CHAPTER 3 – NEW HOME
Sookie and Niall arrived on the back porch in a flash of light and Eric quickly escorted them inside the house. It was daylight, and he’d planned the arrival that way since all his vampire staff would be down.
“Welcome home, Sookie,” Eric waved his arm around and Sookie gasped.
The first room they’d entered was the eating area of the kitchen. The front door may have been more appropriate, but he chose the sliding doors to the deck entering this room because it was a replica of the farmhouse. “That’s my Gran’s table!” She ran into the cooking area and opened the cabinet doors, “Her dishes and glasses!”
Eric smiled at her excitement, “Pam and I raided the farmhouse. There’s much more to see.” He put his hand out and she took it without hesitation.
Niall raised his brows, Sookie had been resistant to all physical contact while in Fairy. Pam, also present and wearing the ‘sunlight’ ring, stayed in the kitchen and asked Niall a question so he would remain with her, “Niall, are you staying until nightfall? I understand you wanted to ah…meet Bill Compton.”
He looked down the hall where Eric had led Sookie, concern etched on his face, “I am staying. I want to be sure she’s settled in.” Pam nodded. “Though after seeing her willingly take Eric’s hand, I think I’m not needed.”
Pam hesitated to say anything until she heard the door close to the upstairs master suite, “He loves her. He was taken by her when she first arrived, and it grew from there.” Pam knew Eric would kill her for sharing, but for some reason, Niall’s concern about leaving Sookie had her talking, “In the last five months while he prepared for her, his infatuation with her grew. When you popped onto the deck, his emotions exploded. You’re leaving Sookie in the best place for her.”
“Thank you for telling me. I can focus now on what I need to do in Fairy,” he paused and considered what he and Pam could do while Eric gave Sookie the tour. “Are you aware of the safety features added to this new home?” Pam nodded. “Why don’t you review those with me so we can give them time alone?”
She put her arm out toward the door, “We’ll start outside. When I leave tomorrow at dawn, I have to turn the ‘sunshine’ ring over to Thalia. I want to soak up the sun while I can.”
Niall chuckled at her, “Fair enough.”
Sookie was on the master suite balcony when she noticed Pam and Niall walking out together, “I guess they’re doing their own tour.”
Eric listened for a moment and answered, “Pam is reviewing the outside security elements added to the building.” They were in the master suite, sitting in a room full of farmhouse furniture. In this room, there were three doors, two bedrooms and a nursery. Ignoring the nursery door, Sookie walked to the door on the right. She peeked in, noticing the feminine décor and correctly guessed that it was her room. Eric watched Sookie take in the room for a few moments, and then sat on the bed, “Do you like this room?”
“It’s beautiful and I appreciate that you found my Gran’s quilts. They are a nice reminder of her.”
“I wanted you to feel at home, but what I mean, there are two bedrooms in this suite. You can have either.”
“But I see some of my things in here?”
“Anything can be moved.”
Her head shook as she answered, “No, this is nice.” The room was large with a king-sized bed dressed in soft pink sheets and one of her Gran’s quilts. On one wall, there was a large collection of hanging and shelved family photos that Pam had found at the farmhouse and Jason’s house. It was a beautiful collection, and Sookie could hardly believe the cold vampire had put it together for her. Many of the photos were in shoeboxes, so it wasn’t a matter of taking them off the mantle and moving them here. On another wall, there was a dresser with a mirror and to the right door, her walk-in closet. The door was open so she pointed to the clothing, “Pam?” Eric smirked and nodded. The final wall had two doors and Sookie could see one was to the bathroom, the other one had her fearful.
Eric saw her look away after taking a glance at the door to the nursery. It was a topic they couldn’t avoid, so he dove in, “It’s the nursery. There are three doors to it, one from the sitting room, and one from each of the bedrooms.” Sookie turned her head in question at Eric’s description. He stood and answered, “I know you’re struggling with the pregnancy. I have a hired someone to assist you, but Sookie, I won’t let you go through this alone. I’m going to help you through the remaining days of your pregnancy, I’m going to coach you through and heal you from the birth, and I’m going to be an active caretaker for your little girl.”
It was too much. For her, she’d only left Eric about two hours ago and she was no further along with her healing. He’d had five months to plan and look forward to her arrival, and she knew he was happy that she was here; he’d already told her multiple times. Instead of thinking through a response to his kind and sincere words, she spat out, “It’s not my baby, it’s his!” Now that the anger had broken through, she continued, “Niall should come and retrieve her after she’s been cut out of me because make no mistake, I’m not making the effort to birth this baby!”
Though his plan was to not respond to her anger, the words were spoken with so much venom Eric reacted. He audibly gasped and took a step back from Sookie. He knew this reaction was possible, but seeing it was another thing. They had about two months before the birth, and the demon counselor would need to work hard with Sookie. “We’ll take things one day at a time. Can we do that, Sookie?” His words and expression pleaded with Sookie and she nodded after a pause. “Would you like to rest or meet your staff? They are waiting for my call to join us if you’re ready.”
“Why do you keep referring to people as my staff?” She shook her head. “I have no staff.”
“You do now,” he moved back and took her hands to guide her to the bed. Once they were seated and angled to face each other, he explained, “Look, my kingdom is boring and practically runs itself, but there are times I will need to leave this house and go to the offices I built next door. On some rare occasions, I may need to travel for business. Right now, when I leave, you’ll need to stay here and I don’t want you to be alone.” Sookie started to speak, but he held her off. “Let me finish explaining then you can yell.” He hoped she would yell at him, it would be refreshing, as if the old Sookie was still in there. “You have healing to do, so Marina Simpson will be staying here to help with your emotional healing. I’ve also hired Carrie Williams to provide for your physical care. She’ll cook and care for you and,” he didn’t want to say baby and start the issues all over again since she had calmed some. “She’ll provide for whatever needs you have.”
“I don’t think I’m very good company.”
He smiled, “You’re always good company and in this case, it’s not for you to be good company. These women have been hired to help you.” Since Sookie hadn’t recoiled from any of his touches, he put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her to him. “I’m also here to help you. You can yell, hit… Sookie, you can even cry on me.”
Sookie looked up at Eric and gave a watery smile, “But you hate tears. You told me so in Dallas when I cried on you after the Fellowship thing.”
Sookie was correct; he hated tears, but knew they would be part of her healing process and the postpartum experience. He really had read up on babies and births. “I know, Sookie, but it’s all part of the process. There are things that will be part of your life with a vampire that you won’t like. We’ll both adjust,” in an effort to lighten the mood, he added, “I’ll purchase hankies and tissues by the case.”
When she snorted a small laugh, he wanted to claim victory.
“Now, though, my little fairy, it’s time for you to rest.”
“Yes, the travel and house tour have worn me out,” she added with a large yawn.
“I can see that,” he got up to leave, telling her, “I’ll be in my room. I can hear you if you call, the soundproofing encompasses the entire master suite, but we can hear everything within it.”
“Thank you, Eric.” He nodded and headed to the door. “No, I mean, really, thank you for all of this. I know this is a debt you’re repaying, but I appreciate it.”
“I would have taken you in for protection without the debt, Sookie. I wish the circumstances were different, but I’m happy you’re here.”
“I appreciate that, Eric, and I know you’re giving this your all, but…”
He put his hand up, “I know you’re not in a position to respond to that in kind. I’m trying to ensure you know I’m here for you and no other reason.”
She gave him a soft smile before he left the room.
She got in the bed and tried to fall asleep, but her head was spinning. For some reason, she trusted Eric and believed he was telling her the truth. He wanted to help her, not repay his debt. That belief had her feeling safe for the first time since she’d been captured. Niall and his staff had cared for her, but she lived in fear every moment. One thing she knew about Eric, he had the strength and resources to protect her, and she also knew he had the motivation. His feelings for her came through in every look and touch. She wasn’t in a position to reciprocate. Right now she had to focus on getting through each day.
Eric lounged in his room as promised. He took the time to sort through Sookie’s first hours. To his surprise, she responded positively to physical contact. She also appreciated the furniture and other items from the farmhouse. That was all good. The baby though, she refused to consider the baby. That was going to be a hurdle to get over, but he was confident they would. If Sookie denied this baby to the extreme she’d claimed, having Niall take the baby to Fae, she’d regret it years from now. Before he could consider more, he heard Sookie crying out in her sleep and he ran to her. Sookie was deep into the nightmare and Eric had a hard time waking her. He held her loosely since she was thrashing around and called to her, but it was several moments before her eyes were open and she recognized him. “ERIC!”
“You’re okay, Sookie, I’ve got you,” His grip tightened and he rocked her for a several moments until the shaking stopped. “Do you want to talk about it?” She bit her lip and shook her head. Eric, she believed, would never understand and she feared his reaction. What Sookie didn’t realize is that while Eric may have hired a counselor, he was likely more suited to handle some of Sookie’s therapy. He proved it by sharing something of his own history, “It’s hard getting through this. I know all the feelings you have inside, well, some of them. You’ve been violated. We share that, Sookie.” She turned in his arms to see his face. It was a look she’d never seen before, vulnerability.
“I had no idea.”
“I don’t talk about him, my maker, but he turned me into a vampire so he could have a sex toy to use and abuse at his whim.” Fresh tears fell on Sookie’s face, though this time she cried for Eric. Guilt covered his features, “Sookie, I didn’t tell you to upset you. It’s been over for hundreds of years. I wanted you to know so you could feel free to share anything with me. I won’t judge you,” He’d seen the panic on Sookie’s face after he’d asked her to talk about the dream. While he wanted to help her, he wasn’t sure how she would feel about that. He hoped some knowledge of his background would ease her concerns.
“I appreciate that, Eric, and maybe at some point I can voice what happened in reality and my nightmares if that’s what’s needed to move forward. Right now, though?” She shook her head as fresh tears fell, “I’m sorry for what we both went through, but I can’t put it into words yet.”
“I understand. Do you want to continue your nap?”
“No. I’m…” Her stomach chose that moment to finish the sentence with a loud growl.
They both chuckled and Eric was relieved she could still smile, “Hungry, I guess?” She nodded. “The kitchen is stocked. Perhaps your great-grandfather would like to join you for some refreshments.
“Only if you have sweets,” Her smile grew. “In Fairy, at least at great-grandfather’s house, sweets are the biggest part of the food pyramid.”
Eric made a mental note to check with Ludwig on whether sweets were an indulgence or a necessity for fairies. Sookie’s baby was over half-fairy and they’d need to know the best diet for the pregnancy and beyond. This was not something he would bring up with Sookie yet. When the baby was mentioned, he could see her shut down. A loud growl came from her stomach, so he helped her out of the bed and headed to the kitchen. Like he was a lifeline, she gripped his hand on the way down the stairs. Niall met them on their way and again noticed Sookie’s ease with Eric. Perhaps the feelings weren’t only Eric’s. Sookie would need that connection to get over her ordeal. He smiled and helped her to a seat at the table while Eric pulled some prepared platters out of the refrigerator. He’d been given specific instructions on the meal by Carrie.
Pam joined the group in the kitchen and asked Sookie if she liked the house. “Yes, Pam. Thank you for helping Eric. I especially appreciate the photo wall. That must have taken many hours of your time.”
Pam gave her a soft smile, “As soon as I found the pictures, I knew I had to do something with them. They won’t do you any good in a shoebox.” Pam sipped from her goblet and added, “I also enjoyed shopping for you.” The statement was made with a twinkle in her eye, she wanted to make Sookie yell. She was let down by the girl’s subdued reaction.
“Yes, I’ll spend more time on the closet later, but I can see it’s full. Thank you.”
Pam’s disappointment flowed through her bond with Eric. His head whipped in her direction and he quirked his brow, not able to figure out the cause. She mouthed ‘later’ to him while Niall was capturing Sookie’s attention.
By the time they’d eaten their late lunch, the sun was setting. Niall took advantage of a gap in the conversation to ask Pam for help with the ‘matter they’d discussed earlier.’ Knowing this was Niall’s request to ‘visit’ with Compton, she smirked, standing to guide him to the Kingdom offices. Niall explained that he’d be leaving after he was done with Pam, so he said his goodbyes to Sookie. Her lack of reaction to his departure stung some. He’d enjoyed being with her. Leaving her with Eric was the right choice though, she needed to be out of Fairy for her health and his ability to focus on his war.
Once Pam and Niall were gone, Eric turned to Sookie, “How about we finish the tour?” Sookie looked panicked, and he realized she thought he meant the nursery so he quickly added, “We didn’t cover this floor or the grounds yet.” He positioned his arm with the elbow out and she took the hint. Her hand was swallowed by his larger arm and, at the same time, they fit. “Let’s start outside while we still have some twilight.”
Eric and Sookie walked the garden paths, around the pool, and to the gazebo, chatting about life in Louisiana, his duties as King, and any gossip he had from Bon Temps. Since the baby wasn’t discussed and thankfully, the little one didn’t wake for the walk, they were able to ‘ignore’ the elephant in the womb, so to speak. Needing a break, Eric eased Sookie onto one of the cushioned lounge chairs in the gazebo. There, he covered some of the details of Sookie’s life with him. Her main guard would be Eric. For her first two weeks, he would be her only guard as she adjusted. Once his vacation was over, another vampire in his retinue, Indira, would cover when Eric was not available. Eric was concerned about introducing Indira given that she was excited to be helping with a baby. The vampiress would need to control her enthusiasm until Sookie was ready. Indira would wear the other ‘sunshine’ ring when needed. So far, Eric was the only vampire to sport the ring continually.
“I met Indira once at Fangtasia.”
Eric nodded, “She puts in time to be on display as part of her fealty.” He paused and added, “Well, now her full-time job is guarding you, so she doesn’t put in time at Fangtasia.” Eric noticed Sookie was rubbing her ankle, or at least trying to bend over to do it. He positioned himself so he could put her feet on his lap and proceeded to ease her swollen ankle discomfort. Sookie moaned her reaction. “You may have my second as your guard due to scheduling.”
“That feels good,” With her eyes closed and a soft smile on her face, she asked, “Do I know this vampire?”
“Vampiress, and I know she’s been at Fangtasia when you’ve been there. Her name is Thalia.”
Looking horrified, Sookie cried out, “SHE’S MEAN! She’s the one that scowls and doesn’t speak.”
“She’s also two-thousand-years-old and would protect you if needed. Indira will be your friend while she protects you. Thalia will be a protector only. I know she’s not ideal, but I need you to accept this. My Kingdom may require my attention while Indira is unavailable.”
It was said with a grumpy face, but she did offer a ‘Fine!’ then told him to get back to her ankles. He’d stopped while reacting to her comments about Thalia. “Eric?” He hummed a response and she continued, “Niall said we needed to bond.”
“Did he tell you what that means?”
“Yes, we exchange blood three times, and after that we’re connected until he returns. No other supernatural can touch me without penalty of death, we’ll be able to locate each other, share feelings… I’m not sure about anything else.”
“That about covers the blood bond part. There is also a Pledging ceremony I’d like to do as well. That’s a public declaration of our bond. In supernatural terms, it’s a marriage.”
“Is that what you want?” Sookie was taken aback by this news.
“Very much, and I know right now it’s overwhelming. We’ll bond before the baby comes so my claim will include her, then later we can discuss a Pledging Ceremony.”
Sookie was visibly relieved, “Thank you. I was prepared for the bond, not anything else.”
He nodded and changed the topic, “Ludwig will meet with you when we return to the house.”
Sookie scowled at the mention of the elf-doctor, “Has she gotten any more pleasant since my last interaction with her?”
“Unfortunately, no,” With her scowl, he felt the need to explain why he chose Ludwig as her doctor. “She’s a supernatural doctor, so it makes sense for her to work with you.”
She scowled again, but ordered him to keep rubbing.
He happily complied.
Later that night, Sookie met her staff followed by a medical appointment. Ludwig gathered a family and health history from a petulant Sookie, measured Sookie’s bump (causing Sookie’s mood to plummet further), and then set her up for an ultrasound. Sookie tried to stop the ultrasound, she did not want to see the baby. Citing a medical need, Ludwig persisted. With her head turned away from the monitor and her hands clenched in anger, Sookie acquiesced with a huffed out ‘Fine!’
Meanwhile, Eric was torn. He’d never had this viewing opportunity of his children so he wanted to look and enjoy it. On the other hand, Sookie needed his support, and he feared she would distance herself from him if he gave into his desires. Somehow, Ludwig must have picked up on his dilemma and she gave him the opening, “Eric, come take a look.”
He started to shake his head, but Sookie gave him permission, “Go ahead! I’m certain this is your only opportunity to see something like this.” Before he moved to the monitor, he kissed her head in thanks. When she didn’t recoil, he figured he was safe for looking at the baby. As he moved to stand behind the diminutive doctor, he had to control his reaction. Ludwig had ordered a 3D ultrasound machine and the baby’s face was front and center. One little hand was raised up next to her head, the other was positioned on her chin as if she was in deep thought. Over the years, Eric had heard the phrase ‘cute button nose’ and now that he’d seen this baby’s nose, he understood. Modestly, her legs were crossed covering her private parts, and Eric took a moment to pray she would continue to hide her private parts. Forever. While all that was cute, he found her mouth amusing, rather her tongue was amusing since it was currently sticking out. He couldn’t refrain from commenting, but did so quietly to Ludwig. “Do you think she’s sticking that out at me or you?”
Ludwig raised her eyebrows and smirked, “Definitely you.”
“That’s what I was afraid of.”
Ludwig helped Sookie clean up all the goo, and told her they needed to talk. While Sookie was getting her clothes straightened out, the elf handed Eric a thumb drive, whispering pictures and video. He smiled at the doctor in thanks.
When he returned to Sookie’s side, he took her hand, asking, “What did you need to discuss, Doctor?”
“Two things, first your bond. When will that happen?”
“At the end of my two-week vacation.” Ludwig nodded her approval, but remained quiet until Eric nudged her, “The other thing to discuss?”
“The birth.” Sookie appeared stricken. The birth wasn’t something she wanted to think about, let alone talk about. Ludwig saw her discomfort, but forged ahead, “I understand there are difficult circumstances surrounding how your baby got here…”
Eric winced and knew what was coming. “It’s not my baby; it belongs to the rapist.”
Grateful that Niall had prepared her for such a reaction, Ludwig stayed cool as a cucumber. It was her hope that in asking her next question she might see some maternal instinct emerge, “So I’ll be finding some way to get the baby back to Fairy after the birth?”
Eric was about to step in until he saw Sookie put her arm across her baby bulge. ‘Maybe there is some part of her that what wants to keep this baby.’
Sookie replied to Ludwig’s question, “That won’t be necessary. Eric has a nanny here.”
She responded with a bland, “Fine,” but inside she was cheering. Sookie’s first thought was to physically protect the baby. She and the demon counselor could work with that, “We’ll discuss more in a few days. I’ll see you all tomorrow. I have some appointments tonight.”
“Oh,” Sookie said. “I thought I was your only patient?” She backpedaled, “Not that I need to be, I thought that’s what Eric told me.”
“I’m staying here and my patients are coming to see me at Eric’s offices. My priority is you, and that’s why he wanted me close.”
The elf doctor stood to leave and was to the door when Sookie offered, “Well, thank you for that.” According to her Gran, manners always mattered, though she was sure Gran never considered a situation with an elf doctor, pregnancy by rape, and a gilded cage for protection.
After the doctor was gone, Eric took a chance. “Sookie,” he paused until she looked up at him. “The nanny isn’t the reason you don’t want to send the baby to Fairy, is it?”
“It’s not safe there…she…it’s not fair to Niall. He needs to fight a war, not worry about a baby.”
“I think there’s a small part of you who wants to protect her,” she opened her mouth to deny his words, but he didn’t want to hear it, “Let’s get you some dinner.” Her head spun from the topic change and her rebuttal on protecting a baby who was lost. That was especially true when they got to the kitchen and she smelled fried chicken.
While she ate, Eric considered what he’d learned. He knew she wanted to deny any concern for the baby, he also now knew it was lie, a lie he would help her uncover.
The next weeks flew and Sookie adopted a comfortable routine. For the first two weeks, Eric spent all his time with Sookie at her insistence. He stayed with her when she met with the counselor, he stayed in her bedroom when she bathed, he even slept beside her. For Sookie, Eric was her anchor and she happily blood bonded to him before he returned to work. Using the bond to feel Eric while he was gone helped her cope. Also helpful was Indira’s friendship, the two had hit it off and Sookie often found herself confiding in the vampiress. Thalia was another story. The ancient vampiress wasn’t mean, but she wasn’t friendly. Sookie chose to steer clear of her. The one time Thalia did need to guard for her, the vampire stood outside Sookie’s door while she napped. Eric adjusted his work schedule so he joined Sookie for dinner, helped her to bed at night, and returned to sleep with her at about four in the morning. He’d found he needed only six hours of actual sleep a day and he knew that would come in handy after the baby arrived. For him, sleeping with Sookie had a double benefit. He got to hold Sookie, and he got to hold the baby and feel her move. While awake, Sookie wouldn’t permit anyone to touch her stomach. At night, he would wrap himself around her, often pushing his hand up under her night shirt. Sookie probably knew he wanted to hold her and the baby, but she said nothing. His infatuation with her had turned into love and that included the little one inside her. Not talking about the baby, making plans, and sharing excitement was frustrating, but she needed the time to heal. He’d make it up later with spoiling.
While Sookie was adapting to life back on Earth, Eric also took time to plan for the birth and first weeks of the baby’s life. He met with Ludwig while Sookie napped one day and they discussed, or rather argued, over the birth. Sookie had made it clear to Ludwig that she wanted a C-section delivery. Adamant that a vaginal delivery was healthier for the baby and mother, Ludwig put her foot down. When the doctor used recovery time as an argument against the surgery, Eric, wanting to give into Sookie’s wishes, explained he could heal her. Ludwig was livid, and let him know about it during their private meeting. Eric didn’t understand the details on the difference between the delivery methods and was using his priority to make Sookie happy as his only thought. Realizing he was wrong, he had to determine how to recant his promise. To make matters worse, Sookie hadn’t softened in her feelings about the baby. Ludwig left in a huff, telling him to fix his mistake, “Sookie is due in two weeks. You need to fix this Viking!”
Before he could get a plan together for the conversation with Sookie, Pam called. “Yes, Pam?”
“We had a call scheduled to review the next few weeks, specifically the upcoming ball.”
From his office, Eric groaned. He hated the thought of the ball, especially since it was a week after Sookie’s due date, too close for comfort, “I don’t want to think about the ball, I don’t even want to attend the ball.”
“You can’t explain your absence! At least I’m coming to Shreveport instead of you traveling to Vegas.”
“Thirty minutes away from her is too far right now.”
Pam lit into her maker. Sookie’s presence wasn’t announced, but it wasn’t a secret. The baby, however, the fairy baby she was about to push out, only a few knew about her, “Eric, you can’t do anything to raise suspicion. Your attendance is mandatory and you know it.”
“Fine, Pam. You plan everything out then tell me when and where to appear.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do!” Though alone in her Vegas office, Pam raised her arms in frustration and slapped the desk. Her maker never did think clearly with Sookie so close. She hoped Thalia was ready to step up to the plate and run Louisiana in a few weeks. Once the baby arrived, Eric would be good for nothing. Before she could say more, she felt panic coming from Eric.
“Sookie needs me,” he said, and the line dropped. Trying to find out what caused the panic, she called the onsite nanny, then Ludwig, and then Indira. Nobody answered. As a last resort, she called Thalia.
“Thalia, this is Pam. What’s going on over there?”
“Sookie’s water broke, she’s having the baby.”