Chapter 3 – Pfft You Were Gone
Sookie quickly got up to try to head Bill off in the foyer.
“Bill!” Sookie started in a whisper through gritted teeth, “I’m in a business meeting. I finished my work earlier and we had no plans to meet on the software business today. Please leave.”
“Sookeh, what business meeting, what are you getting into? You must involve me in these meetings!”
“Bill, this is B&B business, it has nothing to do with you.”
“Sookeh, you know you cannot take care of yourself. When are you going to realize you need me?”
In the dining room, the men shared concerned looks. The foyer wasn’t that far away, and they could hear everything. Doug and Peter very quietly explained that Bill was a partner in the software business that Sookie had taken over from her late husband. They had heard rumors that Bill was talking like Sookie and he were dating, when everyone knew they weren’t.
Eric’s jaw clenched. He felt a strong need to protect her and it was a strange feeling. Alcide noticed that Eric seemed angry and to prevent a potential fight, he decided to go to the foyer and see if he could calmly get Bill to leave. Eric could all too quickly lose control; he had seen it with paparazzi before.
Alcide walked to the foyer, “Sookie, is there a problem?”
Bill took in the size of the man who had approached from the dining room and the fact that he heard still more male voices as well and decided to retreat. “Sookeh, I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
“No Bill, tomorrow is the Grange party, I’ll be busy all day.”
“Very well,” Bill turned and left. He knew he needed to find some way of forcing himself into more of Sookie’s life. When Sam first died and Sookie needed his help with the software business, they were together almost every day. Now that the B&B was successful and Sookie had reduced her involvement in the software business, she barely made time for him. Yes, I need more purpose in her life.
Sookie thanked Alcide on the way back to the dining room. As she sat, she apologized for the interruption and suggested they get back to the meeting and lunch. Alcide could see she was shaking and Eric was still seething, so he made an excuse that he needed something from his room and suggested a short break.
He did go to his room, but not to gather anything, he pulled Russell’s mobile number from the paperwork yesterday and called him. Luckily, Russell answered.
“Russell, we just had a small problem at the B&B. A very angry Bill was just here; a short fight started and I intervened but Sookie is horribly shaken. I’m sorry to call you, but perhaps you should come over?”
“I’m on my way; I’ll be there in about 10 minutes. And don’t apologize; I was heading over today anyway to discuss the contracts. Something is going to need to be done about Bill I fear, and soon.”
As promised, Russell arrived within 10 minutes and used his jovial personality to try to lighten the mood. He announced he was there for lunch and was upset he hadn’t been given an invitation to join them earlier. In no time, he had everyone laughing.
Doug and Peter departed with plans to be back on Monday. Until that comment, Sookie had forgotten about Alcide leaving early, and the panic over being here alone with Eric came back. The day had been full of bad news and she was ready to think of more pleasant things.
“Russell, are we still on for family game night tonight?”
“You know it. We need to take advantage of any Friday nights you are off. We are picking up Grace so Tray and Amelia can have a date night.”
“Oh, we are being rude! Eric and Alcide, whenever I have no guests on a Friday night, we all get together with the kids for games and movies. You’re more than welcome to join us. Dinner is not fancy on Fridays; I just do leftovers from the week. Would you like to join us?”
Alcide responded before Eric could even think about it, “We’d love to.”
Sookie left for the store to purchase the ingredients for the Grange party the following day. Eric and Alcide continued meeting to discuss the upcoming week. They were going to divide and conquer since Alcide would attend the meetings at the studio on their findings while Eric completed the planning at the B&B.
“So, family game night?” Eric questioned?
“Do you have a problem with that? What else would you like to do tonight? I like the kids, Russell and Bart. If you want to go out, by all means, go. Honestly though Eric, you need to get a grip on your feelings here. When Bill was giving her grief earlier, I thought you were going to kill something. I know you; you don’t care. What the hell is going on?”
Eric took a breath and answered honestly, shocking even himself, “I don’t know. She infuriates me and I want to scream at her, run from her and kiss and protect her all at the same time. AND I have only known her for 3 days.”
“Well whatever you do, don’t come onto her, she is not one of your regular adoring fans.” Alcide noticed a look on Eric’s face and thought the worst. “Oh God, what did you do?”
“I already apologized, just leave it alone.”
“WHAT. DID. YOU. DO?”
“I may have tried coming onto her the other night. But I really did apologize the next day.”
With a final glare from Alcide, they got back to work so they could enjoy ‘family game night’ another first for Eric. He wasn’t even sure his parents knew what games were.
“That will be $6, Mr. Northman, since I own both Aladdin and Genie,” announced a smug Maura.
“But then I’ll be bankrupt,” whined Eric.
Eric, Bart, Maura and Mena had been playing a fierce game of Disney Princess, Monopoly Jr., while Alcide was battling Eleanor and Grace at Hi Ho! Cherry-O.
Russell was helping Sookie in the kitchen with dinner prep. She was going to heat everything up and serve it as a buffet. Since Eric was bankrupt, he went to the kitchen to help. “Does anything else need to come out?”
Russell replied, “This is Sookie, there are tons of platters in there.”
“Indeed, I hope she wants to run again tomorrow or I’ll never fit in my jeans again.”
After dinner, Sookie suggested they move to the private family room for the movie since it was bigger that the B&B living room. She stayed back to quickly straighten the kitchen while Russell led the way to settle the guests in and start the movie.
As soon as they were in the room, the girls announced that it was Grace’s turn to pick the movie. Eric held his breath seeing all the Disney Princess movies on the shelf. Thankfully she blurted out Flushed Away; that he could handle.
The kids sprawled out on a quilt on the floor while the adults took spots on the oversized sectional sofa. When Sookie returned to the family room, only one spot was left on the sofa, and it was next to Eric. She halted herself for a moment, but then sat down and the movie began.
‘God, she smells so good,’ Eric thought. ‘How can I sit here for the whole movie with her wedged up next to me and still be innocent?’
About an hour into the movie, Sookie was softly snoring and had moved to lean her head on Eric’s shoulder. Russell giggled to himself while he secretly snuck a picture. He had carefully arranged Alcide and Bart so that there would only be a place next to Eric when Sookie arrived and his plan was working beautifully.
When the movie was over, Russell, Bart and Alcide helped the girls get to bed since they were having a sleepover. Eric was given hand signals to ‘STAY’ so Sookie could sleep. Eric thought he heard snickering from the hall, but ignored it and changed the TV to some Friday night show and just relaxed with his sofa mate.
Sookie woke up a bit disoriented several hours later. The kids were gone, so were the adults save Eric who had his arm around her and she was resting on him? Her jerky reaction woke him up as well and he just smiled.
Trying to speak Sookie asked, “Why, Wh,…What time is it?”
Yawning, Eric replied, “2AM, Russell and the others put the girls to bed hours ago.”
“Eric, I’m sorry I fell asleep on you, you were trapped!”
“Sookie, you can see that I’m not any worse for the wear, I enjoyed our nap.”
She had no response for that and simply said, “Well, I’m going to head off to bed, will you be joining me for a run in the morning?”
“I will see you then.”
The next morning, Sookie and Eric had a short run because she was anxious to get the girls out the door. Since she normally had guests for breakfast on the weekends, she missed many of the early pee-wee basketball games, but not today. She was serving the girls a quick breakfast before heading out.
She was just leaving a note for Eric and Alcide that there was breakfast in the oven when they arrived in the kitchen. She explained she was taking the girls to basketball and they both wanted to join her.
OK, not what she expected, but not a problem.
She had to use the large SUV to fit everyone, but they were on the road in 15 minutes with Eric and Alcide eating breakfast burritos in the car.
The basketball games were great. Sookie took every picture she could and clapped loudly enough to make up for the games she missed. The girls enjoyed the extra cheering from both Mom and their California guests. Maura and Eleanor made sure to tell the teams that their cheer squad included two men from the movies. Several moms spent time sashaying in front of Eric, but he was enjoying the game and Sookie’s company so much, he ignored them. Alcide certainly noticed THAT.
Both games were won so Eric and Alcide suggested lunch out to celebrate. Sookie needed to start cooking for the Grange party that night and suggested they celebrate some other time. Russell interjected, saying he could drop Sookie at the Barn to prep while Eric and Alcide took Maura and Eleanor out. Eric and Alcide regretted the invitation as soon as McDonald’s came out of Eleanor’s mouth. Thankfully, Sookie recommended a diner; reminding the girls that they had pancakes on the menu all day and they agreed. She provided them directions and headed out with Russell and his family.
When the celebration lunch was over and they all returned home; the girls headed off to play while Alcide called to check-in with his girlfriend, Maria-Star. Eric went to the Barn kitchen to check on Sookie.
“So, you enjoyed the basketball game today?”
“I did. I rarely get to make the early games since I have guests for breakfast. I often feel guilty, like I’m abandoning by kids for my job. Since the Grange party is held at the Barn each year, I don’t have guests for the weekend, so the girls get more Mama time. I know it’s not a real weekend off, but the food for the Grange party is easier than open mic nights since the guests all bring appetizers and desserts. Once I put up the buffet on the warmin’ trays, I get to join the party myself since Jessica will be staying to run the kitchen. Then I only need to clean-up. The girls enjoy the party too, since lots of kids their age attend. After dinner, the kids who come usually wind up in my family room watching movies.”
Eric noticed the sad look on her face when she spoke about her guilt. He steered the conversation to the food planned for the party. Sookie talked about the menu, and asked Eric if he and Alcide planned to attend. Eric was a bit surprised since the Grange had booked the Barn for the party and he assumed was a private event. “I thought Russell was joking when he invited Alcide and me the other night. Sookie quickly clarified that the party did have an invitation list but there was always room for friends. Sookie started gathering mushrooms and onions from the fridge. He asked if could help and Sookie shot him a look of disbelief.
“When I was growing up I hung out with the cook enough to know my way around the kitchen. So tell me, what needs to be done with the onions and mushrooms.”
Sookie handed Eric the vegetables and showed him the type of cuts she needed. He started chopping while she asked him more about his childhood.
“Sounds like you enjoyed the staff at your parents’ house, did you get to see your parents much though?”
“No, my parents were frequently in the States making movies. They left Pam and me at our family home in Sweden while they were gone. I never even saw their Hollywood home until I was a teenager. My Mormor and Morfar, my mother’s parents, would spend time with us since they lived only about an hour away, but my parents were just not part of my life. I didn’t have family suppers like the ones you’ve shared with Alcide and me this week. Family game night was foreign to me, with the exception of my Far taking us to a football game when he was home. You worry about missing the early Saturday basketball games with the girls; those games are nothing compared to your children’s lives. YOU are home when the bus drops them off in the afternoon, YOU are available to help with their homework, YOU are able to read them a story each night, and YOU make the later games on Saturday. Sookie, I saw the pain on your face when you talked about missing the games and I suggest that you are very involved in your girl’s lives. They are not going to look back and feel like you abandoned them.”
Sookie touched Eric’s arm and softly questioned, “Is that what you think about your parents, Eric?
Eric turned to face Sookie with a sad expression. “I guess in some ways I did or I honestly still do feel that way. We were certainly cared for, money was never an issue, but Pam and I didn’t grow up as a family. I’m sure that many would tell me that money made my life easy, and in some cases it did. I just never had a Dad that helped me with my homework, or showed up to a school meeting with my teachers. Pam and I both missed out on having parents that wanted a relationship with us. I often think that is part of the reason that I have difficulty with relationships.”
Taking the knife from his hand, Sookie reached up and gave Eric a hug. He stood rigid for a moment unsure of how to respond before he gave in and wrapped his arms around her. Even in the kitchen full of food smells, she smelled sweet. Then his body started reacting to the closeness and he felt other body parts start to stiffen so he knew he needed to put some distance between them. He could not resist a kiss to the top of her head before pulling back, joking that the onions and mushrooms would not get cut with all the hugging.
He continued talking about his family, trying to downplay the sadness. “Pam and I always depended on each other and I think that’s why we still stay together. She lives with me in LA. She works for me, or rather with me – because nobody tells Pam what to do. We try to talk everyday when I’m traveling. You’ll get to meet her in March since she’ll be back with me. I think you and Pam may create fireworks. She is quite a ‘personality’ and many just cower from her. You’re a bit of a spitfire and I’m anxious to see the interactions.”
“Oh, well I cain’t wait to meet her then,” Sookie replied full of sarcasm.
They continued cooking together until most of the food was ready and either in the fridge to be served later, or in the oven baking. While they were cleaning up, Sookie explained that the red sauces were made from tomatoes from her garden. The herbs for the pesto chicken were from her garden as well; preserved in olive oil and frozen.
“And the mushrooms?”
“Ah, they came from the store. Have you ever smelled a mushroom house? I don’t need that stink here; it would drive away my guests.”
As they were walking out, Jessica, Sookie’s assistant was walking in to start preparing for the party.
They entered the B&B and were about to split ways when Sookie asked again, “So, will I see you tonight? It seems only fair that you attend since you helped cook.”
“OK, I’ll tell Alcide. What do we wear to a Grange party?”
“You’re thinking hay, plaid flannel, and overalls?”
“NO” ‘Yes, actually after seeing Sookie in Carhartts, I was expecting her to show up to the party in a decorated straw hat with a price tag hanging off of it.’
Sookie chuckled, “folks will be dressed like they were for the open mic night. I think you will fit in just fine.”
She started to walk away when she heard him softly say her name and as she turned, he said, “Thanks for listening.”
A few hours later, Eric and Alcide headed over to the Barn with Maura and Eleanor. The girls quickly spotted one of the kid’s tables and ran off. Sookie had served the final buffet items and took a seat at one of the round tables where Russell, Bart, Tray and Amelia were sitting. They joined the group with full plates. Alcide started moaning while he was eating. Before he even finished his meal, he was making a pouty face and asking about breakfast. “Sookie, can you make biscuits and gravy tomorrow? I’m only here for two more breakfasts, and Monday I have to leave pretty early. Nobody knows how to make it right in LA. Please?”
“How can I refuse that face? We need to have it for brunch so I can run to church in the morning.”
Alcide replied with a large grin, “Sounds good to me!” The guests at the table just laughed and Alcide happily went back to moaning while eating his dinner.
“Alcide, did you know that Eric did some of the cooking for tonight? He helped me in the kitchen today.”
Alcide turned to Eric, “You can cook? Why did I not know this?”
“Because Alcide,” Eric replied, “I don’t want you making those noises in my house and have anyone wonder what is going on inside.”
Above the laughter at the table, Alcide replied, “I don’t believe that you can really cook.”
Raising one eyebrow, Eric asked, “Is that a challenge?”
“Yes, give Sookie off tomorrow for dinner. She already promised me brunch. You cook dinner.”
“Done. Russell, Bart, Tray, Amelia, would you and your girls like to join us?”
They all agreed.
“I’ll have Bobby shop in Philadelphia and deliver the ingredients to the B&B tomorrow.”
“Huh,” Sookie said, “Bobby’s been around this whole time?”
“Yes,” Alcide answered, “He has been working in Philadelphia on some of the filming sites.”
“So Eric, can I watch you cook? I’d love to learn something new.”
Alcide immediately called that cheating, “You’re going to help him. I won’t allow it!”
“Alcide, you have no faith. You can join us and ensure no cheating is happening.”
They continued through dinner with friendly conversation and trying to pry the menu from Eric, but he insisted it would be a surprise.
After most attendees had their fill of dinner, the music started for dancing. Eric quickly asked Sookie to dance before Russell could. Part way through the first dance, Eric started thinking, ‘just friends, how can I keep to that? My body, my dick reacts to her all on its own. Those hips moving to the music, her smile, her scent; heaven help me for the next several months. Maybe I should stay in an RV instead of the B&B during the filming. I know I should put distance between us, but I can’t. I don’t understand my reaction to her. I have never shared my feelings about my childhood with someone other than Pam. Sure, some folks know the facts, but that is different than the emotions behind it.’
Eric enjoyed several dances with Sookie before Russell came over to cut in. Eric agreed and, then jokingly grabbed Russell to start dancing. Sookie slapped his arm and took over. Russell started grilling Sookie, “So what’s going on with you and Eric? You told me hush the other night, then he went to basketball with you guys, took the girls out to lunch, he cooked with you today, and tonight you seem very comfortable with each other.
“Russell, don’t get your hopes up. We are only friends. Since we’ll be workin’ closely, I think it’s best if we get along, don’t you?
“Sookie, I think I know you better than that.”
“OK Russell, OK. I admit it, he’s hot. He can be sweet when he is not being an asshole. None of that changes the fact that I can’t have a quick fling and you know it.”
“So Sookie, how would you feel about it if Eric had his own quick fling while he was in town?” Russell stated this while inclining his head towards the bar. Selah Pomfrey was currently giggling and flirting with Eric.
“WHAT is she doin’ here? She never comes to the Grange party. Hell, she hardly likes comin’ back into town from New York!”
Smirking at her ire and obvious jealousy, Russell replied, “I guess she had an urge to head home for the weekend. Or someone told her that a movie star was in town and staying here. Selah would never pass up the opportunity to flaunt at a star.”
The music stopped as the head of the Grange approached the mic for the presentation.
Sookie took the opportunity to go to the kitchen to start cleaning up. She was banging pots around and slamming cabinet doors while muttering to herself. “We are just friends; he can date or fuck anyone he wants. Even a skank like Selah. But Lord, anybody but Selah. She had tried to come onto Sam years ago and now this!”
Russell came into the kitchen suggesting that Sookie might want to keep the pot banging down since the Grange was trying to have their annual meeting.
“Sookie, please come back out for the meeting and presentations.”
Reluctantly, Sookie returned to the party to see that Selah had joined their table still flirting with Eric.
“Sookie,” Selah started, “I see you came out of the kitchen for a bit. How wonderful. My father told me the food was delicious. Of course, it’s much too fatty for me. I do try to watch my figure. I guess after having kids it must be a relief to let yourself go.” Then she turned to Eric, “So, how do you stay in such good shape?”
The table grimaced collectively. Selah was a bitch and always had issues with Sookie, but nobody knew why. Sookie simply turned to the stage to watch the presentations with mock interest. She normally did enjoy the Grange meeting, but she was just furious at this point. Shortly after the meeting part was over the desserts table was opened, and the music began again. Eric started to get up to approach Sookie, but Selah got to him and asked him to dance first. Sookie couldn’t take any more and returned to the kitchen. The sooner everything was clean, the sooner she could end this night. At least this time, she cleaned quietly.
She returned to the main room to see that the kids had departed for movie time. She also saw Eric walking out, with Selah.