I felt still felt like shit when I got home that night. I ended up making lunch, or dinner… linner? For Eric and Godric before Eric finally took me to get my car. On the way home I did my due diligence and stopped at the grocery store. I didn’t really give a fuck that I looked like death warmed over. If I was serious about my health I wasn’t going to wait until I felt better.
Once I put everything away I took a long, hot shower trying to wash the chlorine and booze off of me. I wasn’t used to feeling so bad. I also wasn’t used to waking up with a sexy beast of a man wrapped around me. That wasn’t something I needed to think about. That was why I decided to call Ben at close to nine at night on a Sunday. I felt like an ass, but he answered.
“Hi, this is Sookie,” I said, hoping it was actually Ben. It sounded like him.
“This is Ben,” he replied.
“I’m sorry I’m calling so late. I just now feel alive,” I chuckled.
“It’s alright. I work the graveyard shift with the sheriff’s office,” he told me. “I actually just woke up a little bit ago.”
“Oh… is now a bad time? I can call–”
“No, it’s fine. I have some time before I have to get going. I’m glad you called.”
“Good. I’m sorry about last night. We started on Fireball and I don’t remember much of what happened after the first shot,” I explained.
“Oh. Uh… Are you dating one of those guys?”
“No, I’m not. I work with the tall one and I just met the short one last night. He’s Eric’s roommate. Eric is the giant,” I explained.
“So the one that carried you out of the bar is just a friend? A friend who slapped your ass.”
“He did?” I didn’t remember that. “To answer the question, yes, he’s only a friend. Nothing more.” I hoped he was just making sure the course was clear for him, because I didn’t do possessive and jealous very well.
“Just checking,” he replied.
“So what do you do at the sheriff’s office? Or are you a sheriff?” I asked.
“I’m a deputy,” he answered. “I’ve been there for six years now.”
“Do you like it? Did you grow up here?” I asked. I took a seat on the couch since my nerves died down some and kicked my feet up.
“No, I’m originally from New Hampshire,” Ben told me. “I got tired of the cold and I got a job with the San Diego police department. I moved out here for the change of scenery.”
“Nice,” I said, nodding along even though he couldn’t see me. “I’m originally from Louisiana. I moved out here just over four years ago with an ex,” I explained. “It’s nice, but I miss home sometimes.”
“Why not move back then?”
“Jobs are better here. I went to school for cosmetology, but I hurt my back in an accident so standing for too long is a no go. The town I’m from is a one stop light town, ya know?” Although, when I lost the weight I may have been able to get back into hair.
“Oh I know. I lived in this tiny town with a population of 572 people. My dad is a Reverend and my mom stayed home with the kids. All eight of us.”
“Holy cow,” I laughed. “I have one older brother and he was too much. Where do you fall in line at?”
“I’m number five,” he chuckled.
“Did you suffer from middle child syndrome? You know, I’m not even sure what that is since I’m the baby,” I chuckled.
“I don’t think I did but my siblings might disagree. I definitely like the quiet of being here.”
“Are they all still in New Hampshire?”
“No, one brother is up in Alaska stationed at the Coast Guard base in Kodiak. One sister is a dermatologist in Tampa. My oldest sister married her husband at nineteen and moved to Nebraska to help him run his farm, and now they’re part of some Christian extremist group like that family on TV with twenty kids,” he told me.
“Are you kidding about the twenty kids?” I asked. Twenty kids was too much for one couple.
“It’s something like that. Janeen has eleven. She would have kept going but there were complications with the last one.”
“Holy cow,” I muttered.
“Yeah, it’s pretty crazy. It’s been a few years since I’ve talked to her. Actually, I’m not sure if she’s talking to anyone anymore. We were brought up in the church but Jan and her husband have homeschooled all of the kids and everything in their life is centered around Jesus. It’s… I don’t know what the word is,” he said.
“Is insane too harsh?” I asked seriously.
“Not entirely. She’s an adult and last I heard she was happy.”
“That’s all that really matters, right?” She was insane.
“That’s what I tell myself. It helps that I have the ability to track her down if I need to.”
“That’s good.” I was nodding again. I liked him so far. “So what was it about my performance that made you want to talk to me?”
“You didn’t act like a stripper,” he answered.
“That’s a good answer.” I was sure he could hear my smile. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been hit on, so it was a nice surprise.” Seriously, his dimples were amazing.
“Well lucky for me everyone else was too foolish to see what a find you are,” he said sincerely.
“You’re too sweet.” I knew my cheeks were beet red. I got up from the couch and went into the kitchen to get a glass of water. I was going to need a portable water bottle for the gym and work.
“So, Sookie, do you have plans this Friday? I’d like to see you again,” Ben told me.
“I do have plans,” I answered. “I’m going out of town for the weekend.”
“Oh yeah? Where you headed?”
“Vegas. It’s my first time,” I told him. I was pretty excited about it. I was nervous about meeting Eric’s sister, especially after how she found out that I was going to be there, but I was sure it was going to be fine.
“You’ll like it. It’s a lot like here but with casinos.”
“I don’t think I’m a big gambler. I think I’m just going to have fun people watching. I want to see the strip too. Oh, and Fremont Street. I hear that’s pretty awesome. I do want to see you soon, though. Is Friday the soonest you’re available?”
“I’m off on Wednesday,” he told me.
“If you don’t have any other plans we could do something,” I suggested.
“I’d like that.”
“Any idea what one would do on a first date?” I laughed. “I would offer to make you dinner, but I don’t know if it’s too soon to have you over.”
“How about we have dinner at Camille’s over by the lake?” Ben suggested.
“I’d like that. I’ve never been there either, so this will be another first.” I needed to make sure I had date clothes.
“It’s a nice place. They make a good steak.”
“Mmm,” I hummed. “Well, I look forward to it. Do you want to meet there or…”
“We can if you want, but I’m happy to pick you up,” Ben offered.
“That might be nice.” I didn’t have to tell him which condo was mine just yet. Although, if he was a deputy he could’ve figured it out. “I like talking to you.” Which meant I wanted to spend more time with him.
“I like talking to you too,” he said. “I hate to cut this short but I have to get something to eat. Call me tomorrow, if you want.”
“Okay. Have a good night,” I replied.
“Thanks. Sweet dreams, beautiful.”
“I’ll talk to you later.” I hung up the phone and buried my face in one of my couch pillows to squeal with excitement. He wasn’t Eric sexy, but Ben was definitely good looking and super sweet. It felt good to put myself out there enough to meet someone new.
I just had to figure out what to wear. That was going to be an all day event.
“I’m going on a date Wednesday,” I told Eric as I walked with him to the donut cart the following Monday.
“Ben and yes. He’s taking me to Camille’s. Have you been there?”
“No, I haven’t.” Eric opened the door to the courtyard for me and held it while I walked by.
“Apparently they have good steak,” I chuckled as I walked past. “He’s sweet. I like him so far.”
“Sweet huh? Is that code for boring?”
“No. He’s nice and complimented me. I spent almost an hour talking to him on the phone before he had to work last night.” I’d already told myself no donuts, and I was sticking to it.
“What’s Drooly do for a living?” Eric ordered a blueberry donut with some kind of lemon curd filling.
I hated that he ate like shit, but looked how he looked.
“He’s a deputy sheriff,” I told him. “And he has eight siblings.”
“You better double down in the birth control,” he snickered.
I wasn’t even thinking about having sex with him yet. That was a good point though. If his parents were that fertile it was a possibility that he’d knock me up. I did not want that.
“If I sleep with him, I will definitely be careful.” I was already on birth control, but I was going to invest in a box of condoms too to be safe. “Do you want to come over tonight or tomorrow to help me find something to wear?”
Eric stared at me like I had lost my mind.
“Am I painting your toenails, too, Boo Boo?” He tried to put an effeminate swish to his voice, but it just sounded ridiculous on him.
“No,” I laughed. “It’s just been so long since I’ve been on a date; I want to make sure I look good. I’ll just take pictures and send them to Gran to see what she thinks.” I had a couple girlfriends, but they weren’t close. They had kids and families, so I usually just kept my distance. We weren’t in the same life bracket, if that made any sense at all. Probably not.
“That’s probably safest. In my experience it’s always a trap when a woman asks how she looks.” Eric paid for his donut and followed me to a table.
“It’s a trap when she’s expecting you to say something nice,” I told him. “I’ve already learned I only get the truth from you.” I had a bottle of water I’d brought with me and took a drink. I wanted sugary coffee and donuts.
“A friend who lies to you isn’t a friend.”
“Exactly. That’s why I asked you. You’ll tell me if something makes my ass look bigger than it is so I can change.” Duh.
“I thought women wanted their ass to look big.” He took a bite of his donut.
“Not gross big. Mine is on its way to gross which is why I’m drinking this.” I held up my water. “And not getting donuts even though my mouth is watering for them.”
“They have vegan ones,” he said. Not. Helping.
“Vegan doesn’t always mean good for you. I’m cutting back my carbs and refined sugars. I’ll be fine,” I shrugged. “At this stage of the game I need to focus and say no to your damn temptations.” He was tempting in more ways than one. “I will take a small hiatus to drink my face off in Vegas, though.” It was my first time; I was going to have fun, damn it.
“So then don’t invite you over for Chicago pizza night,” he smirked.
“Only if it comes with a healthy side salad and that’s all I eat,” I chuckled. Eric was going to be my downfall.
“Uh, salad is not allowed on pizza night.”
“Are hot wings allowed?” I didn’t want a ton of bread. I could eat it, but not in mass quantities like I was used to. Day one and he was already trying to push me off the damn wagon. He was an asshole for a reason.
“Pizza. Night,” he repeated. “It’s a simple concept that has nothing to do with hot wings. You don’t have to come. In fact, I’m banning you so you can’t blame me for tempting you into blowing off your diet.”
“It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change.” I had to say that so it would be easier for me. “It doesn’t matter. That can be date night with Ben if Wednesday’s date goes well.” I hoped it did.
“You’re such a boy,” I snorted. “Are you going to come help me with my outfit, though?” Gran always told me I looked pretty even when I knew I looked like shit.
“I guess,” he sighed dramatically.
“It comes with home cooked dinner and whatever alcohol I have left in my condo,” I offered to sweeten the deal.
“You win. I’ll be there. When?”
“Either tonight or tomorrow, whenever you’re available.”
“Tomorrow is good. I have big plans with the Blackhawks tonight,” he grinned. Eric was adorable on top of being so sexy. He was like a big kid.
“Tomorrow it is. You have a choice between chicken and pork for dinner,” I told him. I was tempted to go back and look for one of those vegan donuts. I stayed put, though.
“Either is good. Tonight we’re making chili. Well, Alcide is. He’s a chef over at Four Alarm,” he said.
“Sounds dangerous,” I laughed. I didn’t want to imagine what that house was going to smell like once they got chili into them.
“He has a sick obsession with ghost chilies,” Eric laughed.
“So it doesn’t matter what I make, your taste buds are going to be burned off tonight anyway.”
“Possibly. But the cornbread helps.” Jerk.
“I make a killer cornbread.” Ugh, I wanted cornbread. I wanted everything I wasn’t supposed to have. I knew it would pass. In the beginning it was going to be bad. Hopefully Ben wasn’t into me for my fat ass since it was going to be a little less fat. “While you’re burning your tongue off I’ll be at the gym climbing up the stairmaster.”
“My night sounds more fun.”
“It does, but as I work toward game shape you’re going to be getting a little fluffier,” I told him.
“I can live with it,” he shrugged.
So could I. I was going to build a better me. Even if Ben and I didn’t go past the first date I wanted to be able to go out and confidently meet guys. I knew Eric wasn’t into me, and I was going to have to be okay with that.