I must have dozed off, because when I opened my eyes the plane was preparing for landing. I yawned and smiled at the view offered to me. Eric was sitting next to me, holding Hunter on his laps, his strong and large hands on the back of his tiny little head. The baby’s blue eyes were fixed on my Vampire, listening attentively to what he was saying.
“It will be good to have another man around, Liten Jägare. With your Aunt Sookie, Pam, Jessica and your great-grandmother Adele I was beginning to feel left out. We will need to teach you Swedish. And I might be tempted to teach you Old Norse. Pam could never perfectly master Swedish so Old Norse was out of the question and I never found the time to teach your Aunt Sookie. That could be our secret language, well ours and Godric. You will see, Liten Jägare, we will take good care of you.”
He dropped a tender kiss to the little boy’s head before turning to me.
“Did you have a nice nap, Lover?”
“I did and I can see you took the opportunity for some male bonding. So, Old Norse?”
A smirk appeared on his face. “Just another way to fu… to mess with Pam.”
His slip of the tongue made me laugh. “You’re already pretty good at this whole having a child around. We will have to tell Pam not to curse around the innocent little ears.”
The plane landed without any hitch and soon we were in the SUV, Eric behind the wheel and me in the backseat. Since we didn’t have a car seat for Hunter and I had to hold him, Eric drove carefully – a feat for the speed lover he was.
“Are you worried, Lover?” asked Eric, looking at me through the rear view mirror.
I bit my lower lip. “Yes… And no… It just that everything is going so fast. Yesterday I didn’t even know he existed and now here he is! And I can’t help but worry about Hadley’s reaction once she learns about it. I’m afraid she’ll take him back and I can’t allow that. She basically abandoned him!”
“Don’t worry, Lover. I will take every precaution possible so that your cousin can never have our Liten Jägare back. I know that human authorities aren’t too keen on mothers abandoning their child. I’ll contact Desmond Cataliades to see what we can do so you have legal guardianship of Hunter.”
I smiled. Aside from being head of AIK, Desmond Cataliades was also a lawyer – albeit he hadn’t been practising for a while. I guess I understood why Eric would want get him involved. With Jason being currently AWOL, the Daemon was the best option for us.
We made it to the house where Pam’s pink minivan was parked next to Gran’s Cadillac. Eric helped me out of the car and took Hunter is his arms. The view of my Viking holding this little baby was literally making my ovaries burst. He was so tender, so careful with his precious cargo. It was such a contrast with his Vampire Sheriff persona.
“Gran, Pam, Jessica, we’re back!”
“Did you find Hadley… Oh my God!”
Shock filled Gran as she took in Eric holding Hunter.
Her eyes were filled with tears as she struggled to find her words. Pam and Jessica suddenly appeared from the living room, both of them as shocked as my poor Gran.
“What the fuck is that!” exclaimed Pam, looking at the baby in Eric’s arms with disgust.
“Pamela! Watch your language!” scolded Gran.
“A baby! But whose baby is it?”
Eric looked at me, then down at Hunter before answering Jessica’s question.
“This is Hunter. He’s the son of Sookie’s cousin and he’s going to live with us.”
“Did something happen to Hadley? Oh my… something happened to Hadley!”
“Nothing happened to Hadley, Gran. At least we don’t think anything happened to her. How about we all sat down and Eric and I will tell you about our finding.”
We all sat down, except Pam who decided to stand by the fireplace, looking at us with a strange mix of disgust and boredom.
“Explain!” she nearly yelled, startling Hunter. “And there, it’s already starting with the crying!”
One glare from Gran and the blond vamp was scared to the true death. I reach for Hunter’s tiny hand but Eric was already soothing him.
“Don’t worry, Liten Jägare, the mean lady isn’t going to hurt you. I will command her not to if I have to.”
“Shit, Eric! You’re all gooey and soft!”
“Pamela! One more curse and I’ll bring the soap to watch your dirty mouth!”
Reluctantly she sat down next to Gran, her eyes fixed on the hardwood floor.
“Now, tells us everything! From what you said, Sookie dear, I imagine you didn’t see Hadley?”
I shook my head.
“Hunter was staying with her landlady. Apparently Hadley took off a month after giving birth and hasn’t been seen ever since. Actually, apart from the couples she sent to buy the baby, her landlady hasn’t had any contact with her.”
“She tried to sell her baby?! What kind of woman does that?” asked Jessica, red tears filling her eyes.
“My brainless granddaughter, it would seem! That’s not how her mama raised her to be!”
Aunt Linda might not have made the best choices regarding her daughter, i.e. the whole mess following the sexual abuses she suffered from Bartlett, but she sure didn’t raise Hadley to be the kind of mother who abandoned her own child to a woman who was almost a complete stranger compared to her own family.
“He looks well enough to me” said Pam. “That landlady seems to have taken good care of the child. Why bring him here then? Having a baby Vamp was enough already, we don’t need a human baby!”
Eric made a growling sound at his Childe, a sound that surprisingly made little Hunter giggle. Yeah, the little one wouldn’t be scare of the big bad Vampire.
“First, because the child – whose name is Hunter should I remind you, is Sookie’s and Adele’s own blood. That should be reason enough. Second, because it seems like Hunter is special, like Sookie.”
Shock filled Pam’s eyes while Gran brought her hand to her lips. Jessica was the only one not really reacting to Eric’s revelation. The young vampire simply frowned.
“What do you mean special like Sookie? Do you mean that he smells as sweet as her? Don’t get me wrong, Sook, but apart from your smell you don’t seem extra special to me.”
I looked at Eric, then Pam, then Gran. Jessica had proven in the short time that she had been with us that she could be trusted. The only problem that could arise was her Maker, but we knew where her loyalty lied. Unless he was to use his Maker’s Command, Jessica wanted nothing to do with Bill Compton, so there was no way she would willingly tell him any of our secrets.
“I think we should tell her” finally said Gran. “She ought to know. She’s part of the family.”
One look at Eric and I was able to decipher his body language. We would tell Jessica, but for her own safety and ours we would keep her in the dark about the true nature of my specialness.
“What Eric meant by saying that Hunter is special like me, Jess, is that Hunter appears to be a telepath.”
“A telepath?” she asked, frowning.
“Yes, someone who can read people’s thoughts.”
“Wow! That’s so cool! Can you read mine? What am I thinking of right now?”
I laughed. “I can’t read yours, Jess. I can read almost everybody’s thoughts, but vampires’? You’re just big void to me.”
“Which is why she likes it so much with Eric” added Pam, with a bit of teasing.
I smiled. If I had to choose between teasing Pam and bitchy Pam, I’d always go for teasing, even if I knew she did it to embarrass me.
“So Hunter can read people’s mind too? But he’s just a tiny little baby!”
“Which is why we have decided to take him in” explained Eric. “As he grows up, Sookie can help him with his shields to block others’ thoughts. And as Sookie explained, vampires’ thoughts are blank to telepaths. So being with us should be easier on him. When we found him in New Orleans, the woman who was taking care of him said he preferred to be alone in his cot, that he would scream every time someone would hold him.”
“He seems so calm, so quiet. I can’t imagine him screaming his head off…”
Eric smiled at Jessica before stroking Hunter’s head.
“According to Sookie it’s the magic of the vampire bubble.”
Gran and Jessica were in awe at the little wonder, but Pam was still holding off. I knew that children weren’t for her, but who could resist such an angelic face?
“I still have some of Corbett and Linda’s old baby furniture up in the attic at the farmhouse. Do you think Mr. Burnham would agree to come and retrieve them? This little one will need his own room.”
“Why would he need a room, Adele? In my time, young children shared their parents’ room.”
“In your time, Eric, it was the Middle Age!” I said, laughing. “You had to share rooms for lack of rooms. Today infants may share their parents’ room in the first few weeks or months. It is easier for nursing time. But Hunter is obviously weaned and big enough to sleep in his own room. And think of it this way, if he was to share our room, we wouldn’t be able to have any Sookie-and-Eric private time.”
I nearly whispered the last part, but from Gran, Pam and Jessica’s reaction I hadn’t whispered it low enough.
“Alright, then… I will tell Bobby to go with you retrieve the furniture and set them up in one of the empty bedroom. The blue bedroom should do well for our Liten Jägare. But for tonight, Hunter will share our bed, alright min alskäre?”
“Hand-me-down furniture?” said Pam, offended. “Sorry Adele, but this won’t do! You may use the old stuff you have for when he is at the farmhouse. I will take care of setting up the nursery here! And the blue bedroom, Eric? Blue?”
“Blue is a strong male color, Pam. A perfect color for our little one.”
I could tell Eric was up to something, but it seemed like Pam, in her whole aversion to hand-me-down, couldn’t.
“Just because historically blue has been considered a male color doesn’t mean a baby boy nursery should be blue!”
“Says the woman whose complete wardrobe, house and car is pink” snickered Jessica.
“Shut up, baby Vamp!”
“Sorry, Gran. But I won’t budge! I will set up the nursery and buy the baby… Hunter some new clothes. Because if his wardrobe is filled with such clothes, it won’t do!”
I frowned. “What’s wrong with what he’s wearing?”
I didn’t see anything wrong with the green stripes romper he was currently wearing. Sure, it probably was department store bought clothes, but Hunter was a baby and baby didn’t need to wear designer clothes!
“Everything is wrong, Sookie! If the little rug rat is to be part of this family he needs to have a wardrobe fit for our family! We have standards to maintain!”
I sighed. It was a lost cause, I knew it. I would let Pam buy whatever she wanted. Worst case scenario, Hunter would outgrow these clothes and we would have to donate them to charity. It was then decided that they would all stay for the night slash day, Gran to help me care for Hunter during daytime – I was after all new at this whole caring for a baby thing, and Pam so she could organize the setting of the nursery before she went to rest. She had already called both Mr. Burnham and the construction company when Eric and I retired to our bedroom with a sleepy Hunter.
“Do you think she’ll realize you tricked her?” I asked as I closed the door behind me, taking the sight of my handsome man holding a tiny little baby.
He smiled. “Not unless you tell her.”
We both lay down on the bed, Hunter between us. The baby’s little hand was gripping one of Eric’s fingers. The differences, i.e. their sizes, and their similarities, i.e. their blond hair and blue eyes, was startling.
“Did I ever tell you about my siblings?”
“Siblings? As in more than one? I thought you only had a baby sister…”
His eyes were fixed on Hunter, but there was something in them that I didn’t like one bit. He seemed lost.
“I wasn’t my parents’ firstborn. Two winters before me, they had a boy, my brother Ragnar. My earliest memory is of him, teaching me how to use a wooden sword. Then came Inga, Björn, Svein, Gunnar, Magnus, Astrid and Yrsa. Life was rough back then. And Ragnar, Magnus, Yrsa and I were the only one to see more than 6 winters.”
Even after more than a thousand years, I could hear the pain in his voice as he recalled his family.
“Ragnar was 12 winters when he went a-Viking and never came back. Magnus died of illness around his 10th winter and Yrsa followed him soon after. After Yrsa’s death, my parents thought they wouldn’t be blessed with more children. Until Mæva.”
Mæva, his baby sister who had been mauled to death by weres.
“I was already past the age of marriage by then. My father was pushing me toward an alliance with the daughter of another chieftain. Mæva could have been my own daughter…”
“It must have been weird for you, to have a baby sister so late in your life.”
“I loved her with all my heart. I wasn’t ready to settle down, but she made me long for my own children. After their murders, I realized that I had an obligation to wed. But life or more likely death had other plan for me.”
It had never crossed my mind, but I now realized what immortality had robbed Eric of. By the time of his turning, a Viking man normally had been married for a while and had had several children. But Eric had died single and childless.
“I’m aware of what you are letting go by choosing me as your mate, min alskäre. By being with me, you will never get to experience motherhood. I will never get to see you round with my child. But by taking our Liten Jägare in, I’m hoping to give you the opportunity to have a taste at motherhood.”
“You know I don’t give a damn about not having your biological children, Eric. I’ve long ago made my peace with not having our own babies. Being with you is enough. But I’m excited at the idea of taking care of Hunter, of raising him with you.”
I stroked the baby’s soft head. He was too young to have formed thoughts, but I could feel his emotions, mostly love and peacefulness.
“I will kill anybody who would wish harm on you, on both of you.”
“Good. ‘Cause I’ll do the same.”
Hunter let out a big yawn as his eyes slowly closed. Eric brought his face closer to mine, sealing his lips with mines.
“How I love you, Lover.”
“You’re the only man I’ve ever loved, Eric, the only man I’ll ever love. No, scratch that. You’re the first man I’ve ever loved. This little one… I know I’ve just met him, but I already love him.”
His smirk was back on.
“I’m normally a very possessive man… But I won’t mind sharing you with our Liten Jägare.”
I kissed him again, my hand slipping through in hair.
“You know what? I’m starting to get used to your new haircut.”
“It’s a good thing I had to cut my hair. Our Liten Jägare seems to have quite a grasp.”
I laughed, remembering how Hunter had pulled my hair back in the car.
“Why don’t you sleep, Lover. You had quite a day. I’ll watch over you, over both of you.”
With a smile I closed my eyes and welcomed sleep. Our future looked brighter than ever.