I don’t get home from work until almost three. I hung out at the diner waiting for Jessica to get off work and then we went for a celebratory drink at a bar down the block. When I get in Eric is already sound asleep so I go to the bathroom to change clothes. I wash my face and brush my teeth, and then drink a big glass of water before getting into bed with Eric.
He’s lying on his side with a peaceful look on his face. I’m sure he’s been asleep for a while. Since I’ve been staying with him we’ve hung new, dark curtains to block the morning light out. I haven’t spent a night at home since before Eric was released from the hospital, but I’ve been checking in with my father every day. It’s crazy how comfortable I feel in Eric’s space like this. The truth is I don’t want to go back home. I like being here with Eric. I feel like I belong here.
I know it’s a mistake to let myself get hung up on my failed relationships and compare those situations to what I’ve got going with Eric. When I look at him I see someone who is so full of hope and excitement over our future. He’s got expectations, although I’m not really sure what they are. I know what I want. I’ve known for a long time.
Marriage, babies, a nice home, quiet Sundays, long walks around the neighborhood with the family dog, summer family vacations, long weekends in the country, baking cookies for the kids’ PTA bake sale… It all seems pretty normal. All of that sounds great, ideal even. I know it can’t all be postcard moments, but for Eric’s sake I hope there are lots of them. He’s seen way more than his share of trauma, anger, violence, grief and loneliness.
“I feel you looking at me,” Eric whispers randomly and it startles me.
“Sorry,” I apologize as his eyes open. “Go back to sleep. We’ll talk later.”
“What time is it?”
“Late. Or really early, depending how you look at it, but I had fun with Jess.”
“Good. You should hang out with your friends more. I’m sure you miss them.”
“Yeah, a little, but I like being here with you.”
“I know you do and I’m happy about it, but I think it’s time to get back to business as usual.”
“You know… hanging out with your friends, doing other things besides playing world’s best candy striper to me. I appreciate everything you’ve been doing for me but I need to start doing things for myself again,” he says. “I promise I won’t push myself too hard, but it’s driving me crazy feeling like a passenger in my own life.”
“It’ll be better soon enough.” I scooch over to kiss him, but when I try to pull away he doesn’t let me go.
In fact, Eric pulls me on top of him and it’s been a while since he’s kissed me like this so I don’t back off right away. I am careful with his stomach, though. He was stabbed in his lower abdomen and he’s lucky the knife didn’t get his kidney.
“Eric, wait,” I whisper against his lips when he starts to pull up my t-shirt.
“What for?” he asks and starts kissing down my neck.
“Your stomach. Are you sure you want to do this?” I want to, I really, reallydo but I don’t want him to strain himself.
“Absolutely.” Eric takes off my shirt and tosses it somewhere behind me.
Before I can protest further his lips and hands are on my chest. Everything feels good but my head just isn’t all in on it. I keep thinking about where my body is in proximity to his and even though I should be thinking about the fact that Eric is taking off my panties, my mind isn’t there. I’m distracted, and my lack of reaction to what Eric’s doing to me tips him off that I’m not right.
“Sookie, where are you?” Eric asks me.
“No, you’re not. What are you thinking about that’s got you someplace else?”
“That can’t be good if you look like that,” he smiles a little. “If you’re worried about me hurting myself I won’t. Just relax, Sookie.”
I’m being a little ridiculous, I know that. If he’s okay then I should be too. It’s probably not good that I’ve got this nervous mother thing, but watching Eric almost bleed to death in front of me… well, that was a game changer. Seeing someone you love so close to death has a way of changing a person. Being so close to dying woke Eric up and got him to see how much of life he’s been missing out on.
“You’re right. I’m sorry,” I say.
“Don’t be sorry. Be here,” he says and kisses my thigh.
“I’m here,” I promise.
“Are you sure?” he moves up my body until he can rub his hips against mine so I can feel how turned on he is. “Because I don’t want this to go to waste.”
I smile up at him and say, “Me either. I promise, I’m on board.”
His lips crash down on mine and the way he kisses me sweeps everything else out of my mind. I love that his kisses have the ability to do that to me. At any given moment I could be lost in thought and then he kisses me and he’s all that’s left in my head. I’ve kissed enough guys to know how rare that is.
He works his way back down my body and this time I’m all in. I discovered the good thing about hooking up with a virgin is his eagerness to learn how to please a woman, and Eric has been a very dedicated student. He takes direction well and applies everything I’ve told him. My fingers run through his hair and I look down at him as he kisses the inside of my thighs. He hums a little against my lower lips and it makes me tingle all over.
Eric licks up my slit and kisses and nibbles my lips before spreading them open with his thumbs. His eyes meet mine as his tongue flicks against my clit, and when my hips start to move, he grabs onto them to hold me still and his lips seal around the little bud. My eyes roll back into my head.
He knows exactly what he’s doing and he’s doing it very well, but I want him inside me so I tell him so. Eric lifts his head and surprises me by turning me over. He pulls me up on my hands and knees and gets up behind me.
“This way you won’t hurt my stomach,” he says into my ear and kisses my shoulder.
“Clever man,” I smile over my shoulder at him.
Eric enters me slowly and holds onto my hips as he thrusts. God, it feels good. One of my hands reaches back to hold his and the other clutches the sheets. He leans forward and kisses my back a few times. The advantages of having such a tall boyfriend really pay off here. I turn my head and his lips meet mine.
I push back against him to meet his thrusts and Eric pulls me up so we’re both just on our knees. He brings me back with him so I’m sitting on his thighs. My head stays turned to keep kissing him, but his hands move from my hips up my sides to my chest. His hips thrust a little harder and his kisses move down my neck. They’re wet and passionate, and his fingertips play with my nipples. I guide one of his hands down my stomach to my clit, and the slow circles he rubs there make me moan.
“Harder, babe,” I moan, feeling the tension building.
This is what’s been missing between us for the last few weeks and I’m so happy it’s back.
Eric moves faster and his lips find mine again. It doesn’t take much more before I’m right on the edge. We straighten up a little and I spread my knees a little wider to give him better access. He grabs my hips and pounds into me while I reach up to grab the back of his neck to keep him close to me.
“Eric, I’m so…” I don’t get the last word out before the tension explodes and I cry out.
He follows right after me, clutching tightly to my chest. Eric kisses up my neck to my ear and says, “I needed that.”
“Yeah, me too,” I smile and turn my head to kiss him.
Eric isn’t back at one hundred percent yet, but this brings us one step closer.
I stare at the college application and then sign the bottom of it. This is the third and final application I’m sending out. One of these schools has to take me. I was an honor student in high school and it’s true that I’ve probably forgotten most of what I learned in trigonometry and calculus, but that’s what placement tests are for. I slide the application into a manila envelope and pull the tab so I can seal it.
With a deep breath I push the paperwork out of the way. It’s all in someone else’s hands now. There’s a knock on the back door and I turn to see Eric standing there.
“Come in,” I say as I stand up.
Eric comes inside with a big smile on his face and I get up to give him a hug.
“Hi. How did it go?” I ask as I give him a good squeeze.
“Pretty good. The counselor I talked to gave me the information on several programs to choose from so I’m sure one of them will fit.”
“That’s great, sweetie.” I push up to kiss him.
Eric met with a counselor that could help him get enrolled in a GED program, and point him in the direction of a good therapist. We’ve done a lot of talking about his parents in the last three months, but I’m not a trained professional. He needs someone to guide him through the process of really grieving the loss of his parents. I can listen for hours, but he needs answers I can’t give him.
“How was your day?”
“Great. I finished my last application and I’ll get it in the mail tomorrow. I have to finish packing, but I’ll be ready to go first thing in the morning.”
“Are you sure I can’t get a peek at your dress?”
“Nope. You’ll just have to wait until Friday,” I wink and then turn around.
Jessica and Hoyt decided to just elope. Between her parents not approving of them getting married and Hoyt’s mother wanting to invite every person she knows, wedding planning was turning into a nightmare. Jetting off to Las Vegas seemed like the best possible option. I’m going because I’m her maid of honor and my idiot brother is going because he’s Hoyt’s best friend.
All in all, this is shaping up to be an interesting seventy-two hours.
“Not even a hint?” Eric asks, catching me by my hips and rubbing against me.
“Careful, we’re in my father’s kitchen.”
“Is anyone home?”
“Nope,” I smile and look back at him.
“Then let’s go upstairs and see if I can’t persuade you to give me a hint.”
“You’re welcome to try, but my lips are sealed, mister,” I say as he points me toward the stairs.
“I think I can change that.” Eric stoops to kiss my neck and damn if my knees don’t go weak.
Since he’s gone back to work, Eric and I haven’t had much time together. I’ve been working doubles when I can since we’re serious about moving in together. Eric’s talked about using his inheritance for that but I don’t want him touching that money to support me when I’m more than capable of paying my share. Eric has lived without using that money for years and I won’t let him blow it on me when I’m capable of paying my way.
I turn around and wrap my arms around his neck. Eric picks me up and my legs wrap around his waist. He’s been through physical therapy and his doctor says he’s doing well. If nothing else, Eric’s been cleared to return to full duty so it’s all game on when it comes to sex. This makes us both happy, except for the fact that we don’t get as much time together as we’d like.
He presses me up against the wall and rubs his hips against me. Eric’s not wasting any time and that’s just fine with me. Thankfully we make it up the stairs to my bedroom and Eric kicks the door shut. He sets me on my dresser and reaches between us to put his hand between my legs. I moan into the kiss when he touches me over my panties, and within seconds he’s moving them out of the way.
“Do I get a hint yet?” Eric slides a finger into me.
“Nope,” I say breathlessly.
He gets this determined look on his face and leans down to kiss my neck. I get his jeans open and push them down over his hips. In the last three months Eric had given up on boxers most of the time. He’s a far cry from the unsure virgin he was when we first got together. I only get to stroke him for a few seconds before his mouth slants over mine again, and he pulls his finger out of me. He pulls back to paint my lips with my juices and then he kisses me again.
Eric pulls me closer to the edge of the dresser and thrusts into me. I break the kiss and grab onto his shoulders. The dresser bangs against the wall and when Eric lifts me up to get us to my bed, I land on top of him. The bed squeaks as I ride him, but at least Eric has the wherewithal to grab my face to kiss me when I start moaning and making noise. His hips start to thrust up and that makes me moan louder.
I break the kiss and move my mouth to his neck to muffle my sounds there. Eric holds onto me a little tighter at my hips and thrusts up harder, hitting the right spot inside me every time.
“Fuck, yes, right there,” I breathe against his neck. “Don’t stop, Eric.”
He keeps going, faster… harder… deeper… Over and over until I lose control and can’t help but scream as the orgasm rips through me and it takes Eric down, too.
“Damn, Sookie,” he groans and kisses my face.
“I love you.” It’s the only thing I can think of to say. Weeks of working doubles have afforded us three days in a fancy hotel in Las Vegas and I plan to put them to good use.
“I love you too,” he says, and we kiss for a few minutes until the phone starts ringing.
I climb off of Eric and he slaps my ass as I go to answer the phone. “Hey!”
“Couldn’t resist,” he smiles as I pick up the phone.
“May I please speak to Sookie Stackhouse?” It’s Detective Bellefleur calling.
“This is her. What can I do for you, Detective?”
“I wanted to call and give you the good news. We got the DNA results back in your coat and there was a match for both Bill and Andre on it. They both met with the prosecutor this morning and Andre has agreed to a plea bargain for a lesser sentence in return for testifying against Bill. The DA’s office has extended an offer to Bill as well, but he’s declined it. He thinks he’s got a chance at a self-defense argument in the attempted murder case, so he’s not willing to cop to the rape charge,” he tells me.
It’s no surprise that Bill thinks he can beat the charges. What angers me is how he plans on going about it. The security tape clearly shows that Eric had his back to Bill one second and a knife in his stomach the next. There was no conversation, no interaction of any kind. Bill just stabbed him. There was a fight after that, and it only stopped when Bill cracked Eric upside the head with a piece of a two by four that was under the dumpster.
“So this means Bill wants to go to trial, right?”
“Yes, it does, but I think anything he tries is just going to alienate a jury. There’s a lot of irrefutable evidence against him so trying to tap dance around that with lame excuses will just piss people off.”
I sigh and say, “Yeah, but it could go the other way, too. What happens if he’s acquitted?”
“If he gets acquitted that’s it. Hopefully he’ll go on with his life and you and Eric can go on with yours.”
That isn’t ideal. If that happens there’s no doubt Eric and I would probably end up moving away from Chicago just to be safe. Obviously Bill is insane and I sure as shit don’t trust him to stay the hell away from us.
“Do you want to speak to Eric while I have you here?” I ask.
“Yes, please. It’ll save me from having to leave a message.”
I hand the phone over to Eric and then go to the bathroom to get cleaned up. Mentally I go over my checklist of things I need to do before we leave in the morning. It would be easy to focus on Bill being an asshole and not manning up to take responsibility for what he’s done, but I’m going to focus in the fact that Andre is going to prison and turning on his friend.
With a little space from everything that’s happened I can finally see the bright side to what Bill did to me. There was something good that came from it because it opened my eyes to what was right in front of me for so long. I’d like to think I would have figured it out with Eric at some point, but I honestly don’t know if I would have. It was a pretty steep price to pay, but I have to cling to the positive side of things.
When I get back to my bedroom Eric is off the phone and has his clothes fixed. He smiles up at me and says, “Andre is going away for eight years, no chance at probation.”
I nod and say, “That’s great. Is that just for me, or for the other women too?”
“I didn’t ask, but I’m assuming just you for confidentiality reasons.”
“Well, then eight years is a good start.”
Eric reaches out to pull me closer. I sit on his lap and for a while he just looks at me. I remember that look on his face when I woke up on the porch after the attack, when he looked scared, relieved and unsure all at once. I remember all the little smiles he’d send my way when he was too shy to talk to me. It’s hard to believe the Eric in front of me is the same guy.
“So what do you want to do now?” I ask him.
“I was thinking dinner at the Cuban restaurant and a long walk with Sunday,” he says.
“Sounds perfect. I’ll finish packing and we’ll get going.” I kiss him and get up off his lap.
Finally things between us feel like we’re a completely normal couple. I cross the room to my suitcase and smile at Eric over my shoulder to see that he’s smiling back at me. I turn back to my packing and start humming that old Nat King Cole song I’ve loved since I was a child.
“Someday when I marry you that should be our first dance song,” Eric says from behind me.
“Yeah,” he says and then hugs me from behind and kisses my neck. “It was my parents’ wedding song, too.”