All of these characters are solely owned by Mrs. Charlaine Harris.
The next morning I was startled awake by what sounded like a drum being pounded underneath our balcony. What I heard was BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!...and then a deep voice shouting HAPPY MARDI GRAS! I jumped out of bed, threw on the wrap of my peach nightgown, and ran out onto the balcony. I could see an old black man strolling down the street, beating on a huge drum, and shouting his early morning greeting. With all the excitement from the prior night, I had completely forgotten that today was actually Mardi Gras Day!
It was still quite early, and in fact I could still see a little mist rising from the streets. Except for the "town crier", there were still very few people out yet. I smiled and just enjoyed the scene before me. For the first time in weeks and weeks, I felt completely happy and relaxed. I felt like a load had been lifted from my shoulders.
Felipe and Victor were finally gone completely out of our lives, and Sophie Ann had been avenged. I would not have to live in the desert as part of a King's nest, and be shared. All of my vampires had come through the battle relatively unscathed. I was publicly Twice-Bonded to an extremely powerful vampire King, and it was unlikely anyone would be stupid enough to take me away from him.
Even though I was by myself, I blushed just thinking about what I had done to make our Second Bond known to others. It was a really good thing that our combined blood had turned out to be such a potent aphrodisiac, because otherwise I would have been one reluctant sex partner. As it was, it had turned out to be one of my most mind-blowing sexual experiences, and in my heart of hearts I knew I would be thinking about it for a long time. During that intense love-making, it was as if our souls were completely, totally intertwined, more deeply than ever before. It was funny, because by all rights the Bond should not have changed at all, but clearly it had…and in some unexpected ways. I smiled a little to myself. One thing I had realized about my fairy magic was that I needed to be more careful what I wished for.
As far as Eric's new position, I knew that there would be some issues to face with the transition, but at least we were out from under the constant threat of immanent harm. Eric seemed fully prepared to take on his new role as King, and I knew without a doubt that he would make an excellent one. I felt a little bad about the whole thing, though; I knew that he had never really wanted that for himself, and had mainly done it to save me from Felipe. Still, I could not think of a single other vampire more qualified to get the vampires of Louisiana back on track than the Viking.
I went over to Eric's coffin, ran my hands over the smooth wood, and said, "Morning, baby. Er, I mean…Your Majesty." I chuckled a little to myself. I wondered if he was going to expect me to address him formally when in public….Nah, I bet not. He was still very much a jeans and t-shirt kind of vampire.
I still could hardly believe that I was now married to a vampire King. I wondered what Niall was going to make of it. Suddenly, thinking back over some of the comments he had made to me, I wondered very much if he hadn't been anticipating something along those lines all along. Hmmmm.
What I really, really needed right then, more than anything, was a cup of coffee. I wondered if there was such an animal, anywhere in the entire Residence. Clearly, Felipe had not been much into human amenities. The first thing I was going to do as wife of the Big Kahuna was make sure that all the rooms had a coffee pot, light-tight or not!
It had been sort of surreal, coming in last night. We had arrived at the Residence along with Sandy and the rest of our group. The guards at the door had apparently gotten the news of their change in employer, because they had bowed low to both Eric and Sandy, and greeted them as "Your Majesties". It was a little awkward, because they were really the Royal Guards from Nevada, but this was still the Royal Residence of Louisiana. Eric had told me later that we would probably just keep this Residence, because it really was in an excellent location for events such as this one and had plenty of room for guests.
On the night in St. Thomas when he had finally come clean about his plan to take back Louisiana, I had a whole list of things I had been worried about. Way down near the bottom of the list was his plans for where we would live. Traditionally the prior monarchs of Louisiana had resided in New Orleans (except for Felipe), but I just couldn't see myself living here full time. Eric reassured me that, although we would be spending lots of time here, our home base would be Shreveport, and our primary home, Valhalla.
Leaving the balcony, I went in search of my cell phone, to call my bodyguards. I had been a little disappointed to find out that even though Victor was finally dead, Eric was not about to let me go traipsing around New Orleans unguarded. I sighed, and pressed the send button. Cooper answered almost immediately, and we set up a time for them to come by and get me. I went in to shower, and saw my note of the day propped on the sink, along with a tiny box. It read,
To my lovely Queen,
Happy Mardi Gras! I hope you enjoy your day. Here is a little token for today. I also left a box of King Doubloons for you to toss off our balcony. Please see to it that we are moved to a light-tight room. I am tired of rising without you.
Until first dark,
P.S. Do not leave the Residence without your guards. I mean it!
I opened the little box, and pulled out a delicate gold chain. From it hung a gold and diamond Fleur-de-lis, which I knew symbolized both Louisiana and royalty. I fastened it around my neck, and admired it in the mirror. At the rate he was supplying me with jewelry, I was going to need a much bigger jewelry box soon!
Although nearly everyone in the French Quarter would be going around in costume today, I just pulled on a pair of jeans and a Fangtasia T-shirt. I figured yesterday had filled my costume-wearing quota for awhile. Grabbing my purse and sunglasses, I slipped out of the room, and was surprised to discover that there were two guards standing right outside our bedroom door! They had just about startled the life out of me! Eric and I were going to have to have a serious chat about this whole guard thing! They both bowed low, and said, "Good morning, Your Majesty."
Oh, brother. I gave them a smile, though, and said, "Good morning! Be back later! Oh, uh…Happy Mardi Gras!"
They both returned my smile, and I went on down to the front door, where I had to go through the whole thing again with the guards at that door. Boy, was I glad when I saw good old low key, familiar Cooper and George waiting for me! I flashed them both a mega-watt smile and said, "Happy Mardi Gras!"
They returned the greeting, and Cooper said, "We heard about last night. I guess we should be calling you "Your Highness" now."
I rolled my eyes, and said, "Don't you dare! Eric is King all right, but since I'm human I doubt I have a title. Now, let's go get some coffee in me before I pass out!"
We headed to Jackson Square and the Café du Monde. By now, the streets were filling up with revelers in costume. In the few blocks we walked, I saw the most amazing array of costumes I could have ever imagined: a couple dressed as crawfish, their costumes made up entirely of red plastic plates and cups, accompanied by a walking box of "Zataran's Crab Boil"; someone wearing a fake tree with condoms glued all over it, and a label reading "Rubber Tree Plant"; a pair of college girls in huge rubber foam taco outfits, complete with chopped tomatoes, shredded cheese, and their large floppy red shoes labeled "Hot Sauce"; and my personal favorite, a group of "businessmen" carrying briefcases, and wearing black socks, lace-up dress shoes, hats, very long wide ties, and nothing else. It was really too bad that Eric was here to share all this insanity with me!
As we passed St. Louis Cathedral, I made a note to myself to go stand in line on Ash Wednesday to get ashes put on my forehead. I knew that many non-Catholics would do the same, and I figured I needed to make some effort to atone for my part in all the final deaths that had occurred last night. I said another silent prayer of thanks for all my vampires being safe.
By the time we made it through the long line to get into the Café du Monde, I had just about laughed myself silly at all the costumes going by. Next year, I vowed to 1) wear my own wild and crazy costume and 2) never leave the room without a camera! I had fallen madly, totally in love with Mardi Gras, and hoped never to miss it again! I even knew what I wanted to go as…a fairy princess, of course!
We had finally made it into the Café, and we all ordered café au lait and a big pile of the little square donuts covered in powdered sugar called beignets. As we sat munching and watching the crowd go by, I saw a man at a nearby table wearing one of the Blaine-Kerne shirts, and I thought back on the meeting with the pseudo-fangbanger at the restaurant yesterday, and how that chance meeting might have made the difference between success and disaster.
Thanks to my lessons with Faeryn, I had been able to use my magic to get some crucial information out of Clancy's former confederate, and then "glamour" her to forget the whole thing. She had been in a serious relationship with one of Victor's "lieutenants"; her brother and she both worked for the Blaine-Kerne float builders, and had paid the crew that built Eric's float a huge sum to build a little extra feature not called for in the blueprints. All of the double-decker floats had an enclosed staircase that led from the top deck down to the ground. They had added concealed spaces on both sides of the staircase where Victor's vampires could ride and wait for their chance to pounce. As Sheriff, Eric would be last down the stairway; and could be easily captured in the narrow "chute" by the waiting vampires, armed with silver chains and nets.
The plan had been to capture Eric as soon as all the other riders had disembarked, and his float was last so that very little help would be available. Once captive, he was then to be taken to the stage, so that Victor could obtain his blood to break our Bond. The scary part was that a specially constructed silver cage had been found in Victor's suite at the hotel, which had been built to hold the Viking. There were also regular handcuffs and whips by the bed. Apparently Victor was going to make good on his fantasy of giving me "discipline" while my vampire had to watch. When this had been relayed to the Viking, he never so much as blinked an eye, but internally I could feel his absolute rage; in fact, it was so intense that I had to sit down myself until he was calmer. Even now, the very thought made me shudder.
Since clearly the information on how to go about breaking the Bond had come from Quinn, I wondered exactly how deeply he had been involved with Victor's plans. Eric had been extremely quiet on the subject, but as far as I could tell, the Tiger had just disappeared from the hotel. He had a lot to answer for, and I wondered uneasily what my vampire was going to do about it.
In any event, as soon as I had learned of all this information about the planned ambush, I was in a quandary what to do. I was not supposed to see any of my vampires until after dark, and that might not give them enough time to come up with a counter-attack. A note could be missed or intercepted. It finally occurred to me that I had to try something I had only managed once before. I had Cooper drive me back to the Residence, and I went straight to our room. I knelt at Eric's coffin, and had thought about what I had just learned as hard as I could. At first, I wasn't sure it had worked, but then I had felt Eric's response, which was "…I understand. Remember…no fear…" There had not been time last night for Eric to explain exactly what had transpired, and I was anxious for first dark so I could find out.
I had known exactly when the fight at the float had started, because that was when Bill had to hold me before the Bonding Ceremony. Eric's extreme emotions during the short battle were almost too much for me to handle, and I didn't know what would have happened if Bill hadn't been there to help me absorb some of it. I sincerely hoped that we didn't have a lot more battles in front of us; it was just too hard on my half of the Bond.
For the present, I felt much better now that I had some coffee and food in me. During a lull in our conversation, I could not help but overhear the group at the table next to us, since the tables were so crowed together I was practically sitting with them anyway. They were discussing the Vampire Ball from the night before. One woman said, "It was amazing. They are all so beautiful! The Vampire Queen had on the most beautiful gown I've ever seen! I wonder why they all left so suddenly? Some of them had just gotten there."
A man said knowingly, "I heard from one of the hotel staff that they were having some sort of Vampire Ceremony that humans were not allowed to see…secret stuff, kind of like the Masons, I guess."
The first woman said, "Well, some of them came back much later, but most of them looked like they had been in a bar fight! What on earth do you suppose they were doing?"
A beautiful young woman who was with them said dreamily, "Well, whatever it was, they were much friendlier when they got back. I don't remember too much about it, but I know I had a really good time! I can't wait for next year!" I noticed she was wearing a scarf around her neck, so I just bet she did have a good time. I just shook my head, and told my crew that it was time to go.
The three of us started the trek back to the Residence. We didn't take a straight path back, though, because I just had to see a little more of the totally free show going on around me. At one point, a walking parade came by, and we were swept up into it and I found myself dancing and gyrating along with the motley Krewe, and just having a wonderful time. I think it upset George a little, but I told him to lighten up, just for today anyhow.
A little later, I saw another walking Krewe, which consisted of several locals in wild costumes, pushing a rather large old lady in a shopping cart. A handmade sign was attached to the cart, announcing it to be "the Krewe of Colleen." Apparently Colleen was the old lady, and was the Queen of her own parade. As soon as she had gone past, a group of medical students from Tulane came by, pushing a gurney. They were wearing lab coats, stethoscopes, boxer underwear, and tennis shoes, and that was it. They all had names embroidered on their lab coats; for example, one was "Dr. Pap Smear"; a tall red head was, "Dr, Seymour Kuntz"; and also the famous East Indian physician, "Dr. Laka Nooki". They were offering free gynecological exams. I politely declined.
Finally, we had wound our way back around to the Residence. I went in, and this time I drug Cooper and George in with me, since now technically they were the Royal Guards. It looked like we would be staying in New Orleans for awhile, and Robert, Pam, Bill, and the guards would be moving over here this evening. Also, Eric had told me to have a room prepared for Mr. Cataliades, who was due to arrive at any moment. Russell and his crowd were leaving at first dark, and Stan's as well. I would be a little sorry to see Stan go, since he had been the one to stand with Eric. For a vampire King, he really wasn't a bad guy. Oops! Maybe now I should be more careful about saying stuff like that!
I went to see who was in charge of the room assignments, and it turned out to be a man named Reuben. He was clearly very nervous about loosing his job, and I didn't blame him. I bet Eric was going to do a little cleaning house, starting with…well, everybody. For now, though, I merely asked if we could be relocated to a room that was light-tight. He looked a little shocked that I wasn't in here demanding the "Royal Suite" but honestly, I wanted the place repainted, fumigated, and blessed by a couple of priests before moving in. It turned out that the room we had originally been supposed to occupy was not even taken. That Victor! What a jerk!
Reuben said that he would send someone up shortly to move our things, and we would be all settled in the new room by sundown. While I was at it, I made arrangements for the rest of our entourage. Wow! I had an entourage! Huh. I gave Cooper and George instructions, and sent them off to get ready for the move. I asked Reuben if it would be possible to get some human food delivered later, and beaming, he replied, "Certainly, madam! It would be my pleasure to see to it!" He asked what I would like, and when I wanted it, and I told him; then I thanked him very politely. I guessed I was starting to get used to having people do things for me, but Gran would be ashamed of me if I wasn't at least polite about it.
While I was working on room assignments, a guard came in and announced that someone was asking for me. It turned out to be Mr. Cataliades, who bowed and greeted me by saying, "My dear Mrs. Northman, congratulations! Eric will make a most splendid King. I have every faith in him! And of course, you are no stranger to Royalty…" He said this with a twinkle in his eye. I showed him to his room, and he said he would be meeting with Eric later. Apparently there was a lot of paperwork involved in such a transition.
I went on back up to our current room, and sat out on the balcony for awhile watching the crowd go by. I had a blast, throwing King doubloons to passers-by. It was much more fun than last night's parade, because I was not nearly as tense. One girl (at least I thought it was a girl, but later revised my opinion) went by, dressed as a Vampire Queen. I think "she" knew this was the Royal Residence, because she saw me on the balcony, and did an elaborate curtsy. I returned it, and threw her a handful of doubloons. After all, we Queens have to stick together.
On several different occasions, I saw women dressed as fortune tellers; and each one would make me think of the Ancient Pythoness, and what she had said about Eric and me. After our meeting in Rhodes, I had looked up "oracles" on the Internet. True to their tradition, the old gal had been vague enough that our "prophecy" could mean absolutely anything. All the vampires present had seemed completely bowled over by it; but I'd noticed that sometimes, in spite of their age, vampires are somewhat gullible. I could probably get myself a sign that said, "Madam Sookie, prophecies $5", learn to spout vague nonsense, and get rich selling fortunes to vampires.
However, one thing that she did say that stuck in my mind was the whole "Fated" thing. Robert believed it, and apparently so did Eric. Did I? It did seem unlikely that a 1,000 year old vampire just happened to be hanging around Bon Temps, Louisiana just in time to meet a human/fairy barmaid, fall in love, and share a magical, highly unorthodox Blood Bond, but still! The jury was still out on whether I actually believed it or not.
It was now late afternoon, and the crowds had thinned out considerably. Everybody was probably tired and ready to go home A knock came on the bedroom door, and Reuben came in and brought me my dinner. He set me up at a little table on the balcony, served my food, and then left. I made myself eat every scrap of the tender grilled ribeye he had brought me, along with a huge salad and yeast rolls. I still was not really all that hungry, but I knew I would have to eat more anyway, because I needed to keep up my blood supply. The very thought of Eric feeding from anyone else was still…unacceptable, as he would say.
As soon as I was finished I realized that I needed to get ready to move to our new room. I packed up all of our stuff, and just about the time I finished, I heard another knock on our door. I let in the porters, and supervised as they moved Eric's coffin from one end of the Residence to the other. Our new room was downstairs, right off the courtyard. I went in to check it out, and found that it was perfect! It was a small suite, with a light-tight bedroom with a king-sized bed, and a bathroom with a huge tub! I had them put Eric's coffin in the bedroom, and then we moved down all of our luggage.
I had just enough time to get everything unpacked again and put away, when I felt sunset approaching. Yes, I actually felt it. The more of Eric's ancient blood I took, the more I just knew when it was time for the sun to rise and set. I was definitely becoming more vampire-like in many ways, and also more fairy-like in others…so what about my human side? Should I be worried? Two months ago, I would have been terrified.
I figured I could worry about that all that later, because just then it was nearly sunset. I hurriedly slipped off my clothes, pulled a new white satin teddy over my head, and went and stood by Eric's coffin. I ran my hands over it, and then reached down and pressed the secret latch that the Viking had shown me. I cautiously raised the lid, and gazed down at my beautiful, spectacular, magnificent vampire and sent a prayer of thanks to God for sending him to me. I reached in and gently stroked his face; and just then he opened those amazing blue eyes, smiled broadly, and said, "Hello, Beloved! Did you miss me?"
Author's Notes: Well, here it is...my first complete story. For all of you who are interested in my version of Eric and Sookie's love story, it will be continued in the sequel, titled "Addicted To Love". Sookie and Eric learn to live with each other and with their new situation, and also deal with some issues facing Louisiana's vampires. Several questions from the first story will be answered, like: What was Niall's gift...what becomes of Quinn...what exactly are our couple Fated to do? I will probably start posting this in a couple of weeks. You can get a notification when it is posted by checking the "Author alert" box.
After lots of internal debate, instead of just letting this one roll on, I decided to end this one, and then start a sequel under a different title. I had several reasons for doing so. 1) I fulfilled my personal vow to never, ever leave a story unfinished 2) Some people will only read completed stories. And maybe most importantly...3) It is much easier on me and my computer to break the story up into more manageable chunks.
Many, many thanks to all of you readers who have stuck with me through this rather long story, and especially to those of you who left me such great reviews. The only reward fanfiction writers get is through the reviews, and I will promise you it keeps us motivated to keep on going!!! If anyone has any questions or comments on this story, or on the sequel, please send me a message. I always respond as quickly as I can.