Eric had just set his cell phone back into the little holster strapped to the treadmill he’d been running on when Sookie text messaged him, when a tiny pit-bull of a woman named Thalia hopped onto the machine next to his. Thalia Pardo looked to be about fourteen-years-old. Up until the year before, she had been a cop working in the sex crimes unit. Because of her appearance she was ideal for busting internet pervs like they did on To Catch A Predator. Only Thalia was nowhere near a helpless little girl. Thalia was damn near deadly and she had a record to prove it. She also had one hell of a temper. She was an aggressive litigator and she’d pushed more than one judge during her short career as a prosecutor.
“Northman, you bastard. You nailed Madden.” Thalia grinned over at him.
“I filed but I wouldn’t say I nailed him.” Eric started his machine at a walking pace.
“I heard you have a witness.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Eric wanted to know how the fuck that had gotten out, seeing as how he’d only been made aware of Sookie the night before.
“I have friends in the department, remember? You filing on Madden is a big deal. There are a lot of very pissed off people who are looking for his girlfriend, who seems to have gone missing in the last twenty-four hours.” Thalia eyed him.
“Thalia, this is a public place and the case is on-going. I can’t discuss this with you here.” Actually, he wouldn’t discuss it with her at all.
“I feel you.” She started her machine, having to set it a little higher than he did to keep pace with him. “I just wanted you to know I’m offering my help, if you need it.”
Ah, yes, she wants out of Special Victims, he recalled. “Tired of baby rapers, are you?”
Thalia snickered, shaking her head as she started to jog. “The only thing that keeps me going in that division is watching them piss themselves when I detail what sort of fun they’re in for once I convict them.” Thalia changed speeds and started to sprint. “You’d be good at sex crimes.”
“Thanks?” Eric deadpanned.
“You know what I meant. Guys would take one look at you and lose their shit. Literally. They look at me, and all they get is wood.”
“That’s too much information, Thalia.”
“It’s the truth. Sometimes I think they think I’m a parting gift before they get shipped off to whatever shithole prison they’re going to.”
While it was cathartic for some to get involved in a career that helped them work out childhood issues, it wasn’t for Eric. He had his own way of dealing with his past and it had nothing to do with searching out his scumbag ‘father’. Mr. Ocella was dead as far as Eric was concerned. Where the old man was these days was anyone’s guess. Eric really didn’t give a shit what had happened to him.
“I’m happy where I’m at, Thal,” Eric said as he started to jog along side her.
“Okay.” She backed off, which was surprising. Thalia wasn’t known for submission in seconds. “You don’t need me to tell you this, but Madden is a slippery motherfucker. He’s got people all over the place. If it’s true that his girlfriend flipped on him, she’s not safe in the city. He’ll find her. He’ll probably come looking for you, too. Watch your six.”
She didn’t need to tell him any of that. He already knew his life was on the line for this. Going after Madden was a huge risk. Eric was very aware of how dangerous Madden was. He was equally aware of how wide a net the dirtbag had cast. He was going to get Sookie out of the state as soon as possible. If it were up to him, he’d stash her in one of the four corners of the world and keep her moving every few years to make sure Madden never got the chance to catch up with her. There were plenty of places in the world for Sookie to hide.
The part that sucked was that he couldn’t go with her. When the trial was over, so were they. Forever.
As expected, the media circus began as soon as word broke that charges had been filed against Victor Madden. It didn’t help that he’d managed to slip out of the country the night before. Bobby Burnham insisted he was unaware of his client’s whereabouts and had been unable to reach his client. He acted nothing short of shocked and disturbed that his client’s beloved Miss Stackhouse had gone missing. Eric had known it wouldn’t take long for Sookie’s name to get attached to everything.
There was speculation flying around that she was dead, that Madden had killed her to keep her silent. If he hadn’t put a hit on Felipe de Castro the last time charges were filed, it wouldn’t be such a stretch to connect the two. Marshals were already on their way to check out the addresses Sookie had been able to provide Eric with the night before. Her wealth of knowledge on her former lover – calling him that even in his head made Eric’s skin crawl – was invaluable.
What was scary to him was that for every fact Sookie knew, he was sure there were dozens she didn’t. Madden didn’t get to where he was by being a fool. Eric knew firsthand how easy it was to get lost in Sookie’s quiet sweetness. She was definitely loyal to those she cared for. It was easy to trust her. One look into those innocent blue eyes of hers and a man could be hooked without realizing she’d sucked him in. It wasn’t intentional on her part; it’s just who she was.
He spent the rest of the afternoon attempting to deflect the press. He had work to do and couldn’t let himself get distracted by moronic questions from the media. While it was true he often used the press to his advantage, it was a double edged sword. As useful as TV cameras and reporters could be there were also a few crackpots who let their loose lips flap with every hair-brained idea that crossed their mind. Some of the wild theories they pontificated on during the dinner hour made him shake his head in wonderment.
How do they not need helmets to get through the day, he often wondered as he watched. His best bet was to shut it all out and focus on what he knew to be fact, rather than setting the record straight. He would let Pam deal with the press. She didn’t mind listening to the inane ramblings of reporters. Besides, it was better than fetching his coffee, wasn’t it?
He ended up leaving the office later than he wanted to. He was just about to call Sookie to let her know he was on his way when Pam appeared.
“Leaving so soon?” She smirked at him.
“It’s after seven, Pam. I’ve been here for more than twelve hours already.”
“So have I but there’s work to be done.”
“And I’m going home to do it.”
“Since when do you live in a loft in the industrial part of town?” She scratched her chin.
“Stowe it,” Eric snapped, making sure to lock his office behind him.
“You know you’re compromising—”
Eric got right in her face but she didn’t back down. He both admired her and disliked her intensely for it. “Are you aware of orders from the district attorney that I’m not, Pam?”
“You’re not seeing this with a prosecutor’s eyes, Eric. You’re not going to be able to keep her safe if you lead them right to her,” Pam countered.
He glared at Pam. She was right and he knew it. “Rather than worrying about what I do after hours, why don’t you look into how word leaked about us having a witness? It’s going around the goddamn P.D. like crabs in a frat house.” Thankfully, Pam looked just as pissed as he felt about the leak. “Goodnight, Pam.”
She shook her head disapprovingly at him but said nothing else. Eric left the building through the underground tunnels that lead to the parking garage where his car was. Once he was in the car, he pulled out his cell phone to call Sookie. He dialed her number and waited for her to pick up. There was no answer. He dialed a second time, thinking maybe he’d just caught her while her hands were dirty or she was in the bathroom. There was still no answer.
Panic slipped in and before he knew it, he was burning rubber out of the garage.
Eric and Sookie sat side by side on the living room floor between the couch and the coffee table with their textbooks spread out in front of them as they did their homework. Sookie was working on geometry, while Eric was writing an essay for English. She reached up from under the table to turn the page of her textbook and Eric poked her playfully in the side. She looked over at him with narrowed eyes but said nothing. His expression stayed blank as he continued to write.
When Eric leaned over to get something out of his backpack, Sookie retaliated by pinching his thigh. He returned the look she’d given him minutes before but like him, her expression remained unchanged. This back and forth of childish annoyances continued until Eric finally set down his pen and stretched like a cat. His long arms extended high over his head before one of them dropped down and pulled the pencil from Sookie’s hair, causing it to fall in her face.
“Quit it.” Sookie’s tone was flat.
He bided his time before letting his knee nudge hers under the table. She bit back a smile, knowing it was only a matter of time before one of them jumped on the other and then all bets would be off. Slowly, she pushed herself up off the floor and onto the couch, taking her notebook and textbook with her. Eric snickered on the floor, watching as she put her feet up on the coffee table.
She’s going to make this way too easy, Eric thought to himself. Sookie had extremely ticklish feet, something Eric had learned long ago. Even worse was the spot behind her knees, which was now easily accessible, thanks to the way her legs were stretched out. Eric began tapping his pen against the table, slowly moving the end of it closer and closer to Sookie’s foot. She squirmed when the pen made contact with the ball of her foot and his efforts got him an ear flick.
He reached up to rub his ear and as his hand dropped down his fingers traced the bare skin on the back of Sookie’s knee, making her squirm some more. It was a bizarre test of wills going on between them to see who could endure more of this nonsense. Sookie’s patience was wearing thin. She pulled her legs in so they were folded Indian style. Eric grunted his disapproval.
“Something wrong, sweetie?” Sookie asked without looking away from her homework.
The use of pet names in their relationship was rare. She used them mockingly, for which he was grateful. The very thought of his name being replaced with ‘honey’ or ‘baby’ made his skin crawl and she felt the same way.
“Nope. I’m good,” Eric said evenly.
For a while they went back to their homework, leaving each other to their own studies. Sookie finished her geometry and leaned forward to retrieve her book bag. She swung it up on the couch, “accidentally” hitting Eric’s shoulder.
“Oops. Sorry, sweetie.”
“That hurt.” Eric played it up even though it was barely a tap.
“You’re such a faker,” Sookie sighed as she dug into her bag for her history book.
“You’re a cold-hearted woman,” Eric mumbled from his seat on the floor.
“Am I?” Sookie put her math book in her bag and set it on the floor, careful not to bump Eric again. “Well, I can’t have you thinking that.” She shifted on the couch until she was sitting behind him. She rubbed his shoulder gently.
The muscles in his arms and back tensed as she rubbed them, rather than relaxing like they should have. She heard him take a deep breath before dropping his pen on the table. His head sank forward before rolling to the side, exposing his long neck. His hair fell to the side with the turn of his head and before she could stop herself, she leaned forward and kissed the newly exposed skin.
“Do you forgive me yet?” she whispered in his ear.
“Mmm… almost,” he whispered in return, his voice having dropped in octave so it was husky and sent vibrations to parts it wouldn’t have affected quite so much three months ago.
Sookie felt a tingle shoot up her spine. She resumed rubbing his shoulder and let her lips drag along his neck. It didn’t take long for him to turn around so they were face to face, mouth to mouth. It wasn’t much longer after that, that he had her stretched out on the couch with his body pressed against hers. Her back arched under him when his hand began to snake under her shirt.
Her eyes opened to see him looking down at her as his fingers brushed against the smooth cotton of the bra she was wearing. She shivered slightly when his fingers found her nipple. She sucked her bottom lip into her mouth but quickly surrendered it to Eric when he dipped down to kiss her again. They got so lost in one another they didn’t hear the car come up the driveway. Sookie was still writhing under Eric, her legs hitched up around his hips when the back door opened.
They didn’t hear it when the door closed quietly and by the time they realized they weren’t alone it was too late. Eric was still on top of Sookie with his hand up her shirt when Michelle walked into the living room.
Sookie had been in the middle of making dinner for her and Eric when her sleeve got caught on a pan handle, knocking marinara sauce to the ground. It had splashed up on her legs leaving her no choice but to hop in the shower. Her hair was clipped up high on her head to keep it from getting wet. She’d meant to just get in long enough to rinse off but the hot water on her back felt good.
She hadn’t realized how tense she was until she got under the spray. She didn’t know what was worse: being in hiding from a man who would probably kill her as easily as he would a pesky housefly, or not being able to get as close to Eric as she wanted to. She found herself braced against the shower wall wondering what she’d done in a previous life to deserve such cruelty in her current one.
She wasn’t blind to Eric’s faults. He was far from perfect. There were things about him that got on her nerves to no end. It drove her crazy how he insisted on doing things on his own and how he could sometimes make decisions for the both of them without consulting her. She hated that his past had left him wounded in so many ways and no matter what she did, those wounds were never going to close for him. She wanted to believe they weren’t festering anymore but she feared she had helped to create some new ones with the things they’d been through.
She sighed heavily and tried not to think of the showers she’d taken with Eric in the past. There had been quite a few and they were all wonderful. Thinking that way wasn’t going to help ease her tension. No matter what they did it seemed the fates were always against them. Also not a train of thought that would help her relax. She gave up on the idea of relaxing and turned off the water.
She stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel off the rack next to the stall. She patted her skin to get most of the water off herself before wrapping the towel around her body. She opened the bathroom door to see a breathless Eric standing there looking positively panicked.
“Eric, what ha—” she didn’t get to finish because he grabbed her by the back of her head and crushed his lips to hers.
He kissed her like he was coming home from war. A voice in the back of her head told her to put a stop to things before they went too far but the rest of her told that voice to shut the hell up and take a smoke break. She didn’t understand his urgency but she figured that wasn’t really what mattered. She returned his kiss with just as much hunger. She didn’t pull away when her towel fell or when he started to pull her out of the bathroom and back toward the bed.
She tumbled on top of him when he fell back. Her instincts kicked into high gear and started to loosen his tie. His mouth released hers long enough for her to slip the crimson silk over his head and toss it aside. He looked down at the mark he’d left on her neck less than twenty-four hours before and then dipped down to kiss it gently while he released the clip from her hair, leaving it to sprawl around her tan shoulders. Her fingers went to work on the buttons of his crisp, white shirt, opening them one by one until he was able to shrug out of it.
When she’d invited him over she hadn’t been thinking about having sex with him. Well okay, that wasn’t entirely true; she hadn’t invited him over strictly for that purpose. She’d be a fool not to at least consider the possibility. Previous experience with Eric had taught her anything was possible. They could be having a raucous argument one minute and tearing each others clothes off the next.
When they fought, they fought passionately and it always ended the same way with the two of them a tangled mess of limbs fighting to regain control of their bodies and whispering apologies for being so stubborn or mean. They never crossed the lines of name calling or saying things strictly out of anger. They fought fair, or at least as fair as they could. She knew it was because they respected one another as much as they loved each other that they were careful about which lines they would cross. She appreciated Eric’s honesty every bit as much as he appreciated hers.
She reached for his pants once she got his wifebeater off. Eric ground himself against her, making her moan loudly. It had been a while since she stopped having sex with Victor, much to his chagrin. She never understood the appeal to having sex with someone she didn’t love. She’d done that exactly once, and it was shortly after she and Eric had broken up. She was lonely and needed to feel close to someone. It wasn’t until the man she’d chosen collapsed on top of her – spent and praising her for her skill – that she realized what she needed was Eric.
She’d hated herself for it and swore she would never do something like that again. She had no reason to feel like she was cheating but that was exactly what it had felt like. It had been more than eight years since the last time she’d had sex with Eric but she hadn’t forgotten what it felt like. She kept hoping to find those feelings with someone else but it never happened.
Eric’s mouth closing on her breast brought her back to the present and she pushed the rest of it away. She let her body work on instinct. She focused on the man she knew so well. She made all of the sounds she’d always made when he touched her and realized she sounded different when she was with him. She got his pants open and reached into his boxers.
He grunted against her skin, nibbling gently on her nipple when she started to stroke him. Her hand tried its best to wrap around him but he was too big. She bit her lip anxiously, knowing she was probably going to be sore the next day. She paused for a moment to wonder if that made her a little sick in the head and then decided she didn’t care. She’d been dreaming of that soreness for years. She wanted it. She wanted everything he had to offer.
She used her feet to get his pants down, and he kicked them the rest of the way off. His mouth moved further down her body and she knew what was going to happen next. They had years of experience and exploration with each others bodies behind them. He knew exactly how to touch her and he didn’t waste any time. Too much time had been wasted already. His lips and tongue were as masterful as ever, knowing just when to tease and when to be unrelenting. His fingers stroked her gently, sliding easily into the warm slickness of her core.
Sookie had never been one for many words during sex. She made noise but it was rarely coherent. Eric was far more likely to speak. Whether it was to remind her to look at him (since he had a thing for eye contact and her eyes had a tendency to roll back into her head thanks to the intense pleasure she was feeling at his ministrations), or to whisper sweet things in her ear as their bodies joined. She made sure to keep her eyes on his, giving him what he needed so he would give her what she needed.
It was a dance perfected over time. It didn’t surprise her one bit when his hand moved up from her hip to hold her down when she started to arch off the bed. What did surprise her was how low on her body his hand rested. His thumb maneuvered to take the place of his tongue on her clit, rubbing it gently while his mouth moved a little further down to take over for the fingers that had been plunging inside of her.
Her body writhed against him, her hips fighting the hold his hand had on her. She managed to find enough words to say, “Eric… ungh…oh God… Eric, please… I want you inside.”
He nipped at her thigh and she thought he would tell her to be patient. She knew she was lucky he was the type who got off on watching her get off but she wasn’t in any kind of mood for that at the moment. Too long. It’s been too long, she said in her head. He kissed his way up her body, lingering for a moment at her breasts before making his way to her mouth again.
He settled himself between her legs and she reached to position him just right. “Condom?” He arched an eyebrow at her.
“I’m clean. Besides, you know I can’t…” she trailed off, unable to think the rest of the sentence.
His brows furrowed and to keep her from falling too far down that particularly depressing rabbit hole, he pressed his lips to hers as his hips moved forward. The tip of him slid into her opening and she let out a deep groan that had him pulling back to watch her face as he entered her. He advanced slowly. While he had prepared her as well as he could, he knew she would still need a minute to adjust. Her legs hitched up higher, pulling him in deeper.
“God, Sookie,” he groaned, his head dropping down to her neck as he slid further into her.
When he was all the way inside her, he pulled back to look at her again. A look passed between them, and in that moment, they both knew it was never going to be over. They were always going to want this, no matter what it cost them.
Eric pulled out slowly, almost all the way before pushing back in, setting a slow rhythm that made Sookie’s heart race and her body tremble with want. Slow and sweet, that was the way it usually started, but it would quickly morph as lust consumed them. This time was no different. It didn’t take long for her to cry out with her first release. Sex with Eric was a marathon, not a sprint, and she knew he would make it last as long as he could.
They rolled so she was straddling him once he was on his back. His hands held her hips firmly, guiding her up and down, his eyes glued to her breasts as she moved. She arched her back, shivering just a bit with the movement of his hands from her hips to cover the skin his eyes were so intent on. Her hips rocked against him in a familiar way and when he sat up so they were eye to eye, her legs wrapped around his waist.
Their mouths reconnected with an urgency similar to what had been there when she’d opened the bathroom door to find him standing there looking panic stricken. She felt him start to swell inside her and she knew he wouldn’t last much longer. His hand slipped between them and began to tease her clit again to make sure she came with him. Her hips rocked faster against him, meeting his thrusts against her.
And then it felt like her body exploded into a million tiny pieces. She came loudly, her forehead pressed to his. His sounds mingled with hers and she worried the guard outside had heard everything. She probably wasn’t supposed to be having conjugal visits with the attorney prosecuting the case she was a witness to. Eric sank back against the bed, pulling Sookie down with him. She buried her face in his neck and breathed deep. They were both sweating and panting. It was so familiar and yet it was different.
When Sookie regained the ability to speak a few minutes later, she propped herself up just enough so she could look Eric in his eyes. “Feel better now?”
Eric gathered her closer, which she didn’t think was possible, and kissed her sweetly. “Getting there.”