May 4, 2004
“Well, how was Florida?”
“Hello Pam, we missed you too.”
Pam rolled her eyes but commented. “Yes Sookie, life here was dull for the past week without you here. So tell me, HOW WAS FLORIDA?”
“We took Hunter to Disney!”
“Yes, I know, the Smurf already sent me pictures, well his father did. How were the meetings?”
“Well, we divided up as planned after the intro night. OH, and Queen Perressa had to step in to get everyone on board. We did the second night as planned: Eric with the vampire Sheriff’s and their seconds, I was with the Packmasters. It really helped that Alcide came with us.” Eric kissed Sookie and murmured something about work and left them to catch up in the storage room.
“Did he have any credibility issues?”
“No, Flood was a well known and respected Packmaster and knowing Alcide had been pre-selected as the successor by Flood gave him the credibility.”
“Would you say you have a success?”
“I would say using the recent witch issue here as a case study gave them the incentive they needed to work together. Coaching on how and gaining agreement from each group BEFORE we brought them together for contracts on the final night prevented a lot of posturing and aggression.”
“Can you use this for your Vegas presentation?”
“Most definitely. I hate that we had the witch war but it kinda became the basis of our presentation – the ‘why bother with building relationships’ if you will. Now we plan to talk with Florida weekly to use their story in the presentation. Oh and now I have friend of the Pack status for all Packs in Florida and Eric lined up a favor from the vamps as well.”
“You and Eric have the golden touch Sookie. Keep it up and the Vampires and Weres in all the states will line up and protect you.”
“I hope we never need it.”
“Still, having King Threadgill fawn over you from your involvement in the witch war and now more friend of the Pack statuses. Threadgill is going to be more impressed with you after you do your readings in Arkansas next week. . . It’s all unprecedented Sookie. .”
“It’s scary Pam. They could just as easily WANT to STEAL me in addition to wanting to PROTECT me.”
“So we just prove you’re valuable while you stay HERE.”
“It just kills me that some vamps think they can just take what they want.”
“It’s leftover from our old ways.”
“But you made new rules; you came out of the coffin.”
“Some states only put on a pretense but they still do what they want.”
“I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. There needs to be some governing body, perhaps comprised of multiple species.”
“Keep dreaming Sookie, you might be working to improve relations with specific groups, but allowing non vampires to have some oversight over vampires – that’ll never happen. Too many would fight it.”
“Don’t burst my bubble.”
“Ok, new topic then. When is your Doctor appointment?”
Sookie smiled widely at the new topic. “We think the week of May 24h – when I should be ovulating. I start my drugs on the 17th.”
“We go to New Orleans on the 27th, isn’t that cutting it close? Won’t you need to rest? What if you don’t ovulate?”
“No, I only need to rest for the first day. If I don’t ovulate, then I don’t. I can’t focus on those things to worry about.”
Recognizing that Sookie was concentrating on the positive, she chose also to do the same. “Are you excited?”
Under Ludwig and Harold’s guidance, Sookie continued to monitor her cycle and started taking Clomid on the 5th day of her cycle. In their favor, her cycle was very regular and based on symptoms; she was ovulating the night before they were to leave for New Orleans. On that night, the hopeful parents walked hand in hand into the fertility doctor’s waiting room. “Good evening Sookie, Eric.”
“Good evening Harold.” Eric gestured behind him. “These are two of our guards: Potts and Alcide. As we discussed, they can stay here with your Michael.”
“Packmaster Herveaux, I’m surprised to see you here. ”
“Sookie has quite a following.” The group chuckled while Alcide knelt down to Michael’s level. “Hi there. My girlfriend Potts and I are going to play with you for a while. Is that OK?”
“Do you pway with bwocks?”
“You betcha. Let’s get started.” He moved to sit on the floor and winked to Sookie.
Harold turned back to Eric and Sookie. “I think Michael is in good hands. Are you ready to begin?” They nodded. “Then let’s go.”
“Do you want me to review the procedure again before we start?”
“No, I think I memorized the details. I just really want to get started.”
After the procedure, the group was leaving the doctor’s office and Sookie was being carried by Eric. “Really Eric, I’m supposed to take it easy. I think I can walk.”
“You will be pampered the rest of the night. No arguments.” In reaction to the no arguments comments, Sookie reared up for fight but he stopped her by putting up his hand. “Alcide, Potts, we’ll meet you at the car in a minute.” When they were alone in the office elevator Eric told Sookie something that stopped her argument cold. “Sookie let me explain. When you . . . The reality is . . . I’m not the man who can biologically give you a child.” Her eyes went wide. “I’m not trying to concern you. My promise to you stays: The children we create with Dr. Finard’s help will be ours together and I will never consider them as another man’s. Having said that, I find I need to do more than just drive you to visits and hold your hand for the pregnancy. Please. Let me fuss over you when it comes to the physical impacts of ‘knocking you up’.”
She was quiet for a moment taken aback by his words; then finally responded with a simple “Ok Eric.” To emphasize her agreement, she tightened her arms around his neck and added, “take me home sweetie.”
He carried her to the car, into the house when they arrived and straight into bed and she didn’t complain once. He smiled and thanked her while he dressed her in a night shirt. “Would you like something to eat?”
“Yes. She smiled, thinking about a new item Eric had recently added to his repertoire. “Pancakes?”
“Coming right up!”
The small kitchen in his day chamber was used more by Eric than Sookie if she thought about it. He liked to cook small meals for her, even on the nights when it wasn’t his ‘night’ to cook. The real reason he liked this was so he could feel like he was providing for her. He loved doing that and Sookie let him pamper her. Lost in her thoughts about Eric and his pampering, she didn’t even notice he was done cooking and walking towards her with the food on the bed tray. She waited for him to ask his usual question and he didn’t disappoint. “May I feed you my love?”
“I’m certain that feeding me is a requirement of being fussed over, is it not?”
His smile spread across his face at her response. “It is. So open wide.” He waited until she finished the first bite and then asked, “Do you have any of the cramps the doctor mentioned?”
“Some really mild ones – my period brings on worse than this.”
“Hmmm, since we can’t make love tonight we can’t use shower sex to relieve them as we do when you have menstrual cramps. Can I get you something else for the pain?”
“No, it’s really very mild.” She answered between bites.
Eric’s mobile rang and he cursed at the intrusion. “It’s Pam; I better answer it because she wants an update I’m sure.” He hit talk and just listened for Pam to start.
“Did the turkey baster thing go well?”
“Yes Pam, the IUI went without any difficulty or complication. Sookie is resting now.”
“Can I talk to her?”
“She is eating, so you can speak only for a moment.”
He handed Sookie the phone and Pam blurted out, “Was it good for you AND the baster?”
“You’ve been waiting to use that one, haven’t you?”
“Maybe.” Pam changed to more serious mode. “So, do you feel OK? Do you need anything?”
Her friend’s obvious concern tugged at Sookie’s heart. “I’m fine Pam, very little pain and Eric is spoiling me now.”
“I know. He loves to feed you. I get this overall warm, contended feeling through the bond. That’s what’s happening now, so I better let you get back to it. Can’t have him lose that feeling when I enjoy the repercussions of it myself.”
“Ok Pam . . . Hey! Thanks for checking up on us.”
“You’re welcome Sookie. You rest and bake the babies that are possibly brewing right now.”
After ending the call she chuckled at bit. “You know, she is just endlessly fascinated by this baby thing.”
“I know, maybe I should try to find one for her.”
“That would be funny, if for no other reason than watching her change a diaper – designer cloth diaper of course.”
“Of course.” He smirked.
After Sookie finished her meal, Eric held out two DVDs. “Pick.”
“Oooh, Peter Pan or The Last Samurai? I think Peter Pan wins. We need to prep for being parents.” Sookie giggled.
“What’s so funny?”
“That you even brought that one home to play. I think you are more preoccupied with babies that me. But what’s really funny is, “she took a breath between chuckles, “your new name will be Papa Bear.”
“There is nothing funny about that.”
“Not until Pam hears it.”
Eric rose in his favorite way: With Sookie attached to his side. His mood quickly changed from happy to concerned when she didn’t wake after he started stirring. Normally, this wouldn’t concern him, but with the IUI the night before, he was on edge. He moved her shoulders a bit and spoke to her. “Sookie, wake up.”
He tried again. “Sookie.”
She looked up at him with sleepy eyes. “What’s wrong, did I sleep too late?”
“Not at all, I was just worried when you didn’t wake.” He leaned back from her to assess her condition. He noticed she looked tired. “My love, are you feeling well or are you just ‘sleepy Sookie’ tonight?”
“I’m just ‘sleepy Sookie’. I was too excited to sleep for long today. I was online looking at nurseries.”
“Do you need to skip the weekend in New Orleans?”
“Not. At. All. I’ve been looking forward to seeing a Pledging ceremony. Plus, Hadley booked a spa day for us on the day of the wedding since she’s really upset about Sophie-Anne marrying, even if it is for political reasons only.”
He groaned. “Sookie, you can’t go to a spa. . .”
“We aren’t. We booked two women to come to the palace. They’ll be screened by me the day before to be sure and glamoured to forget the whole thing after they are dropped off back at their spa. Potts will be in the room with us at all times, and our other guards will be at the doors.”
“Sophie-Anne approved this?”
“According to Hadley she did, she had to provide the names of the women to the palace guards.”
He looked into her hopeful face. “Very well min älskade, I can’t deny that face and it sounds like Hadley took the appropriate precautions. I will check with the palace first but it sounds like you have yourself a spa day.” She squealed and threw her arms around Eric’s neck.
“Thank you! I’ve never had a spa day like that.”
Eric noted that tidbit of information and suggested they get ready for the drive. Since so many monarchs were arriving, using the Queen’s plane wasn’t possible. The coordination of the private jets coming in already was a nightmare for the local airfield in New Orleans.
The caravan for the trip to the Palace met at Fangtasia and they split into two cars: Eric, Sookie, Pam and Bubba in one and Alcide, Potts, Thalia and Peter in the other. Eric made it clear to the queen he was traveling with a large group to ensure Sookie’s protection and he received no argument from the palace. Further, Sophie-Anne guaranteed him that he would have no problems with Andre as a backlash from the punishment. Per Sophie-Anne, Andre had accepted his punishment under Eric as his master and he realized that he could have been put to death. Sookie was more concerned about seeing Bill Compton as he still lived and worked at the palace but they were assured that Bill would be locked away for the entire celebration.
Sookie and Pam had started talking about Pledge details and choices when Bubba interjected. “Have you hired a singer yet Miss Sookie?”
“We were going to have a DJ. Why, do you know a singer that would be interested?” She was hopeful, but contained her excitement.
“I’d be honored to sing some songs for you, and you can fill in with the DJ.”
“BUBBA! That would make me very happy. Thank you.”
They continued the drive making some final decisions for the Pledging. Pam took her role very seriously noting each of her tasks, and even started on some of the work while they drove. If helping Sookie with the Pledging would help with the pregnancy, she was all in. PLUS, she’d wanted to run the whole Pledging anyway so it was a win win for Pam as far as she was concerned.
They arrived with a few hours before dawn at Eric’s New Orleans’s home. Mustapha was in the house and asleep, having arrived the day before to prep the house for company. Amelia greeted everyone at the door and collected a single strand of hair from each person to create a ward around the house. After the ward was settled, Eric guided everyone to their guest rooms to settle in before they met to have a final review of security while they were at the palace. The next evening was the rehearsal and pre-wedding party followed by the actual wedding the following night. Eric had specific roles for each member of their entourage to play while at the palace since several out of state monarchs would be in attendance. As an ordained Priest for the Church of the Loving Spirit (a fact that had Sookie giggle no matter how many times she heard it), Eric had been asked to perform the ceremony so he wanted Thalia and Pam next to Sookie the entire time. Once they had reviewed the floor plans, ceremony and escape routes thoroughly, they all retired for the day. Sookie noted that Pam and Amelia had been making eyes at each other during the meeting and retired together.
The next evening, Eric and Sookie were having a very serious discussion while getting ready for the pre-wedding party. “But Eric, when you and Pam talk about pets and companions, bite marks – I mean visible bite marks were mentioned as common.”
“I don’t see you that way.”
“Ok, but will other Monarchs respect that? I mean, I was kidnapped while bonded to you AND I was trying to tell them. I don’t want to be bitten before I can get the right words out.”
“You won’t be leaving my side. Besides, in some cases, the bite marks might make you appear to be a donor, not owned.” He didn’t add that bite marks wouldn’t have prevented her kidnapping.
“Oh and how will you be practicing the ceremony tonight or conducting the ceremony tomorrow night without leaving my side?”
“You know what I mean; Pam and Thalia will surround you.”
She was quiet for a few minutes and he finally picked up on why. “You’re scared.”
“I . . . I am.” She looked down and turned to face the closet. “The palace vampires all know who I am now, but there will be so many guests. California, Mississippi, New York. What if that mean Sheriff from California is here, the one you told me about? I can’t believe these feelings, I wasn’t scared thinking about coming down and now we’re here and I’m . . .”
“Sookie, EVERY Louisiana vampire is obligated to protect you and since all of the Louisiana Sheriff’s have met you they can identify you to assist if needed. Technically the Arkansas group must protect you as well since the contract is complete; the pledge is just the ceremony. You have plenty of vampires to protect you Sookie.”
She thought for a moment as she grabbed her panties from the drawer. “Ok Eric, I trust you. You wouldn’t make a decision that would put me in harm’s way.”
He could tell she was still scared so he distracted her. “No bra Miss Stackhouse?”
“The dress is backless Mr. Northman.”
Eric growled at the thought of the exposed skin. “Let’s see this dress; I’ll need to approve it.”
“Don’t start with friskiness or that growling. We have to leave in about 30 minutes AND my hair is already done.” She removed her dress from its hanger. “But, you do need to zip me up.”
“Sookie, this dress is perfect. It’s a gown but with the hem higher in the front it has just the hint of being less formal, just like tonight’s party. And the blue, Gods Sookie, the color is perfect for your eyes.”
“I thought you might like it. Pam’s fashion sense has been rubbing off on me, I picked this one myself.”
“Her fashion sense better be the only thing that rubs you.”
The group was ready to leave right on time and the stretch limo was waiting outside the house. Once at the palace, they stayed alert as they moved into the main ballroom. Eric separated from the group to review the ceremony with Sophie-Anne and Peter, but would be back with Sookie before the official party starting time and therefore before the bulk of the guest vampires would arrive.
Sookie milled about with her guards waiting for Eric to return to the main room. While she grabbed some water from the bar, she watched as a large bald man approached her. “Mm mm mm, and who are you?”
Being her polite self, she extended her hand since she registered the man as a Were. “Sookie Stackhouse.”
“I’m Quinn. I own the company that is running the event. Extreme(ly Elegant) Events. I’m curious how such a beautiful human like you is here?” He leaned in and touched her arm as he spoke.
Sookie backed away from Quinn with her lipped curled. “My fiancé is one of The Queen’s Sheriffs.”
“YOU’RE Northman’s human?”
“I am so please step back.”
His eyes shifted around and he lowered his voice. “Babe, if you’re in trouble and need to escape him, let me know, I’ll get you out of here.”
She laughed out loud. “Don’t call me babe and what the hell are you talking about? Did you think lowering your voice would prevent my two vampire guards from hearing you?” She gestured to Thalia and Pam. “Ladies, do I need saving?”
“No but the kitty cat will if he doesn’t step away.” Pam turned to Sookie. “Quinn’s a were tiger Sookie. He needs to leave before any of his disgusting scent rubs off.”
Quinn scowled at Pam and backed away, giving Sookie a last wink.
Sookie shuddered. “I feel like I need a shower.”
“He has that effect on everyone. Come; let’s check out the Queen’s selections for the party so we can make notes. They had circled the room once checking out centerpieces, linens blood fountains, and human catering before Vampires from other states started entering the room. Pam noticed Sookie’s nervousness. “We’ve got you Sookie. Though I’m unsure why you are so nervous. You went to Florida and didn’t have any problems.”
“Florida was planned meetings with a known attendee list and agendas. This is a party with regular donors milling about. I don’t want to be confused with being a donor and end up bitten.”
“You won’t be.” She visibly relaxed at hearing his voice. “You were so nervous that you didn’t even feel me return to the room?”
“I guess I didn’t.”
“Well, I’m here now. You aren’t wearing a donor marking and you won’t leave my side.” He tucked her under his arm and they started walking toward the bar.
“Northman, where did you get your donor, she smells divine.”
“Sookie, may I present Olga Krol the Sheriff of Area 2 in California. Olga, this is my bonded companion and soon to be pledged, Sookie Stackhouse.”
“Bonded? Pledged?” Have you lost your mind?”
“Olga Krol! Do not speak to my son and daughter-in-law like that!”
She turned to see an angry Godric standing behind her. “Godric, surely you can understand that pledging to a human” she said with disdain, “is beneath a vampire of his standing.” She continually looked down her nose at Sookie during her speech.
Ignoring Olga, he turned and smiled warmly at Sookie. “How is my favorite daughter-in-law?”
“I WILL be your only daughter-in-law; I’ll always be your favorite.” She stepped into his hug. “I didn’t know you would be here.”
“Unfortunately for me, my age garners me invitations to events just as if I were a monarch. As a Sheriff of an ally state I would have been invited anyway but could have easily said no. As an elder,” he sighed, “attending is expected. Politics my dear. I came with Stan and Liz.”
“Well, I’m happy you are here. We were just headed to the bar, would you care to join us?”
“I would.” Taking her arm and heading to the bar as they caught up. “How was the trip to Arkansas?”
“The readings went well. We did find some Soldiers of the Light which surprised me. AND spies from Nevada, but that was expected.”
“Newlin is preaching from his incarceration. He has far too much freedom from the penitentiary hospital if you ask me.” He grimaced a bit, recalling how Newlin had tried to kill Sookie. “He still has followers.”
“That really makes me uneasy.”
“I agree with that. . . .” He paused for a moment. “Did you meet Jade Flower?”
“Yes, she was scary as shit.” He laughed and agreed with her assessment. As they walked, Godric spotted his king already at the bar. “Good timing my dear. Stan is there as well so you can catch up. He and Liz are planning their Pledging for September. I am guessing you and Liz will want to compare notes.”
“That sounds like fun.”
“Stan! Liz! Sookie greeted each of them with a big smile. How are you?”
“Doing well Sookie, and you?”
“Quite Happy.” She looked around. “Is Barry here with you?”
“Actually no. He was hired by Nevada for some casino meetings with Felipe; he actually flies home tonight while I am here. DeCastro is trying to get some zoning issues addressed and the City of Vegas is blocking him at every step. He wanted Barry to provide some insight onto why and HOW the City Council is aware of his moves before the meetings.”
“Isn’t it risky to send Barry into Nevada?”
“He has 24X7 guards and a contract that assures me he won’t be abused as a human.” When Sookie still appeared leery he added, “I gave Barry complete control over this decision and 100% of the payment is his. He wanted to do this. It was quite lucrative I assure you.”
“Has anyone been in contact with him?”
“You are a worrier aren’t you?” She nodded somberly. “Yes, twice a day Sookie. He’s had an enjoyable trip. According to his guards, he met someone there and has enjoyed several, ah, dates.”
After getting her grilling about Barry out of the way, Liz and Sookie started comparing notes for a while until they were interrupted by Russell Edgington and Bartlett Crowe. “Northman, you’ve been hiding your betrothed from us. Stan, you as well. Since we all have our own Pledgings coming up, we simply must compare notes.”
Eric chuckled at the flamboyant King but carried out the introductions. “Your Majesties, May I present Sookie Stackhouse, my bonded companion and soon to be pledged.”
Stan took over. “And may I present Liz Matthews, my bonded companion and soon to be pledged. Ladies,” he pointed to Russell then Bartlett as he spoke. “Please meet The King of Mississippi, Russell Edgington and The King of Kentucky, Bartlett Crowe.”
Both Liz and Sookie bowed slightly and expressed pleasure at meeting the men.
“Miss Stackhouse and Miss Matthews, you were both part of the take down of the Fellowship.” Both of them nodded. “Then may I announce that as a thank you, the Mississippi Vampires and Weres are in your debt.”
Bartlett added. “Since Russell and I are to be pledged, that goes for Kentucky as well.”
The group was surprised at the words but refrained from reacting. Sookie, with all her innate grace simply smiled and responded, “Your majesties are too kind” and ended with a slight bow.
Russell wasted no time. “Well, now that we are friends, come ladies, let’s discuss the party so far. I want to know what you liked and didn’t so we can all plan appropriately.” Waving his hand, he turned to Eric. “You can go mingle, I assure you these ladies are perfectly fine with me and I’m stealing Pamela anyway for her input. I’m sure Thalia will follow and stay close to Sookie.”
Before letting her go, Eric checked that Sookie was fine with the plan and she assured him that this was necessary girl time. Eric left to ‘mingle’ but kept a watchful eye on Sookie. With the rest of her group, Sookie was all smiles and laughter. As he watched her, he just shook his head thinking about how his bonded could get along with everybody, and continued his chats with the vampires in the room for a while. Having missed Sookie at his side for too long, he returned about an hour later suggesting that they dance for a bit more before they needed to return home.
The rest of the evening went without incident. Eric and Sookie enjoyed the dance floor and when they weren’t dancing, Eric, Bartlett and Stan stood behind all the girls: Pam, Thalia, Liz, Potts and Russell as an honorary girl, while they made notes about Sophie-Anne’s selections for the event to either use or specifically NOT use at the upcoming Pledgings. Godric would stop by to laugh and offer his sympathy but he couldn’t fool Eric. He knew Godric felt a longing to have the same kind relationship he had with Sookie. As they left, Russell promised more girl time at the Pledging the next night.
“Shoo! You can get dressed with Bubba.”
“You don’t need my help?” He almost pouted. Sookie’s hair was up in a complicated twist and her makeup was perfect. He couldn’t wait to see the gown. “You probably have a zipper or something.”
“She does. That’s why Thalia, Potts and I are dressing in here. You, male, get out of the girl’s dressing room.” He wanted to get mad at Pam for ordering him around, but he could tell Sookie was relishing her girl time.
Eric dressed quickly and waited in Bubba’s room for the reveal. Bubba offered, “It’ll only be worse for her own Pledging. Girls get pretty funny about that stuff.” They listened to the giggling from the girl’s room and Bubba laughed to himself then whispered to Eric. “I hear even Thalia laughing Mister Eric. Your Sookie is something else.”
“That she is Bubba, that she is.”
Sookie was the last to emerge from the room and she took Eric’s breath away. The dress was ivory, a perfect color since Sophie-Anne had announced that she selected red for her color, thereby eliminating anything from the red color scheme as an option for the other women in attendance. It was covered in lace and sequins all over giving it formality befitting a Pledging. He could hardly wait to get on dance floor with her so to move things along he extended his arm and bowed. “Shall we?”
They arrived and Eric got them into the ballroom for the start of the ceremony. Sookie was surrounded by Pam, Thalia, Potts, Alcide, Stan, Bubba, Russell, Bart and Godric so he felt she was quite safe and he went to get ready. When he returned to the stage he was dressed in an all black outfit with a cape. Sookie contained her laughter, but he felt the amusement and smirked at her. Sophie-Anne and Peter Threadgill entered together and walked to the stage. From there, the ceremony was quick since their union was political. There were no vows or other words of affection spoken between Peter and Sophie-Anne. The only speaker was Eric as he went through the ceremony. Sookie realized she was happy to have elaborated on their Pledging; this one was just plain boring. At one point, Russell even whispered that fact into her ear, causing her to giggle. Luckily some music was playing and it covered their noise. After the happy couple drank their combined blood and Eric declared them married, they moved off the stage to open the dance floor. Sookie noticed Hadley was a bit weepy, but that was to be expected since Peter and Sophie-Anne would need to consummate the marriage tonight. She felt for her cousin. Eric was involved in politics, but he still put Sookie first; Sophie-Anne did not. This marriage had to be hard on her cousin.
Finally Eric approached Sookie and took her to the dance floor. “In just a few weeks, that will be us.” Twirling her around before adding, “Only better because our union will be for love.”
“Much better.” They danced until Sookie needed a break so they made their way to the bar. Russell was there and took Sookie’s hand.
“Well girlfriend, let’s find Liz and continue our planning from last night. I say we sweep the room and take in all the details, then sit and compare notes.” He looked back to Eric. “I’ll have your woman for a while; go pretend you like talking to the other Sheriffs or something.”
Once seated, Russell started talking with Sookie and Liz about their guest lists. “So ladies, are you having non vampires at your Pledging? I mean, besides employed Weres?”
Liz went first, “This is a huge family thing for me, and I’m the first in my pack to Pledge to a vampire, we are having several hundred and half are non vampires.”
Sookie’s eyes grew wide. “I had no idea how big your Pledging was going to be. Are you prepping the non vampire guests on any protocol? We’re actually having a meeting with them.”
“The Packmaster is providing the protocol for us. A meeting – what’s that mean?”
“Well, I only have a handful of humans attending, outside my close guards and their dates. They’ve been invited to my Gran’s for a cookout the week before so we can go over stuff.”
Russell was curious. “What’s a handful, who’d you invite?”
“My brother and his Were date, and we’re lucky that she’s my Gran’s nurse. Three of my friends from growing up and one of my Gran’s good friends. My old boss is attending, but he’s a shifter. Pam’s date is a witch, so we don’t need to prep her. That’s it. I didn’t have too many close human friends.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
“I was ‘Crazy Sookie’ growing up because of my telepathy. Nobody really wanted to spend time with me.” She felt just a pang of sadness looking at her life from Russell’s perspective. She counted her human attendees in her head: Gran, Jason, Tara, Lala, Hoyt and Maxine Fortenberry. Five, she had five people coming to represent her life before Eric. Since they wanted to keep Hunter away from other vampires, she couldn’t even have her little man there.
In an incredibly compassionate move, Russell put his hand on top of Sookie’s and said, “Then the people that are part of your life are that much more special, yes?” She nodded at him with watery eyes.
Sensing her sadness, Eric arrived at the table. “My love, what has happened?”
She wiped the tears that had spilt. “I’ll tell you later. Let’s dance.”
“Of course.” To follow proper protocol he looked at Russell and asked, “If you will excuse us?”
“Certainly, but a quick question first.”
“Yes your majesty.”
“I would like to compare notes with Sookie on our Pledging plans after this weekend, may I call her directly?”
He looked to Sookie and he could see and feel she was happy at the request so he nodded. “I would love that. Can Eric get you my number?”
“Yes, I’ll get the details from him.” He stood and took Sookie’s hand and kissed the back of it. “We will talk soon.”
“I look forward to that, Russell.”
Eric panicked for a second before remembering that Stan also requested that Sookie address him by his first name so he was sure Sookie had been invited to the same privilege with Russell. His bonded certainly had a way with vampires.
They approached the dance floor but before they started moving, the music stopped. King Peter and Queen Sophie-Anne moved to the stage. “We have an announcement to make from the phone call my second just received.” Peter started. “Tonight, Queen Santhi of the Great Lakes Region has been killed by one of her sheriffs. The sheriff now claims the territory for her own.”
Sookie looked around the room. The murmuring amongst the vampires started immediately. Some looked happy about the announcement. Recalling Eric’s lessons, she figured those were vampires like Eric who had respect for other species and were happy that a ruler with such brutal beliefs and practices was gone. She’d ask later.
Sophie-Anne continued. “At this moment, there appears to be some dispute over the proper claiming. No representatives for the territory are with us tonight, so this was simply for your information. Please go back to enjoying the party.”
Sookie laughed inwardly. ‘A man was killed that many of you may have known, pass the blood please.’ The announcement was made just as simply as that. When she looked around the room, the vampires did in fact just go back to the party. She decided to follow suit and when the music started, she and Eric took off around the dance floor. They danced only two songs before he heard Godric. “May I cut in?”
“You may.” After Godric had spun Sookie back into the dance, Eric moved toward the blood fountain where he had the displeasure of seeing Olga again.
“I see you share your human. May I taste her tonight?”
“Olga, I introduced you to Sookie last night as my bonded companion. What part of that do you not understand? As for your comment about sharing, she is currently dancing with my maker whom she considers to be a father to her.” He shook his head. “It is against protocol to request tastes of a companion. Do you not understand the basics?”
“Northman, why would you need to own a cow?”
“OLGA!” A booming voice called out as its owner approached the blood fountain. “I heard from Stan that you were causing problems last night. Now I have heard it for myself and I must take action.”
Eric bowed. “King Benito. Welcome to Louisiana.”
“Sheriff Northman. A pleasure to see you again. I understand you’re Pledging next month?”
“I am.” He looked at saw Godric steering Sookie towards Eric. “Here is my betrothed now.” Wrapping his arm around her waist, he made the introductions. “Sookie, this is King Benito of California. Your majesty, this is my bonded companion Sookie Stackhouse.” She stiffened at seeing Olga standing with him but bowed and greeted the King in her usual polite southern manner. “His majesty was just speaking with Olga.” At those words, Sookie visibly flinched and the King noticed.
“Miss Stackhouse, a pleasure to meet you. I understand one of my Sheriff’s has been causing some grief while here. I assure you, her words and attitude will not be tolerated.”
Sookie knew those were serious words and something severe was going to happen to Olga. She steeled herself and accepted the vampire way by saying, “You are most kind King Benito.” Pride flooded the bond and she was able to smile softly.
“Enjoy the rest of the party my dear. I know you have probably set your guest list, but I would love to travel to the state again to see your Pledging.” She squeezed Eric’s hand and he looked down to see her signing her agreement to the King’s statement.
“We will be sure to get your invitation in the mail as soon as we return to Shreveport. We would be honored by your presence.” The king nodded and walked away, towing a scowling Olga with him.
“What was that all about?”
“Just more like-minded vampires. Nothing to complain about.”
“Oh I agree. Any vampire who doesn’t want to eat me is a hero to me.”
That was an opportunity he had to take. “But Sookie, I want to eat you.”
“Well later you can don a mask, call yourself a villain and hold me captive in your lair.” She waggled her eyebrows at him as she spoke.
His cock twitched at her words. “Oooh, role play Sookie? Does this villain use turkey ties to bind you to his bed?”
She gasped. “You HAVE to put those back in the kitchen before thanksgiving, I swear. . .” She thought about it for a minute while shaking her head. “Never mind, I don’t think I could ever cook a turkey with those again.”
Party: Nicole Miller Chiffon Halter gown
SA Pledging: Tadashi Shoji Sequined Lace Gown