Need You Now

EPOV

I was a mess. I was also surrounded. With a bottle of Jack Daniels to my right, a pile of pictures to my left and a closet full of Sookie’s clothes straight ahead I couldn’t stop myself from reaching for the phone on the nightstand. She’d been gone for almost six weeks and I was no better off than I was the night she left me.

The whole thing was stupid, such a waste of my time, really. The fight we’d gotten into was a serious one, no doubt about that. I’d let my pride and ego do all the talking; ultimately leading me to tell her she had a choice to make. I had thought, foolishly, that if I gave her an ultimatum she would choose me when I should have known she would dig her heels in and be the frustratingly stubborn woman I had fallen helplessly in love with.

We’d been together for six years. I should have known better. Really, I did know better. The problem was, I could be just as frustratingly stubborn as she was which meant when we fought, we fought hard. We fought passionately and every single fight we ever had was one that mattered. We didn’t squabble over little things like where to go for dinner or what to do on Saturday night. No, when we fought it was always over big things like her thinking I was getting a little too cute with other women, even though I never saw it that way.

I was a charming man by nature and I didn’t give it much thought when I spread it around. Yes, I would flirt sometimes but it never went anywhere. Although I realized a little too late that if the shoe was on the other foot and Sookie was flirting with other men, I would be livid. Livid and probably violent toward the fucker who flirted back.

But that wasn’t what our fights were about. No, the deeper psychology of the issue suggested a lack of trust between us and maybe a fear of abandonment. We held on too tightly because we were afraid we would lose each other. I had a jealous streak that rivaled her stubborn streak. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust her because I did. Sookie had never given me a reason to think she wanted anything other than me, up until about three months ago.

Her friend Amelia, who hated me with a passion, had invited Sookie down to New Orleans for the weekend. Amelia had been less than pleased to see Sookie arrive with me in tow and I’m convinced we ended up at the bar we did because Amelia knew it would piss me off. Fucking karaoke wasn’t something I was interested in doing. Usually, Sookie wasn’t much for being the center of attention but all it took was a couple shots of tequila and she was up on stage with Amelia, bumping, grinding and swinging her hips to a Shakira song I wasn’t personally familiar with.

My girl looked fuckhot up there, shaking what God gave her in that short skirt and low cut tank top of hers. There was no denying Sookie was hands down one of the most beautiful women to ever walk the earth. Long naturally blonde hair (a trait that was rapidly becoming a genetic phenomenon, in my opinion), bright sky blue eyes and curves that were perfect for holding onto while dancing… or doing other physical activities. She looked absolutely beautiful.

As if that wasn’t enough, Sookie was actually a pretty good singer. I’d hear her in the shower sometimes and at first I thought maybe it was just me being a doting boyfriend but the reaction from the crowd proved it wasn’t just me. Sookie could sing. Between the way she sang and the way she moved, she’d held the audience in the palm of her hand and there wasn’t a single person in the bar that night that didn’t adore her.

That included a guy by the name of the Mark Stonebrook who was in a band called The Warlocks. He was scouting new talent to front his band after the former lead singer, his sister Marnie, left the band. What I heard was that she got sucked into some sort of Voodoo practicing cult and had relocated to Haiti or some such mess but I didn’t really care about the back story. What mattered to me was that Mark clearly had eyes for my woman and used every form of flattery available to try and woo her his way.

What shocked me was that Sookie took the bait. She’d never expressed an interest in singing outside of the shower or the occasional karaoke night. Sure she would belt out a song in the car sometimes and she almost always had her iPod on while we were at home. The girl loved music but she had never once indicated it was something she wanted to pursue professionally. But I could see the wheels turning in her head that night.

A bunch of emails were exchanged and Sookie ended up meeting with Mark and the other band members a couple of weeks later. She’d brought me along, promising me she wanted me to be involved in everything that was happening. Joining the band was going to take time away from our relationship, after all, but she didn’t want me to feel like I wasn’t included.

I went along not just to support her, but to keep an eye on Mark. I didn’t trust the fucker. The way he looked at her was a little too intense for my personal taste and I sure as hell wasn’t okay with the way he had no problem hugging her or rubbing her shoulders when she seemed stressed. I wondered if maybe this was karma coming back to kick my ass for all those harmless winks I’d handed out right in front of Sookie all those years, but this was different.

There was a tension building between them and I didn’t like it. Sookie insisted their relationship was strictly professional, that I had nothing to worry about. She started singing with the band on a regular basis and the change in singers brought The Warlocks more attention than they’d ever gotten in the past. Whether it was because of Sookie’s pipes or the way she dressed when she was on stage, I wasn’t sure. I suspect it was probably a combination of the two.

I went to every single one of the concerts she played in but I couldn’t make it to all of the rehearsals. As a result, I’m sure there was plenty said between her and Mark that I would never know about and for whatever reason, insecurity started to fester between us. I started to get suspicious of what, exactly; Mark’s motives were where Sookie was concerned.

The night she left me everything had come to a head. I confronted her about her relationship with Mark, claiming he was just waiting for the perfect time to strike. Sookie thought I was being ridiculous and told me as much. She insisted they were just friends and if it wasn’t for Mark’s help getting her acclimated to being on stage; the band wouldn’t be doing so well. In turn, I accused her of being more interested in some stupid band than she was in being my girlfriend. She thought I was being ridiculous and unsupportive of her choices.

In retrospect, I absolutely was. I was a total dick to her when I should have known that whatever was going on between her and Mark was every bit as professional as she said it was. Instead, I said the worst thing I could possibly have said when she told me the band was going on tour. I accused her of fucking Mark behind my back and wanting to go on tour with him so she could keep doing so. Sookie was rightfully hurt by my accusation and denied it vehemently.

Of course, I was too far down the path of no return at that point to stop, so I kept on going. We shouted and shoved at each other emotionally until I finally told her she had to choose between the band and me. The way she stared at me is something I will never forget. The anger, hurt and betrayal in her eyes stung me. Even then I knew I should have apologized and begged her to stay, but I didn’t.

My stupid ego took over and I stormed out of our apartment, leaving her to make the decision I’d demanded of her. I’d walked around town, trying to figure out a way to apologize to her when I got back. It was stupid. I was potentially throwing away the best thing that ever happened to me because of some lame drummer? Fuck that.

The realization of what a fucktard I was had me running back to our apartment. The lights were still on; leading me to believe Sookie was there. I ran up the three flights of stairs three at a time. Only when I got to our apartment, the door was ajar and it was silent inside. I walked in to find her iPod gone, along with a suitcase’s worth of clothes missing from our shared closet. She didn’t bother leaving a note but she did leave behind the necklace I’d won for her at a carnival back when we first started dating.

The chain had been replaced since it had turned her neck green, but the pendant was what mattered. It was a silly Viking helmet that she said reminded her of me. I’d put the chain around her neck as soon as the carny handed the prize over to me and with the exception of when we replaced the chain with real gold and her brother’s wedding, Sookie never took that necklace off. She had promised me she would always wear it, and for six years, she had kept that promise.

She left the necklace on the breakfast bar that divided the kitchen and small dining room. I clutched the pendant in my hand so hard I nearly drew blood. I wanted to smash something…mostly Mark Stonebrook’s face. But I knew it wasn’t his fault she’d left. I’d pushed her too far and I had to suffer the consequences of backing her into a corner.

The first night I had irrational hope that if I was patient and waited, she would come back. A cooler head would prevail and she would see that this was just a stupid fight. She would come back; I would apologize and tell her what an idiot I was. We would make up like we always did after a fight and things would go back to normal.

Only six weeks later she hadn’t come back and the only word I got from her was through her brother, who had become one of my closest friends. Jason was a good guy, and extremely loyal to his little sister. He’d straight up called me on being the fuckface I was to her that night, nearly decking me for thinking she would ever cheat. In his mind, me thinking she was a cheater was akin to calling her a cheap slut, and with Jason that shit just didn’t fly.

But then he saw how shitty I was doing and his anger softened. He informed me that Sookie was just as fucked up over the fight as I was but her pride wouldn’t let her come back. She was also currently in Atlanta with the band. And in trying to keep her away from Mark, I had driven her right to him. Depression hit me like a freight train. Jason had advised it was best to let her have some time to cool out since she was still plenty pissed at me. I was inclined to agree that it was the right thing to do, but I called all the same.

The call went straight to voicemail, suggesting either her phone was turned off or her battery was dead. Option number two was far more likely since Sookie was notorious for forgetting to charge her phone. I didn’t leave her a message that night. I didn’t know what the fuck I was going to say. Mostly I just wanted to hear her voice. That was a bad idea. Hearing her voice only made me miss her more and the next thing I knew, I was having a torrid affair with Jack Daniels.

At least when I passed out, I could dream that Sookie was back with me where she belonged. But those feelings never lasted long enough. I would wake up with a monster headache, a weak stomach and that empty pit feeling that her presence once occupied felt deeper than ever. Like I said, I was a mess.

I got up off the bed and went over to the closet. I leaned into one of her pretty summer dresses and inhaled the clean smell of her. God I miss that smell. I missed it almost as much as I missed the feel of her curled up against me in the middle of the night. Long ago I’d stopped dreaming she was still with me and instead, I was dreaming of her being comforted by that assbag drummer. I could only imagine the kinds of things he was saying to her, trying to convince her that I wasn’t worth all of her upset.

I hadn’t even realized I was dialing her phone number until I heard the echo of the line ringing. I raised the phone to my ear and prayed she would answer my call. I’d called her a total of three times since she left me. Not once did she answer, and I never left her a message. I was always torn between wanting her to pick up and hoping for voicemail. There were just so many things that needed to be said and I really didn’t want to say any of them over the phone.

When I got her voicemail for a fourth time I made a decision with myself. I was going to go after her. Enough of this. She belonged home, with me. I hung up and then called the one person who would be willing to help me not only find Sookie, but bring her home.

SPOV

I stood up on the Skydeck of the Sears Tower with my eyes trained out on Lake Michigan. All I could see was blue, whether it was the sky or the water. I tried not to think of Eric when I stared at the deep blue of the lake but it was hard not to. Staring at the water was like looking into his eyes and at the moment, those were eyes I both loved and despised. Thinking of him was painful.

After six years together, he didn’t trust me. I’d tolerated all of his flirting and winking at other women because I knew they didn’t matter to him. I knew it was an involuntary reflex he couldn’t control and I was secure enough in our relationship to know he would never actually act on any of it. It was harmless stuff, as far as I was concerned. It would get on my nerves every now and then, but mostly, it didn’t bother me.

In the time we were together, he was the only man I ever looked at with doe eyes and an adoring smile. He was all I wanted. Falling in love with him had taken me completely by surprise and it was mostly because of how fast it had happened. From the minute I saw him, something clicked between my head and my heart. For once, they were going in the same direction, and that was toward Eric.

He was the first boyfriend I ever had where I felt the need to be around him constantly. Most other guys would piss me off when they got too clingy or wanted too much of my time. I guess you know you’ve found the right one when you can be together all the time without getting sick of each other. I didn’t care if we sat in complete silence; I just wanted to be near him. We moved fast, him and me, falling into bed together on just our second date. It took less than a month for me to be sure I was in love with him.

I was usually much more cautious with my heart. Being that my first serious boyfriend had dumped me flat on my ass when his ex resurfaced to give him another chance, I was a little leery of men at that point. When I met Eric, we were just out of high school and still being led my crazy teenage hormones that caused us to fall into almost obsessive patterns of behavior. Our feelings for each other were consuming and for the first time ever, I felt passionately about someone.

So yeah, in the beginning, I hated the flirting. It took time for me to realize it was harmless and all it ever took for him to knock it off was for me to slide into his arms and remind him of what he already had. He never meant for it to disrespect me or our relationship, I knew that much. Of course, that didn’t mean we hadn’t fought over it a few times.

When I thought back on it, I realized how ironic it was that our relationship would hit such a big wall because he thought I was cheating. At first, when he suggested I was sleeping with Mark, I thought he was just trying to be a hurtful bastard. Or maybe he was trying to deflect guilt from something he’d done. But I knew Eric well enough to know that while he might be a flirt, he would never actually cheat on me. He wasn’t wired that way and he was far too loyal to ever do something like that.

The more he talked, the more serious I realized he was. I tried to figure out what signals I might have been giving off that I was cheating on him but I couldn’t think of a single one. I had done everything I could to keep him involved with my life. He had an open invitation to come with me anytime, anywhere, and he had chosen to slink back and get more absorbed in his own work instead.

At first, I didn’t mind it. Having Eric around could be a huge distraction for me. I was in a constant state of wanting to jump his bones and maybe it was because I poured that energy into my performances that he got the wrong idea. Make no mistake, I was thinking of Eric the whole time. Mark and I were just friends and nothing more. But the more I tried to impart that knowledge to Eric, the more convinced he seemed to become that I was trying to hide something.

But hearing him tell me I had to choose between him and something I had come to feel almost as passionately about really pissed me off. I had never demanded he put me ahead of his bar. I never got pissed about the close relationship he had with Pam, one of his business partners who also happened to be an ex-girlfriend. I never made him feel like he had to choose me over anything. And the fact that he usually chose me of his own volition was one of the things that made me fall in love with him.

Maybe I was being selfish by leaving like I did but it felt like the right thing to do at the time. He’d pushed me too hard and part of me wanted to lash out and hurt him every bit as badly as he’d hurt me. I knew that if I left, I would succeed in doing just that. And just to let him know how seriously hurt I was, I left behind the Viking necklace he’d given me on our fourth date.

That necklace wasn’t just a necklace to me, but a symbol of my relationship with him. It was, as far as I was concerned, as good as a tattoo or a brand. I never took that necklace off. It was with me everywhere I went. I loved that necklace and more importantly, I loved what it symbolized.

As I stood up there on the Skydeck, staring out at the water, my fingers absently reached to finger the pendant I was so used to feeling warm and heavy against my skin. Only it wasn’t there and hadn’t been for the last six weeks. My eyes filled with tears that I tried to blink away. The last thing I needed was some random stranger coming over to try and comfort the crying girl.

“I’ve been looking all over for you,” Mark’s voice filled my ears as he approached me from behind.

“I just needed some time. How did you know where I was?” I asked without taking my watery eyes from the water ahead.

“Lucky guess,” Mark shrugged and leaned against the railing beside me. “Listen, I uh, I just got a call from Andre.”

I groaned and rolled my eyes. “What now? If he thinks for a second I’m going to quit wearing underwear on stage, he’s high.”

That was an actual conversation we’d had once. Maybe that sort of thing worked for Courtney Love, but I had class. No way was I showing off my girly bits to a crowd of thousands, thank you very much. Only two men had ever had the opportunity to see that part of me and I had no interest in increasing the number. Andre was a nasty little pervert and the guy Eric should have been suspicious of. Mark was harmless.

Mark chuckled at my side and said, “No, it’s nothing like that. He tried to reach you on your cell but said it went straight to voicemail.”

“I don’t have it with me. I wanted to be alone.” I stared at him pointedly.

“Yeah, well, about that…he got a call from Pam.” Mark informed me and I tried not to have a reaction to that. Mark knew just as well as I did who Pam was. “She called to find out what city we were in.”

I shrugged and said, “Maybe she wants to send flowers.”

“He’s going to come here, Sookie.” Mark was looking right at me. “Pam had to threaten Andre within an inch of his life to get the information out of him, but she did. We both know she wasn’t calling out of her own curiosity. I know why you left and I also know that as much as you may have enjoyed being on the road for the last six weeks, you’re also miserable as fuck.”

I didn’t have anything to say. The truth was Mark was right. I was miserable. I hated being away from Eric. I hated going home to a cheap motel room that didn’t ever feel like home. I hated having no one to share my day with. I hated searching crowds of faces, hoping to see Eric’s eyes staring back at me, only to be excruciatingly disappointed. I hated feeling lonely and lost.

“Look, Sookie, we’ve loved having you tour with us. The crowd loves you and you’re extremely talented. You’ve been a good friend and if you decide to leave, I’ll be sorry to see you go. Maybe it’s not my place to say anything but I’m going to anyway. If I were you, I’d think long and hard before you turn him away. What Eric did was wrong and I know he hurt you with all the things he said. But we both know you’re still in love with him and that means something. Don’t hold out on him just because you’re angry. One day you’ll wake up and regret it, I can promise you that.” Mark said sincerely and I could see the hurt in his own eyes.

Once upon a time Mark had found himself at a similar crossroad to the one I was facing and he chose the band. While I knew he didn’t regret pursuing his dream, he’d also told me he often wondered what his life would have been like if he hadn’t let Holly get away. He’d been crazy about her but youthful determination had demanded he follow his dream.

“I made the mistake of thinking Holly would wait for me. Maybe the fact that she moved on to someone else is a sign that she wasn’t really the one I was supposed to end up with,” Mark shrugged but I knew he didn’t believe that for a minute.

“If you could do it all over, would you choose her instead?” I asked him, my eyes still trained on the lake.

He sighed and said, “Honestly? I don’t know anymore. I know that I’ll always love her. I’ll always wonder what we might have had. That’s a shitty way to live, Sookie. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Even if you two call it quits for good, you should find out what’s really there.”

The thing was I knew exactly what was there. I knew all too well what I was missing. There was a part of me that wanted to sprint back to my hotel room to wait for him there. I wanted to wrap myself around him and never let him go. On the other hand, there was the part of me that was just so hurt by all of his accusations and fuckery. And it had been six weeks. Not once in those six weeks had he so much as called me, at least that I was aware of. There had been no emails or messages passed from my brother and I knew Jason had seen Eric since then. The distance between us was only further stretched by the deafening silence.

“I’ll leave you be,” Mark patted my shoulder. “Just promise me you’ll think things over?”

I nodded but kept on facing straight ahead. I stood there in the same place for long after Mark was gone until finally, I realized the sun was setting. I lost track of how much time I’d spent standing there, watching the sky and the water. Since it was a clear day, I could see the shores of Indiana and even Michigan out in the distance. I finally got into an elevator that would take me back down to street level, no closer to knowing what I was going to say to Eric if he actually turned up in Chicago.

I felt like a zombie. I was moving on autopilot, hoping and praying I was making the right turns to get back to the hotel we were staying at. I probably should have taken a cab, but I liked the idea of being lost in the city for a while. With the fading light of day I no longer needed my sunglasses. I kept them perched up on top of my head, but tugged my jacket a little tighter around me. A cool breeze came barreling in off the lake, sending a chill through me.

It was hard to believe it had been in the stronghold of summer when I left Eric back in August. Now it was the beginning of October and I was far too north of the Mason Dixon Line to feel the last gasps of warmer weather before winter came to claim the south. I missed home. The more I looked around at the beautiful skyscrapers and Gothic architecture of cathedrals, the more I longed for tin roofs, gravel roads and honky tonks.

I felt a stab in my chest when I saw a pickup truck pass me by. Back home those were a common sight and one I never gave much thought to. In Chicago, however, they weren’t quite so common. I was used to seeing luxury sedans and taxis zipping around. The anonymity of the city suddenly started to close in on me and I felt myself panicking and gasping for air. The overwhelming feeling of being completely out of place started to drown me.

I raced back to my hotel having made a decision. With or without Eric, I was going home. I would figure out what I was going to do when I got there. I just needed to get there.

EPOV

“Are you absolutely sure you want to go after her, Eric? It’s been six weeks and she hasn’t tried to get a hold of you once.” Pam pointed out from her perch on the sofa.

“It’s my fault she left, Pam. I never should have let her go,” I shook my head almost violently.

Pam sighed and said, “I got a hold of the manager. It took a bunch of calls and a few death threats but he finally told me where she is.”

“Where?” I demanded.

Pam bit her lip, looking at me with uncertainty. “You realize it’s not healthy to be so obsessed, right?”

“I love her, Pam, and she loves me. Even if she’s still pissed off at me, I need to tell her I’m sorry for being such a fuck up. Laugh all you want but I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet. We’ve been together for too long for me to give up that easily.”

Pam seemed impressed with my conviction. Still, because she could be a total bitch, she said nothing for a few minutes. Finally, whenever she had decided she’d tortured me long enough she said, “Sookie’s in Chicago.”

Without a word, I jumped up and went straight back to the bedroom to pack a bag. I was going. I didn’t care if it was insane or if Pam thought it was a mistake. If that’s where Sookie was, that’s where I was going. And I was going to stay there until I brought Sookie home with me or until she convinced me that what we once had was gone. Either way, I was going to settle the unknowns between us.

I booked a flight while I packed, only to find out I would have to fly out of Dallas to get to O’Hare, and the next flight to Chicago wasn’t until the following morning. Maybe I could drive up there before that? I hung up on the operator for United Airlines and consulted my laptop. According to Google, it would take about fifteen hours to drive there. It was a drive I could make if I didn’t sleep but it was already almost eight o’clock at night. No way was I going to be able to stay awake all night. I always got sleepy on road trips and I had no desire to drive into a ditch because I was stupidly trying to push myself.

I screamed at my own frustration and wondered why the geniuses over at Apple hadn’t yet developed some sort of iTransport home system that would beam people around like those teleporters on Star Trek. The bastards. I hated feeling stagnant. I had finally come to a decision and had somewhat of a plan put together and I was stuck.

“If you want to drive there, I’ll go with you,” Pam offered quietly from the doorway. I whipped around and looked at her with surprise etched all over my face. “Don’t give me that look. You’re useless to me like this. You’ve been a walking clusterfuck since she left and I’m getting sick of it. So get your shit and let’s go.”

She didn’t have to tell me twice. I grabbed my bag, my cell phone and that Viking necklace. Even if Sookie told me to fuck off, I was going to give that back to her. It was something that would be too painful to hold on to, and knowing myself the way I did, I would end up carrying it with me as a constant reminder of the biggest mistake of my life so even if she wasn’t with me, she would never truly be gone.

As if my memories weren’t fucking me up enough already.

Pam was collecting her purse from the couch when I flung the front door open, only to freeze completely. There, standing in front of me with her keys in her hand, was Sookie. I dropped the bag I was holding just as she dropped her keys. Then it was like the whole world stopped while we stared at each other. I’m sure we were sporting twin expressions of dumbstruck and uncertainty. We said nothing while we took each other in.

It was Pam who broke the silence from behind me. “Oh good, you’re back. Please fix him. He’s a fucking train wreck.”

If I could have torn my eyes from Sookie, I would have glowered at Pam as she slithered out of the apartment, leaving me to fix what had been broken for the last six weeks. Suddenly everything I wanted to say to Sookie completely flew out of my head. I was a blank slate. It was hard to believe she was standing right there in front of me and in a rush to prove to myself that she was real, I dropped to my knees in front of her right there in the hallway. My arms closed around her waist, pulling her closer to me. My face pressed against her stomach and I breathed in that smell I had been missing.

Small, warm hands found their way into my hair and I relaxed at the familiar feeling of it. She seemed smaller than I remembered. I held onto her tightly, practically crushing her body against me as much as I could. Still, we said nothing to each other. I couldn’t even pry myself away enough to look up into her face to see what emotions were playing in her eyes. The fact that she wasn’t pushing me away was a good sign, or so I assumed.

Angry Sookie never wanted to be touched.

It was the warm rain of her tears that let me know I wasn’t dreaming her. I was, in fact, on my knees in the hallway of our apartment building, holding onto her for dear life. I finally found the ability to pull back and look up at her. My arms remained locked around her as I did. She was looking down at me, her eyes regretful as tears streamed down her cheeks.

“I missed you so fucking much,” she said in a broken voice.

Those six words said it all, really. Her hands moved down my head to cup my face and she started to pull me up. My legs were surprisingly shaky as I stood, but only until my lips brushed against hers. The familiar taste of coffee and vanilla woke what had been sleeping in me since she left. My arms moved from her waist to under her arms and as our lips met a second time, I lifted her up off the floor. Her legs circled me, her arms wrapping around my neck while we kissed each other like she’d just come home from war.

I suppose that isn’t entirely a bad analogy for it. I stumbled back into the apartment, using my foot to pull her small bag inside before slamming the door and pinning her against it. She grunted with the force of impact but her lips never left mine. A screaming need to reconnect to each other overwhelmed us both and resulted in a blizzard of flying clothes.

As far gone on her as I was, I wasn’t about to let our first time together in six weeks happen on the couch or up against the wall. When we got back to the bedroom Sookie pulled me down onto the bed with her. I pulled back long enough to slide her out of her jeans, and took her panties along with them. I couldn’t resist kissing the inside of her slender ankle where she had a small tattoo of a lightning bolt. I had a matching one on the inside of my wrist. We’d got them completely on impulse when we went to Cancun during spring break back in college.

I crawled up the length of her body and her eyes lit up when she realized I was wearing her chain around my neck. She grabbed the pendant to pull me closer to her and her other hand came up to touch my face. Our eyes met then and I was reminded of how much we could say to each other with just a simple look into each other’s eyes. I leaned down to kiss her with the intention of keeping it short because as much as I enjoyed it, there was plenty of skin to sample and I planned to savor it all.

But that plan was completely abandoned when I fell into the cradle of her hips and realized how wet she was already. What little control I had left was seriously strained and her hand moving between us to grip and stroke my cock didn’t help matters one bit. She swallowed the growl that escaped me, my hips thrusting against her hand. God, I wanted her.

“Sookie,” I warned against her lips but she just smiled and opened her legs a little wider sending a clear signal to me that there was time for foreplay later.

She reposition me so I was gliding through those slick folds of hers, gathering her wetness as she slid me down to where I so desperately had wanted to be for the last six weeks. Hell, it was where I always wanted to be and she damn well knew it. Our eyes met again and she stretched forward so we were nose to nose.

“I love you, Eric,” she said and then I pushed into her.

She moaned loudly while I bit my lip to keep from driving myself into her over and over the way I wanted to. I shuddered at how hot and tight she was as I sank into her. I stilled for a moment, giving her a little time to adjust before I pulled back and sunk into her again. Her fingers dug into my back for just a moment before making a familiar trail down my back and settling on my ass. She felt as passionately about that part of me as I did about her breasts, which had as yet gone untasted. That was a crime and one I was prepared to remedy—at length.

Her hips rose to meet mine; her hands pulling me deep inside her. Over and over again I pumped into her, my lips going anywhere they could on her body. The full realization of what I’d almost lost hit me, possessing me as I drove into her. I held her tighter, kissed her harder, practically felt the need to devour her. It scared me for just a moment how much I loved her and the idea that I could have lost her because I was a jealous idiot wracked me with guilt.

“I’m here, Eric,” Sookie whispered in my ear as if she knew what was running through my mind. Maybe she did; she’d always seemed to understand me in ways no one else did.

SPOV

The way Eric looked at me was beyond intense. I could see something shift in his eyes and for a minute, he looked completely panicked. The frenzy I felt that had once been lustful was suddenly replaced with completely chaos. He was scared. Eric, the king of confidence, was scared out of his mind. It was an expression so unfamiliar to his face that I almost didn’t recognize it for what it was.

“I’m here, Eric,” I whispered to him, hoping it would restore some sort of calm for him. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Those four little words must have settled something in him because he calmed down after that. That is to say he was less frantic in his movements. They became fluid again instead of jerky and rough. I feathered kisses along his jaw and the side of his neck, trying to keep him in the moment with me. My plan had been to talk first but the minute I laid eyes on him, all that went out the window.

There was plenty of time to talk and I knew we would. I needed to feel him, to feel that connection between us that had been there from the very beginning. I needed to know it was still there and just as strong as it had ever been. I steady rhythm of his body moving against mine and the way he looked into my eyes as pleasure swirled and engulfed us both let me know that connection was still very much present and accounted for.

The decision to get on a plane to see him was an easy one to make. Once it hit me that there was no home for me without him, there was only one place I could go. Maybe it wasn’t healthy for me to love him as much as I did, or to be so wrapped up in him but my Gran had always told me to fight for the things that mattered, and there was nothing in the world that mattered to me more than he did.

There was no room in love for pride and I had let mine take the wheel. In that way I was every bit as guilty as he was. He’d let jealousy consume him and I had rebelled against him for all the wrong reasons. It was slightly ironic that pride was what made me leave and then once I realized I had been wrong, it was also my pride that refused to let me go back. I could have kept running but I was so tired of being lonely and missing him.

My pride was going to have to learn to sit down and be seen and not heard.

That Viking pendant was trapped between us and I was pretty sure I was going to have it embedded in my skin before the night was over. The crazy thing was I welcomed it. I missed that necklace as much as I missed the crazy man on top of me. I missed feeling the weight of him on me and I missed getting lost in him. I needed him. I needed him now and I knew I always would.

It royally sucked that it took six weeks and a lot of unnecessary heartache for me to figure that out. But I couldn’t focus on that. I needed to focus on going forward and being with him then instead of all the things I would do differently if I could. The past was the past and I couldn’t change it. What I could do was learn from it, and I planned to do just that.

I gentle bit on my neck where it met my shoulder jogged me from my thoughts; although I’m not sure Eric noticed I had floated away for a moment. My hands settled on his face so beautiful with all its concentration and focus on me. There was a twinkle in his eyes that seemed to have a direct connection to my heart because I felt it swell in my chest. A ball of emotion rose in my throat but I forced it down before it could find outlet in my eyes.

I wouldn’t cry, as overwhelmed as I was. Happy or not, my tears would only serve to dampen whatever Eric was feeling. He hated it when I cried and no matter what I said, he would feel guilty for causing them. We each felt guilty enough. No more was needed.

His forehead pressed to mine and he whispered, “Come with me, Sookie.”

Those words pushed me over the edge and I felt myself explode from the inside out a split second before he lost all control. He shuddered on top of me, struggling not to drop his full weight on me. I would have welcomed it if he had. I was still shaking when I turned my head to kiss the exposed column of his neck. With that, his arms gave out and he dropped on me. I grunted under the weight but when he tried to roll off of me, I pulled him back.

“No, stay.” I looked him right in the eye. “Just stay with me for a while.”

Eric smiled and dipped his lips to mine, kissing me sweetly and running his fingers through my hair. I could feel his heart beating fast and hard against my own sweaty skin and for the first time in weeks, I felt like I was home.

Eric nuzzled against my neck, leaving delicate kisses in his wake. “I was going to come for you,” Eric said in a breathless voice.

“Sorry to ruin your plans,” I giggled underneath him and met his eyes.

He smiled back at me and said, “No, this works just fine.”

“I’m sorry I left.” I kissed him gently.

“I’m sorry I pushed you into it.” He tucked some of my hair behind my ear. “And I’m… God, sorry doesn’t even seem like a big enough word to express how wrong I was for accusing you of the things I did. I didn’t mean any of it, Sookie. I know you too well. I know you wouldn’t do that.”

“Never,” I shook my head and rested my hand on his near my neck. “You’re it for me, Northman. You’re all I want. You’re all I ever wanted.”

Eric rolled over and took me along for the ride. I stayed stretched out on top of him and rested my head on his chest. His heart was still going a mile a minute which wasn’t abnormal for him. It always seemed to take forever for his heart to get back to normal after we had sex. His fingers ran lightly up and down my back. There were so many things that needed to be said but for the moment, I was content to just lie there with him. The silence was comfortable; it felt right.

“I thought about you every day you were gone,” Eric whispered into the darkness. “At the strangest moments you would pop into my mind and I would wonder what you were doing, or if you were thinking of me too, wherever you were. I called you a couple of times but I always got your voicemail. I never left a message because all I could ever really think of to say was to tell you I was wrong. But that didn’t seem like enough so I figured it was better if I just shut the hell up until I heard from you. If I could go back, I would have left that message for you. I would have told you I was wrong and that I’m sorry for all I put you through. I put us in jeopardy because I was being selfish and hurtful. I’m sorry to have done that to you.”

My resolve not to cry crumbled under the weight of his words and I felt him stiffen the second the first tear dropped onto his chest. I held onto him a little tighter and pressed a kiss against his chest before looking up into his eyes.

“I forgive you. And I’m sorry I didn’t come back sooner. I stayed away to hurt you. I’m sorry to have done that to you.” I told him and stroked his cheek softly.

“You don’t have to apologize to me, Sookie. All of this was my fault,” Eric looked at me so sadly my heart broke a little.

“I have an idea,” I propped myself up on my elbows and squirmed a little when those big hands of his moved down my back and grabbed my ass. I knew I had to talk quick before round two started, and I had no doubts time was ticking away. “How about we stop blaming ourselves and each other and we start over?”

“Do you really think we can do that?” Eric’s fingers started to go dangerous places and after moaning a little louder than I planned, my eyes squeezed shut and I nodded.

“Yes,” my eyes opened and my thumb traced his bottom lip. “I think if we want to, we can do anything. I love you enough to try.”

“I love you too, Sookie,” he kissed my thumb and then rolled us over again.

I stared up at the ceiling, watching the blades of the fan as they slowly went round and round. A trail of wet kisses made its way down my neck, over my collarbones to my breasts and then past my bellybutton. Warm breath hit the inside of my thigh and I sucked in air, knowing what was going to happen next.

“Watch me, lover,” he purred in that familiar way of his just as my eyes were traveling down my body to find him. I knew what he wanted. With his eyes firmly holding mine, he licked.

EPOV

The next morning I woke with a start, terrified I had dreamed Sookie’s return. I looked to my right and she was curled on her side, facing away from me. I listened closely to make sure she was sleeping and not crying. But her breath escaped her evenly and I spooned up behind her. My arm slung itself over her side and pulled her closer while my leg moved over hers, trapping her completely.

“Not too hard or I’m gonna have to get up and pee,” Sookie whispered in a sleepy voice that made me smile against her bare shoulder. “That tickles,” she giggled when my chin brushed against her.

“I’m not sorry,” I whispered against her skin and then kissed her.

Her head turned as much as she could and her hand came up to touch my face. “I’m glad you’re still here. I was afraid I was going to wake up and be back in some cold hotel room without you.”

“I’m here. I’m not going anywhere,” I promised her, recalling the very words she’s said to me the night before when I was near delirious.

“I think I’ve heard that somewhere before,” she said quietly and reached to move my hand so it was resting between her breasts.

“A very smart, very beautiful woman once told me that,” I smiled at her and turned my face to smell her hair.

“Sounds like a wise woman,” Sookie giggled and then squirmed.

“Careful, woman.” I warned her when her bare ass wiggled against my cock.

“I’m sorry to break a promise to you so soon, but I have to go to the bathroom,” she kissed my hand and then wiggled her way out of bed. She stood with a slight wince, her naked body stretching once she was on her feet.

“You okay? I didn’t hurt you, did I?” I watched her as she moved toward the door.

“I feel great,” she smiled over her shoulder at me and put a little extra sway in her hips as she walked to the bathroom. After I heard the flush of the toilet the bathroom door opened and her head popped out. “You know, I could use a shower. Care to join me?”

As if her invitation wasn’t enough motivation, there was a comical wiggle of her eyebrows that lured me out of bed. We would never be the way we were, but I was okay with that because I was pretty sure we were going to be better than that. Like Sookie said, I loved her enough to try.

-FIN-

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