AND my new Flying Gorilla:
I wonder why Mags is introducing a flying Gorilla?
I’ll just let you read . . .
Chapter 33 – The Keystone State
”Welcome to Pennsylvania Ma’am. It’s nice to meet you in person.” An older gentleman had greeted Sookie and her traveling companions at the front of Godric’s home. He was very handsome with a neatly trimmed beard and hints of a body that he’d kept fit. Since Sookie had been sent a picture ahead of time for security purposes, she knew this was Ryan MacGregor.
“Same here Ryan. May I introduce our adopted Grandmother, Genny Burke, Dr. Maria Tennily, our Guard, Tony Williams, my all around assistant and friend, Mustapha Kahn, and our little one Celia Northman.” She turned to her friends and then said, “This is Ryan MacGregor, Godric’s day man.” They greeted each other and Ryan started moving them to the house.
“Come, let’s get you settled, I’m sure you’d like to relax after your flight.”
“How was the trip?”
“The flight was uneventful – Celia slept the whole time. The drive from the airport was short and that was good and bad. Good cause my baby girl was awake and restless but bad because I didn’t get to see much of the area.”
“The proximity of the Brandywine Airport was part of Godric’s decision to settle here. We’ll tour the area tomorrow.”
It was almost a week after Celia had been given Eric’s blood and they were on their planned trip to Pennsylvania. Celia needed only two treatments, just a few drops of Eric’s blood each time to completely heal her heart. Even after five days, there were no signs of the repaired valve regressing. Dr. Ludwig would continue to check on a regular basis to be sure, but her prediction that Celia’s youth would work in their favor seemed to be right. Since Celia was done with her treatments, they’d made the decision to have her travel with them – even Hunter insisted – since Celia had never lived outside of a hospital (a few days here and there with her neglectful foster parents just didn’t count). Maxine, Hoyt and Jessica would care for Hunter ‘just fine’ as he said. They’d traveled during the day to make the most of the appointments they had scheduled for each night. Eric was due to rise in about 3 hours and Sookie was hoping to get Celia acclimated to their room before they had their meeting with Godric at first dark. She’d traveled well and slept but Sookie was nervous about her post travel mood. Godric had been very accommodating about the extra last minute guests since when they decided to include Celia, they needed Genny to assist. Mima was very happy to check out Pennsylvania as well.
They made their way up a flight of stairs and Sookie panicked, thinking she wasn’t going to be placed in a room with Eric. Instead of worrying, she just asked Ryan and he explained that the back of the house had bedrooms for guests upstairs with no windows. Sookie was visibly relieved.
When Ryan opened the door to her and Eric’s room, Sookie and Genny were quite surprised to see a large collection of baby items: A crib and changing table, dozens of Celia’s diapers and other assorted baby goods. “Ryan, I . . . ah this is too much.”
“I know you said you were running out tonight to get what you needed, but I also know you have much to accomplish over the next three nights; I took the liberty of ordering what I thought would work.”
“You did a good job.”
“I may have called my niece for help. She has a two year old. I’ll leave you to settle in. Feel free to roam anywhere in the house. If you want to walk outside, the property is secure though it’s cold out there.” He gestured to Genny. “Mrs. Burke, you’re across the hall. I’ll show you.”
“You should rest Genny. You’ll have your hands full with Celia tonight while we are at court.” Genny nodded and followed Ryan out. “Ok baby girl, Mommy is going to get you changed.”
Sookie spent some time feeding and playing with Celia. Ryan had purchased a bouncy seat with toys dangling down and Celia just loved it. It provided an opportunity for Sookie to review the itinerary for the next few days, including a ton of brochures and flyers on the local stores, kids’ activity locations and other businesses of interest. Ryan had even provided a large map with their meeting spots highlighted. She was so lost in the map and interacting with Celia she didn’t feel Eric wake. He’d been in a travel coffin on the other side of the bed and he surprised her when he approached them. “Good evening Sookie.”
She gasped. “ERIC! I didn’t even hear you.”
“You are lost in thought.” After kissing Sookie, he leaned over to release Celia from her restraints. “What is this thing Celia is secured to?”
“It’s a bouncy seat. She loves it.” Sookie leaned over to show him how to move the handle so she could be removed easily.
He raised her up and covered her face with kisses. “My baby likes to be confined to this contraption?” Celia smiled and kicked her legs at her welcome from Eric.
“The restraints keep her safe while she plays with the dangling toys. She also likes to kick her legs and it bounces her.”
“I guess if she likes it so much we’ll get one for Ludwig’s.” He focused on Celia’s face. “Isn’t that right baby girl? If you like it, we’ll get one.”
“Sure.” They were interrupted by a knock at the door. “Come in Genny.”
“Good evening Eric.”
“Genny, do you have everything you need?”
“More than I need. My room is gorgeous and Ryan has been quite accommodating.” She was blushing since Eric had on pants, but no shirt. “Honestly Eric, I might be an old woman, but LORD you’re gonna have to wear a shirt around me. Please.”
Sookie just laughed and tried to ease Genny’s embarrassment. “He’s MINE Mima – look but don’t touch.”
“OK, OK Sookie. I know you could take me down.” She giggled back. “I came for my grandbaby so you guys can get ready.”
Eric pouted, “I only just got her.”
“Don’t you need to be a court in an hour?”
“I can be ready in 10 minutes.”
Genny raised her eyebrow. “Including ah . . . feeding?” Her statement shocked both of them. It hadn’t been spoken about but Genny knew what was going on. “Look guys, if I’m going to be living with you – not in your chamber obviously – but in your home and part of your lives I don’t want you walking on eggshells around me. I spent time picking Indira’s brain the other night so I could be in the know about human/vampire relationships. Don’t hold back; don’t hide who you are around me.”
“Genny, I don’t think you can ever know what that means to me.” Eric humbly offered.
“I wanted to learn because I don’t think you could ever know what your ‘live in’ offer means to me; what you, Sookie and the kids mean to me. You’re my family now.”
“And you’re ours.” To diffuse some of the heavy emotions in the room, he used Celia. It was a new tactic he took advantage of frequently. “Isn’t that right baby girl? Mima belongs to us.” Her response was an enthusiastic blowing of bubbles – getting Eric in the face. “She must really agree since it produced this much slobber. To respond to your original comment: I don’t feed everyday and in fact I fed deeply yesterday, supplementing with bagged blood so I would not need to feed while here. Sookie’s blood smells very sweet and I was hoping to get through the visit without exposing her scent.”
“Very well. I’ll wait for my turn with Celia.”
“Genny,” Sookie started. “You might want to hang out here with her after we leave. Ryan outfitted the room nicely for her.”
“I can – but I guess you haven’t seen the playroom down the hall.”
“Playroom? Why would they have a playroom?”
“Ryan added it yesterday when Eric informed Godric that Celia was joining you.”
“Does Godric know what his dayman did to his home?”
“It was at Godric’s request.” She left Eric and Sookie with slightly shocked looks on their faces and promised to return in about 30 minutes.
They took separate showers and dressed quickly; Sookie in one of Pam’s dresses, a gorgeous pink lace column gown with a very low dip in the cleavage. Eric was practically salivating over it. “Are you wearing your hair up?”
“That’s what I had planned, is that alright?”
“Oh yes. Very. It will help to show off your presents.”
“I know this is not ‘your thing’, but you should be in jewels as the consort of a vampire sheriff.”
“You’re using protocol against me. You just want the excuse.”
He tried that innocent look and failed. “Not me my sweet. Do your hair while I grab them.” A few minutes later, he presented her with a gorgeous necklace from Tiffany called Stars and Moon and beautiful diamond and platinum earrings. Sookie oohed and aahed over them and didn’t complain at all. Eric was thrilled. Of course, he knew they would go in a safe and rarely see the light of day when they were home but at least she accepted them with grace – and a very nice kiss as well. Genny arrived and took Celia to the playroom as Sookie put the last minute touches on her make-up. Nervously she grabbed Eric’s hand and they headed downstairs to court.
As they moved closer to the main floor, Sookie started to feel woozy. “Sookie, are you alright? I can feel you are dizzy.”
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” They paused midway down the stairs for a moment. Ryan looked up in concern but Eric held his hand up to keep him where he was. “Eric. Is there something you haven’t told me about Godric?”
He didn’t bother trying to hide it. “There is.”
She nodded and commented. “Yes, you share blood. I can feel him and when I first received his emotions on top of yours – it was . . . unsettling.”
“I’ve never heard of this before. A bonded human shouldn’t feel such a connection.”
“What is this connection?”
“We share a maker; that makes us blood brothers. I wanted to wait and surprise you – I know how much you value family and for me, Godric is family. He’s older than me and had been on his own when Appius died. But he wasn’t released so he considered my hand in his death to be a debt he says he can never fully repay.”
She paused for a moment, took a breath and then smiled. “I’m happy to meet more of your family. Shall we?”
“Are you recovered?”
“Yes, I just blocked what was coming from him now that I know what’s going on.”
Ryan greeted them at the foot of the stairs and led them towards a set of double doors. “I will announce you before you walk in. Tonight we only have Godric’s second, Margeaux, and another guest to serve as a witness.” Ryan saw a look of shock on Eric’s face immediately and follow-up quickly. “Godric wanted you both to feel comfortable with the visit. This is also not his main court as you know. He only goes to Harrisburg once a month where his representatives across the state must appear. He’s only doing this bit of ceremony to formally announce your plans for staying in Pennsylvania.”
“That’s very generous of him.”
As he stated, Ryan opened the doors and announced Eric and Sookie to the nearly empty room. Sookie looked at Eric when she felt his surprise and he was smiling at the vampire standing to the right of the teenager seated in the throne. He was tall (though not as tall as Eric), had an almost bronze glow even as a vampire and dark wavy hair. She guessed he knew him and she was right. Eric stopped about four feet from the dais and bowed with Sookie mimicking his actions. The young looking vampire nodded to his right and a gorgeous female with long wavy auburn hair pulled out a parchment and read from it. Basically it was announcing Eric the Northman’s request to reside in Pennsylvania but retaining, per his contract, his pledge of fealty to Louisiana. Sookie was confused but kept quiet, per Eric’s request when they prepped for court. As soon as the reading of the notice was done, Eric and Godric signed, followed by this Margeaux and the other vampire. Sookie learned his name was Rasul. The parchment was rolled and Margeaux left to put it in Godric’s safe. After that, all the expressions changed quickly. Godric stood and smiled widely as he embraced Eric; then he turned to Sookie. “You are just as lovely as my brother said.”
“That’s very kind of you your Majesty.”
“Stop – that’s all over now. It’s Godric from now on. I wanted the paper work to be as formal as possible; hence the court appearance. When you return you meet with the Queen to tell her, correct?”
“As soon as Karin arrives I will tell her about my vacation, but no details. She only needs to know my fealty to her remains intact per my contract.” Eric looked in Rasul’s direction. “I didn’t know you knew Rasul.”
“Godric is my maker.”
“I guessed something like that when I saw you. You two have certainly kept that a secret.” He turned to Godric. “I knew Margeaux was your child but not Rasul.”
“Sometimes secrets are good.” Eric nodded. “Come; let’s go back to the private quarters. I want to meet your Celia. Margeaux is handling kingdom business for me now so I have the night off.”
They walked back towards the private wing of the house and Sookie offered to collect Celia. “Nonsense, she’ll be more comfortable in the playroom and we can all relax.”
“Pardon the interruption Godric, but who is this Celia and why does she need a playroom?” Rasul was clearly confused.
Eric laughed. “I guess we’re both in for a surprise tonight. Celia is our baby. We have a little boy as well, he’s four – well days from being five.”
“A FAMILY! I can’t wait to see this.”
When they arrived at the playroom they were a bit surprised to find not just Genny playing with Celia, but Ryan was on the floor with both of them. “Ryan, didn’t your work day end a while ago?”
Godric smirked, unsure of whether his dayman meant the baby or the grandmother. The two did seem to fit nicely together. As Godric and his dayman spoke, Eric had walked over to Celia and started asking about playtime with Mima and Mr. MacGregor. With much drool and spit and arms flying she responded animatedly to her daddy and he simply continued the conversation with her. Rasul was dumbfounded at Eric’s behavior. His mouth was gaped open as he just stared at the sight. “Eric, what does the Queen think about all of this?”
Eric panicked a bit and looked at Godric. His blood brother calmed him immediately. “I told him no details at all yet. He will have a maker’s command for secrecy – as will Margeaux.” Then he turned to his child. “Rasul, your Queen does not nor will she ever be told about Eric’s family. This is why he’s moving here for a while.”
“I thought it was just a vacation.”
“It is – but it’s also protection. Eric doesn’t want Sophie-Anne to even meet Sookie or Hunter.”
“Why not? We can register and own humans. She’d certainly need to learn to behave like a pet but I’m sure she could. He would just need to claim all of them.”
Eric was a bit infuriated that they were speaking about this in front of Sookie and Genny. “Rasul. Sookie is NOT a pet.”
“Eric, I mean no offense to her, I’m using vampire terms. It’s just protocol.”
“It’s protocol that won’t be part of our life in Pennsylvania.” He looked pointedly at Godric.
“That’s correct Rasul. When I said ‘that’s all over’ before, I meant for good. Unless there is some specific court meeting that Eric needs to attend, he won’t be part of any ceremony nor will Sookie. If they visit here it will be as family. As I said, tonight’s ceremony was required but no more.”
Rasul was shaking his head at this decision. “It’s better to be safe Eric. You can’t expect her to live in the vampire wo. . .”
“I don’t. My family doesn’t live in the vampire world with me. I live in the human world with them. Godric has offered protection without the need to serve for the next 20 to 30 years. I’m living in peace and raising my human children on my terms.” As the information settled over the people in the room, the only sound was Celia sucking on Eric’s thumb. It was the perfect teether since it was always cold; once his daughter got hold of it she never let go.
Rasul absorbed the enormity of Eric’s decision and realized it was in fact ERIC’s decision and he respected it. “I understand. I will need that maker’s command before I return home. I live in the palace with the very woman who would not be pleased with these secrets.”
“I’m not lying to her – just not disclosing, but I agree, a maker’s command will keep you out of trouble.” Eric looked at his watch. “Sookie, you’ll need to change before we meet with the builders. We should leave in about 30 minutes.”
“I’ll take care of that then while you catch up with your brother and his child.”
Genny rose too. “I’ll change Celia’s diaper so she’ll be ready.” She paused. “You are still taking her, correct?”
He answered as he handed Celia over. “Yes. I need to find the carrier.” As soon as Genny had Celia she started crying and holding her arms out for Eric. THAT was all Eric needed and he took her back – resulting in a change from crying to smiling in an instant. With a big smile at his ability to make Celia happy he offered, “I’ll change her since it looks like Ryan stocked the playroom with diapers. I’m sure Sookie needs help out of that dress.” Eric wanted to witness the command of Rasul – but after he provided additional information. He wasn’t sure if Godric would command his child in front of the women.
“Yes Genny, can you help me?” She thought perhaps Eric needed to chat with the vampires alone – but she had to stifle a laugh thinking he was doing official business with a baby.
Eric continued their chat. “Rasul, you’ll need all your clothing cleaned before you return to Louisiana.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You can’t return with any of Sookie’s scent on you. Andre’s talent is his heightened senses – even more so than the average vampire. You cannot return with Sookie’s scent.”
“Mr. Northman. Godric apprised me of this situation; I’m ready to handle Rasul’s . . . ah scent needs.”
“Thank you Ryan.” The efficient dayman handed Eric a basket with diaper changing needs and Daddy settled on the floor placing Celia on the mat Ryan included in the basket. The room was quiet as the three other men stood dumbfounded while Eric removed Celia’s bottoms and proceeded to change her diaper. Taking in their awestruck expressions, Eric chuckled. “I’m sure you’ve cleaned worse messes as a vampire.” When none of them moved or spoke he added, “Seriously – is a diaper change THAT shock worthy?”
Rasul shook his head to literally clear it from his shock and returned to the conversation at hand. “Is someone going to explain about this scent business?” Rasul was again, confused.
Godric looked to Eric and he nodded. “Rasul, Sookie is not fully human; she’s part fairy. With those genetics, she would be desirable to the Queen which is another reason why Eric is doing what he’s doing.”
“I’ll need a maker’s command for this information as well.”
“Already planned my child. That’s why you’re being told.”
“I thought I smelled something faintly sweet in court and honestly, I stopped smelling anything once we approached the baby – I mean, I’ve heard stories if you will.”
Eric deadpanned to Rasul. “Those stories are true – but you really don’t mind when it’s your own.” He smiled at Celia. “Isn’t that right baby girl?” From the corner of his eye he could see he’d shocked them again. Keeping his focus on his baby, he admonished them. “Don’t look at me like I have two heads. You have no idea what you’re missing by not being a parent.”
“I’ll just take your word for it.” Godric added while Rasul mumbled, “Agree to disagree.”
“Rasul, I’m planning to go with Eric to check out his property and meet with the builders. I’ll be back by about 10PM. You can find your favorite in the donor building if you like. Let me just set the commands first.” He turned to his brother. “Eric, I’ll set Margeaux’s commands when we return.”
Eric stayed to ensure the commands were set as needed then excused himself to collect Sookie.
Rasul turned to leave but added, “I’ll see you later or tomorrow evening I guess Eric. It’s been truly enlightening.”
The rest of the PA trip was passing quickly. Doc Maria had her plans in place for her medical center and Godric was hiring a project manager to oversee the construction while she was in Louisiana. Sookie was enrolled to start at the local University in the fall; the location of the first house on the property was set and construction would begin almost immediately. On their last night, they were planning the trip to Longwood gardens to select the exact location for the wedding; then they would leave to be home just before dawn. Sookie enjoyed seeing their soon-to-be home state, but she really missed her son.
“Are we going to try the stroller tonight?”
“I like wearing Celia. Besides, you told me you tried it at the University.”
“I did, I thought you might want to give it a whirl and not have to wear her if she falls asleep. Never mind though, I can see by your frown that I have obviously spoken blasphemy by suggesting a stroller.”
“Blasphemy indeed. Besides, this carrier is made by a Swedish family owned business. It’s a requirement for me.”
“Yes dear. Are you ready?” He nodded and they left Godric’s house. The drive to Longwood was short and Sookie was immediately fawning over everything she saw as they approached the main entrance. A short man in an impeccable suit greeted them at the door; the gardens were closed for their meeting. “Mr. Jasper?”
“Yes Ma’am, please call me Rudy Miss Stackhouse.”
“Certainly Rudy, I’m Sookie and this is my fiancé Eric Northman and our daughter Celia.” She gestured to Eric and her baby, now firmly secured in the baby carrier on Eric’s chest.
“Welcome to Longwood. This is your first time here?”
She nodded and added, “my first time in the state.”
“Well what do you think of Pennsylvania?”
“I had no idea that we were going to live near the mushroom capital of the world!”
“Did you go to the mushroom museum?”
“I’m gonna have to say I missed that one – trying to get too much done in this short trip.”
He leaned over and whispered, “You didn’t miss much.” They shared a laugh over that. “I thought we’d head to the right and check out the Italian Water Garden . . . then make our way to the conservatory.” Sookie nodded and Rudy guided them down the path as they continued talking.
“I’m leaning towards the conservatory – something inside just in case.”
“The ballroom in the conservatory is also available for the reception as well.”
“Perfect.” She stopped before a wooden structure. “What’s this?”
“Canopy Cathedral. It’s based on a Norwegian Church. It was built by that guy with the treehouse show on TV – Treehouse Masters.”
“I don’t get too much TV time.” She answered but her eyes were on the treehouse. “This is just beautiful.” With a hand out she called to Eric, but he was already directly behind her.
“What are you thinking min Röðull?”
“We’re having a total of 21 people – including us and kids.” They climbed the stairs. “The lighting is limited though.”
“We’ve been instructed to accommodate your requests, we can deal with lighting.” Rudy added.
“Do I want to know what Godric did to help make this happen?”
Rudy laughed. “I wasn’t told to keep it a secret. Godric has funded our new meadow garden project and five years of our educational programs. You’re to get whatever you want.”
“Seems too much for twenty people.”
“Nothing is too much for you my sweet.” Celia kicked in the Bjorn carrier, she was turned into him since they’d hope she would fall asleep for a while – sleep hadn’t happened. “Isn’t that right baby girl?” Sookie stifled a laugh – Eric was constantly talking with Celia. She might have been jealous if she couldn’t feel his utter devotion to all of them – not just Celia. They stayed and explored the building and talked through possible ceremony spots. Sookie did love it, but she’d also wanted to see the conservatory before deciding so they continued down the path. The next few minutes were silent and the night air did Celia in. She was out by the time they were looking over the Italian Water Garden. They walked slowly through the wooded path leading towards the DuPont house, something Sookie had already dismissed as a wedding venue since it was more of an educational center now, and continued onto the Conservatory.
As soon as they entered, Sookie forgot about the Cathedral. “Oh My God! I can really get married here?”
“Yes Ma’am, but if I may suggest the end of the exhibit hall; it’s right this way.” He gestured with his arm and led them to a long section with a water floor in the center and a doorway to the music room at the end. “I think a wedding at either end of this room would be simply beautiful.”
“Where do other weddings typically choose?”
“Ma’am, there has never been a wedding here. It’s not permitted.”
She leaned to Eric. “Remind me to hug Godric when we return.”
They spent a few minutes checking out the view from either end, the space for guests and the ballroom for the reception before Eric’s phone rang. “Northman.”
“It’s Mustapha. I’m coming to get you Eric. We have to leave Pennsylvania now.”
“With Godric’s help we’ve already packed everything and the plane is ready.”
“And the part you aren’t telling me?”
“He’s stable now but Hunter’s heart failed and Ludwig needs to start the surgery tomorrow during the day.”
“Why did you wait to call?”
“We wanted to be ready to take off before we told Sookie. She wouldn’t be any help prepping and only worrying. I’ll meet you at the gate in 10 minutes.”
“We’ll be there.” He ended the call and informed Rudy that there was an emergency and they needed to leave.
“I’ll walk you out.”
“No need, we need to be out quickly so I’m flying Sookie and Celia out.”
“Good luck then sir, with your emergency.” He left quickly. Something horrible had been told to the vampire and he could see his emotions just under the surface. Being with a vampire hadn’t concerned him, he’d enjoyed Godric’s company when they met to discuss the wedding, but an emotional vampire wasn’t something he wanted to deal with.
Eric could already feel Sookie’s absolute panic since he hadn’t blocked his emotions quickly enough. Regretfully, he turned to tell her what happened. “Sookie, we’re headed to the airport. Hunter’s surgery needs to happen tomorrow; his heart failed.” Luckily he was close enough to catch her when she fainted.
Jewelry from Tiffany – the necklace – $2.8 MIL!!!
. . .
NOW you know why I have a flying gorilla – I had to send it to myself for the cliffy.