“My family is my strength and my weakness.”—Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
“So—how was your first full day back at the office?” Sookie asked as the elevator doors opened.
Eric didn’t answer her question; instead, he stepped forward with purpose, took her into his arms, and gave her a kiss that showed her just how much he’d missed her that day.
She gave him no complaints and wrapped her arms around him tightly. Not caring about anything except touching his wife, Eric dropped his briefcase and coat, his arms going around her body and lifting her up. Sookie smiled against his lips as she wrapped her legs around him.
“You wore a skirt for me, min älskare,” he growled as Sookie’s full skirt drifted upward. He readjusted his grip so that his hands were under her bottom—her very naked bottom!
“Yes,” she whispered into his ear before taking his earlobe into her mouth and sucking a little. “But I seem to have forgotten my panties.” She slipped his suit coat from his shoulders and then loosened his tie.
“Where’s Milos?” Eric groaned into his wife’s neck as he grounded his erection against her, trying to get as much contact as possible considering the layers of fabric that still separated his cock from the heaven that it wanted to explore.
“Visiting Henry and Blake until further notice,” she moaned as he placed nibbling kisses onto her chin and neck.
She began working on the buttons of his shirt, dragging her fingernails over his flesh as she went.
“Johan?” he asked with a grunt.
“Nap. I just put him down.” She smiled a little wider. “Guess who didn’t want to fall asleep without his daddy?”
Eric temporarily removed his lips from her body so that he could look at Sookie. “He wasn’t upset—was he?” He’d been worried that their son might have a little separation anxiety.
“Not too bad,” Sookie quickly assured moving her legs a little to get them more securely wrapped around his body.
He groaned at the friction.
Sookie giggled. “He was only a little fussy, and Mormor was here to help for a while. I think he was just trying to wait for you before he went to sleep, but he finally played himself out. He’s a stubborn one.”
Eric chuckled and resumed his kissing of his wife as he walked them toward their bedroom. He noticed that Johan wasn’t in the portable crib next to their bed.
As if reading his thoughts, Sookie said, “I was hoping you wouldn’t be too tired from work to play a little.” She blushed.
“Never,” he grinned at her reddened cheeks. “But . . . ,” he stopped.
He placed her gently onto the bed. “Hold that thought for just a second—okay?”
She raised an eyebrow in question but nodded.
Eric kissed her lightly on the lips and quickly went into his son’s nursery next door. Johan was in a deep sleep, evidenced by the fact that he’d not fully kicked off his blanket yet; only his tiny toes were peeking out of it. Eric quietly leaned over and placed a soft kiss onto his son’s head.
When he turned around, Sookie was leaning against the doorframe, a soft smile on her lips.
“I love you so much, Eric Northman. And every day, you do about a hundred things that remind me of why.”
He walked back over to her and took her hand, leading her back to their bedroom and closing the door softly behind him.
Once he had her back on the bed, he looked at her predatorily. She shivered under his gaze, and when he started to run his fingers lightly under her skirt, she shivered again.
“I have some other ways to remind you—ways that I’ve been contemplating all day,” he said in a low voice as he dropped to his knees at the edge of the bed. He pushed her skirt up, and in the next moment, he was tasting her with one long lick along her sex. He moaned into her sweet flesh.
“Oh God!” Sookie gasped, trying to be quiet, as he concentrated the efforts of his tongue on her clit and began to tease her entrance with his fingers.
“More!” she ordered with another whispered gasp.
Obediently, he worked one and then two fingers into her, moving them at a steady rhythm and curling them to elicit more moans from her. With his other hand, he moved her full skirt so that he could see her face and growled when he saw that she was looking at him, her eyes darkened by pleasure and desire. She’d also pulled the fabric of her blouse up and was biting on it to keep quiet.
“You are so fucking sexy,” Eric whispered before quickening the pace of his digits and sucking on her clit. At that, she came undone, her yell muffled by the fabric of her shirt.
“How was that reminder, lover,” Eric asked with a cocky leer as he stood to his feet and quickly divested himself of his shoes and pants.
“Not bad,” she said, still panting, “but my memory’s not so good. I think I need more.”
“Then more you shall have,” he said, removing her skirt. Friskily, he flipped her body over and lifted her hips up a little so that he could enter her while he was still standing next to the bed.”
“Oh fuck!” Sookie cursed with pleasure as he filled her with one stroke.
“Shhh. The baby’s asleep and the monitor is on,” Eric whispered playfully, bending his tall, lanky body over hers and kissing her neck.
She looked over her shoulder to glare at him and then stifled a moan as he pulled his length almost all the way out of her—excruciatingly slowly.
“That feels so good,” she half-whispered and half-groaned.
He moaned loudly when only his tip was inside of her.
“Shhh. Remember that you have to be quiet too, Mr. Northman,” she said with a little smirk.
He nodded, concentrating on doing just that as he buried himself to the hilt once more.
Soon, they were both finding out just how difficult being quiet could be as his pace quickened and she began to move so that she was meeting him thrust for thrust. It wasn’t long before they were both mumbling incoherently as her orgasm became the catalyst for his.
Completely spent and unable to stay on his feet anymore, Eric fell onto the bed next to her. He lay on his back, his legs dangling over the side of the bed.
Sookie managed to crawl over to him. “Mmm, that was good,” she murmured as she kissed his chest over his still-thundering heart.
“Yes,” he panted his agreement. “Wanna do it again?” he asked, his lips curving upwards into a smirk.
She giggled. “You’re incorrigible.”
He pulled her closer. “We have a lot of time to make up for,” he said, his eyebrows waggling. “And I’m afraid that I was so anxious to taste you and to be inside of you that I completely neglected some of my favorite parts of you,” he added as he began to caress her breasts over her blouse.
“That was very naughty of you,” she gasped out even as she moved aside his unbuttoned shirt and then took one of his nipples into her mouth. She nibbled a little, and Eric felt his cock stirring once more to life. However, before he could properly pay homage to every inch of his wife’s body, his son interrupted their play with a loud cry.
The simultaneous reaction from Eric and Sookie was a cross between a groan and a chuckle.
“I’ll get him,” Sookie said, sitting up and quickly pulling her skirt back on. “Why don’t you get into comfy clothes while I change his diaper? And then you can take him while I get cleaned up a little.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Eric said before kissing her lightly on the lips. “But don’t think I’m not planning on continuing this later.”
“Oh—I won’t let you forget,” she returned flirtatiously as she got up to go see to Johan’s needs.
Eric smiled widely as he watched his wife go into the nursery. He’d missed the hell out of Sookie and Johan that day, but he’d enjoyed being back at the office after doing most of his work from home for the last several months.
And it had been an extremely productive day. He’d met with Guo Li, and they’d expanded their partnership. He’d also met with the team designing the new electronic pad, which would soon be the exclusive electronic medium for the NP catalog.
He’d shored up Northman Publishing’s domestic partnerships and had contacted its most profitable authors in order to assure them that—though there had been changes in leadership—the excellent services that the publishing giant had always offered its clients would remain in place and/or be augmented.
However, no matter how good the day had been, a large part of Eric had wanted to leave the office as soon as he got there and return to his family. He sighed, knowing that Johan wasn’t the only one who’d have to learn to adjust to their being apart for nine to ten hours a day, three days a week. He smiled. At least, in working from home for part of the week, he’d not have to be without Sookie and Johan more than that.
Eric rose from the bed, finished undressing, and went into the bathroom to clean up a little. That done, he scooped up his discarded suit as he headed to the closet. Quickly, he put on a fresh pair of boxer-briefs, a T-shirt, and a pair of flannel sleep pants. He dropped his used underwear and dress shirt into the laundry basket and put away his tie before taking his phone out of his suit pants.
As soon as it was in his hand, it rang. He didn’t recognize the number, and the name on his caller ID read “unknown,” so he didn’t pick up, knowing that if it was important, the caller would leave a message. Just as he was entering the nursery, his phone beeped, but he didn’t check the message right away since his son had spotted him and was already excitedly reaching out for him.
Eric chuckled as he took Johan from Sookie.
“Our next one better be a momma’s girl or boy,” Sookie giggled as she watched Johan smile and laugh as he found himself in his father’s arms.
Eric grinned widely, still amazed by the sound of his son’s laughter. Johan’s first “real” laugh had been about a month before, but the noise still surprised and thrilled Eric.
“Who was on the phone?” Sookie asked as she put away the tiny socks she’d been contemplating putting onto Johan’s feet. By then, Eric and she both knew that their son didn’t like to have his feet covered at all. In that way, he was just like Eric. Of course, Sookie still tried to put socks on him when the house was cool—though it was a losing battle now that Johan had “discovered” his feet and had learned to pull on his socks.
“I didn’t recognize the number,” Eric said, bouncing Johan in his arms a little, “but whoever it was left a message. I’ll check it in a minute,” he added as he dipped Johan, causing the delighted child to giggle again.
Sookie smiled at her boys. “Why don’t you two go set the table for dinner? There’s chili in the crockpot.” She leaned over to give Johan a quick kiss on the cheek and then rose onto her tiptoes to do the same to Eric. “I’ll join you in a few—as soon as I’ve cleaned myself up and called Milos to tell him that it’s safe to come up for dinner.”
Eric nodded and kissed her in return before taking his son into what used to be the “gray part” of the house. In addition to Johan’s nursery, which had been constructed at the end of the house next to his and Sookie’s room, the rest of that part of the house had been renovated too, though the playroom still wasn’t quite finished.
Instead of the long gray space, there were now three separate rooms. Next to Johan’s nursery was a living area, dominated by the most comfortable couch Eric had ever sat on. The large sectional was the perfect vessel to hold Sookie, Johan, and himself—whether it was naptime or playtime or story time. Ironically, the sectional was gray, but that was the only thing similar to the room’s previous incarnation. Instead of being carpeted, the floor was now a beautiful, richly colored wood. Sookie had chosen soft blue area rugs. There was a flat screen television mounted on the wall, though it was usually on only when Johan was watching the Baby Einstein videos his Aunt Pam had gotten for him.
The room was now warm and welcoming, rather than cold and “expensive” looking. And Johan loved to look out the windows and be out on the terrace when it was warm enough. Eric imagined that—with each new day—his son saw more and more of the world.
Beyond the living room was a dining room. The new table sat only six, though a few more chairs could be crowded in if the group for poker night became larger than that. Sookie had chosen a dining room set with a pop of color—in the form of orange chairs—and Eric had fallen in love with her choice for its uniqueness. Sookie and he had thought about getting a larger dining room set, but they both preferred smaller gatherings, and there was a humongous dining room at Niall’s estate in the Hamptons, where their entire family and expanding network of friends could gather for holidays.
Eric smiled. He wouldn’t have imagined three years ago that he’d be the kind of person who would have people over to his house a lot; however, he and Sookie had company a couple of times a week now. Amelia had basically moved in with Pam, and Henry and Blake came up for dinner a few times a month. Bobbie and Thalia were also frequent visitors. And—of course—Milos often ate dinner with them too since he’d become their full-time live-in guard.
Miranda was guarding Eric when he went to the office. She also took on many of the weekend guarding duties when Eric and Sookie went out—though, with Compton at large, their trips out had been limited to their weekly visits to the MET.
“So, Joe,” Eric said to the little boy in his arms, using the nickname that “Uncle Bobby” had initiated, “do you want to help Daddy set the table?”
Johan gurgled happily in his father’s arms as Eric added a little bounce to his step and started gathering dishes with the hand he wasn’t using to stabilize his son. Eric chuckled as Ned appeared as if from thin air. The adolescent cat seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to dinner time.
Eric bent down so that Johan could see Ned. As always, the cat looked at the infant with equal parts trepidation and curiosity. And the child, eyes wide with never-ending fascination for the little creature, half-giggled and half-gurgled in Ned’s direction.
Figuring that things were “safe,” Ned came forward to receive a pat from Eric and rubbed against Johan’s hand while he was at it—much to the glee of the infant. Eric decided that cat and child bonding was more important than table setting for the moment and had a seat on the floor to give them better access to each other.
When Sookie came in a few minutes later, the three were still together on the floor, Ned rubbing back and forth against the two humans and Johan waving his arms in excitement. She couldn’t help but to laugh at the three “men” in her life.
“Having fun?” she asked, joining them on the floor and leaning against Eric’s side.
“Yeah,” Eric said with a smile. “I’ll set the table in a minute. We got a little side-tracked.”
“I can see why,” Sookie said as Ned started including her in his “rubbing circuit.”
“Hey guys,” Milos said from the kitchen door.
Without prompting, he took the dishes that Eric had set out and started getting the table ready for dinner.
“Thanks, Milos,” Eric and Sookie said together.
“No problem,” the guard said. “I’ll do anything that gets me to chili faster,” he joked.
Eric chuckled as he got up and reached down to offer Sookie a hand. Once they were on their feet, Eric got Johan settled into his bouncy chair, where he would likely content himself throughout their dinner, while Sookie brought out the food.
Later, as Eric helped Sookie load the dishwasher—even as Johan squirmed merrily in his arms—Eric’s phone rang again. It was the same number as before, and this time he decided to answer it.
“Hello?” he asked.
“Eric,” came a voice that both surprised Eric and made him nervous. Immediately, Sookie noticed her husband’s change of demeanor and looked at him with curiosity.
“Grandmother,” Eric responded. “Um—it’s nice to hear from you,” he said almost as if he were asking a question. “Can I help you with anything?”
For the first time Eric could remember, his paternal grandmother spoke to him in a congenial tone. “I just wanted to call to say thank you,” Grace said.
“You’re calling to thank me?” Eric asked with surprise.
“Yes. The ownership of the house. It was,” she paused, “kind of you to give it to me, especially after everything that has happened and the way I treated you and your wife at Christmas.”
“I would never kick you out of your home,” Eric said softly, even as he held his son a little tighter in his arms. Sookie, sensing that Eric needed her to be close as well, moved so that she was leaning against him. He smiled at her appreciatively.
“Eric, I misjudged you,” Grace said apologetically. “And—perhaps—I misjudged your father too.” There was a pause. “There are things that I need to,” she paused again, “atone for. And—if it’s not too late, I want to be your grandmother and know your child and your wife.”
Eric was stunned into silence for a moment. “You do?” he asked in a voice that was almost childlike.
“Yes,” she responded sincerely and without hesitation. “I know it will take you a while to trust me—for me to earn your trust. But when you signed over the house to me, I realized that Appius had been incredibly wrong about you. Moreover, I realized that I have been incredibly cruel to you too, but I,” she paused, “want to make things up to you—if you are generous enough to allow me the chance. I would very much like to have a relationship with you.”
“Okay,” Eric said a little tentatively. “I’d like that too.”
“That makes me happier than I can say,” Grace said.
Eric could hear the smile in his grandmother’s voice, and he smiled too.
“Me too,” he said.
“If you are available, I would like to see you tomorrow—to give you some things that I think your grandfather John would have wanted for you to have. There is also a letter that he left for you, but—in my folly and to my shame—I have withheld it from you for all these years. You deserve to have it, Eric. You deserve so much better than I have given you.” She sighed. “I’m so sorry that I didn’t give you the letter before. You deserve to know how proud John was of you. And—I want you to know how proud I am of the man you have become too.”
“You are?” Eric asked.
“Yes,” Grace responded with fervor. “When you were born, it was one of the happiest days of my life. I admit that I lost sight of that once Appius became convinced that you were not his son. I wanted to support my child, but—in doing so—I hurt you,” she said with regret. “My only defense is that I loved my son and would have done anything for him. Now that you have a son of your own, you know the lengths you would go to for him.”
“Yes,” Eric agreed.
“I know that it is short notice, but I would like for you to come over to the house tomorrow at 6:00 p.m.—if that is convenient for you. And perhaps you could bring my great-grandson?” she asked hopefully. “I’d love to meet him.”
“Um,” Eric said, “I’d like that. And Sookie?”
“If you don’t mind, I would like it to be just me, you, and Johan tomorrow evening,” Grace said. “I’d like to wait to invite Sookie over; I want to have ample time to get to know her, but I’ll be leaving day after tomorrow for my annual trip to my sister’s home in California, so I will have to retire early. I just,” she paused, “don’t want to put off seeing you—and apologizing to you in person. I don’t want to wait another day!” Grace paused as she seemed to be stifling a sob. “I would like for tomorrow to be about you and me, though—I must say—I do wish to meet your son. Nora showed me a picture of him, and he looks very much like you.
“Yes,” Eric said. “That’s what Sookie says.”
“Will you come, Eric?” Grace asked, his voice pleading. “I know that I am asking a lot of you. And I know that I don’t deserve your forgiveness yet, but I would like to have hope before I leave for California.”
Eric was silent for a moment. “I will be there, but I think it would be best to wait to introduce you to Johan until Sookie is there as well.”
“That’s fine,” Grace said, though she sounded a little disappointed. “And thank you.”
“I’m glad you called,” Eric said.
“Me too,” Grace responded. “And, Eric?”
“I love you. I have loved you since the day you were born,” Grace said sincerely.
A tear flowed down Eric’s cheek. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Grandmother.”
“I’m already looking forward to it,” she said before hanging up.
Grace smiled sinisterly as she hung up the phone with her grandson. The conversation had gone just as she’d known it would. In fact, she’d never had any doubts that she could draw Eric to her home the next day.
Over the years, Appius had told her the two keys to his control over Eric. All he had to do when the boy seemed likely to rebel was one of two things. He could either threaten something or someone Eric loved or dangle the possibility of acceptance over his head.
Grace had chosen the latter, and Eric had fallen for it hook, line, and sinker. She was disappointed only that the child wouldn’t accompany the father, but she had time to deal with Johan; there were many more years before he came of age.
Feeling confident that the next day would go just as she wanted, Grace went up to her bedroom suite. There was a young man waiting to wash her back, after all.
A/N: Sorry it’s been a while since I posted on this one. I found a one-shot that I’d drafted, but never revised and posted. It’s called “Stale and Diminished” if you are interested (but, beware, it’s only a one-shot and it’s not ‘happy’).
I hope you liked this chapter. I gotta say that Grace just makes my skin crawl. No wonder Appius was such a psycho prat!
I’ll try to get you another chapter of this by Thursday or so, but I’ve got another busy week.
By the way, in case I forgot to show it to you, this is Eric and Sookie’s renovated bedroom.