I get up a little later than expected Sunday morning. I promised Grams I would go have brunch with her though so if I don’t get a move on I’ll be late. Sookie is wearing me out. I wasn’t kidding when I said I found my match in the bedroom. She wants it just as much as I do, making me want her more for some reason. It’s a vicious cycle.
I shower and dress as quickly as possible. I grab my keys, hat, and slide my shoes onto my feet. I throw my sunglasses on and head to the home to see Grams. I know she knows Sookie and I are at least fucking so I can tell her today that we’re actually in a relationship. It’s been a few years since I had an actual girlfriend. I’ve had a shitton one nighters. I’ve had a few girls I was regularly fucking, but Nora was my last girlfriend. She left me when I started neglecting her to focus on my bar. I liked Nora just fine, but she wasn’t my number one priority and when she left I honestly didn’t care. I pretended to be sad, which I was, until I realized I was only sad because I wouldn’t have regular pussy anymore. Nora leaving was probably for the best.
I pull up to the home twenty minutes later. When I walk in I don’t see Grams on the main courtyard, but Adele is. I find her knitting something, taking in the sun.
“Morning, Mrs. Stackhouse,” I smile as I approach. When I reach her I bend to give her a peck on her cheek.
“Oh good morning, Eric. Lovely day, isn’t it? You look happier than usual,” she replies.
“It’s a glorious day,” I grin. “And this smile has everything to do with your granddaughter.”
“That’s wonderful to hear,” she says.
“I agree. I asked her to be my girlfriend. I like her a lot. You raised an amazing girl,” I compliment.
Mrs. Stackhouse beams a brilliant smile at me.
“My Sookie has a very kind heart. Be good to it,” she tells me.
“I promise I will be,” I assure her. “Is Grams in her apartment?”
“As far as I know. Last I saw her was in the dining room last night for supper.”
“Thanks. If I don’t see you on the way out have a good day.”
I take off toward the elevator to get to Grams’ apartment. Of course she had to be on the top floor. When I get to the door I knock and wait for her to answer. I learned my lesson about walking in on her. The last time I did she was on the couch with Mr. Edgington. We all thought he was gay, but we were oh so wrong.
“Come in!” Grams calls out.
I open the door. Thankfully this time she’s fully clothed and in the kitchen.
“Morning, Grams,” I smile. I always bring her a small bouquet of daisies and this time is no different. “Smells good in here.” I stop to kiss her cheek and hand her the flowers.
“I was starting to give up on you coming,” she tells me. “Bacon is in the oven.”
“Thanks. Sorry, I got a late start.”
“You were up late with the Stackhouse girl, no doubt.” Grams shuffles over to the sink to trim her flowers.
“Not too late,” I say, trying to hide my grin. “We’re a couple now.”
“A couple of what?” she snickers.
“As in she’s my girlfriend.”
Grams looks at me for a minute and then shakes her head.
“What? I like the girl. She’s sweet and funny. Smart. I thought you’d be glad I finally found a girl that isn’t after what I could give her,” I finish with a sigh.
“I am, but it won’t last,” she says.
“Why not?” I ask curiously.
“Because she’s sweet and funny and smart, and you… you’re already married,” Grams says like I should know better.
“No I’m not, not anymore. I’ve taken two nights off from the bar already. She knows all I did was work before her,” I explain. “I’ve been at it long enough. Chow can finally be a manager.”
“Yeah, and you liked Nora too. As soon as that got serious you suddenly had to be at the bar twenty-four hours a day,” she says. “You always find a reason to run away when a nice girl comes into your life.”
I sigh. Nora was also clingy and demanding. “Nora wasn’t always nice, Grams. Plus when we were dating the bar was still new. It’s a little more established now. I can afford to take an extra day or two off.”
“Mmhmmm. We’ll see how long that lasts.”
“Can’t you just be happy for me?” I ask.
“I told you I am.”
“How about a little less negative? I’ve also grown up some since Nora. I’ve played the field and I know what I want. I want what Sookie has to offer. She’s fun to talk to, she makes me laugh, Grams. That’s huge.”
“You’re right! I’ll call the wedding planner,” she deadpans.
I roll my eyes and go to the fridge to get a glass of OJ.
“What’s new with you?” I ask, trying to change the subject. I don’t want to argue with her about who I’m dating.
“I’m getting hot pink highlights tomorrow,” she tells me. “And I’m having dinner tonight with Rasul Nahas. I met him on the internet. God bless the webcam.”
“Grams, what are you doing meeting people on the internet?” I ask. I don’t know how I feel about this. “How old is this guy, how long have you been chat buddies, and why aren’t you meeting in a public forum, young lady?”
“Get your panties out of a wad. First of all, I’m not dead yet. Secondly, he’s thirty-eight. We’ve been chatting by video for a month and we are meeting in public. He’s hung li–”
“Grams! No more!” Ugh. This woman has scared me enough. “Thirty-eight? He’s young enough to be your grandchild.”
“I know,” she grins. “I’m not interested in anyone that needs Viagra to get it up.”
I cringe. Not cool. Not cool at all.
“Do you know anything more about him other than the size of his Johnson?”
“He’s never been married, but he has a daughter that lives in Texas with her mother. He owns a security firm and a nice house in Monroe. He’s a Capricorn. He likes motorcycles and owns three of them, including a custom Jesse James Chopper. He played rugby in college and he’s originally from Honolulu,” she rattles off. “And he thinks I’m only fifty so keep your trap shut or you’re out of the will.”
“Oh, so do I get to meet this one with his clothes on?” I ask. I’ve met more ‘boyfriends’ at the worst times.
“Perhaps. We’ll see what he’s working with and I’ll get back to you.”
I shake my head. Sadly sex talk with Grams isn’t unusual.
“Sookie says hi, by the way,” I say, trying to get the image of my grandmother naked out of my head.
“That’s nice. Oh, are those tits real? They look like it but she always catches me before I can squeeze test them.”
I laugh. “Yes, her tits are very real,” I smile.
“Good. She’ll need jugs that big to nurse your giant babies.”
“We aren’t discussing children yet, Grams. I’d like to at least fall in love with her first.” Sookie’s tits are going to be unbelievable when she gets pregnant.
“That’s what Godric said when he met Ginger, yet here you are.”
“Ginger was an alcoholic whore that lied to my dad about birth control and then didn’t even want me when I was born. Don’t ever compare what I have with Sookie to dad and that skanky bitch.”
“All you two have so far is orgasms,” Grams snorts. “Optimal baby making conditions.”
“I highly doubt if she got knocked up she’d drop the baby on my doorstep out of the blue.” From what I’ve been told Ginger and my dad broke up a few months after they started dating. She showed up nine months after they split with me in her arms. She thrust me into my dad’s arms, told him my name and disappeared, never to be heard from again.
“Oh I doubt she would too. That doesn’t make what I said any less true.”
“I know. I’m getting to know her better. I like talking to this one. I don’t remember the last time I had a girl with enough brain cells to hold an intelligent conversation with.” I need to stop meeting chicks at the bar.
“That Thalia was a talker.”
“Yes, and she tried to whip me in bed. Fuck that,” I laugh.
“Might have done you some good,” Grams laughs.
“Nope. Any whipping that goes on is from my end.” Thalia was about hmmm, four foot ten and a half. Tiny little thing, but also very, very feisty and dominant in the bedroom. I liked her until she tried tying me down so she could ‘punish’ me.
“Every man likes being someone’s bitch at some point, trust me.”
“I haven’t reached that point,” I snort.
“You will, and I guarantee you’ll marry that girl.”
“We’ll see,” I shrug. “I was surprised when… never mind.”
“You know enough about my sex life,” I chuckle.
“We all do it,” she shrugs. “Although it was cute when you thought there was a porn fairy leaving those Hustlers in your bathroom as a teenager.”
“There was. Her name was Pamela Northman,” I snort.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Mmhmm. Where are you meeting this boy tonight?”
“I want his full name, phone number, and home address. Let him know I know where you are and I won’t hesitate to come after him if anything happens to you.”
“And I want my twenty-two-year-old ass back. I can take care of myself, Junior.”
“I know you can, but I worry about you.”
“I’ll be fine,” Grams insists, waving me off.
I’m not going to argue with her about it. I know his first and last name. That’ll be enough to find him if she goes missing.
I stick around with Grams until I have to go to work. I don’t know if I’m going to see Sookie tonight. I send her a text message telling her to call or message when she gets off work. Sundays are usually pretty slow and we close early. I use the time to do payroll and liquor orders.
Later that night I’m sitting in my office when there’s a light knock on my door. Chow and Clancy are manning the bar and usually just walk in when they need me.
“Come in,” I call without looking up from my computer.
“Hi,” Sookie says when she opens the door. I look up to see her dressed in a Betty Boop scrub top and black cargo pants. Her hair is pulled back and the only makeup she has on is a little lip gloss.
“Mmm, hello, Angel,” I smile as I stand up. I walk over to give her a kiss on the cheek. “You look beautiful.”
“Thank you.” Sookie produces a bag from behind her back. “I brought a snack. Sliders and seven pepper fries.”
“You really are an angel, aren’t you?” I smile. I take her hand so I can lead her to the small loveseat I have in the corner of the office. “How was work?”
“Slow,” she says as she unpacks the food. There are a dozen sliders and tons of fries.
“Did you bring any for yourself?” I tease as I steal a fry.
“Two of those sliders are mine, Hoss,” she laughs.
I lean over to give her a proper kiss. When I pull back I whisper, “A woman after my heart.” Most women look at me like I have two heads when they see how much I eat. I have a really high metabolism, plus I work out.
“I wasn’t sure if you’d want just bacon cheeseburgers so I got you a few with grilled chicken and bacon,” she tells me. Sookie pulls a piece of what looks like cheesecake from the bag and adds, “That’s to top off your tank.”
“Have I already told you you’re an angel?” I ask.
“Yep,” she smiles. She picks up a fry and stuffs it in her mouth. “My lips will be all tingly when I’m done but it’s so worth it.”
“Yes it is,” I chuckle and go for another fry. I grab one of my sliders and it’s gone in two bites. “I had brunch with Grams today. She’s on a ‘date’ with a guy close to my age.”
Sookie arches an eyebrow.
“Mmhmm, she’s met this one on the internet. He’s thirty-eight. She said she doesn’t want anyone that has to count on Viagra.”
“I don’t either,” Sookie laughs.
“It’s a good thing you have me then. I get turned on just by looking at your pretty face,” I say, finishing my second slider.
“Someday that’ll change. How old are you anyway?”
“Thirty-four. And you’re always going to have a pretty face.”
“Thank you, but it won’t always be enough wind in your sails, you know?”
“Maybe not, but that’s not all that turns me on about you. You have the best laugh and you even have a little sex kitten in your voice. Your sense of humor, your mean face, all of it makes me want to fuck you.”
“This,” she makes her mean face, “gets you horny?”
I laugh and say, “Mmhmm. Only when you make it though. No one else could get my dick hard with that face. You’re adorable, Sookie. Deal with it.”
“Hmph,” she snorts and takes a bite of her slider.
I have a feeling our first fight is going to turn me on way too much.
“Are you going to dump me if I ever need Viagra?” I ask.
Sookie contemplates it for a minute. “Depends on how old you are when you need it.”
“What’s the cut off?”
“Mmm… I’ll say fifty.”
“I doubt I’ll need it then, but if I do you’re welcome to dump me with little argument. How old are you?”
“Twenty-six,” she answers.
“Shit, I’ll never need it knowing I have a hot younger woman,” I wink.
“Yeah, it seems I have a thing for older guys. You’re the fourth guy at least five years older than me that I’ve dated.”
“My last actual girlfriend was twenty-three. I don’t generally have an age preference though. A hot girl is a hot girl no matter how old she is.”
She smiles and says, “Then it shouldn’t surprise you that Pam is getting it on with someone thirty years younger.”
“It doesn’t. It’s a little disturbing though,” I chuckle. “She told him she was fifty.”
“Now that’s definitely not a surprise.”
“Wait until you see her next. She’s going to get hot pink highlights tomorrow.”
“Good for her,” Sookie nods.
“She claims she still hasn’t gone gray. I don’t actually believe her though. I’ve seen the bottles of Clairol in under the bathroom sink.”
“Maybe she’s making the carpet match the drapes,” Sookie shrugs.
“This is the woman that taught me the importance of manscaping. I don’t know if she has carpets. I think it’s all hardwood flooring.” We need to stop this stat. It’s making me cringe internally.
“Hardwood is better than shag–”
“Enough about my Grams’ pubes,” I say, cutting her off. “I want to keep the sliders down. We can talk about yours instead,” I grin, leaning over to nip her ear.
“What about mine?”
“Just that I can’t wait to bury my face in them.”
“Maybe tomorrow,” she smiles.
“Just say when. I’m always hungry for you.”
“Good. Then I’ll make you my bitch tomorrow night,” she snickers.
“Grams told me I’m going to marry the girl that I let make me her bitch,” I tell her. “Are you sure you want that?”
“Your Grams gives internet peepshows. I’m not sure her advice is solid,” Sookie laughs.
“She may be a little misguided, but she gives good advice.”
“Well then I guess the more important question is whether or not you want to be my bitch.”
“At the moment I don’t want to be anyone’s bitch,” I tell her honestly.
“That’s okay,” she shrugs.
We go silent while we finish our food. When. It’s all cleaned up I lean back on the loveseat and pull Sookie back to snuggle into my arms. This is good. My day hasn’t been crazy, but it still feels good to have my girl in my arms.
The next night I’m getting out of work later than usual. At the last minute a new patient transferred in and since the charge nurse was too busy giving report to the night shift, I got the honors of helping our new friend get settled. The fact that we’re now treating a three-year-old with bladder cancer is just… it’s hard to process. It’s rare that a person so young gets that kind of cancer but it does happen. Of course his family is a mess, as any parent would be, but this mother seems to be especially anxious and Dad is definitely more the still waters run deep sort.
I have to shake it off, though. This is the hard part about my job. It’s difficult not to get emotionally invested but I have to draw the line somewhere.
I meant to pack a bag to bring with me to work so I could go straight to Eric’s house but I was running late this morning and forgot. Plus, I would rather wash the hospital off of me before I go to his place. So as I’m walking to the car, I shoot him a text to let him know I’m out of work but stopping by my place really quick to get my stuff.
When my car comes into view I stop in my tracks. There are flowers on the hood of my car. I smile; at first, assuming they’re from Eric. As I get closer, however, I see that they’re not roses. They could still be from Eric, but so far that’s all he’s given me. My house smells like a beautiful garden because of him. I pick of the bouquet and search for a card. They’re all wildflowers, which are also beautiful.
The card is nestled inside the bouquet and as soon as I see my name scrawled on the little envelope, I know who they’re from.
We dated when I was in college. He was one of the older guys I told Eric about. We were together for just under two years. Bill was twenty-seven and ready to get married. I wasn’t quite twenty-two yet and definitely not ready to get married. I was still living with Gran at that point and I wanted to live on my own for a while before moving in with a boyfriend or potential husband. Bill was a good guy; we were just at different places in our lives.
So we went our separate ways.
He was married to someone else in less than a year. From what I heard, he eloped in Las Vegas. That was five years ago. Why he’s leaving me flowers now is anyone’s guess but I’m not interested in dating a married man.
All the same, I open the card and read what it has to say.
I know it’s been a long time, darling, but I’ve missed you. I would like to get to know you again. Call me please.
He leaves his new number at the bottom of the note.
I put the card back in the envelope and put the flowers in my back seat. I’m not sure what to do with that. As far as I know, he has no idea where I’m living. Since it’s a small town we’re both from it wouldn’t take much to find out, especially since my brother is a complete dunderhead whose loose lips only get looser with a few beers in him.
As soon as my car finds the Bluetooth on my cell phone, I dial Lafayette’s number. We’ve been best friends since high school and he’s saved me from many a fashion blunder, as well from drunk dialing exes that don’t deserve another minute of my time. He’s going to love that Bill’s been in contact. Plus I haven’t told him about Eric yet.
“Hello?” he answers. I can hear him blowing out whatever he’s smoking at the moment.
“Hey, it’s me,” I reply. “I have news, so don’t inhale again unless you want to choke on it.”
“Uh oh. I’m sittin’.”
“Well, it’s two things and I’m not sure which to lead off with. I guess I’ll start with the token of affection I found on my windshield from a certain ex-boyfriend that used to live across the graveyard from me,” I say.
“Ugh, what did that old fucker want?” he asks with disgust.
I chuckle and answer, “He wants to get to know me again. He called me ‘darling’.”
Lafayette and Bill never quite saw eye to eye on a lot of things. Bill is… well, he was the oldest twenty-seven-year-old I ever met, let’s put it that way.
“See? Old. He still livin’ in 1920. Please don’t tell me you gonna talk to him. I may have to disown yo’ ass.”
“He left me his phone number,” I inform him. “Whether or not I’ll call it, I have no idea. I’m not interested in being his mistress.”
“You too good fo’ that shit, Sook. Don’t do it.”
“Plus my boyfriend probably wouldn’t like it,” I sigh.
“What was that?” he asks. I can hear the smile in his voice.
“I’m seeing someone. His name is Eric. He owns the Black Dagger Bar–”
“Owns Black Dagger?” Laf cuts me off. “Which one is he? I been there a couple times.”
“He’s the tall blond.” This is going to get really interesting really fast.
Lafayette is silent for a moment before he asks, “You fucking The Viking? Giiiirl…”
“The Viking?” I laugh at that. I mean I suppose it fits but that’s an interesting nickname for him. “And yes, to answer your question. Every chance I get.”
“When the bar opened he had long hair and his big ole Scandinavian ass look jus’ like a Viking. I don’t blame ya. I’d fuck him too, mmm. Is it as good as it looks?”
“Better.” I make a mental note to ask to see pictures of Eric with long hair because I can’t get an image of that in my head.
I give Lafayette the story of how Eric and I met, including what could have been a quick fuck in the garden outside the nursing home. He’s the only person I know that will be proud of me for that instead of being scandalized.
“He’s really sweet, Laf. Plus his face, it just… ugh, it’s sickeningly cute,” I tell him.
“Hmm, sound like you got it bad, girl. I’m glad you have one that can curl your toes, though. He’s still too old for you. What’s the word for hookas like you that only go after old dudes?” he laughs.
“Hey! I don’t only go after older guys,” I argue through my laughter. “He’s not that much older. Plus I didn’t know how old he was when we hooked up. He doesn’t really look his age.”
“Mmhmm,” he hums. “As long as he good to you it don’t matter. What was he do in’ at Gran’s home?”
“Calling Bingo. The regular guy was sick or something so his grandmother made him do it.”
“That’s already a plus. If he good to Gramma, he be good to you,” Laf points out.
“True. He is good to me, Laf. My apartment is full of roses he’s given me and it hasn’t even been a week yet,” I tell him. “Plus Gran likes him.”
“Keep him. Forever. Gran knows best,” he chuckles.
“It’s too soon to be making decisions like that, but if things keep going like this it’ll be an easy choice to make.”
“So when he comes to you tellin’ you he ready to tie the knot you gonna be down? I know it’s soon to be askin’ but with him bein’ so much older it’s somethin’ you gotta think ’bout.”
“Honestly, I don’t know if he even wants to get married. The subject hasn’t come up. He just told me last night that he’s not interested in being anyone’s bitch. I’m not sure what that means as far as marriage goes, though.”
Lafayette laughs. “I really wanna meet this dude.”
“I’ll try to set something up. I’m off until Saturday so I’ll see if he’s got a free night,” I offer.
“Good. I need to run, there was a knock at the door and I think I know who it is.”
“Oh yeah? You been seeing Jesus again?” Those two have been off and on like Ross and Rachel for the last six years. I wish they’d shit or get off the pot already.
“Maybe.” I can hear him grinning.
“Bitch please,” I sigh.
“Yes. It’s Jesus. Now let me go, hooka. I’ll call you later.”
“You better. I’m going to be needing some details, mister,” I warn him.
“You’ll get ’em,” he promises before he hangs up on me.
I roll my eyes and turn on the satellite radio. I smile when I hear Miranda Lambert’s voice fill my car. I put the windows down and sing along horribly for the rest of the ride home.
By the time I get to Eric’s I’m showered and smell much better than I did when I left the hospital. What people say about cancer having a smell is true and I haven’t gotten used to it yet. I have bag with clothes in it for tomorrow. I know he has to work tomorrow night, plus I have a mani/pedi appointment at ten tomorrow morning. I don’t pamper myself much and I’m not supposed to wear nail polish at work, but that doesn’t stop me from getting a manicure, even if I only have clear polish put on.
The flowers Bill gave me are in a vase on my kitchen table. I couldn’t throw them away, even though I probably should have. I’m also not sure what to do about calling him. I feel like I should, if only to tell him that I’m seeing someone, but that can wait.
I walk up to Eric’s apartment and knock on the door. It’s a steamy night. Even the short shorts and loose fitting Batman tank top I have on feels like too much clothing. Thankfully, Eric’s place is a clothing optional environment.
Eric opens the door a few seconds later wearing nothing but a pair of low hanging basketball shorts.
“Hi,” he grins, pulling me inside.
“Hello,” I smile back at him and set my bag down on the floor. “How was your day?”
“Good, yours?” Eric closes the door and leans down to give me a sweet kiss hello.
“Pretty good, all things considered.” Now is the perfect time to tell him about the flowers I got from Bill.
“What’s being considered?”
“We got a toddler with bladder cancer today,” I tell him.
“Ouch. I’m sorry,” he says sincerely.
“Me too. It’s rare to see a child with bladder cancer. Let’s talk about something else though. I don’t want to get all sad.”
“We can talk about whatever you want. I tried a new restaurant today,” he tells me.
“Oh yeah? Tell me about it.” I follow him to the kitchen where it looks like he’s got everything ready for BLTs.
“It was a new American cuisine place, Hotrods. It was good. I had a double burger with grilled cheese sandwiches as the buns. I felt so fucking fat when I was done with it.”
I laugh and say, “Yeah, I can understand why. It’s a good thing you work out or I’d be worried about your cholesterol.”
“I try not to eat like that too often, but I couldn’t help myself,” he laughs. “That’s why the BLTs. It’s healthier.”
“If you nix the bacon,” I tease and then pinch his side. “Hmmm… definitely chubbier than last night.”
“You’re the one that brought me ten sliders last night,” he teases, bumping my hip.
“And you’re the one that inhaled them in less than ten minutes.” It was quite a sight to see, let me tell you.
“They were a snack,” he snickers. “I ate again when I got home.”
“Dear Lord.” I shake my head. “If I ate the way you do I’d be in a food coma before lunch.”
“You’re also miniature compared to me.”
“I’m normal size,” I laugh.
Eric looks over at me and says, “If that’s what you want to call it.”
“Well I’m a little roomy in the hips, but otherwise…”
“Your hips are perfect,” he says. “Sexy as hell.”
I shake my head again and say, “Make your sandwich, Gigantor.”
He sticks his tongue at me and turns to make his sandwich.
“Do you want one?”
“No, thanks. I didn’t get lunch until four this afternoon.” I’m lucky I had time to eat.
“Okay.” Eric finished making his sandwich and shoves it in his mouth.
“So my best friend wants to meet you. Apparently he’s been to your bar before. You even have a nickname.” I push myself up to sit on some of the free counter space while he eats.
“I do?” he asks with his mouth full.
“The Viking,” I nod. “He said you had long hair back when the bar first opened. I say pictures or it didn’t happen.”
Eric smiles. “I did. I cut it when I lost a bet.” He puts down his sandwich and leaves the kitchen. When he comes back he hands me a picture. In the picture he’s sipping a bottle of water and his hair is thick, a little lighter than it looks now and hangs down to his elbows.
“Whoa.” I can’t think of anything else to say.
“I was a sexy motherfucker,” he laughs. “I had to shave my head. I felt so naked.”
“What was the bet?” There has to be story behind it.
“It’s a little embarrassing. It makes me look like a major dick.”
“If you don’t want to tell me you don’t have to.”
“It was about a girl. My buddy Quinn said something about me not being able to get a chick in bed and my dumb ass said ‘you wanna bet?’. The bet was about how long it would take me to get her naked. It took me fifteen minutes longer than I projected.”
“So you had to shave your head, huh? Serves you right,” I laugh. “I dated a guy named Quinn once. He was a cue ball too.”
Eric cocks an eyebrow and asks, “John Quinn?”
“Uhh, yeah. Violet eyes, training to get into UFC fighting…”
“So he’s a friend of yours, huh? I haven’t seen him in years.”
“He used to be. We had a falling out when he started a fight in the bar and broke a guy’s eye socket. He said he didn’t know why I was so pissed. I told him to lay off the roids. He then proceeded to punch me in the face. Long story short, his roid rage ended our friendship.”
“Oh wow. Yeah, Quinn and I parted ways after he insisted I come to one of his fights in New Orleans. I’m a nurse and it was too much blood for me.” I cringe just thinking about it.
“How long did you date him?”
“We were together for a little over a year. I started seeing him a few weeks after my twenty-third birthday. We broke up on Labor Day the following year,” I tell him. “I still have lunch with his sister from time to time.”
Quinn was a decent enough guy. He was very protective of me, to the point where he sometimes got a little controlling or possessive, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. Despite my laughable mean face, I’m no doormat and I didn’t tolerate any of Quinn’s bullshit. Ultimately, I just couldn’t stand watching him get in the ring and get the shit kicked out of him. Even when he won the fights he still came away battered, bruised and sometimes broken. It was too hard to see him suffer so much for weeks after his fights. Eventually, I had no choice but to pull the plug. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
“Frannie? She’s a sweet girl. It sounds like you met him right after we stopped talking.”
“Could be. I don’t remember him mentioning you,” I shrug.
“Small world,” Eric smiles.
“Indeed it is. So why didn’t you grow your hair out again, Fabio?” I giggle.
He flips me off with a wink. “I started to, but as soon as it hit low on my neck it started to bug me so I cut it again. This has been it ever since.”
“Well it looks good on you, Rapunzel.”
“It looks fantastic,” he chuckles.
“I like it shorter. It looks GQ instead of… Woodstock,” I tell him.
“It was cool mid-nineties. I had trouble letting it go,” he admits. “Losing that bet was a good thing.”
“I was still in grammar school in the mid-nineties.”
“That sounds sick right now,” he cringes. “I was into older chicks when I was in high school.”
“Hoping they’d put out, right?”
“Oh, they did.”
“You trapped ’em in your hair, didn’t you?” I laugh.
Eric laughs with me before he walks over to stand between my legs. He leans in close to nibble on my ear and whispers, “Nope… but I’d rather not talk about my high school years.”
Oh there are definitely some skeletons in that closet, but I won’t crowbar that door open tonight.
I graze his sides with my fingertips and ask, “What would you like to talk about, Mr. Northman?”
“The fact that I’ve not given you a proper kiss in over twenty-four hours,” he purrs, brushing his lips over my jaw.
“Mmm… I’d rather you do it than talk about it,” I reply.
He places a few gentle kisses along my cheek and chin before ending at my lips. He doesn’t waste time. His tongue slides through my lips as he reaches up to thread his fingers through my hair. My hands move up his chest to his neck so my fingers can play with the short hair at the nape of his neck. The kiss goes on and on for what feels like hours, but I know it’s not that long.
“Feel better now?” I ask once his forehead is pressed to mine.
“Much better,” he whispers.
“You taste like bacon,” I chuckle quietly.
“Now you do too,” Eric smiles. He scoots me to the edge of the counter before he picks me up and carries me to the living room. He plops on the couch and lies down with me still sitting on his thighs. “This is waaay better,” he grins.
My smile is interrupted by a yawn.
“It might be a cuddling only night tonight,” I warn him.
“Then get down here and cuddle me, Miss Stackhouse.”
I lie down so I’m wedged between Eric and the back of the couch. My head rests on his chest and I throw my leg over his.
“Don’t let me fall asleep here,” I tell him.
“If you do I’ll carry you to the room,” he promises as he rubs my back. “Mmm, you smell good, Angel.”
“There’s rose essence in my soap.” It’s my favorite smell in the whole world. “Gran used to have a bunch of rose bushes. I hated pruning them, but I loved the end result.”
“I like it.”
“Me too,” I whisper. My ear settles over his heart and my fingers draw little patterns and shapes on his stomach. Eric is twirling the ends of my hair with one hand while the other is settled on my hip.
“Maybe I should tell you to make sure I don’t fall asleep,” he chuckles softly.
“I think we’re both screwed.” I smile and kiss his chest.
“My couch is comfy… or we can go to the bed now…”
“Bed might be a good idea. I even brought pajamas.”
“Okay. I can carry you in, but I can’t be trusted to change your clothes.”
“I can walk,” I laugh.
Eric hoists himself up, holding his hand out to help me up. I take it and let him pull me off the couch. I grab my bag and head back to his bedroom while he locks up the apartment and turns off the lights. My pajamas consist of the tank top I’m wearing and black boy shorts. I’m already stretched out on Eric’s bed by the time he comes into the room.
“Mmm, I could get used to that,” he purrs as he walks in.
“Get used to what?”
“Seeing you stretched out on my bed like that.” He crawls onto the bed, hovering over me to give me a quick kiss before lies down next to me. “You look so tiny up here by yourself.”
“That’s because this bed is bigger than my entire apartment,” I explain.
“I’m a big guy. I require a lot of space.”
“That’s true. I’m probably lying on what used to be your hair’s pillow.”
“Fuck you, it’s not that old,” he laughs.
“At least now I understand the Viking thing. I couldn’t picture it,” I tell him as I turn onto my side to face him.
“I didn’t know anyone called me that,” he chuckles.
“I didn’t either until tonight, but Lafayette is terrible at remembering names so he gives people nicknames he can remember.”
“It fits I guess. I am Swedish. I don’t know what Ginger is, but the Northman side hails from there.”
“Ginger is your mom’s name?” He hasn’t talked about her much. I get the feeling it’s a sore spot.
“Mom, incubator, whatever you want to call her. I’ve never met her. She gave me to my dad when I was a month old. I’ve seen one picture of her. Thankfully I look like my father. I have her eye color and that’s about it.”
“Oh. That’s… I’m sorry.” That’s awful.
“I should be over it, but it still pisses me off.”
I reach up to stroke his cheek and say, “I don’t think there’s a statute of limitations when it comes to being angry at a parent for abandoning you, sweetie. You have every right to be mad.”
“I just don’t understand it, I guess. I want to know why she did it. Why was I not good enough for her, ya know? Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t give Grams up for anything but she was done with kids. It was time for her to spoil me, not raise me entirely on her own.”
“Maybe it’s not about you being good enough. Maybe it’s about her not being good enough to be your mom,” I suggest. “I get angry about my parents too sometimes. Whether they wanted to or not, they left me. I don’t know if that feeling will ever truly go away and I end up feeling guilty for it because I know they didn’t choose to leave me. I’m lucky, though, because Gran didn’t have to take Jason and me in. We could have gone to foster homes or been out on our own long before we were ready for it. I don’t know where I’d be without her.”
“We’re really a pair, aren’t we, Angel?” he whispers and kisses the tip of my nose.
“Yeah, we are,” I agree. “I’m sorry you’ll never get to ask your mom why she did what she did.”
“Please don’t call her my mom. She doesn’t deserve that title.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I do,” he sighs, pulling me closer for a hug. “Sorry for all this heavy shit right before bed.”
“It’s alright.” I wrap my arm around his ribs. “It was going to come up sooner or later, and I like learning more about you, even the not so pretty parts.”
“I have plenty of not so pretty parts,” he sighs.
“Anytime you want to talk, I’ll be here to listen,” I promise and kiss him softly.
He holds my face to his to kiss me a little longer before he pulls back. He wraps his arms tight around me, nuzzling his face into my hair.
“I have a feeling you’re going to be really good for me.”
“I hope you’re right,” I reply and rub his back until he falls asleep.
Deep down I think he’s a sad little boy and that breaks my heart a little because he deserves so much better than what he got. I’m not foolish enough to think I can heal him, but I can go along for the ride.