Three months later…
His fingers stilled when he touched the round soft bump a few inches below her breast. It’s only a scar, he had to remind himself.She’s fine now, he told himself while ignoring the malicious voice inside him scoffing at him for letting her get hurt in the first place.She almost died, the voice hissed. No, he squeezed his eyes shut. She didn’t almost die. He wouldn’t allow it.
She must have felt the sudden coiling of the muscles around his arm as she turned slightly to him and weaved her fingers through his messy hair as though to soothe him. She was the one who got wounded and she was trying to calm him down? Silly, little woman.
“I hate this,” he grumbled, gently outlining the leathery patch of skin where the bullet had pierced her skin the night of the takedown.
“I know. You told me like a million times,” she whispered, a ghost of a smile on her lips.
Their naked bodies tangled under a silky blanket with only the full moon as their witness.
“Pam knows a good plastic surgeon. Just don’t ask her how she knew him.”
She chuckled. “But I want to keep it,” she whined. “Makes me feel badass. Like my very own Purple Heart.”
She might call it her badge of honor. Her battle scar. But for him, it was a reminder of the time he failed to protect her.
It had been three months since the ‘accident’ – that’s what they chose to call it: An accident. Nothing more, nothing less. Three months of lazing around and taking things slow should have been enough to give Eric his fill. Some might have even overdosed from that much ‘alone’ time but not him. Not with her. Call him selfish but those he wished those three months were longer.
The first time they made love after the ‘accident’ was a month after her surgery. He had been very gentle with her that she almost barked at him for treating her like spun sugar.
He took offense at her jibe. No one had ever accused Eric Northman of being a wimp in the sack. So with a growl and glare, he spun her like fucking sugar.
Their lovemaking was diverse, vacillating from tender to demanding, from sweet to uncouth, from sloppy to suave. But the one thing that remained constant was the lack of complaints from his happy customer.
Now she was back on her feet. Together with her father, Corbett, they tried to salvage what was left of the Edgington Industries. Not for the money or legacy but for the livelihood of thousands of employees relying on them.
Sookie and Corbett had been asked to testify against Russell for bootlegging, game rigging, and production and distribution of illegal substance. Justice came swift and firm. Russell had been sentenced to a minimum of 40 years in prison with no chance of parole and would join the ranks of OJ Simpson as one of the celebrities to grace the Lovelock Correctional Center in Pershing County. Unfortunately, because of the lack of witness and substantial evidence, the murder case against Russell had been dismissed, much to the Stackhouses’ dismay.
Because Russell had relinquished all his assets to Sookie prior to his arrest, the Stackhouses were able to keep most of Russell’s estate, including his line of hotels, both local and abroad. The Feds might not be able to sequester all his assets but the Gaming Commission proved harder to elude as it revoked the casinos’ licences, which was a real kick in the head for the Stackhouses.
Corbett, who had spent half a decade in Shanghai and Macau, took the helm of all the China-based hotel and casinos while Sookie was left in-charge of the rehabilitation of the MGM and the Mandalay, which both took huge blows in the wake of the Russell’s arrest and the Mandalay shootout.
Sookie hired the Herveauxes to renovate the Mandalay. Eric wasn’t fond of the idea of seeing the wolfish Alcide again but he understood Sookie’s motivation to hire a family friend.
Sookie, who was the first to admit she was green in the whole business management arena, thought the people depending on her deserved better than street smart. So she took initiative and started taking business classes while working on getting their licence back.
Eric, on the other hand, had been occupied too. In the end he decided to sell the Regent to Sophie-Anne, he didn’t need a regent when he had a real queen. He channelled his energy into expanding the North and the Luxor morphing it into a gaming haven in Las Vegas.
He also sold the house in Spring Valley. All his precious childhood memories weren’t strong enough to ward off the evil that had happened in that mansion. He knew his parents wouldn’t mind. Pam found a simple two-storey house in Laughlin. It had a modern structure with a minimalistic approach. Very Scandinavian. Sookie had fallen in love with it and so did he. It wasn’t lavish or pretentious and the blank walls were like clean slates: the tabula rasa they badly needed.
With a few minor tweaks on the décor and a major upgrade on the security system, it was ready for occupancy. They had been living there for a month now. Although some nights when they were both tired to make the hour-long drive to Laughlin or when they needed to be in the hotels for early morning meetings, they still opted to sleep in their suite up at the North.
“Don’t give me that kicked puppy dog eyes!” she said with a soft click of her tongue as she rolled over to move on top of him.
His arms snaked around her waist, locking her in place.
“Get rid of that scar and I’ll make it worth your while,” he purred, burning a path of open-mouthed kisses along her neck. He knew damn well she was powerless against that kind of assault. And just for good measure he darted his tongue out to lick the hollow of her throat making her whimper like a fucking kitten.
“Hmmm… I need a little more convincing than that,” she hummed. With one hand pressed against the mattress, she began teasing his nipple eliciting a raspy growl from him.
Damn this woman.
With a twist of his torso he flipped her to lie on her back before he began slithering his way down until he vanished under the blanket. He left a trail of hot, wet kisses on the insides of her thighs as he made his way locating her other weakness. One long lick and she was writhing under him. He even had to hold her hips to keep her steady. Every fervent flick of his tongue made her buck her hips in utter pleasure.
She could be a total control freak but this was one thing she couldn’t restrain. In the bed he was the one dictating the tempo. Or so he’d like to think so.
She shuddered when she came before he could give her the full Northman experience and that was just fucking unacceptable. Her fingers found his shoulders and started pulling him up while trying to wiggle her hips out of his grasp.
He held her by the waist, refusing to let go.
“Eric! No more!” she screeched.
Oh no. He wasn’t done yet.
His tongue continued to tease her, lapping and flicking, pushing her to the brink for the second time.
“Please… I can’t – anymore.”
He took that as a challenge as his skilled tongue brought her to another climax before he finally set her free.
She was a boneless mess by the time he climbed to lie beside her.
“That – was a very – good argument,” she husked breathlessly.
He chuckled as he lay on his side, his fingers tracing the dip of her waist.
“So?” he asked with a cocky arch of his brow. “You going to get rid of it?”
She grinned. The corners of her eyes crinkled at the impact of her smile making him all warm and disturbingly fuzzy inside. “I’ve already made an appointment with Pam’s doctor who she claims did not give her a nose job. I’ll see him next week.”
His lips gaped.
“I know how much you hate it,” she cooed, inching closer.
“Why didn’t you tell me right away?” he asked brusquely, trying to disguise his relief with mock offense.
“I wanted to surprise you.” She flung her arm around his middle and pressed her warm body against his. She rolled her hips slowly, teasingly. He didn’t need to be a fucking rocket surgeon to know what she was implying. Or was it a brain scientist?
Fuck, all that gyrating was making him stupid.
Two months and five days later…
“This is an insult to my stars!”
Marco Alfonso was not a happy chef. He had been pouting, grumbling and grousing for the past couple of hours.
“It’s like using a Ferrari to buy a fish in the market!”
Eric shook his head, never peeling his eyes off the index card on the tabletop, murmuring words over and over so as not to forget them. He didn’t have the patience to indulge his friend and his non-stop griping because tonight would and should only be about her. Because tonight would be the night he would ask her the question of all questions.
“Are you even listening to me, jacko?”
Eric grunted a cursory ‘uh-huh’ as he lifted his glass and sipped his Bordeux.
“I’m telling you, Eric, if you want to impress her let me whip up my signature scallops beurre blanc or shrimp scampi. Not some god-awful scrambled eggs.”
Eric let out an exasperated breath as he eyed his Italian friend. “Stick with the eggs. You can make your scampi later. I want the eggs as the opener.”
Marco answered with a huff. “Look at you. Look what you’ve been reduced to. The mighty Eric Northman sweating bullets trying to memorize a stupid cue card.”
He emptied his glass in a single gulp. “It has to be perfect. I made her wait too fucking long for this to mess it up. Now be a good duck and just cook the damn eggs.”
He had asked Holly, the chef de cuisine, to close Fiordilatte early just for this. He had Marco fly in from Los Angeles to be their chef for the night. Marco was a willing accomplice up to the point where Eric asked him to make scrambled eggs. She hadn’t had much of an appetite lately and he thought Marco’s presence would encourage her to eat more.
“No wine will be able to compliment this,” Marco tried again.
“It doesn’t matter. Sookie hadn’t had a drop after the accident. She wasn’t allowed any alcoholic drink for two months while she was recuperating. She’s now allowed to have an occasional glass or two but she opted not to.”
“Well then you’re screwed, my friend,” Marco chimed. “Without alcohol fogging her brain, don’t expect an easy yes.”
“Talking from experience, are we?” Eric countered with a smirk. “How many women have you roofied only to find themselves married to you the next day? Two, three?”
Marco flipped him off.
Eric shook his head and sniggered. “God, I must really be desperate to take proposal ideas from a man who had been married four times and divorced just as often.”
Marco skewered him with a glare, pointing a knife at him. “Laugh now, my friend. But at least I get four women to say yes.” He set the knife on the chopping board and sauntered in front of Eric who was sitting in a steel bar stool at the counter. “What exactly is your plan? And what the hell is on that card?” He tried to snatch the index card from Eric but the Viking proved too quick for him.
“Come on. Use me as your guinea pig, pretend I’m Sookie and do a dry run. I’ll try not to laugh.” He leered before he added, “too much.”
“Jackass,” Eric hissed. He eyed his friend carefully then heaved a sigh. He needed a sounding board. Marco might not be the ideal choice but there was no one else. He thought if he could survive Marco’s taunts he’d be fucking invincible. “If you laugh I’m going to punch you in the throat,” he warned before he cleared his own throat and squared his shoulder.
Marco leaned both elbows at the tiled countertop and cupped his cheeks with his palms while batting his lashes exaggeratedly.
This is a bad idea, Eric sighed before he trained his eyes on the piece of cardboard and began his soliloquy…
“When Marco met you -”
“Ooh…yes, yes, start with that,” Marco chimed excitedly. Eric cut him off with a stabbing look. The Italian chef put his finger to his lips, making a lock and key gesture, and waved for him to continue.
Eric let out another heavy breath, debating for a second if it’d be better to gag his friend with a bread roll.
“When Marco met you,” he repeated, “he told me I was out of my league. That I should run the other way because – in his words, not mine – you’re bound to put the hurt on me. I didn’t believe him, of course. I was cocky enough to think I can make you heel. That with just the right tools I can bring you down to your knees and make you yield to me.” He paused as he imagined himself going down on one knee in front of her. “I guess it’s pretty obvious I was wrong. I should have known that you’d be the one who’d bring me down to my knees. And if you’ll have me, I promise that the only assumption I’ll ever make is to never make assumptions ever again.”
Marco’s syrupy smile got stuck on his face as he gaped at him. He closed his mouth, straightened up and stretched both arms to Eric as he blurted, “Take me now, you big bad Viking!”
Eric made good on his promise and whacked his friend at the throat with the back of his hand.
Sookie was late. She was fully booked for the day. She had met with a couple of reporters for magazine articles then went to have afternoon tea with the ladies working closely for the Gaming Commission. He knew she didn’t like the task of mindless ass-kissing but with the MGM and Mandalay licences at stake, it was a sacrifice she had to make.
She dashed to the empty restaurant, cheeks flushed from the chilly winter air.
“I now have a newfound respect for ass-kissers. Who knew it’s that difficult?” she prattled away as she approached the table. She didn’t seem to notice the lack of diners. That or she must have expected Eric to pull something like this. “Sorry I’m late. Being rich is so darn hard!”
He helped her out of her coat and draped it over the upholstered chair across from his.
“I, for one, liked you better when you were poor.”
She giggled. That throaty kind of giggle that went straight to his pants. “I liked me better when I was poor. I don’t need to smile often and I have lesser friends to entertain.”
He dipped his head to place a chaste kiss on her lips before he rounded back to his chair. “You don’t have to please them, you know. You only need to please me.”
She rolled her eyes at him and snorted. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
She beamed before she whipped her head to scan the room. “Quick question: Where are all the diners?”
“Marco scared them off.”
“Marco’s here?!” She darted her gaze toward the kitchen with an excited grin.
As though summoning the devil, the Italian chef burst out of the swinging double doors, arms outstretched. “Mia bella!”
She leapt out of her chair the same time Marco made it beside their table.
“Oh my lord! You’re really here!” she pealed when Marco pulled her into a hug.
Eric instantly regretted bringing in the pesky chef. He gave his Italian friend, who was embracing his would-be fiancée a little too tightly, three generous counts before he cleared his throat to get their attention. Marco held her a second longer while throwing Eric a sly grin.
“I think I smell something burning in the kitchen,” Eric said in a flat tone.
Marco waved his hands dismissively while helping Sookie back in her chair. “That must be from the steam puffing out of your ears.”
Eric gave him a look that could have turned a less obnoxious man into stone. Marco grinned toothily before he excused himself to get their first course. He disappeared into the kitchen and then back into the dining hall before anyone could tell he was gone. He set two silver cloches on their table then waved at the lone maitre ‘d by the bar to fetch the hot garlic rolls from the kitchen.
Eric swallowed a knot in his throat as he stared at the cloche in front her. The Michelin-starred chef did the honor of lifting the bell-shaped cover. It was a conscious effort not to breathe too heavily as he watched her eyes take a softer look at the sight of the scrambled eggs. Score one for the Viking.
The ring was at the bottom of the plate. She wouldn’t miss it. As soon as she stabbed her fork through the pile of the fluffy yellow mass she’d be able to hear that distinct clink.
She lifted her silver ware, ready to take the first bite when the maitre ‘d emerged with the pastry rolls. The strong aroma of garlic wafted in the air. Her fork froze midair as she turned to the piping hot bread in the middle of the table.
Her face suddenly took an unhealthy pallor. “Is that garlic bread?” she asked lowly as the back of her hand flew to cover her mouth. “Shit. I’m sorry, Eric. I have to -” She didn’t get to finish her sentence as she sprang out of her chair, nearly knocking it over, and made a run for the lavette.
Eric peeled the white cloth napkin from his lap and threw it on the table as he bolted to follow her with Marco on his heels. He reached for the knob only to realize she had locked herself in.
“What the fuck did you put in that bread?” he hissed at Marco, who took a few steps back so as not to trigger his gag reflex from all the heaving sound she was making inside the powder room. Eric didn’t seem to mind though.
“Garlic, what else?”
“Fuck. I forgot. She can’t stand the smell of garlic.”
“I don’t know, a month maybe? Dammit! Sookie? Are you okay?” Eric banged on the door again. How could something as stupid as garlic virtually ruin his plans?
He was too preoccupied berating himself for missing a crucial detail that he didn’t see the knowing grin breaking across Marco’s face as he rubbed the five o’clock shadow along his chin while murmuring, “Interesting.”
Marco jinxed him. Yeah, that must be it. That pain in the ass was his bad luck. So he ditched his friend, who insisted on staying in Vegas until after the New Year, as he mapped out another proposal.
He would try again but this time he wouldn’t miss anything. Not a damned thing.
It was a Tuesday when they drove up to the Grand Canyon. Two weeks before Christmas meant the calm before the storm in Las Vegas as the town braced itself for the throngs of tourists who would certainly flood the streets of Sin City for the holidays.
He planned to get to the Canyon at least an hour before the sun could set. Then he ordered Roman to cordon off a spot at the south rim, which wasn’t a small feat considering it was the part of the Canyon with the heaviest traffic.
It just couldn’t be helped. He wanted – no, needed – the privacy for what he was about to do. Amateur hour was over and he had no emotional wherewithal for anyone else who was not Sookie Stackhouse.
Sookie looked tired. It must be because she had been working non-stop to get the Mandalay and the MGM up and running again for the big Christmas re-opening. Come to think of it, she had been lethargic lately. She always took naps during their drive home and fell back asleep as soon as her back hit the bed. Today was no different. She must be awfully exhausted to not argue with him when he asked her to cancel her meetings and go on a road trip to the Canyon with him.
He’d be doing the ‘classic proposal at sunset’. There was a reason people keep doing it – because it was fool-proof. He was prepared to go all-out. He even had Pam prepare a picnic basket for fuck’s sake.
He had a blanket sprawled on the ground for her to seat on but she asked if it would be okay if she lay down because she got nauseous from the drive. He let her of course. As if he could ever say no to such a request.
He lay down beside her and she used his outstretched arm for a pillow while tugging at the lapels of her thick coat. They instantly lapsed into silence as he waited to for the opportune time.
He closed his eyes and tried to remember his practiced speech. When he was young, he and his father would fly to South West England and drive to Wiltshire every autumn where they would buy an overpriced admission ticket to get inside the inner circle of the Stonehenge just to catch the sunset. It was worth every penny, or in that case, every pound. He had seen many sunsets in his life and he could honestly say the view from the cluster of old historical rocks was impossible to outclass.
When she took – nay, dragged – him to the Canyon five months ago to view the sunset, he was already setting himself up for disappointment. Say whatever the fuck they want, nothing could beat the Stonehenge experience. Then just as the sun was dipping from the horizon that blistering summer in July, Eric Northman had his breath knocked out of him.
The vista from the south rim must have been spectacular. It must have lived up to its billing.
Hell if he knew. He was too busy kissing her.
That’s the scenario he wanted to relive today. He would ask her the question and tell her he didn’t need to see the sunset atop one of the wonders of the world. She was the wonder of his world. It was admittedly cheesy, even gag-inducing. But it was the truth.
The sky started to take on an orange hue, signalling him to get in position. He turned his head toward her only to realize she had dozed off. Her lashes fluttered and he knew she was dreaming.
The clouds began to form and change into a gray. He lost another chance but he couldn’t bring himself to give a damn. He just couldn’t wake her up. He watched her sleep. Just like he did every night and those handful of times when he woke up earlier than her in the morning. He could watch her every day and knew he’d never get tired.
He’d ask her next time, he told himself. There would be other sunsets but times when Sookie was completely at ease, those were rare.
“My Best Friend’s Wedding!”
Jason exclaimed stabbing his finger in the air signifying his ‘Aha!’ moment. The male Stackhouse, who opened up his own automotive repair shop in Shreveport, and his wife were back in Vegas for the holiday. Although Jason wasn’t working for the Herveauxes anymore, he insisted in personally supervising the renovation of the Mandalay. Eric and Jason decide to get together at the North while Sookie was in school. He wanted to ask her sibling for his blessing and also to get more intel about Sookie.
“That’s her favorite movie. She’d deny it and insist that it was Gone With The Wind, but believe me I know,” Jason warned him. “That or The Notebook. Damn that Ryan Gosling and his ability to make my sister squirm and blush.”
Including Sookie’s supposed future husband was not a good place to start. So he scratched that terrible suggestion off and went with Jason’s first suggestion.
That very same day he asked Pam to rent an entire movie house for a night. Jason said she would always cry at the wedding part where Julia Roberts was giving her speech. That would be his cue. Eric even watched the chick flick prior to their date. For research purposes alone, he stressed to Pam when she caught him in his office with the rom-com playing on his plasma. Pam smirked and made a whipping gesture with her hand and hissed, “wh-tsh!”
Damn it she was right. He was whipped. Scared of a girl half his size.
Saturday was the movie night. They stopped at Tacos El Gordo for tacos adobada as homage to their first date. He already pre-ordered to make sure the pungent garlic smell wouldn’t be so overwhelming. She had mentioned in passing two days ago that she was craving for Mexican food and he made a mental note to include that in his plan. She finished her taco before they made it to the theater.
They entered the empty movie house and she asked why they were the only ones in the room. But as soon as the film started rolling, it dawned on her.
“Jason sold me out, didn’t he?” she asked crisply.
He laughed. “Cost me more than thirty pieces of silver.”
She shook her head and he swore he heard her roll her eyes.
He knew when to pop the question. It would be when Julia Robert says: This is on loan. Until you two find your own song. The movie would cut off and the song The Way You Look Tonight would play in the background. He would start by telling her he didn’t like the film. It was masochistic and just downright preposterous. The female protagonist did not get her best friend -and probably the love of her life – back. She ended up alone with only her gay friend to comfort her while the male lead got whisked away by a rich blonde stupidly named Kimmy. Seriously, what kind of feel good movie was that?
Then just when she was about to go off at him for badmouthing her favorite film he would go and tell her about his favorite story. About a devastatingly handsome casino mogul who fell for a Southern belle with a smart mouth who tried to hustle his poker table.
He would kiss her senseless and the rest would be, well, a story for the sequel.
Six minutes into the film and he was already getting restless. He could feel a bead of sweat swell at the back of his neck then roll down his spine. He was sure her eyes were on him. Don’t look, he ordered himself mutely. She was like a drug sniffing canine. She’d be able to smell nervousness seeping out of his pores.
But of course he gave in and looked anyway.
That was his first mistake. Sadly it wasn’t the last.
She had taken off her coat and was now only wearing one of her infuriatingly cute dresses that emphasize her bust.
Was it just him, or were her breasts getting relatively bigger? His gaze lingered on her cleavage. Even through the faint light from the screen, he could still see how her boobs threatened to spill out of her top like the fucking Niagara.
His fatal error came when he allowed his inner caveman to possess him. Could she really blame him for being a savage moron when she was so goddamned tempting?
He stretched out both arms over his head and paired it with an exaggerated yawn. Then ever so smoothly he draped one arm over her shoulder and began running his palm along her bare arm. He heard her stifle a snort, which he translated into green for go. With the absence of an armrest deterring him from squeezing to her, he tugged her nearer before his palm stealthily slid to graze the top of her breasts.
So far, so good until…
“Ow! Eric!” she screeched, swatting his invading arm. “That hurts!”
“What!?” he jumped back, pulling his arm away.
“Is that why you brought me here? To cop a feel!?”
“What? No!” He shook his head in confusion. She pinned him with a stare and he knew he had to come clean. “I – I – I couldn’t help it. They’re so… full. Well – fuller.”
‘Fuck me. Slow clap for the genius, ladies and gents.’
Her eyes burned a hole into his head as she rose to her full height, arms crossed, looking utterly implacable. “Are you saying I’m fat?”
His mouth gaped, lost for words. If there was a God, Eric would have bitten off his own tongue and choked on it.
He never got to pick up his jaw from the floor before she huffed and stormed out of the movie house leaving him stunned at the sudden turn of events.
‘What the fuck did just happen?’
He was hoping for a happy ending. Literally and figuratively. But instead of a romantic comedy, it had turned into a horror movie. And he was the dumb blonde who got killed off in the first ten minutes.
Three days later…
He was in the middle of a meeting when his phone vibrated on the table and Sookie’s face popped up on the screen.
She’d be at the Mandalay the whole day to oversee the last-minute runs for the Christmas Eve bash that evening that also coincided with the grand re-opening of the hotel. They were both too busy with the holiday preparations that they just agreed to meet for an early dinner before they change into their formal outfits for their respective galas.
He held up a finger to his companions as he picked up his phone and accepted the call.
“Don’t panic, okay?” was her opener so naturally he panicked.
He was out of his seat before he could ask why.
“I’m at St. Mary’s.”
His blood chilled as he pushed away from his chair drawing curious looks from the board members.
“I’m okay. Nothing to worry about. I just want you to hear it from me before Pam could exaggerate things. I’m just waiting for the results of my blood test. But I’m almost good to go, I’ll meet you at the North in a couple of hours.”
He let go of the breath he didn’t realize he had been holding. “Stay where you are. I’m on my way-”
“You don’t need to come here, Eric, really,” she cut him off, which riled him up even more.
“I’m on my way,” he gritted out. He heard her sigh ‘okay’ before she hung up.
He was halfway to the lobby when Pam caught up to him.
“Sookie fainted in the middle of the ballroom. Alcide caught her before she could hit the ground. They rushed her to St. Mary’s.”
‘And she called that nothing?’
She was sitting on the edge of the narrow hospital bed with her head hanging low. To his utter dismay, no other than Alcide with his big, hairy arm had his arm draped over her shoulder.
Their backs were to the door that they didn’t see him entering the room. He stepped inside quietly then slammed the door behind him, startling the room’s oblivious occupants.
Sookie and Alcide whipped their head toward the door.
Alcide jumped out of the bed while Sookie simply stared at him, her face devoid of emotion.
He shot Alcide a look as he sped to her side.
“I told you I’m fine,” she uttered lowly.
“Fine? You can’t even keep yourself upright and you call that fine?”
“Look, man – ” Alcide tried to butt in.
Eric cut Alcide off with a glare. “Thank you, man. I appreciate what you did,” he spat each word with vehemence. “Now if you don’t mind, I’d like to have a moment alone with her.”
Alcide opened his mouth seemingly slighted. Then just when Eric thought Alcide was about to say spurt another line of nonsense, he caught Sookie giving Alcide a subtle nod that seemed to silence the detestable sneeze. With another deliberate glance at Sookie, Alcide walked out of the room.
“You didn’t have to be so mean to him,” she chided. “He just wanted to help.”
“So he’s okay to be here but I’m not?”
“I didn’t say that! God, Eric! I knew you’re gonna be like this, that’s why I didn’t want you to come here.”
“Be like what? Concerned? Mad that your old suitor was there for you when I wasn’t?”
“I got dizzy; I fainted. It wasn’t a big deal.”
“It was to me!” he snarled, slamming his palms on the mattress, trapping the sides of her thighs. “How many times did I tell you to take things easy. To learn to delegate so you won’t have to do everything yourself. But did you ever listen to me? What are you trying to prove, Sookie? That you can do everything? You don’t have to impress anyone; you’ve already done that when you took Russell down.”
She leaned forward, fuming.
“I’m not trying to prove anything, Eric!” she growled, her face centimeters from his. “I just want everything done so I can move on. So I can go back to the simpler days with no papers to sign, no numbers to crunch, no licences to get. I want this nightmare to be finished so I can start planning my life with you. Because I want to go back to the place where it’s just you and me. You,” she jabbed her finger at his chest, “and me.”
His stance slackened along with his jaw as he backed away a few inches from her. He straightened up, hovering over her then without a word dashed out of the room.
She was at the door when he returned, pushing a wheelchair in.
She opened her mouth, eyes dark with fury.
“Get in,” he ordered, positioning the chair in front of her.
She blinked a few times, eyeing the wheelchair. “What?”
“What’s your game? Where’re you taking me?”
“There’s no game. We’re not leaving the hospital. Now stop arguing with me and just get the fuck in.”
“I can walk.”
“I’m not gambling it. So unless you want me to throw you over my shoulder, you’d take the chair.”
Her lips thinned but probably discerned that he wasn’t kidding about hauling her ass and carrying her like a sack of rice across the hallway. So with a clenched jaw and arms defiantly crossed, she flopped in the chair.
He wheeled her into the elevator at the end of the hallway.
“Where’re we going?”
He offered no response as they got off at the third floor. He steered the wheel and backpedalled toward the quiet corridor that reeked of disinfectant.
Stopping a few feet from the double white swinging doors, he circled in front of her and hunkered down to level his gaze with hers.
He took a deep breath. “What you said back there, is that true? About wanting to start planning your life with me?”
“Why? Did I scare you?” she countered a little too defensively. Classic Sookie, refusing to show how terrified and alarmed she was.
“Then I thought I’d start by telling you how wonderful you are…”
Her lips quivered slightly as her eyes rounded with optimism.
“Then again that would be a lie.”
Her smile faltered.
“You’re not wonderful. Not at all. You’re more of an aberration. An oddity. You’re a hothead; you’re stubborn; you can be pretty devious; you have absolutely no filter and unlike most women I know, you’re not obsessed with shoes.”
She couldn’t help but laugh as she slapped his shoulder. “That’s because I have freakishly small feet. And I still buy my sneakers in the teen’s section.”
“I know, sweetheart,” he grinned warmly, catching her hand and kissing the back of it, before he started tracing figure eights on her palm. “And I love your freakishly small feet and your calloused hands and your mean glares and your awful, awful, singing voice.”
Poor girl, she must still think she had a chance of making it into showbiz.
He chuckled. “I love that you’re not perfect, Sookie, because I’ll have absolutely no chance with you if you are.”
“Oh honey, after everything we’ve been through, you’re still a dumbass,” she rasped, her free hand cradling the side of his cheek. “Of course you have a chance with me; I’d marry you for your money in a heartbeat.”
His laughter boomed at her obvious jest. “Damn! Here I thought I’m the one marrying up.”
She tittered and tapped his cheek lightly. “Shut up and just ask me already!”
He smirked at her impatience. “Alright, alright,” he droned, “full disclosure though, you won’t get a ring because I’ve already sold it.”
Her eyes widened. “You what?!”
He bit the insides of his cheeks to keep from grinning. “I had it auctioned. Don’t get me wrong, the ring was yours but it wasn’t really you.”
The small line between her brows deepened as she picked him apart.
“I don’t want to give you a piece of jewellery to remind you who you belong to because, who am I kidding, you, Sookie Stackhouse, do not belong to anyone but yourself. I’ve learned that the hard way.”
Her face softened at once.
“So I’m giving you this instead.” He rose to his full height and slowly whisked the wheelchair around. “Look up,” he said while nudging his head to the sign above the double swinging doors.
Adele Stackhouse Cardiac Foundation
“Oh God!” was all she managed to say before tears started moistening her cheeks.
He knelt in front of her.
“You told me your gran had a big heart and I’m afraid you have the same thing, sweetheart. So this is for you, so your big heart will have big home.”
“Eric…” she could barely choke out his name. “I – I-”
“You are a wild thing. You’re someone who got under my skin and never left. Now I’m furiously in love with you. And for reasons that are beyond me I find myself falling harder and harder everyday. So if you feel the same about me, even a tiniest bit, you will end my misery and say ‘yes, you handsome, incorrigible bastard, I will marry you’. Or just blink twice and I’ll take it from there.”
She laughed. And cried. And blinked – twice.
It probably took them a couple of hours or a couple of days, they couldn’t really tell, but they managed to strut back to the exam room to find Jason, Pam, Marco and Sam along with the diminutive Dr. Ludwig waiting for them. Oh and yes, Alcide was there too for reasons Eric couldn’t fathom.
“So?” Pam was the first to ask when they walked in hand in hand. “Did you do it? Did she say yes?”
Sookie blushed a furious red as she looked from Pam then back to him.
Eric simply smirked. “Come on, Pam. Be serious. In what universe can she say no to this?” He rubbed his chin in case they missed his point.
Sookie backhanded his chest a little too gruffly making everyone, including the hairy pole formerly known as Alcide, laughing.
“You cocky jerk!” Sookie shrieked with a reprimanding glower.
“Then I guess that makes you Mrs. Cocky Jerk,” he stated.
She couldn’t argue with that, now could she? So she just bit her lip and rolled her eyes.
His retort was rewarded with another ring of hearty laugh from the audience – excluding Alcide who looked positively constipated in the corner. He puffed up his chest feeling very smug indeed. The sensation did not last long, however, as Dr. Ludwig loudly cleared her throat reminding everyone in the overcrowded room that it was still her house.
“Okay fellas. Now that Mr. and Mrs. Cocky Jerk are here, let me direct you to the nearest exit. I need to talk to them alone.” Dr. Ludwig had been working for the Northmans ever since Eric had his first boo-boo, in short she was family. The kind no one wanted to carpool with during reunions.
Jason went up to Sookie and pulled her into a big bear hug before he gave Eric a hard pat on the back and whispered, “good luck, man.”
Eric didn’t have time to react to Jason’s odd congratulatory remark as Marco grabbed his face and gave him audible pecks on both cheeks. Fucking Italian. He felt something long and hard pressing against his breast pocket and he realized his friend had slipped him a Cuban cigar.
“Good call on the heart foundation, my friend. Because I’m sure you’ll be needing a new heart after you hear what’s in store for you.” Marco punctuated his peculiar remark with his boisterous laugh before he moved on to Sookie, who looked just as clueless as him. Did they miss something?
Pam simply winked at them while Sam gave them a two-finger salute. He didn’t know what happened to Alcide. He didn’t particularly care. Their friends (and Alcide) vanished and then there were only the three of them in the room.
Dr. Ludwig gestured for them to sit down on the exam bed. He took Sookie’s hand which got a lot colder and clammier in the past five minutes. Or was it his hand that was sweating profusely? Ah shit. And he thought he was done being nervous.
The doctor stared at them, obviously enjoying watching them sweat before she pushed her black framed glasses to her nose and said, “I think you should both start thinking of child-proofing your hotels.”