Chapter 17: Motive
They had assumed their favorite post-coital position. Eric was spooning behind Sookie, his hand resting over Johan and her hand resting over his. Actually, that had been their “coital” position too.
Eric had always loved to make love to Sookie from behind as they lay side by side—her back to his chest, her leg lazed over his. The position allowed him to touch almost anything he wanted on her body, including her clit and her breasts. It allowed him to hang onto her hips for dear life as he tried to keep his sanity, even when he felt his pleasure might become too much for a human to withstand. It allowed him to inhale the scent of her hair or kiss the curve of her shoulders and neck. And it allowed him to better understand Sookie’s own passionate cravings—as she would literally bend herself backwards so that her lips could find his. He’d always loved the fact that she was just as thirsty for him as he was for her.
In the week since they’d been married—even as Johan had decided to make his presence more and more known, they had both begun to prefer making love spooned together. Even with his height, Eric was having a hard time curving his body over Sookie’s expanding belly if he was on top, and he didn’t like being on his knees as he trust into her from above. Though he could see her eyes that way, it had always felt as if he was too far away from her when he was positioned like that. And—though he had enjoyed taking her from behind with her on her hands and knees before, he no longer liked the idea that her elbows might give out, causing her to fall onto her rotund stomach. She was still—thank all the gods in the heavens—ready and willing to ride him on occasion, but she would tire quickly. So making love to her as they were both lying on their sides had become the most enjoyable way for them to join. And neither of them were complaining about it.
In fact, they were both ready to write an ode to the position.
Johan kicked hard against Eric’s hand, and they both chuckled. For the most part, he would stay asleep during their lovemaking—as if lulled by the action or, perhaps, respecting his parents’ privacy—but whenever Sookie was still, he liked to remind his parents of his presence.
“Eric?” Sookie whispered, saying his name like a question.
“Hmmm?” he responded, though her tone told him what her topic would be. They’d not talked much about Appius in the last two weeks, but they both knew it was time to start figuring things out.
“What now?” she asked.
Eric sighed. He had been asking himself that same question since Bobby had come to him in the MET and had told him that Sookie was nearby, carrying his child, and in distress. At first, Eric had put off her questions—and his own—because she was weak and ill. Then, he had somehow gotten her to agree to put off the discussion until after their wedding—and then to delay it until after their honeymoon, which had consisted of a week on the rocky Manchester, Massachusetts coastline. Niall had sold the Brigant family’s palatial estate in Boston long ago, but he’d kept their Victorian-style vacation home on the Massachusetts coast. And Eric and Sookie had sequestered themselves there for a week after their wedding—a week which would be coming to an end when Mikey picked them up in two hours to take them back to the Hamptons.
Eric inhaled the scent of her hair. “I’m going to confront Appius—but not until after Johan is born.”
Sookie sighed deeply. “You’re going to wait?”
“Yes,” he said without hesitation. “I need to know you and Johan are safe before I do anything.”
“You’re going to have to go back to NP soon—be there in person,” Sookie whispered. “You have already been gone for three weeks.”
“Yes,” Eric said with regret.
“What will that mean for us?” she asked.
“It means that I will have a long commute,” he said. “But I will be in your bed every night, Sookie. I swear it.”
She sighed with relief. “So you won’t be staying at home?” she asked. No matter how welcome she’d felt at Niall’s estate, she still thought of their Upper West Side house as their “real” home.
“Not without you,” he whispered into her hair. “I never want to spend a night without you again.”
“Thank you,” she whispered.
He shook his head. “You are thanking me for wanting to be close to the people that make me happy?” He chuckled. “It feels selfish and dangerous. I just hope Appius doesn’t suspect anything when I continue to stay at Niall’s.”
She looked up at him. “Screw him if he does. Let him wonder.”
He lips curved upward. “Yes.” But then his frown returned. “I just need to know you and Johan are well, Sookie. Anything else doesn’t matter.”
“Johan and I are fine, Eric,” she whispered sincerely.
Eric sighed. Sookie had promised that she was feeling okay—that she wasn’t going to get sick on him again. That she wasn’t going to die on him. That she and Johan were okay and going to stay that way.
But Eric was still afraid. Each day was like a countdown for him. Her pregnancy was now 23 weeks along, and Johan’s survivability rate would be 17% if he were born right then. At 24 weeks, he would be at 39%. At 25, he would be at 50%. At 26, he would be at 80%. At 27 weeks, he would be at 90%. Eric had the percentages and probabilities memorized like a timetable, and he was praying for at least five more weeks to take his son from less than 20% to 90%. Moreover, Sookie’s own chances of being okay rose with every day her pregnancy progressed.
The second day they’d been reunited, Sookie had made Eric promise—swear on their love—that if it came to a choice, that he’d pick their child over her. But Eric wondered if he could do that—wondered if it would be possible for him to tear out his heart and soul in order to save his son.
No—he thought—shutting out the possibility of losing either of them as he shut his eyes. He couldn’t lose his wife or his son—not now or ever. He pulled her closer, enjoying the way her body molded to his. His hand savored the feeling of his son’s kicks, and he prayed for Sookie and Johan’s safety. He was prepared to give his own life for them—if need be. But they would stay safe.
Sookie and Eric were surprised when they got back to Niall’s estate and found a large group of people there.
Dr. Ludwig was the first to speak. “I’d like to check Sookie’s vitals first, and I want to keep her sitting down with a blood pressure monitor on during this little meeting.”
Immediately, Sookie paled. “What’s happened?”
“Jesus Christ, Ludwig. Don’t scare her like that,” Niall chastised.
“What is it?” Eric asked, wrapping his arm protectively around Sookie.
“There’s a lot,” Bobby said with a sigh. “But let the doctor work first.”
Eric looked around the room. In addition to Bobby, Niall, and the doctor, his mormor, Pam, Claudine, Henry, Blake, Thalia, Amelia, and Desmond Cataliades were in the room. In addition, Copley Carmichael, Russell Edgington, and Isabel were there.
Eric looked at them all and re-asked Sookie’s question. “What’s happened?”
“Appius has gone too far,” Russell said. He looked at Eric with regret. “He’s been going too far for a long time; I’m sorry I didn’t know that, Eric. But now I do. Niall’s told us everything—about John’s codicil, about your contract with Appius. Everything.”
Copley sighed loudly. “For many years, Appius was my closest friend, and I made allowances for the neglect he clearly inflicted upon you. I’m sorry. As a father myself, I should have spoken to him about you. I saw that he was neglecting you, but I believed he was doing that because he was still grieving for Stella. But there’s no excuse. I should have done something. But,” he paused and looked at his own daughter with regret, “I was not a very good father then either.”
“What’s happened?” Sookie asked again, feeling like she and Eric were in some kind of broken record loop where they kept getting a non-response to their question.
“First, before anything else, you need to know that there are solutions,” Niall said firmly.
“Yes, you will have your choice of them,” Russell added.
“And I’m one of them,” came a voice from the door.
“Mr. Compton,” Niall said, though his face held no smile, “how kind of you to join us. But I thought I asked you to stay out of here until you were called.”
“Bill?” Sookie asked, even as her legs began to shake. Eric immediately scooped her into his arms and put her down onto the couch.
He looked at the doctor frantically. “Amy?” he asked.
Dr. Ludwig muttered out a curse and attended to her patient quickly. Thankfully, Sookie’s blood pressure wasn’t elevated, and her shock at seeing Bill wore off quickly.
Instead, she felt something else building inside of her—the same kind of thing that a mother lioness might feel if she were trying to protect her child from a pack of hyenas. She felt cold, hard anger.
And she felt colder and harder determination.
“Am I okay?” she whispered to the doctor.
Amy Ludwig recognized Sookie’s look immediately. It wasn’t uncommon among expecting mothers, who, by sheer force of will, aimed to protect their children’s lives. In the doctor’s experience, the women with that look generally succeeded.
“Right as rain, Mrs. Northman. Now—give them hell,” Amy whispered.
Sookie nodded and gave the doctor a little smile. She intended to do just that.
“What the fuck is going on here?” she asked, turning her stare to Bobby and Henry, who were standing nearby and looking at her with concern. “You two—talk! Now!”
Henry and Bobby both smiled at her as she shifted and then set herself onto Eric’s lap. She spared a quick glare for Bill, as Ludwig chuckled and fit her with an automatic blood pressure monitor.
“Thank you,” Sookie said to the doctor. “I’m okay.”
Ludwig winked at her.
“But I’ll be even better when people start explaining!” she said loudly.
“Vara lugna, min älskade,” Eric said quietly against her hair. “Vara lugna för vår son. För Johan.” [Be calm, my love. Be calm for our son. For Johan.]
Even though she didn’t recognize all of the words that he spoke, Sookie looked at Eric and nodded before kissing him lightly. “I’m okay—really. You’re here, and the doctor’s here. It’s okay.”
He placed a kiss onto her forehead and a hand over their child. Her free hand immediately came over his.
“Amy?” Eric asked.
“She is okay,” Ludwig confirmed.
“I already said that,” Sookie grumbled. She looked back a Bobby and Henry—because, other than Eric, they were the two people she trusted the most. “So? Spill it you two—before I give you lifetime diaper duty.”
Both of them were still smiling at her. “Remind me never to underestimate you, Sookie,” Henry said with a brotherly look of pride.
“Spill!” she ordered again.
Bobby sighed and raked his hand through is hair. “Two days ago, a sex-tape of Freyda de Castro and a man who looked to be Eric was leaked to the press.”
Eric immediately tensed. “From Northman Tower? From years ago?” he asked. He wouldn’t put it past Appius to monitor the goings-on in the apartments. Eric had just never really cared before.
“No,” Bobby said. “The footage is from your home.”
“Our home?” Sookie asked shakily.
“But Freyda was never there,” Eric said with a mixture of anger and certainty.
“The video was altered,” Bill said from the other side of the room. “It was well-done, but my findings are conclusive.” He looked at Sookie contritely. “I’m sorry that someone has tried to make you doubt Eric—again. But you shouldn’t—not in this situation.”
“Bill?” Sookie said his name like a question. “Why are you even here? How did you know where I was?”
“I didn’t know that you would be here,” Bill said. “But I found out Eric was here from Lorena.”
“Lorena?” Sookie asked.
Bill sighed. “Lorena is on Appius’s payroll. I didn’t know that before four days ago—I swear. I was at Quantico giving a lecture when a colleague of mine—a rival, really—bragged that he’d bedded Lorena and altered a video for her that would make my work look amateurish. To further boast, Warren showed me his work. It turns out that the tape was of Eric and Freyda. At that point, I sought out Lorena and was able to get more information from her, including the fact that Eric had been staying here. Lorena told me that you’d had a mental breakdown,” he added, looking at Eric.
“Why seek me out?” Eric asked suspiciously.
“Lorena tried to get a rise out of me by telling me that Sookie had run off, and then she offered to introduce me to your father, who apparently pays very well for information on you,” he responded, still looking at Eric. Bill shrugged. “I pretended that I was going to think her offer over.”
“But then he came here,” Bobby explained. “And he brought evidence that the sex-tape of you and Freyda had been faked.”
“Why help me?” Eric pushed.
Bill sighed. “I will admit to having ulterior motives. I figured I’d try to trade my information for Sookie’s location. However,” he continued, “once I got here, it was explained to me that you two had married. And then my motives changed.”
“What are they now?” Sookie asked with some trepidation.
A/N: The game is afoot. Does Bill mean well? Or does he have more nefarious motives? What do you think?
Thanks for all the comments on the last chapter!