Author’s Note: Thanks again to my wonderful betas, Breathesgirl and Ms Buffy. Thank you Sephrenia for the wonderful banner.
And Thank You to my wonderful readers for making my stories a part of your life.
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.
Eric clicked open the next email, the laptop propped on his lap. She made a soft sound and rolled over just, and then he was distracted. This heart he never believed he had seemed to be the problem. He had work requiring his attention, reports to review, and candidates to be screened for Jane’s position. Sookie’s fingers brushed his thigh, she sighed, her breath warm across him and he was lost.
He looked at her face, so soft in sleep, and he remembered how she had looked under the streetlights tonight. They danced until she kicked off her shoes, and then they danced some more. All around them the people of the city swayed and stomped. As the moment turned into an hour, and the hour turned into two, Mardi Gras masques and more brass bands appeared. The dancing that had been restricted to the barricaded block in front of the palace spilled over to the next block and then the block beyond that. Neighbors came out of their apartments in pajamas and joined in. The police danced. The news station showed up. Everywhere people were taking pictures and videos, and his beautiful wife, his Sookie, laughed and spun, her hair like a river of liquid gold around her.
When the band slowed down, the music becoming bluesy and feral, he had wrapped her in his arms, pulling her against him, and she slithered up and down like she had no bones. It was late then and he knew dawn was inching toward them. The need that came over him was a hunger that gnawed. He knew she felt the same way and he suspected Fae trickery. ‘Perhaps not,’ he thought, ‘Perhaps it is just this inconvenient heart.’
When she rose from her position near his knees, her hands in his, her eyes dark, he did what he needed to do. He slung her over his shoulder and flew her through the night sky, taking her to the roof. He didn’t care who saw them. Eric landed, lowering Sookie to her feet, the music from the street below carrying them. Sookie’s eyes shone as he undressed her, dancing her around him, swaying between stomp and seduction. He wanted to take her there, under the stars, but a news helicopter hovered, interrupting them. His Sookie loved to pretend she was naughty, but in truth she wasn’t an exhibitionist. Eric rushed her inside to their sanctuary. Within seconds she was positioned in front of the window with its one-way glass, the view of the street party laid out below them. She was already so wet, her body slick with sweat. “I love you,” he had chanted over and over, a man lost as he found his redemption within her.
With a sigh, Eric turned back to the laptop. The voice in his head urged him to wake her and give her pleasure again. ‘She relies on you,’ his rational mind scolded. He pulled out a pen and wrote, ‘Please be with me when I rise, my Lover. Please greet the night with me,’ and he signed it with his signature ‘E,’ and then set it the paper on the table where she would see it.
Eric had called Niall shortly after Sookie drifted to sleep. It took longer than anticipated.
The old Fae almost confessed he was stacking things in his favor. The jewelry he sent Sookie had clearly backfired in some way. Niall asked questions about Eric’s reaction to the crown and then the necklace. When he asked the same question a slightly different way, Eric asked outright what the crown was supposed to do, and Niall backtracked immediately, claiming it had no special powers. “Then why did she glow when she wore it?” Eric asked.
“Because she grows into her Fae powers,” Niall replied smoothly.
The conversation about the bed was a little different. At first Niall denied it held magic, and then he switched up his story to blame Dermot.
“She told me tonight she feels she is not of value to you beyond what her womb will provide,” Eric said levelly. “My wife has a value beyond any other thing to me, Niall. These actions have hurt her. She told me she questions her desire to have any children.”
“You promised!” the Prince seethed.
“I will not force her. Your tricks make her feel cornered. She will hurt herself before she allows herself to be stuck in someone else’s trap, regardless of how enticing that trap may appear.” When the Prince told Eric he was sure the vampire could finesse her agreement, Eric told him, “You are wrong. I have seen it many times. If you continue to push her, she will harden her resolve. There will be no turning back.”
“I will have the bed removed,” the Prince conceded in the end. “I expect you to honor your word.”
“I always have,” Eric had found himself smiling. It wasn’t often he had the Prince of the Sky Fae dependent on him. It was a heady feeling.
When Sookie rose to Eric’s note. It was almost lunch time. Twy was sitting in the informal dining area, ‘lying in wait,’ Sookie thought. The tall woman got up, but Devrah walked right in front of the planner. “You let the Mistress have her coffee in peace!” Devrah said as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
“Morning!” Sookie greeted them, and she nodded her thanks to Devrah. Sookie breathed in the aroma of the chicory blend and took a couple sips. The telepath even managed to eat a few bites of fruit salad before Twy could no longer contain herself.
The second Sookie made eye contact, Twy announced, “You are a hit! You were picked up on national news! Everyone wants to talk with you!”
“What are you talking about?” Sookie thought the drama might have been an angle, but then Brock walked in.
“Good morning, Rock Star!” he finger-waved. “Oh, look at this! They made The View!” and he thrust a tablet streaming some talk show with a group of women seated around a table. The sound was off, but the women were laughing and fanning themselves with their hands, and on the large screen behind them was a video clip of Eric and Sookie dancing. Sookie could tell it was from last night and the sequence captured the moment he twirled her toward him and kissed her.
“You are the toast of New Orleans,” Twy said in that nasal inflection that made the name of the city sound bad. “Who knew you could dance so well?” Her eyes narrowed in a way that made Sookie feel like an odd bug, “You wouldn’t consider being a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, would you?” When Sookie’s expression turned to alarm, Twy waved her hand, “No, not really dignified enough.”
“Yeah, no!” Sookie rolled her eyes and tried to return to her coffee.
Devrah came back with a plate of poached eggs on toast which she set in front of Sookie, “Folks were talking about the party on all the radio stations, too,” she added. “The Mayor himself called in and said he would host a Second Line for y’all,” and Devrah patted the telepath on the shoulder.
“Second line?” Sookie was starting to think it made more sense to go back to bed.
“Oh, that would be amazing!” Brock gushed. “It could be the kick-off for the big reception next week!”
“Call the Mayor’s office!” Twy exclaimed, and before Sookie could say another word, Brock rushed from the room on his mission.
“Look,” Sookie found she was losing her appetite, “there are already a lot of things happening here. I have that tour thing tonight…”
“The reporter called again to thank us for the opportunity,” Twy cut in. “She should be kissing our ass! Your little dance recital last night guarantees her national coverage. I bet we could leverage that for free Fangtasia spots for months…” and Sookie could see the wheels turning.
Sookie pushed her plate away. Crawling back in bed was sounding better and better, “What time do I have to be ready to start this tour?”
Twy was staring into space, probably calculating royalty fees, when she said rather absently, “You’ll be greeting the reporter at six. The crew will set up in that office downstairs and you greet the tour group at six-thirty.”
“Fine,” Sookie said. “And what time is it now?”
“Eleven-thirty?” Twy must have figured out something was happening because the expression she was wearing as much as asked, ‘What are you getting at?’
“Then I have five hours, right?” Sookie looked levelly at the planner. “So why don’t I plan to see you at six? That gives me time to work on things upstairs. Eric and I will have dinner and then we can meet you down here.”
“Sounds fine to me, Mistress, except there are some household things that need your attention,” Devrah inserted herself between Sookie and Twy. Once she was in position, she turned to face Twy; her arms crossed in front of her, and then cut her eyes to toward the door. The message was clear, ‘Get out.’
“Fine, back at ya!” Twy smirked. “I have all kinds of details to finalize for your big week, anyway,” and she punctuated her statement by pointing at Sookie. As she stalked out the door, Sookie wondered if she shouldn’t call her back and demand what those details might be.
“Well, if I don’t like it, I’ll just say no!” she said out loud as the door to the hallway closed. Devrah stopped by the table long enough to push the plate back in front of Sookie. When she returned from the kitchen she had a cup of tea for herself and sat down a couple chairs away from the telepath. She didn’t stare or lean forward. Devrah visibly relaxed, allowing Sookie to relax too.
When she was sure she wouldn’t be interrupted, Sookie cut into her breakfast and ate a couple bites. “Need me to warm that up at all?” Devrah asked gently.
“No,” Sookie smiled, “no, I’m good.” The breakfast was good, too. She realized she was famished. She had a slight headache, likely an outcome of disturbed sleep, and not enough sun.
When she finished she picked up the plate, but Devrah plucked it from her hand and gently pushed her back down onto her chair, “You just rest a spell.” Devrah could be protective, but this was a little over the top. Sookie figured she must be getting ready to ask a favor, and when the housekeeper returned, she proved Sookie correct. “I was wondering,” she started.
“What would you like?” Sookie cut right to the chase and the housekeeper rewarded her with a startled look.
“Well, I’d like to see if my daughter would come back to work here,” Devrah finished. Sookie knew that something had happened between Devrah’s daughter and Victor Madden in the past. Devrah encouraged her daughter to leave the palace after the incident, and she told Sookie she was happy having her daughter far away from vampires.
“What changed?” Sookie asked.
“Y’all are good people,” Devrah nodded. “I always planned to have my girl step into my shoes, like I stepped into my Mama’s. I have to hire someone again, and I figured maybe it was time for her to come back.”
“Hire someone?” Sookie was surprised, “I didn’t realize anyone left.”
“Surprised me, too,” Devrah sighed. “Meg gave her notice and packed up. She was gone before you returned from your pledging.”
“Meg?” Sookie was surprised. She and the servant got along. “Did she get another job?”
“I don’t know,” Devrah sighed, “I thought she might be upset about something, but she said it was time to move on.”
“I am really sorry to hear it,” Sookie nodded.
“Door closes, window opens,” Devrah shrugged.
“Don’t I know it! I’d love to meet your daughter,” and Devrah stood up, all smiles. Sookie stood up, looking forward to spending time on the roof, soaking up sunlight, but as she was about to leave she remembered, “The staff! Think we can arrange for me to scan everyone over the next couple days? It’s been awhile.”
“Has at that,” Devrah nodded, “You have a busy day today, but what about we start tomorrow afternoon? Give you some time to get your feet back under you. I’ll put the word out and we can get folks scheduled. Course, we should spend a little time talking about your reception here, too.”
Sookie sighed, “It is anything we can’t put off until tomorrow?”
“Well,” and Devrah shook her head, “Between Miss Pam and that Twy and her new gopher? I figured you should have a chance to give things the once over before there was no going back.”
Sookie knew she should probably sit right back down and start leafing through the papers Devrah had in her hand, but somehow she just couldn’t bring herself to do it. “Have you looked at it?” she asked her housekeeper. When Devrah told her she had, Sookie asked, “Anything you think is a bad idea?”
“You going to trust me to make that decision?” and Devrah’s eyebrows lifted.
“The way things are? Yes,” Sookie said emphatically, “yes I am. Truth be told, I am bone weary. I need sun and a little breathing space. My friend, Tara is texting me non-stop, and she and Twy seem to be getting along.”
“That can’t be good,” Devrah laughed her deep, rumbling laugh.
“I kind of agree with you,” the telepath heaved another sigh. “I am looking forward to this. I know it sounds corny, and maybe I don’t deserve to have such a fancy wedding, but I expect this to be forever.” Sookie bit her lip, “Do you think I’m wrong?”
“I think you deserve the wedding you want. Don’t matter if it’s your first, your second, or your seventy-first. Any time a soul is brave enough to tie their life up with someone else’s, the world should take notice,” and Devrah shooed Sookie along with a promise they could look at things later.
Sookie headed up to the roof deck and settled in the lounger. The minute the sunlight touched her skin it was as if everything inside her was purring. She stretched a little and sighed. As her eyes closed, she found herself thinking about Meg, and then for some reason, she thought about Kennedy. Sookie felt that things were running faster now, and the way they were running might not be to anything good. She shuddered in spite of the sun and opened her eyes. The day was bright. There were hummingbirds feeding at the sugar syrup suspended from the pergola. “Silly!” she scolded herself, and closing her eyes, made a determined effort to catch a short nap.
Sookie felt Eric’s rising before his eyes opened. It was like waiting in the dark for dawn. There would be nothing, and then she would feel the smallest stirring. She had felt many times before, both during their first bonding and now in this one, but until she learned what to look for, she missed it. Sometimes she wondered if all vampires did this, and she almost asked Eric once, but then she decided against it. She decided she didn’t really want to know. There was something about the idea that this was just theirs, that their bond was just this strong, so Sookie curled up close and enjoyed what she imagined as his journeying back to her from whatever dark place he went during the daylight hours.
His eyes opened and his lazy smile took her in, and then his hands reached up and took her in some more.
It wasn’t long, this time together. Eric had calls to make and Sookie knew they were waiting for her downstairs. “Go, Lover, there will be more time later,” Eric soothed her.
Sookie showered while Eric sat in bed, the laptop opened on his lap, his phone on the nightstand beside him. As she checked the suit that Twy had preapproved for her to wear, she glanced back at him. She could feel every part of how much she loved this man.
“Me, too,” Eric smiled at her and she left to get her night started.
Both Pam and Twy were waiting for her in the informal dining room downstairs. Sookie had a late lunch so she wouldn’t have to eat much before the palace tour. Devrah wasn’t around, but one of the chefs placed a salad plate in front of her.
Twy fixed the plate with a jaundiced eye and said, “At least there’s nothing marinated on there. I wouldn’t want you making noises tonight.”
“Well, thanks for getting me thinking about that!” Sookie exclaimed. She could just see herself passing gas or stifling a burp, and she felt herself becoming nervous.
“Don’t pick on her,” Pam shook her head at Twy and sat down closer to the telepath. “So, I think everything’s set for the reception. The theme is gold and silver, kind of a mirror of the Summit colors. That way we won’t have to do all kinds of shopping just for that night. There are gowns in the spare bedroom on the third floor for you to look through, though. You’ll need dresses for next week. There’s the bride’s party and the shower at Tara’s house.”
‘Shower?’ Sookie wondered. It was the first she remembered hearing about it.
Pam continued, “My favorite shop in New York is sending their collection so we won’t start looking at dresses until tomorrow night. Of course, you’ll need something for our Hen Party…”
“Hen party?” Sookie asked.
“Your stag,” Pam’s tone said, ‘how could you not know that?’ “And then the rehearsal dinner, the final pick on your wedding dress…”
“Wait until you see the yummy selections we pulled together for you!” Brock broke in.
“I do think you’ll be pleased. I remember that dress from Fangtasia. There are a couple choices that really capture it!” Pam was nearly vibrating, “And then, there’s the going away dress.”
“Oh,” Sookie said suddenly, “that’s right. We’re supposed to go somewhere, but we’re not headed off for a honeymoon or anything,” and she found herself feeling a little disappointed.
“Don’t you worry about it,” Twy spirit-fingered her. “We have something just marvelous in mind. You’ll be surprised!”
“It’s a gift,” Pam added.
Sookie nodded. She could see a thick portfolio on the table and Brock opened it. As soon as Sookie finished eating, he moved to the chair right beside her and turned to the first page. It had swatches of fabric, pictures of flowers, and a short menu. Pam leaned over and Twy pushed Sookie’s plate out of the way.
“This is the overview for the reception here in the palace hall,” Twy confirmed. “As Pamela mentioned, the theme is gold and silver. I’m having mirrors brought in so that the room will look much larger. Think of it as Hollywood 1940’s, all glamour and satin.” She ran her hand over some heavy satin material. “Thank goodness the air conditioner here is first rate, because we breathers are going to be warm.” The publicist-turned-planner smirked at Pam and Sookie noted that Pam smirked back.
Brock chimed in, “You will, of course, be changing into your gown once you get here.”
Sookie’s eyebrows rose, “Why? Where will I be coming from?”
Twy flashed Brock a look of displeasure, and Pam soothed, “Not from very far away. We just want you to make a grand entrance. There will be cameras and music. We are thinking everyone will come in, walking the red carpet,”
“Like classic Hollywood tinsel town,” Twy finished.
Brock was looking prissy, but he turned the page to another collage of fabrics and colors. “Now this is the set-up for your bride’s party in Shreveport.”
“All the invitations have been sent. Tara suggests you arrive in Bon Temps Friday night and we’ll come with you. That way we have all weekend to finalize logistics,” Twy explained.
“Oh, Sookie! This is going to be such fun,” and Pam grinned, making herself look even younger than she normally did. “I’ve never had the opportunity to be involved in a human wedding before. Of course, Twy and Tara have been telling me all about it, but I’ve been doing my own research, too.” Pam pushed Brock to the side and took his chair, “We really do need this time near Bon Temps to make sure we are prepared.”
“I don’t understand,” Sookie glanced around, “Prepared for what?”
“I’ve been watching Doctor Phil, and he knows all about these ceremonies,” Pam was very serious. “Do you have any idea how many things can go wrong?”
Sookie swallowed, “Well, no…”
“Weather!” Pam exclaimed. “You are planning an outdoor wedding, anything could happen. Torrential rain. Hurricane force winds. We need a backup plan!”
Twy shrugged, “She’s right! Jason’s backyard will be great, but if we get some kind of weather event, we will need to know what to do.”
“And then there’s the transportation for all your guests,” Pam looked like she was ticking off some kind of long list. Sookie felt her stomach do a slow roll and she wondered if that burp was going to find its way out even without eating the wrong kind of food.
“If there is some kind of accident or a tree falls, there’s only one road into your brother’s house,” Brock intoned. “And then there’s making sure we have a backup plan for the catering…”
Sookie started to wonder if these three weren’t making some kind of joke. She looked from one face to the other, but not one of them cracked a smile. They kept flipping pages and telling her what was done and what still needed to be finalized. They talked about the fun they were going to have, but then they would list two or three things that could fall through or become a problem.
When the guard came to the door to announce that the palace tour was starting to arrive, Sookie stood up on shaky feet. “You are going to be so good!” Pam hugged her before pushing her to Twy who bustled her into a room with a mirror to have her makeup touched up.
Sookie didn’t notice the wink that passed between Pam and the planner.
“So we are sitting in the Vampire Mansion with Eric and Sookie Northman, the uncrowned King and Queen of New Orleans,” the reporter leaned in. The cameraman positioned behind her turned the lens of his camera. It was all Sookie could do to not stare into the camera. She knew she had her Crazy Sookie smile plastered on her face and she felt extraordinarily nervous. Eric reached across and took her hand in his, sending a blanket of calm to flow over her. The telepath looked at her Viking in gratitude and he smiled his panty-melting smile right back. “Aww!” the reporter sighed, and then caught herself. She looked directly at the camera and said, “See? This is why we just love them down here in the Big Easy!”
Turning back the reporter said, “Besides the fact that you are just about the most handsome couple in America, you have also proven that you can dance up a storm! Let’s take a look at the monitor to see how we do things, New Orleans style.” The monitor played a video of last night’s block party. Sookie could see Pam and several of the other servants from the palace mixed in the sea of faces that surrounded them. Eric was laughing, and the person filming caught the moment he bent her over his arm and then leaned over himself, kissing just the tip of her nose before pulling her back upright and spinning her out again. Her sundress flared and her hair floated. She looked like some kind of movie star and Sookie found herself blushing.
“So,” the reporter leaned in again, “what’s it like to be an inter… what do we call it? Inter-racial? Inter-species?”
“Interspecies would be the best way to describe it,” Eric exuded a reserved confidence. He sat back, his legs carefully crossed at the knee, and he placed his hand across the back of the sofa, draping his hand protectively over Sookie’s shoulder.
“Okay,” and the woman smiled a little too warmly, “interspecies couple.” Eric frowned, and the reporter pulled back before leaning toward Sookie, “It must be quite the adjustment, a small town girl marrying a vampire,” and she focused on Sookie as if the telepath’s words were the only ones she ever wanted to hear.
“It has its moments,” Sookie had rehearsed her answer to this question. “There are the schedule differences, of course, but mostly I find that other things, the things that count? They’re the same.”
“Like what for instance?” the reporter asked as if her life depended on the answer.
Sookie allowed her smile to broaden and she made sure she was giving Eric her most adoring look, “Just because Eric is a vampire, it doesn’t mean he isn’t thoughtful. He is, and kind to those who are kind to him. He has a truly noble heart,” and Sookie turned it on for the camera, “I consider myself real lucky!”
“I hear you got him one heck of a wedding gift,” the reporter leaned over like this was some secret between them.
“Vampires call it being pledged,” Sookie offered. Eric, Sookie, and Twy had talked about whether they should mention pledging, introducing this aspect of vampire life to humans. Twy reminded them that vampires would watch the show as well. While humans might find it interesting, vampires would understand the significance of being pledged and that would help solidify Sookie’s status among them.
“Well, let’s take a look at that pledging gift!” and the reporter flashed a picture of Eric’s car, including a close-up of the license plate on the screen. “If this is tradition, my husband is going to ask to be pledged!” the reporter mugged for the camera.
“I guess it is pretty cheeky,” Sookie’s cheeks were flushing and she grinned at Eric.
“But that is you, Älskade, always so teasing,” and Eric picked up the telepath’s hand and kissed it.
“Al… al..” the reporter tried to say the word.
“Älskade?” Eric’s eyebrows were raised. When the reporter nodded, he explained, “It is a word from when I lived in Sweden. It means ‘beloved,’” and he made a point of looking into Sookie’s eyes.
The reporter flashed puppy eyes again, “Well, it’s no wonder we are all turning out to congratulate you on your marriage, but a little bird told me you are doing this all over again. Can you tell me about that?”
“We were married by vampire rite,” Sookie smiled, “but we also want to be married in a human ceremony. We want to honor both of our traditions…”
“After all, one can never celebrate marrying the love of your life often enough,” and Eric turned on his thousand-watt smile again. He winked at Sookie, and he sent her a surge of lust that had her thighs rubbing and her eyes crossing with the effort of holding still.
‘Just you wait, Eric Northman!’ she thought.
“I can’t wait,” he said evenly.
“Well,” the reporter was grinning, “I’m glad you feel that way because we have a surprise for you,” and she turned to look at the monitor.
The Mayor of the city appeared. Sookie and Eric had met him before. The Mayor was wearing a sash with Mardi Gras colors and he looked official as he announced, “It is a tradition here in this great City to celebrate a wedding with a parade. Now Eric and Sookie, I understand you were married in Indianapolis, and you have plans to be married again in Sookie’s home town, but it just doesn’t seem right that the citizens of our fair City, who love you like one of their own, don’t get to show you how much you mean to us. So, next Thursday we are closing down the Quarter, and at seven o’clock we are going to give you the send-off you deserve!
“I will meet you on the steps of St. Louis Cathedral right in Jackson Square and you will lead off the biggest Second Line that this city has ever seen! This is a moment to celebrate and on behalf of the good citizens of this city, we mean to do it the way only New Orleans can! The two of you exemplify all that’s best about the Big Easy. Nothing is too good for our very own vampire King and Queen!”
“We are honored by your offer and on behalf of my lovely wife,” and Eric flashed his million-watt smile again, “we accept.” He was squeezing Sookie’s hand, sending her calm, but Sookie feel a ripple of unease from Eric that matched her own.
“Well, we are looking forward to seeing you strut again, and I brought your umbrellas,” and the Mayor held them up, one white and one black and they were feathered.
Sookie knew her grin had transitioned to scary, “Well thank you so much!” Eric’s smile looked strained as well. Sookie wasn’t sure which way to look and she almost said, ‘don’t look at the camera’ out loud. The plans for Bon Temps were one thing, but her wedding and kicked to a whole new level, and she wasn’t sure how she felt about the carnival that was overtaking their lives.
That night as they lay together on the chaise in their retreat, they talked about the group who had taken the first palace tour. Sookie expected the group would be mostly young girls happy to gawk at Eric, but there were a number of older people and couples, too. One woman had asked to see Eric’s fangs, but he declined. Sookie tried to explain to the woman that it was like asking humans to expose parts of their body. She didn’t use the ‘rude’ word, but she tried to give that impression. The woman hadn’t reacted graciously, and Sookie realized she was feeling less like a celebrity and more like an animal in the zoo.
“I have to make regular appearances at these tours. Max and Devrah have them scheduled to run every Tuesday night.” Sookie sighed.
“They have me committed to showing up once a month as well,” and Eric sighed too. “Perhaps we can renegotiate…”
“Twy put it into the contract with the tour company,” Sookie groused. “We’re locked in for a year and then we can change the terms.”
“She is very organized,” Eric observed. “It is annoying.”
“Pam seems to like her,” and Sookie waited to hear Eric’s reaction. She figured Eric would have insight into how serious the relationship was becoming since he would feel Pam’s emotional state through their bond. It was sneaky, but she was curious.
Eric knew right away, “I do not pay attention to Pam’s personal life unless she invites me or she is endangering herself.”
“Twy could be a danger,” Sookie volunteered.
“If you are so curious, you should ask her yourself,” Eric was clear it was an end to the conversation.
Sookie shifted and wiggled her frustration, but stopped when Eric threatened to tickle her. “Do you think this parade thing is really a good idea?” Sookie changed the subject.
“Second lines are a long-standing tradition here,” Eric said reasonably. “There will be media coverage and it will gain us local support. I know Sophie-Ann was never offered the honor.” Eric sighed again before he continued, “The vampire King of Georgia lives in Savannah. His name is Charles. He walks anywhere in the city and he is protected. The citizens have adopted him as a one of their own, more than a mascot. That kind of status is possible for us here. Knowing that the citizens, the business owners, view us as essential is a gift, Sookie. They become our eyes and ears. They will watch out for us because people will come to the city specifically to see us. That kind of draw brings money to everyone.”
“I guess,” Sookie felt grumpy, “but the tradeoff is we become a tourist attraction. Come to New Orleans to see the dancing bear!” She shifted, “I just don’t know how I feel about it, Eric.”
“The Revelation has forced us to come to terms with living more public lives,” Eric nodded. “Of course, even among vampires, you and I are more public than most. It was something I started in Oklahoma to put pressure on Felipe. Had I not been someone people expected to see, I believe our Nevada friend would have staked me.”
Sookie wrapped her arms around Eric a little more securely, “Should we trust him now?”
Eric kissed the top of her head and murmured into her hair, “Felipe? The same way you trust a snake to be a snake.”
“Great!” Sookie grumbled. Eric shifted a little and made that grinding, rumbling noise. When he persisted, Sookie exhaled and rolled so she could see his face, “Okay, Eric. Out with it! What are you thinking about?”
“I am not so tricky with you, am I?” the Viking chuckled. “I am thinking you may be angry with me.” Sookie’s eyebrow rose. “It’s about Bill Compton.” Eric paused, waiting for his wife to jump forward and demand more, but she surprised him. He detected no reaction other than her continued curiosity.
“Is it possible you are not interested in what had become of Bill Compton?” Eric asked.
“Did you kill him?” Sookie asked in a totally conversational tone.
“No!” Eric replied, and he found himself delighted, “No, but it is refreshing to think you wouldn’t object.”
“Hey, back up there, Buster!” Sookie sat up. “I’m not telling you to go out and kill Bill!” and when she realized what she’d said, she giggled and Eric laughed, which made her giggle more. “Okay, okay!” she waved her hands, “Why don’t you just tell me what has you thinking I’m going to take a piece out of you?”
“That sounds promising,” and Eric started to give her that interested look, but Sookie crossed her arms, so he backed off, “All right! I ordered Bill to pack up and leave the kingdom.”
“When did you do that?” Sookie asked, and then her eyes widened, “The night you went to Fangtasia?” she guessed.
“Yes,” Eric nodded. “I hope you are not angry with me, Lover.”
“Why would I be angry?” Sookie asked and Eric could tell that the question was sincere.
“You truly no longer care for him?” Eric asked and he wrapped her back into his arms. There was some part of him that realized he had been jealous of the younger vampire, and that his jealousy was fueled by a sliver of fear that Sookie might someday decide that Bill Compton had been her right choice all along.
“Oh, good grief!” Sookie exclaimed. “Eric, I am so over Vampire Bill! Really? When I think about being attracted to him? What was I thinking?” and she snuggled her face against her Viking’s cool chest. “I love you, Eric Northman. Sometimes it scares me how much.”
Later that night, Eric tucked Sookie into their bed and made his way to the rooftop to meet Pam. He was reminded of the night he flew his progeny to the hilltop overlooking the palace in Oklahoma shortly after becoming Felipe de Castro’s Regent. It had been the first time he saw Pam alone since his marriage to Freyda. She had looked just as beautiful to him as she looked now. He let her feel his pride and she smiled gently in return.
“You are worried that I am not happy with your performance as Regent,” Eric stated.
“It will look that way to everyone,” Pam replied.
“No, Pamela. It will look as though you are not happy with the direction I am taking. We must manufacture a circumstance that will explain why you are choosing to leave me. You will head to Minnesota. None will question your selection of Maude’s palace as your base. Max will also leave. Bartlett has a place for him in Indiana.”
“Why?” Pam could see that her Maker had given this thought. There were times in past that she could piece together the Viking’s thought process, but not this time. This time he was well ahead of her and she could only await his explanation.
“There is something happening, something that I can’t see because I am here, within my own borders. With my pledging to Sookie, I need to remain here. I can’t trust that another won’t try to take the kingdom if I travel.”
Pam’s eyes widened, “Then that’s all the more reason I should stay, Eric. With Karin, Thalia, and me here, only a fool would try a takeover.”
“Someone is taking us over even now,” Eric replied. He walked over the edge of the roof and looked out over the river to the city. “Every night vampires travel through this kingdom, preying on those who will not be missed, and then they move on.”
“So what?” Pam crossed her arms to stand next to the Viking, “Their abandoned garbage shows up, we destroy it. No harm, no foul.” A thought occurred to Pam, “You aren’t becoming like her, are you? You aren’t considering letting these accidents continue in their un-death?”
“No,” Eric didn’t turn, “There is no advantage to trying to train them. There are too many, and most have no particular talent or skill. Even if they did, there are too many for our kingdom to absorb without crippling us. Our money is not unlimited. Every day, more and more,” and Eric turned from the horizon to Pam. “Why is the question we need to answer.” Pam waited. She had been hurt by Eric’s telling her in front of everyone without discussing it with her first. He was her Maker and she could feel his stress. She hadn’t felt him so tightly strung since those first days following the takeover, when they waited for the ax to fall.
“Even if I were to travel, Pam, it is likely I would be ineffective. I am tainted by my affiliation with the Fae. Only a few will remain steadfast in their support. For most, they never trusted the Fae. Now, by extension, they won’t trust me.”
“Not everyone will be distrustful,” Pam observed. “Some will just be jealous.”
Eric chuckled, but not in a mirthful way, “Yes, there is that,” he agreed. “I must consolidate what base I have, starting with my remaining alliances here, within the Clan. From what I am hearing, it is Amun Clan that is the focus of the nomads. Because we are under the same pressure, we will miss things that those who are not being targeted would see. That is where you need to go, my Child. You need to find out what others may know about this, what they are seeing without understanding.” Eric put her arm around her, “You can do this, my talented, clever daughter. You are not a blunt instrument, like Karin. You can charm when you need to, and your business gives you the perfect excuse.”
“Surely it isn’t that grim,” Pam shook her head.
“Soon Sookie and I will create a biological child.” Eric looked into Pam’s eyes, and then looked back out across the city. “I am convinced this will happen. Perhaps not this year, but soon. When this happens, it will cause more problems. Those who were angered by my pledging will become even more isolated when it is known the child is part of me.”
“What do they care about some progeny that is not vampire?” Pam asked, “You could have turned Sookie and no one would have blinked an eye, but this? Really? Why is this going to bother anyone?”
“What if they are telepaths?” Eric asked reasonably. “Or what if they hold some form of magic? Making this child will seem easy compared to the risks and dangers that will surround us following its arrival.”
“So what if it carries some of Sookie’s talents?” Pam shrugged, “No one is going out of their way to attack Sookie anymore. Vampires might not like it, but she is your bonded and pledged. That is respected. Why wouldn’t it apply to children, too?”
“Sookie is capable of defending herself,” Eric answered, “She has an unusual amount of good luck, enough that most are reluctant to take her on. But a defenseless child? Capturing that child would guarantee control over Sookie and by extension, me. And it is not vampires I worry about, Pam. This child is a curiosity in our world, but it would also be the heir to Brigant. You know the Fae. They are ever at war with each other.”
Pam realized that although she’d heard it, she hadn’t understood what Dermot’s declaration at the pledging meant. She thought of the last Fae war between Breandan and Niall. Sookie had been taken as a hostage and tortured by Neave and Lochlan. Things between the various factions of the Fae seemed quiet now, but there was never a decade in which this race did not fight. Eric nodded, “I will have Thalia here and Thomas and Karin close to home. As you travel, remember your sister will be available,” and Eric gave her a look that spoke volumes.
“You don’t think she’s retired?” Pam asked.
Eric smirked, “Your sister likes killing too well. She would find it impossible to settle without stretching her wings from time to time.”
“You trust Thierry?” Pam asked, but she already knew the answer.
“I will not name another Regent,” Eric answered another question instead; “I will let it be known that I am disturbed by your defection and reluctant to give another the title. Thierry, Rubio, and Indira will remain. I am looking for one more to replace Jane. It will be enough.” Eric turned back to her, his smile soft, “Find out what is at the bottom of this. I have too many other concerns to find myself distracted by this thing.”
“When do you need me to go?” Pam felt her non-beating heart like a stone in her chest.
“Not until after the wedding,” Eric replied, and he brightened up, “You can stage your break with me then. It will get you out making the trip to Nebraska.”
“What do you think Niall has in mind for you?” Pam asked.
“I am hoping it doesn’t involve sacrificing animals and coupling in the blood,” Eric’s replied sourly.
“Do you believe that trouble it coming for us?” Pam watched Eric carefully.
He smirked and his shoulders relaxed, “Trouble is coming, but not tomorrow.”
Pam grinned too. She understood now, but Eric’s public statements still stung. Waiting until she knew she had Eric’s attention, Pam launched her own small revenge.
“Oh,” Pam said, “I almost forgot!” and she waited for Eric to turn toward her. “I’ve been doing a lot of research into human wedding customs and I think I should warn you. I am surprised Sookie hasn’t started yet, but you should expect to see her behavior change.”
“What are you talking about?” her Maker asked, “I haven’t felt anything different.”
“It’s one of these human things,” Pam nodded, “There is a television show that humans watch that educates them on how to behave during this time. I think the behavior is meant to symbolize a woman’s reluctance to leave her family home. It appears fairly ritualistic. I took the liberty of forwarding you a few episodes of the show so you could be prepared.” Pam bowed briefly before adding, “It will be well, Eric. I understand now why you did it.”
Eric nodded. Pam could see his hand itching to move toward his phone, but he held back, “Perhaps I am being too cautious, but I believe your going is best.”
When Pam slid into bed, Twy turned over, “So, package delivered?” she asked sleepily.
“I feel kind of mean doing this,” Pam laughed.
“Well, his just announcing his decision to take away your title without talking to you first was kind of mean, too,” Twy sighed.
“He does have a good reason,” Pam shivered a little as the taller woman trailed her fingernails across Pam’s breast. “In fact several really good reasons.”
“Anything that is ‘world coming to an end’ imminent?” And Twy raised herself up on an elbow. When Pam shook her head, Twy continued, “You have explained this whole Maker thing, and I appreciate the affection you feel for him, but,” and Twy captured a nipple between her teeth, kissing and suckling just a bit before looking up, her face alight with mischief, “but no one puts Pammie in the corner!”
Pam laughed, “Did you just quote “Dirty Dancing”?”
“I love that you know your movies,” Twy chuckled. “So?”
“So, he’s probably already watching those Bridezilla episodes,” Pam smirked. “Then, when we show Sookie the video clips of Eric dancing with those women at Fangtasia, she’ll get angry. He’ll assume she’s starting to act like the monster brides…”
“And he’ll start trying harder to placate her…”
“Which will make her think he’s up to something…”
“And we sit back and watch the fireworks,” Twy finished.
“I still feel a little bit bad about doing this,” Pam persisted.
“Really?” Twy sighed and she started to move lower, “Let me see if I can make you feel all better.”
End Note: Like all bridge pieces, The Wedding works to set up characters for what is to come. You will see certain of my original characters leave, like Shari Decker. You will also find new characters, like Brock, the latest in Twy’s rotating stable of assistants. Weddings are a life transition, and this one is starting like all weddings with talk and planning, and then the landslide at the end that leaves you with no doubt that you have emerged from something momentous.