He was going to burn in hell for this.
It was a plan doomed to backfire but his other options were simply unacceptable. He just had to see her.
Two weeks. Fourteen fucking days. If he had to spend another day thinking of her with him, he would have a psychotic break.
So on the 13th day, he jumped on a plane and flew to the one place he had sworn never to set foot in.
He had been driving around the block for a couple of hours, trying to come up with a plausible excuse for his unexpected – and without a doubt, unwelcome – presence.
Maybe he could say he was there to support the family but even the Corleones wouldn’t buy that.
He could say he was in town for business. That was half true considering he was going to meet Alcide the next day. However, that explanation would lead to a hundred more questions. Questions he could never answer without revealing his scheme to take down the witch.
He was tempted to put on a Jack Nicholson but he doubted any of them could handle the truth. If only he could tell them that he was there for her. Would that be so bad?
The answer would be yes. It would be beyond obscene. And he was going to burn in hell for sure.
Two weeks ago…
“You can’t stay with him out of pity!” Pam exclaimed, springing off her high stool. “Tell her, Eric!”
He couldn’t think of a single word to say. His brain was in overdrive thinking who the fuck did he piss off monumentally to deserve this kind of punishment. She was going to leave him. Was it only ten minutes ago when he was bragging to Pam that they were going to New-fucking-York?
His injured hands trembled, itching to drive a hole into a dry wall.
He straightened his back and fixed his eyes on her. That was his first mistake. Because the moment their gazes locked he knew he’d give her anything she would ask for. And right now, she was looking for an ally. Begging for someone to understand.
He slid off his stool with a sigh. “Give us a moment, Pam,” he said in a tone of cold command.
Pam pursed her lips, crossed her arms and stomped out of the kitchen, shooting her sister a don’t-be-stupid look.
He marched toward the door, brushing past Sookie as he pushed the door shut behind Pam.
Sookie was wringing her hands when she turned to him. “Eric -”
He never let her voice out another word before he grabbed the back of her neck and dipped his head to seize her lips. He knew he wouldn’t be able to stop her. He could try; hell, she might even agree but he was certain she would hate herself for it. In her mind, the right thing to do would be to go to Dallas. To stand by Compton while he dealt with the tragedy.
It was killing him. And there was nothing he could do about it.
So he did the only thing he could do: He kissed her. By god he would kiss her while he still could.
She gasped when he bit her lip. He was enraged and frustrated and terribly conflicted. The idea of her with Compton was making him physically sick. He clenched his eyes shut to banish the images at once. A strained growl erupted from him before his tongue pierced her mouth. She wrapped her arms around his waist, pressing herself flush against him.
He could taste the salt from her tears rolling off her cheeks as he kissed her like only he could. Like only an insatiable and someone as pissed as hell could.
Then, without so much as a warning, he pulled away, leaving her panting, almost breathless as his forehead pressed against hers.
“Do what you have to do,” he rasped, sweeping the pad of his thumb under her eyes.
She nodded, obedient for once. “Will you wait for me?”
“What the hell do you think I was doing all these years?”
If he weren’t looking solely at her he would have noticed his father stiffening at the very sight of him. He would have heard Michelle’s audible gasp from across the room. He would have winced at the burning intensity of Bill’s glare directed at him.
He didn’t get to register any those reactions, all he saw was the heaving of her chest when her breath caught. The loosening of her fingers tangled with her husband’s. The slight parting of her lips as she sucked in a pocket of air needed to breathe out one word.
He could be wrong but it sounded like a sigh of utter relief.
“Eric!” Compton’s sharp voice cut through the air as Eric approached the couple.
It was a conscious effort to pry his gaze off her to address his host.
“Bill.” Eric nodded stiffly. “I’m sorry for your loss.” He was truly sorry. Because Compton’s loss was also his loss.
Compton’s lips thinned before he flashed a badly disguised leer, “Thank you. My wife and I appreciate it.” He saw her eye twitch at the appellation.
Eric couldn’t believe the sheer amount of self-control he had to use to ignore Compton’s attempt to get a rise out of him. He had to remind himself that he was there to see her. And if playing nice with the weasel could buy him a few hours with her, then so be it.
Before Eric could offer another banal response, Godric and Michelle dashed hand in hand behind Compton.
“Eric,” Godric called out. He could feel the nervous energy rippling from his father. “You should have told us you were also coming. We could have caught the same flight. Is Pam with you?”
“She couldn’t make it. The baby can’t travel yet and they couldn’t leave him behind. She sent her sympathies though.”
“Appreciate it,” Bill murmured seemingly by rote, while making a grand effort to capture her hand.
Eric’s jaw tightened at the gesture.
The silence that followed was ominous as they fell into an uncomfortable impasse.
Bill might be a fucktarded weasel and he might be a smug bastard. But they were both adults and they were both aware how to act when other people were watching.
Michelle was the first to blink. Sookie’s mother could never pass for a spy. She would easily crack under the strain.
“Bill,” Michelle whispered softly, “maybe you should start mingling. Your guests are getting antsy.”
Compton tipped his head in assent to Michelle. He turned his attention back to him, gripping the side of her waist tightly. There was no denying the palpable tension between the three. It was almost theatrical. With a final stabbing glare, Compton and Sookie exited left.
Eric watched her fidget uneasily beside Compton on the silk-covered couch while guests after guests took turns sharing fond recollections of the deceased.
This isn’t hell. At least not yet. Purgatory, maybe.
He found himself a quiet nook near the narrow hallway overlooking the living room at one end and the dining hall at the other. From his angle he could watch her closely and no one would suspect he was looking at her and not at the grieving son. Every once in a while he would bob his head to address familiar faces he recognized from all those summers he spent in Bel-Air with Lilith.
His father and Michelle tried to catch him but he managed to successfully avoid them. He was in no mood to be chastised for crashing a funeral. He didn’t mind playing the callous villain. He was done being the willing victim.
Every move Compton made was derogatory. Like dragging a blade across his chest, making shallow cuts. But the thing with shallow cuts, they could be painfully annoying. And watching Bill flaunt her was sickening. How Compton would wrap his arm around her showing her off like a circus freak. How he would lean in to whisper in her ear. How he would throw a sidelong glance at Eric before he would reach out to pinch her shoulder, graze her thigh, brush her cheek.
Bill Compton was that kind of an asshole. But if he so much as try to kiss her, he would find out just what kind of an asshole Eric Northman could be.
Fortunately for everyone, she seemingly reached her quota of smarm as she peeled herself out of the weasel’s vice-like grips and strolled into the massive kitchen beside the dining hall.
He bit his inner cheek to keep from grinning as he counted mentally to ten before he furtively slithered away from his spot and followed her.
Her back was turned to him as she exchanged mundane chitchat with one of the caterers, an olive-skinned Hispanic guy in his thirties. She was helping him arrange an assortment of hors d’oeuvres on the tray to be taken out to the family room.
He moved behind her swiftly and quietly before he stretched his arm to reach for a skewer of cherry tomato and mozzarella ball from one of the trays. His arm brushed against hers and she instantly froze, making her drop a devilled egg on the tabletop with a splat.
He bit back a chuckle as he mumbled, “sorry,” his chin almost grazing the top of her head.
She whipped to face him, her cheeks bright red. The server turned away from them to fumble for the napkin roll by the sink to wipe the mess off the table.
Her lower lip quivered, fighting off a smile. Goddamn.
The caterer, who just couldn’t take a fucking hint, circled to their side with a paper towel and started dabbing the tabletop clean.
“Lemme do that Jesus,” Sookie blurted, snapping out of her trance. “It’s my fault. I’m so clumsy.” She gave the guy one of her apologetic smirk and the man in a white uniform beamed back at her while still insisting on tidying up. Apparently, Eric wasn’t the only one defenseless against the power of Sookie’s self-deprecating smile.
He must be the fucking devil for seriously contemplating bribing a man named Jesus to make himself scarce.
Sookie cleared her throat, thanked the waiter again then looked up at him. “How was your flight?” she asked, eyeing the other guy cautiously.
“Turbulent,” Eric replied without a pause. Fourteen fucking days and here she was standing so close to him that he could practically smell the lilacs in her hair.
Her throat moved as she swallowed hard.
“Sorry about that. But still, I— Bill –uhm-we appreciate you coming here,” she said haltingly. Their audience was obviously making her nervous.
“Pam misses you.”
She stilled as she homed in on him. She knew exactly what – or who – he meant.
“I miss her too. So much.”
“She wants you to come home. She was losing her mind. She’s fucking hopeless like that.”
Her eyes glazed. “I will,” she choked, “soon.”
He saw her hands fist at the side. Together they lapsed into silence. She was restraining herself from touching him. And so was he. This must be what impotence felt like.
Give me a fucking break!
Sookie snapped her head to the direction of the door, startled. Unlike her, Eric didn’t budge. He already knew what weasels looked like up close.
Compton strode toward them then hooked his arm around her middle. It was like Bill was genetically programmed to torment Eric. And damn if it wasn’t working.
“Some of the guests are leaving, dear. They wanted to thank you for being the perfect hostess.” Bill turned to him. “Eric, do you mind if I take my wife away?” He could almost hear the italicization of the label.
“Sure,” he shrugged. “I’m leaving anyway,” he forced himself to sound casual.
His chest tightened when she peered up at him, seemingly appalled by the announcement of his departure. He would have liked to stay but he was afraid a third urn might find its way onto the top of the Compton’s mantle if he did.
“Can you find your way out?” Bill drawled dryly.
Eric sighed before his lips tugged into a sarcastic lopsided smirk. “I’ll yell if I get lost.”
Before Compton could react, Eric leaned in to put a chaste kiss on her cheek. He was only expressing his gratitude to the perfect hostess. No harm with that, right?
The scowl on Compton’s face said otherwise.
“Are you sure?” he asked Alcide while he traced the figure-eight loop of the manila envelope his childhood friend slid next to his Bud light on top of the scratched wooden bar.
They had decided to meet at a low key pub in downtown Los Angeles the day after the memorial service. There were only a handful of patrons in the bar. It was a little over three in the afternoon. Off-peak hour. Way too early for the happy hour, which naturally gave them the privacy they needed.
Alcide kept his eyes glued to the widescreen TV on the wall, which was showing a rerun of classic baseball match-ups.
Alcide bobbed his head. “It’s all there. The phone bills and the number of the escort service he uses. I’ve managed to get a hold of one of his favorites. The transcript of the interview is included in the initial report. Read with caution, man. It’s very unsettling.” Alcide nearly shivered, which made Eric all the more curious. “He’s very finicky, though. And he covers his tracks well. He pays ’em in cash to avoid money trail. So if we really want to nail him, we’ll have to catch him in the act.”
Eric lifted his beer to take a sip. “Let’s set up trap then.”
“We’ll have to wait for him to return from his trip to Ibiza. It seems he’s taking his wife there every year for their anniversary. He won’t be back until next week.”
Eric let out a grunt. Fantastic. He had to wait, again.
“How ’bout her? Did you manage to get any dirt on her?”
Alcide shook his head. “The Cat handles all her dealings. If he’s careful with his personal affairs, he’s operating with utmost paranoia when it came to hiding hers. Bottom line is: she picked the right hatchet man.”
Eric downed his beer and ordered one more. He would need at least two more to get any sleep tonight.
“Now are you going to tell me what that asshat had done to Sookie?”
Eric cast a sideway glance at his old buddy who finally sheared his unruly black hair. “What makes you think it had something to do with her?”
Alcide rolled his eyes and snorted. “C’mon, Eric. Everyone knows she’s the only one who can summon the psycho in you.”
Eric huffed but never said a word to contradict the statement.
“I was actually surprised you didn’t ask me to spy on Compton.”
“I have a different brand of justice for him,” Eric replied grimly.
“Weren’t you like BFFs before? Boy, you sure know how to pick your pals,” Alcide grumbled. “Remember when we were friends? And then I moved to DC and you made a move on my girl?”
Eric threw a pointed look at Alcide then sniggered. “Your girl? When you had your haircut, did your barber accidently slice a chunk of your brain too? Let me refresh your memory by reintroducing you to Chuck,” he fisted his left hand and held it up, followed by his right fist, “and Norris.”
Their epic fight which ended with an epic draw when Sookie caught them was the first and the last. Alcide came back to DC the day after and they never talked about it again. Alcide never made another attempt of rekindling old flame with Sookie, and Eric took that as a win for Team Northman.
Alcide made a face as he took a long swig of his beer. “For your information, jackass, you didn’t scare me off. She did.”
Eric’s eyebrow cocked.
“She told me that the next time I engage you in a pissing contest, she’d tweeze out all the hair off my body,” Alcide relayed, chuckling grudgingly. “Well, look at me. I have hair everywhere so naturally I fuckin’ caved.”
There was a gurgling noise followed by a low wheezing sound as Eric coughed. Beer went down the wrong pipe.
Alcide laughed out loud, taking a small comfort from his misery. Eric joined in when his coughing tapered off.
“That girl is scary as fuck when she’s mad,” Alcide muttered. “And you are one lucky sonofabitch.”
Eric smirked. There was no arguing with the truth.