I was cornered. More than that, I knew help wouldn’t come. I could hear screams coming from the outside. Something bad was happening, and this woman had taken advantage of the situation to kill me. I was an asset to Louisiana, after all. And a successful Sheriff’s blood-bonded. Killing me would cripple him or take him out of the picture altogether. It’s amazing how much common sense fits inside a brain that’s full of adrenaline. I knew why I was a target. It had been fairly easy to figure out.
The woman advanced towards me, her sword raised and ready to deprive me of my head. I knew I needed that, so I screamed for help sort of loudly, damaging my throat in the process. Our baby! I screamed louder, if only to protect me for our baby’s sake.
I felt a sort of hum emanating from my throat as I tried to scream some more. The necklace! Right from my throat and into the room, like lightning, the blue glow shot up and out like a shock wave. Only it didn’t do what I thought it would do, which was to stop my attacker. Oh, God! Figures it’s defective!
Something or somebody broke through the tall windows above where I was standing against a far wall. This bathroom must have backed up against the outside courtyard of the old church. Before I could make heads or tails of what had landed right in front of me, the striped body of a tiger burst through the bathroom door, splintering it to pieces.
The vampire looked shocked, and I must say that so was I. Right in front of me, in a protective stance against my attacker, there were two huge lions roaring like beasts and trying to swipe at the vampire with their thick claws. Behind her the tiger launched the first attack, latching onto her neck and shaking her until the sword fell from her hands.
I was paralyzed. I wasn’t sure if the lions would turn on me. They had caught the vampire completely by surprise. With a disgusting crunching sound the tiger did to her what she had intended to do to me. I had to look away and try to hold my breath when the stench of dead vampire filled the bathroom.
Sure enough, the lions turned to me, and I thought for sure I was next. I couldn’t scream anymore. The fear that finally gripped me left me speechless. It was like being in a nightmare, when something bad is going on and you can’t call for help, and no matter how hard you try to scream nothing will come out. My knees gave and I sank to the floor. In the back of my mind I registered that there was still a battle raging fiercely outside the bathroom in the main hall. Eric… I called his name in my mind, calling my blood bonded to me. In my fear I couldn’t feel him. Maybe he’s no more… I welcomed death and closed my eyes in prayer as the beasts bore down upon me.
And then… nothing.
I felt a large furry and purry body sitting against my side and another against my legs. I opened my eyes. The lions had sat next to me, looking more like guard dogs than lions. The tiger sat in front of all three of us, all three cats with their eyes trained on the door.
They were protecting me.
My eyes widened at the realization. That extra shot of adrenaline really sharpened my mind. Freyja’s sacred animals: cats. They’d come to my rescue. I heard my phone ringing in my purse, which was in front of the lion at my side. I reached for it slowly, but the lion wasn’t about to do anything to me. It was Claudine.
“I’m not sure whether to pull you or not. You seem calm now,” she said quickly. I could hear her breath stuttering, as if she was walking really fast.
“I have to stay. All hell broke loose and Eric’s fighting. I don’t know where he is but I need to find out,” I said, starting to stand up. The tiger made a loud huffing noise, as if it had understood every word I’d just said. Oh, of course! “Quinn is guarding me. He won’t let me go look for Eric,” I said, translating the huff.
“You stay where you are! You are in no position to fight against supes!” Claudine yelled at me over the phone.
“Fine, whatever, in that case let me concentrate on trying to feel for my husband!” I yelled right back.
“Call me when it’s over,” she said and we hung up.
I concentrated, daring to close my eyes knowing that I had three giant cats guarding me. I explored the bond and finally felt him. There was so much rage and bloodlust that I had to close off the connection as best I could. Instead, I called to him again. Whatever he was doing, he needed to extricate himself and come get me. Then we were leaving.
Within a few minutes he strode purposefully in the bathroom, looking more like the angel of death personified than my husband. He saw Quinn and hissed loudly. I stood up quickly, just in case these two were about to go at it. With a sickening sound I saw as the air shimmered and shifted around Quinn, at the same time that his body changed from animal back to man. Back to a very naked man. I kept my eyes averted. I’d only ever seen Eric naked.
“What is the meaning of this?!” Eric bellowed.
“I killed Jade Flower. She was trying to decapitate Sookie,” Quinn explained, keeping it short and simple.
I decided he needed a little more explanation. It’s not every day you find your wife surrounded by a zoo. “Freyja’s stones called the cats,” I said, and Eric’s rage diminished slightly. I was wondering when the other two people were going to turn back into humans, or if they didn’t want me to know their secret.
Eric wasn’t a mind reader, but he could see I was expecting something from the lions. “They’re not shifters. They’re real cats,” he said and moved closer to me. Both lions stood up and growled menacingly. Obviously I would have to go to him.
I walked forward and let Eric pick me up. He didn’t look hurt, just covered in blood. “Are you alright?” I asked. He seemed to be assessing me too.
“Fine. I owe you, Quinn. Collect anytime,” Eric said without taking his eyes off me, and with that he flew up to the windows above the lions. Slowly he maneuvered us out, taking care not to hurt me with the leftover bits of glass. He found the car that was waiting for us, got us inside and told the driver to floor it. We were back at the airport in five minutes, and the driver was five hundred dollars richer for his speed.
As soon as we reached the tarmac and the awaiting plane, I pulled my cell and called Claudine. I told her quickly that we were about to board a plane back to Shreveport and she breathed in relief. “Okay, good. Fintan was about to have a stroke. I’ll call him right now,” and with that we hung up.
In the airplane the smell of dead vampire became horrendous. It was clinging to Eric more than me and it was making me sick. Welcome to pregnancy and a better sense of smell, I told myself. “Could you take off your clothes or something?” I said without giving Eric any more detail.
“Darling Sookie. I know I told you I would make love to you on the airplane, but I must ask for a… what do you call it? A rain check,” he said, using the term I used whenever I wasn’t feeling like participating in “nighttime activities.”
“No, honey. The smell is horrible. I’m about to get sick from it,” I said, scrunching my nose. I realized some of the blood that had been on Eric’s clothes had transferred to mine too, but not as much.
Eric smiled a little crooked grin, and started stripping. He bundled up everything and put it in the trash can of the plane’s bathroom. He’d been wearing an undershirt and a pair of navy silk boxers which did not have any blood on them, so he kept those on. At that moment I was very grateful and relieved that Eric didn’t have any issues with nudity, though he wasn’t nude. But he was close.
He sat down on the large chair next to mine, and picked me up to sit my on his lap. He held me close and asked me to tell him everything that happened. I knew he wouldn’t tell me anything about what had happened to him until I told him what had happened to me. So I did, leaving out nothing.
“I heard you screaming, but every time I tried to go to you someone got in the way to try to kill me,” he said when I was finished. His tone was somber and his expression even more so.
“Why on God’s green Earth does the Queen keep lions as pets?” I asked a little perturbed. It really made no sense.
“You saw how well they protect, and they guard the place day and night. Plus I suppose she enjoys the spectacle,” Eric said and shrugged.
“Did she get hurt in the fight?” I asked a little scared. I didn’t want to think about the King of Arkansas now being the King of Louisiana too.
“No, she’s fine. Wybert lost his head, though. That’s how the whole thing started. One of the Arkansas vampires accused Wybert of bumping into him, and lopped off Wybert’s head with a long sword. That gave the rest of Arkansas the excuse they needed to commence the battle. I believe the King of Arkansas is the one who is now dead,” Eric said. His voice had gone down in pitch. That meant that trouble was ahead. “Sophie-Anne is now the Queen of Arkansas as well as Louisiana.”
“Oh, okay,” I said. I guessed it was in the premarital agreement. Unless she’d been the one to kill him, in which case it would be more of a coups d’état. “So now what?” I asked, always needing to know what the future held, if it was possible to know.
“Now nothing. Arkansas is not my problem, and I don’t really care if Sophie-Anne just made herself wealthier. I was just trying to protect what is mine,” he said and closed the subject, but I could see the wheels in his head were still turning.
It was easy to guess what he was thinking. Tonight someone had come close, too close, to taking away that which he loved most. We weren’t safe, and soon we wouldn’t be wrapped up into this neat little package. When our baby came he would have double the worry. As would I.
“Lay back, Sookie, and spread your knees,” Doctor Ludwig ordered sitting next to me on the bed. With one gloved hand she reached inside me and felt around, pushing down on my abdomen a little. Eric was nearby, growling and hissing but staying put.
“Shush, Northman. What would you have me do? Guess?” the tiny doctor asked. Eric tried to control himself, but it wasn’t easy for him. Talk about possessive!
Doctor Ludwig closed her eyes and mumbled something in a foreign language, probably some sort of incantation. She withdrew her hand and looked at me with a beatific smile. “There is a baby in there, only one. I was afraid with your fae heritage you might have twins. However, you do need to see a human doctor for high risk pregnancies. I know someone with whom you can be completely honest, so I will refer you,” she said and got up.
“Why high risk? What’s wrong?” I asked immediately, pulling the sheet back over me to cover myself up.
“It’s just a precaution. I am grateful you’ve told me the circumstances surrounding the conception. Now I want to make absolutely sure this baby is born absolutely healthy.” She took off her gloves and tossed them in a trash bin near our bed. Lately I’d been feeling queasy, and so I kept it there just in case. Doctor Ludwig began scribbling on several prescription notes, handing each finished one to Eric.
“Prenatal vitamins, extra B-12, referral to see Doctor Ein. You may take blood from Sookie, but no more than a mouthful every other day, and only until her sixth month. After that she will need the extra blood volume, so you will have to cut down to only twice a week,” then she turned to me. “I understand that taking blood from Eric is part of being bonded, but since we don’t know the effects on the baby, better not do it unless it is a dire circumstance and your life or your baby’s life is at stake. I very much doubt that any exchanges that have taken place since the pregnancy have had any adverse effects, but it is better to be safe.”
The doctor started to put her things away and talking to us in general. “Maintain a healthy diet with lots of protein and complex carbohydrates, indulge your healthier cravings as much as you like, but try to use moderation when your craving for Cheetos strikes again,” she smiled remembering what I’d told her of my latest craving: Cheetos and Corn Pops. Thank goodness Corn Pops now had more fiber, or so said the box, so eating a large mixing bowl of Corn Pops with milk wasn’t half as bad as polishing off the giant bag of Cheetos I’d bought.
Doctor Ludwig turned to Eric. “You better be able to control yourself if you want to see your baby. Doctor Ein will be doing the first sonogram at eight weeks, and it will be a trans-vaginal one. She will check the heart and make sure the baby’s size corresponds to the gestational period. You cannot growl at Doctor Ein while she’s checking on your baby. She will throw you out of the room.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Eric said, trying not to say it through gritted teeth.
“I’ll come check on you after you see Doctor Ein, but she should really be your primary doctor from now on. This is a completely human baby, and she is the best at what she does,” the doctor said to me patting my hand.
After she left we sat in the living room digesting the information and waiting on a roast I had in the crock pot. My large kitchen in Shreveport now had every appliance and piece of cookware I needed, just like my small kitchen in Bon Temps.
“How are you feeling?” Eric asked. He’d been asking me that for the past six days since we’d left New Orleans.
“Amazingly well,” I said, changing from my usual response of “good.” Actually I was really excited that in a week or so I would get to see my baby on a sonogram. I’d seen other people’s printouts from their own sonograms (Arlene had both of her kids’ inside a tiny frame in her living room). I wasn’t sure what to expect at eight weeks, but I just wanted the reassurance that there was a baby and that she was healthy. And, yes, I was sure it was a girl. My new mommy sense told me so.
“Why are you so excited?” he asked, looking at the prescription notes with a frown. I told him why and he looked up in concern. “It’s hard to control myself when someone else touches you. Perhaps you should go to the appointment alone. I do not want to embarrass you.”
“Oh, no, you don’t!” I said immediately. “You’re coming with me to see our baby. You may skip the regular appointments if you want to, but not the ones when we get to see the baby.”
Eric smiled indulgently and caressed my cheek. “Alright, my love. Anything for you as long as you can forgive me later.”
“I’ll forgive you later,” I said.
Two weeks later, on Valentine’s Day, we made our way to Doctor Ein’s office. She was a friend of Doctor Ludwig, and a witch. That explained how she knew about the supernatural world. Doctor Ludwig told us to trust her, and one look into her mind told me she had done this type of thing before, though not with a vampire’s child. She was truly surprised (in a good way) at our miracle. As a witch, she understood about the goddess and what Eric’s faith had accomplished.
Doctor Ein was the only one in the office that late, so she showed us to the sonogram room. “I like to do the sonograms myself. I know what I’m looking for in high risk pregnancies, though I doubt yours is that risky.” She smiled and had me lie on the paper-lined bed with stirrups. Eric was to sit beside my head and stay there. He’d been listening attentively to everything that had been said, but not daring to open his mouth. I suspected his fangs had lengthened.
The doctor showed me the probe, which she called a wand, which she would be inserting to see the baby. “It is still too small to see properly if we used the other kind of probe,” she said, pointing at a short stubby one with a wide head that was sitting neatly in its own holder.
She inserted the probe and Eric immediately balked. He was trying so hard to be good for me. I held his hand tight, looking at the black and white screen in front of the doctor and trying not to squirm as she moved the probe around. Suddenly she stopped. “There it is,” she said, her voice full of wonder. I could see in her mind that she enjoyed this part very much: the first time the parents got to see their baby.
On the screen all I could see was a lot of black and a gray circle. She kept the probe steady and pointed at the monitor. “You see that? That is the heart. It’s beating nice and fast, very healthy.”
Eric gasped. “That’s what I’ve been hearing,” he murmured. “It’s very faint.”
“I suppose it is. The baby is only about the size of a kidney bean, and it is very well-cushioned inside its mommy. As it grows bigger you will hear it better and louder.”
“It?” Eric asked.
“I don’t know the sex of the embryo yet,” Doctor Ein explained, but she understood. “I can call it a she if it makes you feel better.”
Eric nodded and I smiled. It seemed he wasn’t set on a particular sex. He just wanted a child.
“Well, there you have it. Baby Northman is doing very well,” Doctor Ein announced, and started moving the probe and doing other tests. She explained them all, but I was only half listening.
. I looked up at Eric who was looking down at me. His eyes were rimmed with red. I squeezed his hand and smiled, keeping my own tears at bay. If he started crying, then I would cry too, and I was feeling too happy. He was happy too, and so touched by the miracle of seeing his child alive inside me that he couldn’t contain the tears. He quickly wiped them with his handkerchief.
We went to Fangtasia with several pictures of our little kidney bean. I had every intention of showing Pam. She met us in Eric’s office to give him information about all the Valentine’s Day happenings. When she was done I waved her over to the couch and she sat beside me. I put the sonogram pictures in her hand.
“What is this?” she asked, reading the information and trying to decipher it.
“That’s the baby,” I said.
“Oh!” she said, and there was an actual look of surprise on her face. Then she frowned. “It looks like a peanut. It doesn’t have a head or arms or legs.”
“No, Pam. That comes over the next few weeks. You know, I’m reading Pregnancy for Dummies. Do you want to borrow it?” I asked, thinking she’d say no with disgust.
“Yes! Bring it tomorrow,” she said, flooring me for sure. “I have a baby shower to plan, remember?”
I smiled, and I could feel Eric’s amusement too. Pam was really going crazy about this. “Okay, I’ll bring it.”
Then Pam did something that I never ever thought she’d do. She patted my belly and talked to it. “Hello, there! It’s your Auntie Pam. You and I are going to take over the world.” She said the last sentence with her usual stoic tone and expression.