We looked like an army of women invading the Babies ‘R Us. And none of us was the same or looked like we could be friends in any way. I had to ask Eric to please stay home and tend to business while I tended to this particular chore. Yes. I did look at it like a chore. Not an unpleasant one, granted. It was more like doing laundry than scrubbing a toilet, but a chore nevertheless. I had to scour the store and pick things for my baby girl that other people would buy for me. On that night I was accompanied by Pam (of course, Auntie Pam wouldn’t have missed this for the world – she was the ring leader of Operation Baby Northman!), my bodyguards (of course, Glad and Diantha wouldn’t leave my side if I’d paid them), and Amelia, who turned out to have way more guts than I’d given her credit for. She immediately got along with Pam, and she had already met the demon sisters. Claudette and Claudine had to stay home but agreed to look over my list and tell me what was missing… and make another trip if it was warranted, since they couldn’t be in the same store as Pam.
So, here we were: a fairy princess, a vampire, two demons, and a human who happened to be a witch, armed with a doohickey thingy that scanned barcodes, a list of the most important items to register for, and five different tastes. We immediately got into a hissy fit over which pattern was cuter: the brown and pink circles, or the flowers. I pointed at the fact that my child would have a very involved father who would not appreciate flowers all that much. Amelia had issues with her own dad, so she sort of waved me off. Pam was with me, knowing Eric better than I did. We actually managed to complete the registry in less than two hours without killing each other, and the breathers all decided that we had earned some ice cream. Pam treated.
“So you know I’m planning your baby shower,” Pam said with that sparkle in her eye I was beginning to be able to discern. She was otherwise her usual stoic self.
“Yes, I gathered as much,” I said cautiously, not wanting to give away the fact that I already knew the date since Glad, Diantha, and Mr. C. had sort of told me without them meaning to.
“But it’s a surprise, so don’t go asking,” she said, pointing a slender finger in a menacing way. Diantha and Glad were both looking down at their ice creams with lots of interest. I don’t think Pam noticed.
“I won’t ask, and I thank you so much for doing this for me, Pam,” I said, waving her finger away. Like I was going to spoil a surprise… I love surprises!
At the end of our outing we drove Amelia home, and from what I gathered she ended up making a date with Pam. Who knew? Then we headed someplace out between Shreveport and Bon Temps to meet Eric. We got off the highway in the middle of nowhere, it seemed to me, and arrived at a large nondescript building where we found Eric talking to some guy. I quick read told me he was a realtor. So this was the building he and Pam had their sights on to use as the new Fangtasia. Hmmm…
I looked up and up… it seemed like it had more than one floor. As soon as I got out of Pam’s car I was flanked by Glad and Diantha, but that didn’t keep me from looking around. I could see the highway pretty well. Maybe we weren’t in the middle of nowhere after all.
“The seller already has an offer for the building, but the other buyer is waiting on financing. You can make the same offer and tell them you’re ready to close tomorrow and the building is yours,” the realtor man said. I was glad to be there and check out the truthfulness of what he was telling Eric and Pam. He was on the up and up. Everything that went through his head came out of his mouth.
Eric shot me a quick look and I nodded briefly; our silent communication let him know to trust the man. Pam was brought into the negotiation, since she would be half owner of the new joint, just like she had been half owner of the former Fangtasia.
“Who is the other buyer?” Eric asked, knowing that the realtor wasn’t obliged to answer that question, and most probably wouldn’t.
The realtor was thinking of three vampires from Las Vegas that he had seen in the office with a colleague. The other realtor was helping them find a house as well to move into the area. I plucked names and faces from the realtor’s mind. He certainly knew much more information than he was willing to part with. What was more, I remembered the names of the vampires as those who had asked to move into Eric’s fiefdom and were awaiting permission. I would have to talk to Eric.
Before I could even make a motion, Eric was by my side, walking me away from the group with an arm draped over my shoulder. “What’s the matter? What did you get?” He must have felt my general uneasiness at the information I’d gathered.
I told Eric everything in a very low voice that the human realtor would never hear, but I was sure Pam got everything. “He’s a good guy, and he’s afraid that he may lose his license if he tells you all he knows,” I said of the man.
Eric nodded briefly then smiled at me. “Thank you, my love. As always, your ability amazes me. Come; let’s buy ourselves a building for our new bar.”
Eric and Pam made an offer for the building and signed papers right then and there. The realtor was going to put in the offer right away, but from the phone conversation he had with the selling agent, the building was as good as theirs.
Now Eric had to deal with the problem of the nest trying to move into the area prior to getting permission.
Pam went home in her car, and we went home with my bodyguards chatting animatedly in the language they preferred. I couldn’t understand any of it, but it didn’t bother me any. It was actually fascinating because some words required them to growl or snarl.
“Give me the names again,” Eric said as we drove back to Shreveport.
“The one I remember the most was Victor Madden, and the other two I only remember their first names… Bruno and Corinna, I think?” I said, to a suddenly silent audience.
“Victor Madden?” asked one of the sisters, I think it was Glad.
“Are you sure, Sookie?” Eric asked. Obviously the name meant something to them.
“I’m positive because I was thinking he had the same last name as John Madden when I read the paperwork, and the name was listed first on everything,” I said, remembering the football Hall of Famer and the signed petition that was now in ashes and part of the ruble that used to be Fangtasia.
“He is the second for the King of Nevada,” Eric said in a grave voice. Without thinking about it too long he picked up his phone and called Pam and Andre to tell them both exactly what we had found out.
The wheels inside my head were moving, chugging slowly but surely with the information. So far we knew this: someone was giving the Fellowship information about me. That someone was most probably a vampire who wanted to destabilize Sophie-Anne’s reign in Louisiana, and now Arkansas, which also belonged to her. Now the King of Nevada’s second was trying to establish a nest in the northernmost part of Louisiana, but to what purpose? There was only one that I could see, and that was to be in the state, but as far away from the main government as possible… and as close to me as possible.
Fear ran through my spine and settled in my stomach making me shiver. I texted Claudine as fast as I could, still half listening to Eric speaking to Andre. He was saying something about needing to prepare for an attack directly on the Queen.
“Why would Victor use his own name to put in the petition? You would know who he was right away,” I mused out loud as soon as Eric was off the phone.
“There is no reason for me to know who he is, and he was counting on that. He’s a young one and cocky to boot. I wouldn’t know who he is necessarily, except that Sophie-Anne made us memorize all the monarchs and their seconds using Bill’s database, right before the summit, remember?” Eric asked me.
I did remember and told him so. He’d gone through all fifty monarchs and seconds in about half an hour. The only reason it had taken him so long, he said, was that he had also read up on their lineage. With his better retention of memories and all, he remembered everything he’d read.
“How do you know the name, Glad?” Eric asked looking into the rearview mirror.
“Sameasya,” she answered. “DaQueenmade usreadthroughda database.”
Sophie-Anne was nothing if not thorough. There was a reason she was Queen even though she wasn’t the oldest vampire. She knew she could have been put to death for what happened to Peter Threadgill, so she had all her people memorize the names of possible new monarchs for the state. She cared enough to think ahead. At the very least that’s what I understood from her order.
Claudine wrote back letting me know that she had passed all the information to Fintan, who was already making headway into finding out who had given the order to make me a target.
Meanwhile, in the news that night, there was another scandal concerning the Fellowship. It was just as Claude had said: Steve Newlin’s second in command was found indulging in V, a.k.a. vampire blood. One thing was for Eric to give me his blood willingly during an exchange; another thing was for a person to ingest vampire blood indirectly from the source. After the blood was drained from the owner, its attributes became tainted: the healing qualities could bring about psychosis; the beauty-enhancing qualities would make the user crave V like addicts need heroine. It was just a bizarre list of horrible side effects that varied from person to person and from blood donor to donor. Hallow was addicted to V and had wanted to drain Eric. V was also illegal, more so than regular street drugs. Users and dealers alike were treated as if they were dealing in human organs, which was as good an analogy as any, since it was a “live” substance, so to speak.
I couldn’t contain the small chuckle that escaped me as I heard the broadcast. I didn’t even know if the man accused of taking V really did the drug, or if the fairies had planted it. Whatever, right? It had been found in his possession and possession is nine tenths of the law. Period.
“What do you think of the building?” Eric asked me as we snuggled in bed and watched the news.
“I think it has a lot of potential. It’s bigger, for sure, more like a club than a bar,” I ventured a guess.
“Yes that it will be. We’ll hire a permanent disc jockey and expand the product line. By the way, Pam wants us to do the calendar again. Would you be opposed?”
I thought about it. On the one hand he would be ogled at, my semi-naked Norse god of a husband. On the other hand the calendar made tons of money for everyone involved in it, and we had a little one on the way… who would see her father naked on a calendar… Something told me that Eric’s view of nudity between himself and his offspring was different than mine, so perhaps that wouldn’t be an issue. Had I ever seen my dad naked? I couldn’t remember. I’d have to ask Jason.
“It’s taking you a long time to answer, sweetheart. I can skip it…” Eric started.
“No, no,” I shook my head to emphasize my point. “Do I have any say in how you dress or undress? Maybe less undress in the next one? Less butt exposure…” I tried my best to reach a compromise that wouldn’t preclude him from the calendar.
“Alright, we can do that. We’ll make the appointments and you can tell the photographer what should be covered,” he agreed, thankfully understanding that I was trying to meet him halfway. I wouldn’t have a problem with the calendar, but less skin, please.
I turned within his arms. “I’m thinking of our baby. When she grows up I don’t want her finding naked pictures of you, you know?”
As I expected, he didn’t see the problem with his child seeing him naked. I could read it in his expression, but he didn’t say what I thought he would say. Instead he said, “There is nothing wrong with nudity, but perhaps something less sexy?”
“Yes! Yes, that,” I said excited that he’d gotten my point. One small argument averted. Onto the next! “So… have you thought of any names for our girl?”
“Yes I have,” he answered quickly, but then didn’t say anything else.
“And…?” I prompted.
“And I don’t know how you will feel about it Sookie. We used to name our children after our departed loved ones. We can name our baby Adele or Michelle, or Idony after my mother Iðunn,” he said and shrugged, like he didn’t care. But I knew he did.
“Idony sounds beautiful. Idony Northman,” I tried it out. It had a certain ring to it.
“Do you like it? It means to renew nature. Iðunn is the wife of the god of poetry, Bragi, and she is also the keeper of the golden apples that are the food of the gods. It would also please my goddess to follow my custom,” Eric said, trying to sell me on the name, but I kind of liked it. It was unusual (nowadays, anyway), and our baby was unusual, plus my name wasn’t the most usual one either.
Eric pulled the sheets down to my legs and made my lay on my back. He put his ear to my belly, sneaking a hand under my nightgown to touch my bare skin. “How is my little darling? Do you like your name, Idony?”
I closed my eyes to concentrate. I wasn’t expecting our baby to answer the question, but I wondered if she would react to Eric’s voice. My brain did tickle. “Keep talking honey,” I said very quietly. I knew Idony was awake. Idony, my baby. Our baby.
Eric continued, but instead of speaking he sang a sweet lullaby in his old language. I did feel something, a new awareness together with mine, riding on the same wave. I was keeping track of Eric’s feelings (his devotion and love were skyrocketing), but also I could feel something else running alongside. It wasn’t as if I was reading another mind. If I didn’t pay attention, I would have confused that other awareness with my own mind. It was supremely interesting how I saw the baby’s mind inside my own. My cousins had been right: her mind was part of me. At that moment, while her daddy was singing her a lullaby, she was awake and… I wouldn’t call it enthralled. From all the books I’d read I knew the pathways inside her brain were still developing, so it was as if she was committing the sound to memory. I also knew it would be muffled because the sounds of my own body and the amniotic sac were protecting her from the outside world. Not that I was about to stop Eric from having his tender moment with his baby.
Idony fell asleep listening to her daddy, and I felt a renewed surge of love and adoration for my husband. We’d been through so much in such as short time. But still, here we were, making a family together like any regular loving couple. Who knew that someone such as him could redeem himself enough to earn his one true wish? I didn’t know why he had chosen me among the many, but I knew I felt lucky to have something I never thought I could have: my one true love, the love of my life, and a baby. A family of my own.
Those who wanted to destroy my family deserved their own destruction. May God forgive me for my less than Christian thoughts.