I was just getting into bed when my cell phone caught my eye. It was sitting where I’d left it on the bedside table. Eric and I had agreed we wouldn’t talk while I was away after I called to let him know I’d gotten in okay. The conversation had been brief, and we hadn’t shared a whole lot of information. I’d been in Louisiana for four days, and while I’d been having as much fun as I could, it just didn’t feel like home anymore. To me, home had become a smaller split level house with a gigantic dog who tried to tackle me when I walked through the door. When I went to sleep at night I could clearly hear the freight trains a little more than a block away. I heard airplanes flying overhead constantly instead of crickets or owls.
Most importantly, there was Eric. I’d known before I even finished packing my bag to come to my parents’ house that I would miss Eric. That was never a question in my mind. I would be going home to him in two days, and they couldn’t pass fast enough. Part of me was considering hopping an earlier flight, and cutting my trip short. The romantic in me dreamed of Eric saying to hell with the courts, and coming down to Louisiana to bring me home. I knew it wasn’t going to happen, but I still hoped it would.
I laid in bed staring at my phone, debating over whether or not it was too late to call him. I didn’t want to wake him up, and I didn’t want to break our no talking rule, but I wanted to hear his voice. I reached over to pick up the phone, and flipped it open to look at the picture of us that was my wallpaper. The picture had been taken before his first basketball game. I was dressed for Poms, and he was wearing that suit he looked so damned good in I nearly started drooling just thinking about it.
“It’s just two more days, Sookie. You can do this.” I told myself out loud. I was about to close the phone when it started buzzing in my hand. My eyes popped open, and I grinned to see Eric’s name on the display. “Hello?”
“Hey, I didn’t wake you, did I?”
“No, not at all. I was just thinking about you.”
“I was going to say the same thing.” I could hear the smile in his voice, and it made me relax. “How’s it going down there?”
“Well, I guess you’d say it’s been bittersweet. I’ve had fun with my family, and I’ve enjoyed the visit.”
“That’s good, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is. I’m glad you suggested I come down here. I think the space has been a good thing.” I was smiling, and I hoped he knew it.
“I’m happy to hear that, Sookie.” He managed to sound relieved and disheartened at the same time.
“You want to know the shitty part?”
“If you want to tell me.”
“I miss you.” I laughed nervously when I realized how that must have sounded to him. “What I mean is, I hate that you’re not here with me. I think it’s a good thing that I miss you. I just hate that I do. Does that make sense?”
Eric laughed quietly and said, “Yeah, it makes sense. I feel the same way.”
There was a meaningful silence that passed between us before I said, “I was thinking about leaving early.”
“I was thinking about coming to get you.”
My heart skipped a beat. “Really?”
“I want you here with me. This is crazy. There are so many things I want to tell you, and I don’t want to say it unless I can look into your eyes when I say it.”
A lump rose in my throat and my eyes welled with tears. “Me, too.”
Eric breathed a sigh of relief. “It’s supposed to snow here tomorrow.”
“Well, I guess the weather Gods are conspiring against us.”
“Maybe it’s just as well. Mom is still in denial about us holding off on the marriage thing.” Eric informed me.
“She doesn’t even know me.” I said with amazement.
“She knows me.” Eric pointed out.
“I guess that means I make you happy.”
“Very smooth, Mr. Northman.” I giggled quietly.
“You do quite well.”
“So how are you going to spend your last day in Louisiana?”
“I actually have plans to meet Tara for lunch at Merlotte’s. I haven’t seen Sam in a while.”
“My old boss. I waitressed for him years ago before I moved up to Illinois for school.”
“Ah ha.” Maybe I was imagining it, but his tone suggested a hint of jealousy or suspicion.
“What?” I tried not to sound accusatory. I wasn’t mad at him, but I was curious as to whether or not I was right about what I thought I heard in that grunt of his.
“You’re going to have lunch with another man tomorrow?”
I had to restrain myself from laughing. He was definitely jealous. “Eric, I’m having lunch with Tara. Sam’s just going to be there because he owns the place. You have nothing to worry about. Besides, Pam’s beautiful, and I don’t give you any hassle about working with her.”
“You’re right. I’m sorry.” He apologized. “For what it’s worth, I do trust you.”
“I means a lot, and thank you.”
“Well, I won’t keep you up all night, and I should get to sleep anyway. Mom wants to go out to Woodfield tomorrow.” Eric didn’t sound happy, and I couldn’t blame him.
“Awww poor baby.” I pouted on my end. You couldn’t pay me to go out to Woodfield Mall so close to Christmas. It was bad enough on some random Tuesday. I wouldn’t be going anywhere near that mall again until well after the New Year.
“She wants me to help her pick out your Christmas present.” Eric confided.
“Oh, she doesn’t need to get me anything.”
“It’s unavoidable, love.” Eric sighed. It felt good to hear him call me that. “Thanks for picking up when I called.”
“You can always talk to me, Eric. That hasn’t changed.” I promised him.
“I love you, Sookie.” His voice was heavy with emotion, and tears sprang to my eyes.
I took a deep breath before saying, “I love you, too, Eric.”
Not that it hadn’t mattered before, but hearing him say he loved me meant so much more in the wake of everything that had happened. Even better was knowing I could say it back, and knowing without a doubt that I meant it. It felt like the start of a new beginning for us, and more than ever, I wanted to hop the next flight back to Chicago.
“Sweet dreams, lover.” He purred in my ear in that sexy voice of his.
“I’ll be dreaming of you.” It was the cheesiest thing I’d ever said, but with the sound of his voice ringing in my ears, I had no doubt I was telling the truth.
We hung up after that, and I put my phone back on the beside table. I turned off the light and had just settled into a comfy position when the phone buzzed again. I laughed through my nose, having no doubt whatsoever that I’d just gotten a text message from Eric.
I’ll be dreaming of you, too, lover. 38 hours.
I smiled at the message and contemplated writing something back, but I was pretty sure we would go from sweet little notes like that to dirtier things, and I wasn’t really sure I was up for sexting. I wanted the real thing, but I wouldn’t be getting it for at least another 39 hours. I put the phone back on the table, and stared at it until I drifted off to sleep.
Just like I knew I would, I dreamt of Eric. I dreamt of him sneaking into my parents’ house and getting into bed with me. It was like I’d expected him to show up, which I suppose I sort of did. He didn’t take off his clothes, he just got into bed with me. Well, on top of me, is more like it. For what felt like hours, we just laid there staring at one another before we moved at the same time to kiss. His lips on mine felt sinfully good. The kissing didn’t last too long before my nightgown was being pulled up, and I was reaching between us to unzip his jeans. His lips stayed on mine as he entered me with one swift thrust of his hips. My legs wrapped around his waist while my arms snuck up around his ribs to settle on his back.
His thrusts were fast and hard, driving me deeper and deeper into the mattress. There was a frenzied need for possession in the dream fucking we were doing, and it had felt so real to me that it was a big disappointment when I woke up alone right after the dream version of me had exploded in orgasm. I was breathing hard, and my head felt light. My heart was thudding in my chest, and it took a few minutes before I could settle down enough to go back to sleep.
When my alarm went off a few hours later, I got out of bed and went straight to the shower. I’d promised to meet Tara at eleven before the lunch crowd of road crew workers and other locals took all the tables at Merlotte’s. I dressed in a pair of jeans and a winter white v-neck sweater. When I got downstairs, there was a note from Mom telling me she was helping Gran with some last minute church Bizarre preparations for that weekend, so I had the house to myself.
I had a small breakfast of toast and some yogurt, along with some much needed coffee. I thought about taking a walk in the woods out back, but the thermometer told me it was just a few ticks above freezing, so I nixed that plan. I had an hour to kill before heading off to Merlotte’s so I flipped on the TV and did some channel surfing. I stopped when I got to TCM and saw that Some Like It Hot was on. It was one of my favorite movies, and it had me laughing in no time.
Before I knew it, it was time to go. I went upstairs to get my phone and purse, and smiled when I saw I had yet another text message from Eric waiting for me.
Good morning, lover. 27 hours.
My heart skipped another beat when flashes of my dream the night before danced in front of my eyes. I slipped the phone into my bag, but decided I was going to text him back. I figured he could probably use the little pick me up if he was out shopping with his mother.
Good morning to you, too. I can’t wait.
It was a simple message, but it got the point across. I didn’t get a reply, but I didn’t need one. I could imagine him stopping in the middle of a crowded mall to read my response, and smiling like a goon because of it. That was enough for me. I put my phone back in my purse, and then headed out to Merlotte’s. It was a good thing Daddy’s old work truck was still out back or I would have had to call Tara to come get me. The parking lot at Merlotte’s was mostly empty when I got there.
The outside of the bar looked the same, except for some new light fixtures by the front doors. I walked inside to find the only change was a newer hardwood floor than the one I’d waited tables on back when I was still in college. Sam was behind the bar, wearing his consummate pair of Levi’s and a plaid shirt. He’d let his rusty blond hair grow out some, and it was just barely brushing his shoulders. He had a slight case of five o’clock shadow along his jaw, and his complexion was a bit ruddier than I remembered it being.
“Well kiss my grits.” Sam said with excitement when his eyes landed on me. He came out from behind the bar to give me a hug. “I didn’t know you were in town, girl.”
“It’s only for a few days, and I felt bad I didn’t get the chance to come up when I was here for Thanksgiving.” I said as we hugged.
“Yeah, I heard you were here. I was a little disappointed myself.”
“Well, it was a short trip, and Eric and I already had plans. You heard about Amelia, right?”
Sam’s eyes darkened some and he nodded. “Yeah, we all heard. Fucking Copely.”
“You know she’s awake now?”
I laughed and said, “No shit. She’s been awake for about two weeks now. Apparently, the first thing she did was call Tray to come get her. He hopped a flight to Shreveport, rescued her from that nursing center Cope stashed her in and they flew off to Vegas and finally got married.”
“Well, good for them. ‘Bout time they finally got hitched.”
“That’s what I said.”
“So who’s this Eric fella?”
“My boyfriend.” I looked at him like he should know better.
“Is he out parking the car, or something?”
“No, he’s back home in Chicago. He wanted to come, but some things came up so he had to stay there. Next time we come down I promise to bring him around so you can meet him.”
“Sookie?” A familiar voice called out from behind me, and I whipped around to see Tara standing at the door.
“Tara!” I ran over to her and gave her one of my Daddy’s big bear hugs.
Sam went back to work behind the bar while Tara and I claimed a booth to sit in. A waitress I didn’t recognize came over and handed us some menus. Tara and I both ordered a sweet tea and the infamous Burger Lafayette. There were quite a few places in Chicago to get a good cheeseburger, but none of them were like the Burger Lafayette. I would definitely have to bring Eric here, if only so he could try one for himself.
“So, you look amazing.” Tara grinned at me as I sipped my tea.
“Thank you. So do you! I guess your new beau is agreeing with you?”
“J.B. is wonderful.” Tara’s face flushed with excitement. “I tell ya, I’ve never felt this way about anyone, and I’ve had my fair share of relationships.”
“Tara, that’s wonderful. I’m so happy for you.” I reached out to pat her hand.
“And Eric? How’s things with him?” Tara looked a bit concerned, and when I arched an eyebrow at her she said, “I talked to Jason when I ran into him at Wal-Mart. He told me you were coming down, and about what happened with Eric. He figured you’d tell me all about it anyway.”
I would have been upset with Jason for running his mouth, but it was pretty obvious to me the only person he’d run it to was Tara. He was right that I would have told her anyway, but it still would have been nice if I could have done it myself.
“You know, when I got on the plane to come down here, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do. My heart said I’d be crazy to leave him, but at the same time I wasn’t sure I could trust him. What he did was just so out of character, and it made me wonder if maybe there were other things he’s been hiding from me, too.”
“Things like what?” Tara leaned forward on the table. I told her about Johan and Pam, and how Eric had reacted so strongly to what Pam had told him, but Tara just waved that off. “Honey, that’s just a man being a man. If he sees her like a sister, he’s never going to like who she’s sleeping with. And if the one she’s sleeping with his brother? Well that just makes it worse. Not to mention, if things go bad that puts him in a pretty awkward position, doesn’t it? Do you really think he’s got feelings for Pam?”
“No, I don’t. I did for a little while, but I know better than that. If he wanted Pam, he could have had her years ago. It’s not to say that feelings don’t change, but I’ve seen the way they are together, and it’s nothing like how he is with me.”
“Well, there you go.” Tara nodded. “So what else got your ghost?”
“I guess it was just the violence in general. Eric has never raised a hand to me, and it’s not that I think he ever would, but it was still scary to see him lose control of himself that way. There was something so… primal about it, I guess. Like it was some buried gut reaction that had finally clawed its way to the surface. At the time, all I could think about was what would have happened if his brother and a bouncer wouldn’t have pulled Eric off of Bill.”
“Now I think what might have been doesn’t really matter. I also understand the whole thing better now. I know it wasn’t some premeditated act, and I know Eric wasn’t just waiting for his chance to do what he did. It just happened.”
“You know you’re lucky.” Tara’s eyes twinkled with sadness.
“I am. Eric’s one of the good ones.” I nodded.
“I never told you about my ex.” Tara started off sadly, casually stirring her tea. “It was after I broke up with Franklin, and I was in a bad way. You’d gone off to school in Illinois with Amelia, and I just felt like maybe I needed a change, too. Somehow, I ended up at this dive bar in Jackson. The second I saw Mickey, I knew he was the one I wanted. He was dark and dangerous, and a part of me wanted to live on the wild side for a while. You know, see how far I could go? It sounds crazy now, but it seemed like the answer to all of my problems back then. I wanted to lose myself in something other than how bad I felt over losing Franklin.
“People warned me to stay away from Mickey. They told me he had a temper and a real bad side, but he was always sweet to me. I fell in love with him fast, and before I knew it, he changed. He became the monster everyone had tried to warn me he was. He was violent and mean, and he didn’t care that he hurt me over and over again. It was a bad situation, and it’s only because of Sam that I got out of it.” Tara looked over at Sam behind the bar, and smiled his way. “Sam Merlotte saved my life. I’m telling you this because it sounds to me like maybe Eric just made a really big mistake. It doesn’t sound like he’s a lost cause the way Mickey is. You’ve always been a smart girl, Sookie, so if your gut is telling you he’s the one, then you should listen to it.”
“Everyone keeps telling me that, but I thought the same thing about Quinn.” I admitted quietly as the waitress brought over our burgers.
“John Quinn is a jackass.” Tara said with conviction. “He had the best thing in the world and he lost it because he was a damned fool. That wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have done anything different to change that man’s mind.”
She was right, of course, and it felt good to have someone else say it. “I’m just scared, Tara. Eric means so much to me. I don’t want to lose him.”
“Then quit pushing him away.” Tara gave me a pointed stare, and took a bite of her burger.
I hadn’t thought of what I was doing as pushing Eric away, but maybe Tara had a point. We ate in silence for a few minutes before I cleared my throat and asked, “Tara, what finally got you to leave Mickey?”
Tara looked me dead in the eyes and said, “He beat me until I miscarried.”
I gasped, horrified that she had been through something so traumatic, and before I knew I was on the other side of the booth giving her a hug. “Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. I had no idea. Why didn’t you ever tell me any of this?”
She took a moment to collect her thoughts before answering me. “Because I was ashamed of myself, Sook. I swore that after what I went through with my parents, I would never find myself in a situation like theirs. I was going to be smarter than them. Somehow, I got it into my head I could change Mickey if I just loved him enough. But what we had, it wasn’t love. Do you love Eric, Sookie?”
I didn’t even have to think about it. “Yes, I do. Very much.”
“Then go home to him and work it out. Everyone makes mistakes, and it sounds to me like that’s what happened with him. Give him a chance to make it right before you dismiss him.” Tara advised.
I nodded as tears sprang to my eyes. “There’s something else. I haven’t told anyone about this yet.”
“What?” Tara stroked my hair gently, noting the look of worry on my face.
“Well, after my accident I was on some medications, and I forgot that it can totally cancel out birth control, and since Eric and I can’t seem to keep our hands off each other for more than a few hours, I think I might be pregnant.” I confessed this quietly, not wanting everyone in Bon Temps to be talking about it before I even knew for sure if I was or not.
“You haven’t taken a test yet?” She asked, and I shook my head. “Well, let’s go get you a test. Unless you want to wait until you get home?”
“I do, but I kind of want to know before I get there. I think I might need some time to get okay with it before I tell Eric. I mean, assuming I am. And if I’m not, I don’t want to break down in front of him.”
“Sook, do you want to be pregnant?” Tara gave me a half smile.
“Well, when it first occurred to me, I freaked out. The timing could be better, but the more I thought about it… I don’t know, I guess I realized that there’s never really a perfect time for a baby. Besides, I love Eric. I want to work things out with him. I know we’ll work it out. So the more I think about it, yeah, I think I want to be pregnant.”
Tara nodded appreciatively and said, “Okay, well, as soon as we’re done here we’ll go over to Monroe and get a test so not everyone in town knows your business.”
“Thank you, Tara.” I hugged her again.
“It’s gonna be okay, Sook, and if I can say that after everything I’ve been through, then it must be true.” Tara laughed quietly, and I couldn’t help but laugh right along with her.
My cell beeped on the table, and I reached to pick it up. Another text from Eric was waiting for me.
25 hours. I love you.