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.
“I was wrong.” Eric knew he wasn’t selling it. He shut his eyes but he knew he was fighting a losing battle.
“And you’re…. What?” Sookie snarled.
“Sorry,” he answered.
“Bullshit!” she called. Her eyes sparked and her fangs dropped. “Sorry you got caught is what you mean, Eric Northman! Wouldn’t it be refreshing if you just decided to be honest with me for a change? Good thing I’m undead now, ‘cause I might just live to see it!”
“I was going to tell you,” he insisted, but Sookie eye-rolled him as she tucked away her fangs. When he didn’t say more, her head cocked just so, and she tapped her toe. “When I was sure,” he added. She wasn’t giving an inch and his own temper slipped. He used his finger, jabbing to emphasize each point. “So, blame me because I care about you! You have many responsibilities, and you are still young to this life. There is the publicity tour and the pressure of adjusting to being a vampire. I have made you my Queen, even though I knew it would place more burden on your shoulders, but it is a mark of my respect for you! So, forgive me for trying to be kind!” He rocked back on his heels. Sookie’s eyes were wide, and he thought for a moment his words made a difference. That didn’t last long. Her lip curled and Eric saw his Sookie wasn’t yielding.
He took a step back, lowering his arms, and launched into a discussion he hoped would persuade her. “What If there was nothing going on in Europe, my Lover? What if this is nothing more than my own paranoia? I would never forgive myself if I added to your worries for no good reason. I sent Thalia because I’m not sure. I would have told you if she found something.”
“That’s real smooth, Eric,” Sookie snipped. “And if someone else hadn’t told me, I’d probably still be in the dark. When are you going to get it through your thick vampire head? I don’t need ‘saving’! I don’t need coddling! I need you to trust me with the truth… All of it!”
It was on the tip of his tongue to curse his daughters. Karin had run across Thalia in some Balkan town and he knew she’d emailed Pam the whole story: Beryl, the timing of the kill, what Thalia knew about the researcher’s purpose, and the tie to Edward Madden. If there was one consolation, it was that Thalia was off to Spain and Karin was headed for Russia. ‘So, at least there won’t be any more unsanctioned stories flowing from that source,’ he thought selfishly.
Pam wasn’t required to check in with him before sharing information with Sookie. Even though she was his child, he’d freed her, and that meant freeing her to do as she pleased. Still, it didn’t mean he wasn’t annoyed with Pam. She knew he hadn’t shared Thalia’s mission two nights ago and she should have warned him before telling Sookie, out of courtesy.
Instead, he was sure Pam waited for the opportunity when she and Sookie were alone before she recounted the whole story. He could see it now, Pam starting with, ‘I’m sure Eric told you all about Thalia’s job. Did he mention she ran into Karin in the Baltics?’ Eric felt a growl forming. It would be just like his daughter to test whether he’d done as he’d promised, and he had meant to tell Sookie…just not yet.
He watched his mate’s sparking eyes and the telltale jut of her chin. Sookie was furious and, to make matters worse, she’d slammed shut the bond between them, leaving him off balance, unable to read whether his arguments were making any favorable impression. He hissed softly. “I meant to tell you!” he repeated again. “I did! When the time was right!”
“Of all the high-handed, self-serving…” Sookie was working herself into a fine temper when their agent knocked on the door.
“Is everything all right in there? We can hear you in the hallway!” Patti looked demure, but years of working with stars and self-proclaimed stars had given her a certain resilience, which she used now as she faced down her hissing clients.
“Oh, dear!” and Sookie’s Southern Belle was back. “I hope we haven’t disturbed anyone.”
“I know it wasn’t intentional,” Patti answered with just as much honey. “It’s just the microphones are so sensitive.” She glanced from one vampire to the other, “You know, we are trying to show America how happy and welcoming vampires are… I mean, in general.”
Eric deliberately dropped fang. “You mean you don’t think most Americans would be attracted to this?”
“Put those away!” Sookie hissed. “I am sorry! We were having a discussion that should have waited for later. We’re fine!” and she skewered Eric with a glare. “Right?”
It was the opening Eric was looking for and he took it. Wrapping Sookie in his arms, he held her close, willing her to let him in and slowly, he felt the bond open just a crack. “You are my heart,” he hissed so only she could hear. “If I withhold things from you, it’s only because you mean too much to me.”
Sookie sighed, “Charmer!” and Eric knew he’d won again.
If the host heard their arguing, she gave no sign. The interview went as expected. The questions were asked in the order and using the words they’d been provided as part of their preparation. Eric watched Sookie perform in her spontaneous, charming way, smiling and flirting with the camera. She was made for relating to people, her natural interest shining through. ‘So different from that girl who watched others from the outside, wishing she belonged,’ he thought. The Sookie Stackhouse of Bon Temps had been a loner, her telepathy setting her apart in a small town. The Sookie Stackhouse who was born along with their son in Boston was a different woman.
She’d come back from her experiences with a new confidence that allowed her to hold her head high, assuming her acceptance in any room the way other humans took for granted. ‘Girl, to mother, mother to wife…’ he thought, the images of her many faces flickering through his brain. What he wouldn’t know until he saw the footage later was that the camera captured him as well. Sookie might be the charmer, but Eric Northman was the handsome warrior who showed America a deep devotion that had viewers swooning.
As they wrapped up later, sheets covering their clothes as the make-up was removed, Patti and the host joined them. “Can I have your autographs?” the host asked. It took Sookie by surprise. “And, when you finish this tour, I’m hoping you’ll agree to making your last appearance back on this show,” and the host looked at Patti. “You know! The show where I get to ask how the tour went; what they saw as they met America, vampires to humans. Impressions. Where do we go from here?”
“So, we would finish back here in New Orleans?” and Sookie sighed.
“Where they love you. Where you belong,” the host said with enthusiasm.
“We’ll see,” and Patti ushered the host out of the small room.
The make-up people finished and, for a moment, Sookie and Eric were alone, staring into the lit mirror. He glanced at her, taking her hand in his. “I am sorry,” he whispered. “I told Pam I’d tell you. I should have. I shouldn’t have waited.”
“So, you blame Pam?” Sookie asked.
“Pam was teaching me a lesson,” Eric nodded. He thought of the tight shoes and altered wardrobe. “It seems it’s a lesson I’m still learning.”
“Well, it seems you have more than one lesson to learn,” and Sookie winked. “Pam did tell me about Thalia, but she wasn’t the first one.”
That brought Eric up short. His mind raced through the possibilities. He realized he was staring and Sookie was staring right back. It took a bit, especially because the idea that he was wrong didn’t want to register. Finally, he set aside his pride to ask, “Who?”
“I can’t believe you!” and Sookie laughed. “You have the worst opinion of humans!” Taking his hand, she pulled him out of his chair. “Who would Karin have called? Even before Pam?”
“Peter?” Eric thought that over. He considered himself a decent judge of character and the idea that Peter Chandler would pick up a phone to gossip with Sookie didn’t ring true.
Sookie seemed to know what he was thinking, because she explained further. “Peter got the call while he was visiting our son. Hunter overheard most of it.”
“Hunter eavesdropped,” Eric sighed.
“Surely you don’t think our nephew should keep things from me,” and Sookie smirked, “which is a good thing since my husband seems to be struggling with that idea.”
“Then, Hunter must have also confirmed what I’ve told you about Bon Temps,” and Eric launched into a conversation he hoped would distract his mate from returning to her previous bad humor. “It is as I’ve told you. The scent of Fae is overwhelming. We will need to take all care when we visit next week.”
“I’m not calling this off the visit!” Sookie snapped, and Eric struggled not to grin as he watched his gambit work. “Brigid’s due this month. You heard Amy, she’s ready. She could go into labor any time now. I just wish I could be with her when it happens!”
“Even I can’t risk that, Sookie, and I’m old.” He took Sookie’s hand in his, “The blood will be too tempting.”
“I wish she had more women around her. When Rick was born, I had Fran and Lora to help me. It meant a lot. The only woman Brigid has is Karin and no vampire can be there.” Sookie sighed. “When our grandchild is born, she’ll be surrounded by Amy Ludwig and a bunch of men.”
‘Grandson!’ rang like a bell in Eric’s heart, translating into his own interpretation of gender. He’d accepted that one day Pam or Karin would make him a Grandsire, but this was different. He could see his Father’s face before him, feel his Father’s pride. “You mustn’t worry, Älskade. Amy will take care of everything, and Rick will be there.” He raised Sookie’s hand to his lips. “Rick and Brigid are like us, never complete without the other. It is right that this child should come into the world between them, since that’s how it was made.”
Together, they headed for the door that would take them out to their agent and the waiting car. “And if I had been with you,” Eric asked, “would you have wished Rick to be born between us or would your circle of women have been more important?” Eric realized his chin had lifted a fraction of an inch. He hadn’t thought this mattered until he said it.
Sookie’s eyes took on that quality he only saw when she slipped into her role as mother. She rested her hand against him, her lips curving. “I wish you could have seen him,” she said. “I wish I could have shared every part of raising our son with you.”
It was the right thing to say and Eric felt peace settle between them again. “We will share it,” he vowed. “We will find a way to be closer to our son. We will see this child grow.” He kissed her lips. “Together.”
“Together,” and as she smiled, the bond opened like Spring between them.
“Are you sure they’re safe?” It wasn’t the first time she’d asked, so Eric didn’t need to clarify who Sookie was talking about.
“Mustapha has Weres there around the clock, Lover. Rick never travels alone. Your brother is living in the house with them. Hunter is there as well. If something were amiss, we’d know.” Her hair tickled his nose as she shifted. Her movement rubbed her breast across his chest in a most pleasing way and he purred.
“I just have this bad feeling,” Sookie persisted. She plumped the pillow before she sat up, leaning against the headboard. She turned on the light. Eric knew she didn’t need it. It was just one of the many habits Sookie kept from her human days.
“Have you had another dream?” The juncture between her legs smelled appealing, their scents mixed. Eric traced and then dipped his fingers, teasing and tickling until she let her knees fall apart.
“No. I’d have told you if I did.” Sookie sighed, and when he nipped her inner thigh, her fingers found his hair. “Unlike some people, I tell my mate when I know things!”
Eric stopped purring. He lifted his head to stare into her eyes. “I told you I was sorry,” her reminded her.
“It’s just…” and Sookie’s legs closed again. “It’s not what we see. It’s what we don’t see that’s bothering me.”
Growling, Eric joined her against the headboard, resigned to talking instead of what would have brought them both more pleasure. “Explain.”
She gave him that look, but before he could become more irritated, Sookie started talking. “We are still finding these ‘sleepers.’ So are other people. Stan’s people caught one and Isaiah did, too.”
“They are harder to find,” Eric shrugged. “There are not so many. It’s possible the ones being found now are holdovers, spies who weren’t detected until now. Stan says Heidi hasn’t reported any new activity.”
“That doesn’t mean Russell isn’t still up to trouble. Maybe he’s just being cautious. Maude hasn’t found any lately. Neither has Phoebe, not since the first one. Only us, down here in the South, nearer to him.” Sookie’s arms were crossed, which meant she had something more to say.
“So, we have more. You take that as proof of Russell’s involvement?” Eric asked.
“What are you going to do about Rasul?” she asked instead. Eric knew Sookie wasn’t really changing the subject. Eric had come to the conclusion that Rasul was likely a former spy for Russell Edgington, so, by bringing it up, Eric suspected Sookie was getting around to the real point of her worry.
“Rasul is on Karin’s list,” Eric said shortly. “It will look like humans trapped him. I don’t want it said I kill those who have sworn loyalty to me.”
“Like it won’t get out! You know the secret and so do I. So does Karin! You won’t be fooling anyone,” Sookie scolded. “On top of which, we still don’t know for sure what Rasul’s motivation could have been! He could be trying to figure out how to turn himself in, or maybe he wasn’t really spying at all. You know what Heidi told Stan. It’s possible if it is true, Rasul could be a big help to us! You know, like a double agent.”
Now it was Eric’s turn to scowl. “We don’t know that, Sookie, and I am sure he spied. Nothing can change the fact that he broke faith with us!”
“We’re headed to Bon Temps for our visit with Rick and Brigid. I say we visit Rasul next. We take Rick with us. It’s only a few hours away from home and if Brigid goes into labor, we could have him back in Bon Temps in no time. Hell, you could fly him if you had to.” Her chin lifted as she laid out her plan. “At least this way, we stop worrying about what’s in our own back yard. We find out once and for all.”
“You would use our son? Possibly put him in danger for this?” Eric asked.
“How could Rick be in any more danger than he is already?” she challenged in return, “If Rasul can help us, Rick and Brigid might be in better shape after. From what I hear, Rick could monitor the whole thing from across the yard. Rasul wouldn’t even need to know he was there!” She looked so certain, he couldn’t help it. Eric threw his head back as he laughed. Sookie looked surprised as he gathered her close. “My Lover!” he praised. “My Queen! You are thinking like a vampire!”
“I am a vampire!” she squeaked as he pressed her against his chest.
“Yes,” he purred, his good humor restored, “My vampire.”
Praise led to petting and petting to panting. Eric couldn’t help showing his satisfaction as she came apart in his arms. She begged, then moaned. Her orgasm pulled at him but he drove her onward, pushing her until she was shouting, not caring who heard them. Only then did he seek his own release.
Some part of him knew Sookie understood his need to dominate her in this moment and she’d let him. He tried not to think about it too much, allowing his instincts to stretch and purr. He pushed down until he could lay his head where her heart once beat. “This is best,” he whispered against her cool skin. “This is right.”
“We are a pair,” Sookie sighed in return.
Eric didn’t reply. Her fingers ruffled his hair and he enjoyed the moment. He could feel it, her anticipation. She was waiting, and so he gave her what she wanted. “I will tell Rasul to expect us in three nights. Will that satisfy you?”
“Whatever you think,” Sookie said obediently, but her outward subservience did nothing to conceal the satisfaction that sang through their bond.
They left shortly after sunset the next night. Eric drove the Land Rover instead of his Corvette. The car felt bulky in the city streets, but once they hit the highway, the car’s lack of grace disappeared, it’s extra weight adding to the speed and stability of the ride as the speedometer hit eighty and then climbed some more. Sookie glanced in the back again. “I know they’ll be touched. It’s just beautiful, Eric.”
She had run her fingers over the polished surfaces several times as he’d wrapped the cradle in its blankets. He’d shaped it in private, using the hours Sookie rested to carve the pieces and join them so tightly they barely needed glue. It resembled the cradles of his childhood, low with extended rockers. A woman could keep it in motion with her foot while at the same time keeping her hands free for other tasks. Brigid’s child, ‘Rick’s child,’ would rock in the cradle like a boat on the sea. He’d wasted no time in sentimental carving or embellishment. Instead, the entire structure was its own sculpture, the headboard canted backward and the footboard softly rounded. The sides bowed out, planks bent and fitted so that the entire structure resembled a cockleshell boat. ‘A bed fit for a Viking,’ Sookie sighed when he showed her.
Beside him, Sookie shifted. She was uneasy. He’d felt it since her rising. “Pam is meeting us in Lafayette, right?” she asked.
“It’s all arranged,” Eric assured her. “What is it?”
“Nothing,” she lied. She forced that quick smile he hated and turned away from him.
“You know how this will go,” he said when she remained silent. “We will be allowed into his residence. Rasul can’t deny us entry. If things are as you think, Rasul won’t hold back. He will tell us what we need to know.” She still stared out the window but he could feel her mind working. “It may require some persuasion, Lover.”
“It won’t,” she said softly.
“Perhaps you’ve had a dream about this?” he asked. Sookie didn’t say anything and so Eric continued. “Rick will be with Pam outside but close, someplace safe. As soon as Rasul starts talking, Rick will know. His gift is impressive. When Pam joins us, we’ll know Rasul’s fate.”
“I’m right about this!” Sookie insisted, but then she turned slightly. “Though, if I’m not, Eric, we need to make sure Rick’s safe. If Pam leaves him to join us, who will watch his back? Rasul’s been in his Area long enough to have formed alliances. We might be watched.”
“I will send you outside to stand with our son,” Eric replied. “Rick can handle a sword and you’ve done your fair share of fighting,” and then he chuckled. “Just don’t forget which vampire gets the pointy end of your knife.”
“Not funny!” she protested, but she smiled anyway.
“Either way, Pam will continue on to Texas,” Eric continued. “It’s been too long since we saw Stan and it’s past time to have a face to face.”
“You don’t trust him.” Sookie didn’t ask it. She said it.
“I trust,” Eric shrugged, “and then I verify.”
When they pulled into the gravel driveway that led up to the house on Hummingbird Lane, Eric stopped the car. “Get out,” he said softly. “It’s best to acclimate here, before we get closer.”
“I can smell it already.” Sookie sat, stiff and glassy-eyed beside him. “It makes my fangs itch.”
“You’ve smelled Brigid’s scent before,” he reminded her.
“Not like this,” and she swallowed. “It’s so much more! How is that possible?”
“Amy Ludwig thinks it’s the combination of Fae and the magic of making. She thinks once the baby’s born, the smell will mask itself as it did before Brigid’s pregnancy.” Eric stood beside her. “Should we take a run out to the main road? It will clear your nose. It wouldn’t take long.”
“I’m not breathing anymore,” and Eric could feel her sadness. “That’s my son down there and I have to wait before I can see him. They’ve been up here in Bon Temps for months and I’ve only seen them, what? A handful of times?” She stared out into the night. “Can you smell it? It smells like earth and graves.”
“It smells like humid soil,” Eric argued. “That’s Louisiana.”
“I used to love that smell,” Sookie continued. “I’d crumble the dirt between my fingers when I weeded Gran’s roses. I loved the magic of this place, too, but now I don’t! I know I’m supposed to be getting used to all these changes, but I’m not!”
“You have forever, Lover,” Eric soothed. “With each year, you will gain more control.”
“Well, next year I won’t be expecting my first grandchild,” and Eric felt her roil of emotions. “I won’t ever have a chance for this moment with our son again, and I can barely hold myself together!” and she threw her arms up. “I hate this! I hate it!”
Eric gathered his wife within the circle of his arms. It had been over a year since she’d said similar words. He knew she didn’t mean it anymore, not entirely, but it still stung. “I’m making a mess,” she grumbled after a minute.
“We can change before we go into the house,” he assured her.
“They’ll be wondering what’s wrong with us,” Sookie whispered. “I’m sure they saw us the minute we turned in.”
“They know we’ll come to the house when we’re ready.” Eric kept his arms around her, wishing he could make all of this easier, but this was her struggle. He glanced toward the house. “Your brother is on the porch. He’s telling Rick he’s walking out to meet us.”
“I’m not deaf,” Sookie growled. It made Eric chuckle. Sookie allowed one final shudder to run through her. She stepped back, examining her shirt for the stains left by tears. She was fine and Eric’s shirt was dark enough to disguise them. When he reached toward her face, she batted his hand away. “I’m fine! Really! Why don’t we just leave the car here? I’d like to walk.”
Sookie squared her shoulders and took a step. “Thank you,” she whispered, knowing Eric could hear her, then resumed her progress toward her brother.
“Really glad you made it!” Jason Stackhouse said, enfolding his sister into a bear hug when they met. Eric followed more slowly, allowing Sookie the time she needed.
“You look tired!” Sookie scolded, “You catting around with Hunter?”
“We’re like two old bachelor uncles,” Jason replied, shaking his head. “Kind of stuck around here. Hunter’s over at Karin and Peter’s place. Tells me he’s heading to Iowa soon.”
“In another couple weeks,” Sookie nodded. Eric had caught up with them, and he and Jason exchanged quick nods before they all turned toward the warm lights of the house.
When they reached the parking apron, the screen door opened, and Rick stepped out. He didn’t hesitate. He walked down the stairs, his arms open. He hugged his Mom, lifting her up so he could kiss her cheek. “Safe journey up here?” he asked. “We all saw you on TV the other night. Were you guys fighting?”
“It’s none of your business!” but Sookie softened the words by kissing her son in return. “I like the beard.”
“Brigid says it makes me look like a pirate,” and Rick blushed as he lowered his Mom to her feet.
“Well, I think it looks handsome!” Sookie replied and Eric could see her eyes shining. “Come say hello to your Father.” Brigid chose that moment to step on to the porch. Eric couldn’t miss the dark circles that surrounded her eyes or the way her hand drooped over the prominent swell of her stomach. Beside him, Sookie stilled. Unconsciously, his wife licked her lips but, in another moment, Sookie was back in control.
“How are you feeling?” she asked Brigid. She kept her advance toward the porch slow, as if she still didn’t quite trust herself.
“I’m tired,” Brigid answered, “but Doctor Ludwig says it’s to be expected. This one’s a sprinter, like his Daddy.”
“Brigid wore herself out cleaning all day,” Rick tattled as he bound up the stairs to stand beside his mate. “She wanted everything to be perfect.”
“It’s your house,” Brigid added. “I wanted you to feel welcome.”
“It’s your house, now,” and Sookie took Brigid’s hand. She smiled, but didn’t get any closer.
Rick did, though. He kissed Brigid’s cheek, his nose nuzzling her hair, releasing another wave of scent. Sookie’s eyes widened and her smile froze in that way Eric recognized.
“Maybe we should visit out here,” Brigid suggested. “It’s a little close inside,” but then she shivered.
Sookie quickly glanced at Eric. She watched him watch her, and then she felt his pride. It was what she needed. “Don’t be silly,” she told Brigid. “We’ll be right in. Just give us a minute to go get the car. We brought you something.”
It was only a moment to reach the car. “Are you all right?” Eric asked.
She reached for his hand. “Yes,” she told him. “I am.” He opened the door and their eyes met. “Really,” she said again, but he knew it wasn’t him she was convincing.
There was food for the humans and blood for them. Sookie settled into the old armchair in the living room. She automatically reached back for Gran’s afghan before remembering that it was in New Orleans now. “You sure you’re doing okay?” Jason sat down on the arm of the chair, draping his large arm across her shoulders.
“I’m fine,” Sookie said automatically.
Jason wasn’t fooled. “You seen the nursery?” he asked. He didn’t really wait for an answer. “Come on! Let me show it to you.”
In short order, Sookie was up the back stairs. She glanced at the door to Gran’s old bedroom, feeling a stranger in the house she’d grown up in. Yes, things had changed when she and Eric renovated, but then the house had still been hers. Jason steered her into her childhood bedroom. Below the closet floor was the ladder that led down to the saferoom. You couldn’t see the trapdoor under the stacks of diapers. The walls were a soft, buttery yellow. The cradle Eric made was still downstairs in the living room. The crib up here had sturdy bars and a bright mobile of stars and moons. “Kyle, Mustapha’s man, sent that over,” Jason explained, pointing to the mobile.
“The room is beautiful,” Sookie praised. “You’ve done a good job.”
“That old closet is built in now,” Jason explained, and proceeded to give her a tour of the small room, pointing out each change he’d made, from crown molding to paint. “Warren’s been over a bunch of times, but I suppose you knew that.”
Warren, Mustapha’s partner, had been a good source of information, filling Sookie in on details Rick’s calls never provided. “He told me the colors,” Sookie nodded, her fingers straying over the coverlet and bumpers she’d sent. Downstairs there was a burst of laughter. “I should have been here more.”
“I can see you’re blaming yourself,” Jason nodded, “but no one else does. Rick knows. So does Brigid. Hell, I have trouble some days. I swear, she farts catnip! I suppose Mustapha told you how this affects the Weres. Most days I just want to throw myself on the floor and ask her to rub my belly!” and Jason patted the slight rounding of his stomach. “It’s instinct!” He gave his sister a quick nod, “Just like you. Instinct, Sook. Nothing to forgive.”
“Karin doesn’t have these problems,” Sookie sniffed.
“You don’t know that!” and Jason gave a short laugh. “She don’t come around too much. She says she has work to do, but I don’t think she handles it any better than you do, so stop kicking yourself.”
Sookie looked for the lie, but she didn’t see it. Jason might lie from time to time, but he couldn’t cover it well, and Sookie felt better. “Brigid looks terrible!” she whispered.
“Amy says it’s normal but, yeah, she does. Course it’s late for her, too. Once the sun goes down, she kind of wilts. She should sleep later in the morning, but she’s usually up before I am. Fixes me a big breakfast and leaves food outside for the Were that has the night shift. She’s cleaning a lot lately. Amy says it’s nesting.”
“Amy came to see us last week. She said there’s another month to go,” Sookie shared.
“Well, that little Doctor knows her business, I guess, but I’ll be surprised if Brigid makes it the full month,” and Jason winked. “She was carrying higher last week.”
Sookie stilled. “We’re taking Rick with us tomorrow night to Lafayette,” she told Jason. “We need his help.”
“How long?” Jason shook his head. “I mean, I’ll be here, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for Rick to be away right now.”
“Just overnight,” Sookie told him. “It’s important.”
For a minute, Sookie thought Jason would say no, and then she’d need to reconsider, but he didn’t. Slowly, the lop-sided grin she’d known all her life spread across his face and he just shrugged. “Well, hell, if it’s just overnight, that should be okay. To tell you the truth, Brigid’s been henpecking him pretty good. Could be a good thing to put a little space between them. Make her be a little kinder to him when the big day comes.”
“I wish you could see your boys, Jase.” It slipped out and Sookie tried to soften the sting by taking her brother’s hand.
“They don’t want to see me,” her big brother told her, and Sookie’s heart hurt for him. “Hoping when they get a little older that’ll change. For now?” and he jerked his chin toward the door, signaling they should head back downstairs. “For now, I’ll enjoy the family that’s here. That includes you, Sis.”
Jason wrapped his arm around Sookie’s shoulder and, in that moment, all was right with the world again.
When they came downstairs, Brigid was in the kitchen, so Sookie joined her. “Here,” she offered, “Let me do that.” It seemed odd, rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher. It was a luxury she’d never had either as a girl or young woman. “I don’t know what Gran would have made of all these gadgets,” Sookie joked.
“It’s a beautiful house,” Brigid sighed. She’d collapsed into one of the kitchen chairs. She set her feet up on the chair next to her and rubbed her ankle. She looked awkward, reaching around the baby. “Do they look as bad as they feel?” she asked.
“You look great,” Sookie lied. “You getting any sleep?”
Brigid chuckled. “Some. Not a lot. This one seems to think bedtime means wake up. He rolls and rolls, and when he gets tired of that, he just kicks!” As if to illustrate, Brigid’s shirt moved on its own.
“Well, he’s a good, healthy baby, then,” Sookie nodded. “It’s just it’s the last month. Things are a little crowded in there and your baby’s just getting anxious to meet you is all.”
“I’m ready,” Brigid nodded, and then rubbing where the baby was pressing, said, “Really ready.”
“I’m sorry I haven’t spent more time with you,” Sookie said. “You know it’s not my choice, don’t you? You know I’m okay with you and Rick.” Making sure not to take in any air, Sookie walked closer. She wiped her hands to minimize scent transfer before taking Brigid’s hand in her own. “I’m happy he found you. You’re good together and you’re going to make wonderful parents. This little baby,” and Sookie laid her hand next to Brigid’s, “is so lucky to have the both of you.”
“Were you scared?” Maybe it was how bright her eyes were against her pale skin, but Sookie saw a skull superimposed on Brigid’s face.
“No!” She gasped, but in the next instant, the skull was gone, and Brigid looked alarmed. “Well, maybe a little,” and Sookie forced a smile. She’d taken in some air and she fought her instincts, using her focus on comforting the young woman to keep her fangs from dropping. “I think Rick was bigger than this one, but it all turned out okay.”
“I was wondering where you were,” and Eric was behind her. His hand on her back provided the strength she needed and Sookie felt her inner beast settle further.
“Like you couldn’t tell from a hundred feet away!” Sookie teased, winking at Brigid.
“May I get you anything?” Eric asked Brigid. “Perhaps some tea? Or water?”
“Well, well,” Sookie tutted, “He never waits on me this way!” Sookie didn’t wait for the younger woman’s answer. She poured Brigid a glass of water and set it in front of her. “Guess you rate!”
“Rick says he’s going with you to Lafayette,” Brigid said before taking a sip from the glass. “Is this about Rasul?”
Sookie glanced at Eric. She figured he’d asked Rick while she and Jason were upstairs. “We’d like Rick to listen to Rasul’s thoughts, yes.”
Jason and Rick were laughing in the other room and Brigid’s face turned to listen. When the noises next door softened again, she turned back. “He’s doing better about all this than he was. Not so many nightmares.” She smiled at Eric. “I don’t know what you said to him, but it made a difference. Thanks.” Now she turned to Sookie, “I don’t know exactly what he does for you, but it’s changed him. He says it’s just him growing up, but it’s more than that. He’s sadder.”
Rick chose that moment to walk in. “So, party moved to the kitchen?”
Brigid pulled a smile on, one that reminded Sookie of her own ‘Crazy Sookie’ grin. “Your Mom was helping me with dishes and we were just talking.”
“Don’t worry about those, Mom!” Rick protested, “I’ll do them later.” He traced Brigid’s cheek. “You okay? Tired?”
“Always!” she smiled sweetly. “Training, I suppose. Not like we’ll get a lot of sleep after this one shows up.”
Eric stood, “Then, I think it’s time we took our leave. We’ll be back tomorrow night.” He bowed slightly toward Brigid and then Rick, “We’re resting at Pam’s house in Shreveport. We’ll be back soon after sunset.”
“Get some sleep,” and Sookie lightly kissed Brigid’s cheek. “Please don’t fuss on our account. We’ll make it a quiet night. I’d like to hear what you think of the place. I hear you’ve been doing a lot of walking.”
Brigid and Rick walked them to the door. “She doesn’t look well,” Sookie whispered to Eric as they walked to their car.
“She smells healthy,” he assured her. “If there were something wrong, the doctor would tell us.”
Sookie didn’t dare make her own assessment and she wasn’t sure she could tell even if she did breathe in Brigid’s scent, but the vision of the skull wouldn’t go away.