“Okay, one more time. Amelia! At least try to act like Zoe is your daughter and you love her!” Godric’s hand slid down his face in frustration.
God, this chick must be bipolar or something. It was ridiculous how inconsistent she was! One day she’d do well, though Zoe was always better, and then others it was…horrible. Absolutely horrible.
We’d be lucky to piece together enough usable takes to get the scenes we needed.
Sookie snuggled against me and I wrapped my arm around her slim shoulder as we watched Amelia and Zoe snuggle on the couch.
“Now honey, this isn’t so bad. Your dad-he really was a good man.”
The front door opened quietly and Godric waved a hand behind him, intent on the small monitor in front of him. Whatever. We told the crew to keep the fuck out during takes. I rolled my eyes; at least they were quiet enough that it wouldn’t be a problem.
I leaned my hip against the wall and dragged Sookie with me, ready to settle in for the rest of the scene when-
Zoe leaped out of Amelia’s arms and dashed past us on her way to…my mom?
“Mom?! What the hell?”
This time it was Sookie who smacked me on the back of the head as my dad chuckled in the background.
“Godriiiiiiiic! Who the hell is this?!”
I cringed at Amelia’s nasal voice, but I was taken aback at the voice who answered.
“You be quiet, you big meanie! You be nice to my Grandma and Grandpa!” Zoe shook her finger at our costar, then turned in my mom’s arm to grin at my dad. “So, since you’re Daddy’s dad, then you’re my Grandpa now, right?”
Whooooooah! My eyes were as wide as saucers and Godric’s seemed to mirror mine. Sookie was turned away from me so I had no clue what look was on her face. My Dad’s mouth gaped open and he looked helplessly to my Mom, who seemed to be the only one holding it together.
“Aw, honey! I’m so glad you decided to call me Grandma!” She snuggled Zoe against her, trying to give us time to collect ourselves. “And this is my husband, Coleman. He is Eric’s daddy, the same way I’m his mommy, remember?”
Zoe nodded seriously before she turned her eyes toward Dad. “So, is it alright if I call you Grandpa, sir? I forgot to ask nicely before. I’m sorry.”
Her heartfelt apology seemed to at least shake Dad out of his stupor because he graciously bowed low, grasping her tiny hand above his head.
“Of course, my tiny mademoiselle! I would be honored!” His eyes twinkled as he reached out tentatively, laughing boisterously as Zoe jumped into his arms.
Sookie’s arm dropped from around my waist and my heart stuttered as I watched the rise and fall of her chest increase dramatically. She turned and walked quickly toward the back hallway, her hair forming a curtain around her face as she went.
“Uh, hello??? I’m still freaking here!”
I cringed again at the sound of Amelia’s nasal whine. Ignoring her for the moment, I crossed the small entryway and pulled my mom into a hug.
I heard Godric murmuring behind me and was just all too thankful that he was dealing with the crazy.
“Mom! What are you guys doing here?”
“Uh, no. That’s not the important question here! When did you become Daddy?” Her raised eyebrow and smirk taunted me and I sighed.
I glanced to the side, thrilled to see Dad was keeping Zoe entertained. “Uh, you heard it the same time I did. I…I’m not sure how to feel right now.”
Her brows furrowed and she walked me further into the house. She glanced toward where Amelia was stomping her foot and rolled her eyes as Godric tried to talk her down. She pulled me to the kitchen and sat me down at the small table. “Okay, spill. Talk. What the hell are you talking about?”
What exactly to say? Of course, my mom just decided to charge right ahead, so I shouldn’t have worried.
“Last I heard, you were head over heels for Sookie. Last I heard, you were treating Zoe like a daughter already. Last I heard, this would’ve been a no brainer. What’s the fucking issue?!”
Now my eyebrow rose. Seriously? I just heard my mom say ‘fuck’. Total mind fuck.
“Honestly, I feel…I feel a lot of things. And I mean, we’re family now, so…”
“Whoa, whoa, what?!?”
I paused for a moment to think about how to tell Mom the story. “Well see, the morning after our kinda disastrous first date, we all went to breakfast…”
Zoe shoveled another forkful of pancake in her mouth and Sookie chuckled as she handed her a napkin.
“Slow down, Doodlebug. I don’t want you to choke.”
I rubbed her leg under the table and she turned her beaming smile toward me. We ate in silence for a few minutes as Godric made funny faces at Zoe, ignoring the few camera phones aimed our way.
“So, since we’re family now, are we gonna stay in the same room?”
Sookie choked as I sprayed the water I’d just sipped all over Godric. Oops. I was betting that would be on a blog somewhere in the next hour. I wiped myself down and tried to buy myself some time as Sookie hacked away next to me. Godric just smirked, despite the fact that I’d just hosed him.
“Uh-well, it’s not really…I mean, our suite only has one bedroom, so…”
“Oh, no, Sookie. We can switch. Zoe can have my room in the other suite. I’ll take yours.”
I glared at his shit eating grin and aimed a kick at his shin under the table. But the little fucking menace had curled his legs up Indian style and I ended up bashing my toes against the booth.
Sookie glanced at me, her teeth worrying at her lip. “Godric, are you sure? It’s really not a big deal. I don’t want to be an imposition…”
His hand reached across the table and grasped Sookie’s. For once, his face was devoid of humor. It wasn’t something even I’d seen often.
“It definitely is not an imposition. I swear.”
I watched the battle of wills with bated breath, clearly a hell of a lot more interested than Zoe who had happily continued munching away on her breakfast.
After a few tense silent moments, Zoe glanced up at her mother and sighed dramatically. “Mommy, we’re a family! Remember? Families stay together!”
Sookie looked pained for a moment as her eyes darted between Godric and Zoe. Then she turned to me, her eyes searching my face-for what, I had no idea.
She leaned close to me as Godric asked Zoe something, thoroughly distracting her for a few minutes. “Is this alright with you? I kinda feel like we’re bowling over your life and Godric is more than happy to help. But I don’t want you to feel pressured or anything.”
Oh that’s what she was worried about?!? Didn’t I say I never wanted to sleep without her again? Well, maybe not out loud, but she should’ve…I dunno, read my mind or something.
I leaned toward her and lowered my voice, extremely conscious of the little ears across the table. “I was having trouble dealing with the fact that I wouldn’t get to hold you every night, so this is more than alright with me. The only thing I’m worried about is how it’ll be for Zoe. I mean, this is still relatively new for us and-”
I was abruptly silenced as Sookie surged forward and crashed her lips against mine, eliciting a chorus of ‘awwwws’ from across the table. I absently flipped the bird at Godric and Zoe gasped in shock before letting out a giggle.
“That’s the bad finger, Eric!!”
I snorted, glad I pulled away from Sookie in time. She chuckled as she reached for my hand under the table.
“It is, Baby, thank you! Remember, it’s only for grown ups, like Eric and Mommy and your daddies. Right?”
“Right!” Zoe saluted adorably and then dove back into her pancakes. Godric smirked at us again and mimed wiping a tear away. I rolled my eyes and gave Sookie’s hand a squeeze before I continued eating my breakfast.
“So, let me get this straight.” My mom leaned forward and rested her chin in her hand. “You love Sookie and Zoe. They love you. You’ve been sharing a suite and sleeping with Sookie every night. And you all call each other family. Correct?”
I nodded, suddenly terrified. She was using her ‘mom’ voice, which was usually reserved for when one of us was in trouble.
I blinked. What?
My mom rolled her eyes at what must have been my dumbfounded expression.
“Sookie’s probably worried about how you’re reacting. I saw both of you when Zoe called you ‘Daddy’. She looked so incredibly happy-until she felt you tense up.”
Oh. Oooooooh. Shit.
“But Mom, I-”
“Don’t you ‘But Mom’ me. You move your ass and talk to your woman. Your father and I will keep Zoe entertained.”
I leaned forward and planted a soft kiss on her cheek before I stood up and took a deep breath.
“Thanks, Mom. I love you, ya know?”
“I love you too. And I love Sookie and Zoe, so go make sure my future daughter-in-law isn’t having a coronary.”
She popped out of her chair and bounced merrily away to find Dad and Zoe while I stood dumbly in the middle of the kitchen for another moment.
The shrill screeching of my co-star coming my way spurred me into action and I bolted from the room and down the hallway. I slowed my pace when I came to the room that was made up as Zoe’s. The door was shut and I could hear slight sobs from behind the wood.
My heart broke as I rested my forehead against the door. I was an idiot. I turned the knob slowly and cracked the door.
She sniffled quickly and I could see her wiping her cheeks in the waning daylight streaming through the window.
“Uh, yeah. I’m right-uh…here.”
I slipped into the room and padded over to the far side of the bed where she’d curled up on the floor. I sunk down beside her and leaned my shoulder against hers.
She waited a beat before responding and I could hear my heart beat louder than it ever had. “No, Eric, I’m sorry. I mean, I’ll talk to her and explain and it won’t-”
I couldn’t take it. I grabbed her beautiful face and crashed my lips against hers. The weird angle was wreaking havoc on my neck so I lifted her small body and sat her right on my lap, never breaking our kiss. My hands wound through her messy waves and I tugged gently, moving her exactly where I wanted her. She followed willingly, her breathy moans and slight whimpers made my cock harden instantly. Her hips rolled, grinding down on me as we made out like teenagers on the floor.
It took a few minutes before my brain kicked into gear again. I gently broke away from her, though I kept her on my lap.
“Sookie, why were you crying?”
Shit. Her eyes began watering again and her lip shook as she drew in a deep breath. “Because you didn’t ask for any of this! And now Zoe has just…I mean, she just thrust this huge responsibility on you and it’s not fair and I don’t want to ruin this and-”
My finger over her lips brought her babbling to a halt. I smiled softly at her, my hand moving to cup her cheek gently.
“God, you are so beautiful.”
She blushed, the red sinking down below the v of her shirt, and she shook her head at me. “Eric, this is serious!”
“Yes, it is. You are absolutely right. This is very serious.” Her eyes turned somber again. “But not the way you think. Look, we’ve been sharing a suite for over a week. I already consider you family. Zoe was already calling Godric ‘Uncle’. I love you. I love Zoe. Both our families are so convoluted and chaotic that it wasn’t a question of ‘if’ Zoe would ever call me Daddy, it was ‘when’. Because I have every intention of making that a reality. I know it’s soon and I know you’re worried about a million and one things, but that’s because you are a wonderful mother.”
She was crying again, but I was betting on them being happy tears. At least I hoped. I leaned forward to kiss the salty streaks away and she giggled as I made funny noises. The sound of her happiness made my heart soar and the butterflies that seemed to have taken up permanent residence in my stomach go nuts.
“Everything is fine. I’m fine. Zoe is more than fine. Now, all I’m worried about is you. Is this alright with you? Because that’s the real question.”
She took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. The minutes ticked by as she continued to breathe and I could actually see her relaxing.
“I love you. So much. I was just worried that this would be one step too far too fast. I’m fine.” She giggled again as she sagged against me, her breasts pressing into my chest. Her arms wove themselves around my shoulders and her fingers toyed with the small hairs on my neck. “I never imagined we’d be here. Six months ago I was content to just run the business and I was pretty sure I’d be alone for the foreseeable future. But these last 3 months that I’ve spent with you have been…heaven. So thank you for that.”
“Come on, Grandma! I need to show you and Grandpa my room!”
I chuckled as Eric’s arm wound around my shoulder. My daughter was towing Coleman and Claudine down the plushly carpeted hallway of the hotel, out in front like the lead husky in a dog sled race. Eric’s parents were following dutifully and Godric was trailing behind us.
“Slow down, Doodlebug!” Eric dug his fingers into my side lightly and I wiggled away from him. He reached out and tugged me back, slapping my backside playfully.
“You leave her alone! She’s excited!” I could hear the smile in his voice and I rolled my eyes. He was taking to his ‘Daddy’ role very seriously. She was totally his ‘Baby Girl’ and she was reveling in it.
“If you’re serious about this, you’re gonna have to learn to discipline her, ya know.”
Mature man that he was, Eric stuck his tongue out at me and I laughed. Claudine glanced back at us over her shoulder, her face lit up with a beaming smile. We reached the door to our suite a moment later and Zoe bounced on her toes as Eric dug the key out of his pocket.
“Come on, Grandma!” Zoe shot past Eric, tugging Claudine with her. Coleman followed more slowly, patting Eric’s shoulder on his way inside.
“Hey guys, I’m gonna go change really quick. Are you cooking, Sook?” Godric asked, his eyebrow raised hopefully.
He’d been loving the fact that the big suite had a kitchen and that I was more than willing to take advantage of that. Zoe and I weren’t used to eating out all the time and having home cooked meals was something Godric and Eric were only used to if they were in New Orleans with their family.
“I am. Although I may have to send one of you to the store cause I don’t have enough for us plus your parents. Should I plan for Pam to be here too?”
I still hadn’t decided if I liked Pam. She was abrasive and vulgar the majority of the time, but there was a certain…something that I wanted to like. She was making it exceedingly difficult though.
“Uh, probably not. She’s not a fan of…being human. Just text me a list and I’ll run out after I change. Sound good?”
I swatted Eric away from where he’d been nuzzling the back of my neck and nodded to Godric. He waved as he sauntered down the hall and I playfully noogied Eric, who still hadn’t stopped snuggling me.
“Eric! Come on!” I giggled, a ridiculously girly sound that I’d never made in my life. Well, until Eric came into it at least. “We have to go inside. Zoe’s probably talked your parents into a stupor by now.”
He rolled his eyes and pressed a sloppy kiss to my cheek before he happily pulled me into our suite. We paused, nearly tripping over my over excited daughter’s sneakers, and slipped our own shoes off. We rounded the corner to see Zoe perched in the middle of the queen sized bed in ‘her’ room with Claudine and Coleman on either side of her, her Pikachu clutched in her arms and her My Little Pony blanket spread out over the three of them.
“-and Daddy reads me a story every night before bed after I talk to my other Daddy and Daddy Lala on the ‘puter. Then he and Mommy tuck me in. It’s great!”
Coleman glanced up at us as we stood in the doorway and smiled. “Well, it sounds like they’re treating you like a Princess, huh?”
“Oh yeah! Aunt Pam is still kinda weird and she calls me Twiglet.” Zoe turned her puzzled expression towards us. “Daddy, I still don’t know what a Twiglet is.”
Eric snorted behind me and his hand squeezed my hip a fraction as Zoe called him ‘Daddy’ again.
“When she was about your age, Roman started reading Winnie the Pooh to Alex. Pam tried to help, but for one thing she couldn’t actually read. And for another she had trouble pronouncing some of the names. So when she’d say Piglet it came out as Twiglet. And Roman hasn’t let her live it down.”
Zoe giggled and Claudine raised an eyebrow. “How come I’m just hearing about this?”
Coleman gently pushed her shoulder and laughed. “Uh, it’s a guy secret! Duh!”
My heart almost hurt from how happy I was. I excused myself to check on the stuff I’d need Godric to pick up, and to give me a moment to gather myself. My life was not at all where I thought it’d be and honestly, it was taking me a little while to catch up. I loved it, but it was overwhelming at times.
I pulled open the small fridge and peered inside, mentally ticking off items I’d need. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and typed up a quick list, then hit send. I got an alert a moment later simply saying ‘a’ight’ and I rolled my eyes. Atrocious texting etiquette, seriously.
Hands on my hips brought my attention back to the present moment as Eric hugged me from behind. “I like it when you wear my clothes. It makes me all the more eager to tear them right off of you.”
Well hello, cue wet panties. I straightened up and spun around to rest my head on his chest. He’d changed into some lounge shorts and a ridiculous nerd shirt.
“Zoe asked if she could spend the night with her new favorite Grandparents-”
“You mean her only Grandparents.”
“-yup. Ya know, the ones who are intent on spoiling her as much as we’ll allow. But I wanted to check with you before I said yes.”
Could he be any more perfect? My eyes watered momentarily and I struggled to contain my emotions. I turned my face upwards, resting my chin on his cotton covered chest and grinned. “It’s more than fine. I trust them with her.”
Eric’s long fingers toyed with the bottom of the shirt I’d stolen from him this morning before he slipped underneath to caress the small of my back.
“Besides,” He bent and ran his nose gently along my jawline, peppering light kisses over the pulse point that never failed to make me moan. “You know what that means, right? I can make you scream all night long.”
God, that sounded divine! I was seriously contemplating just dragging Eric back to our room for a little sumthin’-sumthin’ when-
Eric’s forehead dropped onto my shoulder as he groaned. “Maybe knocking would be good, bro, huh?”
“I did knock, asshole! How do you think I got in? Mom opened the door and then went back to playing with Zoe.” He dropped a few bags of groceries on the counter beside me and turned his stank eye toward me. “And you, missy! I thought you had more self control!”
“Psh! Who’s the 25 year old with a 6 year old?” I laughed as I pulled away to start putting the groceries where they needed to go.
But the abrupt silence in the room caught my attention. I slowly turned toward Eric and Godric. Godric looked like I’d just shot his puppy and Eric, well Eric looked positively livid.
“What? What happened?” I glanced around the kitchen, well kitchenette really, to see what could’ve possibly happened in the last few seconds.
“I…I didn’t…that’s not-” Godric stuttered brokenly as he slowly turned and shuffled out of the room.
What the fuck! I was so fucking confused by now. “Eric, what the hell just happened?!?”
His fists were clenched and his lips were pursed so hard they nearly disappeared. “Why do you do that?”
“Do what?!?” Holy shit, I was confused!
“Why do you always put yourself down?! Godric was making a joke, and yeah, I know you were too. But don’t you understand? When you had Zoe doesn’t define you. What the…the…fucktards in your hometown have drilled into your head your whole life is not who you are! You are a beautiful, confident, amazing woman! You have the best little girl and an awesome family who all love you so very much! I love you with all my heart and my family loves you as well. So, even if it doesn’t mean much to you, it hurts us when you put yourself down like that! How do you think it makes us feel when you insult someone we love with all our hearts, even if it’s yourself?”
She really didn’t see what an extraordinary person she was. And it was killing me right now. I could tell how blindsided she was by my outburst, but honestly if it got her to see herself the way we all saw her, then it’d be worth it.
“What? I mean…uh-what?”
Her lip was quivering again and I was so incredibly tired of seeing her cry. But this was something I desperately needed to get through her head. I’d heard her offhanded insults about herself fairly regularly.
‘You definitely don’t want my opinion! Jason’s the smart one!’
‘Hah! At least your mom likes me because mine certainly didn’t.’
‘You sure you want the paps getting pictures of us together? White trash doesn’t really compliment the Hollywood lifestyle.’
“You need to understand this, Sookie. You need to hear me and believe what I’m saying because this will seriously cause problems between us if you don’t. You are beautiful. You are a wonderful mother and a wonderful girlfriend. You have an amazing capacity for love and I am the lucky one in this relationship.”
I grabbed her shoulders gently, almost willing her to hear me and believe me. I could see the disbelief and uncertainty in her eyes as the tears welled again.
“Eric, I-” She cleared her throat and glanced toward our feet as she gulped in a deep breath. “-I will…I’ll work on it. Okay?”
It was probably the best I could ask for. Years of that hick inbred town putting her down and casually slipping insults into her mind wouldn’t be fixed in a single conversation. But this I could work with.
“Okay.” I pulled her against me and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “I just love you. And I want you to see yourself as the brilliant and beautiful woman that we do.”
“Thanks, darlin’. I guess-I mean, can you check on Zoe for me? And maybe…send Godric back in here?”
I smiled into her hair as I nodded silently. With another kiss to the top of her head, I turned to leave the kitchen.
I braced my hands on the counter as Eric retreated down the hallway. Wow. I really had no idea. I’d seen Eric get all pensive and weird a few times when I’d said something less than favorable about myself, but I didn’t think…
Gah! Deep breaths, Sookie. I pulled the chicken out of the grocery bags and set it on the counter, then grabbed the chicken from the fridge to add to it. I had pulled the peppers out and was setting up a cutting board when Godric cautiously entered the kitchen.
I spun around and it nearly broke my heart to see how upset Godric still was. “Godric, I am so sorry! I didn’t…I mean, I-I guess I’ve just heard so much bad shit about me in my life that it’s kinda sunk in. I’m gonna try to stop saying stuff like that.”
He visibly relaxed and stepped forward, his arms tentatively opening for a hug, which I gladly accepted.
“I don’t like hearing you talk badly about yourself. I mean, think about Zoe. If she constantly hears you putting yourself down, what’s that say to her?”
He was right. As usual. This whole damn family was too damn smart. “I know. Thanks, G.”
We stood for a moment, just reveling in the friendship between us. This was another thing I’d never really had. Jesus and Lafayette had been my only friends for as long as I could remember.
“Okay, get outta here! I need to make dinner. Or else y’all are gonna starve.” I brushed a rogue tear away and broke away from Godric. The light punch I landed on his arm made him giggle in an entirely too adorable way before he turned to walk away.
“Hey Sook?” He called over his shoulder, his mouth pulled up into a small grin. “We all love you. You know that, right?”
Cue the waterworks. I nodded vehemently and he chuckled before he retreated to Zoe’s room.
I braced myself against the counter as I collected myself. How did I get here? My mind was positively reeling from the direction my life had taken in the last few months. We’d had a thriving business, Zoe was doing well with Claudette teaching her, and she’d found something she was passionate about. It was only by chance that she’d heard about the audition for ‘Pieces of Forever’.
I had no idea it would lead here. To friends I didn’t know I was missing and a man who felt like he was my other half. To a family who’d embraced me as one of their own and adored the daughter I already had. To a future that I hadn’t dared to even let myself dream about, much less hope for.
I cleared my throat and tried to collect myself. It’d been one hell of a day and I still had to feed at least six people. I grabbed my chef’s knife, glad I thought to grab my knife roll before we left home. I started on the bell peppers, slicing them into strips. I’d gotten through the majority of the peppers when I was startled out of my ‘cooking headspace’, as Lafayette affectionately called it, by a soft gasp.
I glanced over at Eric, my eyebrow raised in question before I registered the pain. Oh, yeah. Shit.
His face resembled a pristine bleached sheet in color and his mouth opened and closed slowly, like a fish out of water. “Sookie…there’s so…much blood.”
My eyes cut down to my hand. Eh. I’d had worse in all the years I’d been cooking. “I’m fine. Do you need to sit down, Eric?”
He nodded quickly as he took the two steps he needed to sink into one of the chairs set around the table. I felt my mouth quirk into a grin as Eric watched me.
Her tiny feet came running toward me, followed much more slowly by Claudine. I saw genuine worry cloud Claudine’s delicate features and Zoe’s eyes swept the room.
“Mommy! Did you really cut yourself again?!? Aw man! Now I owe Daddy Lala a quarter!”
I thought my ribs would crack from holding back my laughter at the twin looks of shock on Eric and Claudine’s faces. “I did. And I’m sorry, Doodlebug. Eric startled me. Can you get me the first aid bag please?”
She darted away to do my bidding and I leaned back against the counter, holding a paper towel to my still bleeding palm. I nearly lost my composure as I caught Claudine’s slight sway before she sank down to the seat next to Eric.
“Do you guys have a thing with blood or something?”
Eric shook his head spastically. “Not usually. For some reason I find myself having a hard time dealing with your blood.”
“Sookie, what was Zoe talking about? Owing someone a quarter?” Claudine’s eyes were staunchly trained on my face, ignoring the small splashes of blood streaked across the counter and cutting board.
“Lafayette and I have a running joke. We spend so much time in the kitchen that cuts and burns are bound to happen. Jesus and Zoe got tired of us cutting ourselves so they started a bet. Whenever I cut myself, Zoe owes Laf a quarter. Whenever Laf cuts himself, Jesus owes me ten bucks.”
The Northman/Hyde duo shot me a look and I giggled. “What? He’s got more money than her.”
Zoe bounced through the door a moment later, toting a rather large zippered pouch with a cross on it. “Here Mommy. Do you need help?”
I grabbed the first aid kit and set it on the counter beside me. “I think I’ve got it, Baby Girl, but thank you. You take Grandma back to your room and if I need help, I’m sure Eric will do the honors.”
She turned her narrowed eyes toward him and he sat up a little straighter in his seat. “Take good care of my Mommy. Understand?”
Claudine’s hand shot to her mouth to cover the laughter and Eric bent so his eyes were level with Zoe’s. “I will take very good care of your Mommy, Baby Girl. Promise.”