I had no idea what the hell Eric was thinking sending me flowers. We weren’t a couple, and we weren’t going to be. Whatever crazy thoughts he had about us taking things to the next level, he needed to just forget about it. Josh of course asked about the flowers and who had sent them. He wasn’t buying it when I said I picked them up for Madi. The last thing my son needed to hear was that I’d slept with his girlfriend’s dad, so I stuck to my lie. My love life was none of Josh’s business.
My son had a big mouth because the next thing I knew I had my brother turning up at Soup’s On looking for a free meal, and to stick his nose in my business. He thought being a cop gave him license to be nosy.
“I told Josh I bought those flowers for Madi,” I told Jason while I poured him a beer.
“We all know that ain’t the truth. Who’d you charm?”
“Me? Probably nobody,” I snickered.
“Uh huh. You’re charming, Sook. I don’t believe that for a second.”
“But you believe someone I bought an old clunker from would send me flowers?” I set the beer in front of him.
“I believe you have someone that’s sweet on you. Thanks.”
“I believe you’ve been smokin’ the Devil’s lettuce,” I snickered again.
“You know my job prohibits that kinda stuff,” he chuckled. “So who you datin’?”
“I’m not dating anyone. You know I don’t have time for that. I barely have time for a haircut or a bikini wax.”
“I don’t believe it. I’m not gonna harass you anymore ‘bout it… for now.”
“There’s nothing to harass me about,” I shrugged. “You know I’m not interested in gettin’ involved with anyone.”
“I think you should. It might make you a little less– ow!”
“A little less what?” I asked with my fingers tugging on his ear.
“A little nicer is all. You’re about to rip my damn ear off.”
I let go of his ear.
“What’d you want for dinner?” I asked.
“Steak, medium,” he answered.
“What kind of potato?”
“Baked is fine.” He gave me a wary look.
“What’s with the look? Garlic bread or vegetables?”
“Veggies and some garlic bread,” he said. “I think you’re mad at me and you’re gonna sabotage me.”
“How would I do that?”
“I don’t know. Tell the cook to drop some dirt or something into my food.”
“This is my restaurant. If I did that I’d be sabotaging myself,” I pointed out.
“I’m your brother so it’s different,” he reasoned.
“Fine, then forget it.”
“Forget what? Sook, what did I do?”
“You’re worried I’m going to poison you or something so forget it.”
“But I’m hungry. I know you’re not going to poison me. You did try to talk me into eatin’ a mud pie once, though. Fool me once shame on me and all that.”
“We were kids, Jason. Seriously, are you high?” He had to be.
“Nah, but I haven’t slept in almost twenty-four hours. I took a double shift last night,” he informed me.
I shook my head.
“Sit tight. I’ll get your order in,” I told him.
I left Jason at the bar and went to the kitchen to put in the order for his steak. Because I was a nice sister I threw in a meal to go for later. When I got back to the bar Jason was halfway done with his beer.
“I’m having them make you up a brisket plate to take home for later,” I told him. “Please tell me you’re not back on the clock in a few hours.”
“No. I’m takin’ tomorrow off. Maybe go out on the boat,” he said. “Thanks for the extra plate.”
“You’re welcome. So, who are you datin’ these days?” Jason was always dating someone.
“No one of importance. I was thinkin’ about askin’ Crystal Norris out. Not sure though.”
“Isn’t she engaged to someone?” I could have sworn I heard she was.
“If she is she’ll say no,” he shrugged. “I ain’t heard nothin’ about her bein’ engaged.”
“I could be wrong. You know how on and off some folks are,” I said. Movement off to the left caught my eye. I looked over to see Eric walking into the bar area.
Son of a bitch.
“If they’re off that’s better for me,” he grinned.
“That’s very true. You want another beer?”
“Sure. Thanks.” He lifted his beer up to take a long pull.
I turned and grabbed a fresh glass from the rack where they belonged. While I was pouring from the tap, a shorter guy I recognized as Eric’s business partner approached me.
“Hi there, what can I get you?” I asked politely.
“Two double shots of Jack Daniels and two Blue Moons,” he replied.
“Coming right up. You work over at S&E, right?”
“I’m a partner,” he told me. He extended a hand over the bar. “Stan Davis.”
I put Jason’s beer down in front of him and then reached over to shake Stan’s hand.
“Nice to meet you, Stan. What brings you into enemy territory?” I chuckled.
“I heard the food’s good. I’ve been meaning to check it out.”
“Ah, well, I’m glad you made it in.” I grabbed a pair of glasses for their shots and set them on a tray. “Did you want to start a tab here?”
“Sure, why not?” Stan handed over a credit card for the tab.
I let the regular bartender set that up while I poured the beers for Stan. Kennedy gave Stan his credit card back once the tab was set up. I watched her flirt a little with a guy who was easily fifteen years her senior. He was eating it up. Even though I tried not to look in his direction, I glanced Eric’s way. Thankfully, he was looking at his phone and not my way. Good.
I was still a little pissed that he’d sent me flowers.
People like him and me wouldn’t work as a couple. We were too similar in all the wrong ways. There was no balancing each other out.
“Here you go, Stan.” I added the beers to the tray once they were garnished with orange slices.
“Thanks, Sookie.” He gave me a strange look as he picked up the tray to take it back to his table. I wasn’t sure what the look was about and I wasn’t going to ask.
I went back over to my brother just in time for his food to be brought out to him. The steak looked good so I hoped it was cooked right.
The food runner set down the basket with the garlic bread in it and asked him, “Can I get you anything else, handsome?”
“Nah, sugar, this is perfect,” Jason smiled.
She patted him on his shoulder before she walked off to get the next order.
“Even tired as a dog you still have a way with the ladies,” I complimented.
“It’s the Stackhouse charm,” he chuckled. “I’m sure you got it if you put your mind to it.”
“I save it for when I need to make a deal with someone.” I didn’t waste it on flirting otherwise.
“Which is how you make such good deals,” he winked.
“Exactly. Holler if you need anything. I’m going to go make my rounds in here.”
“I’ll be here,” he promised as he cut into his steak.
I left the bar to go check on the kitchen first and make sure they were covered there. It looked like we were turning tables at a good rate. That made me happy.
I put in an order for a basket of chicken tenders that I needed on the fly. Tenders were pretty much dropping constantly. The batter we used was… Mmm… I decided I would play nice since Stan and Eric had decided to come into my restaurant, of all places, to at least get their drink on for the night. When the chicken was done I took the basket and a couple of sides of honey mustard out to their table. Their shots of whiskey were gone and they were about halfway through their first beer.
“Excuse me, gentleman.” I set the basket down between them on the table. “Compliments of the house.”
Eric gave me a handsome smile and said, “Hello, and thank you, the house didn’t have to.”
“I know. I thought Stan here should get a chance to try these crack dipped chicken tenders.”
“Crack dipped?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Man, once you have these you’re never going to eat another chicken finger as long as you live.” Eric looked over at me. I could practically see the wheels turning in head.
“I don’t know. My granny made the best chicken west of the Mississippi,” Stan said, but he reached for one of the tenders. “Dang, those are hot,” he chuckled and dropped it on his little side plate. “Honey mustard?”
I nodded, and watched him cut into the chicken. He dipped the piece he cut off into the sauce and then ate it. I couldn’t read any expression on his face as he chewed, but as soon as he swallowed his reaction was immediate.
“Marry me,” he said.
“She’s not marrying any man again,” Eric chuckled. “And you have Ginger.”
“Ginger can’t cook,” Stan said. He braved burned fingers to skip the middleman of a fork. “It’s a good thing you brought a basket. Eric can watch me eat.”
“Or I can order my own,” he countered.
“I really think we should have a tender eating challenge here,” I said. “I may have just found my first contestants.”
“Sign me up,” Stan said with his mouth full. “Whoever came up with this recipe should get a Nobel Peace Prize. Just drop these over Syria. Problem solved.”
“Stan, you know I will murder you in an eating contest,” Eric told him. Eric was easily twice his size.
“Good things come in small packages,” Stan argued.
“Is that what Ginger says?” I asked before I could stop myself.
Eric grinned at me. “I know all about the good things I can find in small packages.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right, Northman’s in love with you,” Stan smirked.
My head whipped over in Eric’s direction.
Stan made an ‘oomph’ sound when Eric kicked him under the table.
“I’m not in love with you, Sookie, although my dad has been telling me– never mind,” he shook his head.
I didn’t know what to make of whatever he was stumbling around saying. It was a scab I wasn’t willing to pick at, so I didn’t.
“Well, if you need anything else…” I said.
“He needs a date,” Stan spoke up on his friend’s behalf.
“Stan, you can stop being an asshole anytime now,” Eric sighed. “Also the last date I had turned out to be a bust.”
“I’m sure there’s someone out there for you,” I told him. It sure as hell wasn’t me.
“I’m sure there is.” The way he looked at me made me think he was referring to me.
“Would you two just screw again and get it over with?” Stan said.
My eyes narrowed.
“What are you looking at me like that for? I’m pretty sure you’ve said something to Hadley,” Eric said unapologetically.
“Enjoy your drinks,” I said so I wouldn’t say something I’d regret.
I turned and walked away from the booth. Of course my kindness came back to bite me in the ass. That didn’t take long.
“How are you feeling, honey?” I asked Madi the next morning when she came into the big house with a load of dirty laundry.
“Tired,” she answered. “I’m always tired lately.”
“I’d tell you that’ll clear up soon, but I’d be lying. Are you hungry or anything? I can fix you something.”
“No thanks. I’m just in to get the laundry going. I don’t want to bother you,” she said politely.
“You’re not bothering me, Madi. You’re welcome here anytime,” I reminded her for probably the millionth time since she’d moved into the guest house.
“Okay… I’m going to get this load in, if that’s okay?”
“Of course. Help yourself.” I went to the coffee pot to refill my mug. “I’m going grocery shopping today. Do you and Josh need anything?”
“No, we’re okay. I went shopping yesterday and got everything I need. I’m trying my hand at baking cake pops so I’ve been in the kitchen a lot lately. Josh seems to be enjoying my mess ups,” she chuckled.
“I bet he is.” Josh definitely had a sweet tooth. “Well once you get your recipe down if you need more oven space, you’re welcome to mine anytime.”
“Thanks for being so nice, Ms. Stackhouse. I know you don’t like my dad very much so it would easy to be mean to me.”
“You’re not responsible for the reasons why your pops and I aren’t pals. I wouldn’t take it out on you. Besides, I know what it’s like to be in your shoes. What kind of a mom would I be if I made it harder on you two than it had to be?”
“I still don’t understand why you two can’t just get along. You seem to be doing okay sometimes and then you’re at it again like cats and dogs,” she said.
“It’s a work in progress. We haven’t had to get along until now.” It would help if he hadn’t gone nuts and decided to start sending me flowers, but I wasn’t going to tell Madi that.
“I don’t know why you didn’t get along in the first place,” she shrugged.
“We’re competitors and your dad used to say nasty things about my business. I had a hard time being nice to someone who was talking trash about me behind my back,” I explained.
“Funny, he said it was you doing all the trash talking,” she said. “I know it was probably happening on both ends, Ms. Stackhouse. I’m not going to get into the middle of it, but I think you both should apologize and maybe hug it out. That’s what Daddy made Gracie and me do when we fought growing up.”
“It’s different with sisters,” I smiled. “You’ll find that out… someday.”
There was no rush for a second baby.
“Papa thinks you guys are in love with each other,” she chuckled. “I’m going to take this to washer.”
Her grandfather might have been half right, but it wasn’t on my end.
I opened the door to let Opie outside to go potty before we took off for the day. I was supposed to go look at a 1958 Ford Fairlane that was found in a barn in Fort Worth. There was another auction coming up soon and it never hurt to have another dog in the hunt.
Madi slipped by me to go back to her place. Her bump seemed to be getting bigger by the day. It had to be the Northman jeans kicking in.
After Opie was done going potty I got him loaded up into my truck. I had to stop by the shop to pick up the trailer and hitch it to the back. Tray was pacing the lot, smoking a cigarette when I got there. He walked over to the truck to greet me.
“Mornin’ Tray,” I said as I jumped down. I left the truck running and Opie inside. I wasn’t going to be long.
“Morning,” he replied. “How long you been fuckin’ around with Northman?” he blurted out.
My jaw dropped. How the…
“Amelia said she was told someone overheard his buddy telling you two to screw again and you didn’t deny it. How long has it been on?”
“I was in shock, much like I am right now,” I replied. “It’s not going on.”
Tray studied my face for a few seconds before saying, “You did it, didn’t you? You had sex with Northman.”
“No,” I shook my head.
“So you’re fuckin’ Northman and lying to me now.”
“Look, who I may or may not be involved with like that isn’t anyone’s business. His friend had no business saying that in the middle of a crowded bar,” I practically hissed.
“So it’s true,” he stated. “Motherfucker.”
“It’s not your business or your problem.”
“You’re right, it’s not.” Tray flicked his cigarette away and turned to walk away from me.
“Tray, wait,” I sighed. “Look, whatever might have happened isn’t going to interfere with the business, okay? I’m picking up the trailer and I’m going to look at a ‘58 Fairlane.”
“Have fun. Maybe you should give your boyfriend more tips while you’re at it, or are you just going to deliver it over at S&E?”
“What the hell is your problem?” I demanded.
“I don’t have a problem other than you’ve been lying to me for however long it’s been going on,” he shrugged. “I got work to do.”
“No, no, hang on a second. Let me make this perfectly clear. My personal life isn’t open for debate and I don’t need your permission to be with anyone, even if it’s someone you don’t like. It hasn’t impacted our business and it won’t, so you can quit acting like I kicked your puppy,” I told him.
“It’s fine, Sookie. You can screw whoever you want. I just expected a little more honesty from you. I thought we were friends. Now, if you don’t mind I have work to do.”
“Yeah and while you’re at it, I want you to think about all the times you came running into work to tell me about every woman you ever slept with,” I said as he walked away. I never asked and he didn’t offer that information.
Why? Because it was none of my fucking business, that’s why.
It wasn’t just because I was with Eric that I was pissed by his reaction. I would have been just as mad if it was anyone else. Who I was sleeping with wasn’t any of his business.
So of course I got back in the truck, grabbed my phone and sent Eric a text.
Me: Thanks a lot for telling Captain Looselips our business. It’s all over town that we slept together.
Douche: He guessed. I didn’t tell him and if I’d known he was going to blurt that shit out I wouldn’t have allowed his ass in public.
Me: That’s great but you can’t unring a bell.
I tossed my phone back in my bag. There was nothing he could say that was going to make me feel any better about any of it.
What it came down to was that I never should have slept with Eric. It was a stupid, stupid mistake, one I wasn’t going to make again.