The night before my sentencing was spent with me mostly pacing the house. I’d managed to keep myself in bed long enough for Sookie to fall asleep, but I couldn’t stay there next to her. I was worried all of my tossing and turning would wake her up, and she needed her rest. I hated that we were going through this. I tried to keep a positive outlook. Everyone who had an opinion about our situation said the same thing. Since I was a first time offender, I wasn’t likely to have to spend any time in jail. I sincerely hoped Judge Brigant was in a merciful mood because I knew there was no way I’d be able to hold it together if Sookie lost it.
I got down on the living room floor and positioned myself so my head was underneath the Christmas tree. Johan and I used to do that all the time when we were kids. We’d lay there for hours watching the lights chase each other around the tree. We outgrew by the time we were about seven, but we always looked forward to it. We’d lay there speaking our own little twin language Mom could never understand, and just watch the lights. I got so absorbed in my memories that I didn’t hear Sookie until she was laying down next to me.
“What are you doing up?” I reached for her hand.
“I was going to ask you the same thing.” She laced her fingers with mine.
“I can’t sleep, and I didn’t want to keep you up. You need your rest.”
“Yes, I do, but I need you more. Talk to me. Tell me what’s going on in that head of yours.”
“Nothing we haven’t already talked about, or thought about a thousand times in the last few days.”
Sookie sighed and said, “Eric, I’m as worried as you are, but it’s out of our hands. You picking up insomnia isn’t going to change anything, and if this is the last night we get to spend together for a while, I don’t want to spend it on the living room floor waiting for sap to drop on my face.”
I laughed quietly beside her. “You raise excellent points, Miss Stackhouse.”
“I know. Can we please get up now?” Sookie asked as if she’d been laying on the floor for hours instead of minutes.
“Yeah, we can get up now.” I got up first, and then offered a hand to pull her up.
She tucked herself into my side and we went back to bed together. I climbed into bed first so I didn’t see it when Sookie stripped off her nightgown behind me. When I turned around, though, she was naked. It was definitely a better way to spend the night than laying under the tree. She climbed into bed beside me and pulled me on top of her. I could tell by the look in her eyes there were all sorts of things she wanted to say, but she didn’t say any of them. We laid there just looking at each other for a little bit, and I wanted to make sure I had every line, spot or crease on her face memorized. I wanted something to focus on when I fell asleep at night on the chance I would be doing it alone.
“So are you just going to lay there, or are you going to kiss me?” Sookie poked me in the ribs.
We spent the rest of the night entangled in one another, our bodies giving life to all of the feelings and thoughts we were both experiencing, before finally drifting off a few hours later into a deep sleep. I was scheduled to appear in court at ten. The alarm went off at seven thirty, but Sookie’s wakeup call came before that. Despite her protests, I followed her into the bathroom and rubbed her back while she vomited.
“Bet you won’t miss this.” Sookie tried to smile at me with a tear-stained face.
“Just you, lover.” I kissed the corners of her mouth. Her breath caught in her throat, and I knew she was about to start crying for other reasons. “No more tears. It’s out of our hands now, remember?”
Sookie steeled her will and nodded with determination. “No more tears.”
“That’s my girl. Now how about we get in the shower, and we can try out one of those drop the soap games I hear are all the rage in prison.” I winked at her.
She looked positively horrified for a second before she dissolved into a fit of giggles. It never ceased to amaze me how strong she could be. Sookie was nothing if not a fighter. It dawned on me then that she would be okay without me. She might not be happy, and I knew it wasn’t what she would choose for herself, but she would be okay. Out of nowhere she grabbed my face with both hands and looked deep into my eyes.
“Don’t look at me like that.” She commanded.
“Like this is goodbye.”
“It’s not.” I assured her.
“Damn right it’s not.” And with that, she pulled my face to hers and kissed me, morning sickness breath be damned.
I somehow got the water started for the shower before she pushed me to sit on the closed lid of the toilet. She straddled my lap while we waited for the water to warm up. I let my fingers graze her breasts, but any firmer pressure was a no-go for her. One hand moved around to her back to pull her closer, while the other slipped between her legs. Just as I had spent the night before memorizing the lines of her face, I was now trying to commit the sounds she made to memory. They were predictable, but wonderfully so.
She pressed her forehead to mine and sucked her bottom lip into her mouth as her breathing became more ragged. I could feel the thundering her of heart against my chest. I knew all the right places to touch her to make those moans louder, and her back arch further. She breathed my name against my lips before sinking her fingers into my hair, and tilting my head the way she wanted it so she could kiss me. Her hips bucked against my hand, trying to increase the friction she needed in order to find her release. Just when she got right to the edge, I pulled back.
“Why’d you stop?” Her eyes were frantic.
“Shower’s ready.” I winked at her.
She climbed off my lap and into the tub. I watched the steamy hot water roll down her body, matting her hair to her shoulders and back. I expected her to turn around to face me so I could pin her against the wall as I almost always did. I enjoyed the feeling of her body being wrapped around mine. I liked feeling her muscles twitch and tighten the closer she got to her finish. I liked her breath on my neck, and her voice in my ear. I liked feeling her heartbeat against my chest. She bent forward, bracing her hands against the wall as she offered herself to me.
Sliding inside her felt like a homecoming. My hands held her hips while my own moved slowly back and forth against her. I didn’t want it to end too quickly. I tried not to think of this as the last time, but I knew we were both feeling it. I watched drops of water fall into her tan back as my thrusts shook her body. Her moans and whimpers kept at an even pace, and the tightening of her walls around me brought my hand around in front of her to rub her to release.
I pulled out of her and turned her around. Her eyes were wild, and without having to say anything, her arms slid up around my neck. I lifted her easily, her legs hitching up around my waist as her back hit a familiar spot against the wall. One arm circled her waist to hold her to me while the other braced against the cool tile wall. She slid down onto me, and the look of determination in her eyes was unexpected. Her feet pushed me deeper inside her while her hips rocked away from the wall to meet the thrust. She leaned forward and nibbled my bottom lip before sucking it into her mouth.
Our tongues battled for dominance in a kiss that was hungry and demanding. Just as I was starting to feel myself get light headed from a lack of oxygen, Sookie just barely broke the kiss. Her eyes met mine while her fingernails dug into my shoulders.
“Fuck me.” She breathed against my mouth. I growled at her, making her giggle, and just like that any tone of mourning that had been hanging over us disappeared.
The simple sound of her laugh made everything feel better. I realized then that that was the sound I should be preserving for when life got dark. I figured the only sound that would ever trump that one would be the sound of our children laughing. Yes, I said children because I was sure there would be more than one. Not right away, but eventually. My mind drifted into the future, and I could so clearly see the two of us together, and I wondered if she was thinking those same thoughts as my body pounded itself against hers.
“Mmm, watch me.” She moaned, her voice bringing me back to the present to watch one of her hands settle between us so she could bring herself to her next release.
The gasps and pants gave way to cries before becoming screams when she exploded. The fierce clenching of her walls around me was enough to make my knees buckle when I roared with my own orgasm. Her legs were locked around my waist, and I knew it would be a minute before she relaxed. I was reluctant to pull out of her but time was the enemy. Slowly, almost regretfully so, she slid down my body and went after the bottle of body wash she loved so much. It smelled like milk and honey and made her skin taste ridiculously good. I took the bottle from her and poured some of the soap in my hand before turning her around to lather up her back and shoulders.
“Be careful, or we’ll be late for court.” Sookie said over her shoulder.
“I promise to behave myself. I bent and kissed her neck on a spot I knew would make her squirm.
“Careful, Northman.” She wiggled against me.
Damn if I didn’t momentarily consider skipping court. Making love to Sookie in the shower for hours on end was far more appealing. Still, we managed to get our shit together and wash up. I went off to make us breakfast, even though she protested about eating. She figured if things didn’t go our way, she was likely to make herself sick. I reminded her she had a baby inside her that needed her to eat and be healthy, and so for the sake of that child, she agreed to scrambled eggs and toast.
I was scrambling the eggs while Sookie was blow drying her hair when there was a knock at the front door. A peek out the kitchen window told me it was Pam and Johan outside. Amelia and Tray would be meeting us at the courthouse, along with several of the bar employees who had not only witnessed the fight I’d had with Bill, but also the night Bill had punched Johan the previous fall. Johan hadn’t bothered to file charges at that point since he figured Bill was just some little piss ant who wouldn’t do any damage. Oh, how things had changed since then.
I opened the front door for them but quickly went back to the stove. Pam’s heels thundered against the floor as she walked into the kitchen. “Well, well, aren’t you domestic this morning?”
“Enjoy it while you can, Pam.” I said as I stirred the pan full of eggs.
“Smells good in here, bror.” Johan helped himself to coffee.
“That’s decaf.” I warned him, earning me an arched eyebrow.
“Since when does Sookie drink decaf?” Fuck. Johan was well aware of Sookie’s fits of rage if there was no coffee in the morning.
“It’s just something she’s trying out.” I said weakly.
“I call bullshit, lillebror. Out with it.” Johan gave me that ‘I’m your twin so don’t even think about bullshitting me’ look, and I knew that if I didn’t spill the beans, he’d go after Sookie.
“Can it wait until Sookie comes out of the bathroom?”
Johan looked me up and down before nodding his ascent. I glared over at Pam who was grinning at me. She knew. I knew she knew. How the hell did she know? Sure she was observant, but the look on her face didn’t show any signs of surprise, suggesting she’d had time to get used to the idea.
“Did you two eat this morning?”
“We’re going to brunch afterward. You and Sookie should join us.” Pam suggested.
“Uh, assuming I’m able to walk out of the courthouse a free man, Sookie and I have other plans for how to spend the day.” I plated up the eggs I’d made and poured a cup of coffee for Sookie as her footsteps came toward the kitchen.
“Good morning.” She said cheerfully as she entered the room.
“What’s with the decaf?” Johan wasn’t wasting any time.
“The decaf?” Sookie could play a dumb blonde like nobody’s business when she wanted to.
“The coffee.” Johan gave her a pointed stare.
Sookie wasn’t a good on-the-spot liar, but thankfully Pam was ready with a distraction. Sookie and I were definitely going to have to talk about this on the way to the courthouse. Pam started blathering on about finding footage from the security tapes of the night Bill punched Johan. She had turned copies over to my lawyer, although no one was sure what good they were going to do.
“Have the police come any closer to finding that bunny boiler?” Pam asked, effectively slamming the door shut on the coffee questions.
“Not that we know of. We’ve had cops patrolling around the house at regular intervals. They’ve been keeping an eye on Tray and Amelia’s place, too, just to be on the safe side.” Sookie answered.
“You know, you’d think Bill would want to keep Amelia alive since she’s the only witness to the accident. She can definitively say she saw Sophie-Anne behind the wheel of the car. We know Bill and Sophie-Anne were together earlier that night, but we don’t know if they stuck together after they were tossed out of the bar.” Johan grabbed a piece of toast and covered it in blackberry jam Sookie’s Gran had shipped up to us a few weeks before.
Sookie and I had developed a theory as to what had really happened, and neither of us were under the impression the accident was really an accident. Although, no one had ever really believed it was. Not that hit and runs didn’t happen all the time, it was just too suspicious with Bill and Sookie turning up at the bar like they did. Because of her obsession with me, it made sense for Sophie-Anne to do what she’d done. Framing Lorena had been a stroke of genius, in all honesty. Lorena was a scorned woman who’d lost her husband to a woman that didn’t want him. Of course, Lorena didn’t know anything about that. All she knew was what Bill told her, and according to him, Sookie was the great love of his life. Bunny boiler indeed.
We continued to talk about everything that had happened, trading theories and ideas until we had to leave. Pam and Johan headed out first. I helped Sookie into her coat while she put on her shoes. I locked up the house behind us, and took one last look over my shoulder before heading toward her car. Her hand tugging me in a different direction stopped me.
“Let’s take the Corvette.” She winked at me.
“Are you sure?” I knew she hated riding in it in the winter, and the ground was slick with ice.
“Yeah. I know how much it means to you, and besides, Johan can drive it back if necessary.”
“Pam can drive it back, and in the spring, I’m teaching you how to drive manually.” I told her. I knew if I let Johan drive the car back he’d stop at the nearest vacant lot to do God knows what.
“You know, a Corvette isn’t exactly a family car.” Sookie pointed out once we were both sitting inside it.
“One thing at a time there, champ.” I said as I pulled away from the curb. “For the record, there’s no way in hell I’m driving a mini-van.”
Sookie laughed and said, “I never said anything about a mini-van, but a two-seater isn’t going to work.”
“You want me to sell the Corvette?”
“I didn’t say that either. I do like this car. It’s just not going to be convenient for us as a family.”
“I think we should table this discussion until after court.” I looked over at her, and she reluctantly nodded her agreement. “So, when were you going to tell me you told Pam about the baby?”
“She told you?” Sookie just about screeched.
“Actually, you just did.” I squeezed her knee. Sookie sputtered for a second before coming up with any sort of a response I could understand.
“I didn’t mean to tell her. She figured it out on her own after what happened at Christmas, and she just caught me off guard at the bar when she brought it up and-”
“Sookie, it’s okay.”
“I’m sorry. I should have told you she knew. It just slipped my mind with everything else. I made her swear not to say anything to Johan.”
“He’ll figure it out sooner or later.” I sighed.
“Well, with any luck, he won’t have to, and we can tell him together.” Sookie leaned over and rested her head on my shoulder.
I could feel Sookie’s eyes trained on the back of my head while we waited for court to be called to order. When it was, everyone stood, and Judge Brigant came into the room. Bill Compton was nowhere to be seen. Since I’d already entered a guilty plea, the charges against me wouldn’t be dropped. However, since Bill was wanted in connection with Sophie-Anne’s death, it was likely the judge would go easy on me.
Judge Brigant took his seat and asked the prosecutor where Bill was. “Your Honor, the police have been searching for Mr. Compton. It appears as though he’s gone missing.”
“I heard.” Judge Brigant didn’t look happy, but then no one in the room did. After taking a deep breath, the judge looked right at me. “Mr. Northman, I reviewed all of the statements taken, along with the evidence entered by both attorney’s. Do you wish to maintain your plea?”
The easy way out would have been to change my mind, and try to push the blame solely onto Bill. Part of me said I was crazy not to do just that, but I knew deep down my reasons for attacking him had very little to do with Bill. The fact that he was a total nut job. I might have taken a swing at him, but it would have ended there. I had gone above and beyond that, and for reasons that had nothing to do with the threat he posed to Sookie. Scarier still was the idea that if he had gotten his hands on her that night was he wouldn’t have just hurt her, but our child as well. If he ever touched her again, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to stop myself from going as far as Sookie had been afraid I would have gone that night.
“Yes, sir, I do.” I nodded respectfully, which surprised the judge.
Judge Brigant looked to the prosecutor and said, “Mr. Lattesta, do the People have a recommendation on this case?”
“Your Honor, given the circumstances of this case, and the fact that Mr. Northman has strong ties to the community, we feel that the maximum fine, anger management and a year’s probation is sufficient punishment.” Mr. Lattesta said as he buttoned his suit jacket.
“I see. Mr. Northman, do you have anything to say before I give my sentence?”
I looked to Mr. Cataliades to my right, and then behind me to Sookie, who gave me an encouraging nod. I turned to face the judge. I didn’t know quite how to phrase everything I’d learned in the last few weeks. I didn’t think explaining my history with my dead sister and the budding romance between my brother and business partner would interest him. I didn’t want to make excuses for what I’d done. I knew the judge wanted to hear I was sorry for what I’d done, but the only thing I was sorry for was the way Sookie had suffered because of it all. She ended up the biggest victim in all of this, and it wasn’t fair to her. I shook my head slightly, keeping my eyes down.
Judge Brigant blew out a deep breath, and I looked up in time to see him rub his eyes. “Mr. Northman, please stand up.” I did as he asked before he continued. “I’ve given this a lot of thought. Generally, when trying to reach a sentence, I attempt to see the situation from the defendant’s point of view. After reviewing your statement, along with the tapes of the incident, I find myself a bit torn. Your record is spotless. You’ve been a role model to the community, as well as to untold thousands of young people due to your earlier days as an athlete. I can certainly sympathize with an instinct to protect what you love when you sense it’s in danger. Given the recent discovery of Miss LeClerq’s body, it would certainly seem Mr. Compton poses the greater threat to society. I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Lattesta’s recommendation for sentencing.”
I breathed a sigh of relief, and I heard a quiet sob escape Sookie from behind me. “Thank you, your Honor.”
“I’m not finished yet.” Judge Brigant leaned forward in his seat. “Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable. Franz Kafka said that once. In reviewing your case, I have come to realize you were following that train of thought. You did what you believed to be the proper thing in that moment. Simply by being on the property, Mr. Compton was trespassing. Still, by your own admission, your actions out of control. It is therefore, that this court accepts your plea of guilty and hereby sentences you to sixty days probation, a fine of $2,500.00, and 12 weeks of anger management classes. Court is adjourned.” Judge Brigant slammed his gavel down.
“All rise.” The bailiff called out as the judge stood to leave the room.
My knees nearly gave out under me. I looked to Mr. Cataliades. “Is that it? It’s over?”
The lawyer grinned at me and said, “Yes, it’s over. Congratulations, Mr. Northman.”
I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding, and before I knew it, I had Sookie swept up in my arms. She was crying against my neck, squeezing me as tightly as she could. When she finally loosened her grip a little, I set her down so I could hug my twin and Pam. Never in my life had a felt such relief. My life wasn’t over. Somewhere, someone was looking for me. I wanted to think maybe it was my sister working some magic as a guardian angel, but that seemed a little crazy.
“Let’s get out o f here.” Sookie tucked herself against me.
“Yes, please.” I wrapped an arm around her shoulders as we started out of the courtroom.
To say my parents were relieved when I called them to tell them the news would be the understatement of the year. The fact that Mom didn’t pass out was a bit shocking to me. For a minute, I thought I was going to lose her, she was sobbing so hard. Dad promised they’d call back later when Mom composed herself. Amelia was able to convince Sookie to put off our plans to go home and spend the rest of the day alone together long enough for the six of us to go have a celebratory drink together. We figured we might as well tell our four closest friends Sookie was pregnant at the same time.
We were headed down First Avenue, headed back toward Franklin Park from Maywood. Amelia, Tray, Pam and Johan had a head start, since Sookie and I had stayed behind to call my parents. A detour at North Avenue had me turning onto Thatcher, and driving into a wooded area. Sookie leaned over and pointed to turn-in for the woods.
“Turn there.” She whispered in my ear, sending a chill up my spine.
I did what she asked, and parked the car at the far end of the empty lot. A thick line of trees kept us hidden from the road in front of us. We were definitely in a secluded spot. I didn’t turn the car off since it was far too cold outside to be without heat for very long. Sookie took off her seatbelt and then peeled off her coat.
“What are you doing?” I had a feeling I knew what was coming, but I didn’t want to be a presumptuous bastard.
“If memory serves, I made you a promise while we were in Louisiana.” Sookie managed to climb into my lap before grabbing my hands and stashing them up her skirt.
“Lover, you’re not wearing underwear.” Instant hard-on. Holy hell.
“I know.” She leaned forward and started to loosen my tie.
“You know, if this is how you reward me, I may have to get arrested more often.” I groaned when my fingers got between her legs and felt how wet she was. Jesus, she’d planned this all out. I suddenly wished I had the engagement ring with me. What the fuck was I waiting for?
“Next time I won’t be so nice.” She nibbled on my neck and unzipped my pants, before teasingly stroking my erection.
“Good. I kind of like your dark side.” I pulled her mouth to mine, and immediately sought entrance to it with my tongue, which she easily gave me.
Our tongues were still battling for dominance over one anothers when she lifted her hips and slid herself down onto me. She was hot and wet, and that feeling of being home filled me again. Her hips rocked against mine hard and fast. We were definitely kicking off our celebration with a bang. With both of us being so fired up, it didn’t take long for us to find our release. Her hand slapped against the window when she came, her screams filling the car.
Sookie made the mistake of falling backward, and the horn sounded, scaring both of us. I pulled her forward, both of us laughing through our post-orgasmic haze. My eyes searched hers, and I cupped her face in my hands.
“Oh, no, Mr. Northman, thank you.” She leaned forward to kiss me.
“I didn’t mean that.” I said once she pulled back a little. “I meant for sticking with me, and for not running away when you could have.”
“Well, I ran a little bit.”
“No, you didn’t. You took some time to decide what you wanted, and I don’t know what the right words are to say so you know how happy I am that you came back to me. I love you, Sookie Stackhouse, and I love what’s waiting for us in the future.”
A tear slipped from her eye, and I caught it with my thumb. “I love you, too.” She kissed me once more, and I was seriously thinking about a second round with her when my cell phone rang. She pulled back and said, “You should get that.”
I dug my phone out of my jacket pocket. It was a number I didn’t recognize, but I answered the call anyway. “Eric Northman.”
Sookie, set on being a temptress, leaned forward and started nibbling on my neck again. Apparently she was interested in a second round herself.
“Mr. Northman, this is Stan Davis.” It was the head of the board of education. “How are you today?”
“Fine, Mr. Davis. What can I do for you?” This was the call I had been waiting for. I knew there would be a hearing of some sort to determine whether or not I would be returning to my teaching position at the high school.
“It’s been brought to our attention that you were recently charged with a violent offense. Today was your sentencing, if I’m not mistaken.”
“No, sir, you’re not.”
“Have you seen the judge?”
“Yes, I have.” I relayed my sentence to Mr. Davis.
“Mr. Northman, the board would like a closed session meeting with you tomorrow afternoon at one o’clock at the administration office. Can you make yourself available?”
“Yes, of course I can.”
“Good. We’ll see you then.” Mr. Davis hung up before I could say goodbye.
“Who was that?” Sookie came up for air with that starry look in her eyes.
“That was the school board. They want to see me tomorrow.” I put my phone back in my jacket.
Sookie straightened up, tension furrowing her brows. “Did they say anything?”
“Mr. Davis told me to be at the administration office tomorrow afternoon at one.” I relayed to her. I could see the nerves settling in her eyes. “Sookie, it’s going to be okay. Even if I don’t get to go back to teaching, things are going to be okay. I have you. That’s all I care about.”
She nodded, but I could tell she wanted to argue. I was pulling her lips to mine when my phone rang again. Pam. We both sighed, knowing our time was up.
“We’ll continue this later, lover. You have my word.”
“Yes, we certainly will.” She agreed before climbing off my lap, and sliding back into her own seat.
I watched as she produced a pair of lacy black panties from her purse and contorted her body to get them on. The only thing I could think of was how much I was going to enjoy tearing them off of her later.