The week before the dance, Amelia and I went shopping to find me a dress suitable for chaperoning Homecoming. After much consideration there wasn’t anything in my closet that I liked enough. More accurately, there were too many dresses Eric liked a little too much. While I appreciated his enthusiasm, this would be a work function so we would be limited in the amount of contact we would have for the majority of the night. After hitting up the third mall of the day, I finally found a dress that I loved at Nordstrom’s. Thankfully, it was on sale or I would have had to put it back.
It was a lavender floor length dress that showed some cleavage but not too much. There were darker purple swirls on the dress that got bolder towards the bottom. The back of the dress criss-crossed and the skirt was a full A-line. The real selling point for me was that it had a built-in bra. It was comfortable and I felt very pretty in it. The hard part would be keeping it away from Eric’s eyes for the next week.
“Are you sure I can’t talk you into chaperoning with us?” I asked Amelia once I was dressed in my street clothes again.
“Hell no. I didn’t even want to go to homecoming when I was actually in high school. No way do I want to spend my night on bathroom patrol, busting girls for smoking and taking hits off of flasks.” Amelia, while a good teacher, didn’t have much desire to be more involved than that. She did her job- and quite well- but that was it. “Besides, I don’t know how you think you’re going to go the whole night without Eric molesting you.”
“We’ve already talked about it. He can control himself.”
“Ha!” Amelia rolled her eyes at me. “Did you forget that we share a wall, dearest? I’ve heard you scream that man’s name more times than I care to count.”
“Amelia!” I swatted at her playfully, to which she replied by doing an imitation of the sounds I’d been making the night before. “Amelia Broadway, you stop that!” I laughed at her.
“For what it’s worth, Tray thinks I’m jealous so he’s been trying a little harder than usual.” Amelia admitted.
“So I noticed. Why do you think I’ve been staying at Eric’s during the week?” I stuck my tongue out at her.
“Next time just bang on the wall and we’ll knock it off.” Amelia giggled.
“No, you won’t, and you shouldn’t have to. You’re adults.” I whipped out my credit card to pay for my dress and was beyond excited to see it being put into a pretty plastic bag for me to take home. It just so happened I already had a pair of silver sandals that would go perfectly with it.
“It’s good to see you looking so happy, Sookie.” Amelia said out of nowhere, which got my attention. “You never smiled like that when you were with Quinn.”
I didn’t quite know what to say. I was having so much fun with Eric, and I missed him terribly when he wasn’t with me. “I don’t know what it is, Ame, but he got to me.”
“It wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with the sex, would it?”
There went that damned blush again. “It’s part of it, but it’s not even that. He’s easy to talk to and we like a lot of the same things. We understand the stress each other goes through on a daily basis because we have the same job. It just works.” I shrugged and then signed the receipt.
“It doesn’t hurt that he’s a fucking GQ model come to life.”
“No, that’d be his brother.” I teased her.
“When’s he getting in?”
“A week from Friday.”
“You nervous about meeting him?”
“A little. Eric told me not to worry about it, that Johan is going to love me, but this is his family. His twin, for Christ’s sake. I know Johan’s opinion carries a lot of weight with Eric so I really don’t want to screw this up.” I confessed to her.
“You won’t. Just be your wonderful, charming, sweet-as-pie self and everything will be fine.”
I hoped it was that simple. I was also starting to think about what I was going to do about the holidays. I already had plans to go home to Louisiana for the holiday. I would be flying out very early on Thanksgiving morning. The plans were set long before I even knew there was a possibility of Eric. In fact, there were still two tickets booked for that flight because Quinn and I had still be dating at the time I booked them. I didn’t know what Eric’s plans were, but I’d have to ask. I assumed he was going home to California to see his parents but we hadn’t talked about that yet.
I got back to my house to find Eric and Tray in the front yard tossing beanbags back and forth. It was really a stupid game but that didn’t stop me from playing it. I grabbed my dress out of the backseat and started toward Eric. He was facing away from me and wearing a pair of jeans that made me want to jump him right there on the lawn. That ass just wasn’t fair, and I told him so all the time. I figured that made us even for the way he stared at my boobs like they were going to disappear if he didn’t keep an eye on them.
“Who’s winning?” I asked as I made my way to Eric.
“I am.” He grinned.
“Yeah, yeah, only because he doesn’t have the sun in his eyes.” Tray was pouting. He was an even bigger sore loser than Eric.
“Or maybe it’s because you throw like a girl.” Eric suggested, earning him a smack from me. “You’re a woman, lover, there’s a difference.” He bent and kissed my forehead and I rolled my eyes at him.
“Uh huh. Well, you two play with your bags. I’ll be inside hiding my dress.”
“Then I guess I’ll be going on a treasure hunt later.” Eric called out after me.
“No you won’t, Eric Northman!” I shouted back at him and then headed inside.
I had just tucked the dress away in the closet of my office where I kept most of my winter clothes, when Eric came upstairs. I tried to make it look like I was legitimately working in the room but my failure to close the closet doors was a dead giveaway as to what I’d been doing. With one of those Cheshire Cat grins on his face, Eric stepped closer to the closet.
“What’s in here?” He pointed, attempting very lamely to sound innocent.
“You stay out of there, mister.” I said over my shoulder.
“Just a peek?” He asked as he moved closer to the closet.
“Oh, no you don’t!” I darted in front of him and attempted to block the closet from him.
He had a playful smile on his face. I loved that smile. “You realize I could just toss you across the room, right?”
“Do it and you lose your shower privileges for a week.” I threatened, hoping that would work because I really didn’t want to follow through on my threat.
“You must be hiding something good if you’re willing to go a week without showering together.” Eric was weighing the risk for the reward.
“That’s right, I am, and I want it to be a surprise.”
“Give me a hint.” He was incorrigible.
“Okay.” I nodded and his face lit up just a little.
I tried to think of something that would both get him all hot and bothered and quench his thirst at the same time. “I won’t be able to wear a bra with it.”
He growled and then attacked me. I don’t know what was running through his mind but if his kisses were any indication, he assumed my dress was going to be awfully racy. After christening the wall next to the closet in my office, Eric followed me to the shower. I had auditions to sit through with Pam. Why she was insisting I help her make those decisions was beyond me. Eric did his best to start round two while we were in the shower, but we were already running late.
“Eric, we don’t have time. Pam’ll have my ass- literally- if we’re late.” I reminded him. He was pouting again.
“I hate Pam.” He announced and I just rolled my eyes.
“We’ll go for the auditions and then we’ll come back here and I will turn off my cell phone and lock my doors. We will have a full twenty-four hours all to ourselves.”
“Well, we might have to share a little time with Jeter.” I conceded as I passed him the shampoo. “Otherwise, I promise you will have me all to yourself.”
“Oh, I’ll have you alright.” Such a cheeseball.
“Calm down there, big boy.” I rinsed my hair and went for the conditioner.
“Big boy, huh?” He gave me one of those lopsided grins that made me giggle.
He slapped my ass when I was stepping out of the shower, and laughed at me when I yelped. A few minutes later he emerged from the shower to find me zipping myself into a pair of pinstriped capri pants he’d never seen before. I paired them with a red sleeveless button down shirt with small ruffles running down the front seam. Eric stopped dead in his tracks and stared at me like a pit bull eyeballing a t-bone. When I reached into my closet for the infamous red heels he loved so much, he groaned as if he were in pain.
“You’re going to kill me, Stackhouse.” He flopped back on my bed.
“You’re a big boy. You’ll live.” I winked over my shoulder as I slipped on the shoes.
I went to the bathroom to pull my hair back and put on my makeup. I was a little more dolled up than usual but figured it was appropriate for the task at hand. Eric fought fire with fire and filled out a pair of jeans that had me biting my bottom lip and praying for strength. He topped it with a tight black t-shirt. He looked just like he had the night we met and I was suddenly overwhelmed with the image of sneaking into the bathroom at the bar and…
“You ready?” Eric broke into my thoughts. The grin on his face suggested he knew exactly what I’d been thinking.
I cleared my throat but my blush betrayed me as usual. “Yep, let’s get out of here.”
He blocked the bathroom doorway and leaned down so his lips were right at my ear. “So what were you thinking, bathroom or the office?”
“I guess you’ll have to wait and see.” I bit his ear and then squeezed out.
“I’ll get you for that.” He warned as I sauntered out of the room, feeling awfully sassy all of a sudden.
“You better!” I shouted over my shoulder and headed downstairs.
About three auditions in it became apparent to me why Pam wasn’t doing them alone. Eric had informed me that Pam had horrible taste in music but I refused to believe that. Everyone was entitled to their own tastes. But when Pam told me she preferred showtunes and the more Barry Manilow side of life, I almost fell off my chair. I couldn’t imagine the wisecracking sassmouth sitting next to me singing along to “Copacabana” without extreme irony. Then Eric explained to me that Pam’s first girlfriend’s name was Mandy. I rolled my eyes and laughed. Pam was just full of surprises.
Pam was an excellent reminder of why a person should never judge a book by it’s cover. Eric also pointed out that I didn’t exactly look like the kind of girl who would know all the words to “Sympathy For The Devil,” but I did. There was one band that was partial to Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional covers that was pretty good. They were also partial to Brand New, The Spill Canvas and Taking Back Sunday. The singer, who had been in my class two years before, claimed that Morrisey was his hero. I found that interesting but was in no position to judge. I was pretty partial to Robert Smith and Trent Reznor myself.
We ended up booking two of the bands we saw for the opening night of the under-age club. When Pam told me she was going to be decorating that section of the club to look like the inside of Jeannie’s bottle I didn’t know what to think. I would have thought she’d keep up with the devil theme she had going in the regular bar- called The Blue Devil Lounge in honor of her and Eric’s shared collegiate past- but she said she wanted something different for the younger crowd.
The renovations to the bar were coming along nicely and the contractor assured her the new space would be ready to go in time for opening night. I sincerely hoped he was right, or Pam would have his balls for earrings. Pam was just finishing up showing me around the new space when Eric came out of the office. He walked over to us and put his arm around me, causing me to lean into him. My arm went around his waist like it belonged there and the next thing I knew we were dangerously close to making out in the middle of the bar.
“You two are disgusting.” Pam turned her nose up and walked away. I might have been offended if she wasn’t constantly mocking us for our public displays. In fact, Eric and I liked to crank it up a notch just to give her something to bitch about.
“This is getting to be too easy.” I looked up at Eric.
“Don’t tell me you aren’t enjoying the benefits?”
I shrugged just to mess with him and quickly found myself on the receiving end of a kiss that made my toes curl. “Yowza.” I giggled when he pulled back.
After Pam threatened to pelt us with ice if we didn’t “knock it off with the kissy face,” Eric and I decided it was time to head out. I was tired anyway and we were both hungry. Pam decided there was something she needed Eric to sign before we left, which for Eric, meant that was the perfect time to kiss me before she got back. I was just starting to melt against him when I heard a familiar voice calling me.
“Sookie?” I groaned and pulled away from Eric to follow the wounded voice.
I turned to my right and there was Quinn, looking for all the world like I’d just run over his new kitten. “Quinn, what are you doing here?”
“Having a drink. Looks like I’m gonna need a double.” Quinn shook his head.
“I didn’t know you come here.”
“Victor said it was a nice place. He never mentioned you, though.”
“I’m not here all the time.” That was about to change thanks to the under-age night. Then I remembered that I was standing next to Eric and I couldn’t really get out of introducing the ex to the new guy. “Quinn, this my boyfriend, Eric. Eric, this is Quinn.” I gestured back and forth between the two men who were instantly sizing one another up.
“You didn’t used to hang out in bars when we were dating, babe.” Quinn said instead of acknowledging Eric, who was tensing up beside me.
“I’m friends with the owner, and don’t call me babe.” I glared at Quinn. I shouldn’t have been surprised by how rude he was being. Quinn turned into a six-year-old when he didn’t get his way.
“Never used to bother you before.” Quinn started coming closer to me, which was a mistake.
“It bothers her now.” Eric spoke up on my behalf and I glared up at him to let him know I could handle Quinn just fine on my own.
He put his hands up in surrender and stepped behind me. “You got him tamed. That’s sweet, Sook.”
“Don’t be a dick, Quinn. We both know that’s not you.” I didn’t like this new, jealous Quinn. While we were dating he never cared if I was hanging out with other people when he was busy.
“You know, when you said you were dating someone, I didn’t think it was this guy,” Quinn nodded to Eric. “I figured it was that history teacher you used to talk about who was from the south.”
“Bill?” My face wrinkled in confusion. “Why the hell would I date him? He’s married and he has a kid. I might be a lot of things, but a homewrecker isn’t one of them.”
“I know his wife.” Quinn confessed to me.
“You know his wife?” I arched an eyebrow and cheated a glance at Eric, who seemed to find the information as interesting as I did. “How do you know his wife?”
“She works for Russell.” Quinn shrugged.
“Who’s Russell?” Eric whispered to me, but I shook my head. I’d explain it to him later.
“Okay, but why would you think I’m dating Bill if you know his wife?”
“Because he moved out a month after Junior was born.” Quinn revealed to me.
You could have knocked me over with a feather just then. That certainly wasn’t the story Bill had been feeding me. He was always talking about what a family man he was and how excited he was to be a father to his brilliant baby boy. He talked about how much he loved his wife and what a blessing it was to finally have a child after being together for as long as they had been.
“Quinn, are you sure you’ve got it right? Bill never mentioned any of that to me.” Not that it was really any of my business, or that I wanted to be involved in Bill Compton’s personal problems. I just couldn’t figure out why he’d try to keep up the good guy, family man act. Especially got I’d gotten the notion that his invitations to join him for meals weren’t simple business lunches to him.
“All I know is that Lorena told me Bill came home one day and told her he wasn’t in love with her anymore and that there was a woman he worked with whom he’d fallen for. When Lorena asked for details about this woman, he described you to a fucking tee, Sookie. He even knew about the birthmark on your hip.” Quinn told me and I cringed. Eric, on the other hand, was ready to punch something.
“Eric, I never…” I trailed off, but I knew I didn’t need to tell him. What I did wonder was how Bill knew about that birthmark on my hip. It was too low for someone to see it unless we’d been intimate, and both of the men I’d had sex with were in the room. Talking to each other. That wasn’t too awkward. “Why didn’t you mention this sooner?”
“When I first found out, I didn’t believe it. I didn’t put together the connections that Lorena was Bill’s wife since she never took his last name. But then one night I was flipping through your yearbooks and I saw Bill’s picture. Lorena’s got their wedding picture on her desk, so when I saw him, I knew who he was. I knew he was the guy you’d mentioned to me a couple of times. I started thinking about all the time I’d been spending away from you and I started to wonder if maybe you’d strayed on account of it.” Quinn had thought I was cheating on him? Well, that was new information. “But then I remembered how annoyed you looked every time you talked about him. It was the same look you’d get when Jason would call in the middle of the night, threatening to move in with you when he’d get in a fight with his girlfriend.”
That much I knew to actually be true. There was a very specific face I made when I talked about Bill Compton. It was made of equal parts annoyance, disgust and cynicism. “So why didn’t you tell me about this, Quinn?” Quinn looked at Eric, clearly uncomfortable to be having this talk in front of him. “Whatever you tell me, he’s going to find out anyway, so you might as well just come out with it.”
“We were having problems already and I didn’t know why since you were always trying to pretend like everything was fine. I started thinking maybe you were seeing him. I was willing to let it go since I wasn’t around like I should have been. But then I felt guilty for even thinking you would cheat because I know you’re not that kind of girl. You don’t have it in you. So I kept it to myself because I didn’t want you thinking I would think something like that about you, even if I had for just a little while. I didn’t want to lose you over a suspicion.” Quinn confessed.
I felt bad for him then. Pam cleared her throat from behind us to break up the little moment we seemed to be having. Eric brushed his lips against my temple and squeezed my side before releasing me to go deal with Pam. I watched him walk away with a smile on my face. I got lost in my own little world for a moment before Quin clearing his own throat brought me back to reality. I stepped a little closer to him, only glancing over my shoulder once to see Eric and Pam talking at the far end of the bar.
“So that guy makes you happy, huh?” Quinn’s eyes traveled over to where Eric and Pam were talking.
“Yeah, he does.” I smiled, watching Quinn’s expression change just a little. His dark brows furrowed together in a mixture of frustration and longing. “Quinn, you and I were better off just being friends.”
His face whipped around so we were eye to eye. “I loved you, Sookie. I still do. Always will, in fact. Don’t tell me we were never happy together.”
“Yeah, we were,” I agreed and bit my lower lip. “But that doesn’t mean we were supposed to be a couple, or that we should have stayed together any longer. Didn’t you ever feel like there was something missing from us? Like there should be something more?”
Quinn growled and the way he was looking at me told me he knew I was right but didn’t want to admit it. He waited until Eric was walking toward me again to speak.
“If he hurts you, I’ll kill him.” Quinn threatened in a tone that was only sort of joking.
“I don’t think that’ll be necessary, but I appreciate the offer.” And I did. For a second, I started to think that maybe being friends with Quinn wouldn’t be so bad if he could just keep the talk of us getting back together from coming out of his mouth.
“You ready to go?” Eric’s arm slid around me and I leaned into him in response.
“Yep, I’m starving.” I wasn’t just talking about food and Eric knew it. “I guess I’ll see you around, Quinn.”
He gave me one of his warmer smiles and nodded to Eric. “Take good care of her.”
Eric nodded in return, the awkwardness of their initial encounter now over. “I will.”
My arm went around Eric’s waist and we walked out together. Once we were back in the car and on our way toward my house, I told Eric about Russell. He was one of Quinn’s regular clients and since Lorena was Russell’s executive assistant, they spent a lot of time making small talk while Quinn waited for Russell to get out of a meeting or finish a phone call. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were friends, but they attempted to be friendly with one another. Honestly, I felt a little stupid for not putting things together myself. Quinn had mentioned Lorena more than once, relaying bits and pieces about her. There’d been a time when I’d thought maybe he was seeing her and mentioning her casually to keep me from thinking he was sleeping with her. But, like Quinn thought of me, I knew he wasn’t the cheating type. When he talked about Lorena he always talked about how happy she was in her marriage and had even come home with a cigar from Russell when she’d had her baby. It just hadn’t clicked in my head that Quinn’s Lorena was the some Lorena as Bill’s wife. I felt like a real dum-dum for most of the drive home.
“Why do you think Bill would lie about separating from his wife and child?” Eric asked me as we pulled into the parking lot of a Mexican restaurant close to my house that we both liked.
“Your guess is as good as mine.” I shrugged and reached for my seat belt. Frankly, I didn’t really want to know.
“And that birthmark, how did he know about that?” Eric’s eyes were icy cold.
“I don’t know.” I shrugged again. “Eric, I swear, Bill and I never so much as had lunch off school property, much less had sex.”
“I know.” Eric nodded and I could tell he believed me. “It’s just bizarre that he would be able to make a guess and be so accurate.”
“There was a car wash last spring that I volunteered to help with. I don’t remember seeing him, but maybe he was there?” I thought back to the previous spring.
I was co-sponsor of the Freshman class on the student counsel, and we’d had a car wash to help raise money for the following year’s homecoming festivities. I’d been there in a bikini top with a half shirt over it and a denim skirt. I was showing much more skin than usual but it was a car wash on a warm spring day. No way could I show up in jeans or my usual teacher’s attire. I was dressed for the event. I tried to remember if the birthmark was visible but couldn’t get the image in my head.
Eric opened the door for me and I took his hand when he offered it. We walked through the chilly night air to the restaurant and were seated a few minutes later. Eric ordered a beer while I got a margarita. Slowly we let the topic of Bill drift from the conversation since I refused to spend the night driving myself crazy trying to figure out what his motives were for lying to me and his wife like he had. Yes, I was pissed that he was telling her we were involved in some great love affair when nothing could be further from the truth, but what could I really do about it? If he was that delusional, my best bet was to just stay as far away from him as I possibly could. Eric, on the other hand, planned to be more vigilant.
“If he comes near you again, for any reason, I want you to tell me, Sookie.” Eric said with concern in his eyes.
I wanted to argue that it was probably just some silly crush Bill had, but he had taken it to a whole new level by supposedly leaving his wife for me. I really didn’t know what to make of the situation. Aside from a lot of idle chatter that got on my nerves and his inability to accept that I wouldn’t see him outside of work, Bill hadn’t done anything to me personally to make me think I should be afraid of him. At least, not until that night.
“If he comes near me again I will tell him that we have a strictly professional relationship and I have no interest in branching out in our relationship. It’s not like I can tell him that I know he left his wife when he’s constantly telling everyone otherwise.” I pointed out to Eric.
“Just be careful, Sookie. Clearly something’s not right with him and I don’t want you to end up hurt as a result of it. You’re too nice to people who don’t deserve it.” His hand reached for mine on top of the table.
I wanted to tell Eric I was sure everything was going to be fine but there was a little voice whispering in my head telling me that Eric was right. My smile faltered for just a moment and Eric opened his mouth to say something, but then our waiter brought our dinner and all thoughts of Bill Compton’s creepery were forgotten about in favor of enchiladas and fajitas.
A week later I was in my bathroom just slicking on my lip gloss when my doorbell rang. I turned from side to side while looking in the mirror to make sure I looked okay. My hair was pulled into a low swooping ponytail that left one side of my neck bare. The dress looked as good on me as I remembered it would. My skin seemed to be glowing thanks to my tan and the color of the fabric. I was probably pushing the envelope where my cleavage was concerned but Amelia had loaned me a shawl of hers that went perfectly with the dress. I picked up my shoes and was just getting to the top of the steps when the bell rang again.
“Just a minute!” I called out as I made my way down the stairs. I slipped my shoes on and went to the door. I took a deep breath and then stepped back to open the door.
Standing on the other side was my boyfriend in dark grey suit that fit him perfectly. He wore a crisp white shirt and a lavender tie that matched my dress perfectly. His hair was tied back at the nape of his neck and I almost giggled at the idea of us both going to such a formal affair with our hair in ponytails. His eyes drank me in the way mine were doing the same with him and I felt my heart flutter when our eyes finally met.
“You look good enough to eat.” Eric said without a hint of sex in his voice, which was shocking.
“Later.” I winked at him and he grinned.
“Indeed.” His eyebrows did their little promising wiggle. “This is for you.” He held out an orchid wrist corsage that I immediately fell in love with.
“Thank you, it’s beautiful.” I said as he slipped it on my wrist. “So, was the dress worth waiting for?” I batted my eyelashes at him.
He motioned for me to turn around and I heard him suck in a breath when he caught wind of the back of the dress. “I don’t suppose I’ll be able to talk you into meeting me under the bleachers, Miss Stackhouse?” His hands settled on my hips and pulled me closer to him.
“You know the rules, Mr. Northman. Hands off on school property,” I tilted my face up to kiss him. I moved my mouth to his ear and said, “But you can eye fuck me all night long if you want.” I looked down the length of his body and said, “I know I certainly plan to do my share of that.” He looked pretty edible himself in that suit.
He growled and reluctantly released me when I pointed out we were going to be late. I had a bag all packed and ready for me to spend the night at his house. It seemed silly to come all the way back to my place when his was so much closer. I had no doubt that by the time we’d spent a few hours trying to keep our hands off one another, we would be desperate to be hands on again. Eric took my bag from me and waited on my porch while I locked up the house. We were almost to his car when Amelia came bursting out of her house next door with a camera in hand, looking for all the world like a jilted mother who didn’t get the perfect candid refrigerator shot of her only child.
“Hold up you two!” Amelia called out as she ran.
“Ame, we’ve gotta get going.” I caught myself before I went into full whining mode.
“You’ve got time for one picture. You’ll thank me for it later.” Amelia lifted her camera, adjusting the focus on it.
“Just one.” I said as Eric put my bag in the trunk of the car.
Amelia looked us up and down with a smile of approval. “You know, I’m not sure which one of you looks better.”
“My girl. Definitely my girl.” Eric smiled at me and I felt myself starting to blush.
“Sweet talker.” I curled against him.
We were still smiling at each other, oblivious to the rest of the world, when Amelia took our picture.