The doorbell to the house rang. It was the first time I’d ever hear the doorbell ring inside the house in Shreveport. It was a really deep “ding-dong.” I was expecting Glad and Diantha, so I made my way to the door briskly. One look through the peephole confirmed that my bodyguards had arrived, and that they were holding someone hostage. I yanked the door open to find Glad had Bruce in a choke hold. He was starting to turn blue.
“Hesays heworks forya,” Diantha said chewing gum.
“He does, he does!” I said quickly before he turned purple. Glad let Bruce go and he almost collapsed. If we didn’t pay him so well, I was sure he would have quit. “Sorry, Bruce. These are Gladiola and Diantha, my new bodyguards.”
Bruce was bent over, both hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. He waved a hand up and resumed his task. We all waited until he recovered. “Eric asked me to bring this and to give these to you in your hand,” he said, still breathing hard but looking pink, at least. Pink trumped blue… He dropped a set of car keys in my hand.
I looked up, wondering why I had a set of car keys. In trying to save Bruce I hadn’t noticed the very large truck he’d parked in the driveway in front of the garage. “What is that Bruce?”
“It’s a truck, Miss Sookie,” he said. And that’s why I didn’t like him. Rude bastard.
“I know that Bruce. Why do I have a truck parked in my driveway?” I said, emphasizing the fact that this was my house in case he had forgotten.
“I don’t know. Eric didn’t say. All he said was to go pick up the truck at the dealer and bring it here, and to hand you the keys in your hand,” he repeated.
I’d have to talk to Eric. I wondered if he was getting rid of the Corvette, though he hadn’t said anything. I shrugged. Eric did that all the time. Sometimes he liked to buy things out of the blue, just because he liked them. It had never been something as expensive as a giant luxury truck… but I wasn’t going to be mad if he felt the need for a new car. At least the truck was practical.
“He did it for the baby,” I murmured in sudden understanding. I turned around staring at the keys in my hands, with Glad and Diantha close at my heels.
Of course he did it for the baby. He barely fit in my car, and a baby car seat wouldn’t fit in the Corvette, so he got something he could drive his baby around. And the waterworks started. I spared a thought to the fact that one of the sisters closed the front door on Bruce’s face, which was a small comfort.
“’S okay, Sookie. We’re herenow. We’lltakecare ovya,” Diantha said, smoothing my hair.
“Thank you,” I said between sniffles. God! I was turning into such a sap. “Let me show you your rooms.”
Diantha and Glad followed me upstairs where I’d set up two of the bedrooms as guest rooms. They had been retrofitted for vampires, but Eric had helped me take the shutters off the windows. The bedrooms had been boring, and beige. So I’d bought new bed linens in bright colors. Hopefully the girls would enjoy their stay, however long that may be.
They got settled, we had lunch, and then we had to pile in my car to go to the grocery store. I’d nearly forgotten the girls ate like teenage boys. I was actually looking forward to having them in the house. It would give me something to do. There’s only so much cleaning one can do to a house. I usually only cooked for myself, but I’d always liked to cook for others. Plus it would give me an excuse to bake Sookie’s cookies. Eric would get a kick out of that.
At sunset I waited impatiently for Eric to wake up. We had our twenty-week appointment with Doctor Ein, and tonight was the night we’d find out the sex of our baby. I was dressed and ready and hopping on the bed trying to wake up Eric, which of course was completely useless. When he did wake up, he smiled at me in a sleepy way.
“Are you excited about something, dear one?” he asked, knowing exactly why I was excited.
“Come on! Get dressed! We gotta go!” I said, making the bed jump with my nervous hopping.
“I have to take a shower,” he said, getting up way too slow. “Would you like to join me?” he asked. He was naked from the night before, and I had a moment of longing before I reminded myself that we didn’t have time.
“I would love to, but you need to get ready vampire fast. We need to go and…” I stopped talking when he reached me vampire fast, caught me in a tight hug and made me melt against him.
“Are Gladiola and Diantha here?” he asked. I could hear his voice rumble inside his chest. I nodded, making sure to rub my cheek against his soft skin. “And did Bruce deliver my new car?”
“Yeah, about that…” I began.
“Do you like it?”
“It’s nice, but…”
“It’s like the one Pam rented for me when I wrecked our cars. Do you remember?” he knotted his fingers into my hair.
“Yes, I remember, but…”
“Since Gladiola and Diantha will be with us from now on, I knew we would need a larger car, and later I’ll be able to bring you and our baby home in something other than the dangerous Corvette,” he explained. I sighed. He was making sense about spending over fifty thousand dollars on a truck.
“It’s very nice,” I said finally and sincerely. I’m sure we would all be very comfortable in it, and our baby would be safe in it, and Eric seemed proud of his purchase of it. I let it go. Eric was always very mindful of his priorities.
On our way to the doctor’s office, Diantha and Glad started listing the reasons they knew I would have one or the other. Diantha argued I would have a boy because I was looking prettier and prettier (to which I blushed), and boys had a tendency to do that to their mothers. Glad said I was going to have a girl because my hormones were all over the place and made me cry all the time. Eric had a permanent smile plastered on his face, and was holding my hand the whole ride.
Doctor Ein whisked us to the examining room, while Diantha and Glad waited for us up front. She made me stand on a scale, took my temperature and blood pressure and then made me lie down on the exam bed.
“How are you feeling, Sookie?” the doctor asked. She lifted my shirt and measured my belly from the top of my ribs to the bottom of my pelvis. “I see you are finally gaining weight. I’m happy about that.”
“It’s been a rough couple of weeks. Eric had to give me some blood to stop my nausea and vomiting,” I confessed. She knew about the earlier times during my first trimester, but she didn’t know that I was still dealing with horrible morning sickness.
“It happens to some, unfortunately. I guess I have no way of telling if there are side effects to the baby, but from what we’ve seen everything is progressing normally.” Doctor Ein looked at Eric. “Just to be safe only give her your blood when she’s feeling sick. I know that people who are addicted to V can suffer from side effects, but I can see it’s different when the blood comes from the source.”
“Do you think Sookie is addicted to my blood?” Eric asked concerned. I had to admit the possibility had run through my mind before.
Doctor Ein turned to look at me. “Before you became pregnant, did you feel any symptoms of withdrawal, like nausea or headaches, whenever you didn’t take Eric’s blood?”
I shook my head. “I could go weeks without taking his blood. We would only exchange…” I was quiet again. I wasn’t sure if I could explain to the doctor how we exchanged blood. Eric finished the sentence for me. He wasn’t ever ashamed or bashful in the least.
“Sookie would only take my blood during a lovers’ exchange when we had sex. Now she needs it more often to keep her nausea at bay so she can eat,” he explained.
“Yes,” the doctor said thoughtful. “It seems to me that your body is very sensitive to the extra hormones from the pregnancy and they’re making you sick. Like I said, it happens to some women and they have morning sickness throughout the whole forty weeks. If Eric didn’t give you his blood, I would have you on anti-nausea medication. I would rather not medicate you, however, so Eric’s blood it is.”
Finally the moment we’d been waiting for was at hand. We all made our way to the sonogram room where we had first seen our baby inside my belly. I assumed the position, lifted my shirt and pushed my pants down to my lower pelvis. Doctor Ein tucked a clean towel in the elastic of my leggings and smeared my belly with the warm jelly-like lotion she used so she could move the device smoothly over my skin. After about a minute she zoomed in on the top of the baby’s head, measuring to make sure everything was okay. When she moved the joystick-thingy she zoomed in on a profile of the baby’s face.
“Look at those hands, how close they are to the face,” she said with a smile and froze the picture. “I’m going to poke around a little to make the baby turn,” Doctor Ein said, moving the device this way and that. She took some more measurements while she was at it. “Come on, darling, open your legs,” she whispered as she poked the top of my belly, making me and the baby shake. “Got it!” she announced and froze the picture. With a quick movement of her fingers over a keyboard she circled the area between the baby’s legs. “You got yourselves a girl.”
And the waterworks started. Not mine this time. Eric buried his face against my shoulder, holding his handkerchief to his eyes. “You were right,” he whispered. “A beautiful girl like you.”
I almost felt smug, but I didn’t feel like rubbing it in. It wasn’t often that my darling vampire became overwhelmed, but I was sure that he’d become overwhelmed more times during the past eight months that we’d known each other than in the thousand years before that. So I hugged him as best I could, even though I had to stay still while the doctor checked other important things, like the placenta’s blood flow, and so on. I wasn’t paying attention. I figured if there was something wrong the doctor would tell us. In the meantime I had to tend to my husband.
Doctor Ein printed the pictures she had taken of the sonogram, including the one of the absence of a penis (it was cute, we could see a tiny butt), and left us while I cleaned up the sticky lotion from my belly and set my clothes back to rights. Eric helped me sit up on the exam bed, staring at me in that way he had. His devotion was a living being inside him, pulsating and radiating from him to me. It was as if he thought me some kind of deity.
Without a word he took my face in his hands and kissed me fervently. I hugged his waist and pressed him close, enjoying this moment with him, our baby girl pressed between us. She kicked and he felt it and smiled into my lips.
“I guess I better take you both out to dinner, to celebrate?” he asked, pulling away to rub his hand over the spot where I’d gotten kicked.
I shook my head. “Pam is waiting for us, and she was dying to know. We have to go straight to Fangtasia. We’ll grab something to eat on the way.”
He nodded reluctantly and we joined our doctor in her office. “Everything was perfect, and your girl is very healthy. I got the results here from the blood tests, Sookie, and you are very healthy as well. Do you have any questions for me?” she asked.
“Should I sign up for Lamaze classes?” I asked. I was not entirely sure they would help.
“I don’t know, Sookie. It’s up to you and Eric. I can tell you that in my many years delivering babies the people who use Lamaze have mixed results. Some make great use of the techniques; others forget everything during the pain of labor. However, I would like for you to look into breastfeeding classes. Those fill up fast and they’re very instructive and much more important in the long run, in my view,” Doctor Ein said. After a few more questions, mostly from Eric, and mostly about sex, we joined Glad and Diantha, who were almost jumping in anticipation.
“It’s a girl!” I announced, and they were both very happy for me. Poor Eric. Surrounded by girls. Although, he didn’t seem to be put out in any way and was instead smiling ear to ear.
We held hands the whole way to Fangtasia, making a quick stop at Wendy’s for some burgers and Frosties. Thank goodness Eric wasn’t a snob about us eating in the new truck. He’d have Bruce clean it anyway.
Like bees to honey I was met by several vampires who knew exactly what today’s visit to the doctor had been about. Thalia, Indira, Maxwell, and Pam of course, all waited impatiently as I took out the sonogram pictures from my purse. I handed the one telltale picture to Pam and she stared at it for a couple of seconds, which was about one and a half seconds too long for a vampire.
A slow smile appeared on her lips as she looked up. “It’s a girl,” she announced, having earned the right to do just that. I nodded furiously and she grabbed me in a tight hug. I heard Maxwell slapping Eric on the shoulder and saying his congratulations. Indira and Thalia waited patiently for Pam to let me go. Indira murmured a prayer as she hugged me, and Thalia put her hands on my cheeks before pretending to spit at either side of me. Silly Greeks. Even after two thousand years on this Earth, Thalia still believed in the evil eye. I could use all the help I could get, so pretend spit didn’t faze me too much anymore. The first time she’d done it Pam had to explain it all to me. She had laughed. A lot.
It was Eric’s turn at the stage for a few hours, though the permanent smile plastered on his face would not make him look all that scary to the patrons. I stayed in his office with Glad and Diantha helping with fiefdom correspondence, something I did often. I didn’t mind being Eric’s secretary since it freed up some of his time… to spend it with me. Hey! I’m not an idiot.
I found a request to move into Shreveport from a whole nest that hailed from Las Vegas, Nevada. I knew Eric disliked nests, so I wrote a letter to that effect to wait for Eric’s signature. I’d done these before. In essence it granted permission to move in only to individual members who would then need to procure individual dwellings. Nests tended to breed nasty vampires, or so Eric had said to me, although Stan Davis had lived in a nest and he, Farrell, and Isabel had always seemed pretty decent to me. Maybe they were the exception.
The phone rang in Eric’s office, which was unusual for the time of night. Usually the only people who called that phone line did so during the day for business.
“Fangtasia, the bar with a bite,” I answered, doing my best Pam impression.
“Sookie? Where is Eric?” the voice on the other line asked. It sounded like Andre.
“Andre?” I asked a little concerned. He’d sounded nervous when he asked about Eric.
“Yes, where’s Eric?”
“He’s out in the bar area. What’s wrong?”
“He didn’t answer his cell phone.”
“It might be in his other clothes. I’ll go get him for you,” I said and put him on hold. Diantha was already out the door fetching Eric. He’d changed in his office to put something more elegant while he was on stage, and I was sure he’d left his cell phone in his jeans. Finding out the sex of your baby will do that to you, I supposed, because Eric wasn’t forgetful.
Eric walked in vampire fast, a blur stirring the air into a wind, and took the phone. “I am here,” he said and listened intently. He always looked so handsome when he was serious. I couldn’t help the sudden wish to be alone with him for several minutes. He didn’t cut his gaze to me as he would have after feeling my lust, so I knew something was very wrong. He looked at me only when he felt my fear. My fear didn’t subside though, because Eric’s feelings had gone into battle mode. I wondered what new catastrophe was about to befall us now and almost felt like groaning.
Diantha and Glad seemed to have gotten text messages in tandem and were staring at their cell phones at the same time that mine buzzed on the desk. Mine was a message from Claudine, asking me where I was. I answered and told her who I was with because I knew she would have asked. She called me the next minute.
“Listen, the FBI issued a warning that the Fellowship delivered threats of the homegrown terrorist variety to certain vampire establishments, and especially to the vampire monarchs. Please tell me that Eric is about to take you home,” she begged.
I looked up at Eric and he was nodding, obviously listening to both my conversation and whatever Andre was saying. Diantha came behind the desk and held out her hand to me while Eric made motions pointing at the door. I grabbed my purse and took Diantha’s hand. Glad was already ushering us out the door.
“Yastay here,” Glad said and ran out the employee entrance. A minute later she’d brought the truck around and Eric had joined us.
“Go home, wait for me there. I’ll have Pam drop me off,” he said and kissed my forehead, sort of shoving me forward. I didn’t get a chance to argue because he picked me up, strapped me in the truck, and we were off. Glad drove fast out of Fangtasia, but slowed down once we were a good distance away.
I didn’t say anything the whole ride home, and once there I called Claudine to let her know. Diantha and Glad turned on the TV to watch the news in the den and I paced listening to Claudine. She explained in depth what was happening with the Fellowship of the Sun.
“The radical arm of the Fellowship decided that what’s been happening to them was the vampires’ fault. The thing is that the FBI did have their sights on them, ever since you discovered what they had planned for the summit. Now they’re retaliating, or planning to, so the FBI issued a warning to the vampire kings and queens to be on alert.”
“How did you hear about it?” I asked her, sort of watching the news, but sort of not.
“We have our ways,” she answered. Translation: they had fairies working in the FBI, which would make sense. “Until they can figure out how to stop them, you’ll have to stay away from any place owned by a vampire.”
We hung up and I started pacing the living room and biting my nails. The house phone rang, which was highly unusual. This whole day had been filled with the strange sounds of things that had never rung before. I got the handset we kept in the den.
“Hello?” I answered, having failed to look at the caller ID in my haste to answer.
“Ms. Northman?” a man’s voice asked.
“Yes, that’s me,” I said waiting for the worse.
“This is Assistant Chief Dice of the Shreveport Fire Department. I have been trying to reach Mr. Northman to let him know we have responded to a call at the Fangtasia bar. The blaze is under control at this time and there are no casualties or fatalities…”
I knew the man continued talking but all I could think of was that there were no casualties or fatalities because when vampires burned, they burned without leaving a trace. And the room disappeared.