Zoe was already bitching about missing Claudine and Coleman. It was adorably annoying. They’d left yesterday so that they’d be home in time for Coleman to get to the office bright and early Monday morning. I did not envy him.
Now that Amelia was gone, her father had pulled out of the movie, resulting in a standstill. I was ridiculously excited when Eric suggested going home to Bon Temps for a week before going to his parents for their annual Fourth of July party.
It was a little bittersweet since my family usually had some sort of get-together, but Zoe was extremely excited to be able to swim so it was a worthwhile tradeoff.
“Are you almost packed?” I peeked into Zoe’s room cautiously. The last time I’d been in there it looked like a fashion massacre had occurred. Not only had she packed three suitcases, but the clothes bought for the movie were hers as well. Dear Lord, I may need to build a shed out back for all of them.
This time, however, Eric and my daughter glanced sheepishly up as they lay sprawled out over the mess with a comic book in front of each of them. “Seriously?!”
“Sorry, Mommy.” I hated when she pouted. It was so damn hard to stay mad at her. Now add Eric’s adorable puppy eyes and I was a goner.
“Okay you two. I’m going to see if Godric wants to come to Bon Temps with us. When I get back, all this crap better be packed. Use the garbage bags if you have to, but I want it all picked up. Are we clear?”
A chorus of ‘yes m’ams’ had me rolling my eyes as I turned away to hide the smirk forming on my lips.
I pocketed our room key and Godric’s and made my way down the hall, my bare feet sinking into the plush carpet as I went. I quietly let myself into Godric’s suite in case he was still sleeping. That boy loved his sleep and heaven help the one who pulled him out of it. Unless it was Zoe. She got a pass.
I rounded the corner to the living room and stopped dead in my tracks. Okay, that was different. I’d never seen him awake at 8:30 in the morning, much less dressed and already working.
“Hey, darlin’. What’s going on?”
He glanced up my way before he turned back to the mess of papers on the table in front of him. His head dropped forward and a sigh escaped his lips, a clear sign that there was something very, very wrong. Showing weakness was one thing Godric hardly ever did, according to Eric.
“Okay, that’s not good. What’s up? Talk to me.” I dropped down on the sofa beside him, my body angled his way as he threw himself back against the plush cushions.
“I just…” He paused and sighed again. The dark circles under his eyes stood out starkly against his pale skin and I wondered if he’d slept at all last night. “I don’t think there’s a chance in hell that this movie is gonna get made now. I’ve been dreaming of this for years and we’ve worked so hard on the script!”
“I didn’t know you wrote it.”
He tried to smile my way, but it failed miserably. “Yeah, Eric and I started writing this when we were…15, I think. I finally had all my ducks in a row, but then Amelia had to be a blistering infected cunt. Since I fired her skanky ass, her father has pulled out. That was…I mean, I don’t have the money for this! That’s my whole budget fucked to hell! There’s just…no way to do this.”
If only Amelia’s father had pulled out 30-something years ago, we wouldn’t be in this mess. I swear his eyes began to water and I wanted to carve out Amelia’s liver with a spork. I could feel the anger bubbling through my veins and I tried to calm down with some deep breathing. Nope. Not working.
“Okay, break it down for me. I don’t know how this whole movie thing works.”
“I figured I needed $100,000 for the whole project. That’s everything. People work on indie films for the exposure, not really for the money, ya know?” I nodded. What little Zoe was earning was going directly into a savings account. “So, all things figured the budget came in at right around $76,000. So $100,000 would give me enough wiggle room to not be stressed.”
I nodded again as I pulled my leg up under me. Godric leaned forward and shuffled through the papers on the table, sighing again as he pulled one out and shoved it into my hands. I glanced at the budget laid out before me and it was good. Godric had really done a magnificent job.
“I mean, I already had a lot of the necessary equipment from film school. Mom and Dad bought me a top of the line camera and computer. Eric pitched in for the editing software and external hard drives. I have the lighting and audio equipment. So that’s a huge chunk of money right there that we didn’t have to spend.” I nodded again, content to let him talk. At this point, I didn’t even know what to say, so I figured it was best to shut my trap. “Amelia’s dad basically bankrolled the entire project, but now that I fired his ‘darling girl’, he’s…”
Godric’s eyes turned my way and my heart broke. “Can I talk? Or is there more?”
He waved his hand listlessly and I straightened my back. Mama Bear was coming out and I was ready to fight. “How much did he take back? Obviously he couldn’t take what you’ve already spent and I’d love to see him try to sue you for it.”
“He pulled about $80,000.”
“Well, you don’t need his money anyway. With what I know of Copley, he probably made it murdering puppies and selling drugs to kids.” Godric’s eyes widened and I grinned. “Yeah, I know a lot more about his finances than he’d like. Have Zoe or I mentioned my Uncle Dermot?”
He shook his head like I knew he would. I keep my connections low profile, unlike some skanky ass hoes.
“My uncle, Dermot Crane, is a Louisiana State Senator.” His eyes widened again and I giggled. “Let me give him a call, alright?”
I pulled out my phone without waiting for a response and dialed. Godric sat there staring at me with his mouth hanging open. He hadn’t blinked in a few minutes so I was getting kinda worried…
“Senator Crane speaking.” My face broke out into a huge grin at the sound of his voice.
What the hell? Where did this Sookie come from? She was vicious. I listened to her explain the situation to her Uncle-the state Senator-and I tried to shake myself awake. Surely I had to be dreaming. Right?
“Hey, gimme your phone.”
I silently handed it over as she cradled her own between her shoulder and her ear. She dialed a number from memory and held it up to her other ear. This was trippy.
“No, I’m calling him no-. Hey Jase! I’ve got Unc on another line, but we ran into a snag with the movie Zoe’s in.” Her eyes rolled so violently that I was surprised they didn’t roll right out of her head. She had warned me what talking to her brother did, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. “Do you still have your contacts in Chicago?”
I excused myself to the small kitchenette and leaned against the counter. Wow. I didn’t quite know what was going on here, but it seemed like Sookie was saving our movie.
I grabbed a glass and tugged the fridge open to retrieve the sweet tea I’d taken to drinking. Sookie and Zoe had turned me onto it and now I was addicted. My stomach growled loudly and I realized I hadn’t actually eaten since lunch the day before. Sookie had made tacos for us before my parents left to ‘make the drive bearable’ and I’d been locked in this suite ever since.
I absently made myself a sandwich as I idly wondered how the hell Sookie thought she could fix this. I needed a huge amount of money and no bank would give me a loan for a long shot indie film.
Oh. I’d finished my sandwich. When did that happen? I glanced around the kitchenette, wary when I realized that I could no longer hear Sookie’s voice.
I left my dirty dishes on the small table as I tiptoed toward the living room. When I peeked around the corner I saw Sookie sitting cross legged in the middle of a huge spread of papers. She may have been relatively well groomed when she came to my room, but in the-I glanced at my watch-3 hours since she’d really done a number on herself. Damn, really? Did I fall asleep while I ate??
Her long blonde hair was thrown up in a messy bun and it was falling all over the place. It was quite adorable the way she kept blowing the strands away from her face, never taking the time to actually fix it. She had ink on her cheek and smudged all over her fingers. I chuckled when I noticed the black fingerprints she left behind on the papers around her.
She glanced up when she heard me, a radiant smile on her face as she hopped to her feet. I grimaced when her knees cracked audibly. There was no worse sound on the planet!
She hopped gracefully over the papers and grabbed me in a hug which I graciously returned. I’d never turn down a hug from her. They felt like sunshine and cotton candy and….damn I needed sleep.
“I think I have it figured out.” My eyes popped open wide and she pushed my stunned body back toward the couch. She crouched and shuffled through the endless papers before she pulled a few from the pile. “Okay, so first of all, you have your $80,000 you needed.”
I didn’t think it was possible for my eyes to open any wider, but apparently I was mistaken. “Wha?! How?? I mean…wha?!?” I pinched myself just to be sure I wasn’t in a dream. Or hallucinating. But would it hurt like hell if I was just hallucinating? I shook the thought out of my head and focused back on the miraculous woman in front of me.
She grinned and handed a paper over. “First off, you’ll have $20,000 from Stack-Crane Co. Uncle Dermot insisted. That’s the company he and Daddy started before he died.” Her smile fell slightly, but she perked back up a moment later. “He called Claudette ‘cause technically the company is in her name and she was totally on board. Then, Snicker Snacks will be donating $10,000 AND providing the catering for the rest of filming.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Okay, I’ll be doing the catering. It’s not hard. There’s not that many people and I’d be cooking for us anyway. This way I can trim the food services budget down. There’s roughly three months of filming left and I am positive I can do it for well under even what I have budgeted. Then I had an anonymous $50,000 donation. That rounds out your $80,000.”
I stared at her in disbelief, frozen in place.
“Godric?” She waved a hand in front of my face. My brain had short circuited. “Did I break you?”
“Uh…no. Who-I mean, who the hell donated $50,000?!? That’s insane, it’s-” I glanced at her. She was flushed slightly and her bottom lip was caught between her teeth. “-it’s you, isn’t it?”
“No.” She was such a horrible liar. I pursed my lips and cocked an eyebrow her way. Thank God my brain and body were unfreezing. “Okay, fine. Yes.”
“Sookie, I can’t-”
She waved her hand and pulled out her patented ‘mom face’. Even I was scared of it and I shut the hell up quickly. “You can and you will. I don’t-I mean…” She shifted nervously and pulled her foot up underneath her. “I don’t like to advertise how much money I have. I don’t like not knowing if people like me for who I am or for what I can do for them.”
Well, that was relatable. In fact, Eric and I had the exact same conversation maybe a week before we’d met Sookie and Zoe. “But…I can’t just take your money!”
“You’re right, you can’t.” She giggled. “But I’m giving it freely, so there’s no issue.”
“But, I mean…” I paused, trying to think of a polite way to phrase my question.
“You’re wondering how a 25 year old has such a big bank balance, right?” I nodded and I tried to convey the apology with my eyes. “Between Gran and Gramp’s life insurance, then Daddy’s life insurance and a fairly sizable inheritance I’m pretty set. I let Unc and Claudette manage my investments through Stack-Crane and they’ve made it grow exponentially.” She shrugged, like it was no big deal that she probably had more money than Eric and I combined.
I needed to move past this topic if I ever wanted to hear about the rest of this miracle she’d performed. “So…what else did you do? Turn water into wine? Raise the dead? Catch Bigfoot?”
She laughed loudly and pulled another few papers from the pile in front of her. “Well, Jason is an interior designer out of Boston, but he travels all over the Northeast. He’s donating his time and resources to do the set dressing for the Chicago location. Oh, and his partner managed to secure the building you wanted for $8,000 as opposed to the $12,000 they were originally going to charge. Stupid fuckers were price gouging.”
I snorted a laugh at the disgusted look on her face. “What else did you do?”
“Well, Unc and Aunt Linda have donated the use of their beach house in St. Thomas, if you want it. Eric had said that you were having trouble lining something up.” She gave a small half shrug and a grin.”
“St. Thomas? As in the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas?” I’m sure my eyes were hilariously wide. But damn, this family was unbelievable. In the very best way possible.
I was slightly worried about telling Godric the rest of what I’d done. “Yeah. It’s really great. It has five bedrooms and a separate cottage and a boat house…I mean, I can show you pictures if you want. It’s on it’s own little secluded part of beach.”
“Uh, yeah…that would be awesome.”
I grabbed my phone and unlocked it. “Okay, now here’s the big stuff. I’m gonna be doing your promo stuff. I did this for Snicker Snacks and I still do it. You know, social media and stuff?” He nodded, a skeptical look on his otherwise handsome face. “Here, look.”
I spun the screen to show him the mock up poster I’d done. Godric’s dark eyebrows shot to his hairline. “You did this?!?”
What? It was just a little photo editing. “Yeah. It was easy. Do you like it?” He nodded silently. “I also made a Facebook page, a twitter account and an Instagram account for the movie. I hope you don’t mind. I mean, it’ll drum up attention, especially since Eric’s name is a pretty well searched hashtag.”
I grabbed the phone to navigate to each page and let Godric peruse them in silence. His face grew paler and paler and I was almost positive I would need to get Eric when he passed out. Yeah that was looking like a ‘when’, not an ‘if’.
A few minutes later (or twenty, but who’s counting), Godric handed my phone back to me with a smirk plastered on his face. “Did you really have to make that second post?!”
I burst out laughing because yes, I actually did. Bill deserved it. “What?! I was letting the fans decide!”
The color was swiftly returning to Godric’s face, including the bruise-like circles under his eyes. I stood and yanked him up with me. “Come on. You need some sleep.”
He came along willingly, his feet shuffling slowly behind me as I led him to the bedroom. He collapsed on the bed, his eyes immediately closing.
I chuckled as I tugged him up to yank his shirt over his head. “Oh, darlin’?”
He hummed softly, his eyes still closed as I pulled him to stand and pushed his sweats to the floor. “Please don’t tell Eric. I mean, you can tell him that you got some donations and that I’m doing the media stuff, but please don’t tell him anything else.”
His eyes opened at my words, even as he flopped back on the bed. “Why? You’re a fucking badass, Sookie. Why would you want to hide that?”
I rolled my eyes as I pulled the comforter back and shoved him under it, nearly giving myself a hernia in the process. Damn, he was heavier than he looked! “I just-I don’t like to flaunt my connections or how much money I have. It has nothing to do with who I am. And I don’t want him to look at me different when he sees what’s gonna happen to Copley.”
Shit. I hadn’t meant to say that. Godric’s eyes swung my way. “What do you mean? What did you do?”
“Nothing. I did absolutely nothing. That way you have plausible deniability.” I grinned at him as I leaned over to place a soft kiss on his forehead. He really was like brother to me and despite the fact that he was older, the ‘mommy’ in me just wanted to take care of him.
He shook his head and chuckled as he shifted around to get more comfortable. I turned to go, already gone much longer than I’d planned to be, but I was stopped with a hand on my arms.
“Thank you. For everything.”
“You don’t have to thank me. I’d do anything for family.” I swear his eyes welled up. And damn this room was dusty or something because all of a sudden my allergies were acting up. Yep, that’s totally what it was.
“Oh and Sookie?” I paused in the doorway with my hand on the light switch. “You really don’t need to hide from Eric. He’d understand. And be totally turned on, by the way.”
I left a laugh in my wake as I flipped the switch to leave Godric in the dark.
“So, I don’t feel like cooking.”
I chuckled at Sookie as she lay sprawled across her bed, her arm thrown dramatically over her eyes. The drive from Lake Charles had been brutal. The three and a half hour drive had taken almost five. Zoe was restless, the traffic was horrible and I was worried about Godric driving my car.
He was taking it back to New Orleans while we went to Bon Temps for a little relaxation before my parent’s Fourth of July…hullabaloo. That’s the only word to describe it. It was always over the top, but completely perfect. It’d be even better this year since Sookie and Zoe would be with me.
“Well-” I threw myself on the bed beside her and she giggled as she bounced. “-what do you want to do? Go out?”
Her face screwed up into an extreme mockery of her beautiful features and she rolled her eyes with a huff. “There’s only one place in town. The food’s…okay. I mean, it’s greasy dive bar food. I just-I don’t want the fucktards in this town to freak you out.”
I scoffed and braced myself on my elbow as I allowed my other hand to softly stroke her cheek. “Nothing could make me love you less. You are not what this town has told you. You’re beautiful and accomplished and perfect and I love you.”
She smiled and puckered her lips for a kiss, which I was more than happy to provide. Her fingers wound through my hair, lightly scraping my scalp, and I shifted myself over her body-
Well, that’s one way to cool us off.
“Yo, Lil’ Miss! Whut we say ‘bout yellin’ all ova dis house?!”
Sookie laughed as she pushed lightly at my chest. “Sorry. Duty calls.”
“Hey.” I grabbed her hand as she stood and spun her back toward me. “Never be sorry for taking care of your daughter. She comes first.”
I grabbed her in a hug and leaned my head against her chest. Her heartbeat was comforting and I felt my eyes drift down, lulled by the soft rise and fall of her breathing.
Then the door rattled. Sookie sighed and turned her head toward the noise. “Zoe, give Eric and I a minute okay. Go tell Daddy and Daddy Lala that we’re gonna go to Bellefleurs for dinner, please.”
All I heard was the clatter of tiny shoes on hardwood as Zoe raced down the hall and Sookie sighed again. “It doesn’t matter how many times I tell her not to run…”
I chuckled and pushed her back slightly so I could stand. “Is this alright? Or should I change?”
Her eyes swept over my body, the heat flaring as she took in my cargo shorts and plain blue shirt. I felt scrubby, but apparently it was doing something for her. “No, you’re…perfect.” She smirked before her face fell slightly. “Besides, nothing I do is ever gonna be good enough, so you may as well be comfortable while we get harassed.”
I pulled her into my arms, her heart aching for her. She’d been through so much and was still so strong. It wasn’t fair.
A sharp knock sounded on the door. “Hey, Sook? We’re gonna go out and load Zoe up.”
“Thanks Jesus! We’ll be out in a minute.”
The sound of his steps retreating reached my ears as I tilted my girl’s head up and laid my lips gently on hers.Then an almighty growl sounded from my stomach and she burst out laughing. The sound was glorious and so was she, her eyes closed and her face scrunched in happiness. She was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
“Come on. Let’s get going. I’m starving!”
x . x . x . x . x
“This is the only place in town?”
I chanced a look at Sookie and she grinned. “Yup. Come on. The guys are already in there.”
She opened Zoe’s door and I held my arms out. Zoe jumped the small gap between the car and myself, a whoop escaping her lips. Sookie just grinned and grabbed my other hand to lead me into the…restaurant. I pride myself on not being a normal celebrity, but I did have some standards.
Sookie stepped ahead of me to push the door open and I grimaced at the wall of scent that smacked me in the face. It was sweat and beer and grease and smoke…all of which were unpleasant on their own, but put together…no.
We stepped inside and I scanned the interior as we waited for a hostess. Zoe rested her head on my shoulder and I grabbed Sookie’s hand again. A woman with bright red and completely unnatural hair headed our way.
“Oh, Sookie.” She paused midstep, faltering noticeably as she caught sight of us. “Hello. Your uh-your party is right over there.”
Her nose turned up in the air as she whirled away and Sookie rolled her eyes. She grabbed a couple menus on our way toward the table where I could see Lafayette and Jesus.
A short man covered in dirt and grime also stood at the table, his posture suggesting that he was already three sheets to the wind. As we drew closer, my ears caught the tail end of what he was saying.
“-you should get out of here! This ain’t a place for your kind, faggots! Y’all’ll probably give us AIDS or something! And-”
Sookie let go of my hand as he ranted at the guys, giving me a look to keep me back a bit as she stepped up behind him. She cleared her throat loudly, a smirk on her face as the man whirled around.
His face immediately blanched, his features screwed up in terror as he caught sight of the girl almost a foot shorter than him.
“I think you were leaving, Mack. Weren’t you?”
He stumbled over his own feet as he backed away quickly, mumbling incoherent nothings as he scurried away.
Lafayette burst into hysterical laughter and Sookie bowed mockingly as she motioned for me to scoot in the booth. Zoe slipped out of my arms and crawled over Lafayette to settle herself between the guys.
“What was that all about?” I asked as she sank onto the bench beside me.
She opened her mouth to speak, but was abruptly cut off by Lafayette. “Oh, hunny chile! Dis is de bes’ story eva!”
Sookie dropped her head to the table as Jesus and Zoe laughed. “What? I’m confused.” I couldn’t help the slight chuckle I let out. My hand found it’s own way to Sookie’s back and I tried to rub away the tension as Jesus slapped Lafayette softly on the shoulder.
“Let me tell the damn story! You always embellish. Last time Sookie had an arsenal strapped to her!” My eyebrow rose and Sookie groaned. “Okay, that was Mack Rattray. We call him and his…wife, which is a generous term…the Rats because they’re so slimy and gross.”
“I use’ ta work on da Road Crew wif him. He neva liked me. I’m too faboolus fo’ him!”
Zoe giggled as he tossed his head and rained a shower of glitter down on her.
“Anyway, one day was especially bad. Lafayette came home with two black eyes and a couple broken ribs. Mack had gotten the bright idea to haze him on the job and no one bothered to stop him.”
Sookie snorted, though I could see the sheen of tears in her eyes. “Bunch of no good bastards!”
Wow, she said that loud. If the glares coming from every corner of the bar were any indication, the feeling was mutual.
“About eight that night, we hear a truck pull up in the driveway and our motion light clicks on. Zoe was only about seven months old and Gran was still at our house. She came over almost every night for dinner. She was sitting in the living room tending to Laf and Zoe was in the bassinet a couple feet away. Sookie and I were cleaning the kitchen when all of a sudden we hear glass breaking and Gran shrieking.”
My eyebrow rose and Sookie growled beside me. Wow, that wasn’t hot or anything. I shifted slightly, trying to relieve the sudden tightness of my shorts and Sookie smirked. She knew. Damn it, the little minx!
“We run into the living room and see this huge rock on the floor and Gran holding her chest. I thought she was having a heart attack. Laf was trying to get up and Sookie was looking out the window to see what the hell had happened.”
“And I stayed asleep ‘cause I was a baby!”
I chuckled at Zoe’s smiling innocence. “Yeah, you were.” Jesus continued after he hugged her tightly. “Next thing I know, Sookie is racing to the hall closet and she grabs the shotgun. Once I made sure Gran was alright and Laf was laying back down and Zoe was still asleep, I went to the window.”
Lafayette hooted loudly and slapped his knee. “Boy, yo gurl dere is a firecracka!”
“Oh yeah, don’t I know it! You should’ve seen the verbal bitch slap she gave to Amelia!” I seriously needed to invest in looser shorts, though I was positive cargos were safe. Apparently not.
“She was down on the front lawn with the shotgun pointed at Mack’s head. He was mumbling about running us out of town or something and Sookie was just standing there calm as can be. He took a step toward her, probably because he thought she would break and cry. Idiot. So she fired a warning shot…it might’ve hit the side of his truck.” Sookie blushed and I fought the urge to drag her out to her SUV. “God, she was glorious!”
“Mack, you are drunk. I’ll forget you threw a brick at my house and nearly gave my Gran a heart attack. And I’ll forget that you put the beat down on one of my best friends in the world. But you better turn yourself around right this fucking minute and get the fuck off my lawn!”
I glanced back toward Laf and Gran. Adele, the wonderful woman that she was, just waved me away. I’d never met a stronger woman-except maybe Sookie. The things that girl put up with…
“Aw, you a’int gonna do nothin’, whore! You don’t have the stones!” He took another menacing step toward her and I almost ran out to help.
She cocked the shotgun and raised it higher, her eye focused and her hand steady. “I don’t care what you think of me, you inbred bastard, but you will not insult and endanger my family. And I swear to God if you wake my baby I will make Swiss cheese out of you!”
I watched the two of them stare at each other, Mack gradually losing the drunken bravado he’d come with as Sookie never wavered. Her face was set in grim determination and I was actually afraid of what she’d do.
“Check your truck, fucker. This a’int birdshot I’ve got loaded. I’ll blow your ass away and they’ll never find your body.” She stepped forward once, her finger tightening on the trigger.
Mack glanced back toward his beloved truck, his eyes going wide as he saw the hole she’d blow in the side panel. “You bitch!”
“Dude, seriously? You’re just noticing that?!” I couldn’t help it. I stepped out on the porch, ready to help Sookie defend our tiny family if need be.
Mack glanced between the two of us warily, clearly seeing he was outnumbered and outmatched. I had no doubt this wouldn’t be the last time he’d try to pull shit, but it looked like he was done for the night.
Sookie kept the shotgun raised and she followed Mack’s retreat with the muzzle, ready to shoot if she needed to. I could hear him ranting about his ruined truck and how he’d sue us as he climbed the ridiculous steps to get in. I’d like to see him try. I’d wipe the floor with his pathetic ass.
He sprayed gravel as he raced out of our driveway, though Sookie never wavered as she kept the shotgun trained on the retreating brake lights.
It wasn’t until we heard him squeal out onto the main road that she relaxed and lowered the gun. With a sigh, she turned to face me and trudged up the porch steps.
“So-I think I need a beer.”
Seriously? I wasn’t sure whether to be turned on at how badass my girlfriend was or be horrified that she’d need to be. It was a toss up. I glanced toward Sookie and she smiled sheepishly.
“Yeah. People around here don’t like me much.” I snorted a laugh as I pulled her toward me and planted a kiss on the crown of her head.
Jesus and Lafayette just chuckled and turned their focus on Zoe, who was debating between the chicken fingers and the grilled cheese.
“You’re amazing. You know that, right?” She scoffed and I scowled. She was getting on my nerves again. “Hey, we talked about this.”
I focused on her eyes and I saw the realization spark a moment later. Ah, so now she got it. Her face screwed up into another apologetic frown. “Sorry. I’ll try harder.”
I rolled my eyes and kept my arm around her shoulder as I grabbed the menu. We’d gotten through that whole story without anyone coming to take our drink orders. I glanced around the restaurant, glaring toward the bar where three young women were gathered. They stared my way with stars in their eyes and scowls on their faces as they saw my companion. Oh fuck them.
I saw them throw a rock, paper, scissors out there, not at all discreetly and the brunette groaned as she lost. She grabbed her notepad and stomped toward our table. When she came to a stop, Sookie glanced up and rolled her eyes.
“Hello, Dawn. How have you been?”
“I a’int seen ya around Sookie. Where ya been?” If she snapped her gum any louder the sheriff might mistake it for a gunshot and the way she cocked her hip just looked painful. I felt naked as her heavily made up eyes swept over my body and I shifted Sookie a little further in front of me.
“We’ve been around. Can I get a sweet tea and an apple juice for Zoe, please?”
Dawn ignored Sookie and leaned down over the table, careful to arrange her cleavage in what she probably thought was an alluring way. “What about you, handsome? What can I get you?”
“Uh, for one thing, you can back up. Thanks.” She stood huffily and glared at Sookie, as if my dismissal was her fault. “And I’ll have a Bud. Thanks.”
Dawn spun to go, her hair flipping wildly and her heels clacking on the floor. Her asscheeks hung out of the bottom of her shorts and I felt myself gag a little. This was the type of girl these people thought were better than Sookie?
“Hey, suga! We’s gon’ have a couple Cokes too. Thanks!” Lafayette’s voice carried across the bar and Dawn sneered over her shoulder as he twiddled his fingers at her.
I had a feeling this dinner was going to be an exercise in restraint.
I was honestly surprised that we made it out of the bar without it coming to blows on Monday. I’d never seen Eric that mad.
He managed to pull it together to get home and put Zoe to bed, though he nearly had a heart attack when she busted out a ‘Goodnight, Daddy!’ to him. His face as he looked toward Jesus and Lafayette was priceless.
Lafayette, ever the ice breaker, had the best comeback ever.
“At least she got good taste! I’d call you Daddy too, if I could!”
Tuesday was spent lounging around the house and I could not have been happier. I got to cook in my own kitchen for a change and the guys all played with Zoe. She was in absolute heaven.
Wednesday she dragged Eric and I out to the lake. For being touted as one of the most daring men in Hollywood, he was surprisingly reluctant to venture into the lake.
“But what if there’s alligators?”
Zoe giggled as she carefully folded her swim cover up. She set it precisely next to her towel on the dock and turned toward Eric with her hands on her hips. “Silly, Daddy! There’s no gators! Come on!”
He lunged forward as she took a running start and dived head first into the water. “Sookie! Is she-I mean, what-!!”
All I could do is laugh and point as she resurfaced a couple yards away. “Eric, you’ve seen her swim before. She’s fine. And she’s right, there’s no gators.”
The production that followed was epic and I was so glad I’d thought to bring my phone. After coaxing, prodding, cajoling, and then threatening, Zoe had only managed to get Eric in as far as his ankles. When she threatened to ‘call Grandma’ and ‘tell her what a big baby you’re being!’ he took the initiative to dive right in.
Idiot. Adorable idiot.
Once he got comfortable, the two of them played for hours. Zoe giggled uncontrollably when Eric ‘did his Viking thing’ and outright laughed when he surged out of the water to grab me.
Thursday was another relaxing one. Relatively speaking, since Claudette decided to stop by. It was under the guise of seeing Zoe, of course, but when Eric had to actually flee the room to get away from her uncomfortable stare, I had to put my foot down.
“Seriously, Claudette? Do you have to ogle my boyfriend?!?”
She threw her beautiful brunette hair back and laughed uproariously. “Oh, Cousin. He scares easily. Are you sure you want to keep him?”
My grumbled reply was lost on her, though she did apologize to Eric when he finally ventured back in the living room. She stayed for dinner and was much better behaved, though Eric still kept a wary eye trained on her.
Thursday was also the unfortunate day that Sweetie Dearborn decided to stop by. I should’ve known it was one of the vultures when they knocked on the door in the middle of dinner, but I was still way too optimistic for my own good when it came to my hometown.
“Sookie! Sookie Stackhouse! I know you’re in there, girl! You just stop whatever it is you’re doing and come answer this door!”
Eric glanced around the table as we all continued eating. “Just ignore it and it’ll slither away.” Claudette was ever articulate when it came to the bastards that populated Bon Temps.
“I know you and those faggots are in there doing whatever manner of unspeakable evil you do! Get your devil child and answer the door!”
Eric’s face was turning a very interesting shade of puce as he deliberately set his flatware down on his plate. “Eric, really, it’s fine. Just ignore her. She’ll run out of steam in a few minutes and leave.”
He glanced toward the guys, who both raised their eyebrows in a stunning display of coordination. There was some silent, manly conversation going across the table as Claudette and I just sat in silence. Zoe rolled her eyes at the whole thing, which was a tragic commentary on how commonplace an occurrence this was.
Without another word, Eric pushed his chair back and stood. Then I was extremely confused and slightly aroused when he whipped his shirt off right there in the dining room. Claudette’s eyes nearly popping from their sockets was a lovely added bonus, though when he splashed his remaining water on his chest I grew even more confused.
He stalked toward the front door, his gait quick and slightly menacing, even to me. The only one to stay in their seat was Zoe as we all tripped over ourselves and each other to watch whatever he had planned.
“Sookie Stackhou-” Sweetie’s latest round of verbal abuse was cut off abruptly as the door whipped open. Eric casually splayed himself against the doorframe and glared down at the older woman.
“If you wouldn’t mind, my family and I are trying to have a nice family dinner.” I stifled a giggle at the outrageous Southern accent he’d suddenly acquired.
Sweetie sputtered incoherently and I heard her heels click back a few steps. I’d imagine she clutched her chest in righteous outrage as well, though we were still hidden in the darkness of the foyer.
“Now, I’d appreciate if you could get back in your pathetic excuse for a car and leave us to it. We’ve got orgies to arrange and an animal sacrifice to set up. You understand, yes?”
Without another word, he spun around and slammed the door in her face. I could still hear the unfortunate old woman sputtering in indignation as Eric swept me in his arms to finish eating dinner.
“Come on, Sook! I want to see the fallout of Eric’s stunt last night!”
I glared at Jesus as he bounced around the living room like an overeager puppy. “Seriously? You know it’s gonna be an exercise in torture! They’re gonna be worse than normal.”
“Oh hush, you! Youz is way too good fo dem fucktards. You jus keep yo head up high and don’ let em gitcha down!”
Zoe crawled across Eric to settle on my lap. Her big blue eyes and pouty lip did more to my resolve than all of the guys begging put together. “Mommy, I wanna get a grilled cheese.”
“Doodlebug, I can make you a grilled cheese here.” I cringed at the pleading tone of my voice, but it couldn’t be helped.
“It’s not the same! I want Mr. Terry’s special grilled cheese!” Eric raised an eyebrow.
“One of the only decent people in this town. Terry Bellefleur. Vietnam Vet and fellow outcast,” Jesus explained with a sad smile. Eric just nodded silently, the haze of sadness clouding his perfect features.
“Oh, alright. You talked me into it. Let’s go, I guess.”
x . x . x . x . x
Why did I think this was a good idea? Oh yeah. I didn’t.
The ringing silence of the bar echoed in my ears as my cheek burned from the slap I’d just received from Jane Bodehouse.
“Once a whore, always a whore. What would your Gran say, Sookie Stackhouse?!? She’d be so-”
“She’d be fucking proud, is what she’d be.”
Oh, shit. “Eric, just-”
“No, Sookie. No.” My wonderful boyfriend stood to his full height and planted a soft kiss on my lips. Then he gently pushed me behind him and down into the booth. “I should have you arrested. This woman-” He glared at the unwashed masses in the bar as he gestured toward me. “-is the embodiment of everything good and pure in this world. And all of you just treat her like trash. These men behind me are better than you’ll ever be. And this little girl, who’s done nothing but grow up in a family that you disapprove of, is the absolute light of my life.”
He paused to take a deep breath and glared around him again. Bud Dearborn stood and began making his way toward us as his detective, Andy just sighed. “Now listen here, son. This is my town and you cain’t be talkin’ to people like that.”
“Oh really?” Eric ducked down, putting his nose inches away from the Sheriff’s. “And what exactly are you going to do about it? I’ve done nothing wrong. That…woman, although I use the term incredibly loosely, assaulted my girlfriend. In front of her daughter and an entire bar full of people. I definitely think I’ve got the moral and legal high ground here.”
“Now, wait jus’ a secon-”
“No, you listen to me, you incompetent old bat. I know for a fact that Jesus here is one of the brightest young legal minds in the area. I also happen to know a few lawyers in New Orleans. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. Coleman and Lochlan Hyde and Roman Northman.”
It was gratifying to see Bud’s face pale considerably. “Oh I see you have heard of them. Maybe I should give my father a call. Then he can grab my uncle and brother to come up here and deal with your sorry asses. I think between them and Jesus you wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of coming out of this with anything more than the clothes on your back.” He sneered for a moment. “If you can actually call those clothes.” He turned back toward us and winked in Zoe’s direction.
I watched in curious detachment as Bud mumbled under his breath and shot dirty looks our way as he trudged back to his table.
The bar slowly returned to its previous noise level and Eric threw himself into the booth beside me. “I have no idea how you grew up remotely normal living around these…people.” He catch a surreptitious eye toward Zoe as he censored himself.
“I tink you might jus be my new hero!” Laf blew him a kiss and Eric chuckled as he ‘caught’ it.
“Hey, Sookie.” I glanced up to the end of the table, silently gripping Eric’s hand as he went into attack mode again.
“Terry! Hey!” I climbed over Eric and pulled the cook into a hug. He awkwardly patted my back and Jesus chuckled behind us. “How’ve you been, darlin’?”
“Oh you know…” He blushed slightly as his boot scuffed the ground gently. “Just been working. Oh, I finally moved into that place you told me about. Thanks for that.”
Eric raised an eyebrow and cleared his throat as he peeked around me. “Oh, I’m sorry. Terry Bellefleur. Nice to meet you.”
My ever-polite boyfriend stood to shake his hand, then wrapped an arm around my shoulder. “No, the pleasure is all mine. Eric Northman. If you ever need anything, please don’t hesitate to give me a call. My whole family-” He gestured behind him and I tried to ignore the sniffles coming from Lafayette’s direction. “-have told me how wonderful of a friend you are. I’m eternally grateful.”
Oh no, Terry was about to cry. Poor guy never had any sympathy or real affection in his life. “Well, I appreciate it, but it a’int hard to be kind to such lovely people. Now, what can I get everyone? I’m taking care of you personally. Dawn’s a right bitch and I think she was gonna mess with your food.”
Eric and I slid back onto the bench as Zoe rattled off her order. It lightened my heart as my daughter made Terry laugh, a sound I could never hear enough of. Once we’d all ordered, Terry retreated to his kitchen. He was much more at home among the produce and cookware that among the bigots in this town.
“So, where’s he live? I’d like to see if there’s anything I can do for him.”
Now I really was going to cry. How did I land such a sweet guy?
“You and Sook really are a match made in heaven, you know that?” Eric just raised an eyebrow at Jesus. “The place that he mentioned? Sookie bought the house outright and gave it to him. He doesn’t know that, of course. Pays all the utilities. The small amount of ‘rent’ he pays, she just puts back into an account for him.”
Eric squeezed me tighter, his lips coming to rest on my hair as he sighed. “You really are something, Sookie Stackhouse. And I can’t believe you’re mine.”