Author’s Notes: Happy New Year to all my readers. I hope this coming year brings you all joy and prosperity. My special thanks to Breathesgirl and Ms. Buffy. My best wishes for your both and my gratitude for the gift of your time and talents!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
When Pam left the rooftop, Eric reached for his phone. He quickly found the text with three separate links. Each featured a video of angry women. They yelled and threw things. They berated the men beside them. They threatened to call off their marriage or told their man they would no longer be with him. Each seemed worse than the last. Women cried. There were angry looks. Eric searched for information about the show on the Internet. Wikipedia described Bridezillas as a former series that depicted reality. Eric forwarded the text to Thalia, asking her opinion.
Eric was sure that his Sookie was nothing like the women in the video clips, but then he thought about her angry words when he dropped her off at Michele’s house. He thought about their phone conversation that ended with his sleeping alone. He experienced a tendril of unease as he relaunched each of the videos and examined them carefully, looking for the part that would let him know it was a prank or hoax. He noticed several of the women used the word, ‘Fine!’ the same way Sookie had.
‘Pam is causing trouble,’ he told himself, but Eric found the seed of doubt seemed to have taken root. Eric made his way from the rooftop, his mind reviewing each conversation about this upcoming wedding. He replayed Sookie’s nervousness when they traveled to see Reverend Collins. He wondered why it was important that they be separated and wondered if Mrs. Collins instructed his wife to behave as he’d seen the women in the video behave.
Charles and James were on the door to his chambers. Charles caught his eye as he passed. “All is well?” Eric automatically asked.
“If I may have a word,” the Were asked.
Eric motioned the Were inside, and James shut the door behind them. Eric almost asked Charles about the Bridezilla videos, but then stopped himself. Eric couldn’t see discussing human marriage customs with his guards, so he asked, “What may I do for you?”
“It’s about Bill Compton,” Charles kept his eyes down. Eric recognized Charles was in full Were mode. Weres tended to avoid eye contact as a way of demonstrating respect for their Alpha. Packmasters would meet Eric’s eyes readily, but those who were not at the head of their Pack’s order almost subconsciously demonstrated their rank in this way when they were on official business.
“Give me a minute,” Eric gestured toward the small kitchen. Once there, he pulled out a blood for himself and water for the guard. Eric knew that sharing food was a way to establish trust with Weres. Eric warmed the bottle in the microwave and then returned, handing Charles the water before sitting down. He motioned for Charles to do the same, but the Were remained standing. “I don’t mean any disrespect, Majesty, but I’m concerned about your decision to allow Compton to leave.” Eric could hear the Were was uncomfortable.
“I did not allow him to leave,” Eric said reasonably, “I demanded he leave. He is no longer welcome in my kingdom. Surely you do not condone his actions?”
“No,” Charles confirmed, “I don’t, but I don’t believe his preying on those people was the real reason you exiled him.”
Eric glanced at the closed doors of his sleeping chamber, “There are several reasons, but that is not what you wish to say.” The Viking waited. His guard maintained lowered eyes and Eric wondered if his guard might also be avoiding eye contact to prevent glamouring.
It was an uneasy thought. As a frown started to form on Eric’s face, Charles said, “There is something about him, a sickness. Both Owen and I could smell it. I worry he will find a way to create mischief. That boy I returned home? He was from the other side of Shreveport, not even over state borders. He was from a nice neighborhood. Sounded like he was picked up at a local bar,” when Eric’s eyes flashed, Charles added, “not Fangtasia. I have an uneasy feeling about this. I think we should clean up the area around the house.”
Eric considered the possibilities. If Compton was preying locally, and his playthings were taken from places or people where they would be missed, it would be a problem. He could still ask to have Bill sent back from Mississippi, but then he would owe Russell Edgington a favor. Further, he would have sent trouble into Edgington’s palace, something allies didn’t do. While the Viking was certain that Russell and his mate, Bartlett, remained his supporters, the conversation after the pledging had been less warm than in past. Eric didn’t wish to further strain the relationship. They wanted Compton, they had him.
As Eric watched his guard’s neutral face as he considered. If Bill remained in Mississippi and the bodies were discovered, it would reflect badly on Indira, and by extension, on him.
“Clean it up,” Eric nodded. “The cemetery is right there and it’s still used by the town. There should be a fresh grave.” Eric thought about what Owen reported, that there were several bodies on the property. “I will ask Indira to send help. We may need to transfer some to the crocodile farm.” Eric shook his head, “Perhaps you are right. Perhaps I should have ended him.”
Charles shifted from foot to foot. Eric could tell he had something else to say. Normally, Eric would have been more solicitous, but tonight? Memories of the images on the video were distracting him. “Out with it!”
“Why cover it up?” Charles allowed the words to tumble out, and then glanced up quickly at Eric, meeting his eyes for a few seconds, and then dropping them again. “He killed those humans. Perhaps it would be the wiser course to allow human justice to take him.”
“It is not our way,” The answer came automatically. It seemed ludicrous to think that these feeding concerns would be made public. Accidents happened; Compton was well-known and widely accepted. If something like this were to become public, that a vampire so supposedly well mainstreamed had done this, It would raise questions about the rest of them. “Do as I ask,” Eric said not unkindly. Charles bowed and remained there, almost as though he was waiting for Eric. When the Viking said nothing more, Charles straightened and left.
Eric knew he made the right decision, but the unease Pam introduced through her mischief was joined by more. Eric sipped his blood, wishing that he had a crystal ball that would tell him what consequences lay ahead.
His phone beeped. Thalia returned his text. ‘You are on your own.’
Eric glanced at the sleeping chamber. “I feel it,” he said out loud.
“Focus on the dress you’ll wear for your bride’s party,” Twy finger-flipped. The bed had been removed from the third floor suite, and rows of clothing racks lined the walls, in one place two deep. “This is a spring wedding, and your cheeks are blooming. You should think about lavenders and pinks.”
“That’s what Tara told me,” Sookie mumbled to herself. She knew her childhood friend and Twy had struck up an unlikely friendship and she was sure they were texting on a regular basis. Sookie allowed a sigh to escape as she watched Brock stalking down the racks, pulling dresses and hanging them closer to the tri-fold full-length mirror for her to try.
“You got shoes around here, too, I’m betting,” Sookie sighed again.
“Of course,” Brock winked, “They have their own bedroom!”
Sookie glanced at her watch. Today was the day Devrah’s daughter, Angel, would arrive for a formal interview. Sookie was pretty sure that she could hire Angel sight unseen. It was a mark of how much she trusted Devrah’s word, but Sookie found herself wondering again what happened with Meg. Sookie told Devrah she wanted to get in touch with her former servant as soon as they were past the weddings. The telepath hoped that once things quieted down, she would be able to talk with her.
According to her watch, Sookie had less than an hour before she was due downstairs. With another sigh, Sookie stood and dutifully tried on dress after dress. She landed on something to wear for the bride’s party (it was lavender with watercolor tulips around the full skirt). She decided on a pink, shorter dress for the wedding rehearsal dinner. It plunged pretty far in front and it had a bow that tied around her waist while the skirt flared nicely. “Of course, we have to wait for Pam and Tara for the bridal dress,” Twy told Sookie.
“What time is Tara expected?” Sookie was delighted when Tara announced she was coming to New Orleans for the Second Line parade. Sookie could tell there was excitement in the palace about the parade. People were smiling and Devrah told her that everyone who had the night off would be showing up to walk the route with Eric and Sookie.
Brock poked at his tablet, “The beautiful Mrs. DuRone will be here right after lunch.”
“Thanks,” Sookie glanced at her watch again, “Well,” she shrugged, “Gotta get going. Places to go.” What she didn’t add was that in addition to the interview with Devrah’s daughter, the re-screening of the staff was scheduled to start this morning. It was probably too much to take on with so many other things, but Sookie felt it was important. As distracted as Sookie and Eric were, they would be even more so once they arrived in Bon Temps. If there was a person who meant them harm, this would be the opportune moment to press their advantage.
Sookie walked onto the waiting elevator, smiled at Saul, and waited patiently for the car to glide slowly to the first floor. “You looking just fine, Majesty,” Saul smiled at her, “Now you have yourself a fine day!” Sookie smiled tightly and nodded, hoping the older Were’s words were more omen than fair wish.
Devrah was in the informal dining room, but she turned as Sookie entered, revealing her companion. The woman who sat beside her was shorter than her mother, but her features were clearly cut from the same family tree. Unlike Devrah, Angel’s hair was glossy and piled high atop her head. She was attractive, though not beautiful. Her smile became a little less easy and she stood in greeting. Sookie walked forward to offer her hand, but the woman forestalled her by bowing formally, “Majesty,” she said.
Sookie caught herself and stopped at the right distance to return the bow, making sure she inclined less deeply. “You must be Angel,” and then she glanced at Devrah, “Why don’t we use the office?”
“As you wish, Majesty,” Devrah bustled forward, opening doors. Sookie gestured, and Angel walked ahead of her. One of the servants they passed in the hall recognized Angel. Sookie could see that Devrah’s daughter was liked here and that spoke well for her.
Angel and Sookie sat on the crème sofas and chatted about what Angel had been doing. Sookie figured the woman was a little older than herself. She talked about running the staff at a hotel uptown. It sounded busy and important. Sookie asked why she would consider a change and Angel told her while she enjoyed the feeling of so much responsibility, she missed being in a place that felt more like family. As they talked, Sookie dipped into her head. She found that in spite of her calm appearance, Angel was nervous. She heard good things from her mother about Eric and she was predisposed to like Sookie. Angel was worried about her mother. Devrah was in a position to retire, but would continue to work rather than abandon what she felt was her duty here. Then, Sookie heard Angel wondering about the donors. Apparently several had given her trouble in past.
Sookie knew all the humans who were in the household, including Devrah, were glamoured following the destruction of the donors. Since Angel wasn’t here during that time, she had her memories of those doomed beings. Sookie knew she needed to speak with Eric about how to handle this. The telepath wondered how many others knew embarrassing information about this palace. Sookie managed to keep her face neutral as she explained the current state of the household. Angel was pleased to hear that household rules were reinstated and Sookie confirmed her expectation that all residents in the palace, whether vampires, Weres or humans, were to be treated equally. “After all, I’m not a vampire either,” she smiled her Crazy Sookie smile.
“I am pleased to have had the opportunity to meet you,” Sookie told as Angel as she rose to leave, “Why don’t we plan to get together again when the King and I return from Bon Temps?” ‘That will give us enough time to wipe your memory.’ The thought came immediately to Sookie, followed almost as quickly by, ‘When did thinking about covering this up become okay?’
As Devrah’s daughter smiled, agreeing to return mid-May, Sookie could feel her stomach twisting, but her resolve returned as the young woman turned and bowed. “Majesty,” she said formally.
‘I am Eric’s Queen,’ Sookie bit her lip, ‘and his safety comes first’ and Sookie found she could push her conscience down a little. Sookie and Angel walked back to the family dining room. She knew Devrah was there, waiting. Her housekeeper didn’t bother hiding the hopeful look from her face and Sookie’s smile turned encouraging. There was nothing to be done until Eric rose, so Sookie focused on the next task. “Where did you set things up for the screening?”
When Devrah rose to walk with her to the smaller of the meeting rooms, Sookie laughed in a way she hoped sounded less stressed than she felt, “Oh don’t be silly! Stay here and visit with your daughter!” and she told Angel again how much she was looking forward to seeing her again in May.
The meeting room was set up informally. Servants and guards were told the Queen wished a chance to interview them about how things were going. As the first of the housemaids came in, Sookie could tell she knew that Sookie was a telepath and she expected to have her mind read. She was nervous about it, and wondered if the money was worth having someone walk into her head. Sookie kept her smile in place, but after the second person confirmed that no one around here was fooled about the purpose of these interviews, Sookie had a guard stand inside the door to make it official.
The staff wasn’t so large anymore, and the Weres were comfortable about being screened. ‘Guess I shouldn’t be surprised,’ Sookie thought as she straightened up after the last person . Still, she felt exhausted, both physically and mentally. After checking her watch, Sookie thanked the guard and headed back to Devrah’s office, hoping to find her.
The housekeeper was looking through invoices, putting Sookie in mind of times in Fangtasia, sitting in Eric’s office, watching him walk through paperwork. She supposed he had lots of people to do that for him now. She knew Max handled the administrative end, and she supposed Thierry was doing the same for the energy part of Northman Enterprises. When Devrah asked her about lunch, Sookie told her she’d like to have things brought up to the rooftop, and then she added she might take a nap in the sunshine.
Devrah brought up the tray and Sookie settled back. She thought about something Eric told her about not getting involved with those who would precede you. She knew in fifty years, there would likely be no one alive who would remember that there were donors in the palace. All those who would be tempted to tell the stories of the terrible things that happened in the days of Victor Madden would be gone. There would be few who would remember her cousin, Hadley, who lived here as a pet and then a vampire. She would remember and the vampires would remember, too.
Sookie’s eyes closed, her heart feeling less human. She thought about that sharp-toothed version of herself that she saw in the mirror from time to time, ‘Oh Gran, how could you have made me with Fintan, put demon blood in me, and then believed that I could ever lead a normal life? How could you let me think that was possible?’ Then she thought about Tara and Michele. She thought about her crazy brother, who was leading a normal life even though he was a werepanther, and how things here might be complicated, but in Bon Temps, she was just plain old Sookie Stackhouse and the thought gave her comfort.
Sookie opened her eyes and knew hours had passed. She sat up and grabbed her phone. ‘Damn, three o’clock!’ she thought. ‘I’m just drifting through these days!’ she scolded herself further, ‘I have got to get a job!’ Then she noticed she missed a call and there was a voice mail.
She recognized the voice immediately. ‘Hello Sookie. I probably should have called sooner when I heard you moved to New Orleans, but after I saw you on TV last night I figured it was past time. Look, I have a shop in town. Maybe you would like to meet for lunch? I… I still feel bad about how things happened. I’m glad you ended up with Eric, really I am. Look… give me a call sometime, okay?’
The recording ended, and Sookie just looked at the phone as though she expected the device to give her advice. The telepath wondered whether her horoscope today read ‘stay in bed, don’t talk to anyone,’ because so far, the day had gone from disturbance to big trouble and now, Amelia Broadway was leaving her voicemails. “What’s next?” Sookie mumbled, “A hurricane?”
Yawning and feeling sweaty, she padded down the stairs. Titus was on the door. “Miss Tara arrived about an hour ago,” he told her. Sookie nodded and walked straight through her bedroom to the bath she shared with Eric. She could have used the smaller shower in the room that was now their retreat, but that was one of the benefits of living with a vampire. She could do pretty much anything during daylight hours; she wasn’t going to wake him.
Freshened and feeling more herself, Sookie walked the stairs to the second floor. Sookie reached out with her telepathy to zero in on which of the rooms was being used by Tara DuRone, but she needn’t have bothered. Tara had the door open and was talking on the phone with her husband.
“I don’t care what she’s telling you, J.B., she is only nine and nine-year-olds don’t go to the movies without their parents.” Tara looked up as Sookie knocked gently and rolled her eyes in the age old ‘husbands!’ message. “Look, Sookie is here and I have to go. I just want you to think about all the things you got up to at that age and use that as your guide. Hell, in some states, if we left them alone in the store by themselves we’d find ourselves arrested! Just tell her no and that I’ll have some words for her when I get home.” Tara hung up and then stood to give her friend a hug, “Girl, you look wonderful, not like you don’t always!” She turned her head and then pulled Sookie into the light. “Whatever you’re using on your skin, I have to get me some of that! You look younger every day!”
“It’s good to see you too,” and Sookie hugged Tara tight.
“Whoa!” Tara disengaged herself after a minute, “Everything all right here?”
Sookie sat down on the edge of the bed and Tara sat next to her, and then took Sookie’s hand in her own. “It’s fine,” Sookie sighed.
“Hmm.” Tara shoulder nudged her friend, “Sounds like someone is getting that ‘is it all over yet,’ low.” When Sookie’s lips lifted, Tara continued, “You know, the tired you get in the fifth inning? But girl, we still have half the game left to go! Now, come the rehearsal, you can take your seventh inning stretch, but for now? You better get your game face because the fun is just getting started!”
“I heard from Amelia Broadway,” Sookie let drop the tamest of her worries for today.
“For real? What does she want?” Tara had met Amelia when the witch lived in Bon Temps. She knew Amelia and her friend, Bob, were responsible for breaking Sookie’s bond with Eric the first time. Of course, Sookie had asked, even begged, for the bond to be broken, but in Tara’s opinion, Amelia Broadway had been all too eager to help Sookie find what was worst about Eric Northman.
“She left a message. She asked if we could meet for lunch.” Sookie shook her head, “I don’t know why I’m even considering it, except we were roommates and she did try to be a good friend.”
“I know I’ve said this before, and I’m saying it again,” and Tara looked her friend right in the eye. “There was a time I was not as supportive as I might have been. I blame myself for some of your troubles. If I had been a little kinder I would not have been so mean about Eric.” Sookie shook her head and Tara could see Sookie putting together the words that would absolve her of any blame so she headed the telepath off, “I know you are going to tell me it’s all right and it was a long time ago, but Sookie? It wasn’t all right. The only thing I can do to make it up to you is be a better friend now, and I intend to. I’m not going to say there aren’t some aspects of all of this,” and Tara looked around the windowless room and then back, “that aren’t tough to take. Some of those folks that Eric has around him? They creep me out. Thalia? She scares the pants off me! I sure as hell wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark place!”
“She is scary as all get out,” Sookie agreed, “but there’s no one I’d rather have in my corner. She takes care of Eric. I know there’s history, like, going back to the beginning of time between them. If it makes you feel any better, I think there’s days I’m not her favorite breather either, but she hasn’t ended me yet.” Sookie laughed, but Tara looked a little green.
“If that’s supposed to make me feel all better, it didn’t work,” and Tara didn’t bother to sugar-coat it.
Sookie laughed, “Oh, Thalia’s all right! She let me stab her once and everything!” When Sookie saw Tara’s eyes open even more, she laid her hand on Tara’s arm, “Bottom line, Thalia cares for Eric, I care for Eric, so that makes us on the same team. Loyalty is big with Thalia.” Sookie looked away, “It is for everyone here.”
Tara gulped before saying, “Well! I guess that’s all right then!” and the smile she plastered on her face was worthy of being called a Crazy Sookie smile. Sookie stopped laughing and the two of them sat looking at each other. Tara allowed her smile to slip back into something a little more normal, “I think I’d wait until after the wedding to see what Amelia Broadway is up to,” Tara advised. “And when you do go see her?” and she squeezed Sookie’s hand, “Take a guard!”
Sookie was about to say more when she felt it, the tickling in her chest that told her Eric was waking. Tara saw the change on her friend’s face, “Go on now!” she pushed Sookie’s arm, “Don’t think I don’t recognize that look! Go make sure you are the first thing he sees!”
Sookie quickly hugged Tara and just as quickly headed for the door. “I’ll see you downstairs for dinner!” Tara called after her. Sookie agreed, but her heart wasn’t in it. Her heart was already resting a few floors above her and she ran the stairs rather than wait for the elevator so she could join it.
“Everyone is going to be here!” Twy was sitting in an uncharacteristically informal pose at the dining table, her feet perched on the chair next to her. Tara couldn’t help thinking that the other woman’s too thin legs looked more like baseball bats than actual human appendages. “This is going to be bigger than Mardi Gras! Every news outlet is coming! Every dance group and band is planning on joining along the way.” She turned to Pam, “That reminds me! We better make sure Sookie is wearing flat shoes. They want to move down Decatur, then the whole length of Royal. At the end of Royal, it’s a short trip up Canal, and then down Bourbon to end at Louis Armstrong Park.”
“How long is this going to take?” Tara asked.
“Could be hours,” Brock deadpanned, his eyes never leaving his notepad screen. He stood and winked, “Well, I’m off!” and left.
“Night off,” Twy answered Tara’s look.
“It’s still cooler this time of year, but Sookie will want a shorter dress,” Pam continued. “Did she have anything in mind?”
“No,” Twy whined back, “You said you wanted us to wait until you were available, so we haven’t even looked in that room!”
“Wonderful!” Pam clapped. “This is going to be so much fun!”
“So,” Tara looked around, “We end in the Park and then what?”
“Well,” Twy said archly, “For folks who just joined there’s a band concert we’ve arranged. For those with an invite here for the official reception, they just continue on, although without the band, so we should be able to slip away from most of the well-wishers.”
“Good grief, nothing second rate about this!” Tara was blown away by the scale of it. “Sookie is sure getting the royal treatment!”
“And why not?” Pam shrugged, “They are royalty, after all.”
“Guess she won’t want to be returning to Bon Temps after this,” and Tara smiled ruefully.
Twy cocked her eye at Tara, “What are you talking about?” she drawled, “It may not be Ibiza, but every celebrity needs a place to hide. Why would Sookie be any different? I have no doubt she will continue to make the trek to that place she still refers to as ‘home’ for her rest and relaxation,” and she rolled her eyes to let everyone know what she thought about it.
Pam nodded, “Her roots go deep. She needs to return there.” What Pam didn’t say was that Sookie’s Fae nature compels it. Pam knew about the Fae portal and she knew about Niall’s insistence on Sookie using the ground around her home for Fae training. “I don’t think our friend will ever change in the essentials,” and she turned to smirk at Twy who smirked right back. Then Pam looked away for a minute, “Oh, she’s on her way!”
Tara frowned, “You can feel her?”
“No,” Pam shook her head, “But I can feel Eric. He gets a little pouty when she leaves him.”
“You’re kidding!” Twy said skeptically.
“Nope,” Pam said, “I can feel it! It’s in there,” and she pointed to her forehead.
“Well,” and Twy looked uncomfortable, “Well… that’s… sweet,” and the way she said the last word, like it soured on her tongue, had Tara and Pam laughing.
“It’s okay!” Tara teased her, “You’re in the South now! You can say ‘sweet’ and no one is going to think you’re a pushover!”
“It’s true,” agreed Pam, “And if you use it correctly, you can mean the exact opposite!” Pam turned back to Twy, all business, “Okay, you’re ready?” When Twy nodded, Pam looked into her eyes and said, “You are just as surprised as the rest of us,” and then turned away,
“What was that all about?” Tara asked, looking at Twy’s slightly vacant gaze.
“Oh,” said Pam, “Just a little fun we’re having with Eric.”
Tara was going to ask more, but then Sookie joined them. Once they were settled, dinner was brought from the kitchen. “Isn’t Eric going to join us?” Tara asked.
“No,” Sookie helped herself to more mashed potatoes than any woman getting ready for her own wedding should be eating, “He has a teleconference tonight. We’re on our own.”
Twy took the spoon out of Sookie’s hand and returned half the potatoes to the serving bowl, then grabbed a plate of steamed vegetables and loaded the telepath’s plate with those instead. “I’m starving!” Sookie protested.
“Take a vitamin supplement,” Twy snarked. “There are dresses upstairs that won’t fit over a paunch. You have only three weeks and then you can carb yourself into housedresses and fuzzy slippers, but until then…” and she pointed at the plate.
“Playing with fire,” Sookie grumbled, “Eric likes me with a little extra.”
“Eric likes you to be comfortable in your clothes,” Twy responded waspishly.
“So, all the dress choices are upstairs?” Tara quickly changed the subject. With a minimum of snarkiness, Tara got everyone up and Pam led the way.
The ‘bridal boutique’ was located three doors down from the bedroom where the other dresses were staged. Sookie looked around the hall, then back at Twy, “What? No Brock?”
“Night off,” Twy finger flipped. “Doubtless trolling down on Bourbon Street.”
The door opened, and Sookie’s eyes opened wide at the number of white and red dresses. “How did you find so many?”
“Turns out not everyone marries in white,” Tara shrugged. “Who knew?”
“If you come from certain places, like Asia, you marry in red. It’s a good luck color,” Pam volunteered helpfully.
“Then there’s the Quinceanera gowns,” Twy added. “White with red flowers is very popular!”
There were gowns that looked so form-fitting Sookie regretted every bite she ever ate. There were gowns that looked like they would only stay up through some supernatural miracle. There were long dresses, short dresses, and dresses with trains.
Tara pushed Sookie toward an armchair as she, Pam, and Twy pulled first one gown and then another from the racks. Twy left to grab an empty rack from the other room and they started sorting. Some were dismissed out of hand, the women showing the offensive gown to Sookie with faces that dared her to disagree. Fortunately, Sookie found their taste pretty well matched her own.
It was the gowns that were left after almost an hour of sorting that started the tussles.
Both Twy and Pam wanted Sookie to consider something form-fitting and strapless. “You have that round, JLo, ass, you may as well showcase it,” Twy drawled.
“You seem to think I’m getting married in some fancy place on level ground!” Sookie laughed. “I’m getting married in my brother’s back yard. I intend to drink and dance and none of that is happening in that dress!” She could just see herself butt-shuffling up and down the hill in Jason’s backyard, then catching her heel and face-planting while her boobs popped out.
Tara seconded her, “It is a beautiful gown, but this is more of a country wedding.”
The second tussle involved a longer dress that had several layers. Sookie tried it on and that’s when the ‘secret’ was revealed. The dress had a long slit in the back that almost reached the apex of her thighs, and when she moved a certain way it left little to the imagination. Pam found it sophisticated, but Sookie dismissed it.
Tight-fitting bodices and Sookie’s chest size were not compatible. Some were too designer for Bon Temps. Finally they were down to two gowns. One was tinted a pale shade of pink with embroidered red roses that scattered along the bodice and then encircled the hemline. The other was ivory with poppies scattered over the long skirt. Neither looked like that sundress from so long ago, but both were beautiful.
“It has to be the ivory one,” Tara said out loud. “It just glows against your skin.” Sookie agreed. It was not too long and Pam returned with several pairs of heels. Sookie found a pair that didn’t hurt right away and whose heels were just a little thicker.
“I don’t need to be aerating Jason’s lawn all night!” the telepath explained.
Sookie was about to get up when Pam said, “Where do you think you’re going? Now we have to figure out what you’re wearing tomorrow for the parade.”
“Well, I figured I’d wear the dress I picked out for the reception,” but even as she said it, Sookie knew it wouldn’t work. The reception dress was tea length, which was fine, but it had sequins over the bodice which were a little itchy. The thought of stomping in it all over town was not appealing.
“Well, we thought you might like this one,” and Twy pulled out a white dress that was part bride and part ballerina. The shorter skirt was layers of tulle and the top was just off the shoulder but still covered her cleavage.
“It’s stretchy and it breathes,” Pam added. Together they helped Sookie lower and then tug it into place. The bodice wasn’t form fitting, and her girls fit comfortably. The waist fell just where it should and it was accented with a flat satin bow. Sookie turned to look in the mirror and she couldn’t help giggling. She looked like a child’s toy.
Twy held out a short veil, but Sookie nixed it. “Bad enough I look like Malibu Barbie gets married. Let’s not get too carried away!”
“You could wear your crown,” Pam’s eyebrow arched.
Sookie’s smile dropped momentarily as she thought of the Fae crown and its unintended consequences. She covered it by saying, “No, that wouldn’t feel right either. Why don’t we just put my hair up and we could use a bow like the one at the waist of the dress?” Tara grabbed the white feathered parasol the Mayor’s office sent over and Sookie opened it so they could all see how it would look.
“You are going to make quite the splash!” Twy nodded and her voice caught.
“Wow!” Tara glanced wide-eyed at the planner, “Is that something in your eye?”
Twy assumed her New York, snarly stance, “Absolutely not! And I will deny anything different!”
“Don’t worry, New York,” and Tara squeezed the woman’s arm, “Your secret is safe with me.”
“Now shoes!” Pam announced. Sookie had a moment of panic, wondering what the vampire would consider appropriate. Pam could stand in the highest, sharpest heels for hours without flinching. Sookie had no illusions. She would never be able to do the same. The box Pam handed over was small, and Sookie opened it to find what looked like ballet slippers. “Princess shoes for a long walk!” the vampire smiled. When Sookie looked at her in surprise, Pam said, “My Maker loves to dance. If you’re crippled, he might be tempted…” and then she glanced away, looking oddly uncomfortable.
“What? Pam, What is it?” Pam walked across the room and was fussing with some of the discarded dresses, not making eye contact. Sookie looked at Twy, who also chose to look away, making her look guilty. “Do you have any idea what’s going on?” Sookie asked Tara. When Tara shrugged, Sookie narrowed her gaze at Pam, “Okay, there’s something you’re not telling me. Out with it!”
“Well,” Pam rolled her eyes, “It’s just there’s been a video streaming on the Internet the past couple days.”
“A video?” Sookie prompted. When no one said anything else, Sookie asked, “So what exactly is in this video?”
“We didn’t want to upset you,” Pam volunteered.
“Since when did you ever spare me?” Sookie shook her head.
“I have told you things to keep you from being more hurt!” Pam protested.
“Exactly!” Sookie replied, “Which is why something about this feels like a set up.”
“You give me so little credit!” and Pam brought out her phone. Fingers flew and the phone was handed over. It was a video of Eric dancing. Sookie recognized the clothes he was wearing, and then she saw Mustapha Khan. Eric was smiling and he twisted in a movement she recognized all too well. She saw a woman wrap her arm around her Viking’s waist and he smiled at her. Then a female vampire wrapped her arms around his neck. The woman’s face turned to the camera and Sookie recognized Heidi. She knew the tracker pretty well, but hadn’t seen her since before Oklahoma. As the video continued, Heidi reached up on tiptoes to kiss Eric’s cheek and she ran her hands over his chest. Any words being exchanged were drowned out by the music and Sookie felt her breath catch and her lip jut out.
Eric told her about his night at Fangtasia, but he hadn’t mentioned dancing or being pawed by men and women, but the evidence was playing in full color. Sookie could feel her temper flaring. She handed the phone back to Pam. “Thank you for letting me know about this,” and Sookie jerked her chin at the phone. “I’ll be back,” and she headed to the door.
“I’m sure there’s a good explanation,” Tara called after her, but Sookie didn’t look back.
Tara wondered if she should go after Sookie. She knew her friend could be a hot head and it looked like Eric was about to get it with both barrels. She turned to ask Pam for help only to see the vampire release Twy’s head. The New Yorker smiled and said, “Was it good?”
“Bridezilla is launched and on target!” and Pam giggled.
“What did you do?” Tara demanded. When the two women smirked, Tara said, “You are both evil! I don’t know what you’re up to, but I have no doubt that you will rue the day!”
“Well, then,” Pam wiggled her shoulders, “it’s a good thing I sleep all day, because this one’s going to be a doozy!”
Sookie was breathing through her nose trying to calm herself down. Somewhere in the back of her head a little voice was screaming, ‘think this through!’ but another, louder voice was crooning, ‘Why are you surprised? He is Eric Northman, and it was only a matter of time before his eye roamed. Sam cheated on you! Eric left you when he could have just said no to that contract!’
On some level, Sookie knew it was hurt speaking in that loud voice, but Sookie was no doormat. All her life she met the slings and arrows others threw at her with her own brand of fight. For Sookie, fighting involved sharp words and occasionally a thrown punch, and both were on her mind as she waited for the elevator.
Saul took one look at her, her jaw clenched and hands fisted, “Everything okay with you, tonight, Mistress?” he asked.
Sookie opened her mouth, then realized she didn’t trust herself to speak. As the doors were closing, she saw Brock coming down the hall. He took one look at her and he smirked. It startled her. She could hear him laughing inside and congratulating Pam and Twy. Her mouth fell open and as the elevator started up, she dipped deep into the young man’s head, finding the whole scheme. She found the mad she felt at Eric replaced by a whole new kind of anger and it was aimed at Pam Ravenscroft.
When the doors opened, she wasn’t surprised to find Eric waiting for her. He wrapped her in his arms and they were in their retreat with the doors closed before she’d even had a chance to open her mouth. He deposited her near the window and moved to the other side of the chaise. Sookie took a couple more deep breaths before looking at Eric. He had an expression on his face as if she was some kind of dangerous, unknown thing, and she supposed in some way she was. In truth, the great Eric Northman looked like he was afraid of her, and there was something so amazingly absurd about it, Sookie felt her anger dissolve into a snort followed by a laugh. Eric’s expression went from slightly terrified to tentative to bemused as her laughter continued.
“Well, my Lover, Pamela will find out two can play this game,” Eric held her close. The fireplace glowed cheerily, casting shadows across their naked bodies.
“It was so mean!” Sookie exclaimed again. She cocked an eye at him, “You really thought Bridezillas was real? That’s like believing professional wrestling is a real sport.”
“It’s not?” Eric looked puzzled.
“We need to expand your human education,” Sookie huffed against his chest. “You know, for an old vampire, you can be a pretty easy mark when it comes to some things.”
“Pamela was wrong to use you for revenge.” Eric’s tone remained sour. “I expected her to try something, but involving you was a new low.”
“What did you think would happen?” Sookie asked, “You felt me coming. You were waiting for me.”
“I thought you’d start yelling at me like those other brides. I thought you might try to throw things and I didn’t want you to do it in front of witnesses,” and Eric shrugged and grinned. “I have seen your temper. It’s a thing to be respected.”
Sookie grinned, and shifted up to kiss him. Eric’s fangs dropped and he shifted so she could feel he was hard again. Sookie distracted him by asking, “You going to exact vengeance on her?”
“Of course!” and Eric sat up, bringing his legs under him in preparation for standing, but then he stilled. His expression turned serious as he asked, “You were not truly jealous, were you? You know that I am yours.”
“Sure,” Sookie smiled, willing herself to believe it, but she could still hear the voice in her head whispering, ‘he’ll leave you someday for someone better, someone prettier, someone who understands him.”
“There is no one but you for me,” Eric stroked her cheek, his face solemn.
“I know!” she assured him when he continued to look as though he didn’t believe her. Satisfied, Eric rolled to his feet in one long, smooth movement, wiggled his butt and headed to the door, rubbing his hands together.
“Vengeance is mine!” he chuckled. Sookie rolled her eyes.
“This better not screw up the wedding, Eric!” Sookie called after him, “Or I may decide that Bridezilla is a thing!” When she heard him laughing out loud in the other room, she called out louder, “I mean it!”
Sookie lay on the carpet and looked into the flames. She thought about Angel and for the first time in many months, she thought about the donors. She felt guilty that she didn’t feel worse about them. She could hear Eric clicking away, his keystrokes punctuated by some odd tune he was humming. Once, long ago, he questioned why having humans harmed struck at her conscience, but harming vampires didn’t bother her. Now, here she lay, her feelings reversed.
Sookie bit her lip, but before her thoughts could travel any further, Eric broke out into full song. The words rang out in some guttural language she didn’t recognize and Sookie realized all the explanation she needed was sitting in the next room, merrily plotting payback for his progeny.