The front desk clerk at the hotel had made a mistake. They charged my personal card for the meals and the trip to the spa. So Claudine and I were patiently waiting for the error to be corrected. Fintan had stayed with us. He would pop away as soon as he had delivered us to the airport safely. I took the opportunity to text Amelia and tell her we were high-tailing it out of New Orleans, and to please call me if she needed anything. I was sure I would have to return earlier rather than later, but when I did it would be with Eric.
“My night is complete for the sight of you two lovely ladies,” said the purring voice of one John Quinn. I knew it was him because his shifter brain was unlike any other. It had a special flavor, if you will.
Claudine and I turned around in synch, and I was suddenly very glad that, although my family wasn’t as huge as Quinn, they were still bigger than me. And probably stronger than him. He was staring at me with open curiosity. It was the kind of look I got a lot when I waited tables. It was the kind of look that, if it had been on a human, it was because that human was wondering my bra size and how good I could give head. I shivered involuntarily and looked away to Fintan, who looked like he was about to tear some limbs.
“What can we do for you, Quinn?” Claudine asked, making Quinn tear his gaze from my body.
“I’m a little disappointed to see that you’re leaving, and that Miss Sookie won’t stay for the Queen’s engagement party,” he said, turning his gaze back to me. Shit!
“Why would I stay? My business here is done,” I said as politely as I could.
“The Queen requested that you attend the party,” he said, and handed me a thick envelope. “I mentioned I had met you, and she seemed quite fond of your other cousin Hadley. It would be her pleasure for you to attend the festivities,” Quinn said, putting emphasis on the word “pleasure.”
“I will have to check my schedule, and if time permits I will attend. Right now I have to get going or I will miss my plane,” I said, and tucked the envelope into my purse. Thankfully the front desk clerk had picked that time to return with the correct printout with the charges to the right accounts. I signed for my things and grabbed Fintan’s hand. I was feeling very upset at the knowledge that the Queen had required me to attend her party and I needed a fairy’s touch.
I’d talk to Eric. Maybe he’d been required to attend as well. Or, even better, maybe he could get me out of going.
“Good night, Quinn,” Claudine said with a smirk.
A car was waiting for us, just like Eric had said he would do. It took us to a private airfield nearby, where a small plane was also waiting for us. The pilot took our bags while we said goodbye to Fintan.
“I will look in on Remy and Hunter. Hunter is my great-grandson, after all,” Fintan said after giving me a big hug and a kiss.
“Please keep me posted. I’d love to meet them someday,” I said. Maybe the two cousins could meet sometime, Hunter and my baby, although Hunter would be four years older.
After Fintan promised to let me know about them, Claudine and I boarded our plane. We’d be in Monroe in an hour. From there a car would take me home to Bon Temps, and another would take Claudine home.
Claudine started pacing around the plane as soon as she could. I was munching on Cheetos and watching her. “What’s wrong?” I asked when I couldn’t take her pacing anymore.
“It’s very strange for Hadley to want to turn someone,” she answered, voicing her worries. “She wasn’t the kind of person who would have thought that way. She seemed selfish, or maybe not selfish but self-centered. I don’t know…” her voice drifted. She stopped pacing and stood with her hands on her hips, looking as lovely as ever even in her confusion. “I smell a rat.”
Well! Whatdayaknow??? I was always smelling rats around vampires. I guessed it was a fairy thing. “Me too,” I concurred.
“I’ve been around for a long time; long enough to agree with Eric that whoever killed Hadley is out to upset Queen Sophie-Anne. He’s absolutely right. Hadley was her new favorite. I’m certain that the King of Arkansas wants to cause trouble for the Queen, even if he goes about it in a roundabout way. Without us, once Hadley was dead, the bracelet would not have appeared. The King would have questioned the Queen’s intentions and future fidelity, there could have been a war, and all hell would have broken loose. And, ultimately, that’s what he wants. You should not go to that engagement party,” she said, looking me in the eye.
No argument there. “I don’t want to go. But I may have to go. I’ll talk to Eric. I still have Freyja’s stones. I’ll wear them even if they don’t match my new dress,” I said, hoping that if push came to shove, the stones would indeed protect me as they should. They had already worked a miracle. I had no reason to question their power.
“Good, good. Wear the brooch too, even if you put it in your underwear. If I feel something I’ll pull you through. It will take slightly longer than you pulling me, but it should work if all else fails,” she said, making contingency plans in her head.
“Pull me through? As in pop me to another place?” I asked.
“Yes, that’s the idea. You pulled me when that one witch tried to put a spell on you at the grocery store. True, I arrived where I wasn’t supposed to, but it still worked.”
“Oh, okay,” I said. I understood some of it.
We arrived in Monroe at close to ten in the evening. The flight had only taken an hour, but must have cost a fortune. However this was one time that I didn’t care, would not check, and didn’t blame Eric for the expense. He wanted me out of New Orleans, Claudine wanted me out of New Orleans… heck! I wanted me out of New Orleans, and now I was out of New Orleans. Piece of (very expensive) cake.
Claudine and I parted ways, with me thanking her profusely, and her extracting a promise of more pies from me. If that’s what she wanted as payment, that’s what she’d get. I called Eric from the car to let him know I was on my way home.
“I will join you as soon as I’m done at Fangtasia,” he said. I knew he would drive too fast.
“Just please take it easy. I’m not going anywhere once I get home.” If anything I was going to shower, change into the most comfortable nightgown I owned (my ratty Mickey Mouse one) and watch TV while I waited for him… maybe take another nap.
And by golly, that was exactly what I did. The only difference was that I became hungry again, so I had to heat up a frozen dinner, which was all I had at that house. I texted Eric to bring me apples. So it begins, he texted back.
I sat in front of the TV eating a Marie Callender’s chicken pot pie, and not finding much by way of actual programs to watch. I ended up drifting to the movie channels. They were showing Ocean’s Eleven, the best “Ocean’s” movie. So when I was done eating I snuggled to watch all the beautiful men that starred in the movie.
“I always find you sleeping.” I jerked awake to see my darling husband crouched beside me. I’d fallen asleep alright, in the worst position. Thank goodness I’d just had Eric’s blood the day before, or I would have a crick in my neck.
“Hi, honey,” I said and stretched. I felt a wandering hand touching my breast while I… sort of… pushed the girls out.
“You can make Mickey Mouse sexy, dear one,” he said, running a lazy finger around and around my nipple. He rearranged his body from the crouch to kneel next to me, and bent to claim my mouth. I had missed him. We’d only been apart one day! But he tasted and smelled of home. Eric was my home.
His hand drifted to pull the blanket off me and to lift my nightgown up. His other hand got tangled inside my hair. My hands weren’t idle either. I found myself lifting his sweater, the blue one I’d given him. Too soon he broke the kiss and moved his face to my belly. “Hello, baby,” he kissed the spot right below my bellybutton and made me giggle. “It’s Daddy. I missed you,” he whispered. Yep! Definitely something he’d never live down if Pam saw him now.
Eric continued tugging my panties down and off, moving so he could plant some kisses at the same time that he nuzzled my curls. “Daddy missed Mommy too,” he said, before a growl escaped him. I held onto his sweater while he ran a lazy tongue through me, tasting me and making me squirm. I lifted a leg onto the back of the couch to allow him better access, while he pulled my other leg up over his shoulder. He was settling in for a feast.
I let out a low moan and moved my hands to tangle my fingers through his hair, watching his head bob up and down tending to my center with soft strokes of his tongue. Each cool lick made my body hotter, and soon I had to take off my nightgown completely and let the cold air soothe my incensed skin. I pulled on his sweater, so I could at least touch his bare arms and shoulders.
I felt one long finger probe me and enter, and my whole body clamped down around it. I relaxed as another finger entered me, searching for my secret spot. When those naughty fingers found it I howled in pleasure as I threw my head back. My cries were timed with each stroke. Eric let out a low rumble against my core, making my whole body vibrate as my bliss built inside me. One more stroke of his fingers and I burst. “Eric! Eric!”
Eric rumbled some more, lapping placidly at my center, making me shake every time his cool tongue met my now over sensitive skin. I pulled on his hair to make him stop. I needed a break. I sat up against protestations that lacked any coherency, so he had to sit up too. We switched positions, with him lying back on the couch, and me kneeling before him. I peeled off his jeans and his underwear, kissing the naked skin I revealed, and watching his gracious plenty twitch at feeling neglected.
I stroked him and watched him. He was smiling with his fangs fully extended, looking more like a devil than a man. I smiled back, and licked the tiny drop of fluid that had formed on the tip. Eric was so excited that the little hood was almost completely pushed back off the head. I pushed it down all the way, revealing the whole head for my pleasure. I scraped my teeth (not too hard) over the soft flesh, making him hiss. I ran my tongue around and around, coating it with saliva, and watching Eric hold on to the couch. I could only guess he wanted to prolong the enjoyment of my mouth on him, rather than just take me. My turn on was seeing him at my mercy.
A long low growl told me Eric was enjoying my attentions. I kissed “the babies,” giving them a good licking too so they wouldn’t feel neglected, and stroked him with my free hand. I was becoming more comfortable touching Eric as he touched me, exploring as he explored me. He didn’t let me continue any of my explorations, lifting me under my arms and pulling me to him. I understood that to mean he wanted to be inside me. I straddled him, one leg up on the couch, the other on the floor. He sat up and guided himself inside me, grabbing my bottom and helping me move. I could see how he disappeared inside me. I could see how he brought me pleasure.
I wrapped my arms over his shoulders and crushed my lips to his, pricking my tongue on a fang as I tried to invade his mouth. Eric sucked on my tongue greedily, until his own saliva sealed my wound. I pulled away and did the same thing with my thumb. Between the euphoric feeling of his taking the tiny bits of blood, and the immense bliss of having him inside me, I knew I wouldn’t last long. I wanted release. My body was shaking with the need for it.
“Sookie… Sookie,” Eric was the one begging now, and I couldn’t hold on to reality anymore. His cries of pleasure pushed me over and I came with a scream behind closed lips. I was barely aware of him burying his face at my neck, and never felt the bite, only the purple euphoria and the joy of being one.
I was rubbing my face against his shoulder when I came back to myself. It was something I’d learned from Eric. I kissed his neck over and over, letting him hold me tight against his body. He was breathing hard. He moved his face to nuzzle my neck, probably where he’d taken blood, I wasn’t sure. It took us a while to be able to let go.
“You can’t leave me again,” he said as he let go of me reluctantly. I started picking up clothes.
“I wasn’t gone that long, only a day,” I said, but I was feeling the same way.
“It doesn’t matter. It was too far. Blood bonded pairs shouldn’t be that far apart,” he said. He seemed to be struggling with his underwear, like he couldn’t make heads or tails of it. It was kind of funny. I giggled. “What is funny?” he asked frowning at his underwear.
“You’re all discombobulated. I almost never get to see you like that,” I said, and took his underwear to put it right side out. I held it out to him, but he caught my waist and made me return to him.
“I’m no good without you. You have bewitched me,” he said, and started kissing my neck. Sure enough, he started feeling frisky again.
He made me lie back down on the couch and took me again. This time it was slower, less lustful and more loving. At the very least our baby had two parents who truly loved each other. Our climax wasn’t loud or fierce, but it was still divine.
“We have to talk,” I said, caressing his hair. He was draped over me, skin to skin.
“Do we have to?”
“Yes, because the Queen wants me to go the engagement party for some ungodly reason, and the party is in a couple of nights,” I said, sounding a little pissed about it, maybe because I was. Hadley was still causing havoc, even after meeting her one true Maker.
“Shit,” Eric said, putting his forehead against my breastbone. “How did this come about?”
I told Eric about Quinn meeting us at the lobby of the hotel, and that he had probably guessed I was the same Sookie married to Eric. I told him about the invitation that was in my purse. Eric got up and retrieved it. I hadn’t opened it, so he did. After reading it he handed me a handwritten note that had been tucked inside the actual invitation.
Thank you for finding and returning my favorite dress. As a show of gratitude I would be extremely pleased to have you at my engagement to the King of Arkansas. Please accept this invitation, which is also extended to your esteemed husband.
Sophie-Anne Leclerq, Queen of Louisiana
I looked up from the note with a question in my eyes. Eric was shaking his head and started pacing in that way he had. “We have no choice. We have to go,” he said. “Okay, alright. I’m going to make some phone calls,” he said, took his phone and went to the kitchen. I knew better than to follow. He needed some room.
“Favorite dress,” I said out loud. Obviously code for finding her bracelet. If the note was intercepted, no one would know what Sophie-Anne meant. The wheels in my head were turning sluggishly. I was tired and hungry.
Eric returned just a few minutes later, bearing an apple. He sat next to me, tucking a lock of hair behind my ear. He liked to do that, I’d noticed. “We have to go, but we’re not staying any longer than we have to. We’ll fly there in time for the party, and fly back the moment it is over. I suspect the Queen mentioned you as one of the kingdom’s assets and therefore you have to make an appearance.”
“Terrific,” I said sarcastically, and bit into my apple.
I was wearing my brand new dress, Freyja’s stones, and a brand new black dress coat, a gift from Eric. Eric looked good enough to eat in a tuxedo. God I just loved him in anything! I’d almost made us late because I couldn’t keep my hands off him dressed the way he was. He’d had way more strength to resist me than I did to resist him.
“But trust me,” he whispered in my ear as we boarded the plane, “on our way back I will be fucking you out of that dress right inside this airplane.”
I needed new underwear.
We arrived in New Orleans at the same private airfield I’d left from just two nights before. A car took us to a converted old church, which now belonged to Queen Sophie-Anne, and was where she held most state functions. I quick glance around me told me that I was dressed just right, and my thick stone necklace wouldn’t stand out.
At the entrance to the old church, we stood in line to congratulate the two monarchs on their upcoming nuptials. The line moved slowly and I was cold. Eric tried his best, but other than putting a protective arm around me, there wasn’t much he could do for me. We reached the coat check, and Eric was the gentleman and helped me out, pocketing the ticket for my coat.
Eventually we reached Sophie-Anne and her husband to be. “Sookie, dear!” she said. She looked truly pleased to see me, grabbed my shoulders and brought me in to her to kiss my cheeks. She did the same to Eric, but he already knew what to expect.
“Peter, darling, I’d like you to meet Eric Northman, Sheriff of Louisiana’s Area 5, and his wife and blood bonded Sookie Northman,” Sophie-Anne said, as Eric and I both bowed to the King of Arkansas.
The King nodded briefly to acknowledge Eric’s status, but then eyed me curiously, like I was an oddity. Obviously he knew what I could do. My eyes drifted to the people standing behind the King and Queen. Andre stood behind Sophie-Anne, and the King had an ugly woman standing behind him. She must have been his second. She was of Asian origin, but that wasn’t what made her ugly. She simply had mean and severe features. Perhaps if she had smiled, she would have looked lovely, but I didn’t think she was the kind who could have smiled. Plus her haircut looked stupid, but that wasn’t something she could change as a vampire, unless she cut it every night.
“Welcome,” the King said, mostly to me. I nodded again, bypassing the previous curtsy. I wasn’t about to do it twice in a row.
Eric pushed me ever so slightly, giving me permission to move forward, thank God! We moved into the main ballroom. We had been assigned to a table, but from Eric’s apprehension, we weren’t going to be sitting anytime soon. Not that I wanted to.
“Let’s dance,” he said, threading my arm into his. He led us to the dance floor. I knew what he was doing without him having to tell me. He was nervous and wanted to scan the room. There was no better way to do so without seeming obvious, than to dance.
He twirled us effortlessly around the dance floor. There were several couples, including one that looked like professionals. They were both vampires, and moved so gracefully it made me choke up and get goose bumps. It was like listening to a beautiful harmony that I could actually see. I was totally focused on the two dancers, when Eric bent to whisper in my ear.
“You and I are leaving. Go to the ladies’ and I’ll retrieve you,” he said, and kissed my neck to keep up the pretense. He was in battle mode, and his fear was more prominent than ever. Obviously he feared for my safety now more than ever.
He walked me slowly to the ladies’, pretending to wait for me outside. Once inside I took several deep breaths, trying to calm down my own runaway heart. Eric was stressed enough to add my own worry to his.
The door opened and I was half expecting to see Eric, but it was that vampire woman, the King of Arkansas’ second. What was she doing in the bathroom? I didn’t have to wonder long. She reached behind her and pulled the longest, shiniest sword I’d ever seen. My eyes were trained on it, my heart leaping and my adrenaline spiking. I wanted to run, but there was nowhere to go, so I backed up and away.
The woman’s nostrils flared and she did something I thought she couldn’t do: she smiled. “Fear,” she said, enjoying seeing me cower. “You smell just like your cousin.” At that moment I knew, beyond shadow of a doubt, that the woman was there to bring about my death, just like she had brought about Hadley’s.