Because it’s been awhile… let me catch you up. Eric found out Miriam was in on Felipe’s scheme and returned to the farmhouse to talk to Sookie. Sookie also told Eric about the night Jason lost his leg. After realizing that they both liked each other, Eric and Sookie went on an official date in a cabin by the lake.
Here’s what happened next…
Sookie expected a man cave and instead got the house that Hello Kitty built.
The pink flower-dotted curtains hanging loosely by the windows made her blink twice. A couple of wingback chairs with the same floral pattern in pink and white hues made her clap her hand over her mouth just to stop herself from giggling. The small round table in the middle of the matching chairs were adorned with bright yellow crochet doilies and the TV rack facing the chairs was draped with a larger piece of white crochet doily. On top of the rack were a 32-inch flat television and a compact DVD player. Sookie marched closer to inspect the collection of DVDs beside the player. It didn’t surprise her to find Notting Hill, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Pretty Woman among the titles, knowing what a big Julia Roberts’ fan Jessica was.
“Oh dear Lord,” she breathed. This looked more like a teenage girl’s dream house than a grown man’s refuge. And she had feeling she had barely scratched the surface.
“Hoyt wanted Jessica to feel at home,” Eric said, half-apology, half-excuse.
“I can see that,” Sookie quipped.
Sookie whipped her head around to study the rest of the house. At the opposite end of the room was a small kitchen separated by a long wooden breakfast counter. The tiny fridge perched on top of a makeshift rack, sitting next to the old sink was a nice addition to the kitschy kitchen. There was a gas stove but no convection oven. Well, that would have been too much. The rest were bare necessities — a couple of pots, pans, cast iron skillet (no Southerner worth her salt would have a kitchen without a perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet) plates, utensils, mugs and knives.
“Where’s the electricity comin’ from?” she asked, awestruck at the sheer number of electronic appliances in the cabin.
“There’s a generator out back. There’s also a back-up in case the other one runs out of gas.”
Sookie sat on one of the two high stools at the breakfast bar and snickered as she picked up the pink Hello Kitty two-slice toaster in front of her.
“Wait till you see the bedroom,” Eric commented, setting the brown paper bag on top of the counter. “I hope you like pink.”
Sookie couldn’t help but flush at the mention of the bedroom. Their living arrangement back in the farmhouse was easier to work out because they didn’t have to share a room. But here… this could get a little tricky.
“From one to ten, how hungry are you?” Eric quickly digressed, sensing her unease.
She looked up and made a show of pressing her stomach. “Three and a half,” she answered. Although she hadn’t eaten anything yet, food was the last thing on her mind.
“Okay. I still have time to hit the shower before I start with lunch,” he said, peeling the strap of his bag off his shoulder.
“You’re cookin’?” she asked incredulously.
“I sure am. Have you had Swedish meatballs before?”
Her cheeks burned furiously. The innuendo wasn’t lost on her. She looked away and went back to studying the pink toaster. She didn’t trust herself not to melt under his gaze. “I… uh… I had meatballs before.”
Eric, ever the opportunist, seized his chance to make her redden even harder as he inched closer to her, leaning against the bar, stretching languidly like a cat on the prowl. “But not Swedish meatballs, yes?” he purred.
“Is there a difference?” she drawled, feeling equally impish. “All balls are the same.”
He tsked, wagging his finger in front of her. “That’s where you’re wrong, lover. Not to toot my own horn but my meatballs are known to have quite an effect.”
It was a Herculean effort to keep a straight face as she murmured, “Do you understand the concept of tootin’ your own horn? Because I think you did just that. Next time maybe you should leave the tootin’ to me.”
He beamed at her and bit his lower lip, seemingly restraining himself. One, two heartbeats later he sighed, straightened his stance, gave her forehead a quick peck and dashed to the bathroom next to the kitchen.
Sookie finally let herself smile, touching the spot where Eric had kissed her and closed her eyes. When she regained her bearings, she hopped off the stool and dug inside the grocery bag.
She found two packs of beef — ribeye and minced – and a bottle of Merlot. Iron enhancers, she thought to herself. She also discovered a pack of pre-washed salad greens, raw baby potatoes and carrots, eggs and of course, a carton of OJ.
She put the meat in the fridge along with the wine, juice and eggs. She deliberated about starting to prep the veggies but decided against it. This was Eric’s rodeo, she reminded herself.
After clearing the counter, she took her phone out of her purse and checked for cell reception. It was spotty at best, which wasn’t much of a surprise considering their remote location. She fired a quick text to her brother.
‘Sorry for lashing out on you. Hope we can move past this. For now, I think it’s best if we take some time apart. I like him, Jase, that won’t change. I’m at Hoyt’s cabin with Eric. Don’t wait up for me. If you care for me you’d respect my decision.’
She thrust her cell back in her bag and hoped Jason was big enough a man to grant her the space she had asked for.
She could hear the splashing of water from the bathroom. Feeling a little adventurous, she walked inside what she suspected to be the bedroom. If she hadn’t realized it before, she had now: Hoyt was in love with Jessica.
The bedroom had a strong scent of vanilla, Jessica’s signature fragrance. Like Sookie, Jessica was a baker. On her first day at Merlotte’s she brought homemade brownies for the gang. Everywhere she looked, there was a piece of Jess. The pink bedspread dotted with purple flowers, the vanilla scented candle on the nightstand beside the lavender hand cream. Even on the walls, where a poster of a younger, country-version of Taylor Swift and a hunkier Tim McGraw were taped side-by-side.
Hoyt must have his name on the deed, but this was definitely Jessica’s home. Surrendering one’s place to cater to someone’s whim was true love right there.
Sookie sighed. If only she could find someone who would love her the same way Hoyt loved Jess.
She didn’t dare check the small wooden closet and the drawers. Her friends deserved a modicum of privacy.
She plopped on the edge of the bed, which sagged and creaked under her weight, and noticed a couple of framed photos on the nightstand. One was a close-up of the couple, grinning from ear to ear, making Sookie smile to herself. She picked up the other one and chuckled.
“What’s so funny?” Eric asked, marching inside while dragging his fingers through his wet hair.
Sookie jumped at his sudden arrival. Amid her snooping, she had lost track of everything else. She set the frame back to its former place and shrugged. “Nothin’, just a trip down memory lane,” she said nonchalantly as she rose from the bed.
A freshly showered Eric in a room with a mattress was a disaster waiting to happen.
Eric, wearing a pair of unfamiliar denim pants and gray shirt, strode over to her and snatched the picture frame from its cradle.
“Whoa! Is this you?”
Of course, in a photo with a dozen faces he’d find hers first.
“Yeah,” she exhaled, fixing her gaze to the picture. “That was last year’s Fourth of July party at Merlotte’s. That’s Jason right there standin’ between Hoyt and Sam. There’s Terry and Lafayette at the back. You remember Arlene, Dawn and Maudette? And that right there is Jess.” She pointed at each of the faces, deliberately avoiding hers. “Sam sure knew how to get people together.” Her voice cracked.
The thought of Merlotte’s closing its doors for good was making her eyes water. She blinked back her tears as she peered at Eric, hoping he hadn’t noticed.
“Yeah, he sure did,” Eric agreed, staring solemnly at the image.
Eric navigated the tiny kitchen like a pro. He was a revelation. Like watching an artist paint by numbers. Everything was done with surgical precision as though there was an invisible recipe he was following. Step by step he went, from chopping the vegetables to rolling the meat into perfect tiny balls. He barely even made small talk. She had seen him like this before — the night he called his friend in New York after their talk at the porch.
Eric with a purpose. Eric with a plan. Perhaps this was how Eric worked back in New York.
Perhaps this was what drove Sylvie away.
She shook off the notion as quickly as it came. No Sylvie today. Today, in this cabin, there was only Sookie and Eric. She’d worry about Sylvie tomorrow.
“Would you like some wine?” he asked, snapping her out of her thoughts.
“Sure.” She smiled.
Eric poured her a glass of chilled Merlot in a coffee mug. “We don’t have stemmed glass,” he said apologetically. “At least it’s not a red solo.” He winked as he clinked his mug against hers and brought it to his lips.
Sookie was about to take a sip when her hand stopped mid-air. “Hey! You’re not s’pposed to drink alcohol while you’re on meds.”
“I’m almost done with my antibiotics. ‘Sides I’m all better now,” he said smugly, tugging the hem of his shirt to expose his stitches. “I don’t even need to dress it anymore, see?”
Sookie pushed herself off the chair and leaned forward on the breakfast counter to inspect his wound, which seemed to have closed up, the thread from the stitches were barely visible.
“It’s actually itchy.”
She pulled his shirt down as she sat back. The sight of his ripped abs was making her all hot and bothered.
“Itchin’ is good. But you shouldn’t push it, buddy. After this round, you’re officially cut off,” she chastised him.
Eric set down his mug and gave her a one-shoulder shrug. “Might as well. I can’t get drunk anyway, you might take advantage of me.”
Sookie narrowed her eyes and hurled a withered piece of arugula at him. He caught it with ease and popped it in his mouth, smirking.
Half an hour later, lunch was served. Five pieces of golden brown meatballs on a bed of gravy with pan-fried potatoes and carrots. Sookie’s stomach growled at the smell wafting off her plate. She didn’t bother to slice the ball in half before she forked it in her mouth. It was so damned delicious. It was hard to keep her eyes open while restraining herself from smacking her lips.
Eric watched her closely as she chomped the meat down. “So? What’s the verdict?”
She couldn’t lie. She gave him a thumb’s up, bobbing her head in case he missed the stamp of approval.
Eric beamed, biting his lip. “See. Told you I can cook.”
“You sure can,” she quipped as she stuck her fork into another meatball. “You’d make a fine Southern wife.”
Eric hooted with glee as he moved the other stool beside hers and sat down, their elbows grazing as they ate. “So, how’s our date so far?” he asked.
“Not bad. Still too early to tell though, you might still pull something incredibly stupid later,” Sookie said, swirling her meatball in a bed of gravy.
“Take it easy with the compliments you might hurt yourself,” Eric countered.
The silence that followed was amazingly comforting as they stuffed themselves. This felt so domestic, so idyllic. It reminded her of dinner at home when her parents were still alive. How her mom and dad would sit side by side at the table. There was never a need for idle conversations. Their mere presence was enough.
Eric finished his meal first. He twisted sideway in his chair to face her, swirling the wine mug in his hand. She could feel his eyes following her every movement. She felt immediately self-conscious.
“What?” She whirled her head toward him.
He shook his head smiling as his hand waved her off. “Please, keep doing what you’re doing, don’t mind me. I’m just having my dessert.”
She flushed immediately. “You’re really layin’ it on thick, huh.”
“I warned you, didn’t I?”
They talked for what seemed like hours. Nothing heavy, mostly trivial. She told him stories about Jason and all his misadventures in dating before he met Crystal. They gossiped about Tara and Sam and the night she accidentally overheard Tara moan Sam’s name in the trailer. She shuddered at the memory while Eric chuckled.
“I never — in my wildest dreams –thought they’d hook up. Well, I never thought Hoyt and Jess would either.”
“Why not?” he asked, casually tracing the lines on her palm.
She shrugged, raising her cup to her lips with her free hand. “Jason and Jess had a fling. It was brief and casual. Turned out Hoyt had always had a thing for Jess but he kept it to himself because of Jason. But when Jase and Jess broke up, Hoyt couldn’t keep it in anymore and decided to make his move. Jase was pissed. A week after Gran died, Jase and Hoyt had a huge fight. I’d never seen my brother so livid. He even insisted that we move away. It was crazy. Hoyt wanted to make peace, even his mom tried to talk to Jason but my brother was inconsolable. Stubborn as fuck.”
“So it runs in the blood,” Eric chimed in.
She rolled her eyes at him.
“When did they reconcile?”
“A few months ago,” she replied. “I don’t really know how it happened. Just came home one night and found a note sayin’ he and Hoyt are goin’ hunting. They were gone for a couple of days and when they came back it was as if they hadn’t fought.”
“All because they were in love with the same woman?”
“I suppose,” she said with another shrug. “Guess some women are worth fight for.”
Eric threaded his fingers with hers and kissed the back of her hand. “I know.”
He gave her a look that made her heart flutter while praying to God that he meant her.
Eric also shared anecdotes of Godric and his outrageous hobby. How they almost got incarcerated for espionage in Beijing in his brother’s quest to procure a first edition Mao Zedong’s Little Red Book.
“We had to phone a friend who worked for the CIA to bail us out,” he added, chortling.
Sookie insisted to do the dishes but Eric would have none of it. She sat by the counter, mug in hand, and watched with utter amusement as Eric figured out the intricacies involved in dish washing.
She couldn’t help it. She snuck up beside him and said, “Need a hand?”
“No,” he snapped, suds flying everywhere as he squeezed his soapy sponge. “I could use a back rub though.” He punctuated it with a flirty waggle of his eyebrows.
She rolled her eyes at him. He peeled his gaze away from her and dipped his hands back in the sink. She snaked her arms around his middle — carefully avoiding his injury—and pressed her head against his broad back.
He stilled for a moment. Then she felt him relax beneath her grip. “That works too,” he murmured.
She smiled as she listened to his heartbeat.
“If you’re looking for my nipples you’re way off,” he joked.
She pinched him. “You’re a perv,” she retaliated. His body shook as he laughed.
“A little to the north,” he said, never letting up.
“Don’t you have an off switch?”
“Not with you, no.”
She grinned broadly as she tightened her arms around him.
“Thank you,” she hushed. “For this. For everything.”
His heartbeat thumped a little louder. “You’re not planning to dine and dash, are you?”
“I’m not goin’ anywhere.”
“Thank God. Because I don’t think I have enough machismo to survive in this house.”
She giggled. “I’m glad you brought me here.”
“I’m glad you decided to stay. I was afraid you’d be disappointed.”
“Are you kiddin’? I’ve had the best meal I’ve had in years and I didn’t even need to do the dishes.”
He snickered. “If I had known you’d be this easy to please I would’ve offered to do the dishes a lot sooner.”
“If you had I would’ve told you I love you a lot sooner.”
The words slipped out of her tongue before she could stop them.
They both stiffened. The sharp clang of a plate crashing against the other plates made her jump. Her arms went limp at the same instant Eric whipped his body toward her.
“What did you say?” he asked, his intense blue eyes pinning her.
She stared at his sudsy hands before she glanced behind him to inspect the dishes in the sink. “Did you hurt yourself?”
Eric ignored her query as he grabbed both sides of her face, forcing her to look at him. “What did you say?” he repeated his question, enunciating each word.
“Eric, you’re getting me all soapy!” she squealed.
Eric only stared at her with the earnestness that made her knees go weak.
She sighed, her resistance sapped away. “I love you, Eric.”
His chest rose as he let out a breath. “Say it one more time.”
She bit her lip to suppress a smile before she said. “I love you.”
He didn’t even try to hold back his own grin before he grabbed her by the waist and hoisted her up to the breakfast bar. Her face was moist with soapy water and so was her dress but she couldn’t seem to care as she giggled childishly.
He cupped her cheeks and flashed her a smile that could power the sun. “I love you, Sookie Stackhouse. So much. So damned much.”
This time it was her who had to dip her head to capture his lips.
A/N: I don’t own TB.
So sorry for the delay. RL got in the way and the muse strayed to different directions. Directions, yes. Aside from the advent story I’ve written for Fangbangers Anonymous, I’ve also started writing a different fic. It’s a little like Dead Man’s Hand, set in Vegas with Sookie trying to hustle Eric. All the lovely reviews I’ve gotten for DMH had inspired me to write something along that line, but of course, different in many ways. Don’t worry, I won’t begin posting that until I’m absolutely done with the draft to avoid making the same mistake of leaving it hanging for so long like I did for my other WIPs. There’re two more chapters that had been betaed by the lovely MsStitcher for FH and I will try to post them as soon as I edit them. As for Slaying Dragons, the muse had taken quite a hiatus for that one so please bear with me — so many voices in my head and only two typing hands.
So there, mindless rumbling over.
Thank you for continuing to support this story despite my long absence. Reviews are love.
Also to my rocking beta, MsStitcher, who keeps me sane when the going gets rough.
I’d also like to give a shout out to everyone who PM’ed me just to let me know they’re still around and waiting patiently. I love you guys, you know who you are!