“Quinn!” Eric called out, making the shifter turn around. “Does the head of security need my wife for anything?” Eric asked, finally taking himself away from my embrace. He was trying to soothe me, but at the same time I knew he had to handle this. If not him, then it would have to be someone from the Queen’s retinue, like Andre. I preferred Eric, and I’m sure Eric preferred Eric too.
“Not at this time. She might be called later,” Quinn said raising an eyebrow.
“I rather it be now. Where is his office?” Eric said rising to his full height.
“They are still interrogating the man. Maybe it’s better if she’s not there for it,” Quinn said, puffing himself up too. The two men were impressive. Who had the bigger penis, and all that macho bull.
Eric thought about it briefly. “Please let the chief of security know that he may not speak to my wife unless I am present. So if he wants to speak with her he better do it tonight. She will be busy tomorrow.”
I felt like a toy, and my owner was telling the other kids that nobody was allowed to play with me unless he was there to play with me too. Possessive jerks, all of them! Whatever. I didn’t want to talk to anybody about anything anyway. What would I say? “The guy thought nasty things”? Who would believe it? I looked at the two men in the hall, preening like peacocks. They believed what Barry and I had seen. But if Queen Sophie-Anne didn’t give permission for my secret ability to be known, then there wasn’t anything I could tell the chief of security other than the guy looked suspicious and hope they’d believe me.
Eric turned to look at me. He could feel my internal struggle, but I didn’t feel like sharing. I could tell my mood had turned sour. Freakin’ hormones. Plus it didn’t help that Quinn had interrupted the one thing that was making me feel better.
“Are you thirsty?” Eric asked, giving me an out. I loved him then, so, so much.
“Yes! I’m really thirsty. I need something like iced tea,” I said. That wouldn’t be as easy to get as water, so we’d have to go up one floor to the lobby and to one of the restaurants there. The refreshments for humans in the vampire conference left much to be desired. The refreshments for vampires, however… There had been willing humans standing off to the sides near special rooms set up for feeding or whatever else they were willing to do. I didn’t even want to think about it.
Eric took my hand and we walked past Quinn to the nearest bank of elevators. As soon as we were inside one he stopped it by flicking some switch inside a box. I was pretty sure he’d broken the lock on the box in order to do that. Eric proceeded to finish what he’d started in the hall.
“Come here, you owe me some neck,” he said nuzzling me and taking my scent inside himself.
“I’m too stressed for necking,” I said. It was a half truth. Eric was starting to talk me into it.
“Shh… let me kiss you,” he said inside a breath and moved my face up, peppering my jaw with soft kisses that moved to my cheeks, then my forehead. I closed my eyes and felt his cool breath on my eyelashes as he brushed his lips past them. Finally he kissed my lips, soft pecks that I returned kiss for kiss. He pulled away just as I thought he was going to kiss me more passionately. “There. Are you better?”
“No,” I said pouting and crossing my arms.
“What do you want?” he asked giving me one of his sexy smiles. They were different from his smug ones.
“I want you to finish what you started,” I said, still pouting.
Eric didn’t say anything and knelt in front of me, running his hands up my legs and reaching for my panties. He pulled them down in one swift move and stuck them in the inside pocket of his blazer.
“Eric! What are you doing?”
“Sookie, that is a silly question,” he answered and disappeared under my skirt. Why? Why did he have to do this to me now? I held onto the handrails at either side of me as he pulled one of my legs over his shoulder and spread my folds first with his fingers then with his tongue. Jesus Christ Shepherd of Judea, inside an elevator!
My breath picked up at the same time as my heart, and I began shaking when his fingers started thrusting inside me. I let out a sound from somewhere inside my chest, low and feral, and stopped it before it could get any louder. He kept his assault, nice and steady, dipping inside me, lapping at my center with a hungry moan. My head lolled back as I gave myself over to the feeling. I came into his mouth, listening to his greedy groan as he licked me clean.
When Eric reappeared he was licking his fingers giving me a hungry look. “Better?” he asked, leaning over me as I tried to recover.
“Mmm-hmm…” I said and looked up. “Oh, God! Eric! That’s a camera!” I said, pointing at the small cover mounted on a corner of the elevator. I hung my head in shame. How many security people had just seen my husband go down on me?
“It was probably attached to this cable,” he said pulling on a frayed cable from inside the box. “Would you stop worrying? Nobody cares,” Eric grabbed my waist. “Come here.” He brought my face up and kissed me, even through my protests.
“You know I’m not like that. You know I don’t like to share our private life with anybody. How could you, Eric?”
“I swear to you that nobody saw us,” Eric said with a dead serious expression. “I would never do that to you.”
I didn’t take my eyes off him. If he hadn’t meant what he said he would have smiled after a few moments, but he didn’t. “You better be right, Eric Northman.”
“I don’t share well,” he said, “Except with my son.” Eric caressed my baby bump lovingly.
“Your daughter,” I corrected, calming down by degrees.
“Our baby,” he whispered and smiled.
Eventually we returned to the conference. Eric had refused to return my underwear and I was very grateful that my skirt wasn’t that short. When the Employment Law lecture was over it was time for me to follow the Queen around some more.
Pam was in charge of me now, and she took my arm with a fangy smile. I knew she could tell I had no underwear and could probably smell Eric all over me, and God only knew what else. I rolled my eyes but held her arm tight. She knew the drill. She would have to guide me as I opened my mind. We passed too close to the vampire snacks and I had no choice but to listen. There was an assortment of men and women, and they were certainly willing participants in all this. One of them was adding up his paychecks. They made extremely good money, and they even got tips. Who knew?
The rest of the evening was quiet but left me exhausted, mentally and physically. Vampires didn’t tire at all until it came close to sunrise, so they had no true concept of what the word meant. Eric sort of did, since he could feel my weariness, so when we got to our room he did everything he could to make me comfortable, even forfeiting his pillows so I could sleep with my feet raised.
Diantha and Gladiola came to get me at noon, and I dragged my butt downstairs but only because I was hungry and I knew I shouldn’t spend all day inside. We decided to walk a little ways to a restaurant outside the hotel. The restaurant had a patio that overlooked Lake Michigan, so we decided to sit there to eat. It was another pleasant day. Mr. C. had joined us, just like the day before, and far from the hotel we could finally speak candidly.
“The chief of security approached me last night to ask about you,” Mr. C. said. “I think he was trying to see if I would tell him what you can do without having to ask the Queen or Andre directly.”
I swallowed a large gulp of my iced tea. “Eric didn’t want me talking to him by myself. He told Quinn that the security guy could only speak to me if Eric was there.”
“Of course, that’s as it should be. I also don’t know what Stan’s people told the chief about the other boy. I don’t know why it would matter anyway. The man was easily glamoured into telling the truth about his intentions. How they arrived at the information is immaterial now that they have a confession.” Mr. C. paused as our food arrived, and looked at me with a benevolent smile. “I see congratulations are in order,” he said, sort of pointing at my stomach, but sort of not. He could have been pointing at my food. At least he’d answered one of my questions: whether or not he could see auras. He could.
I smiled, unable to stay serious anymore. “Thank you, Mr. C. That’s very nice of you.”
“When is the child due?” he asked. I noticed the girls were absorbed in our conversation.
“At the end of September,” I answered and couldn’t help but put a hand on top of my belly. I thought I’d felt a kick.
“Da’swhy Pam gaveusda invitation for LaborDay,” Diantha said looking like she had finally caught on to something.
I was confused. “What invitation?”
“The baby shower invitation,” Mr. C. answered. “That was very nice of her.” He looked at me oddly. “Oh! I suppose it was meant as a surprise. I am so sorry, Sookie.”
I blinked. Pam was planning a surprise baby shower for me? I looked down quickly to hide the sudden tears that threatened to spill. I was so touched. Pam wanted to do something special, and she was so excited about the baby, and… Oh, God! These hormones would be the death of me! Glad was closest and rubbed my back soothingly.
“Areyamad?” she asked.
“No, not mad. I’m touched,” I said and tried a smile. It kind of lost its effect when my tears ran down my cheeks anyway.
The girls returned me to my room so I could rest for the upcoming night. Eric was due to officiate in Russell Edgington’s wedding, and there would be a party afterwards. Before all the reveling, though, was Queen Sophie-Anne’s trial in the death of Peter Threadgill. It was guaranteed to be a strange night, and a long one.
I slept on and off, and when Eric woke up for the night he found me watching a movie that had me in stitches. It was an animated movie, but I didn’t care. Eric seemed to like those anyway.
“What’s so funny?” he asked, snuggling up to me and putting his head on my belly. He was listening to our kiddo and watching TV at the same time.
“The little minion creatures are hilarious,” I said pointing at the yellow boxy cartoons that were jumping around the TV screen.
We followed the same routine as the night before (minus the sex; we really didn’t have time tonight), and headed out. He was wearing a to-die-for navy suit, and I was wearing a professional ensemble in gray that resembled what I’d had on the night before, as well as all my amulets. We’d have to come back and change before the wedding. Just as before, we were joined by Pam and Thalia, and Mr. C., Glad and Diantha as we waited for the elevator. We went directly to the twenty sixth floor and to the conference room where the Queen’s trial would take place in a matter of minutes. Apparently all of Louisiana was to sit up front. One of the security shifters, acting as an usher, showed us to our seats after asking us to what state we belonged.
A minute or so later the crowd hushed to murmurs as an extremely old vampire woman was brought to sit in the middle of the raised stage at the front of the room. I stared in disbelief. Someone had turned her when she was already old and wizened. Usually people got turned during the prime of their life, when they were at their most beautiful and enticing. The woman’s entire skin looked like wrinkled onion paper, and her eyes were milky and unseeing. Her hair had been brushed carefully into a long braid, probably by one of the attendants who were now leaving the stage.
“The Ancient Pythoness,” Eric whispered to me. I had to really think hard. I’d heard the name, but where? In what context? Eric took pity on me and explained in a very low voice and very quickly. “She’s the oracle that Alexander the Great consulted.”
As if the old woman had heard Eric, she turned her head to us, her blind eyes trained on either me or him, I couldn’t tell. She whispered something and one of her attendants was immediately by my side. “The Ancient Pythoness requests your presence beside her,” the attendant said. She was a vampire that had been turned in her mid-twenties, or so, with a low soothing voice.
Eric stood up immediately and the attendant frowned. “Not you, sir. This woman only,” she said.
“She is my wife,” Eric said with a deep rumble in his chest.
“Viking!” the Pythoness called from the stage. “I will not hurt her. Don’t be daft,” she said with something that sounded like an English accent, but what did I know?
I stood up and looked at Eric. He was stressed but his expression gave nothing away. He was trying really hard to keep himself in check. I squeezed his hand and gave him a tiny smile before following the attendant to the stage.
The Pythoness held out her hand as soon as I was near enough, evidently asking for mine. I put mine in hers, feeling like I could break her with my touch. “Let me whisper in your ear, child,” she said in a very low voice. I bent to put my face close to hers. She smelled of roses. “Whose child are you carrying?”
I know I should have been taken aback, but an oracle might have seen this one coming, so I simply answered in the lowest whisper possible. “My husband’s,” I paused and added, “the Viking.”
The old woman nodded. She was looking at me, or at least her face was turned my way. She let go of my hand. It was impossible to read her expression as she reached up to touch my necklace. She paused over my breast briefly then proceeded to touch the amber stones delicately. “You are protected, I see, and god-touched. These have come to your aid, I see that as well. Will you tell me?”
I guessed she wanted me to tell her about the night during Queen Sophie-Anne’s engagement when Peter Threadgill’s second was about to kill me. I went ahead and told her everything that happened that night, how Quinn and the lions had come to my rescue after the necklace became activated with my screams. I was shaking by the time I finished.
“You are all right now, child. Nothing will happen to you here. You have already taken care of the threat, have you not?” she asked using a slightly higher volume that was still very low. I was sure the vampires could hear our conversation by now.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I don’t know what you mean?” I said trying to be polite at the same time that I told her I was clueless.
“The man you helped apprehend last night. He and his partners would have caused a lot of damage and brought about many deaths if it had not been for you. Did you not know?” I shook my head and she either saw me or felt me, because she continued explaining. “I saw the building caving in after several explosions. Many people burned in the sun or perished under the debris. The survivors were badly injured and needed a long time to recover. This will not happen now. The future has changed. You truly are god-touched,” she put her hand on my cheek and gave me a toothless smile. How did she eat?
“Thank you, ma’am,” I said dazed.
“After what you have told me about the King of Arkansas’ second, there is no doubt in my mind that Sophie-Anne Leclerq acted in self-defense,” she said in a slightly higher voice meant for all the vampires in the room to hear. There were several people scribbling notes suddenly, all of them seated along the first row. They reminded me of scribes from olden times. “Go rejoin your husband, child, before he comes up here and steals you.”
I smiled. How could she tell? “Thank you again, ma’am.” I left the stage and sat back next to Eric. Everyone in the room had their eyes on me, but I only had eyes for him. I was beaming, and little by little my smile transferred to him. We all waited until the attendants got the Ancient Pythoness out of the room, and with that the case against Sophie-Anne was dismissed.
Eric and I remained seated waiting for the crowd to scatter. Pam and Thalia stood behind us. Everyone was too astonished to speak. Sophie-Anne approached us with Andre and Sigebert, having left Waldo babysitting Bill.
“Sookie, I owe you my gratitude,” she said and bowed to me. The Queen bowed to me! While I was seating, which meant she had to bow low to make it proper. All I’d done was told the old woman my story. The Queen and her people left and I felt Pam’s hand on my shoulder. I took it and squeezed it. I could feel Eric’s pride rolling off him in waves.
All four of us walked slowly to the main corridor with the intention of going to our rooms and getting ready for the wedding. However our paths were impeded by the vampires who wanted to bow to me in reverence. If Eric hadn’t been so surprised he would have gotten into several fights due to their proximity. Even though their minds were voids, all I could see in their faces was wonder and awe. Of me. There were murmurs that I was god-touched and protected, so I knew what part of the conversation they’d heard. We were finally able to make it to the elevators with the help of a couple of shifters from security. They parted the crowd for us, although there was no need for them to do much more than ask everyone politely to move out of the way.
The wedding was set to start in two hours, so we had some time to ourselves alone in our room, which Eric put quickly to good use. He began kissing me as soon as we closed the door to our bedroom. We made it to the bed in a frenzy of discarded clothes. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and now I wanted to celebrate our good fortune.
“You never cease to amaze me,” Eric muttered while burying his face between my breasts. I held his head there, his cool breath the perfect antidote for my hot skin.
“What did I do now?” I asked, no really sure what was so amazing.
“You saved the Queen from a death sentence simply by telling the Pythoness what happened.”
“I know. I was amazed too,” I said, barely believing it myself.
“What did she ask you in the beginning?”
“Whose child I was carrying,” I said, caressing his hair.
He moved to kiss my belly over and over, showing me with actions the answer to the Pythoness’ question. “My baby, my wife, my two loves.”
His words and his feelings of devotion inside me opened the floodgates and I was off crying again. Eric returned to me and held me tight, letting me cry myself out before making love to me tenderly and getting me back to normal (or as normal as I got these days). It had been a rollercoaster of a day.
We dressed in our formal wear and I have to say that my husband looked sexy as hell in a traditional tuxedo, with wide shoulders and tailored pants. I lifted his jacket briefly to take a gander at his butt. He had to put on his robes on top of the tuxedo, which was truly a shame. I, with Pam’s help, had found a beautiful strapless ruched silk gown in a pretty beige color (Pam said taupe) that went well with my necklace and my tan. Eric helped me zip up and was clearly admiring. It had a dark gold sash that fit above my waist, giving it the right look to hide my belly under all the pretty silk. My boobs, however, were very much in evidence inside the sweetheart neckline of the bodice. I’d had my hair up during the first part of the night, so when I took it out of the twist it fell in waves over my shoulders. Eric said he liked it, and since his opinion mattered the most, I left it as it was.
Pam and Thalia met us outside again, and I had to do a double take. Sure I’d seen Pam dressed up and she always looked very sophisticated, but Thalia looked stunning. She was small to begin with, though not as petite as Pam. Her dark hair and eyes went very well with a soft pink one shoulder floor length gown. She had fixed her curls into beautiful ringlets and put them half up. Now, if we could only get her to smile. Pam’s dress was similar but strapless in a vivid blue. Her eyes turned the same color.
We went to the conference room that had been decorated to become the venue for the wedding. It was the same one we’d been in, with the stage up front, except now the stage was decorated with a large Egyptian cross (an ankh, I think), with black and blue silk draped on the wall behind the stage. There was a small table draped with a similar cloth of black and blue silk. That’s where the knife would be, the same one Eric and I had used during our marriage ceremony. Eric had it. He had to leave us girls to go get ready for the ceremony. Mr. C., Diantha, and Gladiola sat behind us and we started making small talk. Soon the Queen’s whole entourage (including Bill) was seated near us. A hush came over the audience as Eric emerged to stand behind the table. Somewhere off to the side of the stage where I couldn’t see, someone started playing a haunting sonata on the piano, and we all turned to watch as the King of Mississippi and the King of Indiana strolled down the main aisle arm in arm. They both looked very happy.
The ceremony was very similar to our own wedding ceremony, except there was a little more ritual and things went by a bit slower. Of course they were: they weren’t doing this under threat of being taken away from each other. But I wasn’t bitter, no siree. At the end of the ceremony the two men cut each other’s wrists with the knife and drank blood from each other. The silence in the room pressed on my ears, and that’s when I realized the mistake of me being here. Everybody turned to look at me, even the two lovebirds up on stage.
They had all heard the baby. They had all heard the second fast heartbeat inside my body.
Eric’s fear tore me apart as Pam, Thalia, Glad, Diantha, and even Mr. C. all took defensive positions around me. Call me stupid, but all I could see in the eyes of the audience was the same sort of wonder they’d had for me earlier. Leave it up to me to surprise a whole room full of vampires. Twice.
Queen Sophie-Anne was the first to speak. “Sookie? Are you with child?”
There was no use denying it now. “Yes, your majesty.”
Amazing, that creatures who don’t really need to breathe all gave a collective gasp. The few humans in the room immediately thought artificial insemination, so I was hoping that’s where the vampires’ minds had gone also. Eric was beside me then, able to breach the wall made by my protectors to put a possessive arm around me. I welcomed that possessive arm, feeling safe only by his side.
The Queen recovered quickly, and diffused the situation as only someone like her could. “This is wonderful news! The Northmans are having a baby!” she announced like it was the most normal thing in the world for a vampire’s wife and blood bonded to have a child. Okey-dokey.