Chapter 7

Three’s Company

Sookie’s POV

Tuesday, September 7th

I woke up feeling absolutely, unequivocally infuriated. I sat bolt upright and knew without looking back that I was alone and I realized that the ire that awakened me wasn’t my own.

Without hesitation, I followed the feeling to ground zero, popping to the kitchen and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Eric was standing in front of me in his pajama pants with Daveigh wrapped around him and attached to his lips.

“Eric.”

They both looked at me. I could feel embarrassment coming from them both, however Eric was flooding the bond with rage, confusion and… nausea. I watched Daveigh close her shirt and take a step back from my husband.

“Sookie, I…”

I stopped him with a wave of my hand and he stared at me with a bad tempered scowl. I walked over to them both, understanding what was going on and having to fight my own sick feeling back as well as Eric’s. I stopped to stand between them, facing Daveigh.

“He can be very friendly.”

She nodded.

“And charming.”

She nodded again and a single tear fell from her eye as she tightened the grip she had on her shirt. I could feel indignation rising in the bond and his frustration was starting to be aimed at me.

“And he’s really very good looking; hard to resist.”

She buried her face in her hands and started to sob.

I took the step I needed to reach her head and placed my hands on her crown. “Daveigh. Sweetie. Look at me.”

She moved her hands and let her tear filled eyes meet mine. I smoothed the hair out of her face while she sobbed.

“That’s not us. That’s not why you’re here. You’re here because you are in need, not because he is. All that is over for you now.”

I wrapped my arms around her shoulders and let her sob into my neck, whimpering apology after apology. Giving her some time to be sorry before I pushed calm at her. When she was finally settled down, I sent her back to bed with a promise that what happened would stay quiet.

**

I took a deep breath, walked over to Eric and took his hand and he actually looked surprised for a moment as I popped us both back to our room.

“Lover… say something to me. I have no idea what just happened. You’re blocking me again.”

I looked up at him and had to fight back my own tears. “I just walked in on you with our 16 year old foster child.”

“Sookie! I did nothing… I didn’t know what to do! I heard someone moving around in the kitchen. I knew it was one of the 3 Dae so I went to make sure everything was alright. I asked her if she was comfortable and then she was on me. You know that if that had happened at Fangtasia, I would have thrown her across the room. You’ve seen it. I didn’t want to hurt her.”

“I know.”

“You’re acting like you think I’m guilty of something.”

“She assumed you would expect it.”

“Because I am a vampire?”

“Because you are a man.”

He growled, “Explain that.”

“Her foster father wasn’t just using Des. Somewhere in all that brokenness, she thought it would bother her less if it was her idea.”

It didn’t get the chance to build slowly; rage came flying at me. “Sookie…” He was still growling.

“Do you have business to attend to tonight, Majesty?” I could handle a lot of things; knowing that he had something special planned for the bastard that would do something so depraved to Daveigh was one thing. A wife could understand that. However, being a judge complicated things.

He calmed himself down a couple of notches, catching on to my thoughts. “Yes, Justice. It seems my evening is suddenly booked.” I gave him a stiff nod and he returned it.

As we climbed into bed I picked up from Eric that he felt like he’d be making up for not having the ‘honor’ of meeting my Uncle. I snuggled into the crook of his shoulder and he wrapped his arm around me, holding me close.

**

4:30 came earlier than I thought it would. I stretched out and everyone was still resting. Not a single brain was turned on in the house and the silence was beautiful. I love my family and how close we all are, but it’s always nice to know that peace still exists. Like having a gun you never need to use or an umbrella when it might rain. Just knowing it’s there makes you feel better.

I took off, needing to work through the worries I have for Daveigh and, now, Eric. I knew he needed to do something to try to make things right. I knew it would eat at him until he couldn’t think about anything else if he didn’t act. I also knew that fighting him on it would be useless, even if I could hide how much I agreed with him.

Funny how much my perspective had changed in the past few years. I used to be so squeamish. I could have shattered windows the first time I saw a body from screaming so loud. Putting a pinpoint on the change in perception would be tough, but I’d have to say that cleaning up the blood left behind after my innocent grandmother’s murder would be my turning point. Everyone deserved justice. Her human assassin was killed in jail not long after his trial, ironically stabbed to death just as Gran had been.

I wouldn’t think that Eric would simply kill a man that molested a 14 year old girl for nearly 2 years and left her damaged enough to make an aggressive pass at huge vampire. I’d like to think he’d enjoy stretching his creative legs more than that. I know I would. Call me jaded, but I caught myself thinking that it was a very good thing that Eric had so many years of torture under his belt. Regrettably, along with there being no statute of limitations on murder, there was no law protecting supernatural spouses from the testimony of their mate, so I could never know. Helping the Newlins’ own bomb detonate was risky enough for me to do. This would have to be one of those secrets he’d have to keep from me.

I managed to work through the concept of ‘Eric’s business’ by the time I reached the bunk house. Daveigh’s scars were going to be a long time healing. Enough time around people who would keep her safe might, just might, help her heal well enough to have a normal relationship as an adult.

**

Jeremy was stretching and greeted me with a smile when I got to him. “How’s it going Queenie?”

“Not bad. Sara not here?” She was usually attached to Jeremy at the hip unless she was working. She’d even started doing busy work with the horses just to spend more time with him.

He grumped in my direction as we started our run. “We fought.”

“Your folks’ visit?”

“Yeah. She thinks I’m ashamed of her for being a stripper.”

“Are you?”

“You know better than that!”

“Then what did she state as her case?”

“You’ve been a justice too long… She’s hung up on it. IF I loved her, I’d introduce them. That kind of stuff.”

“So what’s your side?”

“If I tell them she’s mine, Joe will treat her like dirt. If she does what Lisa is doing, meeting them just to see for herself how bad he is, he’ll paw at her and treat her like lunch. I just want to shield her from him as much as possible.”

I managed to laugh. “Jamie, sweetie, you should ask Eric how I reacted to being ‘shielded’. Some bitches just want honesty.”

“I didn’t lie to her. I told her that he’s a shit.”

“That’s not what I mean… You weren’t dropped on the earth the day you met her. You have a history. I’M anxious to meet the guy. You never realize it about yourself, but I know you’ve come across people and then found out something about them that explained something, like a quirk or a phobia.”

“Ok. That’s another thing… What if she meets him and starts to think I’ll be like him?”

“She’s met Alcide. She won’t think that.”

“What do you mean? Alcide is awesome.”

“Uh huh. You never had the pleasure of meeting the hardest, grumpiest, most rabid dog I’ve EVER met. She was just out of high school when she met Jackson, but she remembers him.”

“Herveaux’s old man was a jerk? Bullshit.”

“Jackson was a son of a bitch. Treated his kids like pets and his wife like a breeding bitch. I’m sure he’s been spinning in his grave since we all moved in together. He would have abjured Alcide the second he found out about Pam. He probably would have done the same to Janice for being with Jason. What I’m saying… girls are wired different. She’d see the ‘why’, not the ‘what if’.”

“You think I should introduce them.”

I laughed. “You’re not going to trap me… but if I were you, I would realize that she’s family here. If he says anything shitty to her, he’s going to be put in his place by the most powerful Supes in the world. That’s a promise. As head over heels as she is for you, not introducing her is a bigger risk. It will hurt her to feel hidden.”

“You think she’s head over heels?”

“Mind reader.”

He laughed and as we passed the driveway, we both waved to Pam as she left for Fangtasia. She loved being a daywalker almost too much. For months, she’s been going to work early so that her evenings were free for the family.

“Have you made any plans?”

“We’re trying to figure things out.”

“Ok then, Eric and Alcide wanted me to talk to you about something… The pound is getting a little over run. You and Sara need to talk it over, but they were thinking that if you’re interested, they’d build another cluster of ‘guest houses’ out near the barn to free up some of the bachelors’ quarters. Tobin and Febes in one, Doug and Angela in one and then one for you and Sara. So you could have some privacy, your own space.”

“You’re kidding?!”

“No. I know you’ve been having ‘time alone’ issues, but didn’t want to leave. This way you’d get the best of both worlds. And Alcide… he’s going to talk to Sara. Since she doesn’t have any family, he wants to take care of the wedding. Eric said you guys you could use the jet to go anywhere you want on your honeymoon and even use one of our houses if you want.”

“Y’all don’t have to do that. You pay me too much as it is. We can do it.”

“We know you can, kid. The point of the offer is that you’re family. Both of you are. We want you to have whatever you want. If you want to drive to Six Flags, drive to Six Flags. But realize that as Packmaster Alcide would be honored, our pilot is salaried, and it doesn’t cost a penny for you to stay in a house that we already own nearly anywhere.”

“I’ll talk to Sara about it then…. She’s been kind of pushing me. She wants to move in together for a while before we get married, but…”

“I know. Letting Alcide and Eric build the new cottages would fix the dilemma for you.”

“You know, y’all are the closest thing either of us has had to a family. It means a lot to both of us.”

“We need to come up with a new word.”

“What do you mean?”

“We all have families that we were born into, but when you’re surrounded by people that give a shit because they want to and not because they’re expected to, when you’re more than friends, we need to come up with a word for it.”

He started laughing. “Silly bitch. We already did. We call it The Pound.”

**

When we were done with our run, I took my shower in record time. I slid into a pair of short yoga shorts, a Fangtasia T and sneakers because I had work to do in the guest houses.

It was only 7 am and the quiet was wonderful.

While I was whipping eggs for French toast, I lofted in Alcide’s room to check on the girls. They were all still very much asleep, but Pam had moved them to the nursery before she left for work.

Between batches of French toast, I glazed some cherries and started the sausages and bacon… Things were so quiet that I started to wish someone would wake up. I found myself going to the office to get my laptop so that I could check my messages and work on a pet project that Eric wouldn’t have tolerated before.

Checking my email, I found only one judgment to approve, but I had heard back from some of my partners in crime. I gave myself a pat on the back and kept my fingers crossed that Eric wouldn’t be angry that I’d been working behind his back. I had been planning on sitting on this info for a few more days as I got things together, but Eric seemed to need something else to think about so that he wouldn’t ruin his day worrying about Daveigh.

When I felt Alcide wake up, I started piling our plates with food, freshening up my coffee when I poured his and knowing that we’d have a lot to talk about.

**

When he took his coffee from me, he didn’t give me the usual kiss so I knew that something was wrong. I didn’t say anything though. I took my plate and sat next to him and started eating my breakfast quietly to give him the time he needed. He was poking at his food and moving it around on the plate while we sat in the silence.

Finally… “I chickened out.”

“Really? Why?”

He shrugged and shook his head without looking at me.

“Alcide, if you want me to help then you have to tell me.”

“I’m worried she’ll be angry.”

“She was excited about the girls.”

“She was excited for you and Eric.”

“You worry that she’ll begrudge you for having ‘your own’?”

He nodded and stuffed a bite of food into his mouth. “I don’t think I’d look at her the same way.”

“I almost understand where she’d be coming from though. I sat by and watched people for years and envied things I never thought I would have. It didn’t keep me from being happy for them.”

“But she’s at a disadvantage. She feels like a redheaded step-child sometimes. She knows that Eric only allowed your bond because you wanted it. She knows that she’s the low man on the totem pole. She feels like she’s my consolation prize since Eric ended up with you.”

“Is she?”

He looked at me for the first time since we started talking and I could see the answer written on his face. And he knew it. “I don’t want this to change. I love our life.” I know the feeling.

“Change is inevitable, beb. Why don’t we tell her together? That was how I pictured you finding out.”

“You were seriously going to tell me with Eric and Pam?”

I nodded. “It’s a big deal. I thought it was worthy of a family meeting.”

“You were going to tell me that I’ll be getting you pregnant soon in front of my girlfriend?”

I shrugged. “Why not? I’ve been feeling guilty for months that I kept it from you. I’ve been trying to think of a way to tell you. I’ve been trying to ease you into the idea so that it wouldn’t come from out of nowhere. Since Eric knew, he’s been dropping hints to Pam. But I always pictured all of us being there. It affects us all.”

“How fucking bad did you think I would take it?”

“I wasn’t sure. Not horrible. At first, I saw you with Manen and how proud of her you were, but it wasn’t until I told you about Janice being pregnant that you ever mentioned the idea of breeding wasn’t so repellant for you anymore. Besides, it would have been one thing for me to sit down with you and discuss the possibility of having children. Sitting you down and telling you that you WILL be fathering children and with me no less…”

He snorted. “I’ll be The Infinite’s baby daddy.”

I giggled and he gave me an amused look.

“Do you really think she’d take it better from all of us? I think I’d feel ganged up on.”

I thought about it for a minute. “I think that if Eric is there, she’ll control her initial reaction long enough to ‘see’ for herself. If she’s dialing herself back she’ll give herself the chance to wrap her head around it. Maybe. We could do it in any combination you want, but we need to do it soon.”

“Why? It doesn’t happen for a few more months.”

“Before Hunter and Manen catch on. Manen might not be a mind reader, but she did get that message about Corbett; wherever that came from. Hunter might already have an idea. He did just put an order in for boys. BoyS. Not A boy.”

Alcide sat quietly for a while, mulling things over while he worked his way through his plate before he finally said anything. “Do you think Eric would mind?”

“I’m sure he wouldn’t. You know what a control freak he is.”

As per his usual timing, I heard our bedroom doors opening. As he walked downstairs with his hands buried deep in his pockets, he smirked at me. “What am I interrupting this morning, Lover?”

I gave him a kiss and then turned things over to Alcide to explain.

“I’m worried that Pam will flip her lid about the boys.”

“That you father a child at all or that she is barren and can’t or that it would be with Sookie?” Nothing if not blunt.

“Yes.” More frankness. You have to love my men.

“I wouldn’t worry. As a human, she didn’t want children.”

“As a rebellious 24 year old she didn’t. If she had lived a few more years, she might have settled down and changed her mind. I have. You’ve seen how she is with these kids. I can’t help but think she’d feel like her nose was being rubbed in something.”

Eric gave a dismissive shrug. “She is over 200 years old. Never in her life or death has she had an expectation of motherhood. I may very well be the only Vampire to ever breed. As such, being with you she would have the expectation that you would father children to add to the pack. Tradition and ceremony requires that you do everything do insure that and because of your loyalty to her, you haven’t been. The problem you have is that because you will be mating with Sookie, she will be jealous of that fact alone. As much love as she has for you both, she will feel some modicum of resentment because it will sway your feelings to the mother of your children further than they are already. She is the least feeling of the 4 of us, the least invested and other than her brother’s soul being part of Hunter, has no true connection to any of our children. She might very well ‘flip her lid’, but as Sookie showed me, she obviously comes to terms with things. She loves all of the children and they love her. As Sookie does add to the family, Pam will quickly turn her worries over and accept her circumstances so that she can stay part of our family…”

I could feel Alcide tense when Eric mentioned knowing that he felt more for me than for Pam. Eric and I had talked about it before. He had made the observation months ago and I chose not to see it for as long as I could, worried that it would hurt Pam or cause a rift between Eric and his first friend in centuries. I expected Eric to reject Alcide; throw him from nest, keep me from being his friend, overreacting in general. But he surprised me. He’d laughed at my denial, proud of himself for sensing something I missed. Even though I hadn’t let myself notice it, he promised that as long as there was no power struggle, he had no intention of stealing my pet from me. He understood that as his maker, Alcide would love me more than his partner and even admitted that our friendship was greater than most maker/child relationships before Alcide became ‘perpetual’… The giant asshole also laughed for more than a week because he still felt my shock in the bond.

“…If she chooses to prove herself selfish enough to resent the situation, I will have no qualms reminding her exactly how happy she was a year ago to be trolling Fangtasia for dinner every night and going home to her empty house every morning. Alcide’s roll in this family is far more significant than hers and if she needs a ‘time out’ to help her see the bigger picture, it’s hers for the asking.”

“Eric! You wouldn’t throw her out?” I really couldn’t believe my ears. It would break Pam’s heart to hear Eric say he’d choose Alcide over her.

He gave me a single nod and his expression was more chilly than I’d seen in a long while. “I most certainly would. Her emotions regarding the eventuality of our family have nothing to do with what we saw last night. One of your biggest complaints about this gift is that we don’t see the road along the way, only the destination. Her reaction to the news of Rhys and Kerrick is immaterial. We KNOW that within a short time she finds peace. She was wearing the birthstone bracelet within four years time and smiling as wide as I’ve ever seen. She still wears it in 30 years while fawning over one of her new grandchildren. What’s more, Lover, you forget that she’s been seen humming lullabies to little Corbett this Christmas. Whatever her initial reaction is, she will never truly leave this family. If time is what she needs to let go of her jealously over her only physical deficiency and embrace that it was your charity that gave her as much of motherhood as she has, then that is what she will get. I’ll tell her.”

As much as I hated to admit it, he was right. Alcide and I couldn’t come up with a single argument.

“Just for verification, Eric, search yourself. Are you unsympathetic because you are in angry vampire mode?” He knew I was talking about Daveigh.

He smirked at me after he thought on things. “No. In fact, I think you’d be proud of me but we’ll get to that in a moment. As to Pam, I think I’m simply able to look at it from a vampire perspective. Her maker’s perspective. A year ago my Pamela didn’t know what it felt like to have a child’s love at all. Her only vampire gift was extreme strength and speed, more so than usual for a vampire. She’d never had a friend other than me and as close as we are, my being her maker always complicated that. Her envy is inescapable, but I’m sure it will be fleeting. She has far more to appreciate from you than to covet since you are so altruistic that you have shared everything with her freely. She knows the pure love only a child can offer. She has felt child birth. She has tan lines. She has new powers. And for the first time ever she has a family who she can turn to. Pamela will be fine. I’m not unsympathetic; I just know how sensible she can be.”

Alcide and I took a minute to let it all sink in before he said anything. “Well… she can’t kill us. At least there’s that.”

Eric laughed. “Indeed, brother! At least you have that.”

Alcide shook his head with a chuckle. “Alright ‘scary vampire’. What else is going on?”

I gave a pause, but Eric surprisingly took off with the explanation. “Last night, I sensed one of the Dae moving around down here so I came to make sure things were alright. It was Daveigh and she threw herself at me. It turns out her foster father has been… abusive.”

“You’re shitting me! What did you do?”

“Sookie intervened before I had the chance to react. I would have made the situation worse.”

“He wronged your ward. You have the right to levy punishment for the blood offense.”

He nodded. “I do. I went to rest planning to do just that.”

“You changed your mind?”

“No. Just my plan. I’m going to let her make that choice.”

“How?”

“I will teach her how to render her own justice. As Semi Daemons, both of them have been neglected and used and now they will get the training I gave Diantha and Gladiola. If she seeks closure, she can rend her own. It will help her.”

Alcide looked to me and waited for me to argue with Eric. He didn’t want me to, he was just expecting it. I stood on my toes and kissed Eric’s neck. “You’re very right, Majesty. I AM proud of you. I can’t think of a better way to give her power back to her.”

“No Argument?! I swear, Sookie, sometimes I miss debating things with you!” I don’t think I’d ever seen Eric so surprised and I couldn’t help but laugh.

“He took something precious from her without asking. Once she is trained properly, and I know she will be with you as her teacher, even if she doesn’t chose to take his life, knowing that she could, would very much empower her. I think it’s beyond perfect….” I switched back to speaking. “When did you train Diantha and Gladiola?”

He shook his head in disbelief, but he was in good humor about it. “They were 7. I was called to court for a few months during a coup attempt when Sophie-Anne needed to surround herself with those she trusted. I used Mr. Cataliades to tie up my lose ends in Dubrovnik and met them in the process. They were very good students. They were excellent with a sword after the 8 months that I instructed them.”

Alcide took over. “So you moved from Croatia to Louisiana?”

“Sophie-Anne’s coup brought on a complete restructuring. All of her sheriffs were involved and as my reward for… ‘helping’ she offered me first choice of Areas. The throne was boring, had been for a decade or two. That’s why Pam moved to Minnesota. When she learned of my move and my plans for Fangtasia, she offered to rejoin me.” And she’d gotten bored with the Mall of America within a year.

“You were a king and you left YOUR kingdom to help another monarch keep her kingdom intact only to give your kingdom up to bore yourself in Shreveport? Well, there goes your godlike image. You’re retarded!”

Eric looked surprised that I hadn’t told Alcide and laughed out loud at our friend’s reaction. “I had been ruling 7 countries as one empire from Croatia because it was central and Dubrovnik is very pleasant. I had started out as the Tennant in Chief to the king of Montenegro. The Vampire there are so damn bored that that they have nothing better to do than play true life Risk. When the King I served fell in battle, I took the throne and within 16 years, I’d been attacked and I conquered the other countries. Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Slovenia, Hungary and Croatia. Eventually the egotistical fools around me learned to stop fucking with me. I was on the throne there for 83 years and holding when I sold my Lords their thrones in each region to let them fight it out for themselves since Pam didn’t want it and wasn’t ready at the time. I had ruled before and hated it which is why I attached myself as a Lieu. All of the perks, without having to deal with annoyances like sitting court to settle squabbles between bickering Lords. I didn’t realize Antenor was such a piss poor fighter.”

“You’d been king before?”

Eric was still shaking his head at the fact that after all this time, I still hadn’t mentioned anything. “Yes. I ruled the Balkan Empire, even though it wasn’t an empire before or after me… I was an ‘Interim Monarch’ on several occasions to help with restructuring or as a favor for a king or queen who required retreat. I was the King of Spain and Portugal for 254  years. I ruled Saxony for 173 years. I returned to my homeland and ruled Scandinavia for a few decades out of sheer homesickness, but the melancholy drove me mad. And after 65 years, I turned Virginia over to Manning when I had errands in England. That’s when I found Pam and we stayed in Bromley for a few years. I hadn’t been back in Virginia but for a couple decades when Antenor sent for me. I was Lieutenant and Sherriff several times but when Sophie-Anne favored me for killing her adversaries, I felt compelled to Shreveport. Must have been those fucking fates.” He winked at me.

“And now you’re the Emperor of America. Why were you so damn surprised when the rest of your cronies started swearing fealty to you?”

“Because I have a reputation. Fear isn’t something Vampire respond well to. I’ve killed thousands of my own with my hands. Most thought I was taking my position as sheriff as a stratagem and kept a very close eye on me. Especially Manning , since he was my lieutenant. It’s why deCastro left me as the only sheriff during his takeover. My European… allegiances would have crushed him before he saw it coming. Madden is responsible for his undoing. His greed to rule 5 states. DeCastro would have left me as a bee in his bonnet forever to avoid the consequences as long as I loaned him Sookie.”

He gave me a dirty look when I suggested I was a library book. I patted his stomach to let him know I was just joking and he gave me a smile. “Ok. Northman, now that the Eric special on the History Channel is over, we have business.”

**

As he stared down at me, I could feel the cheating jerk poking at the bond and my shields. “Lover, why do I feel like I should sit down for this?”

I smiled at him. I smiled until I could feel his tension in the bond. And then I quoted him. “Until the babies come, our family and being a judge are the only jobs you’re allowed to have.”

His eyes narrowed in confusion. “What?”

“That’s what you told me when the Belle Shreveport blew up and I suggested that I fix it as a new project.”

He shook his head. “But it’s been renovated. What could you want to do with it?”

“I don’t care about the Belle, but I have another project in mind.”

Both of my men rolled their eyes at each other and braced themselves. Turds. “Alright Lover. Let’s hear it.”

After how well the Fangtasia project went for me, I was feeling really cocky. I spend too much time with vampires and businessmen. “The golf course on the lake is in chapter 11. They are selling it for a song.”

They had the same bewildered look. “Lover, why a golf course?”

“Not so much a golf course… Though, it IS a beautiful fairway. It’s waterfront and has 1,064 acres of undeveloped imminent domain adjoining it. Altogether, it’s 2,009 acres. I’m thinking that ‘The Round Table Resort and Conference Center’ has an excellent ring to it.”

Eric growled and took a seat next to Alcide. “Continue, brat.”

“The fairway and clubhouse are in good repair. But the economy has been shit so membership is so far down that they can’t stay open. We could make it Supe exclusive.”

“Why would vampire and Were travel here to play golf though, Shug?”

“Not just golf. There’s a pool. If we renovate the clubhouse to add a Spa and Boutique and meeting rooms, add a marina and use the undeveloped land for luxury condos and family style lodges, we could inject the economy with hundreds of jobs during the construction and in turn bring more supernatural dollars into the area.”

I got another growl from Eric. “Start with the renovations.”

I probably looked like a Cheshire cat. I was smiling so wide it hurt. “The clubhouse has 3 gathering rooms, 2 restaurants, 2 bars, a pub, two game rooms, a state of the art gym, lap pool, sauna and locker rooms, a dojo, a ballroom and offices. The existing structure would only need minor updating and interior design. Adding a small wing for free employee daycare takes care of a huge need. Offering a full service spa and designer retail space that carries jewelry and couture we’d be generating huge profits because standard retail markup is 700%. The convention and meeting annex would be responsible for a large portion of the traffic.”

Eric actually put his elbow on the counter and rested his face on his hand. “Explain the boutique.”

“I was thinking for higher end items. Armani, D&G, Chanel, Hermes, Bourke, Balenciaga, Versace and Donna’s line of course. Suits, couture, handbags and shoes. And an offshoot for less formal and lingerie type items. Designer fragrances too.”

“We’ll go back to that. The marina?”

“If we build a pavilion and party deck and add a few dozen slips to the water, and we could rent out a few party and fishing boats, even a yacht or two for special events it would add to income. Weddings and cotillions, baptisms and rites between the meeting rooms and the lake, there’s no shortage of possibilities.”

“And the condos and Lodges?”

“I was thinking that we could do a range of 2 & 3 bedroom luxury condos in clusters, some 2,3 & 4 bedroom rustic cabins and a couple of larger gathering lodges for larger families and reunions. The thing that would make it unique is magic. There is a coven in Bossier City that Octavia mentioned in passing. They offer spellbinding for hire. We could offer services such as magical soundproofing, scent cloaking and power neutrality for a fee. Room service and personal cooks. The job market for Supes would be wide open. The Supe Bigwigs would have a secure place to network. Most of the fangs from the coup are still in the area and they could staff the place at night. I think it’s a goldmine for Shreveport.”

“The spa, I suppose was birthed with Janice in mind? When did you come up with this brainchild? How much of this have you worked out?”

I nodded. “Janice was in mind. Doors wouldn’t be open for four to six months. By then, the triplets would be old enough for daycare so she could start part time and then take it over later if she wants. Most importantly, she can ease back in at her pace. I came up with this 3 weeks ago. I was vegging on the couch and the news mentioned the closing and then a couple nights later when I talked to you from Philadelphia you had 4 new check ins at the club and the Packmaster there had mentioned that jobs were scarce for Supes and wondered if we were seeing the same problems. Things just kind of clicked. That’s when I started making a few calls and sending some emails.”

“So while you were supposed to be resting so that you didn’t put yourself under any unnecessary stress during the pregnancy, you were working behind my back?”

“You could be a shit and look at it like that.”

“Sookie, how else should I take it?”

“To avoid boredom induced stress, I relaxed by playing what if. It was fun. I used my laptop and my cell phone. It was like doing a crossword puzzle, really. I wasn’t stressed, you’d have been able to tell.”

“No.”

“No? You’re going to turn down millions of dollars in your bank account and bringing billions of dollars in revenue into the area?”

He stared at me, locking down his beautiful damn vampire face. “That is my answer.”

“Do you mind telling me why?”

“The first reason is principle. You should have been resting.”

“I was. I could have done what I did in my sleep. I didn’t use a single power to get the research done. What’s more, at no point was email and talking on my list of no-nos.”

He gave me a scathing look. “Semantics. You were working.”

“It was less work than shopping or keeping up with my court load. In all, I sent dozens of different emails to hundreds of different addresses and spent 4 hours on the phone. For the record, while you and Pam were out of town the week before, I spent 6 hours on the phone with you. Did you have another reason for ignoring my suggestion?”

“I have eight. Daveigh, Desmond, Manen, Hunter, Erika, Dagny, Rhys and Kerrick. The children we already have deserve better than to have you be absent anymore than you have to be for court and you said yourself that this project would continue for up to 6 months. By my calculations, that goes into the next pregnancy.”

“First of all, that’s low. Even for you. Revamping Fangtasia didn’t have any effect on Hunter and Manen or the pregnancy. The only hectic part about that was the first week and even that was because of everything happening at once and I still spanked that shit just right and don’t you dare forget it. The kids played during a couple meetings with contractors and then we did little more than stop by while we were running other errands to make sure the workers knew we had an eye on their progress. The other thing you need to think about… All I have to do is hit the send button on my laptop over there and it’s all in motion. Done.”

He literally looked like he wanted to lunge over the counter at me. “Don’t you tell me ‘don’t you dare’ anything, little girl! I’m your husband and you have two daughters that are less than a week old. You have three nestmates. You have 4 older children all of whom NEED you, a compound full of friends who depend on you and an entire continent worth of supernatural miscreants to police and you want to spread yourself even more thin, knowing that you are going to be carrying two more lives by the time you get done with this little venture. And YOU threaten me? That you’d do it all anyway? You would defy me and go against what I think would be best for our family?”

Alcide got up and left the room. No kidding. Without a word. Without eye contact. He went to his room.

“Well, I hope you’re having fun. Enjoying the debate?”

“Don’t fucking do that. Don’t paint me the monster because I don’t want you gone or exhausted constantly. We never saw each other and the only thing that slowed you down at all was getting shot.”

“The bar was done by the time I was shot. The only thing left to do was hire the staff and unlock the fucking door!”

He was around the counter and looming over me in an instant. “And this is going to start again? You’re going to lock horns with me over your health?”

I was not about to cow to him. “I whined about being bored for three weeks. Three fucking weeks. That’s it. I was immobile and every time I scratched a fucking itch you gave me grief. I dealt with it. I knew that you’d been scared out of your mind and you felt like you needed to take care of me. As active as I have always been, it killed me to be a vegetable, but I behaved beyond the doctor’s orders for you.”

“Not the shooting… The pregnancy. I told you not to work. You did it anyway.”

“It wasn’t work. It was research that I did without leaving the couch. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to slip into downtime. It was excruciating to do nothing. My body had gone on strike there was no way to be comfortable for longer than 10 minutes. What did you expect me to do? Will myself into a coma so that you wouldn’t be bothered by an idea? Fuck you! You are over reacting and you know it.”

“I am not! I can see exactly where this is going. You are going to neglect your health and all of us so that you can spend hundreds of hours on something that doesn’t mean anything. Something of no value.”

“Silly me. I forgot that your feelings were all that mattered.”

He grabbed my arms and yanked me against him. “You’ve got that right. We already spend half our time away from each other. Isn’t that more than enough fucking time?”

“Let me go right now, MAJESTY.”

After a hard scowl, he let me go with a shove. “See, now you’re just being a bitch. Back to the old Sookie who doesn’t want to listen to reason. No matter the cost. Right?!”

“Call me a bitch again and I’ll redefine the term for you! I don’t see what the fuck you’re so upset about? It’s a building. It’s an asset. It will provide dozens of jobs for Supes freeing dozens of other jobs for humans. It will bring tourism to your kingdom and…”

“Take you away from your family!”

“NO IT WON’T! YOU MYOPIC SON OF A BITCH! You didn’t listen to anything I said, did you?”

He flapped his big hand in the air dismissively. “What difference does it make? You’ve already said you were going to ignore my wishes anyway. Do it. I don’t give a fuck.”

“I did NOT! I didn’t say I was going to do it anyway. What crawled up your ass?!”

“You said you’d hit the send button and it’d be done. Right? You’d dismiss the time you’d lose with us. Go ahead. Hit send. I wish you luck finding another project when you’re done with this one. Hey, if you can’t find one here, maybe moving out of state to look for a new way to ignore us will work.”

“Can the sarcasm. NOW! I said that if I hit the button it’d be done. Everything would be in motion. Yes. What’s wrong with that?”

“What’s wrong with that is you have everything all set. You’ll drop the first domino that will result in this errand and that errand and meetings and all of the other excuses you need to keep you out of the house.”

“Asshole.”

“Oh, that’s brilliant. Not to mention fair. I can’t tell you that you’re being a selfish bitch but you can call me an asshole?”

“Damn right. If I hit the send button, ASSHOLE, that’s it. The lawyer is taking care of rezoning the imminent domain and closing on the properties. The architects send the contracts and the blueprints for me to approve. Dawn and Jared start their renderings. Miranda starts on the glass. The clothing designers send me the merchandising contracts. The rest of the contactors will send their bids and contracts to me after a brief walkthrough. The only thing left for me to do other than stopping by once a week to check on progress is read contracts and sign my Jane Hancock. The ONLY thing I intend to do myself is shopping for furniture and art. ASSHOLE. Fuck this. I quit. You promised to tell me, but this has obviously gotten to be too much for you. I’ll finish out my contract and quit the Council to stay home where I belong. You win.”

*pop*

**

I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to get away from him before it got uglier than it had.

I popped out to the guest houses and started gutting them. I had learned almost as soon as they were completed, with a visit from Russell and Bart (and a couple of their pets), to keep cleaning supplies in each unit. I didn’t care that only 3 of them were going to be used, I started with ‘Earth’. Since we had built four of them, Joss had the idea to use the elements as inspiration to keep them from feeling so impersonal. They all had the same floor plan and the furniture was arranged the same way, but each one had little touches that set them apart such as paintings and photos of each respective element.

Earth was done in dark, rich browns and greens and heavy with textures. The headboards were bamboo. The fixtures were all antiqued bronze. The counter tops and tubs were sage colored marble. The wall behind the fireplace was slate and the walls in the common area were painted to look like vines. The couches were a muddy brown suede. The bedding was done in dark and sage greens. It was Manen’s favorite because it looked like the Rainforest Café.

Fire was Hunter’s favorite. The whole unit was done in reds, oranges and yellows. The beds were high polished brass as were the fixtures. The walls were painted red then rag rolled with oranges and an iridescent finish. The wall over the fireplace was done with shards of red, orange and yellow iridescent glass and when the fireplace was burning it seemed like the whole room was too. The couches were done in a brilliant orange silk damask. The bed linens were crayon yellow silk with red piping around the edges.

Air was simple. Everything was white and chrome. I thought Jared might need to check into rehab when he suggested it, but the fireplace wall look absolutely stunning set with ball bearings. Yes, ball bearings. It added texture and shine without color or being something as campy as mirrors. It was the exact same size as the rest of the units, but since there wasn’t anything to break your line of sight it seemed almost twice the size as the others. The only color in Air was on the ceilings. A very pale blue was added to make it seem like a slightly clouded sky. And only a vampire could tell, but every chair, couch, pillow and mattress was stuffed with down. God bless Russell for noticing, because I was worried that the fact would be lost and the room would just seem bland. But after a tour, he quickly declared it was his favorite and redecorated his own suite at home the same way. He flew Jared out to do it for him.

Water was my favorite. I refused to get an aquarium to have to worry about and with a vampire’s hearing being as sensitive as it is, a waterfall would probably drive our fanged guests nuts. The wall over the fireplace in this one cost a fortune, but once the lapis stones were set, I didn’t regret a penny of it.  The couches were Mediterranean blue crushed velvet. The fixtures were nearly black with a blue finish, like a handgun. The kitchen and bathrooms’ marble had been ordered from Argentina to get the pale blue with veins of lapis running through it, but again, worth it. And the walls throughout were either painted with horizontal ripples of pearl over blue or tiled with round royal blue  mosaic tiles with an aurora borealis finish.

I opened every window before pulling the covers from everything and putting them in the washers. I went through and dusted every surface that I didn’t need to windex and then I windexed everything I didn’t need to bleach. I vacuumed every inch of the floor and in every crack and crevice of the furniture. I got onto my hands and knees to polish the hard floors. I unpacked the linens that had been cleaned and sealed up after the last person to stay. I moved from one unit to the next meditating on my damned husband’s overreaction to me spending time doing anything other than be with him.

It must be nice to be fine with following another person around like a shadow all the time. In fact, I know it is. I’ve done it. There have been times when I was clingy. When I didn’t feel right unless he was in the room with me. When he left for New Orleans for the first time after we became a family, I’d stayed up all night with him before he left. I knew I’d miss him and by the time he was home a couple days later, I thought I was going to die if had been forced to wait another minute to see him. But he was just being ridiculous. Other than my family responsibilities, I am only out of the house for 6 days a month. The only traveling we don’t do together is court related. I’ve known Eric for a while now. I know he’s domineering and controlling and egocentric. None of these things are new characteristics. I knew these things were part of him all along. I know he’s just trying to protect me and us. I know he loves me. But it doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it when he picks a fight using one of his less flattering traits to stoke the argument.

**

I was smoothing the sheets on the last bed, in the last unit when I reached for the corner and was startled backward. Eric was suddenly standing at the end of the bed with his eyes fixed on me and arms crossed over his chest. Other than that, I don’t know. I barely spared him a glance out of spite.

“You weren’t done yelling at me?”

“You’ve calmed down. I wanted to talk to you.”

“To remind me that I’m neglecting you by getting the compound ready for company?”

“FUCK! Would you shut up?”

“What do you want, Eric?”

“I’ll take that as a ‘no’.”

I gave him the most impatient and angry face I could muster while I worked on hospital corners.

“Don’t quit.”

“You’re belligerent about how much time I spend away from the house. How does quitting not solve that problem?”

“I miss you.”

I shot him another nasty look. “You used to be better at arguing. That’s the point. I’m not home enough. Eric say wife stay home. Wife no leave cave.”

“Damn it, Sookie! Listen to me!”

“Fine.” I mocked him by waving my hand as though to say ‘proceed’ and a healthy spike of pissed-as-hell hit the bond.

“I don’t like it that you leave. Because I miss you. I don’t like it when I leave. Because I miss you. I want to be together more.”

“Right, because who would want to miss this?”

“You’re impossible!”

“You’re irrational! I just told you that I would tell the council to fuck off when my contract is up so that I can spend more time at home and now you are telling me not to quit. You aren’t making any sense.”

“You have a lot of fun when you’re out of town. I am always miserable in my dealings when I travel but you seem to enjoy your time away from me.”

“Is that what this is about?”

He glared at me as he nodded, angry that he had to admit it, so it seemed.

“What choice to I have, Eric? I keep myself busy so that I don’t sit in the hotel and cry from missing everyone like I did the first few times. Trust me when I say Alcide is even more useless than you when I’m crying. It’s not all fun and games. Alcide and I snipe at each other. We get called names and threatened all day long just for doing our job. The only way that we’ve found to let go is to go to a pub or a game or shopping. Not being in a hotel room makes it easier to pretend we’re just tooling around Shreveport. The hotel room just rubs our faces in the fact that we aren’t home.”

“Why haven’t you told me this before?”

I shrugged. “What’s the point? It won’t make me miss you less. It won’t get me home in time to read a story to the kids.” I started crying. I hated that I caved, but damn it I cried. “It won’t get me home to feed the girls. It’s a bed I made. I have to sleep in it and it doesn’t do one bit of good to stand around a cry about the fact that I signed on to do a job I’m proud of but didn’t have any way of knowing what it would take me away from.”

“What do you mean; you didn’t know?”

“I agreed to do it before you came back into my life. It was the day after Christmas when Russell sent his day guy to me and I agreed without hesitation. Alcide was in Jackson and already accepted. I would get to travel with my best friend, who I trusted to have my back, to all kinds of new places and help start a system that would hopefully cut back on the infighting that turns my stomach. I had big hopes for you and me, but we had no idea how long your supervision was going to last or when the coup was going to happen because my previews don’t have a timestamp. It could have been months or years before we’d get the chance to give things a go. When I agreed to be a justice, I had no more expectation of being a mom than Pam since you were who I want to be with. I might not have signed the contract yet, but I gave my word to be a justice not knowing if we were going to continue to play cat and mouse or be serious; overnight or a decade from then. So, no, I didn’t know.”

“Do you regret it?”

“Right now I do, because we’re fighting over nothing. But I’ve found a way to motor through it. Leaving the girls behind will be another adjustment. In general, I feel good about what I do though.”

“Don’t quit.”

I started taking cleansing breaths as I went into the bathroom to start on the bathroom floor. He’s such a shit sometimes.

“I’m proud of you. I don’t want you to quit. Can I offer a compromise?”

“I’m listening.” Actually, I was bracing myself so that I wouldn’t fly into a rage if whatever he was about to say was the antithesis of reasonable.

“Since we both have to travel, I’d like to do it together. I can tend to vampire business on your schedule since you are usually entertained by the host monarch anyway while you tend to the court’s needs and Angela can handle the classes for the kids. Most of the time I’m away is a waste as it is. When I go out of town to visit other kings and queens we only spend a couple hours working and then they entertain me out of obligation and I let them as a courtesy. We could stay in our houses when it permits and just make arrangements for the extra hotel rooms when it doesn’t.”

“You don’t think that the kids would be affected?”

“I know that when we travel with them, they have endless fun. We would always be in a large city, so Angela would be free to take them on any number of field trips.”

I gave him a nod without looking back at him. “I’ll start making arrangements for us to all go to Chicago next month. I think hotels would be easier though. Having our houses cleaned and stocked and refurnished, along with the cooking and cleaning for the family while I need to be focused… It would be easier on me if we could leave that to hotel staff if you don’t mind.”

He was quiet for a while before he spoke. “I’m not demanding this, Sookie.”

“I know.”

“You sound like you’re surrendering.”

“I don’t want to take the kids, the whole family with us to court. The idea of the chaos it would cause stresses me out. I’ll still do it. I’ll still give it a try, but I don’t think it would be a good idea. It isn’t fair that I told you what you wanted to hear and I’m sorry.”

“Your reasons.” He might be blocking the bond, but I could hear the hurt in his voice.

“The entourage, for starters. Packing and planning for that many people would be a trial of its own. Once we get there would be another thing entirely. You would all be waiting in a hotel room for the four of us to get done and Alcide and I don’t perk up until well after dinner. I know the kids wouldn’t understand and I’m afraid your feelings would be hurt too. On top of that, having you guys be there would just frustrate me more because you’d be so close and I would be too busy and grumpy to enjoy you. I know that you’re basing your idea off of how well Honolulu and Orlando went. Not only was Honolulu a light docket because Toronto and Dallas had been slammed, but we stretched out the visit and were able to have actual family time. If you think back to the 2 days we were at court, we only had a couple of hours when we weren’t working on those days. And I do think it would be really fun to do that again every couple of months but extending the trip every time wouldn’t be possible and leaving it as it as 3 days would be miserable.”

“Does this have anything to do with you wanting to be alone with Alcide?”

“No. Alcide and I get plenty of time together. If we didn’t need the staff and the kids… If it were just the three or four of us, I wouldn’t be so apprehensive.”

“But you would still be apprehensive. Why?”

“Like I said, you’d be sitting and waiting. If that were the plan then I would feel guilty for neglecting you right under my nose.”

“Walk me through it. What is your day like that you’d be so unavailable?”

I sighed a deep breath and spewed forth the shit sandwich that was my court routine. “As a rule, we check into the hotel at the last minute on Sunday night/Monday morning. I find the gym to recharge and Alcide lays down for a while if there’s time. We get showered and dressed and grab breakfast with Chris and Lisa to put our ducks in a row and familiarize ourselves with the cases. When court convenes, we sit in a room, I take Chris and Alcide takes Lisa. And we start hearing cases. Lunch is usually a catered thing in the hotel. We spend about an hour discussing cases over the meal. We trade cases like baseball cards with the other judges for one reason or another. Sometimes we hold off on a judgment from a morning case so that we have the chance to run it by another judge to make sure it’s fair. I don’t do it so much anymore now that I’m familiar with the lesser races customs. We reconvene after lunch until we can’t go any later. We squeeze as much of our docket into Mondays as we can so that we have some wiggle room on Tuesday or Wednesday. We work through dinner, sitting in whatever greasy diner is walking distance from the hotel and settle the paperwork from the day. At some point, we end up meeting with all the local mucky mucks and we rarely go out on Monday nights. We usually crash with ice cream in front of the TV unless we get tickets for something and then we stay up really late working once we get back. Tuesday is usually lighter. Breakfast at a diner to go over our dockets.  Most of the time, we can skip lunch so that we can leave early and go do some shopping and then we meet for dinner and go over the cases. Wednesday the docket in the morning is all the cases that we passed around and shuffled from one justice to the other. Alcide is usually done way before lunch because the Lunar Court is more finite. I’m usually slammed though because I can end up with cases from the other 39 judges. Then we go shopping or to a movie or sleep until I have to hold court for the vampire cases. Alcide doesn’t have to but he usually sits with me and then we come home on the first flight where we usually do more paperwork than sleeping so that we don’t have to deal with it once we’re home. For the record, we have a lighter load than most of the judges because we are rare in making ourselves available locally.”

“So you are literally working the whole time you are gone?”

I nodded.

“I feel you having fun though.”

“We make it fun to stay sane. We might hit a club and dance for a while in spite of how drained we are just so we don’t go to sleep thinking about all the horrible shit that was dragged in front of us. You know we try to find a game to go to nearly everywhere we visit. But I think when you’re feeling my fun, you’re feeling a sudden spike. We do our best to make the best of things. We laugh and joke around through our meals. I shut down a lot.”

“You shut down? While you’re hearing cases?”

“Emotions do me no good as a judge. I see everyone at their worst. I don’t want that to come home with me.”

“Because of the distance, I can’t tell that you are shut down and so all I feel is what you do to cope with it all?”

I nodded. “If you and the kids were there, I’d worry that I would end up taking that out on y’all.”

“Sookie why didn’t you just tell me before? I would have understood.”

“I don’t want you to think I don’t care enough. I didn’t want you to think I was making excuses.”

“Sookie, it’s a perfectly acceptable reason to not want us all there to distract you. Stop trying to protect us all from ourselves. You’ve been doing that too much of late.”

“I’ll do my best.”

He went quiet again, watching me work as he thought; processing through things. As I worked I could feel the bond opening up slowly and eventually I could feel him cheating again. He was feeling me out.

“I like your idea. It’s inspired actually.”

I huffed. “Thanks.”

“It’s better than your Fangtasia idea. Are you sure about offering spells as a service?”

“I don’t want to talk about it, Eric. I don’t want to fight anymore.”

“I don’t either. Have you contacted the coven?”

“I talked to one of them. She said they’d work on a retainer to make it easier than piece work for payroll. They want the right to reject a task for any reason. They don’t want to cast a spell that could end up hurting someone.”

“Understandable. I assume they have a way to know if someone is well intentioned.”

I nodded.

He went quiet again for a minute. “Can we do it together? Or did you want to do it by yourself to surprise me?”

“There isn’t much to do other than interior design. Even then, the heavy lifting will be done by Jared and Dawn.”

“You’ve really taken care of everything else?”

I gave him a shrug. “I told you. I used the contacts that I made redoing Fangtasia. The most time consuming part of the last project was hiring the contractors and getting them started. I already have a rapport with these guys. I’ll have to do a walk through with them to cover the basics of the existing space. ES will be taking care of everything else because it’s all new construction. Then we’re back to picking the details. Once we move on to the next phase, I have a director already to take care of the hiring and final details.”

“You’ve already started hiring?” I could feel him starting to get upset again.

“Hold on. Calm down. Margaux was bragging on one of her children. Margaux says that Anastasia is loyal to a fault and the hardest worker she’s ever seen and yet has no ambition for herself and has never gone against Margaux. Even though she would miss her, since she is in charge of Margaux’s nest and coordinates everything for her, she feels like she needs to push her from the nest. She asked if we had a need for her. I haven’t said anything to her other than I would sleep on it. With one phone call she is ours and the best part is even though she is vampire, she doesn’t rest; it’s her gift. She only meditates for a couple of hours so as long as she has access to light tight offices, she is available for 20 hours per day. And for the record, I did already talk to chefs. Vilhelm and Dante are able and willing to relocate so that we can take full advantage of master chef’s for the restaurants. They only know that I’m entertaining the idea of opening a restaurant. Not the details.”

“And you did all this from the couch?”

“You know, that shit’s starting to get insulting. You know how people are with me. And after Fangtasia went off the way it did, how could you doubt that everyone would hitch their cart to us?”

“You’re right.”

I didn’t say anything and he was lost in thought as he followed me from the bedroom to the kitchen so I could clean those floors and be done.

I was almost half way through with the floor in the kitchen/dining area before he spoke again. “What are the numbers you came up with?”

“47. It’ll pay itself off by July at the latest. I’d say much sooner with membership fees.”

“That includes how many guest rooms?”

“We could do more, god knows there’s room, but I thought that leaving most of the undeveloped land as it is would be a perk for Were guests… 227. 4 strips of twelve single rooms, 52 two bedroom condos, 27 three bedroom condos, 52 two bedroom cabins, 27 three bedroom cabins, 18 four bedroom cabins and 5 family lodges. At maximum capacity, the room rates alone would bring in 350 grand per night. The extra income on the convention center, retail, bars and restaurants…”

“Amazing… Is the 47 including the boats?”

“Yes. There is a boat dealership on Lake Charles that is trying to sell out. His asking price is 4 million and it includes a few dozen small outboard Bayliners, a handful of pontoon style party boats, and 23 luxury boats, large and small. He got those at government auction and got stuck with them when the economy went south. They’re all less than 5 years old and in new condition. I figured too that we could get towncars and a few limos through your dealerships. My numbers are off slightly because I factored in retail. It also includes a fleet of golf carts to be provided at a ‘nominal’ fee.”

“Like the hotel we stayed at in Hawaii. Did you pay attention to how much those were each night?”

“Not at the time. Which is kind of the point. Right? They charged us an extra $80 per night and we didn’t even think about it even though they had those electric trams available for free.” I risked a peek over my shoulder and he was staring off with a slight grin on his face.

“Do you know how room service would work? If I’m picturing things correctly, things would be very spread out, yes?”

I nodded. “Over a couple hundred acres, yeah. Elves. Keeping a couple elves on staff would insure the food lands at the right door and hot straight from the kitchen since they can do that poofing thing and take things with them and they don’t have the vampire bait thing going on like Fae.”

“Brilliant.”

I blew out a big breath figuring I might as well keep going. “No matter what, it won’t be a loss. I KNOW that the grand opening will be bigger than Fangtasia’s. And down the road, if business slows down enough to start creeping into the red we can pour roads and sell off the units as a gated community and walk away. The best part is that it would keep me home more in the long run.”

“How so?”

“It’s a pain in the ass to host 80 justices and clerks and tend to all their needs. Each one of them have a rider with special requests and requirements, well, except Me, Alcide and Damon. The rest of them are prima donnas. When we were in Concord, we were split between three hotels and then held court at Oliver’s bar. Now that everyone wants to kiss your ass and has already had the chance to show off their own kingdom, most of the monarchs will simply make arrangements with the resort. One phone call and everything is taken care of for them.”

“You know this? A preview or the ‘spidey senses’?”

I snorted out a laugh. He was spending too much time with Alcide. If they kept it up, the two of them were going to end up being the same person. “The latter.”

“Will you let me help you? I’d like to do something with you… I am jealous of Alcide, the time he gets to spend with you.”

“That’s fine. I’ll warn you, it’s almost as boring as thrilling the vermin.”

“Even that’s more fun when you’re with me. I’m an asshole. Forgive me?”

I smiled back at him. “Of course I do. I’m getting used to it.”

“I deserve that… When are you going to let me hire a maid?”

I giggled. “If we had a maid, then I would need more projects. I’d go crazy. Did everyone eat already?”

He nodded. “The twins have been tended to and the older children are playing with them. The sibling introduction went very well. I am going to take the 6 walking kids out for a ride. Tobin is working on a paper while he waits for instructions. Jordie is impatient to tell someone what he learned from his Northern Kingdom calls and I told him to wait for you and the Quints. Jason called to tell me that they wouldn’t be home until this evening because Janice is insisting on mutilating her son.” I chuckled when he winced talking about a circumcision.

“He’s too young to remember it and Jason will heal it right away.”

He winced again. “You’re not planning on doing that to the boys are you?”

I dropped my head and laughed. “Why don’t you and Alcide talk about it later?”

“You’d do that?” He was visibly fidgeting and I was still laughing.

“Look, I know it’s a new custom and all, but it’s widely believed to help with hygiene. Jason, Alcide, Hunter, they’ve all been circumcised.”

“That’s HORRIBLE!”

“Coming from a man who would pick up a disembodied head without any hesitation, that’s funny.”

“It’s barbaric!”

“Says the Viking.”

“Sookie.”

“Yes Eric?”

“Which do you prefer?”

I took a minute to feel him out. I couldn’t help but wonder if he meant specifically his or Alcide’s, but he seemed to want a general answer. “Personally, I don’t care and before you ask, I have no opinion either. I think it should be the father’s choice. I do not have the proper experience with the plumbing involved.”

“What if Alcide and I disagree?”

“Well… there are going to be two of them…” I was implying that one baby gets circumcised and the other get left natural. The look on his face as he caught on was priceless.

“That’s not funny. Why do it to either of them? I don’t understand the concept.”

I found it hilarious that I found myself in the indescribable situation of explaining this to him. “It’s a practice older than you by thousands of years. It started off as a religious sacrifice.”

“I understand that. The Egyptians did a lot of bizarre things. I mean why now? What purpose does it serve since we aren’t religious zealots?”

“Apparently, it’s a hygiene thing. It’s easier to keep clean.”

“That’s what baths are for.”

All done with my chores, I put the cleaning supplies in the cabinet under the sink walked over to Eric, laughing at how obsessive he was being.

**

He had his serious face screwed on tight as I put my hand on his arm where it was folded across his chest and popped us back into the house, zoning in on Alcide.

Alcide was sitting in the office with his laptop, enjoying some peace and quiet and looked up at us right away.

He eyed us for a minute. “I can’t tell if y’all made up or not.” No wonder since Eric looked like he was ready for battle and I was trying to stop laughing.

“We’re fine. He stopped being an asshole and I stopped being a bitch… Did you get the message about Jason and Janice?”

He shook his head.

“They’ll be getting home later than planned because they’re waiting around for Corbett’s circumcision.”

He winced. I busted out laughing and Eric looked slightly relieved at Alcide’s reaction.

“What are you laughing at? It’s one thing to be a creep and offer that shit to God or whatever, but it’s fucking cruel to do to a baby!”

I patted Eric’s shoulder. “There. Now shut the fuck up about it.” Eric smiled like a Cheshire cat.

Alcide looked confused.  “What’d I miss?”

“Eric was on a soapbox about it. He was wondering if mutilating future children was in the cards.”

He narrowed his eyes at me. “Why would it be?”

“Don’t look at me. I’m Switzerland on the matter. Eric’s the one with an opinion.”

“I hadn’t even though about that shit.”

“Well?”

“I vote ‘hell no’. Doing it to the girls was never a question either.” Well, if Alcide learned anything from being a judge, it would be a show stopping one-line conversation stopper. God knows we hear enough of them in court.

Eric was aghast. “The girls?!” It didn’t surprise me that he was shocked by the concept. Since human news was something he ignored until the last couple of years and Africa was not on the list of places he’d ever visit again by choice. He’d told me once that he’d enjoyed a trip to Morocco enough to visit Alexandria. Egypt changed his mind and he never went back to the continent. He told me that I didn’t want to know why and that if I ever wanted to go, to take Quinn as a travel buddy. It spoke volumes.

I gave him a look over my shoulder. “You have the internet. Look it up.”

“Do I want to?”

Alcide and I spoke in unison. “No.”

**

Deciding that I’d had enough, I left Eric and Alcide to finish the conversation.  It would go in my record book under ‘longest talk about penises’ and I was delighted that it was over.

As I made my way out to the kitchen to catch up to my Day Guy and PA, I sent to Jeremy. “Jordie has info for us. Do you want to wait for everyone to get here so you can hear it all together?”

“I just got done with the horses. I’m grabbing Jimmy and Azo. We’ll be right there.”

**

Tobin and Jordie were waiting at the table and Jordie opened his mouth to start talking.

“Hold your horses, sweetie. Jamie, Azo and Goose are on the way so we can all get the news at once.”

Tobin stuck his tongue out at him. “I get to go first… What do you have for me?” Jordie returned the tongue and flipped up his middle finger playfully.

“I need you to track down as many vanilla orchids as you can. Vanilla specifically for the scent. K?”

“That’s it? What about Jas and Janie’s homecoming?”

“Shit. Right… See, that’s why I need you. Send the guys out to the warehouse club to stock them up on staples and freezer stuff. The babies are on regular formula. Get them to get enough navy blue and hot pink balloons that they can’t see their ceilings. Tell them to go get a helium tank from Fangtasia and take it to the house with them, there wouldn’t be any way for them to drive safely otherwise.”

“Florist?”

“No. I sent flowers to the hospital.”

“That’s it?”

“Yup. I think so. I have a few things I need to do, but you’re on a diet today. Not much on your plate at all. Tomorrow might make up for it though. It all depends on how much we can get done with our shopping trip.”

“How are the new kids working out?”

“They’re a little dented. Not so bad this family can’t fix them though.”

“That’s good to hear. Mom and Gamma want to come by and meet the girls today.”

I smiled at the thought. “I’ll be here.”

**

I sat down on the couch and waited for three fifths of the Quints. Jordie came over and sat across from me and looked like he was going to vibrate out of his skin having to wait.

The three of them looked like they were doing a death march as they spilled in through the doors and slumped, surrounding me on the couch as a wall of morose Were. Eric and Alcide finally made their way to me and I told Eric that I’d fill him in on the conversation later so that the kids wouldn’t be left waiting so he gave me a kiss and popped out to the barn. He’d gotten really lazy, but every time I mentioned it, he gave me the same smirk and told me ‘life is short’.

“Ok, Jordie. The floor is yours.”

“I talked to Coppersmith’s day guy. According to Barrett, Joseph Paulson put in his two weeks notice on August 30th. The reason he gave was wanting to move to be closer to you, Jeremy.”

“FUCK! You’ve got to be kidding me!” He slapped his hand to his forehead so I grabbed his other one.

“Wait. There’s more. I was given the number for the Lead Groom. A guy named Felix. Not Joe. He’d been demoted for fucking up. Big. He was on watch when a mare started to foal. He was so drunk that he ended up killing them both. So his name is mud in Equine circles up there. Felix said that he’s telling everyone he’s going to work HERE.”

“For Eric? Or in Louisiana?”

“OVER YOU.”

Azo tensed so much that I could physically feel it. “Oh, HELL no!”

I put my hand on his arm and gave it a squeeze. “Don’t worry. That’s not going to happen… That’s everything, right Jordie?”

“Yeah. I dug through financials… unless he has an account I didn’t find or is carrying a lot of cash, he isn’t being paid to come here. Other than being a pea under their collective mattress, he seems clean.” He knew he’d done his job, and after a nod from Alcide, he excused himself.

I stood up, to leave them to their family troubles.

Goose looked panicked and grabbed my wrist. “Wait… what are we supposed to do?”

I turned and gave him a half smile. “Guys, this is none of my business.”

Jamie looked upset. “I was hoping you could tell me what to do. Please. Really, Sookie. I’m at sea here.”

I closed my eyes and did my best to focus on their situation. “You should call Mickey and Chris first. Let them know what’s going on and do some brainstorming. If you can come up with something, I’ll do what I can. ‘Working for us’ could just be to save face instead of an assumption. We’ll have to wait until they’re here to figure that out.”

“That’s it? There’s nothing you can do?”

“For now, there isn’t anything to do and I can’t rearrange the stars, Sweetie. I could have him blackballed, but he’d be even more crabby unemployed. I could glamour him into being a decent guy, but it wouldn’t be permanent. I could glamour him into leaving her, but he’s made sure that she can’t take care of herself. You guys sit down and put your heads together. Just keep in mind, I can push a person to do something they wouldn’t normally but I can’t glamour them into being someone they aren’t. It wouldn’t stick. I’ll let you know if I come up with something though.”

Azo was flooded with worry and anger and I put my hand over his for a little squeeze. “In the meantime?”

I smiled at him as much as I could muster. “Unless we hear otherwise, maybe having them closer would be better. If he’s close by, I COULD glamour him into being less of an asshole. Close by, I could give him a booster when he shakes it off.”

**

As I left them to ponder their drama, Alcide took my hand and led me back to the den.

He sat down on the couch and pulled me onto his lap. “Spill.”

“A drawback of the bond.”

“What does the bond have to do with him losing his shit over an idea Trump would jump on?”

“It wasn’t the idea… During the day the kids are awake and running around and keeping him busy, but when we’re out of town, he gets bored at night.”

“Still confused.”

“What do we do at night when we’re holding court?”

“We go clubbing and see games if we get out at all.”

“And he feels how much fun we’re having. So he’s been building that up in his head for months, that I enjoy being away from home.”

It suddenly came together for him and I could see it in his eyes. “So he thought you were creating an excuse to not be at home. Ok.  He should have said something. I could’ve told him what a pain in the ass you are.”

I slugged him in the shoulder and he laughed.

“OK. What did you two come up with?”

I huffed. “He wants to help me with the resort. He wants us to do something together other than politicking.”

“That’ll be good for y’all. Other than fang business and fucking, you don’t get to spend any time together.”

“Yeah… A) thanks for the reminder. And B) it’ll be good for us, unless it isn’t. We could end up fighting over textiles.”

“Yeah. And if you end up fighting over curtains, it’ll be both your stubborn ass’s faults.”

“I know. That’s just it though. We’re both so damn stubborn.”

“Yes you are. But the thing you need to remember is that neither one of you spend a lot of time being wrong. You’re both really smart and you two assholes only ever argue about each other’s approach, not your results.”

“I AM an asshole.”

My best friend agreed with me. I guess that’s what I get for insisting on ugly truths. He left me to my thoughts when he heard his phone ringing.

**

With my disagreement with Eric was over, my head was still swimming with disagreeable situations. Niall and Calvin and Joe…

As much as I couldn’t bring myself to tell the Quints, Joe was the least of my problems. Now that we knew he wasn’t a paid spy for the media or another kingdom, he really was just a byline. Everyone has ‘that’ family member. The person that makes family functions more like being tortured or, for that matter, worth missing altogether. And I hadn’t been kidding about putting him in his place. None of us would have a hard time getting him to bare his neck by the end of the visit. The hardest part of the scenario was not goading all of the Quints to staying on the property to see it happen…

And when it comes to Niall, judge or not I fully intended to get rid of him. I’d have to be patient and let him come to me, but being on high alert for the rest of my long life wasn’t something I dreamt about. As nice as it was to first meet him, Niall had quickly proven that our ideas of family were vastly different. Leave it to a Faerie. I’d found complete happiness in my life (other than the occasional domestic dispute, obviously) with Count Dracula and the Big Bad Wolf and the source of my torment is Tinkerbell…

Then my one time friend, Calvin Norris, seemed to be doing his damnedest to get himself killed. Breeding had been at the top of his list of concerns since I met him two years ago. Crystal had died trying to add to the pack. He’d even gone to the point of asking me to marry him so that I could be his new breed mare. We liked each other. He was a good looking guy and very sweet to me when he was trying to get what he wanted. He managed to be civil even after I turned him down, but I had suspected he was still hoping that I’d change my mind. I have to admit though… All of his attentions started before he knew I was ‘Super Sookie’. Calvin Norris wanted a telepathic barmaid without knowing I was part Were. But now… it’s evident that he’s lost his ever lovin’ mind!

At this rate, I was going to bury dozens of people by the end of the week.

**

I couldn’t help myself. I called him.

“Hello?”

“Calvin, it’s Sookie.”

He growled. “Should you be calling me?”

“I need to hear both sides… What the fuck are you doing?”

“It’s none of your concern.”

I actually started to laugh. “Oh, today is not the day for that shit. I’m in no mood. You are being a fucking idiot. You are going to get your whole pack killed while trying to keep them going. Do you not see that?”

“We’ll do fine.”

“Calvin! You will not! Your Panthers are weak as it is because of the inbreeding. Even if you take all 22 Weres you have into battle against Packmasters who have dozens of designated soldiers, you’re toast.”

“We don’t have any options.”

“There’s always options. What do you want?”

“What do you mean? I think it’s obvious that I need fresh blood out here.”

“Your endgame. Is your goal to have nothing but panthers? Why are you going after shifters specifically?”

“Cats. Panthers would be better. It’s too late to do anything though. I’ve made my bed.”

“Calvin, I’m the one who makes that call. If I could track down a couple of large cat packs, that would be interested in a breeding exchange, would you be willing to officially step down as Packmaster and sign a 10 year armistice for the Packmasters that filed charges against Hotshot?”

He was quiet for a long while. “What would the armistice include?”

“Hotshot is only a pack within itself. You can maintain your pecking order within the group. To outsiders though, you are all singles. Any bonds you start with outsiders for breeding have to be done so as a family figurehead, not as Packmaster. Any dispute you have with another pack has to be filed with the Lunar Court for consideration. At the end of the armistice, you will be free to band together officially again. The major drawback, within the court if any of you get into trouble, the sentence would be handed to the individual. If you violate the armistice, you will be put to death.”

“Sookie, if you really can find another pack to start a breeding treaty with, the armistice would be a nonpoint. All we want is to keep going. I don’t think it’ll happen though.”

“Calvin, do you agree?”

“I’d be an idiot not to.”

“I’ll call you later. I have a lot to do.”

**

I took a deep breath as I locked myself in the office. For 2 hours, I talked about breeding rights and treaties to perfect strangers. I tried to keep myself in a light mood because at the end of it all, if I got my way, the long list of phone calls would prevent a lot of blood being spilled.

While I had myself locked away, I could feel nearly everyone search me out. Eric and Alcide had found me and listened outside the door for a few minutes and then moved on. Everyone ate lunch, the girls woke up and were tended to, Diantha and Alcide helped Daveigh and Desmond rearrange their rooms… All while I had myself sequestered.

Nearly every number I called looking for a ‘large cat pack’ gave me two or three numbers that ‘might’ be able to help. After talking to more than three dozen Packmasters, and explaining to nearly all of them that it was for a court matter and that I couldn’t get into it, I finally had something to tell Calvin…

“I talked to about a million people.”

“What? You mean it isn’t easy to find Panthers? NO!”

“Calvin, if you had any fucking clue what I’ve dealt with today, you would shut your mouth and be grateful I thought of you at all.”

He snorted at me.

“There are two packs. I talked to both Packmasters and they are looking forward to hearing from you. They have the same problems you’ve been dealing with.”

He was quiet; probably waiting for a ‘just kidding’. “Where? What are they?”

“Pheonix Pack is ALL cougar. They have 30 members. Then Miami pack has a feline offshoot. Dade County has less than 20. Both Packmasters are willing to send males out for your ready females in exchange for the same.”

“Seriously?”

“Calvin, have I seemed like I’m in a joking mood?”

“Sookie, how did you do it?”

“I did your job. I sat on the phone for the last two hours and asked around. Plain and simple. You need to call a meeting. All 22 Hotshots need to be willing to sign the armistice.”

“They’ll either sign or they’ll be abjured. Is that acceptable?”

I snorted. “It should be.”

“Sookie…”

“Yeah, Calvin?”

“Thank you.”

**

I spent a little while calling the Packmasters about dropping the charges in exchange for the armistice and temporary disbanding of Hotshot as a pack. I was surprised to hear that none of them needed to be talked into accepting the terms. Quinn was just as pleased as punch to not have to oversee a battle of the size we were expecting. So that only left Damon and Alcide.

“How’s my little Bayou Belle?” The word ‘bayou’ sounded hilarious when it was delivered with a thick Boston accent.

“I’ve seen better days, are you wrapped up?”

“They can wait… I’d rather be talking to you. What can I do for you?”

“I had a brain fart. I talked Calvin Norris into a 10 year armistice and the Packmasters all agreed.”

He started laughing. “How tha fuck d’ya do that?”

“I found him 2 other packs to breed with… So you don’t have to worry about coming…”

“Am I bein’ uninvited?”

I smiled into the phone. “No, I just didn’t want you to have to come down here for no reason.”

“Fine. Then it’s settled. I’ll sit in on the disbanding and then I don’t have to admit to anyone else that I was looking forward to seein’ your little ones.”

I chuckled. “That sounds good. Your pack won’t miss you?”

“After… well, after, The Lieus I have left know better than to fuck anything up.”

‘After’ meant after he took his cheating, plotting wife for a ‘long drive’ through the swamp… one way. And then managed to have her credit cards get used for months afterwards by someone ‘matching her description’. The Lieu that was sleeping with her was glamoured so deep by a vampire (I’m pretty sure that it was Eric) that he is drooling in a wheelchair in a nursing home. Damon’s hands were as clean as they could be and yet there wasn’t a single Were alive who’d go anywhere near him any more than they would Alcide. Calvin was the only jackass without the sense to avoid that mistake.

“Well then, it’s a date.”

“Yes ma’am… You missed a good session; light docket. I got a lot of shopping and sightseeing done.”

“Jerk. I did get those tickets for the Ravens. Hopefully Baltimore will go easy on us.”

“D’you get one for me?”

“Justice Stillings, I got two for you.”

“Why two? You know I hate my clerk.”

“Because I’m keeping my fingers crossed that you’ll have a date.” He swore that he’d die a bachelor after ‘what the last bitch did’ to him.

“Are you this impossible with your men?”

I giggled. “Always.”

**

I laid my head back on the chair and closed my eyes, just taking a minute to be thankful that a war had just been avoided before I went back to my family. It was a Calgon moment, even if I still, technically, had a lot to deal with.

It seemed like everyone under the sun was in the lounge/kitchen as I centered on my family, emerging from work.

I walked over to Daveigh and Diantha, putting an arm over both of their shoulders. “How was the ride?”

Daveigh smiled at me and looked like she was misting up a little. “It was really fun. Hunter rode with me to help. He’s really good with the horses.”

I looked over to Hunter and he blushed and hid his face from me. “You goober. You didn’t tell her?… Daveigh, Hunter is an animal sensitive. He can communicate with them.”

“I thought Diantha was just kidding!”

“No sweetie. She was dead serious. He’s about half human, the rest is Fae, Dae and witch. He’s pretty strong too.”

Diantha went over and picked Hunter up. “Did you hear the news? Hunter asked me to marry him and I said yes.” She had the huge smile that you’d expect from a girl who could have taken the proposal seriously.

I laughed and avoided eye contact Eric and Alcide so that I wouldn’t lose my grip. “Welcome to the family! Have you set a date?”

Hunter sheepishly kissed her cheek. “As soon as I graduate college. Far says college is important.”

“Far is very right. He’s even been a couple of times.”

Hunter twisted his neck around and he was met with a very puzzled look. “Far, why did you go more than once?”

“Different things. Business classes mostly.” And co-eds.

I wanted to laugh at the goofy expressions on Eric and Alcide’s faces (still preoccupied with Hunter’s ‘engagement’) so I decided to change the subject. “No battle.”

The looks didn’t change, just who they were pointed at. “Shug, I’m more than fine to fight. Now who’s being over protective?!”

“You’ve been spending too much time with vampires. Stop thinking it’s all about you… There’s going to be enough going on so I mediated a resolution.”

He laughed at me. “Ok then, let’s hear it.”

“Hotshot is no more for 10 years.”

“In exchange for?”

“I found two packs of cats with similar breeding problems for Calvin to mix his panthers with.”

Eric and Alcide shared a ‘not surprised’ look that included an eye roll. “Does he know how much he owes you, Lover? Not only did you help him get out of a sizable hole that he dug himself into, but you helped him…”

“He knows. When I’d ever need a Hotshot favor nowadays, is beyond me though.”

“You never know… So does that mean that Quinn and Stillings won’t be visiting?”

I actually snickered. “I know you’ll miss the chance to visit with Quinn, but Damon is still coming to sit in on the armistice and officially preside so that we don’t have to worry about a conflict coming up later.”

Alcide growled. “Great! We get out of dealing with Quinn, but I’ll still have to deal with that damn Yankee being here.”

I hissed at Alcide. I wasn’t in the mood to hear about how Damon flirts with me too much. It didn’t bother Eric and it shouldn’t bother my posturing Were. “So is there a plan of attack on the mall?”

Desmond had been nothing more than an audience member, but finally cleared his scratchy throat to speak up. “You guys don’t have to do that. Dave and I have clothes and…”

“You guys came here with less clothes than could fill my top drawer. Your rooms need to be decorated and I’m sure you guys would like your own TV and stuff so that you don’t end up watching Family Guy and Adult Swim with us all the time.”

He looked suspicious. “YOU watch Adult Swim? What’s your favorite show?” He was testing me. Turd. He’d fit in just fine.

“Alcide and I love Robot Chicken. Eric and Pam prefer Moral Orel.”

The three Dae in the room shared a round of looks and Diantha started giggling. “Toldya. They’rereallycool… foroldpeople.”

I smiled at her and announced that everyone should go clean the barn off of them so we could hit the mall.

**

All of the kids excitedly ran off to get cleaned and ready to go, Eric too, so I followed him.

I went to my closet to look for something to wear after my shower and left Eric sitting on the side of the bed taking his shoes off. I decided on a short light pink sundress with an empire waist, hoping that the King Kongs would distract anyone that might recognize us from noticing my flat stomach and I grabbed a new pair of pink and white paisley espadrilles to wear with it.

I had just crossed the frame of my closet door when I was snatched up into the arms of my Viking. “Lover, we have making up to do.”

I was so distracted by the smile on his beautiful face that I didn’t have the chance to resist before he stole a kiss. Not that I would have. I dropped my clothes to wrap my arms around the back of his head as he carried me to the shower. He’d slipped his clothes off and as his cool tongue pushed past my lips he sped towards the shower with no intentions of stopping.

Once under the water, he ripped my shirt off then my shorts, flinging the rags in every direction and pinning me to the wall, teasing my neck with his fangs. He jack hammered in and out from the second he shoved into me, leaving me breathless, raw, burning and wanting more. It felt so good that I never wanted it to end. I could feel myself clenching and letting go around him and when his fangs sunk into my shoulder, I couldn’t help myself. I buried my face against his neck and bit, drawing from him like I was starving and as our blood filled each other’s body our bond vibrated us from the inside out, bringing us both to our end while we fed until our wounds closed. We kissed the blood away from one another’s lips in a daze as we came back to ourselves.

I was still using the wall to help stay vertical when he started lovingly working shampoo through my hair. “Lover?”

I hummed from how relaxed his fingers were making me. “Yeah Sweetie?”

“Do you think it’s absurd of me to be looking forward to joining you on the resort project?”

I thought about it for a moment before I huffed, hoping that I wasn’t about to start another argument. “Promise me we won’t fight. I don’t want to argue with you over stupid shit while we do the resort, ok. I don’t want to bicker about wallpaper and…”

He cut me off. “Sookie. I don’t care. I don’t care about any of it. I only want to be with you while you do it. You’ve redecorated 6 guest rooms, 4 cottages, the barracks, an abbey, and completely redesigned Fangtasia. I know you can do it all. You’ve proven it time and again. I just want tickets to the show. I promise. I might have some suggestions, but I have no intentions of risking the fallout of questioning your instincts.”

I smiled at him. “You trust my instincts?”

“I’d be a fool not to, especially now.”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Lover, quite frankly, until we reunited, you were a bit bipolar. Unpredictable at best.”

He laughed at the surprised look I had on my face when I slapped his arm.

“You can’t deny it.”

“Yes I can!”

“Really? Then find another way to explain how I made you furious and wet at the same time.”

I cocked an eyebrow at him. “For starters, your amnesia.”

He crouched down and moved from scrubbing my back to my legs. “How so?”

“I was actually starting to warm up to ‘Bad boy Eric’ and then the other you threw me. And of course, I wondered for a long time if the amnesia wasn’t a ruse. A tactical change or perhaps information gathering.”

“What made you stop wondering?”

“Reason.”

“It seems to me that reason would make you want to know for sure.”

“Ahhh, yet another difference between the sexes. If it was all true, you needed my help and I got to know the Eric that you forgot to hide under the bad ass. If you were being a sneaky bastard, it was flattering (if not sweet) that you’d be willing to go to so much trouble over me.” I smiled at his shock.

“The tactical change and information gathering would have been very sharp.”

I giggled. “It’s a shame you didn’t think of it. Even more… You’re so much older and smarter, yet it occurred to a barely educated barmaid.”

He faked a scowl. “You’re saying that you would have responded if it had all turned out to be a lie?”

“I’m saying that you already had me by then.”

That clearly surprised him. His mouth dropped open.

I giggled and stepped back under the water to rinse before I stepped out.

**

After splitting and dressing, ‘we’ sat on the edge of the bed and waited for Eric to get out of the shower.

When he walked into the room, he stopped dead in his tracks and groaned. “Lover, are you in the mood to be cruel today?”

‘We’ giggled and spoke in unison. “In the mood, maybe, but not for cruelty.”

“Then what are your plans?” He wiggled his eyebrows at ‘us’ making both of me giggle. We had all joked about having some grown up fun with this power, but the pregnancy made everyone wary of my power usage.

“One of us is getting some much needed time with Erika and Dagny, the other is going to the mall for retail bonding with Dave & Des.”

“Or we could send Alcide and Pam to the mall and I could take care of both of you.”

“As tempting as that sounds, you’ll have to wait until tonight for more play time. Greedy damn vampire.”

“Promise?”

“You know better than to get me to promise anything. Something always happens to make me a liar.”

**

Not even an hour later, I watched Pam’s eyes glaze over slightly as we walked into the mall.

Eric laughed. “A race to the finish. Men versus women!” He put his arm around Desmond’s shoulders and started to walk away.

“OY!” The  4 ‘men of the house’ stopped dead in their tracks.

As they all turned around, Alcide thought, “FUCK! She didn’t get enough arguing earlier? God Damn!”  When I shot a dirty look at him, he immediately thought his retraction.

“Yes Lover?”

“I don’t think so.”

Eric was wearing a wicked smirk. “Do you object to ‘dividing and conquering’?”

“Yes… Yes I do. I think there is a huge flaw in your strategy.”

He took a couple of steps to loom over me jokingly. “And what would you know of this kind of warfare, Lover?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “I know that if you boys go running off, you’ll come back with a bag of jeans and t-shirts and a trunk full of toys.  And if us girls run off, we’ll return with nothing but clothes. Plus, with Pam as my team mate, it’s a three legged race. She’ll buy nothing but bebe items.”

He raised his eyebrows at me while Alcide and Pam ‘denied the charges’. “Then what do you suggest?”

I smiled at him and grabbed his arm with one hand, and Pam’s with the other. I pulled him over to Diantha and Daveigh, and pushed Pam over to Alcide. “Even teams.”

He carefully eyed me for a minute. “Hmmm. You win.” He turned enough to catch Pam’s eyes. “And Pamela, you’re on a short leash. Everything you buy for Erika and Dagny has to fit in ONE bag.”

“But Eric… I…”

He cut her off. “Min barn, unless you are willing to sacrifice your own closet space, you need to start pacing yourself.” Calling her ‘my child’ was his gentle way of pulling rank on her. He’d been doing it for a while now. I’d seen the pissed-at-being-subservient look on her face when he used to give her a direct order ‘as her maker’. Nowadays, ‘min barn’ was… well, it was catching flies with honey instead of vinegar. The cocky asshole realized that he actually had more control over her this way too.

She gave him and understanding nod and scooped Hunter up, setting off on her task. I knew the second he said it, she’d find the biggest bag she could, so did Eric. Our family and the games it plays…

**

Eric gave me a kiss before he grabbed Manen under her arms and flipped her up to sit on his shoulders. The sight was always adorable since her arms were barely long enough to hug under his chin. I caught a little hesitation in the bond, but he overcame it to wrap his arms around to rest his hands on Daveigh and Diantha’s shoulders, hugging them to his side. I was actually quite proud of him for not letting it show how much last night had gotten to him.

“Since it appears that I am outnumbered by the fairer sex, Ladies, where will we be going first?”

Diantha thought she was funny. “Victoria’sSecret.”

Eric growled at her. “You are very lucky that I am in a good mood… and without my sword. You are too young for such things.”

She snorted. “Who’da thought  YOU’d be a prude?”

I was walking behind them, enjoying my status as a spectator and when she called him a prude the bond was awash with surprise and amusement.

“You have known me for more than half of your life. How do you estimate that I fit into the prude category?”

“Because every girl needs bras and panties. Why can’t they come from Victoria’s Secret?”

“Honestly… Because the purpose of lingerie is to make a woman feel sexy… At your age, you have no business felling sexy. Flirty is barely acceptable.”

She scoffed with her head tilted up at him. “By the time you were my age, you were married!”

The bear trap went off in the bond. Seriously. That’s what it felt like and he laughed when I had told him so. It’s the feeling I get whenever he manages to bait someone.

“Diantha, by the time I was your age I was married, had killed hundreds in battle and ran my own house. But if you’d like to live by the standards of my human life, I could easily find a mate for you that would jail you in your home, rarely speak to you and beat you while keeping you pregnant AND loaning you to his allies’ beds.”

She snarled at him. “Do you ever lose an argument?”

He laughed in his victory. “Only to Sookie.”

**

The 5 of us made our way through store after store having to talk Daveigh into everything that wasn’t jeans and t-shirts. Even then, she winced when she saw the price tags at the Gap. I had a brief moment where I remembered shopping at Wal-Mart not so long ago. Faded Glory jeans were all I knew until Eric. I had never had the money to buy ‘high end’ anything. I was fine with it. Gran had always made sure that I had clothes that fit in spite of a tight budget and I would cut the legs off of last fall’s jeans to make shorts for summer. Jason’s old long sleeve T-shirts got surgery and became halter tops as they were tattered. I was raised to be frugal, creatively so.

It went on for hours. Every store. It like pulling teeth to get her to accept anything. Eric had ‘heard’ that she really liked a Tommy Hilfiger bedding set, but was shocked by how much it was. He grabbed it for her and gave her a smile as he reassured her that she’d get used to it, just like he had done to me.

The moment didn’t last long though. Eric and I quickly caught on to the fact that not only was she suspicious of being spoiled still, there was an echo dancing around in her head. She’d been told she didn’t deserve nice things. It turned out that every stitch of her clothes were bought from a thrift store and most of them didn’t fit anymore.

As he stifled the urge to fly from the roof to kill the people who worked so hard to crush her spirit, Eric quietly pulled out his cell phone. He walked over to her, joking that she was ‘just as bad as Sookie’ and showed her the balance of one of his bank accounts to prove to her that $70 for a pair of jeans was NOT going to be noticed. I giggled at how big her eyes got.

We managed to spend so long at the mall that we ended up eating dinner there. So we all enjoyed a trip to the Rainforest Café. Dave and Des hadn’t ever been and when Hunter and Manen found out, the other options were immediately forgotten. They started pulling us in the right direction.

**

As it turned out, Alcide and Pam had just as hard a time with Desmond’s thrifty ways. It also seemed that Eric had been slightly outsmarted by his child. Technically, a sea bag is still a ‘bag’ even if it was designer.

Eric shocked the new kids when he asked what kind of car Daveigh wanted so that he could have it delivered tomorrow while they were out touring schools with him and Alcide. Of course she had no idea. She was used to driving her foster mother’s Taurus station wagon to go to the grocery store.

Des joked, “Since you’re car shopping, I’ll take a Porsche Cayman S.”

Eric gave him a serious look. “When we get to that point, we’ll see how you do with my ZR1. You still need to take driver training, yes?”

Des’s mouth fell open and he nodded. “I wasn’t serious though. That car is like… 50 thousand dollars!”

“65. But with options, it’s 80. My Vette was 130. I’ll warn you though, a car as small as a Cayman, limits certain options.” He cut his eyes over to me and I blushed, immediately filling in the blanks for the teens at the table so they all blushed too. Pam and Alcide laughed at us.

Dave finally piped up. “I could just use one of the cars you already have and I could help with errands and groceries and stuff. I wouldn’t use it much.”

I watched Eric clench his jaw as he calmed down the angry frustration that hit the bond like a ton of bricks. “I’ll just surprise you. What color would you like? Can you drive a manual transmission?”

“Uhhh. Gray… I can’t drive a stick. I never learned.”

He nodded without making eye contact and pulled out his phone to start texting at vampire speed. For the rest of dinner, Eric stayed pretty quiet except for telling them that they’d need to be ‘fitted’ tomorrow. He and Alcide would be taking them while they were out tomorrow. Des and Daveigh didn’t have any trouble wrapping their heads around needing formalwear. It was understandable that the wards of a king would need to dress up from time to time. But since Eric hadn’t mentioned that they would be getting fitted for the right kind of sword too, I assumed that he would be talking to them about it later. I had already picked up from Alcide that he was getting in on their training too. Eric was going to teach them to fight with a sword and Alcide was planning on teaching them the hand to hand element of fighting. Between the two of them, our new kids would be a force to be reckoned with in battle. Thank God.

**

By the time we got home, everyone was tired. Everyone but me. I couldn’t put my finger on why. Duplicating had been exhausting for me in the past and I didn’t seem to be showing or feeling any effects. Since the rest of the Round Table had known that Sookie2 was at home with the twins I was starting to feel all but harassed about my energy level. They had all checked on me in their own ways. Even more, I gave them all a ‘wake up’ just to see how much juice I had. I still wasn’t feeling any worse for wear.

I had everyone take all of our shopping spoils and set them down in the great room so that I could push myself. Eric and Alcide seemed leery, but quickly agreed that there wasn’t any harm in it. I proceeded to start sorting items like I had the night the kings were going through their Kingdom holdings. I started with Des. I walked over and put my hands on his shoulders, closing my eyes to concentrate. We (Eric, Pam, Alcide and I) had come to the conclusion that the act of sorting, as I had done it, was a combination of telepathy, telekinesis and dowsing. Poor Des started to tense as I brightened in spite of the warnings, but he seemed to do just fine in general other than mumbling a few awed profanities. Most everything we’d bought was Daveigh and Desmond’s so there was very little left afterwards. Manen and Hunter still insisted on ‘a turn’.

**

Once all of the kids were upstairs putting away their things the four of us went to find Sookie2, hoping the explanation of my lack of fatigue lied with her. ‘I’ was on my bed laying on my stomach and playing with Erika and Dagny. Both of them were wide awake and cooing, clean from their recent bath and content with their full tummies. My curiosity was instantly overcome with jealousy of the time I got to spend with them so I merged back into myself.

… After everyone left for the mall, I’d waited for what felt like forever for them to wake. I used the downtime to check my emails and draw out a few things for Eric to see, I remember thinking that if I had done it in the first place it might have distracted him from his kneejerk reaction. The girls had just woken up hungry when Gamma, Joss & Tobin came to visit with Annabelle and Naomi. We sat in the nursery visiting while they held and fawned over the twins long enough that they needed to be fed again before the company left. Gamma offered her services as ‘sage babysitter’ whenever we needed her. She knew we had Angela and that we had never used another sitter, but she was hoping nonetheless. It was sweet enough that I decided to think of a reason to ‘need’ her.

When they left to go get dinner, ‘I’ decided to give the girls a bath. I climbed in holding them both and then used the telekinesis as an extra hand to do the washing. I’d checked the bonds a few times to see how things were going while everyone shopped and got a few surprises when I found anger and resentment coming from Eric…

I dragged myself out of my ‘split memories’. “Holy shit.”

“What Lover? Did you find out why you aren’t tired?”

I shook my head. “Eric… while you were gone, I checked the bond. You were angry. Really angry.”

He nodded. “Yes, but you know why.”

I returned the nod. “The girls got fussy. They got fussy and were making angry faces, if you can believe that.”

The four of us stood in a shocked silence for a minute until Alcide probed. “He’s bonded to them?”

I nodded again. “I drew back from the bond to make sure it wasn’t something I was doing, but they were still feeling it. Erika settled in and became stoic. Dagny continued to make a fuss and squirm and even made it difficult for me to get her dressed.” Just perfect. The girls are just like us.

Eric crossed his arms over his chest and stared down at them. “I suppose it would make sense. While you were pregnant, you had enough of my blood to become a vampire many times over.”

Pam snorted. “How would you not feel it though?”

He closed his eyes and I could feel him poking at our bond then I felt him start concentrating… “It’s not like a normal bond. It’s more like they are an extension of me rather than simply connected to me. It’s different. I suppose I didn’t notice because I’m still getting used to all of the other powers. The empathy is something that I don’t like. It’s almost like being bonded to everyone, so I suppress it as much as I can.”

I cringed at him, knowing that it would be hard for him to maintain his image if he couldn’t control it. God knows it’s a power I’d get rid of. “Honey, I could take it back.”

He nodded. “I might have you do that. I’m giving it some time. We’ll see.”

Alcide broke a long, thoughtful silence again. “You having empathy is probably why you fought earlier.”

Eric gave him a curious and amused look. “How do you figure?”

“You two are together a lot, but when you’re apart you don’t just miss each other, you PINE. She’s an ass. There’s almost no dealing with her the first day or so that you’re apart. If you’re both feeling your own loss and your own frustration combined with the other’s… compound that with the bond… and she’s an amplifier to boot… I think you having empathy as a power is going to start a lot of arguments for you.”

Pam laid down on the bed and started tickling Erika’s cheek and smiling into the girls’ faces. “Sookie is mastering all of her powers and able to pick and choose because of her Fae-ness and vampire blood, you are twisting in the wind. You’ve had very few feelings since I’ve known you and now you’re feeling everyone’s emotions. I’d put that power on Craigslist to get rid of it.”

I giggled. “Eric, it’s up to you. If you want to be rid of it, I’ll take it back.”

He barely nodded, deep in thought. “It’s bittersweet. I’m concerned that losing it would make me less tolerant. I analyze it often. I never would have had parties at home or entertained children before, so when I catch myself having fun, I can tell it’s mostly because I am absorbing everyone else’s enjoyment. It has come in handy as a King, making it easier to detect deceit and subterfuge… I’m still new to this. I’m still learning. I want to give it more time.”

“You’re afraid that you wouldn’t love anymore?”

“Absolutely.”

“You loved me before though.”

“You were the first thing in a thousand years… even then; it was more lust, need and possession than love.”

“So the kids are your concern.”

“Yes. I immediately thought of Hunter and Manen as mine. Even when I was alive, I ignored my second wife’s child from her first marriage. I don’t want to lose that. Now that I know how it feels to love, I’m not willing to sacrifice it to avoid the drawbacks.”

I smiled, loving him even more for that. It almost took my breath away that he’d bear the brunt of this power to stay close to the kids. He felt it too, but to avoid getting too deep he changed the subject…

“Pamela, we need to talk.” I gave him a dirty look. His timing was horrible.

Alcide closed his eyes and braced himself as Pam sat up and gave her master an expectant look.

“You are aware that Sookie and I have been experiencing ‘previews’. You have been shown a few. Sookie had one a while ago that gave us some insight to the children.”

Confusion flashed across her face, but was taken over by sheer terror. “Something happens to the kids?! NO!”

“No, Pamela. As far into the future as she has seen, the children are all… fine.”

“Then what?”

“There are to be more children. Soon.”

She started to cackle. “Eric! If you build an orphanage, I WILL call you Miss Hannigan!”

He was smirking as he shook his head, frustrated and amused with her interruptions. “Would you hush, Brat? I’m trying to tell you that Sookie will be getting pregnant again soon.”

She leapt up from the bed and tackled me for a long hug, shaking me like a Raggety Ann doll. Once she set me down, she knew that there was something else. She could tell by the way Alcide and Eric were both standing at watch. “What? It’s ok right? It’s healthy?”

The men gave each other a long look before Eric answered her. “Healthy, yes. They will be perfect. Two boys.”

She smiled with her whole face and chuckled out her excitement. “TWINS AGAIN! Sookie, I know this is selfish, but I’m not giving you anymore blood until you have them. I was a fool. I don’t know how you did it.”

Eric moved to stand in front of her and put his hands on her shoulders. “Pamela, there’s more. They will be perfect replicas of their father…”

She started to laugh and tried to say something else, but Alcide cut her off. “…Me.”

Pam’s face went blank. She seemed to be processing the information for what seemed like forever. I purposely dipped into Eric’s head to make sure he wasn’t sending her more information and checked our bond to find nothing but fear. She finally broke free of her shock. “Eric, are you ok with this?”

“Of course I am. I had seen them before I saw the girls. At the time I assumed that we adopted them and was already looking forward to them before I got the rest of the information.”

“And you are sure it isn’t the Fae and their trickery at work?”

He nodded and stepped back to stand next to Alcide. “We couldn’t be more sure. There is no mistaking them for anything but Alcide’s children.”

She got quiet and we all waited, expecting a fallout. “How long have you known? How long have you kept this from me?”

Eric eyed her carefully and we both poked at our bonds with her. I felt hurt coming from her as he answered. “The night I saw my first preview we saw them. It was the night that Claudine came to say goodbye that Sookie had the vision explaining things. She and I eventually talked about our previews while she was recovering. Alcide only found out a few days ago.”

“YOU KEPT THAT FROM US, FROM HIM?!”

This was not where I thought she’d go. “Pam, I’m sorry. I wanted to tell you both. I was worried about Alcide’s reaction on top of stressing out about me and Janice. I was worried about you since you weren’t handling the pregnancy as well as I was. Eric and I have been trying to get you ready for the idea.”

She nodded. “So this is why we are so worried about the Fae threat. Because if they come along between now and then…”

I nodded. “If they get their way, the boys could be undone.”

“When?”

“As far as we know, they are born in October. I haven’t seen anything about the birth so I don’t know about their timing. It will probably happen in January.”

“How do you know they will come in October if you haven’t seen the birth?”

“Birthstones. At some point, our bracelets are reset with opals.”

She nodded and made us sit through another long silence. “I want to see. Do you have the energy to show me? I need to see them. Us.”

I don’t know how, but I did still have the energy. After splitting and using empathy and telepathy and telekinesis and dowsing… I still had the strength to show my bonded friend her share of previews. I put my hands on her neck and she closed her eyes. The three of us watched… The tears flowed freely from her closed eyes and left little paths over her smiling cheeks. Her hands found their way to my hips as she stepped closer to me and I felt her sway slightly a couple of times. When the long show was over, she pulled me against her and hugged my neck thanking me. When she was done, she launched herself at Alcide and wrapped her arms around his big shoulders, swaying from side to side.

He couldn’t have been more surprised as he hugged her back. “You aren’t angry?”

“Of course not. I’m so happy! I get sons to spoil!” She started laughing into his neck.

The poor bastard was so confused that he looked to me, asking without words if she was being true. I gave him a nod with an idiot’s grin plastered on my face.

“They look just like you! They’re so beautiful…” She let go of Alcide and turned to me. “No more secrets?”

I shook my head. “You’ve seen everything I have about them.” I left out that I had picked up a few things that I missed the first time.

She was bouncy and tossed herself on the bed to coo at the girls. “You’re going to be getting little brothers to pick on. Isn’t that exciting?”

I swear, Erika smiled at her.

**

All done. Alcide and I worried about Pam’s reaction… that was taken care of. Eric and I fought in layers… both issues seemed to be settled. The battle that would have worried me until I had an ulcer had been canceled.  Joe isn’t a paid spy. We had the chance to do some bonding with our new kids and other than their shock, they seemed to be fitting in nicely. Faeries still suck, but I guess it would be too much to ask that everything be taken care of in one day.

It had been a full day to say the very least. The sun had set and even though I wasn’t tired, I slipped into some PJs so that I could relax in front of the TV with my family. Eric took the hint and changed into some sweats and a wife beater, so Pam and Alcide went to their room to change too.

I took Eric’s hand as we carried the babies to their room and put them in their crib on our way to check on the bigger kids. Manen and Hunter were on their way downstairs for their lesson with Angela. They were studying by the pool tonight like they’d been doing a lot recently. Manen seemed to be able to concentrate more in the moonlight and Hunter just loved that the dogs could be near. Even though Stella was technically Manen’s, both dogs followed Hunter around and slept on the foot of his bed.

**

Diantha was hanging their new clothes and Daveigh was dressing her bed in the new bedding.

“How are you guys doing in here?”

Daveigh smiled up at me. “Everything is great. The TV and stuff were a surprise.”

Eric grinned at her. “It was hard enough to get you to pick out clothing. I texted Jordie to take care of the electronics while we were out. If you need any help with the TiVo, me or Alcide can help better than the ladies. If you like video games, we can stop while we’re out tomorrow to get you your own.”

She shook her head. “No sir. Thank you. Des loves them though. I play Sims from time to time, but that’s for the computer.”

“Well then, we’ll have to get you the programs. Be careful though. Manen will want to play too. She loves Castaways. We haven’t gotten Sims2 for her yet because she’d lose herself in the game.”

She giggled a little and we were both a little relieved to see her loosening up a bit. “Would she be allowed to play with me? I don’t mind, but I don’t want to let her do something she shouldn’t.”

Eric smiled at her. “That would be more than fine as long as you don’t let her boss you around.”

“That little thing?” She scanned the room to see that none of us were joking.

Diantha cleared it up for her. “She’s more than bossy. She’s good at getting her way. She’s just like Eric.”

Eric beamed at the thought of his assertive daughter as he told the girls that we’d be watching TV in the den when they were done. Then we ventured over to Des’s room.

**

He had taken the tags off of his new clothes and refolded them and was putting everything in his dresser when we went in. His new bedding was sitting on his bed unopened so I started unmaking and remaking it for him while we talked.

“Hey thanks for the TV! It’s huge. I could watch it from the yard.”

Eric had a guy moment. “Isn’t that the point?… Daveigh said that you like video games. Which system?”

“I don’t care. I’ll play just about anything. Hunter says you have a PS3 downstairs.”

“And a Wii and 360. While we’re out tomorrow, we’ll go to Best Buy so you can get your own and grab some games. Jas, Alcide and I play mostly first person shooter games and the rest of the games are for the kids. You’re free to play any of them though.”

I giggled at him. “Way to use the kid as an excuse to shop for new games.”

He snorted and raised an eyebrow at me. “The trip to see Donna is my excuse to buy something new to play with.” He wiggled his eyebrows and I started blushing. I had cut him off from buying any new corsets for me once I started showing. Now that I was baby free, he fully intended to make Donna a rich (well, richer) woman.

Des wasn’t sure what my silence was about, so he kept talking. “Who is Donna?”

“Donna is our designer. We go to her for nearly everything now. She does an amazing suit as well as she does couture gowns. She even does some costumes.”

“So how often do we need to dress up?”

“We dress up for Fangtasia. We dress well when we travel so that the paparazzi doesn’t hassle us about looking too common. We are invited to 2 or three formal events each month. You wouldn’t need to go, but most often would be welcome to. It would be a good opportunity for you and Daveigh to meet other Semi-Dae.”

“FANGTASIA?”

We both nodded.

“That’s you guys?”

We nodded and Eric decided to gloss over the subject by inviting him to join us in the den for some couch surfing.

**

Eric went to the den to set up the movie while I grabbed true bloods, ice cream and red bulls (being the preferred drink of teen semi-Dae). The movie didn’t even have the chance to start before my phone rang. It was Jason.

“Hey brother, all settled?”

He was laughing. “Not quite! We just got in. I should kick your ass for all these balloons! Tommy’s running around the house with a fork trying to pop ‘em all!”

I giggled. “How’s junior’s dangle?” I watched Alcide and Eric wince again.

Jas cleared his throat. “I took care of it as soon as the Doc turned him over to us. He’s fine. If he remembers it though, I’m blaming Janice.”

I choked back a snort. “Since it’s kind of late, we’re going to come by tomorrow and visit. I miss you guys already. Did you hear about our new twins?”

“Uh… I’m guessing you ain’t talking about Erika and Dagny.”

“Diantha called us yesterday. She has a couple of friends who need a family. Eric and Pam went and got them last night.”

“Human? Were?”

“Semi-Dae.”

“No shit! You bringing them tomorrow?”

“I was planning on it.”

“Sweet. Tell Di I said hey. I’ll see ya tomorrow. And sis, thanks for the grocery run.”

“You’re welcome. We love you guys.”

When I hung up, I smiled over at Diantha. “Jas says hey.”

She smiled and dug into her ice cream. “Eric, he get better with a sword?”

He nodded. “Almost as good as you.”

Jason had seen Eric and Diantha ‘playing’ during Mardi Gras and asked to be taught. I can’t tell you how many healings I gave him at first because he demanded that Eric NOT take it easy on him. Men.

**

Diantha rolled her eyes and grumbled when she realized that Eric had decided we’d watch Kill Bill. The sword fighting made her ‘asshole pucker’ as she put it, because it was so unrealistic. Diantha and Eric sat and laughed their way through the movie like it was a comedy, almost ruining it for the rest of us. The movie only had a few minutes left in it when Diantha got up and left the room.

When she came back, she made and entrance by sliding the blade of a katana along Eric’s shoulder. He had almost no reaction. “Is this an attack or a challenge, my dear?”

“Adare.”

He started to chuckle as he got up and she handed him a sword. We all got up, Pam and Alcide went to turn in but the rest of us followed the two of them outside to watch them spar in the backyard.

Dave, Des and I sat on the porch with Angela and the kids while the two of them went at it. They must have gone back and forth for an hour. Eric started out being very serious, never letting her get the upper hand and eventually started having some fun. He slapped her butt with the sword once when she was getting up from being knocked off balance. They were both bleeding down their arms from little nicks and slices. They were laughing and enjoying themselves as much as I had ever seen them while the rest of us cheered them on. Manen and Hunter were even more happy to hear that Eric was planning on working with all of them tomorrow.

As they gave each other a bow at the end of their fun, Diantha hopped up onto Eric’s back for a piggy back ride to the porch. “I never get to spar anymore! That was awesome!”

“You are much better than last time. Far more agile. If you aren’t sparring…”

“I work out a few times a week. I started Eskrima and Capoeira this summer.”

“Stick fighting?”

She nodded and hopped down. “Uncle hired new muscle. A Were Leopard named Chandak. He said he’d teach me Gatka too.”

Eric chuckled. “Perhaps it is time for the teacher to become the student. I’ve never had the opportunity to learn those disciplines.”

“You bet. I only know the basics, but since you’re a cheater, that’s all you need.”

“Cheater?!”

“Yeah! Vampire.”

**

I gave Diantha a healing as we went our separate ways for bed and when we got to our room, I jumped on Eric as soon as the door closed behind him.

“I love watching you spar.”

He purred. “Do you now?”

I nodded just before I gave his neck a long breathy lick. “Go clean the blood off of you.”

I hopped down, and stepped back. “You aren’t coming with me?”

I shook my head and if I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was moping on the way to the shower.

**

When he came out of the bathroom, he stopped dead in his tracks for the second time today.

I had turned down the bed, pulling the sheets all the way down to hang off the foot. I had stripped my clothes off and was propped up on my elbows, sure that there was no way my boobs could be any bigger. He stood there staring for another moment with his fangs down.

“What’s wrong, Eric?”

“Do you have the energy?”

I looked over at myself, duplicated again. “We probably have more than you do.” We both curled our finger over to summon him to the bed.

I could see through the towel that the idea of finally having a threesome with me and me was giving him an idea or two.

By the time his knee hit the bed to crawl his way up to us, his growl was constant. His hands and mouth made their way up my bodies and he stopped for a series of long kisses when each of his knees reached my center on each side. My hand started stroking him, my other self cupped his balls and just as it seemed like he might be about to lose control, we both released a wave of Fae into the room to make sure of it…

**

After 3 hours, we crashed to the bed. Eric was dazed and ‘we’ were breathless. “Lover’s you seem to be holding up better than me.”

We both giggled and wrapped our arms around him to give him a ‘wake up’. “How’s that?”

He chuckled. “Who says vampire don’t go to heaven?”

We gave him evil grins and started chewing down his body. He let it go on for a long while before he realized that ‘we’ were holding him still.

“Sookie, this isn’t fair.”

“All’s fair in love and war.” His only response was a low growl that vibrated the whole bed.

As the other me crouched on her knees between his legs, licking and massaging, stroking him roughly, I chewed my way north. I settled into his neck, biting as hard as possible without breaking the skin. ‘We’ abused and pushed him. Both of us in full control of my powers and neither of us were showing any signs of fatigue.

Once we finally let him go from our hold, he turned the tables on us. He made a sport out of making us beg to finish, pushing us right up to the breaking point and then calming us down. Turn for turn. He used his telekinetic talents to take care of both of us at the same time. It was amazing. I’d always known Eric was a great lover, but I couldn’t help but appreciate that he was just as focused when there was more going on.

You could definitely call it ‘quality time’.

We didn’t stop until 6:30 when we felt the twins starting to stir.

2 thoughts on “Chapter 7

  1. Kristie Yamber says:

    i love they way you are writing them now, they have their issues but they work it out too. more kids to enjoy my best kristie

  2. loveallsvmtb says:

    wonderful chapter. i love it.

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