Chapter 09: Birth Right
Two bowls of ice cream later, both of which were enjoyed in the sunroom, Sookie felt very sated—at least for food. And Eric felt very aroused.
Sookie had eaten her treat as if on a long, orgasm-inducing thrill ride. Eric had never been jealous of a spoon or a bowl before; however, now he wanted to take all the goddamned spoons and bowls and plates and pots in the house and bury them outside just so that Sookie would be forced to eat her next serving off of his body.
“What’s wrong?” she asked him, having noticed that his eyes had glazed over. “Are you panting?”
He leered at her and seemed to growl, “You were making all the right noises for all the wrong reasons.”
Immediately, she turned red.
A smile lit up his face at that. “I love that I can still make you blush—despite the fact that you and I made Johan together.”
“Maybe I wouldn’t be blushing if I didn’t remember how we made him.”
Eric moved so that he was next to Sookie on the little couch she was sitting on. He grabbed her hand, and his face was suddenly more sincere than lustful.
“When do you think we made him?” he asked. “It was during the last week we were together in January—right?”
Sookie smiled and nodded. “Yeah, it must have been during that week, though it’s difficult to know for sure which,” she paused, turning even redder, “time it happened. We made love so much that week.”
He smiled too at the memory, though his eyes were a little melancholy as he thought of their last week together in January. It had been the very definition of bittersweet.
“But I think it was on Wednesday of that week for some reason,” she said with certainty, when she noticed that Eric’s expression had turned a little glum.
Eric closed his eyes for a moment and thought back. “The piano?”
Sookie nodded, this time without blushing. “Yeah. You were playing an instrumental version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah.’ And in that moment—I just knew.”
Tears welled-up in Sookie’s eyes. “I thought that I would never find a better moment than that one. It was perfect. You were perfect. We were perfect.”
“So you marched right over to that piano and took me,” Eric reminded, his eyebrows waggling.
“Hush,” she said,” her blush re-intensifying.
“You did,” he said with a smile. “And—on behalf of myself and the piano bench—thank you.”
She slapped his arm playfully before nuzzling into his side. “Anyway, that’s when I think it was.” She smiled warmly. “The moment I realized I might be pregnant, my mind flew to you sitting at the piano, playing that song as if you were playing a prayer to God. And having a family with you was my prayer, so—I guess—that means someone was listening.”
“It was my prayer too,” he whispered.
“I hate to interrupt you two,” Niall said from the doorway of the sunroom.
Both Sookie and Eric looked up at their host. Since the DNA test had confirmed that he and Sookie were, indeed, related, Niall had redoubled his efforts to make sure that she was taken care of. And—of course—that meant taking care of Eric too in Niall’s mind. After all, Eric was already sort of related through Bobby and he was also already sort of married to Sookie. Thus, through one DNA test, Niall felt as if he’d gained two new grandchildren—since he was obviously too young to be a great-grandfather, and he didn’t feel like just a distant cousin to Sookie.
“It’s fine,” Sookie smiled even as Eric helped her stand up so that she could hug Niall. “The doctor gave me a clean bill of health!”
“I heard,” Niall said with a smile. “At least I think I did. Ludwig mumbled something about my needing to wear earplugs for the next few days,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.
Immediately, Sookie was burying her face into Eric’s chest, even as Niall chuckled heartily.
“I’m sorry, Sookie,” Niall said with another chuckle. “Ludwig told me to tell you that in order to rile you. I—of course—reminded her that my Viola and I put our bedroom on the farthest side of the house so that we could be up to whatever adventures we saw fit to be up to—whenever we saw fit to be up to them—even if our grandkids were visiting.” He winked at her.
Sookie was thankful when Louise walked into the room, interrupting their blush-inducing conversation.
“Mr. Cataliades is here,” Louise informed as she smiled at Sookie. “You doin’ okay, Sook? Need more ice cream?” she asked. Like the others on Niall’s estate, Louise had accepted Sookie’s “new” name without question, and she’d taken the news of Sookie being related to Niall with an immediate, “Well—of course, she’s family.”
“Thanks, Lou,” Sookie said. “But I’m stuffed.
Louise smiled and then looked at Niall. “Should I tell Mr. Cataliades to wait for you in your office?” she asked him.
“No—just send him back here,” Niall responded.
Louise nodded and left the room.
“Oh,” Sookie said, looking down. She was wearing only a pair of maternity shorts and one of Eric’s T-shirts. Luckily, she’d put on a bra. Eric was also still dressed quite casually—in his track pants and T-shirt. “We should get dressed into something better then,” she said worriedly.
Niall shook his head and chuckled. “Do not worry about a little thing such as that. I have seen Desmond in much more questionable attire.”
“Niall!” Desmond Cataliades admonished as he walked into the sunroom, “will you never let me live that down?”
Niall chuckled. “No.”
“Live what down?” Sookie asked curiously.
The lawyer sighed dramatically as he took off his suit jacket and hung it over the back of a chair before sitting down. “Niall likes to remind me of a particular Halloween costume I once wore.”
“What was it?” Eric asked as he helped Sookie retake her seat and retook his as well.
“It was actually your grandfather John’s idea,” Mr. Cataliades smiled at Eric as he recollected that particular Halloween. “You see—John was a big fan of the movie Some Like it Hot. And he thought it would be funny if he, Niall, and I dressed up as the characters from it.”
“So you dressed up like Tony Curtis or Jack Lemmon in drag?” Eric asked, as he recalled the movie Mr. Cataliades was talking about. He and Sookie had actually watched it the summer before with Mormor; it was one of her favorites.
“No,” Mr. Cataliades groaned a little. “Niall was the Tony Curtis character, and your grandfather John was the Jack Lemmon character.”
“So who were you?” Sookie asked.
Mr. Cataliades glared at his friend. “They made me dress up like Marilyn Monroe!”
Sookie and Eric both looked at the currently sour-faced man before them and burst out laughing, earning them a glare from the lawyer too.
“You know,” Niall said with a grin as he looked at Eric, “Desmond, your grandfather John, and I always acted much more idiotic together than we did separately.”
“Do you remember the time we accidentally set John’s golf cart on fire?” the lawyer asked.
“No,” Niall said quickly and sternly, though he winked at Sookie, “and you don’t recall that either.”
Mr. Cataliades chuckled. “You must be getting old if you are succumbing to memory problems.”
“Don’t forget that you are a year older than I am,” Niall said.
The two spry elderly men chuckled heartily before Niall’s face fell a little. “We lost John way too soon,” he sighed.
“That we did, “Mr. Cataliades agreed. “You were around sixteen when he passed—weren’t you?” he asked, looking at Eric.
“I was seventeen,” Eric answered quietly, the mood in the room suddenly much more somber. “Because of,” Eric paused, “how things were, I didn’t know him well.”
Sookie squeezed his hand in comfort.
Mr. Cataliades’s face clouded a bit. “If John had a flaw, it was that he allowed Grace to rule him on some things that he should not have.” He sighed deeply and looked at Eric almost guiltily.
The young man didn’t miss the look, but before he could ask what had caused it, Niall focused them on the reason he’d asked his friend to come to the Hamptons that day. “Did you bring the paperwork, Desmond?” he asked.
Broken from whatever thoughts he’d been having related to Eric, the lawyer nodded and reached into his briefcase.
“What paperwork?” Sookie asked suspiciously.
“Now,” Niall began conciliatorily, “don’t be angry, but I had Desmond draw up the papers that will transfer my uncle’s legacy to his family line.”
Sookie sighed. “You know how I feel about this, Niall. I don’t think it’s right to take your money like that.”
“And that’s why I waited until Ludwig told me that you were better before asking Desmond to come visit,” Niall said with a wry smile.
“Plus, the fortune truly isn’t his; it never was,” Mr. Cataliades informed, “nor could it ever be inherited by anyone of his descent.”
“What do you mean, Mr. Cataliades?” Sookie asked. She’d met the lawyer only briefly when he’d come to the hospital to compare the picture of Ruby and the man they were now referring to as Niall #1—which had been sent to Niall’s father, James—to the picture Sookie had taken from Gran’s house. Since Dr. Ludwig had demanded that she rest after the DNA test and the pictures had confirmed that she was—indeed, a Brigant—neither Sookie nor Eric had talked to the lawyer very much.
“Please,” Mr. Cataliades said, “call me Desmond.”
“Okay—Desmond,” Sookie replied with a polite smile.
The lawyer smiled back. “My own grandfather was the lawyer for Niall’s father, James. After receiving the letter from his brother, Niall #1, James asked my grandfather to hire people to try to find him and Ruby. But they failed because they didn’t know the surname that they were using. However, James never stopped hoping that Niall #1—or his children—would eventually come home. James essentially split the Brigant estate—as it existed at the time—into two equal parts. One half of it was to be divided between his children, Niall and Mary. The other half was left in a trust for his brother’s family—should they ever be found or make themselves known.”
“The only thing that I was able to do with my uncle’s half of the family fortune was to make sure it was invested properly,” Niall informed. “And—even with that, there were conditions set so that the money couldn’t be invested in risky stocks and the like.” He chuckled a little. “My father had lived through the stock market crash—you see. And he was quite conservative about his own investments.”
“However, in this case, conservative was good,” Desmond commented. “Initially, James had an assessment done of all Brigant property, including the estates the family owned. To keep things equitable, he added the value of half of the estates into the trust for his brother. Then he created an investment portfolio for the trust. One-third of the money was put into long-term, high-interest-yielding saving’s accounts. One-third of the money was invested in treasury bonds. And the last third was invested in blue-chip stocks.”
“I’ve heard that term—’blue-chip’—before, but I’m not sure what it means,” Sookie said.
“It refers to stocks from companies that are well-established and large—so they are considered relatively safe to invest in,” Eric responded.
Niall spoke up, “It was only the stock portion of the trust that I was really able to work with—though I have followed my father’s wishes and have kept the estate invested in more secure stocks, rather than riskier ones that could have been higher yielding. And—of course—I’ve made sure that the interest-bearing savings accounts were making the most possible dividends by periodically assessing the type of accounts available and shifting the money as needed for its maximum growth. And as various bonds have matured, I’ve reinvested that capital into others.”
“Wow!” Sookie sighed. “Sounds complicated! And, since you did all that work, it just doesn’t seem right that it’s not your money.”
Desmond chuckled. “Actually, he’s paid me to do most of the work.”
Niall rolled his eyes but didn’t disagree with his friend. “Just think of it as us looking after Niall #1’s legacy for his family—for you, my dear,” he said gently.
“But what if we’d never found each other?” Sookie asked.
Niall shrugged. “Then the estate would have just kept growing into the future. My branch of the family became its caretaker—nothing else. So—as I have said before—it is yours by right, Sookie.”
Sookie leaned into Eric’s side, closed her eyes, and took several deep breaths.
“You okay?” Eric asked as he put his arm around her. “Do you need to rest?”
She looked up at him and kissed him gently on the cheek. “I’m okay. It’s just a lot to take in.”
Eric pulled Sookie to his side a little closer and leaned back so that she could be more comfortable. He was tempted to insist that she rest or at least check her blood pressure, but right after Dr. Ludwig had left, he and Sookie had had a talk, which had included him promising not to “hover too much.” In turn, she had promised to tell him if anything—even something seemingly little—”felt off.”
And, when it all came down to it, he trusted her—especially when it came to the life of their child.
He kissed her lightly on the temple. “Tell me if it becomes too much,” he whispered so that only she could hear.
Niall’s face showed his own concern. “I was holding off on doing all this until Ludwig said you were okay. However, we can wait longer if need be. There’s no rush, dear.”
“No,” Sookie said with a little smile. “It’s fine. It’s just a lot to process.”
Niall smiled. “If it helps, think of all of it as something to pass on to your child—your children.”
Sookie nodded and smiled in return. “Thanks. That actually does help—a lot.”
Desmond spoke up, “Ready to go on?” he asked Sookie kindly.
“As we’ve indicated,” Desmond said, “because of the nature of James Brigant’s Will, Niall was somewhat limited as far as what investments he could make, but the estate coming to your side of the family is still roughly 17.9 billion dollars.”
Sookie took a deep breath. “Billion with a ‘B?'”
Desmond chuckled. “Yep.” He shuffled some papers around. “Given the way James’s Will was drawn up, that money must be split up between all of his brother’s descendants. I’ve done an investigation, and that includes only three people: your brother, Jason; your cousin, Hunter; and yourself. According to my search of public records, Katherine, who was your great-grandfather’s sister, had one child, a son, but he was killed during World War II, and that branch of the family died with him.”
“So Jason will receive an equal share to Sookie?” Eric asked with a bite to his tone.
“Yes,” the lawyer stated. “Niall has told me a bit of the situation, however. Since Niall is the guardian of his uncle’s estate, we will be able to set a few conditions on the distribution of the money. For instance, since Hunter is only a small child, we will place the bulk of his share into a trust fund, which can be accessed by him only after he graduates from college. That money will be invested similarly to how it has been, so it will continue to grow as he does. However, an annual sum of fifty thousand dollars will be placed into an account which Hunter’s father may access for matters related to Hunter’s care. And Mr. Savoy can petition Niall to release additional funds—as needed, though Niall maintains decision-making power over that.”
“But what if Hunter chooses not to go to college?” Eric asked.
Desmond shrugged. “Niall—or whomever inherits guardianship of the trust—can release the funds at any time after Hunter turns 25 if the boy chooses not to go to college.” The lawyer chuckled. “However, I’m betting he’ll go.”
Sookie nodded, but then sighed as she squeezed Eric’s hand and spoke to Niall. “I wish you could have met Hadley before she died. And Gran.”
“Me too,” Niall said sadly. “But I will soon be able to know Hunter and his father.”
Eric kissed Sookie’s temple. Given the fact that Sookie had left him in charge of Gran’s estate after she’d left town, he’d been contacted by Sid Matt when Hadley succumbed to AIDS that March. Unbeknownst to Eric, Bobby had passed along that information to Sookie, though—much to her regret—it had been impossible for her to attend her cousin’s funeral.
“For Jason, we have set up something similar to what we did for Hunter,” Niall said with a mischievous smile.
“But Jason’s not a child!” Sookie exclaimed.
“Debatable,” Eric said under his breath.
Everyone chuckled at that.
“Jason will receive the bulk of his inheritance only when he finishes a college degree or when the guardian of his trust agrees,” Desmond reported. “In the meantime, he will have access to only fifty thousand dollars a year—just like Hunter. And—to get more—he’d have to petition . . . .”
“Me!” Niall interrupted triumphantly. He chuckled. “My father’s Will allows me to retain guardianship over the estate and to distribute the money to all inheritors under reasonable and equal conditions. A college education was listed as one such consideration I could employ.” He chuckled again. “Thus, Jason will have to finish a degree from an accredited four-year university if he wants the bulk of his estate.”
“But Jason hated college,” Sookie said, thinking about her brother’s lazy attitude regarding education. “He dropped out of LSU after only a semester, when he lost his athletic scholarship because of bad grades.”
Niall sighed. “When Desmond showed me his college record, I figured that was the case, and Jason will still end up with the money even if he doesn’t go back to school.” He ran his hand through his hair. “I won’t hold it over his head for more than ten years, but I was hoping that the conditions of the inheritance would spur him into seeking his higher education again. It was at the university that I learned to think for myself. I am hoping that the same will be true for Jason.” He shook his head. “From what you have told me of him, I can tell that he is easily influenced by your mother. And I do not want her to be able to enjoy any of the Brigant money, though—in the end—that choice will be Jason’s.”
Sookie took a deep breath. “I hope that Jason does choose to go to college. But the man I saw when we were in Bon Temps when Gran passed away was the same cruel, mean-spirited person I’ve always known. I hope that changes, but I don’t think I would ever be able to have a relationship with him. I hope that doesn’t stop you from trying to get to know him though.”
“I cannot blame you for not wanting to have anything to do with him, my dear,” Niall said. “I do plan to try to form a relationship with him—as well as with Remy Savoy—when we contact them to tell them of our family ties; however, the terms of my father’s Will give us some latitude as far as ‘when’ we do that. From the time that a familial relationship was confirmed with the DNA test, we have up to a year to make ourselves known to the various family members and to distribute their inheritances.”
Mr. Cataliades spoke. “Your full inheritance will be released to you today, Sookie—as you have already met the requirements.”
“A college degree,” Sookie mused.
“Yes!” Niall said proudly. “And you didn’t even need to be bribed to get one,” he winked.
“But I don’t know how to handle that kind of money,” Sookie sighed loudly.
“You won’t need to do anything,” Niall comforted. “Desmond is transferring your case to his granddaughter, Diantha, who is the managing partner in his firm. She will look after everything for you—until you are ready to give her your input.”
“We have already set things up to make it easier for you, Sookie,” Desmond said. “The paperwork for your inheritance taxes will be filed today. Then, Diantha will set up several things for you—an account with a quarter million dollars that you can draw upon as needed and that will be replenished biannually. The rest of your inheritance will go into high-yield savings accounts and bonds. Later—once things settle down—you can meet with Diantha about what you want to do beyond that. However, it’s her job to make things as stress-free and as easy for you as possible—while still growing your inheritance.”
“You’ll help me understand all this?” Sookie asked, looking up at Eric.
He nodded. “Yes. Don’t worry, Sookie. Take it from me—money can be a good thing because it can take many worries away. And I know that you will do good with it. It won’t change who you are. It won’t affect how we decide to live and to raise our children. And it won’t change what profession you end up with. It’s just a tool to make things easier, and—if we want—we can leave everything to our children.”
“That’s right, dear,” Niall comforted. “And, for now, it’s not even something you need to worry about. Let others do that for you. You need only concentrate on your health and the health of my grandson inside of you.”
Sookie chuckled, thinking about how Niall had pronounced that he would be “grandfather” to both her and her child—rather than “cousin” or something that sounded “older.”
Niall turned his focus to Eric. “I know that you are still planning what happens next as far as you and Appius are concerned.”
“Yes,” Eric confirmed.
Sookie sat forward and smiled widely. “Wait! You said that my inheritance will be mine as of today?”
Niall nodded in confirmation and smiled. “Yes.”
Sookie looked at Eric and they both grinned, seemingly having a silent conversation. Both knew that as soon as Sookie signed the papers taking control of her estate, she would meet the terms of the contract between Eric and Appius.
“We’re not going to wait to get officially married,” Sookie said, her grin widening. “We can go to the Justice of the Peace and . . . .”
“Nonsense!” Niall exclaimed. “You should marry here—in the gardens, next to that patch of lavender you love.” He looked at Sookie and Eric and smiled proudly at them both. “Please allow me to give you two the gift of a small wedding. I’m sure your grandmother would like to be here,” he said to Eric. “And we can secretly spirit some of your friends here as well!” the patriarch added mischievously. “I could have everything ready in two weeks’ time.”
Eric and Sookie looked at each other.
“Two weeks would give you time to get a bit stronger, min kära,” Eric said gently.
“And it would be nice to have Mormor with us when we make things official—and Bobby and Pam and Amelia and Henry and Claudine and Thalia and Blake and Ben,” she giggled as her list kept getting longer.
Eric nodded in agreement and turned to Niall. “Thank you, Niall. We accept your kind offer.”
Niall clapped his hands together. “Splendid!” His expression clouded. “Wait—does your contract with Appius allow for you to marry without his knowledge?” he asked warily.
“Yes—it does,” Eric answered with certainty. “Bobby and I were studying it again last night. According to the contract, ‘approval’ for my wife is constituted by a number of factors and need not be given by Appius directly as long as those other conditions are met. The Brigant family easily meets those requirements. And, as soon as Sookie officially inherits her portion of Niall #1’s estate, she’ll meet all the other requirements of that damned contract,” Eric finished bitterly, even as he looked at Sookie as if to beg her forgiveness that he’d ever signed the god-forsaken document.
She silently reassured him with a squeeze of his hand.
“Contract?” Desmond asked, once more looking a little guilty. “You have a contract with Appius?”
Eric looked over at the attorney and nodded in confirmation. He wanted to ask the lawyer about his shamefaced expression, but Niall inadvertently interrupted his doing so for a second time.
Niall spoke excitedly. “A wedding is wonderful news! And—of course—your grandmother and all of your friends are welcome to stay here! Jake will be beside himself that you are doing it in the gardens! And Karen and Louise can make the food and decorate!”
Sookie interlocked her fingers with Eric’s. “Thank you, Niall—so much.”
“It is nothing, my dear,” Niall said. “I am happy to do it; I just wish we had known of each other sooner.”
“Me too,” Sookie said even as a tear fell from her eye. It could have been a tear of sadness for the time she’d lost with Niall and Eric. But it wasn’t. It was a tear of joy for the family she’d gained and for the man by her side.
A/N: Hello all! Here’s the latest chapter! I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you will leave a comment if you did—or if you have something constructive to say.
Sigh. My guest reviewer who feels that I have “deballed” Eric in this story has struck again, leaving a 519-word diatribe, which seemed to be coming from a twelve year old (born in the twelfth century). Apparently, Eric is a “pussy” since he won’t kill Appius. Apparently, Eric needs to “get over” his “girly kid emotions and be a man.” Apparently Eric should have let Appius hurt everyone he cared about—just to free himself. Sorry, but this Eric is the opposite of selfish. And to say that a man has “lost his balls” if he cries or puts others above himself (or if he refuses to “just kill his dick-loving father”) is ridiculous and—frankly—offensively homophobic. I know that a lot of people use the phrase “misplaced his balls,” when they perceive that a man is weak. And I’ve even seen it in fanfiction (from authors I admire, by the way) who have Eric thinking, “Where did my balls go?” when he realizes that he’s behaving more sensitively, given his love for Sookie. Hell—I admit that I’ve said such things in the past too! But I’ve rethought it (and I know that the authors who say it don’t intend it to weaken Eric either). I will stick to what I said in my note with the last chapter. Ideas of masculinity and femininity weaken us all if they somehow imply that men and women should feel particular ways. We feel how we feel! There is no universal ‘right’ way or ‘wrong’ way! If I don’t cry where other women might, I’m not being a “heartless bitch.” And if a man does cry when other men wouldn’t, that doesn’t mean his balls have been left somewhere else. Finally, keep in mind that I erase all anonymous, negative rants about my stories and characters. But I am not above “ranting” back when I feel like it. So—if you want your comments to post—be so kind as to sign in. And—if you really hate this Eric—be so kind as to stop reading. We’ll both feel better.
Sorry. I’ll step off my soapbox now. But I just had to rant and ramble back a little. Like Eric, sometimes I need to let my emotions out. Wait—does that mean I misplaced my balls? LOL. Wait—did I ever have any balls? Maybe I should “steal” my husband’s? 😉
All that said, most of you continue to be incredibly supportive of this story. And I love y’all for it! Many of you commented about the strength Eric was showing as he let out his emotions in the last chapter. I agree with what someone said—that his tears were needed for him to heal and that they are actually going to end up being a big “fuck you” to Appius. So thanks to everyone taking the time to read and support me.
I’m going to make a liar out of myself and stick with this for one more chapter before I switch back to Uncharted—since I’m “ahead of my posting schedule” a bit. The next chapter in this one begins in Desmond’s POV, and I’m anxious to work on that one for myself (since I can’t remember all the details of it. LOL.)
P.S. Don’t forget to join me for my True Blood watching party—if you are still watching and want to share the pain (and occasional pleasure).