookie, this is much better than I ever could have hoped.”
I smiled up at him. “We’re not done yet.”
I led him towards the back, just past the bar, to the VIP room. The walls were done with the black and white damask paper and the carpet and sectional couches were red (red leather in the couches’ case). There was a big screen TV mounted to the wall and the VIPs got their own order touch pad for faster service. I led him out and around to the newly done bathrooms complete with black slate tile floor, red dichroic tiled walls to the ceiling in the ladies’ and black dichroic in the men’s and the opaque Plexiglas panels for the ceiling with recessed lights.
We crossed the space again so that I could walk him onto the stage and then through the stage door, into the loading area and on to the Green room which was exactly like the VIP room with the added bonus of a private restroom and kitchenette.
“You on board so far Majesty?”
“So far? Lover, any one of these ideas would have improved the old bar. This is spectacular.”
I smiled as I led him into the back and up a flight of stairs to the office area. I opened the first door we came to reveal Pam’s office. I had Jared paint a trompe l’oeil mural so that the walls and ceiling look like a blue sky with billowy clouds and the wainscoting like lattice. Her desk was wrought iron with a glass top and her file cabinets were all white wood as was the frame that mounted her TV to the wall. Her guest seats and her desk chair were wrought iron with royal blue crushed velvet pads that matched the settee and carpet. Jared had even found several antique stained glass panels and hung them on the walls as transoms.
“Do you think she’ll like it?”
“I don’t think she could have done better herself. This is definitely Pam.”
I led him out of the room with a huge self satisfied grin on my face and over to the door to his office and let him open the door. Dawn had done the trompe l’oeil in his room. His carpet was midnight blue and the walls and ceiling looked like the aurora borealis. His file cabinets were light wood as was his desk. His desk chair was a very wide refinished antique carver with a rounded back and his guest chairs were rustic benches, all with dark orange cushions that matched the featherbed top and bolsters of the bed sized bench set in the corner. The frieze on the front of Eric’s desk had an inscription in runes that I had to trust was correct after more than a dozen calls and more emails.
Eric read it slowly. “Justice without force is powerless; force without justice is tyrannical.” He smiled down at me. I grabbed the remote and impressed him with an eight screen view of the bar from different areas and then showed him his private bathroom (Pam had one too). Finally, I led him through the third door and into a narrow corridor. I opened a tall garden gate and walked us out onto his ‘opera box’. I had the welding company build a second mezzanine balcony just for him and Pam. The other rounded carver chair (the mate to the one at his desk) had been made up for the public. It had been lacquered black and gold and had a red crushed velvet pad just as the slightly more upscale ‘public’ benches. The ‘opera box’ even had its own dumbwaiter and ordering touch pad.
I pointed to his chair. “Take a test drive?”
He smiled at me and sat down. He looked over the club and realized from his perch he was on top of the world, with a perfect view of the entire club including the stage.
“Do you like it?”
“Sookie, this really is amazing. I’m truly at a loss for words.” He pulled me down onto his lap and gave me a deep kiss. It wasn’t the usual lusty ‘Eric’ kiss. It was an appreciative and sincere display and it made everything I had done, all of the hours on the phone and internet and dealing with contractors worth it. I have to say that I caught myself feeling guilt over my prideful feeling, but to be honest, my pride beat up my guilt and tossed it a dumpster. And I was just fine with that.
“Lover, how did you stay under budget?”
“Well, the biggest expense was the mezzanine. The total cost was $103, 400 and change before the bar & merch stock. I paid for the offices.”
He chuckled. “All of the other Kings and Queens will want your help when they see this.”
“Tough. You have me under exclusive contract.”
“Aren’t I lucky?”
“Luck had nothing to do with it. You are a merciless negotiator.” I winked at him.
The two of us sat and talked for a while. I answered questions about some of the details and he made sure to compliment me on some of his favorite parts… we did it all from is ‘throne’ and it was fun and comfortable.
But I started feeling a mental tug. “Sweetie, we need to get home. Alcide’s looking for us. He’s worried.”
“You can monitor the house from here?”
“I can, but I wasn’t. I can sense his moods kind of…”
“Like you’re his maker?”
“I don’t know. It’s more like a bond.” Eric just stared at me and I started laughing as it dawned on me. Alcide and I had started a great friendship and bonded. Over time our friendship and bond got stronger. Then, I made him immortal and I can feel him stronger than before. “Yeah, I guess I am his maker. Technically.” I sent to Alcide that everything was fine and that we’d be home in just a minute.
Eric smiled at me as we popped back home.
Alcide was standing in the doorway to our room when we landed. “Everything ok?”
Eric excitedly scooted off the bed. “I just got a preview of Fangtasia. I need to go tell Pam about it… Sookie, can I take Pam?”
“Sure, I guess.” I giggled at his excitement.
Alcide warned him. “She’s upset with you.”
Eric looked amused. “Why?”
“For ‘distressing’ Sookie.”
“Damned if I do. Damned if I don’t.” He started walking away shaking his head and muttering. “She’d be just as angry with me for not reacting… women…”
I patted the bed next to me and Alcide came over and sat down on the edge of the bed and eyed me. I bounced up onto my knees and got behind him, draping my arms over his shoulders to hug his chest. “”Beb?”
“Shug, I’m…” I quickly clamped my hand over his mouth.
“Stop it. I love that you worry about me. I just wish you weren’t such a guy about it sometimes.”
He spoke from under my clamped hand. “I can’t help that.” I giggled as I took my hand away. “Is there any way to take it easy this weekend?”
“We have tickets to the game tomorrow (sitting down), and dinner tomorrow night (sitting down). Sunday we have brunch meeting (mostly sitting), a working lunch (sitting down), and the pairing dinner party (mingling). Monday we will have a brunch (sitting down) and the ‘Genesis Ball’ (more mingling). It’s going to be boring, boring, boring.”
“The dinner tomorrow and the brunch on Sunday aren’t on my schedule. What’s up?”
“Dinner is with Madeline McMahon and Brunch is with Damon & Marla Stillings and lieutenants.”
He growled. “I hate politicking. It’s ridiculous.”
“You just aren’t used to doing it with me.” I started rubbing his shoulders. Sure, I could have just healed his tension instantly but there was just something about a good old fashioned shoulder rub. “You know I’m good at it.”
He groaned a little with the massage. “Good is an understatement. You’re a natural.”
“And I won’t leave your side, if I can help it.”
“You’d better not. I don’t have any practice at it. I’ll need all the help I can get.” Another groan.
“What time is it?”
“I’m not telling. You’ll think of something you need to do and stop doing this.”
“What if I promise you 5 more minutes no matter what time it is?”
“The kids ready?”
“Janice and I had just taken care of that when y’all popped home.”
Just then, Manen and Hunter came in. “Hey! You two look nice. Do you want to help me relax Daddy?”
They both nodded excitedly so I stopped rubbing his shoulders just long enough to lean over and take a hand from each one of them and show them how to give a hand massage, rubbing the palm with their thumbs. They started their task with zeal and I went back to kneading Alcide’s tension out of his neck and spine. The kids and I worked on him until the 5 minutes were up, and he was pretending to snore.
I put my finger to my lips and whispered. “I think it worked too well.”
“BOO!” Both kids jumped out of their skin and were laughing before they got their wits.
I giggled and laid back on the bed. Hunter climbed up to snuggle and Manen jumped up onto Alcide’s lap and started grilling him about her baptism.
After a few minutes of watching Alcide and Manen discuss, Hunter tapped my stomach. “Momma, are you going to change?”
“Are you going to help me?” He jumped up and ran to my closet and before I could get off the bed.
We decided on a pair of my darker blue jeans, an orange tank top under a turquoise and orange shawl top and a pair of orange booties. Hunter patiently waited outside the closet while I changed and smiled and clapped when I opened the door.
“Far likes you in orange.”
I chuckled. “The men in my life are so picky. Even the little ones.” I squatted down and gave him a kiss. “Alcide, was Pam ready when she left?”
“Yeah. I even grabbed an extra outfit for her. Where’s yours?”
I can’t believe I had forgotten. While we waited, I grabbed an extra outfit for me and Eric and laid out clothes for him to leave the house in.
“Puddin, you got everything you need?”
“I need to grab my laptop and cord and my charger for my phone. Then I’m done. We’re leaving straight from the picnic?”
He nodded and I started to feel a sense of loss. I didn’t like leaving most of my family behind. I had to come up with things to do in Boston to keep my mind off of being homesick. When I had agreed to be a judge, I was under the assumption that I would be leaving my aloof boyfriend at home engrossed in his businesses and politics and getting to travel with my best friend. I didn’t know that I would be leaving behind 2 kids, my brother and future sister in law, my fiancé and a crew of the best friends I could have. I know that I’ll be home on Tuesday morning, probably in time to make breakfast, but it’s the first time that I was going to be away from them since we gravitated together like our own little solar system.
I had the kids pose for pictures so that I could ‘show them off’, but it was so that I could make it worse on myself. And the timing for the cookout couldn’t be worse. I wanted nothing more than to stay at home and spend time with the kids on the floor of the den after dinner.
I was still having my pity party when Eric and Pam popped back into the room. She took a fraction of a second to run across the bed and wrap me into a spinning hug. “Sookie! You did… My office… The bar… The furniture…”
She couldn’t finish a sentence to save her and judging by the smile on her face, she was happy. More than that, I really wanted her to stop spinning me.
Eric must have felt it. “Pamela, put her down. She’s about to ruin your clothing.”
I giggled until I got my balance back. “You should take Hunter and Manen to see it before it opens. I’m sure they’re excited to see it now that it’s done. After all, they helped.”
Pam looked down at them with surprised eyes. “You DID?”
Manen: “I told Momma to use street lamps.”
Hunter: “I told Momma to get a computer for ordering like the ones they have at Applebees.”
I smiled at the grownups. “And they were very patient and well behaved when I had all those boring meetings.”
I headed downstairs to grab my laptop and my cords while Eric and Pam congratulated the kids on good ideas and Alcide followed me down with my suitcase and garment bag. He let me carry my coat though. At least there was that.
We were at the park at 6 on the nose and there was a huge turn out this time. A good chunk of the attendees had been on our property today. Jason came up to me and put his arm around me, sensing my solemn mood.
“Sook, it’s only 3 days. They’ll miss you too but they have us and you have Alcide. Everybody’ll be fine.”
When I looked up at him, I had a thought. “You already know.” I grabbed his shirt and popped us to the other side of the park.
“Shit! Sookie! Warn me first!” Eric was right on my heals and scared Jason when he popped over.
“Jason, what do you know?”
“I’m not saying until you say what you know.”
“I’m not playing this game. Does Janice know?”
His eyes got huge. “You’ve had visions about us?”
“Yeah. Jason, I have.”
Eric smiled. “I have too.”
“Jas, how far ahead was your vision?”
“Um.. about 4 years I guess. Unless, stuff happens later. How far have you seen?”
“I’ve seen about 10 years, but only parts. Eric?”
“So far about 5, but there was a lot of uncertainty. Fae.”
I snickered at his slight on the Fae and refocused on Jason. “What do you know about you? Other than what we already talked about?”
“That and Christmas.” A huge smile took over his face. “You got something to tell me?”
Eric started to chuckle. “That depends on what you saw, brother.”
“I saw Pam holding a baby by a huge Christmas tree in the den and showing him his first ornament. When are you due?”
Eric and I both laughed. Eric stretched over and put his arm around Jason. “Sookie can I tell him?”
I thought about it for a second. Seriously thought about it, but since Jason isn’t the same guy he was a month ago I figured it was ok. “As long as he doesn’t breath a WORD until we get home, even to Janice.”
Jason nodded so Eric leaned over and whispered in his ear. “Peanut, we aren’t expecting a boy.”
Jason gasped. He looked truly dazed for a second. “Janice is…”
He waved his finger back and forth between me and Eric and we nodded.
“Will yours be a vampire?”
Eric chuckled. “No. Ours will be Were because I was. Yours will be shifter.”
“Janice is full Were, she’s just second born. Your Fae/Were blood is how.”
“And we’ll both have babies by Christmas?” Eric and I nodded and fought the urge to laugh at the understatement.
He lunged forward and hugged me. “Oh wow! This is just… I was starting to think it wouldn’t happen for either of us!”
“Shhh. Not a word. Janice will freak out. You need to wait until we get back. You promised.”
Eric chuckled. “I’ll keep him quiet. He can… ‘hold it’ until Tuesday.”
“Oh shit, I gotta go find her. Janice was heading for the bar because she was nervous about the baptisms.”
Eric grabbed him by his arm. “Jason, your Fae blood needs a few from time to time. Ludwig told us today, in fact, to encourage Sookie to drink more. Just steer Janice from getting too intoxicated and she’ll be fine. 2 or three is fine.” Jason nodded and the three of us started to rejoin the pack.
I was immediately tackled by Doug. Hard. We must have rolled 10 feet after we hit the ground. Jason went to defend me, but I saw Eric hold him off.
“You can’t win wolf!” I had him pinned in seconds.
“Shit, Sunshine! Your strong! You’ve been working out!” He tried to roll out and I pinned him again immediately.
“Bet your ass I have! I wrestle every night with a thousand year old Vampire! You got nothin’!” I heard Eric laughing.
We rolled again and I pinned him a third time. I could feel the kids getting closer and Angela, Alcide and Pam were all right behind them.
“You’re not gonna break my nose again are you?”
We were rolling around too hard for me to answer right away. “Not if you keep it out of my way!” I pinned him again with his knee in his chin. “Everybody, this is Doug Burrows. He likes to have his ass kicked by girls.”
We took another couple of rolls and I was moving too fast and was too strong to get a good hold on me and I pinned him again.
He finally managed to pin my face down in the grass by pulling my foot up behind my back and that’s when the kids attacked him. While he rolled around and pretended that they were hurting him, I stood up and laughed. “Get used to this face guys. He’s Fangtasia’s new head bouncer.”
Angela was a little concerned about the kids’ behavior and tried to grab Hunter and pull him away but she tripped over a one of Doug’s legs and landed face to face on top of him.
“Oh! Ooh. I’m sooo sorry.”
Doug just flashed a smile and made eyes at her before he sat up and stood her up by her hips. I was watching her for fear, but that wasn’t what felt coming from her. I looked over to Alcide and gave him a wink. He grinned back and shook his head.
I smiled and decided to move the gapers block away from the new couple. “Hey, kids! Let’s go make a plate of food.”
Everyone walked towards the food and once we got a ways from Doug and Angela, Eric held me back a little. “Lover, are you sure she’s ready? How much do you know about this guy?”
“She’s getting there, but he’s gentle as a lamb. He congratulated me for breaking his nose. He’s a lot like Alcide, she’ll feel safe with him.”
I saw Nadine and Annabelle barreling at me and Eric full speed so we both leaned over slightly and scooped them up. Joss was close behind.
Eric was smiling ear to ear. “Good evening ladies! How are you tonight?”
They both squawked about how their day was and that they were excited for Manen before Joss caught up to us. “I’m so sorry, they jumped on you like that. They unbuckled before the car was stopped and they bolted as soon as they saw you.”
I was about to take care of the introductions when Annabelle (the younger one) took care of it. “Mommy, this is Mr. Eric. He tickles but he doesn’t bite!” He smiled down at her and tickled her. She threw herself backwards so fast, I almost dropped her.
Nadine called for her turn and as soon as Annabelle had enough, Eric went after her. Pam blurred over to us and attacked them each with a hand and then did air kisses with them. Poor Pam couldn’t get Manen to do anything so girlie, so she was excited when they would.
“Ladies, Manen Tommy and Hunter are waiting for you. Mr. Alcide and I have already made your plates.” She pointed over to the kids who were waving so violently you’d think they were being swarmed by bees.
Eric and I set them down and they were gone like a shot.
“Pam, this is Joss, your new day gal.”
Joss smiled, brilliantly. She was only slightly nervous about her kids liking vampires so much. While they exchanged ‘nice-to-meet-yous’ I sent to Tobin and Febes. “Peel away from each other. Mom’s here.”
I was slightly interrupted when Tray spotted me and yelled. “Hey Sunshine! Where’s my sugar?!”
I ran up to him and leapt up for our hello hug. He waved me around a little. He whispered into my ear so quietly I barely heard it. “You better be keeping it secret to have not told me.”
I pulled my head back to look him in the eyes and he sniffed. “Fuck.”
He chuckled as I put my mouth up to his ear. “We’re coming out to family when we get home from Boston. Everyone else is waiting until after the wedding.”
He shook his head. “Tobin know?”
“Then it’s just because they’ve been around you. Everyone else will know before the wedding.”
“Damn it. Oh well maybe the invitations will get out before everyone knows.”
He set me down. “Maybe.” He didn’t look hopeful.
Eric and Tray exchanged hellos and a manly handshake. Eric was getting much better at them, by the way.
“Tray, have you met Joss Speight?”
Tray looked down at the lovely Joss and offered his hand. “Speight? You related to Tobin?”
“Yeah, I’m his mom.”
Tray was waiting for a just kidding when Eric told him that she was Fangtasia’s new day manager, but he was still shaking her hand and she didn’t mind at all.
I pushed back a smile and grabbed Pam and Eric to go ‘check on the kids’. Tray and Joss stayed right there and started talking.
Eric actually looked back as we were walking. “Lover, how do you do that?”
“I don’t know. I don’t mean to do anything. Ask Pam and Alcide. They were my first victims.” I stopped walking when we were in the clear and I spoke in a very hush tone. “We have a bigger problem. Tray knows.”
Eric nodded to my waist to confirm the topic and I nodded. “How?”
“Smell.” I grimaced.
“Sookie, I’m sorry you don’t get to keep your secret.”
My secret? It’s our secret. “What?”
“You are the one who wanted to keep it quiet. I’m excited to announce it.”
Pam rolled her eyes and stomped her foot. “Sugar, I have to admit, it’s eating me alive that I can’t talk about it. Can we please go public after Boston?”
I blew out a deep breath. “Fine. After dinner Tuesday night. I want to tell the rest of the family before the world finds out.”
Instantly, I was sandwiched between them in a hug. And they were both smiling like they found buried treasure. “Settle down. I still have another match to make.”
Eric’s eyes grew. “Another one? Lover, will you work through the whole cookout?”
“I need to find Mickey and introduce him to his brothers and then I need to find a mentor for a 14 year old boy.”
“Do you know who you want to assign him to?”
“Ooh, there he is now…”
Manny looked at me like I had 3 heads when I ran up to him. “Manny, I have a favor to ask.”
“Uhh… yes ma’am?”
I explained about Denny and his parents splitting up and all of the gross details. “Do you think you could handle it?”
He smiled sheepishly. “I guess. I just don’t want to disappoint him… or you.”
I smiled and craned up to kiss his cheek and give him a big hug. I grabbed my phone and pulled up the number and hit speed dial. “You are awesome Manny! I’ll come get my phone in a little bit.”
I had just seen Mickey walking up. So I started walking over to him. When he spotted me he waved and smiled.
“Hey there! How ya been?” Manen came running up and jumped into my arms. “This is my little girl, Manen.”
Manen looked at Mickey. “It won’t be too bad. He’ll be able to dowse and scry. They’ll be easy to hide and learn.” She had a really bright smile on her face and he couldn’t help but smile back. She kissed my cheek and patted my shoulders. “That’s all. I’m gonna go play until Daddy needs me.”
The two of us watched her run off after Nadine. I grabbed Mickey’s hand, confusing him. “I have some friends I want you to meet.” I called after Goose who whistled to Azo (with his wife and kids) and Jeremy (on a bench with Sara on his lap) and they ran up to me in record time.
“Mickey Cuomo, these are my friends Alonzo, Goose and Jeremy. You boys have fun.” I gave my 3 friends a big hug and told them I’d see them on Tuesday. They were smiling and catching up when I walked away to find Eric and spend a few minutes with him before I had to leave.
When I found him, he was with the rest of the family in chairs around a fire pit so I sat on his lap and snuggled into his chest. Pam got up to get a true blood and when she came back, she had made a plate of food and brought back a Long Island for me. She had noticed that I’d forgotten to eat. We all talked and laughed and folks came over to say hello and chat until 10 o’clock.
When Alcide made the call for the Baptisms to begin, he had been expecting about 6 including Jason and Manen. Those were the only ones who had let him know anyway. Typically, Long Tooth/Shreveport Pack has about 50 members with another hundred or so lofters who show up for random events and can be called if needed but don’t commit. Most Weres never join a pack officially. Tonight when Jason stood up with Manen so did 26 other Weres. As soon as I realized that they were all pledging the pack, I popped to Alcide’s house to get the case of rings and pendants for him because I knew he hadn’t brought enough with him. When I got back, I quickly handed the case to Hunter so that he could help Daddy with the ceremony. I was really glad that Alcide had picked fire for the power I gave him too. The brand used in the baptism reheated between each branding and since the Packmaster has to hold the glowing iron brand, the heat would be torture. I remember feeling really bad for him in November when there were two baptisms.
The brand looks something like a door knob. The handle is bulbous and at the end of the short staff is two circles; one solid, the other hollow, with a single line going through both. The brand is only about an inch or so long and about half an inch wide, but it still has to hurt like hell.
Tonight, among the 26 were all 8 of our full time guards, and Jeremy, Mickey, Goose, Manny, Curtis, Tobin and Joss, Azo’s wife Kelly, Doug and his 2 friends from Jackson, and Trey was finally joining the pack. I overheard one of the old-timers say that they hadn’t seen a turnout like this since Buck was in charge of things.
We all watched as the Weres circled the bonfire and preformed the rights. In each case the Packmaster holds out his left hand with the palm up and the pledge holds the Packmaster’s hand like a sideways shake. The Were recites a pledge and his 3 sponsors stand for him or her. Once the sponsors step forward, the Packmaster puts the brand to the outside heal of the wrist he’s holding. Once that is taken care of, the new pledge is given their pack ring or pendant and they hold it with the unbranded hand and pass it through the fire. The feeling on it, is that the longer the Were can hold their pack jewelry in the flames, the more loyal they are to the pack. It really is a baptism by fire. Alcide has told me that Shreveport has had the same rights for 160 years. He had saved Jason, Febes and Manen for last. Manen hadn’t balked at the branding, not that I expected that she would. When Jason set her down so that he and Febes could take their pledge, she even started rolling up her sleeves. She was feeling nothing but excitement and Eric was feeling nothing but pride. Alcide was scared shitless at the prospect of branding his little girl.
Alcide called for Febes’s sponsors and every Were in the park (except Calvin) took a step forward and dropped to one knee until she was done and they all stood up and waited for Jason’s turn to do it all over again.
“Who here sponsors Manen Northman?” Every Were took their step and dropped to their knee. Alcide took a deep breath and looked at her sadly and when he touched the brand to her wrist, she smiled at him and whispered ‘thank you’. He knealt down and took her pendant from the box and put it in her hand and she slowly approached the flames and put her arm into it and held it there. She stayed still for so long that the gasping became rumbles of comments. I took a step forward to stop her and Eric held me back as we watched her open her hand and dangle her necklace into the fire and then she brought her hand out and put the necklace around her neck herself.
She leapt up into Alcide’s arms like an excited cat and hugged his neck. The rights were over and everyone started to meander to join who they showed up with.
Manen whispered into Alcide’s ear. “Did I do good Daddy?”
“You were braver then any of the grownups. I’ve never seen anyone hold in the fire that long.”
Everyone they knew, converged on them to congratulate her and we did it as a riot. Manen had reached for Eric once he got to her. I think she could tell that Alcide’s nerves were shot from having done the branding. Pam and I were making sure that Hunter didn’t feel left out while we gave Manen our hugs and kisses. We carried on like that for a while until Eric took me aside.
“Lover, it’s nearly 11:30. I need a moment alone with you.” He took my hand and led me to the Suburban and opened the back door for me and climbed in behind me.
I couldn’t help myself. I leaned forward and started kissing him. He pulled his lips away from mine and let his head fall back so I started chewing and nibbling his neck. His hands were fisted in my hair and mine in his, when I straddled his lap. I started pulling at his belt and he pulled my hair gently to take my mouth away from him.
“Lover, this isn’t why I wanted you alone.”
I whimpered. “Why did you want to be alone?”
“So that we can exchange blood.” He raised his eyebrow at me when I looked disappointed. He put his hands on either side of my face and pulled me to him for a long tender kiss. “Lover, I want nothing more than to lay you down and have you now, but I haven’t the time to do the job properly. Sex can wait. Our children can’t.”
I leaned against him and wrapped my arms around his neck. “I know Eric, I’m just going to miss you so much. This is going to take a lot of getting used to.”
He rubbed his hands along my sides. “No it won’t. Right now, we’re forlorn because we have barely had any time together. I looked at our schedules and when you get home from Boston, you and I are free to spend the next month growing bored of each other. Our trips, our business; we can do it all in tandem.”
“That sounds like heaven.” I took his hand and lifted it to my mouth to kiss his palm and onto his wrist. I licked and nibbled before I bit down to take in his syrupy nectar. The two of us got our usual enjoyment out of my feeding from him. I loved the reaction I get from him almost as much as his flavor.
“Eric, don’t you want to feed before I go?”
He kissed me sweetly. “I’d love to taste you, but I shouldn’t. I will miss the taste of you more than you know.”
“No you won’t. The fridge has 2 cases of AB- for Angela and Pam. The fridge in the garage has a case of ‘me’ just for you.”
“I should have known you would think of it.” He smiled up at me and smoothed my hair away from my face.
“You know about Dell, right.”
I smirked at him. “What do you plan on doing about him?”
“I can’t decide. I want to kill him. I know that Alcide would prefer to take care of it though.”
“I don’t think he’d be angry with you.”
He looked a little surprised by my answer. “Would you be angry?”
I shook my head. “Perhaps, you should just have him arrested for trespassing and assault. It’d be too easy for something to happen to him in custody.”
Eric might as well have been holding a pitch fork with the ominous smile he had on his face. The bond was pulsing with pride and excitement. “Lover, you really do make a wonderful vampire.”
“You still love me though. Right?”
“More than I ever thought possible.”
Both of us jerked our heads when we saw the taxi crawl by looking for its fare. I felt my mood shift. I hated leaving and now I have to interrupt one of my favorite activities (being with Eric) to leave my family behind and get trapped in a hotel full of preening supernatural strangers.
Eric slid out and started taking the luggage to the cab and I went to fetch Alcide and start saying my goodbyes. I was crying by the time I had hugged my first person (Pam). Of course she shed a tear too. Our whole extended family came over to see us off and the kids hugged our necks and told us how much they’d miss us, Nadine and Annabelle even told us goodbye.
By the time I was in the cab, I was a mess and I cried the whole time it took for us to get the terminal even though Alcide was doing his best to comfort me. I could tell that he was every bit as upset about leaving as I was. He was just a being a guy and holding it all back. I found myself jealous of that ability.
When we boarded the plane, my face was covered in snot and tears and I was in desperate need of the washroom. I took my carryon with me to change too since I had noticed a couple of grass stains from Doug’s hello.
I found myself being a brat about the size of the bathroom on commercial flights and missed the larger bathrooms on Anubis and the private planes I had been on. It was tough to change but I succeeded sliding on fresh jeans and an orange cashmere V-neck sweater. I had managed to clean up and pull my hair back and was staring at myself in the mirror trying to give myself a ‘you can do this’ pep talk and I got a call.
Well shit. I was planning on having a few drinks and working a little before I spent most of the flight sleeping. “What do you need, Barry?”
“Nothing. I could hear you. You’re upset. Where are you?”
“I’m on my way to a meeting. I’m in Shreveport.”
“Ok. You must be close by. I’m in Shreveport too. Layover.”
“Barry, are you going to Boston?”
“Yeah, is that your meeting too?”
Alcide butted in. “Shug, everything alright?”
“You found another telepath!?”
I emerged from the bathroom with the hopes that Barry was back in coach. I hadn’t seen Barry since Rhodes and he wasn’t happy with me when we parted ways. Not in the least. So now, I was faced with either playing catch up with him or an uncomfortable silence. I wasn’t really in the mood to deal with either one.
My hopes were dashed when I saw, just across the aisle from Alcide was Barry. Oooh. How cozy. Alcide saw me and smiled. Barry saw me and pictured me naked before closing himself off, or trying to. I could see past his shields and he has a very vivid imagination.
“Stop that Barry, I can see it.”
The color drained out of his face and he looked mortified. “How?”
I ignored the question and walked over to Alcide, and sat on his lap. “Barry, this is Alcide. Alcide, this is Barry.”
“The telepath from Dallas and Rhodes?”
Barry was suddenly taken over by fear. “How does he know?… Wait are you the other telepath?”
Alcide looked at him and flashed his eyes. “Nope.” He chuckled.
“Then how did you talk to her?”
I held up my hand. “One of my things. What are you doing going to Boston?”
“I was on assignment for McMahon. I work for Massachusetts now. What about you?”
“That didn’t answer the question.”
“I’m going to be staying at the hotel to keep an eye on the staff. The queen doesn’t want another Rhodes on her hands.”
“And there’ve been threats.”
“How? There won’t be many more Vampire there than any other hotel. None of the rest of us are on the human grid.”
“You know how Weres are. They’re born gossips. Word got out somehow and the fellowship has been rumbling about exposing other ‘minions of satin’.”
Since we hadn’t taken off yet, I pulled out my phone.
“Hello Deary. How can I be of service?”
“You can start by telling me why the fuck you haven’t arranged to change the venue when there are fellowship issues.”
“Sookie, I understand your concern. I tried to find another meeting place but nothing was available. I have made some arrangements for added safety. I assume you’ve already tripped over Barry, I have more guards and I’ve had witches at the hotel placing wards all week.”
“Damn it woman, you know damn good and well wards aren’t going to be enough. And the extra guards aren’t going to be much use except for adding to the body count if those shits try something.”
“Sookie what would you have me do? Everyone is on the way here already.”
“We fucking delay. As soon as everyone is off the plane put them on yours and I will make arrangements to do it here.”
“We would be off by a day while everyone travels.”
“When you explain the threat, they will all understand. Now get your staff to work. I have to get off of the plane and start making arrangements. 40 justices, and 40 clerks you will stay with us, how many other fang?”
“I’ll call Oliver and Nicki and have their planes sent to Logan. Unless you’d rather I’d call Whitehurst about doing it in Virginia.”
“No Sookie. This is very generous. I’m very grateful.”
I hung up and sent to Eric that I was coming home.
Barry was confused. “Did you just yell at the Queen?”
“Yes I did.”
I looked down at Alcide and he smiled up at me. “It’s going to be a lot of work to get this together.”
I smiled back. “But we’ll get to kiss the kids goodnight and tuck them in. It’ll all be worth it.”
We had to argue to get off of the plane and get our luggage out of the hold, but eventually they, with a little ‘help’, complied.
Eric had sent one of the limos to pick us up and we swung by the Belle Shreveport to see Jordie the concierge. It took us a while, but we managed to make the arrangements. The only real problem was that the banquet facilities weren’t quite up to par for a formal so I decided that we would just arrange for catering at Fangtasia instead.
This was potentially a train wreck but the hotel wasn’t very booked and we had more than enough rooms for everyone and their parties. It was manageable.
I had offered to let Barry stay with us and the three of us were quite tired by the time we got home. When we pulled up, Pam, Eric and the kids plus Tobin were all in the driveway waiting.
The kids (all five of them) came running up to welcome us back home. I introduced them all to Barry and carried Hunter and Tommy back to the house while Alcide carried the 3 girls.
“Eric Northman! Why are the kids still up?”
He smirked at me. “We had just arrived at home when you called. They were too excited to sleep. We were watching a movie… Princess Diaries.”
I giggled at him as I put the kids down. “Go finish your movie guys. Then its toothbrushes and bed for everyone.” They all ran off and I introduced Barry to everyone.
“Nice to see you again Barry… Lover, what preparations need to be made?” Eric scooped me up and led the way into the kitchen setting me on the counter.
“I need to arrange a formal banquet for Tuesday night. I was thinking we could do it at the new Fangtasia unless you can think of somewhere else.”
“It’ll be fun to show it off. Pam?”
“It’ll be easy to set up the dining area on the dance floor and we’ll be able to gage the guests reactions. I say we go for it. What else?”
“That’s it. I stopped to see Jordie already.” I slid off of the counter and started grabbing beer and true blood for everyone. “I made the arrangements for the brunches and meeting rooms and accommodations. I called Ollie and Nicki and they sent their planes to help with shuttling. And took care of car rentals while we were still at the airport waiting for our luggage.”
Pam was surprised. “It’s all done? All you have to do is hire a caterer?”
“Setting it up was easy. Maddie is Atlas right now making contact with 88 people while they’re en route. I’d call and offer to help, but well… fuck her. She shit the bed on this and she knows it. I can’t believe she’d do that to everyone.”
Eric chuckled. “Jaded?”
“Shell shocked is more like it.” I turned my attention to Barry. “And what the fuck were you thinking? Of all the dumb shit moves! You were going to Deja vu a hate crime attack?!”
“McMahon tried to find another hotel but she wasn’t going to cancel it. The only thing I could do was go and try to stop it! She hired something like 50 extra Weres for security.”
“Asshole. Who the fuck do you think helped in Rhodes? That’s why the humans in each party were the ones that were called to get the bombs to the right rooms, because they knew we wouldn’t smell them and that you and I couldn’t read their minds. Just because we are really good on the defense doesn’t mean that we should dress up for our own fucking murder.”
“Look, I get that you lost friends in Rhodes, but that was isolated. They’ve only gotten lucky that once.”
“Not isolated, not lucky. ESCALATING AND SMARTER!” Eric put his hand on my shoulder to try to force calm into our bond and it wasn’t working. “I lost a friend, a queen, her lieutenant and more time than you could comprehend. And neither of us caught on until it was too late for a lot of people, in spite of all the rumblings. What the hell do you think they have in mind to ‘EXPOSE’ the other Supes? How might you force a Were’s hand so that they’d change?… Hmmm… Personally, I’d attack strategically during a gathering taking out vampires first. Then, I’d pick off the known humans and wait for the smell of blood and their instincts to defend themselves to cause the change and let the cameras roll.”
Alcide got up and got us both another beer and stood next to me. “That would work too. Do you ‘know’ or suppose?”
“The fellowship would have to have a Were working with them. Someone ‘loyal’ enough to the pack to be trusted with the information about the Indoc.”
Alcide and I shared a look. “It would have to be within Titletown Pack. But there’s no way to know if Stillings is in on it.”
Barry looked like he was speaking to a child and came off just as pandering. “Why would he set that up on his own turf?”
I went off on him. “See now, that’s why you have no business going into situations like that…. What difference does ‘turf’ make? Murder is murder no matter where the bodies fall!”
“Shug, I bet he’ll come with the queen, maybe even bring a few lieutenants. You’ll be able to read him to find out.”
“I plan on shaking hands with every fucker that shows up for this thing. I need to practice. Where is Angela?”
Eric chuckled. “She left with Doug only moments after you did. She texted me a little while ago that she was safe and not to worry.”
I smiled up at him. “I might know her too well anyway. I guess I could just glamour the Vampire.”
“Shug, that would be your best bet. Even if you could read their minds consistently, you might not be able to pick out what you want with everything going on.”
Tobin’s phone started to ring so the conversation stopped out of politeness.
“Hi Gamma. What are you doing up at 3am?”
“I just got home from a run since I’m feeling so good and I’m the only one here.”
“I have the girls with me.”
“Mom isn’t here either and she isn’t answering her phone.” Pam, Alcide, Eric and I all started snickering.
Tobin shot us all a dirty look. “Gamma, don’t worry. She’s with some people from the pack. I’ll get her to call you.”
“Tobin, if she’s met a guy, you leave her alone!” Barry didn’t have our hearing so he was staring at the four of us while we laughed like hyenas.
“I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” He put is phone back in his pocket and stared at me until I settled down. “What did you do?”
“Where is she?”
I started laughing again. “Do you really want to know?”
“Without specifics, yes.”
I closed my eyes and focused on Joss and Tray and started laughing. “A baseball field.”
Alcide lost it. He was bent over laughing. That was our own private joke since Pam and Eric didn’t know the bases euphemism.
Tobin was being very serious. “What the fuck baseball field would she be at 3 am with Daw… NO! What base?!”
I was starting to settle down again now that he we getting angry about it. “You said you didn’t want specifics.”
“I changed my mind.”
“Kiddo, he’s a great guy. Leave it alone. Let her have fun.”
Eric had been snickering the whole time. “Eric! You were in on it! You sum-bitch! That’s why you invited the girls to sleep over!”
“I only gave them a little quiet time. Cupid had already made the introduction.”
“How do you feel about Tray?”
Eric paused for a moment, thinking about the best way for him to answer. “He took a bullet in the chest for Sookie. I’d be pleased for him to date MY mother.”
I could feel Tobin calm down as he considered Eric’s words. Eric walked to the den and I heard him say, “Liars. Go say your good nights.” Then there was a giggling stampede headed our way.
We got our kisses and hugs from all of the kids except Tommy, who turned out to be the only one not pretending to sleep. While Alcide checked Manen’s brand Hunter went over to Barry and I shed my sweater in favor of wearing just the cami under it and grabbed a tall glass and a bottle of tequila.
“How long have you had telepathy?”
“As long as I can remember.”
“You have bad shields.”
“What do you mean?”
“I know what you’re thinking about.”
“You’re a telepath too?”
“Yes, and stop thinking about my Momma that way!” He kicked Barry in the shin and came to stand by me, still giving Barry the hairy eyeball.
Eric came over and picked him up and started carrying him to bed. “That was very rude. We don’t treat guests that way.”
“No ‘buts’ Kapten…” They disappeared into the kids’ room.
To be honest, I was surprised that Eric hadn’t given him a high five. It was Alcide and Pam that were now eyeballing Barry.
“Sookie, I’m sorry. I…”
“I should have warned you. The main thing you need to concern yourself with here is that there are 3 telepaths living here.”
“3? Who is the 3rd?”
“Don’t worry about it. Just act like we all are and you’ll be fine. I try to keep my shields up all of the time. I can hear you from the front gate though, so keep that in mind.”
“Holy shit! Is it the vampire blood?”
“No. It’s different.”
Eric ‘called’ out to ask if we had any extra tooth brushes for Nadine and Annabelle so I grabbed a couple spares from a drawer and popped up to the room and handed them to him, stealing a kiss and then popped back. Barry nearly shit himself.
“You’re a Faerie? How can you be with a vampire?”
I ignored his question, amazed at how little he knew… still. “Come on. Let me show you to your room so that everyone can get some sleep.” I kissed Alcide and Pam good night and went to the front door where the driver left our bags, then we headed upstairs.
Barry ended up with the room 2 doors down from Eric and I. It was the only empty ‘human’ room.
When we got into our room, Eric calmly shut the door and started undressing. I set down my bags and did the same. We managed to be done at nearly the same time and started walking towards each other. I put my hands on his chest and slowly ran my fingers down his cool hard chest and reached up for a kiss and he accommodated by leaning over and lifting my legs to his waist. We stayed in that place, as though Eric’s feet were sewn into the carpet, while our tongues wound around each other. The very fact that I was here and had my arms and legs wrapped around him instead of on a flight heading to another corner of the country, made me happy to do just this until kingdom come. Eric started for the bed slowly and stepped up to place us in the middle, resting over me to continue our kissing. His hands were all over me, caressing and massaging patiently. We didn’t hold back or tease. We completely gave ourselves and over and over we met our bliss in each other’s arms. Facing each other, staring unto one another’s eyes we punctuated our closeness by sharing blood and settling into a very close snuggle.
“Lover, when we came home and I knew you wouldn’t be here waiting, I couldn’t stand it. I was about to pack everyone up to join you when you called.”
“I wouldn’t have argued with you. I cried until we boarded.”
“I’m aware. I could feel it. What was the anger caused by?”
“I haven’t had contact with him since Rhodes. He and I had a disagreement about how the plotting and whatnot went down and we took leave of each other. Talking through that, was not part of my plans for the flight.”
“You trust him enough to be in the house though.”
“Yes… Eric, I think we need to talk to Bobby.”
“Help with planning for the company?”
“Eric, I think he might have been part of the plot.” I felt every fiber of his being tense and he did his best to resist his urge to take to the sky and find Bobby to ‘talk’ to him.
“He’s worked for me for years. Tell me your thinking. Have you come to understand the plot?” I understood his coolness as a veil to hide being pissed as hell.
“He’s angry about my stealing Tobin, your willingness to ‘give’ me one of his workers. He has been made aware of my trip to Boston and knows about Weres. He has gone as far as to not be available to us and rebel against answering to his former underling who now makes more money than him too, but that’s all recent. Boston has been on the books since just before Christmas so it would have been easy to make contact and start a plan. I’d say his motive is that he detests me. He always has. He doesn’t know what you see in me, yadda yadda yadda.”
“Bobby’s involvement is fact?”
“Yes, how deep, I don’t know… yet.”
“Any other inklings?”
“Tickles. I’m going to go for a run and see if I can work it through. I need to recharge before I make breakfast anyway.” I got up and went to my closet to grab my clothes for the day and then dressed in my low rise shorts and running bra.
“Lover, can we trust the staff at the hotel?”
“I don’t know. That’s why I had Jordie call a staff muster at 10am. I’m going to read them all.”
“You took care of all of this in the 90 minutes it took for you to get home from the airport?”
“Yes sir. I did.” I started heading out and gave him a wink. I had just stepped out of the vapor lock and Eric blurred his way in front of me, still naked as a jaybird by the way.
He wrapped his arms around me and kissed me with his more usual well practiced lusty kiss. “Wake me in time to go to the hotel with you?”
“Yes majesty. Anything for you.”
He kissed me again and we were interrupted by Barry who turned red and looked like he had never seen a naked man before.
Eric chuckled at his embarrassment. “Good morning, Barry.” He kissed my cheek went into our room to get some rest.