Ten Years Gone

Monday- October 4, 2010

I hustled into the office with two minutes to spare. I set down my keys, coffee cup and purse- in that order- before reaching to turn on my computer, turn on the lights under my cabinets and take my phone off its ‘do not disturb’ function it had been on since I left the previous Friday. While I waited for my computer to boot up, I headed to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee, after which, I went to the supply room to start the printer and check the fax for new claims that had come in over the weekend.

I gathered up the papers, and leafed through them at my desk after signing into my computer. I sighed heavily. Mondays were always the craziest. To be fair, it felt like any other Monday morning at Blue Bayou Insurance. I started clicking away, opening one program after another, and scanning the host of new email in my in-box.

I had just started to sort through the claims I’d picked up off the fax when company president Sophie-Anne LeClerq came gliding into the office. How she managed to balance her cell phone, a giant cup of coffee, her briefcase, laptop bag, lunch and purse (which was about the size of a small suitcase), all while walking on what had to be at least five inch stilettos, I’ll never know.

“Hey, put a cork in it for a sec, will ya?” She barked into the phone before rolling her eyes and turning to look at me. I gave her an amused smile. I loved Sophie’s sense of humor. “The Black Diamond big wigs are coming at ten. Will you work your magic for me?”

“Sure thing, boss.” I nodded.

“You’re a doll.” Sophie winked at me, then resumed her conversation as she stomped back toward her office.

I made up a coversheet for all of the new claims that needed assigning, and then put them on the desks of the techs who would have to set them up. I’d been hired as a tech myself, but my role with the company had evolved considerably over the last four years. When I’d first started, I knew absolutely nothing about how the insurance business worked. Blue Bayou was a smaller company back then, and they could afford to take the time to train someone like me. I was hired for my personality, rather than my qualifications, and so far I had proven to be more than worth the risk.

In addition to my work in the claims department, I was Sophie’s unofficial personal assistant. I was also part office manager, part underwriting assistant, part receptionist. I managed to balance all of these activities on a carefully orchestrated schedule that I stuck to religiously so as not to fall behind. I didn’t mind putting in overtime, or coming in on an occasional Saturday. I liked my job, and I adored the people I worked with.

I waited until just before nine to scrawl out a note for Sam- my boss- before heading across the street to one of four bakeries in town. In addition to the bagels Sophie had asked for, I also picked up muffins and scones. I was back in fifteen minutes. I started a second pot of coffee and got the food set up in the conference room, along with spare pens and legal pads. I wiped down the dry-erase board and wiped down the table.

No sooner was I back at my desk, than the doorbell for the suite rang. I pushed the buzzer under my desk that would trigger the lock. The door swung open, and a Hispanic man in a nicely tailored suit approached my desk, the half wall/counter in front of him coming up to his chest, making him about my height.

I smiled up at him from my seat and said, “Welcome to Blue Bayou. How can I help you?”

He gave me a winning smile and said, “I’m Felipe de Castro from Black Diamond. I have a meeting with Sophie-Anne.” He had a slight lisp that only increased his charm.

“Ah, yes, Sophie is expecting you. If you’ll just take a seat right over there,” I gestured behind him to a pair of armchairs. “I’ll let her know you’re here. Will the rest of your party be arriving soon?”

“Yes.” He hissed just a bit, a dark cloud briefly settling in his eyes. “Eric is running a bit behind.”

“Mondays.” I shrugged as if that explained everything, although Mr. de Castro didn’t look amused.

Still, he took a seat while I excused myself to let Sophie know we had company. She was still on her cell, which wasn’t at all surprising, and held up a finger to let me know she’d be out in a moment. I went to the kitchen and filled a carafe with the fresh pot of coffee and took it to the conference room. I returned to my desk to find Mr. de Castro perched in one of the chairs reading a back issue of Sports Illustrated left behind by Andy Bellefleur, our Loss Prevention Specialist.

“Sophie will be out in just a moment.” I smiled over at Mr. de Castro, who merely nodded without looking up from the article he was engrossed in.

I was tempted to make small talk and ask how his flight had been, since they’d flown into Shreveport from Las Vegas for this meeting, but I got the impression Mr. de Castro wasn’t in a chatty mood. In fact, the longer he sat there, the more pissy he became.

So much for charming, I thought to myself as I got down to business. In my peripheral vision, I saw Felipe check his watch several times, and his cell phone even more frequently. There was no sign of this Eric person he was waiting on, and Sophie was taking her sweet time getting off the phone. I couldn’t blame him for getting impatient.

Finally, Sophie appeared and asked after Eric. Felipe’s face fell into a cross between a frown and scowl so I had to bite my cheek to keep from laughing. He was such a small man, and the expression reminded me of a child pouting when he didn’t get his way.

“My apologies for my colleague’s tardiness, Miss LeClerq. Why don’t we get started without him?” Felipe suggested.

“If you’re sure that’s okay?” Sophie offered a warm smile.

“Yes, yes, it’s fine. Eric will just have to jump in feet first.” Felipe was laying on the charm thick.

“Sookie, will you show Eric to the conference room when he arrives?” Sophie asked me.

“Of course.” I offered one last smile, and watched as the two of them headed for the conference room.

Once they were shut inside, I whirled my seat around to start stuffing acknowledgment letters into envelopes. I started up iTunes, and was humming along and dancing in my seat to Lady Gaga, when the doorbell sounded again. I absently reached under the counter for the buzzer. The door opened, and heavy footsteps fell on the tile floor.

“Welcome to Blue Bayou. How can I-” I stopped when my eyes registered the face standing in front of me.

By the look on his face, I could tell he wasn’t expecting to see me sitting there in front of him. Ten years. Ten long years had passed since the last time I saw him, and he still took my breath away.

“Sookie?” He asked in disbelief.

“Eric?” My jaw was on the ground. My heart was in my throat.

And as if it was planned by the fates themselves, Led Zeppelin began to play.


Ten years earlier…

It took hundreds of miles and a lot of wrong turns, but I finally managed to find a bigger backwater town than the one where I grew up. I was currently in Dorchester, Wisconsin with a group of friends. We’d decided to spend the summer road-tripping our way across the country since none of us could afford to do Europe. Besides, most of us had hardly left the state of Louisiana, and we figured there were plenty of things right here in the good ole U.S. of A. that needed seeing.

We’d been all over the west coast already, and it was amazing. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the first time I saw the ocean. It was just so enormous. It seemed to go on forever, and I felt so small. I was ready to call the rest of the trip off, but I knew there was a whole other ocean to see on the other side of the country, and I wanted to see it. So, we traveled east, going through the Rockies and then up through the Dakotas. We stopped to see Mt. Rushmore, and then went into Minnesota. We shopped at the Mall of America, which was just ridiculously big. I think the mall was probably bigger than my hometown, to be honest.

From there we continued on into Wisconsin, which is how we ended up in Dorchester. There wasn’t much to the town, from all I could tell. Its biggest claim to fame was being next door to Colby, the town where Colby cheese was invented. We stopped for fresh fried cheese curds, and I think I fell in love almost immediately. They were amazing and delicious.

We found an industrial park that had a campground attached, and decided to set up camp for the night. There were a total of six of us traveling together, and up until Seattle, Alcide and I had been a couple. He was a good guy, but we just weren’t meant to be boyfriend and girlfriend. Neither of us had ever thought we were soul mates. We were young, and we liked making out with each other. I wasn’t in love with him, and he wasn’t in love with me. We were touring the country and getting out into the world. We wanted to be free to do as we pleased, so it was best we let go before things got ugly.

Our friends were more disturbed by our break up than we were, and they were probably really confused as to how we could break up and then hop into the same sleeping bag a few hours later. Really, we didn’t have a whole hell of a lot of options. It got cold at night, and sleeping on the ground required a heat source of some kind. Besides, we could keep our hands to ourselves, which we did. We slept together out of necessity, not because we couldn’t imagine sleeping with someone else. It was just sleep.

But while we were in Minnesota I bought a new sleeping bag and decided it was time to put an end to sharing with my ex. I would have shared a bag with Tara if I didn’t think the boys would tease us for the rest of the summer about being “special” girlfriends. While the boys set up our tents, Tara, Maria Starr and I went looking for kindling to get a fire started before it got too dark. The weather report said temperatures were going to drop into the low fifties overnight, which meant it was going to be a lot colder on the ground. I shivered just thinking of how cold it was really going to get, and I was thankful I’d packed long underwear. It shocked the hell out of me how many times I’d needed them in the last six weeks.

We got what we needed and headed back to camp. The tents were up and Hoyt had the grill going to get started on dinner. Lafayette was strumming an acoustic guitar. Up until we were on the road together, I had no idea he even knew how to play, but he did so beautifully. I confess, I was a bit jealous of his talent. I dug out my bag from the back of Hoyt’s truck, and got out my favorite pullover and a pair of jeans. With the sun going down, it was going to get really chilly, really quick.

I headed toward the bathrooms, thankful to not to see an outhouse or port-a-potty anywhere around the grounds. The building that contained the bathrooms was painted a deep shade of maroon with white gutters. Crudely made wooden signs were nailed to the walls to mark which bathrooms were male and female, and there were separate entrances for the shower areas. There was also a small picnic area to the back of the structure.

When I looked to my right, I saw what I assumed was another picnic pavilion, only the plastic flaps were down, preventing me from looking inside. I could, however, see a small playground behind the picnic structure, and there was a bench swing like the one on my porch back home facing the pond. I smiled at the fireflies dotting the air before stepping into the bathroom to change clothes. I was tired of crouching around in tents to change, and it was rare to have running water. I planned to take advantage of it as often as possible before we moved on down to Chicago.

I got back to our campsite in time to find that we had new neighbors. It was a group of college students, enjoying their last ‘summer of freedom,’ as they called it, since they had just graduated, and would have to find jobs and be adults. Alcide and Maria Starr took one of the trucks into town to make a quick stop at the only grocery store in town to pick up the necessities for s’mores, and to see if Alcide’s fake ID was believable in such a small town.

I sat at a picnic table listening to Tara sing while Lafayette played his guitar. Hoyt was getting started on dinner- hot dogs and hamburgers. If I ever ate either item again after this trip, it would be too soon. My diet was screaming for something other than food that could be cooked on a grill. I wasn’t sitting for long before I started feeling restless. I looked over at the group of college “kids” that had set up camp at the site next to ours, most of them scrambling to get set up before it got to be too dark. We’d already found out the hard way that making camp at night wasn’t easy, or fun.

I took it upon myself to get a fire going in the pit at the center of our camp, since no one else had done it. I crumpled up some newspaper, then set a bunch of twigs and pine cones around it before reaching for the bigger pieces of wood. Most of what we’d been able to find was a little on the damp side, and I worried the fire wasn’t going to catch well.

“Need some help with that?” An unfamiliar voice asked from behind me.

I turned slowly in my crouched position, expecting to see someone leaning over me. Instead I looked up, up, up until finally, I found a face. And what a face it was. I swallowed audibly at the sight of him. It was one of the boys from the next campsite. He had shaggy blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. He was tan, obviously having spent a great deal of his summer outdoors like the rest of us. I quickly reached the conclusion he was a giant, since Alcide was tall, and this stranger was definitely taller. My neck hurt from looking at him, but I couldn’t stop staring.

He was gorgeous. His face was comprised of masculine lines and angles, and the hint of scruff at his jaw made my heart flutter. Everything about him screamed 90’s rocker, from the flannel to the untied boots on his feet. The words ‘Kurt Cobain on steroids’ came to mind, and I had to bite my cheek to keep from laughing.

“I think I know how to build a fire.” I said defensively all the same, immediately wondering why I wasn’t getting the hell out of the way to let him help me.

He didn’t let my snark deter him, and instead crouched down beside me to rearrange things. I didn’t argue any further with him. I just let him work. I tried not to stare. I failed.

“Got a match?” He looked over at me.

“Yeah.” I handed over the box, and our hands touched briefly. Sparks. Oh, the sparks. Such pretty colors they were. I imagine they were something akin to the color my cheeks turned.

I watched as he struck the match, and then began to light the kindling in various places. He started to build a teepee around the kindling one log at a time. I watched him instead of the fire, as it slowly began to build. I loved watched the way the flames danced on his face and the way the light made his eyes flicker and blaze in the fading light of day. Did I mention he was gorgeous?

In no time flat he had a serious fire going. I had to step back because the heat got too intense. He rose from his crouched position to stand next to me. I expected him to smile, nod and walk away. Instead, he held out his hand to me.

“I’m Eric.” His hand hung out there invitingly.

I slowly reached for it, and felt another round of sparks fly from my fingertips when I touched him. “Sookie.”

“Interesting name.” He smiled at me as our hands moved up and down.

“If you met my parents, you’d think it was one of the more normal things they’ve done.” I said, instantly wishing I could take that back. What weirdo I was.

Eric laughed quietly and asked, “Where are you from?”

“Oh you mean I don’t sound local?” I drawled on purpose, getting me another quiet chuckle from him.

“I have yet to meet anyone from this state, so I wouldn’t know.” He admitted.

“So then I guess that means you’re not from around here?”

“Nope. I’m from Seattle.” He plucked at his flannel, and it was at that point I realized we were still holding hands.

I didn’t want to let his hand go, but figured I’d held it long enough. I immediately missed the warmth his hand provided, and ended up stuffing my hands into the giant pocket of my pullover. It didn’t escape me that we were being watched by Tara and Lafayette, but that didn’t stop me from continuing the conversation I was having with Eric.

We talked about our travels over the summer and about our respective home towns. By the time Alcide and Maria Starr got back with the necessary provisions (his fake ID hadn’t been spotted), I felt like I was talking to an old friend. Eric helped me help Alcide and Maria Starr unload their purchases from the truck. Slowly, Eric’s friends began to make their way over to our campsite. He was traveling with a smaller group, as there were only four of them. His cousin, Pam, eyed me carefully, almost like she was debating over whether or not I was worthy to spend time with Eric.

I wondered what that was about, but didn’t ask. Their friends Alexei and Felicia rounded out the group. It was obvious to me that Alexei and Felicia were a couple, even if they didn’t call any attention to the fact. I wanted to ask Eric if he had girlfriend somewhere, but figured that wasn’t really any of my business either. I was only going to be in Dorchester for a night. What difference did it make if Eric had a girlfriend?

The ten of us ended up having dinner together, and almost immediately after that, the alcohol was broken out. I was a lightweight, and as such, didn’t really care too much for booze. I’d gotten drunk at prom and it wasn’t at all what everyone made it out to be. I felt like hell for the three days following, and swore to myself I wasn’t going to drink again for a very long time. Besides, the last thing I needed was to get stupid drunk and make a move on Eric. I figured one of two things would happen: either he would reject me outright, and I would make a fool of myself, or, we would end up having sex and I’d still make a fool of myself.

For all the making out I’d done with Alcide, it had never gone past third base. He’d never seen me completely naked, and I wasn’t about to go losing my virginity to a stranger in some drunken rush of hormones. Even though my body was begging me to reconsider.

Lafayette started playing his guitar again with Tara doing the singing. It was a nice little impromptu concert they put on for us. I’d slipped away from Eric to get a fresh drink and ended up choosing a seat out of the way. Not that I didn’t want to be near him- because I did- but I didn’t trust myself to keep my promise if I stayed too close to him. I found my eyes kept wandering in his direction, and it was no surprise to me that he was staring right at me every time I glanced his way. I smiled into my cup, and decided to see if he would follow if I left.

I waited until Alexei broke out a deck of cards to play Asshole. In the chaos that ensued, I decided it was time to make a break for it. Silently, I vacated my chair and started walking toward the picnic pavilions with the intention of sitting on that bench swing I’d spotted earlier. I looked over my shoulder just once to see if I was being followed. I smiled to myself when I saw Eric’s very tall frame walking at a slow pace behind me. He was quite a ways back, probably trying not to make it look obvious that he was following me.

I parked myself on the swing, and heard the raucous laughter of the motley crew a couple hundred yards behind me. My legs stretched out, and pushed the swing for me. Eric appeared shortly thereafter with a fleece blanket under his arm. I hadn’t noticed it when he was walking. He handed the blanket to me and sat down without being invited.

“What’s this for?”

“It’s going to get really cold here without the fire to keep you warm.” He didn’t leer at me, and I was a little angry at myself for being disappointed by it. “But I could keep you warm instead, if you prefer.”

There it was. Much better.

I giggled like a moron and said, “The blanket’ll do, thank you.”

“Let me know if you change your mind.” His smile was easy. I liked it very much.

“So, this is none of my business, but why was your cousin staring at me like I was trying to worm my way into a dying rich man’s will?” I asked as I unfolded the blanket he’d brought.

Eric sipped the beer he was drinking, then offered it to me. I hesitated for exactly two seconds before throwing my no drinking policy out the window and taking the bottle from him. What a mess I was, taking a drink just because his lips had been there seconds before.

“It’s a long story, but it’s all about a girl.” He explained.

“Sorry.” I apologized.

“I used to be. Now I figure it’s better that I know the truth. I learned my lesson.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but I didn’t need to. “So then you’re single?” Smooth, Sook.

“And staying that way.” He nodded.

I was torn about that confession. Was I reading him all wrong, or did that just mean he was into that whole ‘hit and quit it’ brand of dating?

“What about you?” He asked me.

“Single. I was actually dating Alcide up until we got to Salt Lake City about two weeks ago.” I confirmed for him.

“Wow.” He looked impressed.

“What?”

“That’s got to be awkward. I mean, you know, since you’re traveling together.”

“Actually, it’s not so bad. Alcide and me…” I trailed off, trying to figure out how to explain it without being too detailed. “Let’s just say we’re better off being friends, and we realized that before we could start to resent each other for trying to be something else.”

“That’s a very mature way of looking at it.”

I shrugged and said, “Being his friend was more important to me than anything. I’m a good friend to him, but I was a shitty girlfriend.”

Eric looked a little confused and said, “I don’t believe that for a minute.”

I laughed and pulled my knees up under the blanket, picking at the label on the bottle in my hand. From out of nowhere, a second beer bottle appeared and I looked at Eric like he was a magician. He laughed before twisting off the cap. I always envied people who could do that without tearing their hands to shreds.

“Why? Because I’m such a sweet southern belle who wouldn’t hurt a fly?” I drawled again.

“Well, because a bad girlfriend would have tried to stay when she knew she shouldn’t.” Eric said like he knew a thing or two about it. I didn’t comment.

We were quiet for a few minutes. I took another sip of the beer he’d given me, while he drank a little bit more. I wondered how many beers it would take to get a guy his size drunk, and I was grateful I wasn’t drinking heavily myself, or I wouldn’t have had the brain filter to keep from asking. We fell into easy conversation after our brief silence to reflect on things.

We talked about all sorts of things, and sometimes nothing at all. It was easy to be there with him. Every once in a while we’d halt our conversation because of a roar coming from our campsites, each of us curious about what we were missing, but not so curious we wanted to forfeit our bench to find out. Eric told me about college in California, and his passion for surfing. He admitted that even though he had a degree in finance, he wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do with his life.

“Sometimes I think I want to just disappear and spend my life surfing.” He admitted with a lazy smile.

“Sounds like a nice life.” I didn’t add that he definitely had the body for it, even though I wanted to. “If it makes you feel any better, I don’t really know what I want to do either.”

“You’re only eighteen. You’re not really supposed to know that yet.”

“But by twenty-two, you’re supposed to know it all?” I arched an eyebrow at him.

“If that’s the case, I’m fucked.” Eric said with a laugh before draining the rest of his beer.

Yet another bottle appeared and I couldn’t resist giving him the look I did. “Jesus, are you growing those things?”

Eric laughed and held up a six pack. “I figured we might be here a while.”

“Are you trying to get me drunk?” I meant it as a joke, but all it got me was another beer.

“Yep.” His eyebrows wiggled at me.

I sighed, debating over whether or not I should do it. “Eh, fuck it.” I muttered, and took the bottle. I moved to use my sweatshirt to twist the cap off, but Eric took the bottle back and did it for me.

“By the time you’re twenty-two, you won’t need protection on your hands anymore.” He winked at me.

“I don’t plan to spend my college years getting wasted out of my mind and having random sex.” I offered, immediately wanting to slap myself for the random sex part of my statement.

“Too bad.” Eric sighed.

“Is that what you did?” I had to wonder if my brain filter was directly linked to the cap on the new beer, since the two seemed to have disappeared together.

“At first.” He was honest. I liked that about him. “It’s liberating to be away from home. You get to do what you want, when you want. You don’t need anyone’s permission or approval for anything. But then the reality sets in that if you don’t start taking things seriously, you’re going to have to go back to feeling like you live with a warden, and you learn how to balance things.”

“Well, then, I guess it’s a good thing for me that I never really cared about parties, booze and boys.” I sipped my drink.

“Just wait.” Eric said as if he knew something I didn’t. Maybe he did.

After a while I got tired of sitting, so we started to walk around the pond. It had a less than pleasant smell, but it could have been much worse. We ended up at a baseball diamond close to the entrance of the park. There was a press box off the first base line, and we climbed the rickety stairs to check out the view from up there. There was only one chair, and I ended up in Eric’s lap. He pulled me down before I could protest, and the next thing I knew our faces were just centimeters apart.

His eyes locked on mine, his lips lifting just a little at the corner. I licked my own, and watching his eyes move down my face to watch. He took the bottle from my hands and set it on the floor. My heart leapt into my throat so my breath would have company. My eyes closed when his fingers starting to comb through my hair. I told myself to breathe, but nothing happened. Well, no, that’s not entirely true. I leaned into him, and there was definite movement in his lap, although I’m not sure it was voluntary.

With just a slight turn of my head, his lips found mine. They were soft and firm at the same time, and it was obvious to me from the get-go that Eric knew exactly what he was doing with them. I ignored the taste of beer, and focused on the warmth spreading from my stomach to the rest of me. All if a sudden it felt like the temperature had shot up about thirty degrees, and it only got worse when his tongue licked my lips.

I whimpered, but didn’t hesitate to open my mouth for him. I folded like a cheap suit and completely surrendered myself to him. I justified it by saying I’d held out long enough- too long, even. I shifted in Eric’s lap, making him groan as I did so. I ended up straddling his legs, letting the blanket fall to the floor of the rickety press box. After a few minutes of relentless kissing, I had to get rid of my sweatshirt. We pulled apart just long enough for me to slip my sweater over my head before it joined the blanket on the floor.

Only that wasn’t the last piece of clothing to hit the deck. Both Eric’s and my shirt, along with my bra, joined the pile. He stared at my bare chest like he’d just won the lottery, which would have bothered me a hell of a lot more if he wouldn’t have returned his attentions to my lips. But his hands got busy kneading and massaging before his mouth slowly made his way down my neck and then lower.

His mouth on me felt better than I ever could have imagined, and I have to admit, I had a hard time keeping my own lips away from his neck. The moment of truth where I had to decide whether or not to pull the plug came all too soon. We were both fighting for air when all of a sudden, everything seemed to go into limbo. Eric’s eyes found mine again, his chest heaving against mine. I had to choose.

No, this wasn’t the way I had imagined I would lose my virginity, not by a long shot. I don’t know what I pictured, but it wasn’t a guy like Eric in a rickety old press box in the middle of nowhere. But a little voice inside my head told me I would regret it more if I didn’t just go for it. So, that’s what I did. My hands found their way between us, and I popped the button on his jeans. I heard his breath catch in his throat, and then his lips were attacking mine again.

We moved awkwardly off the chair, trying not to break contact with each other, but it was unavoidable. Eric spread out the blanket he’d brought with him, and for the first time I wondered if this was what he had in mind all along. But then, I couldn’t really be too pissed off about it since I was thinking similar dirty thoughts in my own mind. He wasn’t doing anything I didn’t want. He wasn’t forcing himself on me. He let me choose this, and I knew he would stop if I told him to.

Why I trusted him so implicitly, I wasn’t sure. I decided then that I trusted myself, and that was really the important thing. I trusted my instincts to tell me when I was in a bad situation. They’d never let me down in the past. So far, my spidey sense was only tingling in good ways. I wanted Eric. He wanted me. We were young and maybe a little foolish.

“I have to tell you something.” I said once we were down to our underwear and stretched out on the blanket side my side, his index finger making circles around one of my nipples.

“What is it?” He murmured against my skin before sucking the other nipple into his mouth.

I quivered and let him do what he was going to do. He practically tortured me with pleasure, and we hadn’t even gotten to the really good stuff yet. I steeled my will, knowing he was going to figure out one way or another that I hadn’t done this before, and it seemed only fair he should have some kind of warning.

When he finally managed to release my breast from his mouth, I tilted his chin up to face me. I took a deep breath and said, “I’m a virgin.”

I waited for a reaction. What I got was Eric inching up closer to my face, kissing me softly on my lips and saying, “Not for long.”

I trembled then, watching as he slid back down my body to remove my underwear. His fingers hooked on the sides and tugged them off. I couldn’t look at him as he took in the sight of me. He gently parted my legs and put himself between them. His lips found mine again and he kissed me gently. I didn’t want to panic, but a part of me couldn’t help it. I’d heard stories about first times. I knew it was going to be painful, and I didn’t want to be a disappointment.

Eric was slow and gentle, which helped me relax, but the panic started to return when I felt his hand slip between my legs. I froze up. I was afraid to breathe.

“Sookie?” Eric withdrew his hand from its hiding place. “Sookie, look at me.” My eyes slowly found his in the darkness. “Do you trust me?”

Did I trust him? Honestly, I didn’t know if I did or not, but I trusted me. I bit my bottom lip and nodded slowly.

“I won’t hurt you.” He smoothed some of my hair back from my face in a gentle manner. “I promise.”

I nodded again, and then hoped my heart wouldn’t give out on me when he started to kiss his way down my body. I had to laugh internally, though, because I was pretty sure deflowering a virgin wasn’t on his list of things to do that day. Then again, since we were practically strangers, maybe it was. But my gut wasn’t shouting any reasons to think he was an untrustworthy bastard. He’d been respectful, kind and considerate so far. I could only hope those qualities extended to scared girls about to have sex for the first time.

I could hear laughter and shouting in the distance. Our friends were having one hell of a time. To be honest, I was surprised no one had come looking for us, or me in particular. I was going to have to seriously reconsider the quality of those friendships later, considering I was in a strange place with a strange man, and no one seemed to think I needed checking on. Hmph.

But then I was distracted by Eric’s breath on a part of me that wasn’t used to being breathed on. I looked down to see him smiling up at me with a predatory look in his eyes. I gulped as he inhaled my scent deeply. Muscles that only made themselves known every now and again started to tighten. Man, was I in trouble. And then his mouth was on me, and the rest of the world disappeared. It was the first of what I figured would be many new experiences that night.

His large hand pressed down on my stomach when my hips started to rise up off the blanket. His tongue flicked, swirled and laved at the right times in the right places, almost like someone had drawn him a map of how to get me off. One long finger entered me gently, stroking in a counter rhythm to the flicks of his tongue. I squirmed as much as I could with him holding me down like he was. When a second finger joined the first, I went over the edge. I came hard, those muscles spasming and squeezing his fingers inside me.

But he didn’t stop there. He continued to show me what I figured had to be his best moves, and when his fingers curled inside me just a little, I cried out unexpectedly. He found a spot that Alcide never had, and once he did, he made sure to make good use of his discovery.

“Oh, Eric, don’t stop!” I panted, and it ended up being a chant.

I wanted more. I was ready for more, and I told him as much, but he didn’t let up. He continued stroking, licking and sucking until I came again. I was a boneless mess, and shaking like a leaf. I looked down at him in time to see him put his fingers in his mouth and lick them clean. I groaned quietly, unable to find words that made any sort of sense.

I had just come back into my body when I saw Eric reaching into the pocket of his jeans. He fiddled with something, but then produced a condom. I gulped again, and told myself to relax. No use in putting all of his hard work to waste. My thighs rubbed together while I watched him put on the condom. I didn’t know much about what the average size was for guys. Alcide really was the extent of any sexual history I had, and he was smaller than Eric, though not by much. I figured either every guy was that big, or I had just been lucky so far.

Then again, as a virgin, it was hard to feel lucky. My legs parted again to let Eric settle between them. I felt some of his weight land on me, but it was reassuring instead of heavy. We kissed lazily, and he didn’t try to rush things along, for which I was grateful. But then I felt him at my entrance, and my breath caught again.

“Are you sure?” Eric whispered against the shell of my ear.

“Yes.” My voice was strained, and before he was even pushing into me, my nails were digging into his shoulders. If he minded, he didn’t say so.

He pushed gently, but I felt a slight burning pain as he did so. He advanced slowly, inch by inch, until he couldn’t go any deeper. He stilled inside me, his eyes searching mine. My heart felt like it was going to beat right out of my chest. My body adjusted, though the pain only dimmed a little. He pulled back just a little, and I hissed.

“Am I hurting you?” He looked upset at the idea of having broken his promise to me.

“I’m okay.” I assured him, and it wasn’t until I lifted my hips to meet his that he seemed to relax.

He started a slow rhythm of pulling out and pushing back in that made me burn in a few different ways. Yes, it hurt, and yes, it felt strange at first, but I had been prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much my heart swelled, or how I didn’t want it to end. I kept my eyes open when he kissed me, which was something I’d never tried before. When he opened his eyes to see me looking back at him, everything got more intense. He thrusted a bit faster, and his tongue in my mouth tried to match the movement of his hips.

He moved his lips away from mine to find my ear and whispered, “So beautiful.”

I made a choked noise that was somewhere between a moan and a sob. Slowly, the tension I was feeling left my body, and I just gave myself over to him. I trusted him, and I knew he could feel it when it happened. He moved just a little bit faster, but he wasn’t rough with me. He knew I wasn’t ready for that. My eyes closed when his mouth sank to my collarbone, and I concentrated on the feeling of him sliding in and out, over and over again until I thought I was going to lose my mind completely.

We were a sweaty, tangled mess of limbs in the crisp summer air, and the breeze kicking up made me shiver. I heard Eric mutter something, but I had no idea what he was saying. It sounded like another language and not just gibberish, though.

He grunted and pulled back to look me in the eyes. “I’m close, lover.”

Lover? It sounded like something I would expect to see in a cheesy romance novel, but coming from Eric, it sounded perfect. I felt him swell inside me, and I didn’t think it was possible for him to get any bigger. His hand moved between us so his thumb could circle my clit. I groaned loudly and pushed my hips up to meet his. My moans mixed with his grunts and little growls. He slowed down in attempts to make it last longer, his thumb moving faster on my slick skin.

I cried out and my nails dug into his back, clawing at him slightly as my body felt like it was exploding. I held onto him tightly while he thrusted into me a few more times a little harder than he had before, and then he collapsed with a shout of his own. We lay there, holding onto each other like we might drift off into space if we didn’t. It crossed my mind I might end up catching a wicked summer cold for having sex out in the open like I did, but I was too deliriously happy in that moment to care much about that.

He kissed me gently, and then pulled out of me. I whimpered at the loss, already feeling like less than myself. I knew right then he had taken a piece of me with him. It was a piece I knew I was never going to get back, and yet, I somehow trusted him to take care of it. He rolled to his side to get rid of the condom, although what he did with it, I couldn’t tell you. I lay there beside him, panting and trying to get my heartbeat back under control.

“You’re freezing.” Eric said with concern, his fingers stroking my jaw.

Oh, right, my teeth were chattering. “Keep me warm.” I held my arms out to him.

He dove on top of me and planted kisses all over my face and neck. That was fun for a while, but we had to put clothes on. It was simply too cold not to, and the wind wasn’t dying down. Slowly, we got dressed again, but we made no other effort to get up and head back to the campsite. We sat on the floor with our backs against the wall, and my head resting on Eric’s shoulder. The blanket was covering the two of us from our waists down.

The last thing I remembered before I fell asleep was Eric kissing my knuckles. When I woke up the next morning, Eric was gone. I felt my heart crack a little. I had really hoped I would at least get the chance to say goodbye to him. My hands were cold, and I stuffed them into the big pocket of my pullover, where I found a piece of paper that hadn’t been there the night before. I pulled it out to see a masculine, but elegant, script.

Sookie,

I’m sorry I didn’t wake you up. I didn’t want to leave you like this. But I also knew that if I looked into your eyes when I had to say goodbye, I wouldn’t want to go. I hope you don’t hate me, but I understand if you do. I don’t really know what the right thing is to say. Just know that I will never forget you. I hope that when you think of me you’ll smile, because I know that’s what I’ll do when I think of you. If you ever make it to California, look me up.

I would love to see you again.

Eric Northman

Finally, I had his last name. I wasn’t really sure how to feel about the way he left, but I suppose he was probably right. Saying goodbye face to face probably would have been too hard. Maybe it was for the best. I’d certainly known we weren’t going to go riding off into the sunset together. We had our moment, and that was all we’d ever have. I tucked the note into my pocket, and raised the blanket up toward my face. Eric’s scent still lingered there, and I breathed deep, wondering if I would ever see Eric Northman again.


Monday October 4, 2010

All of a sudden it was like my butt was spring-loaded and I launched myself out of my chair. I ran around the counter and hugged him tightly. He smelled exactly the same as he did ten years before. How weird was that? More to the point, how weird was it that I remembered the way he smelled? Eric had been my first, but he certainly wasn’t my last. And dammit if he didn’t look good.

“I can’t believe you’re here.” He laughed when we parted.

“Talk about crazy coincidences, huh?” I smiled up at him.

We just stared at each other for a minute, trying to take in the differences of appearance since the last time we saw each other. My eyes drifted down his body- which was currently masked by a lovely gray suit- and settled on his left hand. No wedding ring. My eyes darted up to his again. There was so much to say, but it wasn’t the time.

“Look, I would love to catch up, but you should probably get in there. That Felipe guy looked pretty pissed that you’re late.” I pressed my lips together.

Eric shrugged and said, “Then it’s a good thing I’m his boss.”

I grinned broadly. “I never would have known it from the way he talked. He certainly seemed to have an air of self-importance about him.”

“He’s a good salesman.” Eric chuckled.

“Well, let me show you to the conference room.” I nodded in the direction I was about to start walking in, when Eric grabbed my hand.

“Are you seeing anyone?” He asked me, and I licked my lips, my entire mouth going dry. “I just figured I’d get that out of the way before I start thinking things I shouldn’t think about you.”

I stepped closer to him and whispered, “Eric, we’ve already had sex, you’re going to think about it whether you want to or not.” The look I gave him told him I’d be thinking the same things.

“Drinks tonight?” He smiled at me. It was forward, or at least it would be if we hadn’t already slept together once.

“I’d like that. I get off at four thirty.” I waited for a one-liner in response, but only got a wink out of him.

I led him to the conference room and knocked on the door before opening it. “Sorry to interrupt, but Eric is here.”

“Send him in.” Sophie smiled at me.

Eric was standing where Sophie couldn’t see. He smiled at me in a way that still made my heart flutter. He bent down quickly and kissed my cheek. “It’s really good to see you.” He whispered. “I think this is a sign.”

A sign you’re going to get laid later?, I thought to myself, then blushed furiously. He gave me a quizzical look that told me I would have to explain later. Instead, I kissed my fingertips and pressed them to a spot on his neck that I had once admired so deeply. The little growl I got in return told me he hadn’t forgotten.

“Knock ’em dead.” I winked at him, then sashayed away to get back to work.

I looked over my shoulder one more time to see him standing near the partially opened door, watching me. Ten years gone, and it felt like yesterday.

Part 2: Leaving Las Vegas

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