“If I had tried a little harder, none of this would have happened. Y’see, all along I thought Bill was the neutered wimp who found a way to slither into your life when I was the wimp,” he hushed, sliding closer. “I was the asshole who let you suffer alone. Now I envy him. I envy that fucking bastard who gets to hold your hand without the fear of you pulling away. He gets to kiss you without it being wrong. He doesn’t have to pretend he doesn’t love you and that he’s losing his mind every second you’re away. He doesn’t die a little bit everyday every time he sees you smile at someone else but him.”
She looked away quickly. But she wasn’t quick enough. He still saw the dampness that made her lower lashes stick together like spearheads. She straightened up, hurriedly gathered the letters from her lap and put them back inside the shoe box before she closed it. She placed the box on his lap as she slid gingerly from him, putting as much distance as the sofa could allow.
He tried to reach for her but she backed away and shook her head. What the hell. Did he miss something? He didn’t have the chance to ask as she sprang out of the couch and went straight to the door.
“You should leave,” she whispered, her eyes to the floor, her hand at the brass handle.
His brows knotted in confusion. What the fuck did he do? So much for being so damned honest. Maybe next time he should just lie.
She pulled the door open while still dodging his gaze. Without taking his eyes off her he peeled himself from the sofa and advanced in front of her. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t have to. He decided to let his scathing glare do the talking this time.
“You should leave, Eric.” Her tone was as feeble as her command.
“No.” He stepped closer. His bandaged hand nudged the door shut.
“Dammit Eric! You can’t do this!” she gritted, finally looking up to meet his eyes. “You can’t say things like that to married women and -”
“Not women. Just one. Just you.”
“Like that!” she jabbed her finger to his chest. “Stop saying things like that! Things are different now. I’m married. I gave my word to Bill. Please, Eric. Don’t make a liar out of me.”
“Then stop lying!” he growled, his body pressing against hers making her backpedal to the door. “Tell me you don’t love me. Tell me I’m only deluding myself. Tell me that Bill can make you happier.”
He could feel her breath grazing his cheeks and he realized that in the middle of his outburst he managed to trap her against the door, his face only a couple of inches from hers.
“Tell me,” he breathed. “Tell me, Sookie and I’m gone. I’ll leave your house. I’ll leave Seattle. I’ll even leave the country so you can go and enjoy marital bliss with your fucking husband.”
She pursed her lips, her chin up with quiet dignity. He wished for the times when she would shamelessly weep and turn into a trembling mess, letting him see her imperfections. The fragility she never showed anyone else but him.
Seven years ago…
Soft knocks jolted him out of bed and he knew immediately it was her. He checked the time on the digital clock by his bedside table. 1:09 AM.
Hmm…What did I ever do to warrant a booty call?
“Hey,” was his sultry greeting. “Before we begin, you have to know I charge by the hour. Extra for -”
He never got to finish his sentence when she flung her arms around him. Her face buried in the crook of his neck as he felt something moist and warm trickle down his bare chest. He could be a self-absorbed asshole sometimes.
“Hey, hey,” he shushed, running his hand on her back while dipping his nose in her hair. He pulled her inside as he kneed the door close behind them.
He led her to his bed as she wept like child.
“Pam,” she sobbed, tears and snot mingling together and she brushed them furiously away. “She’s using. Mom found a stash of heroin behind the shelves. How can I miss that? What kind of sister am I?”
He shushed her with his thumb brushing the pad of her lower lip. “This isn’t your fault.” She pinched her eyes shut and shook her head in disagreement. “Where is she?”
“In withdrawal, puking her guts out,” she answered weakly. “Mom wants to send her to Louisiana. I don’t want that, Eric. I don’t.”
“She needs help.”
“I know. But if she leaves now, everyone will find out. She’s only sixteen, Eric. If the school finds out she’ll be expelled.”
Eric contemplated for a moment as he studied her closely.
“My dad knows someone who can help Pam. He has a clinic in LA.”
He nodded yes. “My grandmother is one of his biggest donors. One word from Dad and they’ll keep everything hush-hush.”
Sookie went silent for a while.
“I have a cousin from Vancouver who also needed rehab when he got hooked in vicodin. His stint was off the books. My grandmother’s like the freaking godfather in California. Trust me. It’ll work. I’ll talk to Dad, he’ll make it happen.”
“You’d do that for Pam?”
He shook his head. “I’d do that for you.”
He took her home and together they held vigil on the couch. The next morning, Godric, Michelle and Pam took the 18-hour drive to Los Angeles. Pam stayed in the rehab facility in San Diego for six weeks. Eric kept his word as Lilith made sure Pam’s record would be sealed from the public.
Hindsight was twenty-twenty. Pam would get the help she needed. And their parents would be able to spend quality time to get closer.
Who knew, it was that pivotal event that would alter their lives for-fucking-ever.
Three heartbeats passed until he could no longer take it. This was one hell of a vicious cycle. One he so desperately wanted to escape.
He could. He could be the bolter this time. He could leave her and give her a taste of her own poison.
His stance slackened as he backed away. Did she have to spell it out for him? Would he really be a fucking masochist as to wait for her to say the words?
Turning to the side he reached out for the door handle.
“I guess I have my answer,” he hushed as he pulled the door open and stepped outside, cool Autumn breeze embraced him like a cruel bitch.
He stiffened, pausing at the bottom step of the porch. He didn’t turn around, clinging to the last shred of his dignity. It was enraging how a simple whistle could make him go running like a whipped dog. She couldn’t do that. She wasn’t supposed to toy with him. He picked up his pace and thanked the deities of the suburbs that their neighbors were decent enough to judge their soap opera from behind the curtains.
“Eric!” He could hear the crunch of the gravel under her bare feet.
He was at the sidewalk when she caught up to him. She tugged at his elbow, urging him to stop and turn.
He shifted sideway, just enough for her to catch his glare. He knew her too well. He was certain the stubborn righteous girl in her would prohibit her from making a scene. Especially under the presumption that they were being gawked at by the neighbors.
“I haven’t given you an answer yet.”
“It wasn’t long division, Sookie. I already know what your answer will be.”
“So. What? You’re a psychic now?”
“I don’t need to be. I can read you quite clearly.”
“Oh yeah?” she challenged, letting go of his elbow. “Then read this,” she snapped before she draped her arms around his nape and tiptoed to latch onto his mouth. Nothing about the kiss was gentle or romantic. It was furious and uncouth. Sloppy even as their teeth clashed because of the lack of synchronicity.
He drew back, wide-eyed and gasping.
“Is that clear enough for you, Northman?”
“No,” he rasped, snaking his arm around her waist. “Try again.”
Her fingers got lost in his hair as he pushed his body against hers, all the while cursing the obstruction caused by his sling. She might have made the first move but he was quick to catch up. He bit her lower lip with all the restraint he could muster. He was ravenous and she was pliable. He wanted to kiss her slowly, savor every sensation but he couldn’t contain himself any longer. She tugged on his hair and that one feral action drove him insane. Fuck gentle. Fuck slow. He growled when her tongue clashed with his and he realized that after all these years, she could still make him act like a horny nerd.
“The neighbors are watching,” he mumbled against her lips.
“I don’t care,” she groused, pushing herself up even higher. “I’ll just charge them for the tickets tomorrow.”
With his arm clasped around her middle, he backpedalled to the house. He would never let go. Even with a sling on one arm and a questionable hand at the other he was certain he could fight anyone off who would try to take her away.
“I love you,” she murmured between ragged breaths when they reached the porch. They must have looked like a couple of lovesick morons. But damn if he cared.
“Say it again,” he ordered, his bandaged hand cradling the side of her face, keeping her in place.
“I love you,” she replied obediently, a smile dancing on her kiss-swollen lips.
“I love you.”
“I love you.”
“Damn right, you do.”
She slapped his arm playfully and he apologized with another kiss.
This time it was slow and languid. Probing but gentle. And he never wanted it to end.
They plopped on the couch without breaking contact. He forbade any interruption. Forever flew in mere minutes as he finally released her lips to nip on the flesh at the underside of her jaw. Her soft moans and whimpers were stronger than any aphrodisiac known to men as he felt his manhood throb inside his boxers.
Patience, my good man.
If he could have his way he’d make their first time – after three years –last a lifetime. But he doubted his stamina and his demanding cock would let him.
“Eric,” she whispered, tugging at the collar of his buttoned-down black shirt. He grunted a muffled “uh-huh” never wanting to separate his greedy lips from the creamy flesh of her neck.
She sucked in a breath when he started sucking on the hollow of her throat. “Wait,” she squealed. She held his face, pulling him up. “Wait.”
“What?” he asked out of breath.
“If we’re gonna do it, we have to do it right.”
“Okay. Not on the couch? Off to the bed then,” he deadpanned, although he had an inkling she meant something else.
She gave him a scolding glare but the mirth behind her eyes was unmissable.
“You won’t be a kept man.”
Damn straight, I won’t.
“I’ll talk to Bill. I don’t want to do this while I’m still married,” she whispered while her fingers stroke his cheeks. Fuck this woman and her deft fingers. It was like she was hypnotizing him. She straightened up pushing Eric to sit beside her.
“Fine,” he agreed. “Talk to that weasel. You can use my phone. He might still be sleeping though. But you can leave him a voicemail.”
She couldn’t help but chuckle as she smoothed out his tousled hair. “I may be a bitch, but not that kind of bitch.”
“You broke up with me through a voicemail,” he pointed out. The bitterness that laced his tone was deliberate.
Her face turned solemn. “I didn’t break up with you. We were never over.”
Hallelujah. An admission that wasn’t coerced.
She took a breath. “He’ll be here in a couple of days.”
He shook his head. “I can’t wait that long.”
She opened her mouth to protest but he silenced her with a look.
“We’ll fly to New York first thing today. We’ll talk to him together. All things aside, Bill and I have a history together. Maybe I can use that to our advantage. I’ll even offer him my share of the bar. He can sell it. He doesn’t have to come here anymore. He can go back to Los Angeles and start fresh. Who knows, maybe he can find someone else there. Maybe even the love of his pathetic life because there’s no way in hell I’m letting him have mine.”