I hated to leave Eric without telling him where I was going, but he looked so peaceful sleeping next to me that I didn’t have the heart to wake him. I had a whole bunch of things I needed to get done before I had to get back to get ready for the party at the bar. I left him a note on the fridge, along with a pot of coffee, and headed out. I was still mailing the presents I’d bought for my family, since it was cheaper to do it that way than it was to pay the extra fees the airline would have charged for them.
From there I had to go dress shopping, since I had been putting that off. I got lucky at one of the vintage shops in a small strip mall in Melrose Park, not too far from the house. I shook my head at the line of people outside of Best Buy, waiting for it to open. I’d gotten at malls what I couldn’t get on-line. I walked into the store to find it essentially empty. I browsed through the racks, and found a few dresses I thought might be suitable.
After trying on about a half dozen dresses, I found one I thought was perfect. Even better, I already had shoes at home to wear with the dress, so I wouldn’t have to make another stop. I had an appointment to get my nails done at two, but I planned to get there a little early since I was sure it was going to be packed.
Once I had my dress secured, I ran from one place to the next to get the last minute things I needed and to finish up my errands. By the time I got to the nail salon, I was more than ready to sit back and relax for just a few minutes. Soaking my feet in that magic tub was pure heaven, and the foot massage was even better. I walked out of the salon feeling a million times better and far less stressed. I got back to the house just before four, which was an hour ahead of schedule.
I made myself something to eat to give my nails a little more time to dry before I had to get in the shower. I pulled my cell phone from my purse and dialed Eric’s number. I wasn’t the least bit surprised when I heard the phone ringing in the bedroom. I sighed and hung up before heading back toward the bedroom.
I figured I might as well get in the shower. Being ready early couldn’t hurt. I went to the bathroom and started the water for my shower before stripping off my clothes. I was rinsing conditioner from my hair when the shower curtain pulled back. Large hands wrapped themselves around my waist. Before I even opened my eyes, I smiled.
“Where’ve you been? You left your phone here.” I said as I squeezed water from my hair. My eyes opened to see Eric standing in front of me looking way too much like Johan for my liking, and I screamed. “Eric?”
“Who else would I be?”
“You better not be Johan!” I moved to cover myself and the man I hoped was Eric laughed at me.
“Of course I’m not Johan.” Eric moved closer to me.
I reached up with one hand and turned his right arm just a little bit. When I saw the small scar on the inside of his arm, I breathed a sigh of relief. The relief lasted for all of two seconds before I realized he’d cut off most of his hair. Why the hell did he do that? I loved his hair!
“What did you do to your head?” I glared at him.
“I thought it was time for a change.” Eric shrugged.
“But I liked it the other way.” I pouted like a child who’d been told no more sweets before supper. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to do this?”
“Did I need your permission?” Eric arched an eyebrow at me.
I scoffed and said, “That is not even close to the point. What if I would have gone out and died my hair bright red? Wouldn’t you be upset with me for not mentioning it to you first?”
“It was an impulse decision. It’s hair, lover, it’ll grow back.” Eric gave me a sympathetic smile, but I pulled away from him.
I don’t know why the haircut bothered me so much. Truthfully, he looked damn sexy with his hair cut that way with just a few strands falling close to his eyes. As if his eyes didn’t smolder enough already. Gah! I guess it was mostly upsetting because he didn’t look like the Eric I was used to.
“Are you really that upset?” Eric’s tone was light, but the look on his face told me he was a little frustrated with me for my reaction.
“I loved your hair long. It suited you.” I shrugged. It was something stupid to argue about. I knew that deep down, but it still bothered me.
“So you don’t like it?” Eric asked.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “I didn’t say that.” My eyes opened, and I stepped closer to him. I really didn’t want to fight. It was supposed to be a good night. I didn’t want to ruin it with a stupid fight over something I couldn’t change. I reached up and touched his hair. “You know, I bet this is going to look sexy as hell in the morning.”
He bent down so I could run my fingers through it and moved closer to me. “I told him not to cut it too short. I know you would never forgive me if you didn’t have something to grab onto.” His eyebrows danced in front of me.
I moaned softly and tugged on his hair gently. “You mean like that?”
“Not quite. Let me show you?” He moved to kneel down in front of me.
My breath caught in my throat, and I found myself all kinds of grateful I’d decided to get in the shower early. Eric pushed me up against the tile wall, which was now warm from all the time I’d spent under the warm water. He lifted one of my legs up over his shoulder as he’d done so many times before. One hand stayed in his hair while the other pressed against the wall to help me keep my balance as Eric’s very talented tongue and fingers went to work doing what they do best.
There was definitely enough hair left to pull on, and Eric made sure I made good use of it. I hadn’t even recovered from my first orgasm when he hoisted me up against the wall and sheathed himself inside me. My legs instinctively went around his waist and my arms went around his neck. By that point, we knew one another’s bodies well enough that keeping balance was easy for us. We knew all the right angles and ways to lean on one another. We knew when to to go fast and hard and when to slow things down. I tried to keep track of the minutes that passed in my head, but time ceased to matter.
“Ugh, God, Eric, harder.” I moaned against his neck, and he happily obliged me.
I felt him swell inside me, the first hint that he was close to his orgasm. His hand managed to slip between us and his thumb found my clit. He hated itwhen he finished before me, even if I’d already come- not that I was complaining. He shifted my weight, ever so slightly, causing him to pound into me at a different angle that hit the magic spot inside me, and I exploded. Eric followed right behind, as he almost always did.
I took a few deep breaths and pressed kisses to his neck and chest. “God, I love you.” I muttered between kisses.
He tilted my chin up and kissed me deeply, in a kiss that was so passionate I couldn’t remember ever getting one like it from him before. My hear fluttered in my chest, and by the time he pulled away, I was breathless and wanting more. I cursed the time, knowing we were probably going to be running late as a result of our little detour in the shower. Reluctantly, we pulled apart. He reached for the shampoo, while I washed my body off.
“Leaving so soon, lover?” He smirked at me when I pulled the shower curtain back.
I looked him up and down and moaned quietly, biting my bottom lip. “Maybe next year we skip the Christmas party.”
“Deal.” He winked at me.
I smiled before stepping out of the tub. I wrapped a towel around myself and went into the bedroom to get ready.
Eric in a suit is a beautiful thing. If he’d thought I was a distraction in my tight pants at the basketball game, he must not have been aware of how good he’d look in his suit on the sidelines, yelling to his players. It really was all I could do not to drag him behind the bleachers and jump him. I waited until my hair and makeup were done before I put on my dress. I was thankful the drive to the bar was a short one, since I had no intention of wearing pantyhose with the dress. My legs were still nice and tan from the previous summer.
I opted to put my hair up and curl it since I knew we’d be dancing at some point, and combining that with alcohol meant leaving my hair down was a bad idea. I only stepped out of the bedroom when I couldn’t get the zipper of my dress the rest of the way up by myself. The skirt was a flowing layers of chiffon that stopped just above my knees. The bodice of the dress was champagne colored sequins. I had to wear a strapless bra with the dress, which I hated. My girls were a bit too big to go without the added support of straps, but the dress itself wasn’t strapless.
Eric was sitting on the couch watching ESPN to catch the scores from whatever football came had been on earlier in the day. His eyes immediately moved to me when he heard my footsteps approaching him. He rocketed off the couch like his ass was on fire, and moved closer to me.
“You look…” He couldn’t finish his thought, but based on the look in his eyes, I knew the dress was a winner.
“Thank you.” I smiled up at him before turning around. “Would you finish zipping me up?”
“You sure you want the zipper up?”
“Unless you want me to go to this party in my panties.” I smirked over my shoulder at him.
“And reward Pam for being such a pain in my ass? No way.”
I laughed and then turned to kiss his cheek. “I just need to get my shoes and bag, and I’m ready to go.”
I got my shoes out of the closet, knowing my feet were going to hate me in a few hours for wearing them, but it was necessary. I grabbed what I needed out of my regular purse and crammed it into the little black beaded clutch I was taking along for the night. I carried my shoes to the front door, waiting to put them on until the last possible second. If I didn’t fall and break my neck outside, it would be a miracle.
Eric grabbed my coat for me and held it open so I could slide my arms inside. He bent to kiss the side of my neck. “It’s not fair you smell so good all the time.” He whispered in my ear.
“I do it to torment you.” I winked at him.
“Minx.” He shook his head at me as I opened the front door. Jeter whined as he made his appearance from the kitchen. “Sorry, buddy, you wait here. We’ll be back in a few hours.”
Jeter let out an unhappy growl, which had both of us laughing quietly. Eric locked up behind us, and held my hand as I went down the front steps. They were fairly ice free from all of the salting we’d been doing, but it was better to be safe than sorry. The last thing I needed was to end up in the hospital with a broken ass. Eric was driving us to the party, but taking a cab home would be easy enough if we had too much to drink.
“Anytime you’re ready to go, all you have to do is say the word, and we’re out of there.” Eric told me when we pulled into a parking space outside of the bar.
“Oh, I won’t hesitate to holler if I’ve had enough for the night.” I promised him.
We walked to the front door door of the bar hand in hand, and Eric held the door open for me to walk in ahead of him. I had to give it to Pam, she did one hell of a job on the decorations. The bar looked more like a cross between Santa’s Workshop and a Winter Wonderland than I ever could have imagined.
“Wow. Pam really goes all out for parties, doesn’t she?” I looked up to Eric with wide eyes.
“You didn’t figure that out at Halloween?” He nudged me gently, with a small smile turning up the corner of his mouth. It wasn’t quite a smirk, but it was damn close, and it made me want to lick him.
No sooner did we get our coats off than the song changed from some obnoxious tune full of too much bass and not enough lyrics, to the Stevie Wonder classic ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours’. Eric reached for my hand and gestured toward the dance floor. We would certainly have it all to ourselves, since no one else was even in the bar, much less on the dance floor. I loved dancing with Eric. There was no awkwardness the way there sometimes was, and he moved very well for someone so tall.
“Ugh, if you two are going to be that cute all night, I’m going to lose my dinner.” Pam rolled her eyes at us as she made her entrance in a slinky red dress.
“Nice to see you, too, Pam.” I called out to her. I’d decided to hold off on giving her her Christmas present until the following day. I didn’t want someone to swipe it from the bar.
“You really should kennel your mutt for the duration of the trip.” Pam said out of the blue.
Eric and I walked off the dance floor and over to the bar where Pam was mixing herself a martini, extra dirty. “Is it really that difficult to stop by the house for an hour to feed Jeter and let him out in the yard?”
“No, it’s not.” Pam strained the drink into a large glass.
I loved the martini glasses at the bar, and I was beyond tempted to ask where they’d gotten them. The bar in the basement at home was in serious need of glassware, not that we had a lot of people over. Although, with Amelia on the mend, that would most likely change. Amelia was more of a cat person, and really only dealt well with smaller dogs. I was hoping that since Jeter was so well trained, she would be willing to make an exception.
“Then would you put a sock in it?” Eric suggested.
“Oh, I would love to, Northman. Unfortunately I’ve ended up making plans for this holiday that won’t allow me to take care of that mutt.” Pam winked before taking a drink of her martini.
“Who’s the unwitting victim?” Eric teased.
“Me.” A familiar voice spoke up from behind us, from up in the DJ’s booth.
Eric and I both whipped around to see Johan standing there with a shit eating grin on his face. Well, well, things had certainly just gotten more interesting, hadn’t they?
To say Eric and I were surprised to see Johan standing there would be an understatement. Johan had said engagements in Holland would keep him across the pond until two days before Christmas. Apparently, we’d had the wool pulled over our eyes big time. Eric went to go give his brother a hug, but he was knocked aside.
“You look beautiful, lilla docka.” Johan swept me up.
I squealed in surprise at how quick he was, and couldn’t help but laugh at the enthusiasm of his hug. “You look pretty good yourself there, Johan. Why didn’t you tell us you were coming into town?”
“And lose the opportunity to see the look of pure shock mixed with a little bit of horror that was on your faces? Not a chance.” Johan kissed my cheek before putting me down.
“What am I, chopped liver?” Eric asked from behind his brother.
Johan looked him up and down. “Actually, you look more like a loan shark.”
Pam choked off a laugh from behind the bar, and I elbowed Johan. “I think he looks sexy.”
“You should see me in a suit.” Johan wiggled his eyebrows at me, and I was laughing again.
“It really is a sight to behold.” Pam piped up from behind the bar.
I looked over at Eric, who was slightly red at being ignored like he was. I pouted in his direction, which was the wrong thing to do since it seemed that was signal for Johan and Pam to go open season on Eric. I just moved closer to him and held his hand through the barrage of insults and teases being hurled at him. ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ by the White Stripes started playing, and Johan’s face lit up.
“Why Pammy, I do believe that’s our song playing. You owe me a dance.”
“I owe you a kick in the balls for calling me Pammy.”
“Pretty please?” Johan begged.
Watching the two of them was better than most movies or sitcoms. Pam rolled her eyes like she was beyond put out by the request Johan was making of her, but I was willing to bet dollars to donuts she’d be putting down her martini any second to go dance with Johan. Sure enough, Pam knocked back the rest of her drink before slinking out from behind the bar to take Johan’s hand. I stood there grinning and shaking my head at them as they walked out to the dance floor.
“Would you like a drink?” Eric asked me.
“The usual.” I muttered, watching Johan and Pam as they were pretty much grinding on one another. I didn’t think I’d ever really understand their relationship. I turned away when Johan grabbed a hold of Pam’s hips and pulled her closer. “You okay?”
“Fine.” Eric said, although his tone and the tension rolling off of him suggested otherwise.
“I call bullshit.”
Eric glared at me for a minute before pouring my drink into a glass and handing it over. “I love my brother. He’s my best friend. I love Pam. I just don’t get those two.”
“What’s there to get, Eric? Unless you’re jealous of Johan, it shouldn’t bother you.” I shrugged, trying to be casual about the whole thing. Eric had never once talked about Pam in terms of someone he was interested on beyond a friend, or a business partner. I didn’t understand why seeing Johan and Pam so close like that would bother him.
“She’s like a sister to me, Sookie, and I know my brother. He’ll get bored eventually-”
“Whoa, whoa, Eric, hang on a second. First of all, Pam’s into women. Second of all, from what you’ve told me, Johan’s been pretty serious about chasing Pam down for more than a decade. I don’t think that’s just some passing fancy. Besides, whatever it is they have going on is none of our business. They’re both adults.” I tried to reason with him.
I could tell from the look on Eric’s face there was something I didn’t know that I probably should, but it wasn’t the time to discuss it. The song ended quickly, bringing Pam and Johan back. Johan stepped behind the bar where Eric was retrieving a bottle of champagne. Pam stood beside me while the two Northman boys worked out whatever had their collective knickers in a twist.
“So how long have you and Johan been planning this little surprise?” I asked Pam, knowing this most likely wasn’t an off-the-cuff operation.
“Since the day Johan returned to Sweden.” Pam gave me a sly smile.
“Nicely done. Eric and I had no idea.”
“You two tend to be off in your own little bubble. Comes in quite handy when planning surprises. Or ambushes.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at that. It was ironic, considering how Eric and I often felt like we didn’t get enough time together. It was somewhat of a crazy notion considering we lived together and worked together. Although I often thought we could be stranded on an uncharted island somewhere, and we would be perfectly happy to be just by ourselves.
“So, Pam, can I ask you something?” I turned toward her.
“You can ask. I can’t promise I’ll answer.” Pam was an expert at playing coy when she wanted to.
“What’s the deal with you and Johan? One minute you’re snipping at one another, and the next you’re flirting and making eyes at each other like a couple of teenagers.”
“Are you asking for you, or for your sweetie?” Pam narrowed her eyes at me suspiciously, not that I could blame her one bit.
“Is there a difference anymore?” The words left my mouth before I could stop them, earning me another smirk from Pam.
“Let me just say that Johan and I have almost as colorful a history as Eric and I have. We go back a long way, and there are things between us that even I don’t understand. But if what you’re really asking is whether or not I have feelings for Johan, the answer is yes.” Pam said in her typically honest fashion, and then sauntered away when Chow called her over to discuss security issues.
I watched Eric and Johan at the other end of the bar as they talked. With Eric’s new haircut, it was going to be much harder to tell him and his twin apart. Thank God they weren’t wearing matching suits, or I’d be in deep shit. I sipped my drink and fell into conversation with Felicia when she stepped behind the bar to do some prep work. Before any of us knew it, it was time to open the bar for business. There was quite a line outside already. Pam was nothing if not a crackerjack promoter.
Eric had disappeared into the office to take care of some paperwork Pam needed him to look at when I caught sight of someone who most definitely didn’t belong in the bar. I shook my head in disappointment, and abandoned my drink to go take care of it before Eric or Pam got wind of the situation. If they did, it was guaranteed not to end well.