“Mommy, it’s Eric again!” I laughed at Zoe’s huff from the backseat. “Why does he always text when I’m watching Netflix?!?”
I tried to hold in my laughter, but wasn’t entirely successful. “I’m sorry, Doodlebug. What did he say this time?”
I could hear the soft beeps as Zoe navigated through my phone. Sometimes I lamented how adept she was at using technology.
“He said ‘Hey beautiful. What are you up to?’”
“Can you type a reply please?” I saw Zoe nod in the rearview and roll her eyes. “Hey, lose the attitude young lady or I’ll cancel Netflix.” I was gratified to see the terror flash in her eyes before she straightened up in her carseat. “Okay, can you please type ‘Just running some errands with Zoe. What are you doing?’”
“How do you spell errands?” I smiled as I spelled the word for my daughter, extremely proud that she could navigate the rest of the message with ease. Thank God homeschooling had paid off. There was no way I was sticking her in Bon Temp’s public school with all the bigots and narrow minded assholes. I was just glad that Claudette decided to move down with Claude. They really were a godsend.
My phone chimed quietly and Zoe immediately opened the message. “He said ‘Not much. Just hanging out with Godric. We’re re-’ uh…I can’t read this word Mommy.”
“Spell it for me.”
“Oh, okay. ‘-researching loc…locations.”
“Very good baby! Alright, tell him that he better be nice to Godric or else. Then put a smiley face.”
I smirked as Zoe giggled. I exited the highway and navigated toward the store. I had things I needed to discuss with Claude and Zoe was bugging me about seeing her favorite Uncle. Apparently two days was way too long to go without seeing him.
My phone chimed as I unbuckled Zoe from her carseat and I ignored it for the moment as we walked in the employee door.
“Claude! What is so incredibly urgent that I needed to come out here the day after I drive back from New Orleans?”
My cousin’s beautiful head popped around the corner, a confident grin on his face. “Why, cousin, I just wanted to go over some business. And of course see how things went with the movie people.”
“Things went great Uncle C! And mommy, why is Eric asking if you’ll spank him?”
I felt my face flame bright red and Claude nearly collapsed with laughter. I snatched my phone out of Zoe’s hands and shoved it roughly in my pocket. “Nevermind. Yeah, things went great. She got the part. Tell Claude how good you did, baby!”
And with that, Zoe was off and running. With painful accuracy, she began telling Claude every single moment of the previous two days. I caught the side eye Claude gave me as he lifted Zoe onto one of the worktops. He clearly knew there was more to the story and I knew I’d be getting an earful as soon as he could occupy Zoe with something else.
“I’ll be right back guys.” Zoe didn’t even pause her story, though she lifted her hand in a halfhearted wave. I rounded the corner and waved toward Holly in the front as I slipped into the office.
I dialed Eric’s number and chewed on my thumbnail as I waited for him to pick up.
“Oh my God, Eric! Did I ever tell you that I let Zoe read my texts when I’m driving?”
Shit! Shit! Fuck! Motherfucking shit!
Did she really just say that Zoe reads her texts? Which means that Zoe now knows that I’m asking if Sookie’s going to spank me. Great. Holy mother fucking shit!
“Eric? Did I lose you?”
I cleared my throat. “…..” Nope, let’s try this again. “Uh-no. I’m-uh…here.”
“Oh. Uh, okay. You weren’t, um, saying anything so I thought…uh-I dunno.”
“Oh my God, I am so sorry, Sookie! I never would’ve ever texted that if I’d known!” My head dropped forward as I tried to stop the anxiety attack my brain was trying to incite.
It wasn’t that big of a deal, right? I mean, 6 year olds don’t know that kind of stuff, right?
“No, it’s fine. I mean, Claude distracted her almost immediately, so she’s probably already forgotten about it. But I uh-wanted to warn you. Ya know, before we start exchanging more uh-well, I mean, not that we’d do the whole sexting thing or whatever, but-”
And I couldn’t help it. I burst out into hysterical laughter. And scared the bejeesus out of Godic if his yelp was anything to go by.
“Oh my God! I’m sorry, Sookie!” I managed to get out between heaving breaths and bursts of laughter. “I just-you said…sexting! I mean, yeah-whooo, really?”
Tears streamed down my cheeks as Godric snatched the phone out of my hand and put it to his ear.
“Sookie? What the hell did you do to him?”
His eyebrows rose nearly to his hairline as she spoke and his lips pursed as he tried to hold in his laughter. “Oh, I see. But she’s okay right?”
I leaned my head on the table, careful not to get any tears on the contract in front of me. I turned my head to the side and watched as Godric leaned back in his chair, his brow furrowed and his lip caught between his teeth as Sookie spoke.
“Okay, well I think he’s almost together, so I’m gonna hand the phone back, alright? Okay, we’ll see you Saturday!”
He leaned forward and offered the phone back to me as I sat up.
“Sookie?” There may have been a tinge of desperation in my voice. But it’s not everyday you send your…lady friend’s kid a semi-risque text message. It’s not like there’s a protocol!
“Hey, darlin. Like I was saying, albeit fairly badly. It’s fine. She was a little confused, but Claude distracted her. By the way, when he called me this morning to demand that I come down, I’m pretty sure it’s only ‘cause he wanted all the details on you and Godric. He’s just a little enamored.” I could hear the smile in her voice and it made my heart soar. I’d need to remember to look for my balls when I got off the phone because I seriously must have misplaced them.
“Should I send a picture then, Lover? Or should we make him sweat for awhile?”
She giggled and I grinned like a madman. No one sound should make my heart start racing.
“Mommy, why are you blushing?”
“Oh, do we have company now?” I grinned as I reclined even further in the plush chair.
“Yes. A certain little girl has decided to interrupt me. Or maybe Claude sent her to make sure I’m not…uh-yeah well, you know.”
“Hah! Are you known for rubbing one out in his office?”
I was met with completely unexpected silence. Oh, wow. Seriously?
“Uh, Sookie? I was-uh…joking…”
A fit of laughter rang in my ear and I rolled my eyes good naturedly. “Alright, alright. I’m sure you need to go back to whatever Claude called you there for. Godric’s giving me the evil eye. I need to get back to these contracts and casting shit.”
“Oh, I thought y’all had everyone cast already.”
I rolled my eyes and scoffed. “Yeah we did. But Isabelle, the woman set to play Zoe’s mom, suddenly pulled out. So now we’re scrambling a bit. But it’ll work out alright. And I’m scouting locations while Godric deals with that.”
“Oh, if you need help let me know. I can always do stuff from my computer at home.”
My grin got wider, if that was even possible. My face almost felt like it would break. “I appreciate it. I’ll give you a call later tonight when I’m back home. Sound good?”
“Yeah, sounds great, Eric. I’ll talk to you then.”
“Oh, and Sookie?” She gave a small hum of acknowledgement and I chuckled lowly. “Don’t give your phone to Zoe, alright?”
Her booming laughter was the last thing I heard before the line disconnected.
x . x . x . x . x
Wow, this had been one hell of a long week and I couldn’t believe I’d made it to Friday. I flopped on my bed, bouncing slightly as I groped blindly over my head for my phone. I checked the time quickly before I typed a short text and hit send, settling back into the plush mattress to wait.
A few minutes later, the phone vibrated against my chest and I giggled at the sensation.
“Hey there sexy.”
The chuckle on the other end of the line was music to my ears. “Well now, do I have the right number? Cause there’s no way lowly little ol’ me can be who you’re talking to.”
The ludicrous picture running through my head (Eric in a Little House on the Prairie-esque dress, swooning) made me laugh and I swiftly covered my mouth to muffle the sound. I did not want to wake Zoe up again. Seriously, Lafayette needed to learn to cook quietly!
“Oh hush now. You are perfectly aware of what a perfect specimen you are.” He snorted, a delightfully weird noise that I’d come to find was one he made when he was truly amused. “Anyways, there’s a reason I wanted to talk. First off, do y’all have any idea what time you’ll be up here tomorrow?”
I twirled some hair around my finger as I heard Eric shuffle around. “Well, we’ve got someone to meet at ten and we’re leaving immediately after. So I’d say maybe…two-ish?”
“Cool. I think Laf is planning on an early dinner around 4. So that’ll give us all time to get to know each other.” I took a deep breath. “And…now the actual reason I needed to talk to you. Uh-Lafayette is kinda freaking out about the-uh-dress code for tomorrow. So, how will y’all be dressed?”
I bit my lip to contain the laughter trying to bubble out to match Eric’s. Thank God Godric wasn’t around this time. Hearing Eric’s almost incoherent mumbles and fragmented mutterings was priceless and by the time he’d calmed down, my stomach hurt from holding in my laughter.
“He does realize that this meeting is informal. And at your house. Right? I mean, if anything he should be the one dictating the dress code.” I could hear the air quotes in his voice, which only amused me more.
“See, I know that and you know that. But honestly if you tell him to set the dress code, he’d have y’all show up naked and invite Claude over so they could both ogle you.”
This trip was going to be fun. And totally make up for the hellish week we’d had. Everyone thinks making movies is so glamorous, but no. It’s not.
“The only one I want ogling me is you, Lover. I’d gladly leave Godric to entertain your cousin.”
From what I’d heard from Sookie over the last week (and possibly what I’d managed to find with Google) her cousin would be right up Godric’s alley. For that matter, Lafayette and Pam would get along wonderfully if they ever got to meet.
“Ah, good to know, good to know. So, did you guys get everything taken care of? Did the guy call you about the loft?”
Wow, she remembered something I said in passing three days ago. Pam couldn’t remember anything I said, even if it was written on her hand. “Yeah.” I reached over to my nightstand to grab the notebook where I’d scribbled the details and settled back against my pillows. “So, apparently there’s one in Clarendon Park that could work, but it’s smaller than we’d like given how many people would have to be there for filming. But there’s one building in the Lincoln Park area that is three stories and all the units are unoccupied. So we might just rent the entire building out for a few months and have the principles stay there.”
Sookie made a thoughtful sound. “If you need help negotiating just let me know. My brother has some connections all through the North East.”
She couldn’t get any more perfect. “I’ll definitely let you know. Now, as much as I’d love to have one of our nightly chats, I have to be up early. So, I should probably say goodnight.” I wanted to pout, but there was no way I’d be of any use to Godric tomorrow if I didn’t get off the phone with Sookie. We’d been up until the early hours of the morning every night this week and I was already suffering the effects.
“Oh, alright. I guess I can let you go. But only because I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I can’t wait, Sookie. Really.”
“Me either, Eric. Just-have a good meeting and drive safe coming up, alright?” I smiled, touched by how worried she seemed to be. It was…nice-to have someone besides my family actually care about me.
“I will. Sleep well, beautiful. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Good night, Eric.”
x . x . x . x . x
“Geez hookuh! Slow your roll and chillax!”
His head popped around the corner of the kitchen his body following immediately, a hand on his hip and the other brandishing a wooden spoon coated in something purple.
“I’m sorry! I just….does this look alright?”
I fidgeted nervously as he tossed the spoon over his shoulder, nearly skipping over to me, his eyes twinkling merrily.
“Oh you look amazin’, honey chile!” His perfectly manicured hands fanned at his eyes as he blinked rapidly. “Look a’chu! Gittin’ all dressed up fo yo man!”
“He’s not my man! I just-we…I mean, Eric-well…he’s nice. We’re taking this slow, seeing how it goes.”
He paused before miming a swoon and I broke out into a fit of giggles as it broke the tension beautifully.
“Now when is these big Hollywood peeps gracin’ our humble do’step, hmm? It’s already haf’ pass three.”
I glanced at the old clock mounted on the wall in the hallway, my heart leaping into my throat. “They called to say there was a little traffic when they left New Orleans, but oh God! Any second! Shit-where’s Zoe? And Jesus? Shit. Shit shit-”
I ducked out of the dining room, Lafayette’s laughter echoing behind me. Nope, not in the living room, the downstairs bathroom, the playroom, the guys’ room…
I stopped as I heard a far off giggle. I darted for the front door, cringing as it bounced back against the siding as I threw it open.
And there in the front yard was my daughter squeezing the life out of Eric as he knelt on the grass. Jesus was shaking Godric’s hand as they chuckled at the spectacle Zoe was making.
They must’ve heard the commotion of my arrival because Eric’s cerulean eyes swung around to sear me.
That one word, breathed so lowly that I could barely hear it, made my heart stutter. I took a deep breath-then another as I tried to calm my racing heart. I slowly and calmly made my way down to the group assembled in our driveway.
“Hey! It’s good to see you!” I wrapped my arms around Eric’s neck, giving him another hug of greeting as Zoe eyed us closely. “Hey, Lovebug-did you introduce Dad to Godric and Eric?”
Zoe gasped and dropped her head into her hands dramatically. “Nooooooo! Aw man! And I’ve been practicing too!”
Godric and Eric burst into laughter and Jesus just swooped Zoe up into his arms.
“Well go ahead, baby. Introduce away.” He nuzzled her hair and pressed a soft kiss to her cheek.
“Mr. Northman, Mr. Hyde-this is my father Jesus Velasquez. Daddy, this is Mr. Northman and Mr. Hyde.”
The men stifled their laughter as they exchanged handshakes. “Please, just call us Eric and Godric. And I’m assuming we don’t call you Daddy, right?”
Godric got a swift smack on the arm from Zoe as he guffawed again. Eric chuckled as he wrapped an arm around my shoulder. I settled back into his body as the door swung open once again and Lafayette descended on us like a hurricane.
“Whooooo baby, whut did you BRING me?!?” He sidled up to Jesus, laying a quick peck on Zoe’s cheek, which she returned adorably. Then his eyes landed on Godric and Eric, burning with appreciation. “Mmmmmm. Iz we havin’ them fo’ dinner? I iz sure I couldz dress dem up nice.”
He licked his lips and Godric chuckled. Eric gripped me tighter and pulled me in front of him. “Help! I feel like I’m an antelope on the Serengeti!”
I giggled as he allowed me to maneuver back to his side as he stuck out a hand to Lafayette.
“Psh, hookuh-” Lafayette batted his hand away, wrenching him away from me for a bear hug. “We’z huggin’ folks. You’ll get used to it.”
Jesus just shook his head good naturedly as Lafayette grabbed Godric, lifting his much smaller frame off the ground entirely.
“Well, come on in. I’m sure Lala’s almost got dinner done. Then we can get to the contracts.”
Jesus led the way with Zoe in his arms and Lafayette at his side, followed by Godric, with Eric and I bringing up the rear of our party. The door slammed shut behind the others as Eric paused on the porch and looked around, seeming to marvel at the rustic nature of our place.
His fingers gently found my chin and tilted my head toward him as his lips descended lightly on mine. It was slow and unhurried, almost hesitant. And completely perfect. I smiled against his lips and turned fully toward him, my arms raised to wrap around his neck.
We pulled apart after a moment, our foreheads resting lightly against each other. I breathed him in, his essence nearly overwhelming me as I tried to calm down before we went in the house.
“This is really pretty out here.” His hands fell from where they’d ended up on my back and he turned slightly to glance back toward the woods surrounding the property. “Very quiet. It’s never this quiet in New Orleans.”
He leaned lightly on me, his arm still wrapped around my shoulder, his fingers tangled with mine as they hung down.
“I just wanted to say-you know, in case I forget later…thanks for inviting us.”
I nudged his hip gently with mine and a smile pulled the corners of my lips up. His face was lighter than when I’d met him-god not even a week ago. But he looked younger, calmer…much more…settled in his own skin.
“Well, it was our pleasure. Besides-you had to see what you were getting involved with. Lala is a force of nature!”
He chuckled, ducking his head as a wayward piece of hair fell across his eyes. “I can tell. He seems like a trip.”
“Oh, you have no idea!”
x . x . x . x . x
“Oh. My. God!” Godric leaned back, shifting in his seat as if his pants were too tight-which probably wasn’t too far from the truth.
Eric shifted surreptitiously next to me, tugging lightly at his belt buckle. I smirked at the slightly awestruck expressions on the guys faces. Jesus just chuckled, swinging his arm around the back of Lafayette’s chair and snuggling into him.
“My hunny makes a mean gumbo doesn’t he?”
“And cornbread. And green beans. And sweet butter. And dear lord the peach cobbler…” Godric’s eyes rolled back in his head as he licked his lips, to Jesus’ utter amusement.
Eric groaned, doubling over, gripping his stomach. “Oh-God…don’t talk about the cobbler…anything but the cobbler…”
“I would be offended, but chu ate almost a half o’ the damn thing! No wunda yo’ stomach’s fit to burstin’!”
Zoe giggled, wiping her mouth daintily with her napkin before pushing her chair out and rounding the table to sit on my lap. “I told you Daddy Lala’s cooking is the best, didn’t I Eric?”
He grinned and leaned back in his chair again as his hand wound it’s way through her hair. “That you did Pumpkin. That you did. And you were totally right.”
Jesus and Lafayette linked their hands and gave each other one of their signature inside looks…the ones designed just for couples to talk nonverbally.
“Well, I for one need a bit of a break before we do any discussing. Who wants to go for a walk with me?”
I watched as Eric’s spine straightened at Sookie’s words. Zoe was raring to go as usual and leaped off her mother’s lap, rushing toward the door.
“Hey now Lovebug! Youz just wait fo’ yo’ mama, there ya hear?”
I chuckled at Lafayette’s always colorful vocabulary. I gazed at him lovingly as he craned his head, trying to watch Zoe as she tapped her toe impatiently.
“I’m coming, I’m coming. Anyone else?” Sookie’s blonde head craned around, her eyes lighting on Eric as he moved to stand.
“I could use some movement. Lead the way, oh mistress mine.” He smirked as she giggled, her hand coming up to cover her mouth daintily.
“Well DAT soundz like a story we needz to hear. Y’all go on now. We’z be waitin’ fo’ ya when youz dun.”
The door slapped shut behind them as Godric huffed, shaking his head.
“Has she been as…as…”
“You mean has she been floating on a cloud since she went down to meet you guys? Big fat yes on that one.”
I grinned. Sookie deserved so much better than what this tiny backward town could do for her. Maybe Eric was the key-the key to her escape and the key to her happiness.
“So has he. I have a good feeling about this. The movie and the love birds.”
“From yo’ mouth to the good lawd’s ears.”
I heaved a laugh as Lafayette stutter stepped toward the kitchen, thrusting his pelvis and nearly dropping the dishes he carried.