“There’s more?” Sookie asked with frustration.
I nodded. “This is why your earlier concerns about moving are moot.” I pushed another button, and Sookie watched the screen as light-tight shutters closed over all the windows in the house.
“W.T.F!?” she exclaimed.
“They can be controlled room-by-room too,” I said, as I pushed the menu button in order to bring up the room list. “And once set, a password has to be entered in order to open them.”
“What’s the password?” she asked.
“H-O-M-E,” I said softly.
“Why so easy?” she asked. “I mean—this system can’t be hacked into, can it?”
“No one knows how to access it but you and me. We can change it if you want, but most pin numbers are four digits long, and after two wrong tries, the system locks down until sundown anyway. And—trust me—the code to undo a lockdown is quite complex and involves me flying up there,” I pointed to the top of the screen where there was an optical camera, “and doing a retinal scan, and then there is a 40-digit code.”
“I’m not even gonna try to remember that one,” she laughed.
Thank the gods! She laughed.
She looked back at the screen as I entered H-O-M-E and then pressed the button for “all rooms”; the shutters disappeared back into the walls.
“I didn’t even notice them,” she mused.
“New technology. They are concealed in the walls and cannot be noticed when they are not in use,” I said tentatively.
“This was the high-handed part,” she observed with a shake of her head.
“You could have shown me this without showing me the camera feeds,” she whispered.
“Yes. But I realized that it was wrong to keep knowledge of the cameras from you. It really is time for us to be completely honest with each other. Past time,” I responded.
She nodded in agreement and then turned to look at me before crawling over to sit on my lap.
I sighed with relief.
“You really are a high-handed idiot sometimes,” she said, sighing too.
“And you scare me sometimes,” I chuckled, holding her close to me—as close as possible.
I put my hand over my sons and prayed that I would never disappoint their mother again.
“I do?” she asked, truly surprised.
I nodded. “You are a power to behold when you go all fairy Sookie!” I said sincerely.
She blushed. “Uh—sorry?”
“Don’t be. You are beautiful to me in all ways, and your fairy side is just as amazing as the rest of you. It is the reason for these two miracles,” I reminded, caressing her little baby bump. “It’s also likely the reason you tolerate me.”
“Sorry I buzzed you earlier,” she said, biting her bottom lip, “twice.”
“I’m sorry you felt the need,” I returned.
“I’m still mad at you,” she said.
I could feel her honesty through the bond. She was still angry. I hated that.
“I will re-earn your trust,” I vowed.
She looked up at me. “My trust isn’t what wavered, Eric. I’m mad because we never had to use this tiny bed! Um—except when you didn’t have your memory.”
I chuckled. “You surprise me. I figured I’d have to spend a lot of time making things up to you.”
She sighed. “We don’t have a lot of time before these babies are born, Eric. And I’m done being mad at you for things you did to this house when most people—including my own brother—had written me off. You had a reason for all that you did. And you had the right to do anything you wanted once you owned the house. Am I mad that you watched me getting out of the shower? Yeah. But I understand your reason for that, too. I mean—it’s not like I had a history of making rational choices when it came to Bill.”
“I know,” I whispered.
“If anything, it all just shows me how deep you run, Mr. Northman. And how much you cared about me,” she sighed, “even before the witch cursed you.”
“More than cared,” I corrected.
“A lot more,” she agreed, looking up at me. “So we’ll stay here? Move into Gran’s old room downstairs? And the babies can be with us, and—uh—later they can have my old room. Until they wanna split up. Then one can have Jason’s?”
“Sounds like a good plan,” I smiled.
“I guess we shouldn’t even bother with decorating a nursery,” she said sadly. “Or kids’ rooms.”
A tear crept down her cheek. I’d been so excited about our sons that I hadn’t fully taken into account that Sookie was being robbed of so many of the stages of motherhood. She would carry them for days rather than months. Until they reached the fairy equivalent of adulthood, they would grow up in days rather than years. I realized that we needed to follow up with Claude on that. He might have some idea about how fast they’d grow—or when they would “normalize.” After all, a fairy’s ‘coming of age’ might be 12-13 as it was in my culture. Or it might be 30!
However, for now, I needed to soothe my bonded. “Of course, we will prepare appropriate rooms. Pam will be aching to help you, and she is a professional shopper.” I grinned at my beloved. “We’ll always have the next room ready, too. We’ll use both Jason’s and your old rooms—and we’ll just rotate appropriately. Blue and yellow in the nursery? A children’s room set up with dinosaurs or superheroes? A teenagers’ room complete with,” I paused, “whatever teenaged boys like these days. A PlayStation?”
My bonded laughed, her mood brightening.
“Our time with them as children will be compact,” I continued, “but we will make a point to enjoy every stage we get with them. And once they stop aging rapidly, we will be their teachers—their guides to the world. We won’t have the ‘normal’ experience with them, but . . . .”
She interrupted, “Who says ‘normal’ is better?” she smiled.
“Certainly not me,” I said, kissing her nose.
She snuggled into me and we were quiet for a time, both of us lost in thought as we held our hands together and over our boys.
“You’re really okay with living in Bon Temps?” she asked after a while.
I chuckled. “I’ve already ordered the paperwork to transfer full ownership of Fangtasia to Pam and Tara. My days of being on display are over. And—as acting king—I’ve been,” I paused, “given Compton’s estate. I’ll respond to emails from here and meetings from there until the New Authority appoints a permanent king, which I’ve been promised they will do within three months. And—even then—he or she will likely choose to settle in New Orleans in Sophie-Anne’s old estate, so my sheriff’s office will remain right across the cemetery from us.”
“Wait—shouldn’t Bill’s house go to Jessica?” Sookie asked.
I shrugged. “If she ever wants to live there, she can. But the new estate was paid for by state funds after Bill became king.” I felt my eyebrows traveling toward the bridge of my nose as I frowned.
“What is it?” Sookie asked.
“We could—uh—live there. If you preferred.”
“Oh—hell no!” Sookie scoffed.
“Thank the gods,” I grinned.
She shook her head. “It should get more use than just your headquarters though.”
“A museum?” I suggested. “Maybe something related to that organization your grandmother loved so much?”
“Maybe,” she mused. “Either way, I’m glad that your work will be close to home,” she added.
I smiled as she snuggled into me. “Everything is close to home now.”
“Home,” she sighed.
Had I become sappy? Yeah. But I was prepared to own it.
And be grateful for every fucking thing that made me want to become even sappier.
It was Sookie’s growling stomach that made us leave the comfort of each other’s embrace.
“I need to get more salt,” she mused as she poured a cup of the substance into a pitcher of sweet tea as if it were sugar. And then she added another cup. “Thank God Dr. L. told me that caffeine won’t hurt the babies!”
“Dr. L.?” I asked with amusement.
“Oh—yeah. She called today—checking in.”
“And all is well?” I asked as she poured herself a large glass of her tea and then downed it like a fucking tequila shot before pouring another.
“Yeah. She’s decided that she wants to be here for the births—since the boys are part human.” She licked her lips after taking a more reasonable drink of her second glass. “I think she’s just curious to be honest. But I’m comforted that she’ll be here.”
“So—what did you do today?” I asked as Sookie topped off her glass of tea before taking a warmed-up dish out of the microwave. She grabbed her drink and settled into her seat at the table. I sat down next to her.
“Well—part of the day was spent making a plan for packing.” She gave me a sideways glare before shoveling a large bite of food into her mouth. “I guess I won’t be doing that now,” she added after swallowing her bite.
I looked—and felt—appropriately contrite, though I couldn’t help but to be pleased by the feelings coming from the bond. Sookie was teasing me—despite our earlier conflict.
“And what else did you do?”
“I made a decision about my job at Merlotte’s,” she said.
“Oh?” I asked with interest. Did I want Sookie to continue working for the shifter who lusted after her? No. If she were having a “normal” pregnancy or if our children were going to age “normally,” I might have suggested she quit and become a stay-at-home mom—if that’s what she wanted to do. As it was, however, I planned to suggest that she—at least—take a leave of absence. Given the fact that the boys were going to grow so rapidly, I couldn’t imagine that she’d want to miss anything! In fact, I could only imagine her sorrow if she missed a first step because she was slinging beers and hamburgers.
Of course, I’d have to raise my points tactfully.
“I—uh—went to Luna’s funeral today,” she said almost apologetically.
“You were her friend,” I responded. “Of course you went.”
“You aren’t mad that I left you here alone? That I went out on my own?”
I thought about my response for a moment before I spoke. “In truth, I do want you to have guards, especially with the children on the way. But I also know that you can protect yourself. I hope that being in this town—where you grew up and where your brother is a policeman—will protect our family to a certain extent. And—as for myself—I’m not worried. I’m certain you secured the cubby like I showed you after the Jason incident—right?”
I sighed. “Vampires will be a target for a while, and when Weres and shifters come out, they will face danger too. I know how to be careful of myself—to build spaces like the cubby that can be locked down, but I cannot secure my family during the daytime.” I paused. “I am trying to come to terms with that, but—if you will let me—I would like to re-task some of Bill’s guards to patrol the perimeter here and maybe hire a few others as well.”
Sookie considered for a moment. “Okay.”
I couldn’t help but to smile. “Thank you, min kära. So you went to the funeral today?” I asked, getting us back to our previous topic.
She nodded. “And I talked to Sam and—uh—quit.”
I couldn’t quite hide my slight smile.
She rolled her eyes.
“I’ve decided to put my pride to the side and let you ‘keep’ me for a while. I wanna enjoy our babies for as long as I can. And—even when they’re older—or, uh, look older—they’ll still need to learn and to develop their fairy gifts if they get them. I can help them.”
My smile widened.
“Of course, Sam promised to hire me back if I ever wanted to come back, so don’t get too excited there, buddy.”
I chuckled. “Whatever you do, you will have my support,” I promised. “Maybe you could be the one to think of something for Bill’s old house—and run that,” I suggested. “Or maybe you could go to college. Or help me with my paperwork,” I added somewhat sourly. “In fact, I have many businesses that you might enjoy helping me with. But all of those decisions can happen after the boys no longer need us on a day-to-day basis.”
“I’ll think about it,” she said.
“Okay,” I answered simply. I really was committed to supporting whatever life she wanted to pursue.
“Anyway,” she said resignedly, “I don’t think Sam was too surprised I quit. It’s not like I’ve been able to work consistently,” she smirked, “for more than a year!”
“Did you tell him about our children?” I asked.
She nodded. “Yeah. He—uh—noticed my weight gain since my selection of black dresses didn’t include things with a lot of extra room.”
“You should shop for some maternity clothing,” I suggested.
“I already did,” she informed. “Online. Things should start arriving tomorrow. Diapers, baby things, kids’ clothes, teenagers’ clothes, and other things too.” She shook her head, clearly overwhelmed.
I sent her comfort and confidence through the bond. “One word,” I said.
“Pam,” I smiled. “She’ll be back before the babies are born, and whether she can control herself around them or not, she will be pleased to help spoil them.”
Sookie nodded with relief. “Okay. Maybe she and I will actually bond over this. Or,” she mused, “I might have to zap her.”
I chuckled. “You have my permission to do just that if she gets out of line.”
“I told Sam about us too,” she said with a sad sigh. “He tried to pretend to be happy for us.” She shrugged. “And I chose to give him a pass for having ass-a-holic thoughts because he is grieving.”
“Ass-a-holic?” I asked with a smirk.
“Yeah.” She shook her head. “You know—Sam’s my friend, and he gave me a job at a time when a lot of people wouldn’t have. But, in turn, I worked hard and was loyal to both Merlotte’s and Sam. Because I didn’t want to be deceptive with him, I told him that I could read minds early on, and I stayed out of his because it seemed like the right thing to do.” She took a deep breath. “Still, I knew from other people that Sam was interested in me, but I didn’t want to mess up my job by getting involved with him. Gran counted on me to help support the household.”
“You didn’t think it would work out with the shifter?” I asked, reading between the lines.
She sighed. “No. I mean—I found Sam attractive and all, but . . . .”
My growl interrupted her.
Again, she rolled her eyes. “Down boy,” she teased.
I couldn’t help but to chuckle. She was right. There was absolutely no need to be jealousy of the shifter.
Sookie was mine now.
After she’d seen that I’d calmed and added even more salt to her tea, she continued. “Like I said, I was attracted to Sam, but there was always something,” she paused, “off about the thought of an ‘us.’ When I learned that he was a shifter, I found out part of what that was.”
“Yeah—the other part was that he didn’t respect me enough to trust me. Heck—years ago—I told him that his thoughts were different than other people’s thoughts. That should have been the perfect opening for him to tell me that he was different. And, then, after vampires came out of the coffin . . . .”
“Gods, I hate that saying,” I muttered.
She grinned and took a long drink. “Anyway, I was excited when I learned that y’all were real. I remember closing that night, and it was just Sam and me left at the bar. Terry was sick, so I’d stayed behind to help Sam mop the floor. I couldn’t shut up about vampires!”
“Because it meant you weren’t alone anymore,” I commented intuitively.
She nodded. “Yep. I told Sam that I didn’t know what had caused my curse but that—since there were other things out there—I no longer felt as weird.”
“Another perfect chance for him to come clean.” I was currently thanking all of my gods and goddesses that I had come clean when I did about the cameras in the house.
She nodded. “Sam should have known me well enough to know that I would have accepted him even before vampires revealed themselves. But, I suppose, maybe he was just worried about how I’d react. Maybe, he’d thought that I would think of him as a monster or something.”
“But after we revealed ourselves, ‘cluelessness’ could no longer be an excuse for him.”
She nodded in agreement again. “Did I ever tell you how I found out about him?”
“It was during the time of the killings that Rene was doing—when Bill was at the tribunal thing and making Jessica. Gran was,” she paused, choked up for a moment, “already gone. There was this dog, Dean. And I was lonely—and maybe a little scared too since I was out here all alone. So I brought the dog inside. When I went to bed, Dean was at the foot of my bed. And a DOG. When I woke up, he was still at the foot of my bed—but he was SAM! Naked!”
Yep—I wanted to growl again, but I didn’t.
“Do you know how long it took me to accept him?” Sookie asked, her voice filled with hurt.
“Not long,” I said confidently.
“I was mad at him for keeping the secret. For not giving me the chance to accept him. For not giving me the credit that I would. For not letting me know that I wasn’t the only so-called freak in a world full of ‘normal’ people.” She shrugged. “If he had told me near the beginning of our friendship, I think I would have been more interested in him when he showed interest in me. But he didn’t speak about his interest out loud until I was with Bill, and then it just seemed,” she sighed, “well—like a dog trying to mark his territory by peeing on it.”
I snorted out a laugh.
Some things couldn’t be helped.
“Don’t judge,” she admonished with a grin. “As much as vampires try to ‘claim’ things, you’ve got no room to talk.”
“Not things, min kära—just you.”
“Then you have even less reason to judge Sam.”
“I’m not judging him. On the contrary, I want to thank him,” I said.
She gave me a questioning look as she got up to get a piece of apple pie, which she salted.
“Sam fucked things up royally with you,” I explained, “and it seems he still is.”
“He’s quick to say that I’m making a mistake in trusting you.”
“That’s rich, given the fact that he’s the one who didn’t trust you with his secret.”
She shrugged and moaned around a bite. I think I moaned aloud with her.
She swallowed, but I couldn’t. There was a lump in my throat.
And another growing in my pants.
Between bites, she spoke; between her bites, I tried to concentrate on her words rather than her seductive pie eating.
“The worst is that Sam thinks I’m stupid for trusting you,” she relayed before taking a bite and moaning again. “He thinks you are gonna leave me—despite the fact that we’re having babies together.” Another bite. More moans. “He thinks that the novelty of ‘family’ life will be a passing fancy for you.” Another bite. A lick of the lips. “He thinks that I’ll be lucky if I’m left alive when you decide to take off.” Another bite. A groan this time. “He thinks you are likely already fucking anything you can get your hands on. In his head, he gives us two months—maximum.”
As she took another bite, I managed a few coherent words—four to be exact: “He is a fool.”
Truer words had never been spoken.
“Yep,” she said, taking another bite. She licked her fork clean.
I gripped my chair tightly.
Predictably, learning about Merlotte’s idiocy and his defamation of me in his mind wasn’t enough to distract me from what my bonded was doing to her flatware.
“Lucky fucking fork,” I muttered.
“Huh?” she asked, opening her eyes after finishing another bite that caused my cock to want a “bite” of his own. Clueless to my “suffering,” she drank a huge gulp of tea.
“I’m glad you’re quitting there—at least for now,” I responded.
“I guess it says a lot that I’m a little relieved that I won’t have to be around a lot of people who judge every decision I make.” She looked sad for a moment. “My real friends, I think, should be happy that I’m happy.”
“And they will be,” I soothed. She scraped the last of her pie from the plate and then licked the plate.
I will admit that—even in the midst of a serious discussion—my pants had become seriously tight. But I was a glutton for punishment. And for my bonded.
“Do you want some more?” I asked, gesturing toward the clean plate in front of her. My voice might have cracked like a pubescent boy’s.
“Yes, please!” she enthused, smiling beautifully and handing me her plate. The gods help me, she licked her lips again.
I quickly got her another slice and brought over the salt shaker, preparing to enjoy the second act of the show.
A/N: I hope that you liked this chapter. I had several reasons for keeping Eric and Sookie in Bon Temps. These relate to the fairies’ proximity, Jason’s presence, and also Andy’s kids, who will come into play in this story. Basically speaking, Bon Temps is a good place to raise Fae children, and Eric has no desire to go back to displaying himself at Fangtasia. Thanks to everyone who is sticking with this story and leaving comments. I’ve been suffering from some pretty severe headaches (and dizziness) and have just been in the dumps b/c I can’t even drive myself anywhere, so your positive thoughts are so bolstering! I appreciate you all so much!
Until next time,