Six weeks later, I had gotten through the morning sickness phase of pregnancy, and was safely into my second trimester. I’d gone up two cup sizes, which was great for Eric, but a pain in the neck- literally- for me. I was back at work, and exhausted every day when I got home from work. I was cutting practices short, and actually napping during my free time third period. The sleepiness was worse than the morning sickness had ever been. I just couldn’t seem to get my energy up. Most days when I got home from work, I ended up crashing on the couch for an hour or so.
Eric did everything he could to make things easier on me. He was in the process of transferring ownership of the bar over to himself, since Pam was leaving town officially on March 1st. Johan had gone back to Sweden to find a larger apartment for the two of them shortly after Eric was fired from his job. Yeah, yeah, he signed that letter of resignation, but he was fired. It was bullshit, as far as I was concerned, but there was nothing either of us could do about it.
Besides, he seemed a bit happier. I think he saw getting out of the school as a fresh start in a lot of ways, and I couldn’t blame him for wanting one of those. The last year had been a series of unexpected events for both of us. I never would have thought I’d be pregnant and in a relationship with someone who wanted the same things I did. A year before I was just getting to the point where I was realizing things were never going to happen with Quinn like I wanted them to. I was starting to think I was destined to be alone.
Sounds crazy, I know, considering I haven’t even reached my thirtieth birthday yet. It just seemed like every time I talked to my Mom she was telling me about another girl I grew up with who was engaged, married or having a baby. I knew it wasn’t a competition, but it was just a reminder of what was missing in my life. In spite of it not being a race, I felt like I was at the back of the pack with no hope of ever catching up to anyone. It’s interesting to me how I was so afraid of ending up alone, but I sort of fixed my life so that’s exactly what ended up happening.
If Amelia wouldn’t have insisted on going out the night I met Eric, I don’t know that I’d be where I am now. I took a big risk that night doing what I did and I know I was lucky things worked out so well. Even with all of the craziness, I don’t think I’d change much of anything. It all happens for a reason, right?
Telling everyone about the pregnancy was interesting in that no one was surprised. Apparently we weren’t hiding it as well as we thought we were. Amelia had suspicions about it after the meltdown I’d had on New Year’s Eve. Johan had known something was up because of the coffee. The only one who was remotely surprised was Tray, and since Amelia had been talking his ear off about the possibility, even he wasn’t all that shocked.
They were all happy for us, which was a big relief. Our parents were excited about being grandparents, although I knew they were all wondering if we were serious when Eric and I said marriage was in our future. We’d talked about it more, and we decided it was better to focus on just getting settled. Between him taking over the bar, and moving into my house instead of his, we had enough on our plates. We needed to get organized and start planning for the baby that was coming.
We agreed we would be content to just go to a courthouse and do it there. We didn’t need to have a big, fancy wedding. Neither of us came from big families, or had a huge guest list we needed to worry about including in the affair. Ideally, we would get married alone on a beach somewhere, but that wasn’t going to happen. The soonest I would get any significant time off was after school was out, and by then I would be too pregnant to fly.
We figured the most important thing was that we were committed to one another. The wedding would be nothing more than a piece of paper for us, and we didn’t really need that. Yet. I had no doubt the time would come when we would feel differently, and when it did, we’d act accordingly. I was actually thankful he didn’t just run out and get a ring to put on my finger just because I was pregnant. I remembered how badly that had worked out for a few of the girls I’d grown up with.
There were quite a few who’d gotten themselves pregnant on prom night, and by the end of summer they were married and just starting their second trimesters. They hadn’t even taken a single college course, and already they were worrying about mortgage payments and future orthodontist bills. I was thankful I’d been smart enough to avoid a lot of the pitfalls of being young and stupid. I’d focused on school instead of boys, with Quinn being the only exception to the rule.
Funny how I used to regret that entire relationship, and now I look back on it and I can be thankful for it. It lead me to where I am, and I’m exactly where I want to be. For all of the crazy things that have happened since Quinn and I went our separate ways, I have even more things to look forward to. Things I wouldn’t have if I had stayed back in Louisiana instead of following him to Illinois. I hadn’t even felt my baby move inside me yet, and already I was in love.
So, Eric and I settled into a new routine. We started having dinner with Amelia and Tray once a week. Tray was usually over for Sunday night football anyway since Eric had one of the most hi-tech televisions known to man hanging on our living room wall. I would go over to Amelia’s to let the boys have their little He Man Woman Hater’s Club meeting without me popping up to ask silly questions about the difference between a fumble and a down. The truth was, I knew damn well what the difference was (you don’t grow up the sister of your high school’s star quarterback without learning a few things), but I figured Eric and I needed a little space to do our own thing. I never bothered to tell him that usually Ame and I had the game on at her house, too.
Johan going back to Sweden was hard on everyone, and Pam was downright miserable without him. Their coupling was… well, it was unexpected and somehow predictable at the same time. For whatever reason, they just worked together. I knew Eric still had his reservations about the whole thing, but he was doing his best not to be his brother’s keeper anymore. It was a hard habit to break, but Eric was doing his best to make sure he let Johan handle his own affairs.
To be perfectly honest, the only missing piece of the puzzle was figuring out where the hell Bill had disappeared to. Detective Twinings assured me they were searching. It didn’t seem possible that Bill was that much of a criminal mastermind, but there was a lot about Bill Compton I didn’t know. I tried not to think about him being on the loose. The search for Bill had intensified with the FBI getting involved since there was the likelihood Bill had gone across state lines, and was wanted in connection with several deaths. A second autopsy had been done on both Lorena and the baby.
It was discovered that while the baby had drowned as the coroner originally stated, Lorena hadn’t exactly hung herself. After testing some of her tissue, it was discovered there was a paralyzing drug in her system that would have made it impossible for her to hang herself. Additionally, her body was searched and a puncture wound for the needle was found on her back, suggesting she had been attacked from behind. The suicide was just another clever framing job by whomever had killed her.
When it was discovered that Sophie-Anne had connections to someone in the medical field (a former lover), another search of her property was conducted. In her garage, hidden behind a bunch of auto mechanic equipment, they found a vial of the same drug used to paralyze Lorena before she was hung. It was suspected the drug had been kept at Sophie-Anne’s because I was the next intended victim, but they couldn’t prove that. What they could prove was that Bill’s fingerprints were on the vial. With Bill on the run and the police watching the house constantly, I was careful about going out alone which was rare if I wasn’t going to or from work.
The school’s security was made aware that Bill wasn’t allowed on school property. During the school day, doors to the outside were locked except for the main entrance where there was a security checkpoint. I had no choice but to trust they were keeping their eyes on things. Since I couldn’t carry mace legally, I started carrying hairspray. I figured it would at least cause a nasty sting and blurred vision if I sprayed it in someone’s eyes, and a small bottle was something believable that any woman might carry in her bag.
On Valentine’s Day morning, Eric and I were in bed when my cell phone rang. Being that I was a stone’s throw away from maybe one of the biggest orgasms I’d ever had, there was no way I was putting the breaks on to answer the phone. I cursed myself for not silencing the phone before going to sleep, or at least first thing when I woke up.
“Don’t stop.” I gasped against Eric’s neck, and I was rewarded with my legs being pushed up closer to my chest so his thrusts reached deeper inside me. “Ohmygod!”
Eric growled something in Swedish in my ear, and I felt the first spasms of my orgasm start. Unfortunately, Eric’s phone started ringing on the other side of the bed, distracting him from the pace he’d set. As of late, my hormones were off the charts, and the number of times I’d jumped Eric in the last week or so… well, he wasn’t complaining, but it was extremely uncomfortable to be walking around in a perpetually aroused state. Eric got back on track, and when our phones rang simultaneously, I thought he was going to rip someone’s head off.
“Ignore it and fuck me.” I grabbed his face. I was hellbent on finishing what we started. Whoever it was could leave a message. I sincerely doubted it was that important. Or, rather, the hormones doubted it was that important.
As it turned out, ignoring two ringing phones wasn’t easily done, but we gave it our best shot. A slight change in the angle at which Eric was pounding into me had him rubbing against my clit with each thrust of his hips, and I was right back to screaming/chanting. My fingernails dug into his shoulders, and my orgasm had me clawing his back. He hissed at the pain, and then his chest collapsed on mine with his own release. We laid there a panting, sweaty tangle of limbs, with Eric careful not to put too much weight on my stomach..
“Jesus, lover, you’re going to kill me one day.” Eric trailed a line of kisses along my collarbone until he reached my neck.
“What a way to go, though, huh?” I nipped at his neck.
He pulled out of me slowly, almost reluctantly, and then rolled to the side. His hand settled on my stomach where a little bump had started to make itself known the week before. The Bean was doing well. I’d had my most recent check up two days before, and according to Dr. Ludwig everything was right on schedule. Bean weighed about seven ounces, and Dr. Ludwig was able to get a picture of him or her waving at us during the ultrasound. By the next appointment Dr. Ludwig told us she’d be able to tell us the sex of the baby if we wanted to know, assuming Bean wanted to cooperate with us. She could find out by amniocentisis, but I really didn’t want to have a giant needle stuck in my belly if I could avoid it.
So far Eric’s palm was still bigger than my belly but I knew those days were numbered. So far I’d only gained ten pounds, and it felt like they were split 80/20 between my breasts and my chin. It was a good thing Eric was so thoroughly enjoying what pregnancy was doing to my body, because my hormones were more than happy to take on whatever he threw at me. I think we were both of the mindset that we better enjoy what little alone time we had left. In another year, we weren’t going to be able to spend lazy days without ever getting out of bed for anything other than trips to the bathroom or food.
My cell phone started ringing again. I groaned loudly. “Can we change our numbers today?”
Eric chuckled beside me before reaching over to get the phone. “It’s Amelia.”
“Before nine on a Saturday? Must be an emergency.” I rolled my eyes and took the phone. “Hey, Ame.”
“Sweet Jesus, Sookie! Answer your phone when I call you!” Amelia lectured me like a mother waiting up for her baby girl to get home from a big date with the town bad boy.
I beamed right at Eric and said, “I was having really, really good sex.”
Eric blushed. Deeply.I had to restrain myself from pinching his cheek, he was so cute.
“It’s amazing it took you as long as it did to get pregnant.” Amelia sounded utterly bored with me. “You two are going to end up like that weird family on TLC with 20 kids, or something, living on compound somewhere.”
I laughed and said, “I’m sorry I didn’t take your call, Ame.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You need to get your hormones under control, get out of bed and go turn on the news.” Amelia advised.
“Just trust me. Call me back after you see it.”
“Take your pick. Bye.”
“What’s going on?” Eric asked after I hung up.
“Amelia says we need to turn on the news, like, yesterday.” I sat up slowly, and gasped at the sight of my crazy sex hair.
Eric passed me the t-shirt he’d slept in. He’d started wearing clothes to bed only because my body was all whacked out when it came to temperature lately. One minute I was freezing cold and piling on layer after layer of clothing. The next I was sweating like I’d just come out of a sauna on the sun. I tended to run too warm, so I was keeping it a bit colder in the house than usual. Eric didn’t complain since it was easier for him to adjust than it was for me. In a lot ways, I was being held hostage by the Bean. Whatever the baby needed it got, and I didn’t get a single vote about it.
Enjoy it while it lasts, kiddo, I told the baby more than once.
Eric followed me out to the living room. He kissed the top of my head before continuing into the kitchen to get started on breakfast. I turned on the television and was immediately greeted by the sounds of Sports Center on ESPN. I rolled my eyes and changed the channel to the first station airing news I could find. It turned out Amelia was right, and just about every news channel was covering the same thing. News cameras were trained on a slightly rundown plantation house that looked like any number of houses one might come across near my hometown. Police in flack jackets and riot gear were stationed all over the place. Snipers were tucked into various positions on the property, and it was obvious whoever was barricaded inside the house was a threat.
Then ticker tape along the bottom of the screen started, and I gasped before falling back onto the couch. “Eric! Eric get in here!” I shouted from my place on the couch.
“What?” He came running into the room to see a horrified look on my face.
“Look!” I pointed to the television.
A picture of Bill Compton was up in the right hand corner of the screen. The ticker tape told me he had been spotted by a rental car company agent after flying into Shreveport under an assumed name. Bill had managed to make it to America’s Most Wanted, which was news to me, and the agent just happened to be an avid watcher of the program. She’d immediately called the local FBI and forwarded all of the information to them she could, including security tapes. The rental car company had tracking devices installed on their cars that were impossible to remove without getting the car up on a rack.
Bill had been trailed to his great-grandmother’s house in a small town not too far from Bon Temps. He was currently holding the poor old lady hostage, and unwilling to give himself up to police. The whole thing was just surreal. I didn’t know what to think. There was a part of me that hoped all of this would be resolved with a well placed shot that would end Bill’s life. The other part of me wanted to know why he’d done all of this. It couldn’t have been as simple as him wanting what he couldn’t have, and doing anything to make sure if he couldn’t have it, no one would.
“Sweet Jesus.” Eric sat down next to me and didn’t move until the tea kettle screeched in the kitchen, making both of us nearly jump out of our skin.
Eric brought me a cup of tea before returning to the kitchen to really start making breakfast. I watched the coverage with wide eyes, and didn’t move when my cell phone started ringing again in the bedroom. Whoever it was, I’d call them later. I was glued to the TV, which was not at all how I’d planned to spend my first Valentine’s Day with Eric. I wasn’t supposed to be watching TV, waiting to see if the psycho who had been making my life hell for almost the last four months was going to live or die. Yet, I couldn’t make myself change the channel.
Eric brought out two plates a little while later. He’d made waffles that were accompanied with chocolate covered strawberries I hadn’t even noticed were in the fridge. I smiled over at him, and accepted the bite of waffle he was offering to me.
“This is delicious.” I said after swallowing.
“I’m glad you like it.” He leaned over to kiss me, just as an explosion of noise came from the television.
I jumped again, and then turned toward the TV. There was all sorts of gunfire going off, along with the sounds of a woman screaming and shattering glass. I stared at the TV with a wide open mouth. My body slid to the edge of the sofa, my hands going to my belly in a somewhat protective way. I knew I wasn’t in any sort of danger, but it was an instinct I found getting stronger and stronger the bigger my little bump got. Eric’s hand settled on mine and it wasn’t until then I realized my hands were shaking.
“Lover, you have to stay calm.” Eric whispered in my ear, his free hand rubbing the small of my back.
“Do you think he’s dead?” I whispered in return without taking my eyes from the TV.
“I don’t know.” His hand moved in soothing circles that made me relax. I slumped back against him, landing in that familiar spot so my head hit his chest. “I would be shocked if he makes it out of there alive.”
“If he wanted to die, why not just kill himself?” I mumbled, thinking of all the lives he’d either destroyed, or attempted to destroy, on what I could only consider a suicide mission.
Eric took a deep breath and exhaled slowly before saying, “I’m thinking he was arrogant enough to think he wouldn’t get caught. Let’s face it, he got sloppy with Sophie-Anne. If it weren’t for her, there probably would have only been circumstantial evidence surrounding the rest of it. He did a pretty good job of covering his bases.”
“That is so… fucking creepy.”
“Yes, it is.” Eric rubbed my hands.
We watched as police stormed inside the house. There was no more gunfire, and the old woman who had been screaming just a few minutes before was brought out of the house, wrapped in a blanket. She was covered in blood, and crying so hard it looked like her body might break. I felt my eyes fill with tears for her. That poor woman.
“He’s dead. He has to be dead.” I looked away from the TV only to bury my face in Eric’s side and hug him tightly.
“I think that’s a pretty safe bet, lover.” He kissed the top of my head.
“Police have confirmed that the stand off is over. The suspect was shot after he was spotted brandishing a firearm inside the home of his ninety-seven-year-old great-grandmother, Caroline Bellefleur. William T. Compton was wanted for questioning in connection with the suspicious deaths of his wife and infant son. He was also the prime suspect in the murder of Sophie-Anne LeClerq, who was named as the prime suspect in a hit and run accident in Franklin Park, Illinois that nearly took the lives of the three occupants in the car she hit. It is believed all of this started over an obsession the deceased had with an Illinois high school history teacher, Sookie Stackhouse, a former co-worker of Compton’s, and a native of Bon Temps, Louisiana.” The reporter explained for those just tuning in. My picture flashed on the screen, and I groaned.
“Oh how the hell did that get that?” I slumped further against Eric, knowing exactly how they got it.
The media had gotten a hold of a picture of me with my Poms squad from the previous year when the football team had made it to the state championship. I looked like I belonged on the squad, instead of leading it. In looking at the picture with the jaded eyes of someone who knew better, I started thinking maybe I had brought it all on myself. I was single, and looked like I was still in high school. What the hell was I thinking?
“It’s a matter of public record.” Eric said sympathetically.
“Can we turn this off now?”
“I thought you’d never ask.” Eric reached for the remote and changed the channel to Cartoon Network instead. He sat up me up slowly before handing me my plate. “Bean’s hungry, remember?”
I nodded, but looked toward him. “I thought you were going to feed me?”
“As you wish.” He winked, and then held up another forkful of waffles for me.
I pushed Bill’s suicide by cop from my mind, and got myself all prettied up for Pam’s last hoorah at the bar. She had outdone herself with a couple’s themed party. She had suggested costumes for it, but quickly nixed that idea when Eric threatened not to show up. He played along for Halloween because it was tradition, but there was no way in hell he was going to do it for Valentine’s Day. Frankly, I was surprised Pam wanted to do anything for the holiday, considering her currently loved one was thousands of miles away.
I’d ordered a dress on-line for the party. It was my first maternity purchase, and I bought it because I knew I would have time to grow into it. Actually, I should say that as long as my boobs didn’t get much bigger I’d be able to wear it again. It was a strapless, backless dress which was a pretty big gamble for me to take considering the recent expansion project my breasts had just finished. I pulled my hair into a low, side swooping ponytail so it hung over my shoulder. I’d noticed my hair was shinier and thicker lately, and my nails were stronger, too. Whether that was hormones or the vitamins I was taking everyday, I didn’t know.
What I do know, is that when I stepped out of the bedroom dressed for the night, Eric looked like one of those cartoon wolves there the eyes pop out of its head, the tongue comes rolling out and you can see the heart throbbing dramatically out of its chest. I turned around slowly without him having to ask me to, and I was rewarded with the sharp intake of breath behind me. I stopped when I was facing him again and smiled nervously at him.
“You don’t think it’s too much, do you?” I fiddled with the skirt, looking down at the heels I was wearing. They were almost identical to the red ones he loved so much.
“You look beautiful.” Eric stepped forward and kissed me gently, which I was surprised by. I was expecting to get backed up against the wall, or taken back to the bedroom.
“Thank you.” I rested my hands on his chest, and looked him over.
Eric was dressed in a pair of dress pants and a red button down shirt. The shade of red he was wearing made his eyes seem a bit bluer than usual. There was just a hint of scruff on his jaw that tickled my face when he bent to kiss me again. I giggled against him as I pulled him closer. Bean was just starting to get in the way, but that didn’t stop us.
“Whoa!” I pulled back suddenly when I felt the first significant movement inside my belly.
“What’s wrong?” Eric asked in a sudden panic.
For the last couple of weeks I’d been feeling tiny flutters of movement, but nothing that could be felt from the outside. My hand went immediately to where I’d felt the kick, and it happened again. My eyes widened in shock, and I grabbed for Eric’s hand.
“Do you feel that?” I asked, waiting for Bean to move again.
“Feel wha-” Then the baby kicked. “Was that? Did it…” I nodded vigorously.
“Bean moved.” I laughed, putting my hand on top of Eric’s unable to describe what it felt like from the inside.
“Wow.” He was as stunned as I was, if not more so.
Suddenly any mixed emotions I was feeling about Bill’s death completely evaporated. I had no business dwelling on the death of someone who had so little regard for life that he murdered anyone who got in his way, only to have his own life be taken so he could avoid the consequences of his actions. Bill Compton wasn’t my concern. The only things that mattered were the baby kicking away inside me, growing stronger every day, and the wonderful man who was staring at my stomach with awe written all over his face.
I pushed myself up on my toes and kissed his neck since that was all I could reach without taking my hands off of his to pull him down. It occurred to me then I might be growing a giant inside me, but only time would tell about that. Eric wrapped an arm around me, holding me close to him while we just stood there tracking the movements of our baby. It was unbelievable. My smile renewed itself every time the baby moved.
“We should go.” I finally said after a good ten minutes of feeling the baby kick.
“Probably.” Eric reluctantly agreed.
“Don’t worry, Bean will move again.” I promised him.
“You know, people are going to start molesting your stomach, right?” Eric smirked at me. Such a random thought, but one I’d had myself a time or two.
“I know. I don’t suppose we could get an electric fence for my belly, could we?” I joked.
“Probably not, but you could always grab their stomach right back and see how much they like a stranger touching them.” Eric suggested.
“Um, yeah, I think I’ll pass.” I crinkled my nose at the thought of some of the people I’d have to touch if I went along with that idea. “Oh! I could go to the hardware store and get one of those ‘no trespassing’ signs to hang over my belly.”
Eric laughed as he opened the door for me. “Be careful going down the steps. I salted them earlier while you were napping, but that was at three this afternoon.”
I held onto the railing, but decided to wait for Eric just to be on the safe side. He locked up the house, and then took my other hand to walk down the steps with me. I decided right then and there that I wouldn’t be wearing those big ‘fuck me’ shoes again until after I wasn’t pregnant anymore, or at least until I didn’t have to worry about icy conditions.
“Gah! I wish spring would hurry up and get here already. I’m sick of all this cold weather.” I complained as I felt creaking in my knees that had never been there before.
“So am I. I was really looking forward to you in a bikini this summer.” Eric’s eyebrows wiggled at me.
“Play your cards right, and you might still get it.” I winked at him as we walked to the car.
He opened the door for me to reveal a single white rose waiting for me on the seat. We had agreed not to bother getting each other gifts for the holiday. What I wanted most from Eric couldn’t be bought in a store. If it could, he wouldn’t be so special. I sniffed the rose as I lowered myself into the car. I also found out the hard way my choice of dresses and climbing in and out of a Corvette didn’t quite go together. Eric slid into the car beside me, and not long after that, we were pulling into a parking space at the bar.
The party was already going. Pam was sporting her best sour puss behind the bar, looking like she’d been hired to shoot cupid if he made an appearance in her establishment. Amelia and Tray were on the dance floor already, and I waved when I spotted them. Eric took my coat and headed to the office to stash it away along with my purse. Pam set a Shirley Temple on the bar in front of me in a martini glass. For being a child’s drink, she’d managed to make it look sophisticated.
“How are you, Pam?” I pushed myself up onto a stool.
“Miserable. Abso-fucking-lutely miserable.” Pam muttered.
“You miss Johan?” It was rhetorical question, but Pam was glaring at me like I’d just said Valdemort in the middle of a Harry Potter convention.
“You heard about the bunny boiler?” That made us both even in the ‘states the obvious’ contest we seemed to have going. “I hate this holiday.”
“I have good news.” I beamed at her, which only further soured her expression. “Oh, come on, Pammy, cheer up.”
“Don’t call me Pammy.” She groused at me.
I ignored her and proceeded to tell her about the baby kicking. Without asking she reached over the bar and put her hand on my belly to feel for herself. Eric chose that moment to come out of the office to see Pam molesting me.
“Jesus, Pam, just because my brother left doesn’t mean you get to put the moves on my girl.”
“Fuck you, Northman.” Pam let me go and then stomped off. I glared at Eric and shook my head.
“What’d I do?”
“She already feels like shit, you know.”
“I was just joking with her.”
“Well, pick your moments.” I nudged him gently.
“Let’s dance.” He reached for my hand.
“You should go talk to Pam. She’s having a shitty day. I’m sure she could use some time with her best friend.”
“It’s Valentine’s Day.”
“Yes, but I’m a sure thing, and I don’t need cheering up. Now go take care of your best friend. I’ll be fine right here.” I insisted, and shoved him toward Pam when he didn’t go on his own.
I watched from across the bar as the two of them argued for a few minutes like the unofficial siblings they were, before Pam finally cracked a smile that left Eric scowling. I had no idea what had transpired between them, but whatever it was, Pam’s bad mood seemed to vanish. Since she was doing better, Eric left her to her work behind the bar and came back to me.
“Now can we dance?” Eric reached for my hand again.
“Yes, now we can dance.” I climbed off the stool and headed for the dance floor with Eric’s hands on my shoulders.
The music changed to a slow Lifehouse song, and I snuggled myself against Eric. Our arms wrapped around each other as we swayed slowly to the music that was playing. I felt his chin rest on the top of my head. My eyes closed with the slow, steady movement, and I completely relaxed against him. I could feel his heartbeat under my cheek and it was steadily getting faster and faster.
“What’s wrong?” I pulled my head back to look up at him.
He stopped moving, looked me right in the eyes and said, “Will you marry me?”