“Have you seen Sadie?” I asked Greta, the head of our household staff.
“She came streaking by here a little while ago, naked as the day she was born, waving around one of her practice swords,” Greta said with a chuckle.
“I’m going to skin Eric,” I shook my head and Greta laughed harder as I walked away from her. “If you see her, please tell her to put her clothes back on and wash up for supper.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Greta said from behind me.
Sadie Adele Northman came into the world at a hefty nine pounds, four ounces on October third six years ago. She immediately had her father wrapped around her finger and it was obvious from the start that she was just as crazy about him. All through my pregnancy Eric had talked to her like she was a person instead of a baby incapable of understanding language. He sang Old Norse lullabies to her when she was a baby, and if she was in a regular first grade class I was sure she’d be the only one able to fluently speak the language of ancient Vikings.
I dropped my mental shields and scanned the house for my daughter. Thankfully, Sadie hadn’t inherited my ability and that was something I hadn’t thought to put into the very specific wish I had made for a baby of my own. Eric and I decided that if I did give birth to a telepathic child that we would handle it. I could teach her how to cope with being able to hear other people’s thoughts and it would be much easier on her than it had been on me.
She was a handful, however, and I had a whole new appreciation for what Gran must have gone through with Jason and me. I was a third of her age when Sadie was born and it was exhausting work taking care of a baby. It didn’t get any easier once she was mobile. I tried not to be a helicopter mom, hovering over her constantly to make sure she didn’t so much as stub one of her little toes, but I was constantly reminding myself that she needed to fall down sometimes. She needed to learn her limitations and how to push herself to do better. I wouldn’t be doing her any favors if I bubble wrapped her and did everything for her.
That earned me a precocious little girl with her father’s charm and my inability to see danger approaching. She had bumps and scrapes all over herself from the rough and tumble, tomboy life she led. In that regard she reminded me a lot of myself at that age. It was hard on Eric not to fix all of her boo boos, since all it would take was the prick of his finger and a little bit of his blood on her wounds to heal them, but I put my foot down on that. I didn’t want her to rely on Daddy to fix every mistake she ever made. I wanted our daughter to learn there were consequences for her actions and that she needed to be cautious with her body.
More than once Eric had given me a look that said, “Do as I say and not as I do.”
I always shrugged him off. I was an adult and there were times when it couldn’t be helped that I was in the line of fire. Such was the risk of being married to the vampire king of Louisiana.
Eric had no choice but to seize the throne seven months into my pregnancy. When word broke that I was having a baby Sophie-Anne, the former queen of the state, decided she wanted to get her grubby, undead mitts on my baby just in case she had the same telepathic ability that I had. The queen had underestimated Eric’s reach in the world and the strength of the army he would have backing him up. Not to mention, my fairy relatives were none too thrilled with her attempts to mess with one of theirs.
It was an unfair fight in the end, and Eric personally took Sophie-Anne’s head. To our knowledge all of her children were finally dead as well, leaving us to roam freely in a Sophie-Anne free world. Sigebert and Wybert were harder to kill than their maker, oddly enough, but they were better skilled fighters than she was.
Eric never aspired to the station of regent, but it became a necessary evil to ensure the safety of our family. We all had to make sacrifices to keep things together, and Eric had put together a security team that was constantly checking in with spies from other states to make sure there were no plans for a coup. I wouldn’t say that Eric worried, necessarily, but he was absolutely vigilant and aware of what was out there. In fact, Eric insisted that I start sitting in on security meetings so that I would be equally aware.
He saw no reason to protect me from the reality that there were sometimes people, human or supernatural, that were interested in doing us harm for one reason or another. I loved that Eric trusted me to absorb the information he gave me and use it accordingly. Putting me up on a pedestal wouldn’t do any of us any favors and I hated it when he made decisions that affected us all without discussing it with me first.
To that end, I had my own security detail that followed Sadie and me around whenever we left the house. Werewolves patrolled the grounds by day and John Quinn, a weretiger, had been assigned to Sadie’s security. At first I was a little apprehensive about someone Quinn’s size being selected to guard my baby, but he was wonderful with her. He had a younger sister himself and he’d been a teenager when Frannie was born. Quinn had endeared himself to Sadie and the first time he’d shifted into a tiger in front of her, she’d run right to him. He’d nuzzled her and let her feel his teeth, but she had also seen how powerful his paws were and how fast he could run.
Quinn might let Sadie think he was a cuddly kitty, but I wouldn’t want him coming after me in tiger form.
“Sadie Adele Northman, I’m gonna whoop your little behind when I find you if you’re naked!” I warned as I closed in on her.
I could hear her giggles as I rounded the corner to see her waiting for the elevator that would take her down to her father’s chamber. It was operated strictly by fingerprints for safety reasons and Sadie had her thumb pressed to the little sensor pad.
“I’m not naked,” she said. “I’m like the Emperor in my story book. My clothes are see through.”
Of course. Her clothes were invisible. Silly me.
“Yes, well, you need to wear clothes that people can see, sweetheart,” I told her. “You can’t be running around here naked all the time.”
“But I don’t like clothes,” she pouted as the door to the elevator slid open for her. “Daddy said when he was a little boy they used to take baths in the river. Can we do that?”
I chuckled and said, “When Daddy was a little boy there was no water in his house so he had to take a bath in the river. We have water in our house so we take baths inside.”
“But if I took a bath in a river then Sam could turn into a dolphin and we could swim together,” she argued.
That’s what I meant about her being precocious.
“No, Sadie,” I said firmly. “Besides, dolphins can’t swim in rivers. They need salt water to swim in and you only get salt water in the ocean.”
“Oh,” she said, momentarily disappointed. “Then he can just be a big catfish!”
I laughed and shook my head as the elevator took us down to the basement. As soon as the doors were open she took off running for Eric’s chamber.
“Go put clothes on, Sadie!” I hollered after her.
“But Mooooom,” she whined.
“I said go,” I replied in my stern, mother’s tone.
She huffed, but went to the little bedroom we kept downstairs for her. I say little only because it’s half the size of the grand hall Eric wanted to build for his little princess. Pam suggested we put a carousel in the room and I put my foot down.
Sadie was spoiled enough already.
And Gran was the worst offender.
There was always a present and/or treat of some sort waiting for her precious great-granddaughter every time we visited with her. Finally Gran got to be the grandmother she’d wanted to be to Jason and me, but couldn’t because she had to be our mother instead. She got to spoil Sadie rotten and Eric was her greatest accomplice with Pam right there with him.
I usually ended up feeling like the outnumbered bad guy for bringing the party down a notch, but I was also the one that would have to scrape my daughter off the ceiling after too many treats. I actually used those words in front of Pam once and her reaction was priceless.
“Adele, will she actually explode?” Pam had asked with a disturbing blend of curiosity and hopefulness.
From that moment on I decided Pam wasn’t allowed to babysit alone, just to be on the safe side.
Sadie put on one of her little sundresses and a pair of Disney princess panties with a pout on her face. She had unknowingly adopted her father’s love of nudity. Honestly, if Eric had his way I was sure we would be living in a clothing-free household but I just couldn’t abide by that. My personal sense of modesty wouldn’t allow it and since Gran had raised me to be a lady, I was intent on raising my daughter to be one too.
And ladies wore clothing when they weren’t bathing.
Once Sadie was dressed she looked up at me and asked, “How long until dark, Mommy?”
“Maybe another twenty minutes,” I told her.
“Can we make it go faster?”
I chuckled at her impatience and said, “Unfortunately, no. We’ll just have to be patient and wait for Daddy to wake up. Why don’t we read until it’s time?”
“Okay,” she relented and went to grab one of her books from the shelves that almost took up an entire wall of her bedroom.
Eric and I read to her often. He had started it while I was still pregnant. He’d brought some of his old books out of storage and even though many of them were in languages I didn’t understand, I loved him for wanting to spend that time with our baby. There were nights, toward the end of my pregnancy, when I was too uncomfortable to sleep and he would spend hours lying in bed with me, rubbing my back while he told stories.
It was sweet, and it was moments like those that meant the most to me.
We had been working with Sadie on learning to read for quite some time already. She’d started to pick it up when she was four, so it wasn’t unusual for her to read to us before bedtime. At the moment she was going through a Roald Dahl phase, so she picked up her copy of Matilda, and climbed up onto her bed. I climbed up next to her and sat back so she could snuggle against me, as she was prone to do, and listened to my baby read for the next twenty minutes until I felt Eric come to life in our bond.
“It’s time,” I whispered with a smile.
Sadie thrust her book at me so I could mark her page, and took off running for the bedroom. Eric had a habit of playing possum with her, or sometimes he would hide when he could hear her coming. He was a bit of a terror that way, but Sadie loved it. She also loved that she could climb on his back and go flying around the yard or around the city. Having a daddy that was something akin to a superhero was fun for her, and just one more way that she was set apart from other children her age.
Sometimes I worried about that, what not going to a regular public school might do to her. She needed to socialize with other kids. When I first told Eric I wanted to sign her up for tee ball and ballet classes (both things Sadie had expressed interest in), he had been reluctant to let her do it. It wasn’t natural for Sadie to not be around children her own age, so I had overruled him and signed her up for a class. Quinn always accompanied us and I always watched her practices right along with him to make sure Sadie was perfectly safe.
She made her little friends and after extensive background checks on their families, Eric even relented on letting her go play at her friends’ houses. Of course Quinn was nearby in case something happened or someone suspicious looking started sniffing around. Eric’s protective instincts ratcheted up by about a thousand notches when Sadie was born and I was constantly reminding him that she needed to be a kid.
I wanted her to have as normal a life as possible, which wasn’t the easiest thing to accomplish with her mother being telepathic, her father being a vampire king and her closest “friend” was a weretiger ready to rip the throat out of anyone that so much as blinked at her wrong. I wanted Sadie to have friends, find out what her passions were and pursue a brilliant life of her own creation. I didn’t want her to be timid and scared of things but I didn’t want her confidence in her father to make her reckless.
It was a constant struggle to keep the balance but I thought we were doing pretty well. I knew Eric had found Sadie when I heard her scream of surprise. I put her book back on the shelf and walked down the hall to find Sadie trying to catch him. Eric was a blur of motion around the room, dodging her grasp and pausing to tickle her before taking off again. It left Sadie in a fit of giggles that were contagious.
I loved Eric all the time, but I loved him more when he was being a father to our daughter.
I loved feeling the joy he got from playing with her like this and being able to feel his pride when she accomplished something new. At first, when I told him about the Cluviel Dor, I worried he only agreed to the wish because he wanted to keep me happy. I would have gotten over it if he had told me he didn’t want to bring a human child into the world to raise, but all doubt was washed away the second he heard her little heartbeat. He knew before I did that I was pregnant.
He had been able to taste the change in my blood, and a few short days later he had been able to hear her tiny heart beating in my body. Eric was a much better midwife than any certified professional out there. Dr. Ludwig had been assigned to my care and Eric was constantly monitoring for changes in Sadie’s heartbeat to make sure it was ticking away in there like it was supposed to be.
I had been able to give him something he never thought he would have again: a child of his own blood and genetic makeup.
I knew there were certain facets of being a father that he missed. He wasn’t able to attend the games Sadie played in, but he helped her practice when she wanted to. Her dance recitals were mostly at night so he would attend them when he could. I knew there were times when Sadie wished Eric could be there with her, but I had to remind myself that was true for all children. Parents had to work or had responsibilities that kept them from being present for every single moment of their child’s life.
Baseball games could be recorded and Sadie loved telling stories to him the instant he was awake. Eric always asked her how her games went and applauded her successes. When she was discouraged or disappointed he would remind her that a failure was only a lesson in how to do better next time, and with a positive outlook, she could accomplish anything.
And my little girl listened to her daddy.
As far as she was concerned, Eric was the Almighty.
The sun literally rose and set with him in her eyes, and sometimes I almost felt a little jealous of the closeness they shared with one another, if only because I had missed out on having that sort of relationship with my own father.
Teaching Sadie to speak his mother tongue meant they almost had their own secret language with one another. I’d been trying to learn it, but my thirty-something-year-old brain didn’t pick it up as quickly as Sadie did. She was a sponge, and she soaked up every morsel of information that passed before her. We forgot about having little ears around sometimes and as a result one of Sadie’s first words was ‘fuck’.
Gran thought that was hilarious.
Sadie knew her father was a vampire and she understood what that meant in the most basic way. She knew that he didn’t eat food like she and I did, and that he couldn’t go out in the daytime. We hadn’t explained how Eric ate just yet because I didn’t want her having nightmares about being attacked in her sleep or something.
But I knew the time was coming.
Eric’s face had become pretty famous since he had ascended the throne in Louisiana. He had done a lot of work to help the restore the city, and because of it, he was rather well-liked by the citizens of the city. He had even been allotted a position on the city’s chamber of commerce and had helped them restructure their financing to increase their cash flow.
Yes, Eric Northman was popular around these parts.
Unfortunately, prejudice could still win out over the good deeds he had done and there were some that felt a ‘fanger’ had no place sitting on a human panel of officials. There were death threats made and terrorist cells of the Fellowship of the Sun were sometimes discovered sleeping in New Orleans, hoping for a chance to get at Eric (or Sadie and me by extension). For as public a figure as my husband had become since ascending the throne, he was still a stealth operator when it came to breeches of security.
His most powerful weapon at his disposal was his glamour. Karin had the ability to mass glamour, whereas Eric had to do it one on one. Karin had become invaluable to us and Eric had made her the sheriff of area five after moving us down to New Orleans. He wasn’t just king, but overseeing the retinue of area one. Pam was still his second in command, and had risen to the occasion quite well.
I watched from the doorway of the bedroom while Sadie recounted her day for her father once he finally stopped zipping around the room long enough for her to catch him. She sat in his lap and let him braid her hair. Sadie never wanted Mommy to braid her hair—oh no, that was Daddy’s job.
Having decided to give them a little privacy to talk, I went down the hall to Sadie’s room to start sorting through her clothes. The next summit in Rhodes would be happening in just a few days. Eric and Pam and all of the other sheriffs would be flying up for the event. I decided I would rather take Sadie to visit Gran than go to the summit. We had tried taking Sadie with us the year before but it didn’t go very well. Her inquisitive little mind wanted to be a part of all the goings-on, and she had gotten bored being cooped up in a fancy hotel suite for most of the day.
Besides, we hadn’t seen Gran since Eric had her flown down for my birthday over the summer. Not having Sadie in regular public school meant we didn’t have to worry about her missing anything if we decided we wanted to travel. Her lessons traveled right along with us and she had a “school day” like any other kid would, except it at home. She even had a little “classroom” set up in the house where she did her studying so she knew it was school time and not playtime.
I got enough vampire politics while I was at home. I wasn’t really in the mood to listen to it for days on end. Besides, I’d been to Rhodes enough times by that point that the city wasn’t as exciting as it was the first few times I’d been there. Plus, I didn’t like the idea of leaving Sadie alone with Gran. Gran had turned eighty-one the previous February and she wasn’t really prepared to be alone with a rambunctious six-year-old for more than a few hours and while Jason had certainly grown up in the last few years thanks to his quickie marriage and divorce, I doubted he wanted to give up his nights off to take care of Sadie either.
Three months after Sadie was born, Jason married Crystal Norris, a werepanther from Hot Shot. When he first told me he was marrying her, I warned him that it was nothing but trouble but Jason chose not to listen to me. He was blinded by ‘love,’ which means he really liked having sex with her. Too bad Crystal was faithful to him for about eight months before Jason caught her in bed with another member of her pack. I felt bad for him because despite my earlier thinking that it was just about sex, Jason really did love Crystal.
He was prepared to settle down and be a daddy, and his wife cheated on him with someone who was probably one of her cousins. Hot Shot was known around Renard Parish for being pretty thoroughly inbred, and most of us stayed clear of the little town. Bon Temps was small, but Hot Shot was even smaller. It mostly consisted of a trailer park and a bunch of ramshackle cabins. Heck, I wasn’t even sure if they had their own post office or bank in town.
Regardless of that, Gran had always warned us to stay out of that area. The kids were strange and they only got stranger as we got older. Of course I didn’t know back then that they were shifters. I think Gran might have, though. She wasn’t too surprised when vampires came out of the coffin, but then she knew fairies existed so vampires and shapeshifters of any kind couldn’t have been that big of a surprise to her.
I was just finishing up my packing when Eric came floating in the room with Sadie on his back. He dropped her on her bed so she’d get her soft landing and then she took off running for somewhere else in the house.
“Sadie Adele, indoor feet!” I called after her.
“Sorry, Mommy!” she shouted back and I heard her footsteps slow down. She was always a little more cooperative when Eric was around.
“How was your day?” Eric asked me once we were alone.
“Alright,” I smiled over my shoulder. “Gran’s excited we’re coming up to see her.”
“I wish you’d reconsider about Rhodes,” he said as he wrapped his arms around my waist from behind.
“Eric…” I sighed. “I know Rhodes is important but Gran’s not getting any younger and I want Sadie to spend as much time with her as she can before… you know.”
I didn’t like thinking about Gran dying, but it was inevitable and it was going to come sooner rather than later.
Eric kissed my head and said, “I understand. I’m not happy, but I understand.”
I knew it; I could feel it in his blood.
“You can use this time to bond with your other child,” I smirked. “I’m sure Pam would love having some of your undivided attention.”
“Well, she would,” I insisted. “She gets jealous when you call on Karin.”
Of course Eric knew that because of the bond he had with her, but I was sure he brushed it off.
“Pam’s a big girl,” he said. “Besides, she has privileges that Karin doesn’t so it balances out.”
“You play to their strengths,” I said with a shrug.
“Precisely,” he said, and kissed my head again. “But it would nice to wake up with just you in bed with me.”
His hips rubbed against my backside and I could feel his growing arousal.
“She’s upstairs,” he said. “We can be quick.”
“You can be quick. It takes a while to get my engine revved up.”
“Lucky for you, I know your body very well,” he purred in my ear and let his hand slide down the front of my jeans.
I gasped and let him touch me for a few seconds before I said, “Alright, but not in here. Sadie would be scarred for life if she caught us.”
Once we were caught up in the moment neither my telepathy nor his superhuman senses would be of any use to us. Sadie had already caught us twice in her short life and both times Eric had suggested he glamour her, but I wasn’t going to turn my baby’s brain to Swiss cheese because we were too careless to remember to lock the door.
Sadly for us both, we didn’t get very far before Sadie came back downstairs looking for us.
“After bedtime, I promise,” I winked at him as Eric withdrew his hand from my jeans and licked his fingers clean.
“I’m holding you to it,” he said with heat in his eyes and pulled me in for a kiss that made my toes curl.
“Ewww… Pammy, they’re kissing,” Sadie giggled from the door.
Of course Pam wouldn’t bother keeping Sadie distracted. She was only too willing to assist in cockblocking her maker.
Some things never changed.