A few days later I was at work delivering drinks to table seventeen when Jason grabbed my arm so hard I thought it might come out of its socket.
“Jason!” I yelped as he pulled me toward the door. “I’m working here, you know!”
My protest fell on deaf ears and my brother practically shoved me out of the bar into the parking lot. I didn’t know what the hell his problem was but if he didn’t let go of me in the next three seconds he was going to be talking in a tone of voice so high only dogs would hear it.
“Gran says you been seein’ a guy named Eric,” he said with a flushed, angry face.
“Let go of my arm and I’ll consider talking to you,” I sassed.
Jason loosened his grip but didn’t altogether let go of me.
“Is it true?” he demanded.
“Arm,” I insisted. “Look, Jase, I’m busy here so you either let go or you deal with Sam when he comes out to pitch a fit about me taking too many breaks.”
Jason let go of my arm and then folded his while he waited for me to confirm his accusation.
“Yes, I’m seeing someone named Eric. So what?”
“You know he’s fooled around with Dawn before. She told me so, and she told me she told you, too.”
“Yeah, so? Jase, if every girl in this town stayed away from you because you hooked up with their friend, family member or co-worker you’d never get laid again.”
“We ain’t talkin’ ’bout me, Sookie! We’re talkin’ ’bout you gettin’ a little too friendly with a guy that knows what my girl feels like on the inside!”
I cringed at his choice of words and briefly considered slapping him silly. Was it my fault that Dawn had a sexual past as murky as my brother’s? Hell no. Did it bother me a little that she’d slept with Eric? Sure it did. Was that reason enough to break up with him? Not in my opinion.
“Jase, who I date isn’t any of your business. I’m sorry if Dawn messing around with him bothers you but it isn’t like you haven’t slept with some of her friends just to spite her,” I pointed out and before he could argue I continued, “And I don’t remember needing your permission to date anybody. If you’ve got a problem with Eric that’s your problem, not mine. Now if you’ll excuse me I have customers waiting.”
The first conversation I have with my brother in a while and he tries to tell me what to do with my life. I shook my head and started toward the door.
“Dawn said some things about him, Sook. Things a nice girl like you wouldn’t approve of. You know he likes tyin’ girls up and roughin’ ’em up during… you know,” he said with concern.
I sighed and rubbed my temples for a few seconds.
“Are you sure you want to be having this talk with me, Jason? You may not like the answers you get.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means I’m pretty sure I know a lot more about the kinds of things that Eric likes than Dawn does, and tying girls up is just the tip of the iceberg,” I said.
Jason looked utterly appalled by what I was saying. I was actually impressed that I didn’t have to spell it out more for him before he got the hint. Jason recoiled like I’d just told him I got off on killing puppies or wearing clown masks while I had sex.
“Jesus, Sook,” he said with disgust.
“Oh get off it, Jason. I seem to remember you bragging in the middle of the bar to anyone who would listen about the threesome you had with two of the Crane triplets, and I also seem to remember you being especially proud that you’d been in one of ’em one minute and the next the other one was sucking your-”
“Stop!” he held up a hand.
Seeing my brother so horrified about having his sexual history trotted out by his sister was amusing to me. Not that I enjoyed recounting those details but they were hard to forget since he all but acted it out on the pool table inside.
“The point is, I have never given you shit for any of your questionable sexual conquests, and those are just one night stands. Eric and I are in a relationship that isn’t just about sex. Whether we’re strictly vanilla about it or do some of the kinkiest stuff you can imagine isn’t any of your business, and we both know you don’t want to know the details of my sex life. If you want to be mad at someone be mad at Dawn for having the same standards as you.”
“But I don’t have any,” he narrowed his eyes before his brain caught up with his mouth.
“Exactly my point!” I rolled my eyes. “I gotta get back to work, Jason. If you come up with a real concern let me know. Until then do us both a favor and stay out of my sex life.”
With that I went back into the bar and hoped Jason didn’t follow me. I was a little pissed at Dawn for running her mouth to him about Eric. I wasn’t upset that Jason knew I was seeing someone, but was it really necessary for her to mention that she’d been there first? That just seemed petty and spiteful to me.
My goal was to avoid Dawn for the rest of the night. If she thought I was going to fill her catsups so she could leave early with my numbskull brother she had another thing coming. I really needed to stop being so nice to people who treated me badly. I’d never done a damn thing to Dawn. In fact, I’d tried to help her fix things with my brother and I’d done her countless favors at work. Did she deserve that? Heck, had she ever even said thank you?
I would not to let my frustration get the better of me. It wouldn’t do me any good to walk around all night with a sour puss or a nasty attitude. All I could do was hope that time would pass quickly so I could go home.
“Good evening, Lover,” Eric purred when he answered my call later that night.
“Hi,” I sighed. I was tired and all I really wanted was to curl up next to him and pretend the rest of the world didn’t exist.
“What’s wrong?” he asked with concern.
“I got into it with my brother. He showed up at the bar, dragged me outside and started making accusations about what kind of guy I’m dating because he heard things about you from the girl he’s been sleeping with off and on for years now. I told him to mind his own business, but I don’t know what good it did. My brother doesn’t know when to keep his mouth shut sometimes and I don’t need him repeating what he heard to Gran,” I sighed.
“What did he hear?”
“That you like rough sex and tying girls up,” I said.
Eric growled and said, “And your brother felt that it was his place to… what? I don’t know what he was trying to accomplish.”
“I think he was trying to warn me, but I let him know that I am very aware of your proclivities. Dawn, on the other hand, barely got a taste.”
“Dawn Green. She’s a waitress here at Merlotte’s and when she saw your picture on my phone she said she knew you. When I asked how she told me that you two had slept together in the past.”
“And you didn’t mention this to me?”
“It didn’t seem important, Eric. If I mentioned it to you what would you say in response? Would you give me the play by play of every dirty detail of the night you spent with her? Would you try to explain away why you were with her? I’m not that curious or petty, Eric. I’m sure you’ve been with your share of women. I don’t need a number or if you preferred one to another. I left it alone because I didn’t see the point of bringing it up until now and of course now we’re arguing about it. Dammit!” I shouted and banged my hand against the steering wheel.
There was silence on the other end of the line and for a minute I worried that Eric had hung up on me. I couldn’t even hear him breathing.
“I’m sorry,” I apologized. “I didn’t mean to yell at you. I’m just angry at Dawn for telling my brother the things she did and I’m mad at Jason for trying to get in my business.”
“Sookie, it’s okay,” he said reassuringly. “Come to my house.”
“Eric, it’s late and I’m tired. I don’t know if I could stay awake for the drive,” I sighed. “But thank you for the invitation. If you lived closer I would take you up on it in a heartbeat.”
“I can come to you,” he offered.
“No, that’s okay. I’m sure you have a busy day tomorrow-”
“You let me worry about that. If you want me to come I will. If you would rather be alone that’s okay too.”
I wanted to see him. I wanted it badly. I wanted his arms around me and the gentle insistence that everything was okay.
“I don’t want to put you out.”
“It’s not putting me out to take care of you,” he said. “You go home and get in the tub. I’ll be there as soon as I can, even if it’s only to tuck you into bed.”
I smiled at his decision and said, “You know you’re making it very easy for me to fall for you when you do sweet things like this.”
“And you letting me in to take care of you makes it easy for me to fall for you,” he said. “Now go relax. I’ll be there soon.”
We hung up and when I got home I went straight upstairs to start the tub. While it filled I went to my bedroom to get undressed. I sent Eric a text to let him know that kitchen door was unlocked for him, and then I went to the bathroom and sank into the tub. The water was soothing and when I added a little lavender essence to it, the smell relaxed me almost instantly.
I leaned back against the old claw foot tub and closed my eyes. The smell of lavender filled my lungs and it wasn’t long before I was dangerously close to being asleep. Every part of me relaxed, even my brain, and I didn’t hear it when Eric pulled up to the house or climbed the stairs to come find me. I was a little worried about Gran discovering him in the house but not so worried that I was going to tell him to go.
“Sookie,” Eric whispered when he got to the bathroom.
“You’re quiet as a church mouse when you want to be,” I said quietly without opening my eyes.
“I didn’t want to wake your grandmother. I parked up by the road and walked the rest of the way,” he explained. I heard some shuffling around and then Eric said, “Sit up for me, Sookie.”
My eyes opened and I looked over to see Eric had taken off his clothes. I sat up and moved over to give him room to get in the tub with me. I let some of the water out so it would slosh and spill all over the place and then he stepped in. Eric got himself situated one limb at a time and sank against the back of the tub. I shifted my position so I was sitting between his long legs and rested my back against his chest.
“You know sometimes you’re so close to perfect it’s scary,” I said with a smile as my eyes closed and his arms wrapped around me.
He kissed the top of my head and said, “I told you it was my job to make sure you get what you need.”
My smile grew a little and his arms tightened around me. We were quiet after that and stayed in the tub until the water started to get cold. I didn’t want to get out, but Eric helped me out of the water. He wrapped me up in my fluffy pink towel to dry me off before grabbing another for himself. We walked back to my bedroom and Eric took the elastic band out of my hair. He sat me down on my bed and then reached for my hairbrush on the dresser.
“May I?” he asked, and I nodded.
He was careful not to pull too hard as he brushed my hair for me. Over and over the brush went through my hair until I thought I might fall asleep from it. When he set the brush aside I felt him continuing to stroke my hair, and then the ends of some of it tickled under my nose. My eyes opened to see that he had braided a little of it.
“Where did you learn to do that?” I asked with a smile. A look in the mirror told me the braid he’d fashioned was a little on the intricate side. It was a skill I wouldn’t have expected Eric to have.
“Centuries ago braids were worn by warriors,” he started, and proceeded to give me an unexpected history lesson while he dressed me and got me tucked into bed.
I listened to him with rapt attention. Not only was his lesson interesting, but I loved the way he spoke. There was such a melodic cadence to his voice; it was like the audio equivalent of rocking slowly on a rowboat in the afternoon sun. I felt safe and anchored by his voice, like as long as he was close by nothing bad could touch me. Eric sat at the edge of my bed as he spoke, and let his fingertips trail up and down the inside of my forearm.
“Warriors wore braids as a form of protection so it would be more difficult for an enemy to get a hold of their hair during a fight, or as they fled an unsafe area,” Eric explained. “I read somewhere once that braids were a great source of pride to many warriors, and to have one cut by an enemy was shameful. To have such a thing done in front of other warriors was a large dishonor. For many men, death was preferred to the loss of their braids. To some, the only dishonor that ranked higher was to be sexually tortured and in that case, death was absolutely preferable. Pride, honor, courage, strength… it would be hard to see a warrior with those skills after he had been used like a woman.”
“Gran would love to hear these stories,” I whispered. I was very close to falling asleep. “When you meet her you should tell her.”
Eric leaned down and kissed my forehead. His lips lingered there for a few moments before he moved to my ear and whispered, “Only you would enjoy this as a bedtime story.”
I couldn’t help smiling. Eric kissed my lips and then his free hand stroked my cheek softly. I nuzzled against it but sleep pulled me under. I don’t know how long he sat there for, just watching me, but when I woke up I was still smiling.